Toward a history of Hebrew astrological literature: A bibliographical survey

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Abstract

It is only recently that astrology as an inseparable part of Jewish culture and thought throughout the Middle Ages has become a respectable issue in Jewish studies. If, in the past, few scholars focused on the connection between Jewish thought and astrology, today the significant role of astrology in the intellectual world of medieval Judaism is increasingly recognized. The widespread interest in astrological issues, which can be traced back to the Talmud, becomes unmistakable as early as the tenth century, in the response to it by figures such as Sherira Gaon (ca. 906–1006) and Hai Gaon (939–1038), who commented on various issues related to the belief in astral powers. Astrology was also important enough to come under heavy attack by illustrious intellectual leaders: The refutation of astrology by Saadia Gaon (882–942) undoubtedly should be interpreted in the broader context of the contemporary philosophical and theological discourse and of Karaite attacks on astrology in general and on Rabbanite astrology and magic in particular, but it also testifies to the spread of astrological thinking in Jewish circles at the end of the first millennium. It is noteworthy that Saadia's opinion about astrology was far from uniform. Despite his criticism, he included astrological ideas in his commentary on Sefer Yeṣirah (Book of Creation). Similarly, his North African contemporary Dunash Ibn Tamim of Kairouan (ca. 885–after 955) seems to subscribe to the principles of astrology in a commentary on Genesis; however, he also devoted an entire treatise in Arabic to The Fragility of the Principles of Judicial Astrology (Fī daʿf al-uṣūl fī aḥkām an-nuğūm).

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationScience in Medieval Jewish Cultures
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages255-291
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9780511976575
ISBN (Print)9781107001459
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2011.

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