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SAADIA:

Biblical commentator, whose native country and epoch can not be precisely determined. Rapoport (in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," ix. 34-35) was the first to prove that the commentary on Daniel which is ascribed to Saadia Gaon does not belong to him, but to another Saadia. This scholar further says that, owing to differences between that commentary and the one on Chronicles (see Saadia b. Naḥmani), he can not affirm that both works belong to the same author, although he does not feel justified in asserting to the contrary. Matthews proves in "A Commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah" (Oxford, 1882) that the author of the latter commentary is identical with Saadia, the author of the commentary on Daniel.

In his commentary Saadia displayed a profound knowledge of both Talmudim and of the Targum, which latter he often quotes and explains. He was acquainted with the works of earlier commentators, whom he quotes under the general term "poterim" (="interpreters") or "anshe lebab"(="men of understanding"); only once (commentary on Dan. vi. 15) he quotes by name a Mattithiah Gaon. He very often bases his interpretations on the interchange of letters of the same class, as the "alef" and "'ayin," "lamed" and "resh"; also on the interchange of letters which occur near each other in various alphabetical combinations, as, for instance, the "alef" and "taw" in the combination , or the "alef" and "lamed" in the combination . As is the Talmudic method of interpretation, Saadia often explains foreign nouns as well as Hebrew proper names by resolving them into the syllables of which they are constructed. It may be seen from his commentary on Dan. vi. 19 and Ezra i. 9 that Saadia knew Arabic well: possibly it was his mother tongue.

As to the time in which he lived, both Rapoport and Matthews suppose that he flourished in the beginning of the twelfth century. The former further supposes that he lived in France, that he was a contemporary of Yaḳar, and that Ibn Ezra may have known his commentary. On the other hand, Porges (in "Monatsschrift," xxxiv. 63-73) concludes that he lived at the end of the twelfth century, this conclusion being based on the fact that Saadia, in his commentary on Dan., viii. 9 et seq., refers to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans in which the Christian churches were destroyed. Porges thinks this is a reference to the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187. Further, in the commentary onDan. xi. 30 Saadia refers to the fact that the Lombardians united afterward with the Romans to wrench Jerusalem from the Moslems. Although Saadia knew Arabic, Porges thinks he at least resided in Italy, as he mentions very often the Lombardians and Romans, and speaks of the book "Zerubbabel," which was written in Italy. Besides, almost all the manuscripts of Saadia's commentary on Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were copied in Italy. It may be added that in Joseph Ḳara's commentary on Lam. iv. 6 there is a note by Moses of Rome: "Such is the interpretation of R. Saadia." Poznanski (in "Ha-Goren," ii. 120 et seq.), however, declares Porges' arguments doubtful; for the conquest of Jerusalem by the Moslems spoken of by Saadia may be that achieved by Omar in 638, and by "the Romans" Saadia may have understood the Byzantine empire. Nor is it likely, Poznanski thinks, that Saadia, who spoke Arabic and who knew the Karaite literature, lived in Italy. He thinks that Saadia lived in northern Africa, where even in the time of the Geonim works of various contents as well as commentaries on the Bible had been written.

Bibliography:
  • Besides the sources mentioned in the article, Rosin, in Monatsschrift, xxxii. 230 et seq.;
  • Zunz, Z. G. p. 71.
W. B. M. Sel.
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