Oriental philologist and exegete of the thirteenth century. He was a scholar of great merit and was one of the last representatives of the rationalistic school of Biblical exegesis in the Orient; he is called by modern writers "the Ibn Ezra of the East." He lived in Palestine, perhaps for a time in Egypt also, and had a son, Joseph, who maintained a correspondence with David, the grandson of Maimonides (comp. Brody in "Sammelband," 1893, issued by the Meḳiẓe Nirdamim). Tanḥum's very existence was unknown to European scholars until the eighteenth century, when fragments of his works were brought from the Orient by Pocock, who published some of them in his "Porta Mosis." Tanḥum skilfully handled the Arabic language, in which he composed his works; he possessed some knowledge of Greek, and was well versed in philosophy and natural science. He was the author of "Kitab al-Ijaz wal-Bayan," consisting of commentaries on the Biblical books, with an introduction entitled "Kulliyyat" giving a sketch of Hebrew grammar and an account of the philologists of the Middle Ages.

With the exception of those on Ezra and Nehemiah, the commentaries are found in manuscript, complete or in fragments, in the libraries of St. Petersburg, Oxford, and London; and they are known also through quotations made either by the author himself or by later writers. The commentaries which have been published are: "Ad Libros V. T. Commentarii Arabici Specimen una cum Annott. ad Aliquot Loca Libri Judicum" (ed. Ch. F. Schnurrer, Tübingen, 1791); "Commentarii in Prophetas Arabici Specimen," etc. (ed. Theodor Haarbrücker, Halle, 1842); "Commentarii Arabici in Lamentat." (ed. Cureton, London, 1843); "Commentaire sur le Livre de Habakkouk, Publié en Arabe avec une Traduction Française par Salomon Munk" (in Cahen's French Bible, vol. xvii.); "Arab. ad Libros Samuelis et Regum Locos Graviores, Edidit et Interpretationem Latinam Adjecit Th. Haarbrücker" (Leipsic, 1844); on Joshua, by the same editor (published with the "Blätter aus der Veitel-Heine-Ephraim Lehranstalt," Berlin, 1862); extracts from the commentary on Judges, published by Goldziher in his "Studien," 1870; on Ḳohelet (ed. Samuel Eppenstein, Berlin, 1888); on Jonah (ed. Kokowzow, in the "Rosen-Festschrift," St. Petersburg, 1897). In his commentaries, Tanḥum, being a decided adversary of midrashic exegesis, endeavored to give a philological or a philosophical interpretation of the Scriptural text. He quotes the prominent exegetes from Saadia down to Abraham ibn Ezra.

Tanḥum wrote also "Al-Murshid al-Kafi," a lexicongiving in alphabetical order the etymologies and significations of all the vocables found in Maimonides' "Mishneh Torah," and of a great number of those found in the Mishnah. The main sources used are the "'Aruk" and Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah. The author quotes Saadia, Ibn Janaḥ, Dunash, Moses ibn Ezra, and other prominent philologists. Specimens of the "Murshid," still extant in manuscript (Bagdad, Jerusalem, and Oxford), have been published by Wilhelm Bacher under the title "Aus dem Wörterbuche Tanchum Jerushalmi's" (Strasburg, 1903).

  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 2666;
  • idem, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden, p. 174;
  • Goldziher, Studien über Tanchum, Leipsic, 1870;
  • Poznanski, in R. E. J. xl., xli.;
  • idem, in Zeitschrift für Hebräische Bibliographie, v. 122, 184;
  • idem, in Z. D. M. G. lv. 603;
  • Harkavy, Studien, iii. 43;
  • idem, Ḥadashim gam Yeshanim, vi.2;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 144, note 2.
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