Nahavendi, Benjamin Ben-moses

Nahavendi, Benjamin Ben-Moses (משה נהונדי בנימין בן), a celebrated Jewish commentator of the Karaite sect, flourished about A.D. 800, and derived his name from his native place, Nahavend, in ancient Media. He not only immortalized his name by effecting a reformation and consolidation in the opinions of his sect, and by being next in importance to Anan, the founder of this sect, but he greatly distingnished himself as an expositor of the Hebrew Scriptures. He wrote (in Hebrew), A Commentary on the Pentateuch, in which he illustrates the Mosaic enactments by copious descriptions of the manners and customs of the East (comp. Pinsker, Likute Kadmonioth, page 72, Appendix): A Commentary on Isaiah, in which he denies the supposed Messianic prophecies (comp. Jephet on Isaiah 53): — A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, in which days (12:12) are made to mean years (comp. Pinsker, ibid. page 32, Appendix; Jephet, at end of Daniel): — A Commentary on the Five Megilloth — the Canticles, Ruth, Esther. Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes — interpreting the first and last of these allegorically. Pinsker (ibid. pages 109-111, Appendix) gives a specimen of this commentary, the MS. of which exists in the Paris library: — A Book of Commands (ספר מצות), in which he propounds the Karaitic mode of explanation of Scripture, in opposition to the Rabbinic expositions: — The Book of Legal Enactments (ס הִדַּינַין), also called בַּניָמַין מִשִׂאת, The

Tribute of Benjamin, which treats exclusively of the penal and civil laws of the Mosaic code, printed at Eupatoria. 1834. Besides these exegetical and practical works, Nahavendi seems also to have composed a dogmatic work, which contains speculations about God and creation and the soul. The soul, in his view, has no separate existence, but is only part of the body, and can expect no life and no retribution apart from its bodily connection. God comes into no immediate relation with the world. His creation and providence are all through mediators, second causes, spiritual forces (δυνάμεις), words (λόγοι), angels of various kinds and degrees. Nahavendi denied that God spoke directly to Moses, or that any word had come to patriarchs or prophets from one too exalted for all human intercourse, alnd would allow no anthropomorphic conceptions of the divine nature. In several minor points of practice he departed from the teaching of Anan, particularly as to the observance of the Sabbath, the killing of the paschal lamb, and the validity of the marriage bond. A lawful marriage, according to Nahavendi, requires more than purchase, contract, and cohabitation; it must have the preliminaries of betrothal, taking home, bridal presents, religious covenant, and the presence of witnesses, to be lawful. That the services which he rendered for the cause of his co- religionists were highly appreciated by them may be seen from the fact that in consequence of his scriptural teaching they discarded the name Ananites, and henceforth called themselves Karaites (קראים), i.e., Scripturalists, or Bene-Mikra (בני מקרא), Baale-Mikra (בעלי מקרא), followers of the Bible, in contradistinction to the Baale ha-Kabala (בעלי הקבלה'), followers of tradition. See Pinsker, Likute Kadmonioth, page 44 sq.; Furst, Bibl. Judaica, 3:15; id. Das Goldene Zeitalter der Karlischen Literatur, Benj. Nuchawendi, in Sabbath-Blatt, 1846, page 86; id. Gesch. d. Kariaerthums, 1:71 sq., 157 sq.; Ginsburg, in Kitto's Cyclop. s.v.; id. The Karaites, their History and Literature; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 5:203 sq., 451 sq., 468 sq.; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u.s. Sekten, 2:344. SEE KARAITES. (B.P.)

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