Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1384-6663
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9684
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The Commentary on Sefer Yeṣira (Book of Creation), with its pronounced Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic overtones, written by Saadya Gaon in 931, stands out among the other writings of this Jewish theologian (mutakallim), and raises the question of the purpose of its composition. It has been argued that in writing a commentary on this work of letter-speculation, Saadya responded to mythical and mystical trends in tenth-century Judaism, endeavoring to recast this foundational mystical text as a work of rational philosophy. The present article argues that Saadya was also responding to the intellectual challenge of his broader environment, stretching beyond the Jewish community. In some circles in the Islamicate world, letterspeculations, often associated with the sciences of the occult, were presented in this period as the height of philosophy. In particular, al-Tawḥīdī’s account of the Pure Brethren and Ibn Masarra’s Book on the Properties of Letters demonstrate the relevance of these trends in Saadya’s immediate geographic and intellectual environment.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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