“Oil, which shall not quit my head”: Jewish-Christian Interaction in Eleventh-century Baghdad

Yosaif Dubovick


The last influential head of the Pumbadithan Academy in Baghdad, R. Hayya
Gaʾon (939–1038), requested his Sicilian student R. Maṣliaḥ ben Eliah al-Baṣaq to inquire with the Nestorian Patriarch (Catholicos) about the Syriac definition of a word in Psalms (141:5). Upon R. Maṣliaḥ’s protests, R. Hayya rebuked his student, saying “our pious forefathers and ancestors would inquire regarding languages and their explanations from members of different religions, even from shepherds”. Despite scholarly treatment since 1855, a new, analytical reading of the text, based upon manuscripts, external sources, and comparative literature, provides fresh approaches towards understanding Jewish-Christian scholarly interaction in Baghdad at the turn of the eleventh century, particularly in comparison to those in Sicily. Additionally presented are new facets in Peshitta studies.


R. Hayya Gaʾon; R. Maṣliaḥ ben Eliah of Sicily; Geonic Literature; Jewish- Christian interaction; Nestorian Patriarch (Catholicos); Targum; Syriac; Peshitta

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13154/er.v6.2018.95-123

Copyright (c) 2018 Yosaif Dubovick

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