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Commentary is intrinsic to the biblical tradition. The most ancient translations of the Bible, in Greek and Aramaic, are themselves interpretations. The entire talmudic corpus is in its broadest sense an explication of Scripture. The first book printed in Hebrew was a commentary on the Pentateuch, one of many medieval Hebrew commentaries still studied today. A number of the Jewish commentaries exercised a strong influence on Christian biblical exegesis; others were censored by the Church. The commentaries displayed here, printed over a period of six centuries, reflect the broad scope of rabbinic, mystical, Karaitic, oriental, and Christian biblical interpretation.

Biblia latina 1481
Biblia latina 1481
Bible. Latin. Vulgate
Biblia latina, cum postillis
Nicolai de Lyra ...
Franciscus Renner
de Heilbronn

This is the second edition of the Latin Bible with the 14th century Postillae of the Franciscan Nicholas de Lyre. The Postillae, in which Rashi and other rabbinic authorities are quoted, were studied throughout western Christendom and constituted the first Christian Bible commentary ever printed.

Biblia latina 1481

Yosef Da'at 1609
Joseph b. Issachar Baer, of Prague,
fl. end of 16th century

[ Yosef Da'at ]
Prague: Gershom b. Bezalel Katz, 1609.

The 11th century Pentateuch commentary by Rashi of Troyes is the classical work of Jewish biblical exgesis; an edition of his commentary was in fact the first dated Hebrew book. The author of this critical supercommentary on Rashi supposedly used a manuscript of Rashi's commentary dating from the year 1300.

Arba'ah ve-esrim 1516 - 1517
Bible. Hebrew

[ Arba'ah ve-esrim ]
Venice: Daniel Bomberg, 1516-1517.

Bomberg of Antwerp was one of the first and most famous Christian printers of Hebrew books. His first edition of the "Biblia Rabbinica" includes several ancient Targums together with the commentaries of Rashi on the Pentateuch and Kimhi on the rest of the Bible.

Mirkevet ha- Mishneh 1551
Isaac b. Judah Abravanel, of Lisbon
and Naples, 1437-1508

[ Mirkevet ha-Mishneh ]
Sabbioneta: Tobias Foà, 1551.

This commentary on Deuteronomy by the exiled Portuguese statesman Isaac Abravanel was the first Hebrew book printed in Sabbioneta. A number of passages found offensive to Christianity were blotted out by the Church censor, who closed the Foà press eight years later.

Peri Yehudah 1934/ 1935
Judah Yodel Rosenberg, chief rabbi
of Montreal, Canada, 1865-1935

[ Peri Yehudah ]
Bilgoraj, Poland: Szloma Wajnberg,

Rabbi Rosenberg, grandfather of the Canadian author Mordecai Richler, was best known for his Hebrew edition of the Zohar, aside from several volumes of legends, folk-medicine and sorcery in Yiddish. This little-known collection of mystical interpretations of the Pentateuch was the Rabbi's last book published in his native Poland.
(On loan from a private collection.)

Sefer ha- mivhar 1835
Aaron b. Joseph ha-Rofe, of the
Crimea and Constantinople,
ca. 1250-1320

[ Sefer ha-Mivhar ve- Tov ha-Mis�har ... Tirat Kesef ]
Gozlov [ Yevpatoriya, Crimea ] :
Yankel Sh. Finkelman, 1835.

The commentary on the Pentateuch by the Karaite Aaron b. Joseph was widely studied for centuries. This first and only printed edition includes a supercommentary by Joseph Solomon Luzki, a 19th century Karaite scholar. The prominence of the Russian text on the title page of this Hebrew book reflects the efforts of the Karaite community to ingratiate itself with the anti-Jewish Czarist government.

Solomon b. Abid Solomon Moses
[ Tawina ], compiler, of Baghdad,
fl. late 19th century

[ Nofet tsufim ]
Bavel rabati [Baghdad ]: the compiler,

This collection of notes on Genesis by the rabbis and scholars of "greater Babylonia," i.e. Iraq, was the last book published in Baghdad by Solomon Tawina, who later established his fame in Calcutta as a publicist and prolific Judeo-Arabic translator.

Go to Chap. 2 Go to Chap. 4

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