Karaites or Caraites (both: kârˈəĪts) [key], Jewish schismatic sect, reputedly founded (8th cent.) in Persia by Anan ben David and originally known as Ananites. Its adherents were called Karaites after the 9th cent. The Karaites attacked the Talmudic interpretation of the Bible, rejecting the oral law and interpreting the Bible literally, and they developed their own commentaries, which were in many respects more rigorous and ascetic than the Talmudic interpretations. In the 10th cent. they produced a splendid literature in both Arabic and Hebrew. The sect declined after the 12th cent., but remnants are still extant, notably in the Crimea and Israel.
See Karaite Anthology (ed. and tr. by L. Nemoy, 1952), Z. Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium: The Formative Years, 970–1100 (1957, repr. 1968); P. Birnbaum, ed., Karaite Studies (1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on Karaites from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Judaism