Hebrew literature: Medieval Literature

Commentaries on the Talmud and haggadic material continued to be written until the 11th cent., when the Babylonian academies were suppressed and the center of Jewish literary activity shifted to Spain. France and Germany became the main centers of Talmudic commentary. In Spain, and to some extent in Italy, Hebrew literature flourished for centuries. The finest work was accomplished in the realms of poetry—influenced by Arab and Indian literature—and philosophy. Philology, exegesis, and codification also flourished. By the 14th cent. the largely Aramaic mystical treatise, the Zohar, had appeared—the masterpiece of a flourishing literature of Jewish mysticism (see kabbalah).

Famous scholars and authors of Hebrew literature in the Middle Ages included Aha of Shabcha, Saadia ben Joseph al-Fayumi, Dunash ben Tamim, Dunash ben Labrat, Gershom ben Judah, Al-Fasi, Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Rashi, Judah ha-Levi, Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Immanuel ben Solomon, Isaac Abravanel, and Joseph ben Ephraim Caro. In the persecutions following the Crusades, when the Jews were driven from country to country, they clung to their literature—which leaned increasingly to mysticism and asceticism—and especially to the Hebrew Bible.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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