Online Encyclopedia

JOSEPH KIMHI

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 800 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOSEPH KIMHI was a native of southern Spain, and settled in Provence, where he was one of the first to set forth in the Hebrew language the results of Hebraic philology as expounded by the Spanish Jews in their Arabic treatises. He was acquainted moreover with Latin grammar, under the influence of which he resorted to the innovation of dividing the Hebrew vowels into five long vowels and five short, previous grammarians having simply spoken of seven vowels without distinction of quantity. His grammatical textbook, Sefer Ha-Zikkaron, "Book of Remembrance " (ed. W. Bacher, Berlin, 1888), was marked by methodical comprehensiveness, and introduced into the theory of the verbs a new classification of the stems which has been retained by later scholars. In the far more ample Sefer Ha-Galuy, "Book of Demonstration" (ed. Matthews, Berlin, 1887), Joseph Kimhi attacks the philological work of. the greatest French Talmud scholar of that day, R. Jacob Tam, who espoused the antiquated system of Menaheni b.Saruq, and this he supplements by an independent critique of Menahem. This work is a mine of varied exegetical and philological details. He also wrote commentaries—the majority of which are lost—on a great number of the scriptural books. Those on Proverbs and job have been published. He composed an apologetic work under the title Sefer Ha-Berith ("Book of the Bond "), a fragment of which is extant, and translated into Hebrew the ethico-philosophical work of Bahya ibn Paquda (" Duties of the Heart "). In his commentaries he also made contributions to the comparative philology of Hebrew and Arabic. Mosxs Kling was the author of a Hebrew grammar, known—after the first three words—as Mahalak Shebile Ha-daat, or brieflyas Mahalak. It is an elementary introduction to the study of Hebrew, the first of its kind, in which only the most indispensable definitions and rules have a place, the remainder being almost wholly occupied by paradigms. Moses Kimhi was .the first who made the verb paqadh a model for conjugation, and the first also who introduced the now usual sequence in the enumeration of stem-forms. His handbook was of great historical importance as in the first half of the 16th century it became the favourite manual for the study of Hebrew among non-Judaic scholars (1st ed., Pesaro, 1508). Elias Levita (q.v.) wrote Hebrew explanations, and Sebastian Munster translated it into Latin. Moses Kimhi also composed commentaries to the biblical books; those on Proverbs, Ezra and Nehemiah are in the great rabbinical bibles falsely ascribed to Abraham ibn Ezra.
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