The exegetical method of Rabbi Yosef Kara with regard to the Prophetic Books
Among the Jewish sages of northern France, the twelfth century saw a shift from Talmudic study and the midrashic exegesis of a few Biblical books to a methodical peshat interpretation of the whole Bible. Rabbi Yosef Kara, a man of wonderfully independent mind, was a leading figure in this movement. He (not Rashi) was the first true peshat commentator, and this thesis demonstrates that his commentary displays many features which have become the cornerstones of modern exegesis, especially in its stress upon context, comparison and realia and its articulation of exegetical principles. Only Kara's commentary on Job has to date received critical attention. This thesis analyses his commentary on the entire Book of Prophets: Joshua, Judges, III Samuel, I-II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets. His innovatory emphasis upon peshat and general rejection of derash are discussed in Chapter 1, with his stress upon textual environment (hibbur ha-mikraoth) and continuous attention to the links between topics. Chapter 2 deals with the style and terminology of his exegetical approach; use of verses and of vernacular languages; literary analyses of Biblical style; manner of resolving contradictions; and interest in realia. Chapter 3 discusses when and how he uses sources like the Aramaic Targumim, and surveys his links with other commentators like Rashi, Helbo, Ben Saruk and Ben Labrat, and his use of their work. His independence of Rashi and the respective conceptions of peshat of Kara, Rashi and Rashbam are established in a long comparison. Some notes on his attitude to the Masoretic text follow. A survey of his works and their scholarly history and a brief account of his life which discusses the epithet kara are provided.