Varieties of Medieval "Rabbinic" Literature

Note: Selecting a highlighted phrase will bring you to an appropriate bibliographic entry

Biblical Studies:

Introduction of "Peshat" (literal, contextual study) of the Bible, in addition to continuation of Rabbinic "Midrash" (homiletical interpretation).

Scientific grammar and lexicography.

"Masorah"--precise rules to determine text, pronunciation, cantillation of Bible.

Prayer and Liturgy:

Systematic "Orders of prayer"--Sa'adia, Amram.

Piyyut (liturgical poetry): Especially in Palestine. Elaborate and erudite poetic versions of the standard prayers.

Studies of daily life and local customs:

Especially in Germany, France and Provence. Rarely in Spain.

Polemical literature:

Disputational literature: Mostly for debates with Christians.

Inner-Jewish sectarianism: Karaites--Accepted Bible alone (the entire Bible generally held to be of equal sanctity), rejecting the Talmud and Rabbinic "Oral Tradition."

Talmud and Jewish Law (Halakhah):

Commentaries to Talmud:

Explanatory (Rashi, R. Hananel)
Critical ("Tosafot" etc.)

Codes (determining normative law based primarily on Babylonian Talmud):

Varying types of organization, degrees of comprehensiveness, relationships between law and theology.

Ge'onic collections (She'iltot, Halakhot Gedolot, Halakhot Pesuqqot, etc.).
R. Isaac Alfasi
Maimonides' "Mishneh Torah"
Asheri, Tur

R. Joseph Caro's Shulhah Arukh.


Collected answers to questions on law and interpretation by leading Rabbis.

Classifications of [613] Biblical Commandments

(e.g., Halakhot Gedolot, Maimonides, Hinnukh, R. Moses of Coucy's Sefer Mitzvot Gadol).

Systematic Treatises on areas of Jewish law

(in Arabic, by Babylonian Ge'onim)

Introductions and methodological manuals.

Ethical and Moralistic treatises

(including "ethical wills").

Chronology and History

(Yosippon, Epistle of R. Sherira, Ibn Daud's "Sefer ha-Qabbalah," etc.).

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