Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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BLOCH----AMERICAN JEWISH LITERATURE
25
ciently known. In
Geonica
, a two volume work (New York, 1909),
Louis Ginzberg paved the way for subsequent studies in the period
and in the literature it produced. In addition to editing and
elucidating a number of Genizah fragments of heretofore unpub-
lished writings of the Geonim, the work includes a critical survey
of their writings shedding light on problems which the subject
presents. Ginzberg deals with a cloudy period in Jewish history.
Virtually all knowledge of this period was heretofore derived
from scanty sources. Ginzberg not only removed the historical
contradictions presented in the primary sources — the Letter of
Sherira and the report of Nathan the Babylonian — he also
defined the character of the writings of the Geonim and determined
their respective authorship. In addition, he discussed a variety
of obscure subjects. In all of these, he displayed extraordinary
mastery of the pertinent literature and succeeded in solving
brilliantly problems with which scholars had wrestled for a long
time. Some of the notes and the introductory remarks to the
texts are in themselves models of literary composition, veritable
monographs on the history and literature of the Geonim. No
wonder Ginzberg’s
Geonica
engendered a rich literary ou tpu t by
scholars in this country and abroad, all of which concern them-
selves with the reconstruction of the Geonic period and with
highlighting some of the events.
Beyond any doubt, the greatest of the Geonim was Saadia.
His life and works form the subject of a biography by Dr. Henry
Malter (Philadelphia, 1921), the like of which is hardly equalled
in Jewish literature. I t is a complete and well-documented account
of the life and achievements of the many-sided and colorful per-
sonality of Saadia. I t includes a well-balanced evaluation of his
works as well as an adequate bibliographical appraisal of the
extensive pertinent literature. The factual material was drawn
from many sources, especially from the scattered Genizah frag-
ments, and the author displayed a command of the entire lit-
erature. With great skill, he combined the scattered da ta into an
harmonious and glorious picture of the Great Gaon, who more
than any of his peers contributed to the molding and shaping
of the beliefs of Judaism.
American scholars have had a proportionately larger share than
th a t of their peers in other lands in the investigation of problems
bearing on the development of Jewish philosophical speculation.
David Neumark daringly ventured to show the historical develop-
ment of various philosophical problems in Jewish thought and
literature. He was more than the historian of Jewish philosophy;
he was also an original religious thinker. He did not live long