Page 13 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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This assumption has been corroborated as a result of a systematic
collection of Jewish-Persian Bible manuscripts at the beginning
of the 17th century by the Florentine scholar Giambattista
Vecchietti. The manuscripts he had recovered represented Judeo-
Persian versions of the Pentateuch and the Psalms and of all other
Biblical books, as well as books of the Apocrypha, all belonging
to the early 14th century.
Despite the different origins of these Judeo-Persian translations,
found in such Jewish communities as Hamadan, Isfahan, Shiraz,
Lar and Yezd, they show a certain uniformity in style, which
leads to the assumption that they were the work of the same school
of translators who flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The authors of Judeo-Persian Bible translations and lexico­
graphical treatises and dictionaries show an astounding degree of
familiarity with leading Biblical and Rabbinical authorities of
the West, and, following faithfully the traditional method of
Bible interpretations, utilized not only Targum Onkelos, Talmud,
Midrash, Sa'adya Gaon and Hai Gaon, but also Western authorities
such as Rashi, Redak, Abraham b. Ezra and many others of the
Spanish and French schools of Bible research.
Pioneer of Judeo-Persian Poetry
While these efforts in the field of Bible studies were creative
and significant, the literary abilities of the Persian Jews found their
highest manifestation in the field of original Judeo-Persian poetry.
This new field was opened up by the 14th century Jewish poet
Maulana Shahin of Shiraz, who dedicated his talents to the writing
of Bible centered poetry and who can be regarded as the first
Judeo-Persian poet. Under the influence of classical Persian poetry,
inspired by a keen desire to promote a deeper knowledge of the
Jewish past, and imbued with a profound Jewish consciousness
and loyal adherence to his religious heritage, Shahin began to
make the Biblical narrative the topic of his writings. His life work
represents a poetical paraphrase of the Pentateuch, known as Sefer
Sharkh Shahin al Ha-Torah, written in Persian with Hebrew
Four distinct works of Shahin can be discerned: a Moses-Nameh,
a commentary to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
(completed about 1327); an Ardashir-Nameh (completed about
1332) consisting of the story of Esther and Mordecai and the story
of Shero and Mahzad, a typical Iranian love story; an Ezra-Nameh,
dealing mainly with the ascension and rule of King Cyrus the
Great and the building of the Temple of Jerusalem; and a
Genesis-Nameh (completed about 1358), which includes the story
of Joseph and Zulaikha.