Masterpieces of Medieval Hebrew Literature Glossary
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During this course you may come across terms and expressions that you are not familiar with. For this reason, I created a glossary. If there are additional terms that you would like on this list, please let me know.
Abrogation The idea that somethings (texts, laws, books, religions) are replaced by others Ahl Al-Kitāb “People of the Book” (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and other non-Muslims) Al-Andalus Islamic Iberia / Islamic Spain Alhambra Decree Also called Edict of Expulsion. A law that forced all Jews to leave Spain. Allegory A story or imagery to be interpreted as revealing a hidden meaning Almohads Berber dynasty (12th century), intolerant of minorities Almoravids Berber dynasty (11th century), religiously conservative Amora'im Jewish scholars (c. 230-500) responsible for the Gemara Ananites Followers of Anan ben David; Later called Qara'ites (or Karaites) Andalus Islamic Iberia / Islamic Spain Andalusian Poetry Poetry that follows Arabic meter (patterns of long and short syllables). Anthropomorphism Describing God in human terms Apostasy Deserting one’s religion Apostate Someone who leaves his/her religion Arabic meter Poetry focused on patterns of long and short syllables Arianism A type of Christianity that did not believe in the Trinity. They believed that Jesus had 'become' the son of God. Arians Followers of Arianism Asceticism Severe self-restraint, abstinence, withdrawing from the world, and/or denial of physical pleasure Ascetic Someone who practices asceticism Ashkenaz Hebrew name for Germany (and northern France) Ashkenazi Jew/Judaism with roots in medieval Germany and/or northern France Babylonia Jewish name for Mesopotamia (Iraq) Babylonian Judaism Judaism as taught and practiced in Babylonia Babylonian Talmud The Talmud composed in Babylonia Baron Local ruler, technically under authority of the king Bid³a Religious innovation (considered a sin in Islam) Bishop Important Church leader Blasphemy Insulting God or religion Blood Libel An accusation that Jews would ritually kill a Christian Canon The collection of holy books, accepted as genuine within the Bible Confess (verb) To declare and acknowledge one’s sins Confession (noun) Declaring and acknowledging one’s sins Confessor Someone who hears confessions Creed Statement of required beliefs within a religious community Credo The Latin text of the (Roman Catholic) creed (see: Creed) Christendom Society dominated by Christianity Conversos Jews or Muslims (and their descendants) who had converted to Christianity (See also: New Christians) Crypto Jew Someone who practices Judaism in secret Crusade A movement of Christians to reconquer the Holy Land from the Muslims Day of Atonement A Jewish holiday on which one asks/prays for forgiveness and forgives others Dhimma Arabic word meaning toleration or protection, granted to a dhimmi (see there) Dhimmi A tolerated member of the People of the Book (see there) who lives under the Pact of Omar (see there) Diaspora Dispersion (of the Jews outside their ancestral homeland) Djarḥa The final two lines of a Muwaššaḥ Disputation A public debate between representatives of competing religions Dogma An authoritative, undisputable article of faith Edom 1) Another name for Esau (son of Isaac and brother of Jacob); 2) The nation of Edom; 3) Nickname for the Romans 4) In the Middle Ages: code name for Christianity Edomites 1) Descendants of Edom/Esau; 2) Member of the nation of Edom; 3) Nickname for Romans; 4) Nickname for Christians Eucharist A Catholic and Byzantine ritual of eating bread and drinking wine representing Jesus' flesh and blood Eunuch A male slave whose private parts have been removed Excommunicate (verb) Expelling or excluding someone from the community Excommunication (noun) Expelling or excluding someone from the community Exilarch Head of the Jews in exile Expulsion Banishing a people (most often Jews) from a country Festival of Weeks See: Shavu'oth Festival of Tabernacles See: Sukkot Ga'on Head of a Talmud Academy in Babylonia or Palestine Ge'onîm Plural of Ga'on Gemara Main part of the Talmud that discusses the Mishna Gematria The belief that the numerical value of a word has meaning Geniza Storage space for discarded holy texts Ghusn The first three lines of each stanza within a Muwaššaḥ Gospel Literally: Happy tiding 1) In the New Testament: Jesus' message that the Kingdom of God is at hand 2) A biography of the life of Jesus (the New testament contains four of such 'Gospels') Haggadá A booklet with the liturgy of the Passover service Hagia Sophia (Pronounced: Aya Sofia). Old, famous church in Constantinople Halakha Jewish law Halakhic Legal (appertaining to halakha) Ḥanukka Jewish festival commemorating a victory of Hellenistic oppressors (celebrated in winter) Harem A section of a house or palace containing someone's wives, concubines, and/or female slaves. Ḥasîd Hebrew word for 'pietist' (see there); Someone who is exceptionally religious Ḥasidé Ashkenaz A specific pietistic movement in Medieval Germany (see also: pietism) Ḥasidîm Plural of Ḥasîd Hasidism A name for several pietist Jewish movements (See: pietism) Hebrew Bible A collection of Jewish Scriptures identical with the books of the 'Old Testament' (see there) Hékhalót Mysticism A type of meditation in which one’s soul travels through heavenly palaces, towards God’s throne Hellenism Adopting aspects of Greek culture, language, and/or religion. Hellenism comes in different gradations. Hellenist Follower of Hellenism Heresy Any belief or opinion that is at odds with the established dogmas Heretic A member of a religious community who holds religious opinions that are contrary to the established dogmas Host A piece of (processed) bread that -when it is 'consecrated'- is believed to change into the actual body of Christ Host Desecration The conscious desecration of a consecrated host (See: host) Iberia The peninsula that contains Spain and Portugal Initial sin Christian notion that the first sin of Adam and Eve renders all their descendants automatically sinful Inquisition A special organization whose goal was to discover, combat, and punish heresy. Inquisitor A member of the Inquisition (see: Inquisition) Ishmael Son of Abraham and brother of Isaac (See also: Ishmaelites) Ishmaelites 1) Descendants of Ishmael; 2) Hebrew term for Arabs; 3) In the Middle Ages also: Hebrew term for Muslims ³Iṣma Arabic word meaning 'protection against sin'; infallibility Israel 1) (People of) Israel: a term for the Jewish people; 2) (Land of) Israel Ittiṣāl (Arabic term) A spiritual connection to God Jerusalem Talmud Alternative term for Palestinian Talmud; a version of the Talmud developed in Palestine (the Land of Israel) Jewry (pl. Jewries) Jewish community Jizya A special tax paid by dhimmis Judaizer Someone who brings Jewish influences into Christianity Judeo-Español See ‘Ladino’ Kabbalah See: Qabbala Kalām A type of philosophy practiced in the early Islamic world in which reason and revelation are combined Karaites See Qara'ites Kavod Glory (for Ḥasidé Ashkenaz, a personified emanation of God) Ladino A Jewish dialect of Spanish spoken outside of Spain Libel Unfounded, slanderous accusation Ma’asé Beréshît Works of creation (a type of mystical meditation focused on the mysteries of creation) Ma’asé Merkavá Works of the Heavenly Throne (a type of mystical meditation focused on the mysteries of God’s throne. See also Hékhalót Mysticism) Maoz Tzur A song, written during the time of the crusades, that is commonly sung during the festival of Hanukka Marano Someone who is outwardly Christian but secretly practicing Judaism (also: Crypto-Jew). Sometimes also used for a Christian from Jewish descent. Martyr A person who is killed because of his religion or convictions Mashiach Hebrew for Messiah (see under Messiah) Mesopotamia The land between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris; roughly present-day Iraq Messiah 1) For Jews: A predicted redeemer who will deliver the Jewish people and rule over the earth in peace 2) For Christians: A predicted redeemer who delivers the people from sin, and then later will come again and establish God’s kingdom Messianism A highly raised expectation of the immanent coming of the Messiah Midrash Teaching or commentary through allegory (See also: allegory) Millenarianism A highly raised expectation of the immanent (1000 year-long) Messianic age Mishna The core text within the Talmud Mishné Torah Maimonides’ code of Jewish law Moresco Someone who is outwardly Christian but secretly practicing Islam. Sometimes also used for a Christian of Muslim descent. Mu'tazila A rationalist type of Kalam Muwaššaḥ Special type of Arabic (or Hebrew) poem, written in stanzas. The final two lines (called the djarḥa) are written in another language. Mystic Someone who tries to attain insight into the mysteries beyond ordinary human knowledge, by communication with the Divine, sometimes in a state of ecstasy. Mysticism A doctrine or practice that aims at transcending ordinary understanding and/or intimately unite the soul with God through meditation or ecstasy. Nagîd Leader of the Jewish communities within a certain territory Naskh Arabic for Abrogation (something being replaced by something else) Negative Theology The idea that all we can say about God is what He is not New Christians Christians with Jewish or Muslim ancestors New Testament The latest, specifically Christian part of the Bible Old Testament The oldest, Jewish part of the Christian Bible Omar The second of the four righteous Caliphs (according to Sunni Islam); See also: Pact of Omar Oral Torah An originally dynamic, oral Jewish tradition that accompanies the (written) Torah. Pact of Omar An Islamic set of rules that regulate the position of dhimmis (See: dhimmî) Palestine A term originally given by the Romans to the Land of Israel Pagan Not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim (other word for heathen) Palestinian Judaism Type of Judaism that originated in Palestine (the Land of Israel) Palestinian Talmud Version of the Talmud developed in Palestine (the Land of Israel); also called Jerusalem Talmud Passover Jewish Festival commemorating the Exodus/the birth of the Jewish nation. Also called Pesach (celebrated in Spring) Pentateuch Greek word for the Written Torah; the first five books of the Hebrew bible; also called the Torah Penitence Actions that show regret for having done wrong People of the Book Islamic term referring to those people whom God gave a Holy Book before Islam (i.e. Jews, Christians, and others) Pesach Jewish Festival commemorating the Exodus/the birth of the Jewish nation. Also called Passover (celebrated in Spring) Pharisees The Jewish leaders after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) that carried the Oral Torah. / Originators of the rabbinical tradition (including the Talmud). Later called Rabbis. Pietism A movement in which piety (exceptional religiosity) is cultivated Pietist Follower of a movement of pietism Piety Exceptional religiosity Pious Exceptionally religious Piyyut Hebrew for 'Poetry' or 'Poem' Polemics (In the context of this course:) Argumentation for the sake of one's religion Pope The head of the Roman Catholic Church Prostration Bowing down in prayer Provence Region consisting of independent fiefdoms in southern France Qabbala 1) Passed-on tradition; 2) A Medieval Jewish system of mysticism (see: mysticism) Qara’ites A kind of Judaism that does not accept and follow the Oral Torah and rabbinical tradition (including the Talmud) Qelippá An evil husk that obscures a divine spark (also written: Kelippa or Klippa) Qelippót Plural of Qelippá Qibla The direction in which one prays Rabbanites The kind of Judaism that does accept and follow the Oral Torah and rabbinical tradition (including the Talmud) Rabbi A Jewish spiritual leader and/or religious teacher who has been ordained as such Rēsh Galuthā The Head of the Diaspora Revelation A disclosure of God and/or His will to His creatures Rhineland Area in Germany around the river Rhine which used to have important Jewish communities Rosh haShana Jewish New Year (around the beginning of the Fall) Sadducees A kind of Judaism before the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) that did not accept and follow the Oral Torah and rabbinical teachings Safwa (Arabic for "elite") A person or group that has a special spiritual ability to connect with God Sefirá A divine emanation within the system of Qabbala Sefirot Plural of Sefirá Sepharad Hebrew name for Iberia (Spain and Portugal) Sephardi Jew/Judaism with roots in medieval Iberia Sephardic Jew/Judaism with roots in medieval Iberia Sabbath Seventh day of the week (Saturday); Jewish day of rest Shabbát Hebrew word for 'Sabbath' Shavu'oth "Festival of Weeks" Jewish holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah (celebrated in the Summer) Simt The final two lines of each stanza within a Muwaššaḥ Sufi A Muslim mystic Sufism A form of Islamic mysticism Sukkot Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, also called Festival of Booths (in the Fall) Synagogue Jewish house of worship Taḥrîf A belief among Muslims that Jews and Christians have corrupted their Scriptures Taifa Islamic, relatively small independent territory on the Iberian Peninsula Talmud A collection of Jewish books of rabbinic study and discussions Tanakh A Hebrew term for the Hebrew Bible Tanna'im Jewish scholars (c. 0-230) responsible for the Mishna Tetragrammaton The four-letter-name of God that may not be pronounced (Y-H-W-H) Theology Study and definition of this pertaining to God and religion Torah 1) Divine instruction 2) Hebrew term for the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible); also called the Written Torah Tosafists Group of Jewish scholars that appeared after Rashi and wrote commentaries on Scripture and (especially) on the Talmud Tosafot Added commentaries written by the Tosafists (see there) Transubstantiation The Catholic belief that during the mass, the 'host' (a piece of bread) becomes the real body of Christ Trinity The Christian belief that the One God consists of three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Virgin birth The Christian belief that Jesus was born from a virgin (Mary) Visigoths A Germanic tribe that ruled over the Iberian Peninsula before the Arabic invasion Vizier Arabic word for minister. Written Torah See: Torah Yeshiva A Jewish religions academy Yeshu Hebrew for 'Jesus' Yishmael See: Ishmael Yishmaelites See: Ishmaelites Yom Kippur The Day of Atonement (in the Fall) Zohar Jewish Book of mystical teachings Zunār A belt that dhimmis were obligated to wear to be recognizable.