In the second half of the 7th century and in the whole of the 8th, as a result of the tremendous intellectual commotion produced throughout the southwestern Asia by the swift conquests of the Arabs and the collision of Islam with the older religions and cultures of the world, there arose a large number of religious sects, especially in Persia, Babylonia (Iraq), and Syria. Judaism did not escape this general fomentation; the remnants of Second Temple sects picked up new life and flickered once more before their final extinction, and new sects also arose, including the Isawites, the Yudganites, the Shadganites, the Malakites, the Mishawaites, and others. All these groups may have quickly disappeared, or been assimilated by rabbinical Judaism, if not for the actions of Anan Ben David.
Some polemical accounts supply Anan with a typical background story often used of "heretics" - namely, that he was frustrated in a bid for power within the religious community, and as a result broke away to form his own sect. According to these accounts, when, about the year 760, the Jewish exilarch in Babylon (probably Isaac Iskawi) died, two brothers among his nearest kin, probably nephews of his, Anan and Josiah (Hassan), were next in order of succession to the exalted office. Eventually Josiah was elected exilarch by the rabbis of the Babylonian Jewish colleges (the Geonim) and by the notables of the chief Jewish congregations; and the choice was confirmed by the calif of Baghdad. The story continues that Anan was proclaimed exilarch by his followers - an act construed by the Muslim authorities as rebellion against the authority of the calif, who had formally invested Josiah with the position. He was arrested by the authorities one Sunday in 767, and thrown into prison, to be executed on the ensuing Friday, as guilty of high treason. Luckily for Anan, the story goes, he met in jail a prominent fellow-prisoner, the founder of the Muslim casuistic school of the Hanifites, Abu Hanifah al-Nu'man ibn Thabit. He gave Anan Ben David advice which saved his life: He should set himself to expound all ambiguous precepts of the Torah in a fashion opposed to the traditional interpretation, and make this principle the foundation of a new religious etc. He must next get his partisans to secure the presence of the calif himself at the trial — his presence not being an unusual thing at the more important prosecutions. Anan was to declare that his religion was different from Rabbinical Judaism, and that his followers entirely coincided with him in matters of religious doctrine; which was an easy matter for Anan to say, because the majority of them were opposed to the rabbis. Complying with this advice, Anan defended himself in the presence of the calif Al-Mansur (754-775), who granted his favor. The story manages to put both Anan ben David and Abu Hanifah in a bad light at the same time.
The story so closely fits polemical clichés about the personal motives of "heretics" that it is open to grave doubt. Moreover, Leon Nemoy notes that "Natronai, scarcely ninety years after Anan's secession, tells us nothing about his aristocratic (Davidic) descent or about the contest for the office of exilarch which allegedly served as the immediate cause of his apostasy." He later notes that Natronai - a devout Rabbinical Jew - lived where Anan's activities took place, and that the Karaite sage Ya'acov Al-Kirkisani never mentioned Anan's purported lineage or candidacy for exilarch. (See Karaite Anthology; Yale Judaica Series 7)
Anan ben David's Sefer ha-Mitzvot ("The Book of the Precepts") was published about 770. He adopted many principles and opinions of other anti-rabbinic forms of Judaism that had previously existed. It has been suggested that he took much from the old Sadducees and Essenes, whose writings — or at least writings ascribed to them — were still in circulation. Thus, for example, these older sects prohibited the burning of any lights and the leaving of one's dwelling on the Sabbath; they also enjoined the actual observation of the new moon for the appointment of festivals, and the holding of the Pentecost festival always on a Sunday.
Read more about this topic: Anan Ben David
Other articles related to "history":
... or another has been seen in almost every society in history ... and Romans to Napoleon's France and Elizabethan England, much of history is filled with stories of entertainment based on games of chance ... In American history, early gambling establishments were known as saloons ...
... History of Charles XII, King of Sweden (1731) The Age of Louis XIV (1751) The Age of Louis XV (1746–1752) Annals of the Empire – Charlemagne, A.D ... II (1754) Essay on the Manners of Nations (or 'Universal History') (1756) History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great (Vol ... II 1763) History of the Parliament of Paris (1769) ...
... The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing taifa kingdoms helped the long embattled Iberian Christian kingdoms gain the initiative ... The capture of the strategically central city of Toledo in 1085 marked a significant shift in the balance of power in favour of the Christian kingdoms ...
... The history of computing is longer than the history of computing hardware and modern computing technology and includes the history of methods intended for pen and paper or for chalk and slate, with ...
... The Skeptical School of early Chinese history, started by Gu Jiegang in the 1920s, was the first group of scholars within China to seriously question the traditional ... early Chinese history is a tale told and retold for generations, during which new elements were added to the front end" ...
Famous quotes containing the word history:
“The awareness that health is dependent upon habits that we control makes us the first generation in history that to a large extent determines its own destiny.”
—Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.)
“The history of literaturetake the net result of Tiraboshi, Warton, or Schlegel,is a sum of a very few ideas, and of very few original tales,all the rest being variation of these.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.”
—Henry James (18431916)