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Jacob ben Ḥayyim ben Isaac ibn Adonijah


JACOB BEN HAYYIM BEN ISAAC IBN ADONIJAH (c. 1470–c. 1538), kabbalist, talmudist, and masoretic scholar. Born in Tunis, which he left on account of persecutions early in the 16th century, Jacob went to Rome and Florence and eventually settled in Venice (c. 1520), where he worked as a proofreader and editor at the Hebrew press of Daniel *Bomberg. He converted to Christianity sometime after 1527, as had Felix Pratensis, his predecessor at the press. In the 1520s he edited books in the fields of Kabbalah, Talmud, Bible, and liturgy. He is best remembered as the editor of the second edition of the famous Rabbinic Bible Shaar yhwh he-Ḥadash (sic, not as often quoted: hqdš), "The New Gate of the Lord," based on Sephardi manuscripts. The title, taken from Jeremiah 26:10 alluded to the fact that this edition was a replacement (1524–25) for the earlier edition (1517) that had been produced by Pratensis after his conversion to Christianity, a fact that did not sit well with prospective Jewish buyers. Ben Ḥayyimprovided a detailed introduction, and edited the apparatus of the masorah. These marginal notes led to Ben Ḥayyim's Bible becoming the standard "masoretic" text for centuries. The medieval rabbinic commentators chosen by Ben Ḥayyim toaccompany the biblical text became "canonical" in all later editions. (In the 19th century the rabbinic Bibles based on the edition of Ben Ḥayyim acquired the name Mikra'ot Gedolot, "large scriptures.") The introduction was translated into Latin by Claudius Capellus (De Mari Rabbinico Infido, 2 (1667), ch. 4) and into English by C.D. *Ginsburg (1865). Jacob stressed the reliability of talmudic tradition and criticized Bible commentators and grammarians such as David *Kimḥi, Profiat *Duran, and Isaac *Abrabanel for not giving sufficient attention to the masorah. His work in this field was acclaimed – with reservations – by Elijah *Levita and Azariah dei *Rossi. Jacob appended extracts of the masoretic work Darkhei ha-Nikkud ve-ha-Neginah, ascribed to Moses ha-Nakdan, to the Masorah Gedolah in the Rabbinic Bible. He also wrote a dissertation on the Targum, which is prefixed to the Pentateuch editions of 1527 and 1543–44. As proofreader and reviser for Bomberg, Jacob was responsible for the editio princeps of many works including the Jerusalem Talmud (1523), and Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (1524), which he revised together with David Pizzighettone. More recently his work as a reviser has come under criticism, as his readings were not always based on manuscript evidence; his knowledge of halakhah and of Aramaic, particularly of the dialect used in the Palestinian Talmud, was limited, as is evident also from his dissertation on the Targum.


Jacob ben Chajim ibn Adonijah, Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible (1968), prolegomenon by N.H. Snaith; C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (1897), 956–74; J.N. Epstein, in: Tarbiz, 5 (1934), 257–72; 6 (1935), 38–55; S. Lieberman, ibid., 20 (1950), 107–17; idem, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… Ḥ. Albeck (1963), 283–305; P. Kahle, Cairo Geniza (1959), 124ff; J. Penkower, in: dbi, 1:558–59; idem, in: A. Berlin and M. Brettler (eds.), The Jewish Study Bible (2004), 2082–83.

[S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

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