Samson ben Isaac of Chinon

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SAMSON BEN ISAAC OF CHINON (14th century), one of the last French tosafists. Samson was nevertheless the first tosafist to write a work on talmudic methodology, Sefer Keritut. In it he incorporated the whole of the methodological material embodied in the tosafot literature. The first four parts of the book deal with the *hermeneutical rules, with the chronology of the tannaim and amoraim, and with the principles on which the halakhah is decided in cases of difference of opinion. The fifth part, Leshon Limmudim, which is also the most comprehensive, deals with the methods of talmudic hermeneutics, and with the methods of the Mishnah, baraita, and Talmud. In the course of his presentation Samson enters into detailed discussion, in the manner of the tosafists, maintaining that from such discussion there emerge more principles and methodological rules. Early methodological works, such as Seder Tanna'im ve-Amora'im and the letter of Sherira Gaon, served Samson chiefly for the first four chapters, the last chapter, his main work, being based entirely on the tosafists. The work shows little originality, but its main importance lies in the systematic assembly of the material and the manner in which he clarifies it. The Sefer Keritut was first published in Constantinople in 1515 and has been frequently republished, together with commentaries by various scholars, among them Jacob *Ḥagiz. In his work Samson speaks of having written tosafot on the Talmud, but none of these is extant. In the responsa of *Isaac b. Sheshet (no. 157) Samson is reported, in the name of Perez b. Isaac ha-Kohen, to have opposed Kabbalah and the doctrine of the *Sefirot, saying: "I pray childlike." Isaac b. Sheshet referred to him as the "greatest rabbi of his generation."


Urbach, Tosafot, index; Renan, Rabbins, 461–4; Samson ben Isaac of Chinon, Sefer Keritut, ed. by Y.Z. Roth (1961), 8–10.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]