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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Ibn-Caspi or Caspe, Joseph Ben-Abba Mari

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(also called Bonafoux de l'Argentiere), an able Jewish writer, was born of r. wealthy family about 1280 at Argentiere, in France. He removed while quite young to Tarascon, and devoted his time mainly to Biblical studies. When only seventeen years old, he published as a result commentaries on Aben-Ezra's exposition of the Pentateuch, and on Ibn-Ganach's grammatical work. When about thirty years old he extended his range of study to metaphysical subjects, and thereafter became an ardent admirer of Maimonides, whose method of interpretation he also adopted. Indeed, so far was he carried away in his admiration for the great philosopher that he emigrated to Egypt, having decided to study under the descendants of Maimonides. But he failed to meet there that great fountain of knowledge which he supposed the followers of the second great Moses capable of supplying, and, after a few months' travel in Egypt and the East, he returned to France. In 1327 he again set out on a journey to promote his studies by a residence at foreign high-schools, and he visited Catalonia, Mallorca, Aragonia, and Valencia, and at one time even desired to go to Fez, having been informed that in that African city several noted Jewish scholars resided, whose instructions he coveted. Towards the latter part of 1332 Ibn-Caspi returned to his native country, and devoted himself to the production of a number of valuable exegetical works. He died about 1340. In all he wrote some thirty-six works, most remaining to us only in MS. form, of which lists may be found in S. Jellineck, דברים עתיקים, vol. 2, 1846; Delitzsch and Zunz, Catal. MS.; and in Fiurst, Biblioth. Jud. 1, 147.

Besides a commentary on Maimonides's Alore Nebochim, his most valuable works are, כס שרשות (or שרשות only, the word כס ,ֹ silver, being an allusion to his own name, כספי, which is found in the titles of all his works) (small silver chains or roots), a Hebrew Dictionary, which is one of his most interesting and important works. "He starts from the principle that every root has only one general idea as its basis and logically deduces from it all the other shades of meaning. A copy of this work in MS., 2 vols. 4to, is in the Paris library, and another in the Angelica at Rome. Abrabanel frequently quotes it in his commentary on the Pentateuch (comp. p. 7), on Isaiah (comp. Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 66:17), etc.; Wolf gives a specimen of it (Bibliotheca Hebrcea, 1, 1543); Richard Simon used the Paris MS. (Hist. Crit. lib. 1, cap. 31), and Leopold Dukes printed extracts from it (Literturblatt des Orients, 1847, p. 486): A Commentary on Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. "Of the commentary on Proverbs, which is one of Ibn-Caspi's most valuable contributions to Biblical exegesis, the beginning and end have been published by Werblumer (comp. קבוצת כס, 1846, p. 19, etc.); an analysis of the commentary on Ecclesiastes is given by Ginsburg (compare Historical and Critical Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Longman, 1861, p. 60, etc.), and the brief commentary on, or, rather, introduction to the Song of Songs, which was published in 1577, but which is rarer than the MSS., has been reprinted with an English translation by Ginsburg in his Historical and Critical Commentary on the Song of Songs (London, 1857, p. 47, etc.):"- מטות כס(silver staves), or commentary on eight prophets, in which he attacks with great severity those who explain these prophecies as referring to the Messiah (See IBN-DANAN): - גכיע כס (a silver cup), or commentary on the miracles and other mysteries found in the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa. His principles' of interpretation he laid down clearly in his commentary on the Proverbs above mentioned in these words: "The sacred Scriptures must be explained according to their plain and literal sense; and a recondite meaning can as little be introduced into them as into Aristotle's writings on logic and natural history.

Only where the literal meaning is not sufficient, and reason rejects it, a deeper sense must be resorted to. If we once attempt to allegorize a simple and intelligible passage, then we might just as well do it with the whole contents of the Bible." "The logical division of sentences is the most indispensable and best auxiliary to the right understanding of the Bible, and the criterion to the proper order of the words are the Massora and the accents." It is evident from this extract that Ibn-Caspi anticipated the hermeneutical rules of modern criticism at a time when the schoolmen and the depositaries of Christian learning were engaged in hair-splitting and in allegorizing every fact of the Bible. It is greatly to be regretted that most of his exegetical works are left unpublished. See Ginsburg, in Kitto, Bibl. Cyclop. 2, 351 sq.; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 7:361 sq.; Kirchheim, Werblumler's Edition of Ibn-Caspi's Commentary an Maimonides's More Nebochim (Frankfort- on-the-Maine, 1848), p. 10 sq.; Leopold Dukes, in the Litersaturb. des Orients, 1848; and Schneider, in Ersch u. Gruber's Allgen. Encyklop. sec. 2, 31:58 sq.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ibn-Caspi or Caspe, Joseph Ben-Abba Mari'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/i/ibn-caspi-or-caspe-joseph-ben-abba-mari.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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