Anan ben David as the Archetypal Religious Troublemaker: how Rav Natronai Gaon Contributed to Elevating the Ananite Leader to the Position of Founding Father of Karaism Cover Image
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Anan ben Dawid jako archetyp religijnego wichrzyciela: jak raw Natronaj Gaon przyczynił się do wykreowania przywódcy ananitów na ojca założyciela karaizmu
Anan ben David as the Archetypal Religious Troublemaker: how Rav Natronai Gaon Contributed to Elevating the Ananite Leader to the Position of Founding Father of Karaism

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Subject(s): History, Jewish Thought and Philosophy, History of Judaism
Published by: Żydowski Instytut Historyczny
Keywords: Anan ben David; Rav Natronai Gaon; Karaites/Karaism; Ananites/Ananism; medieval Judaism

Summary/Abstract: The paper analyzes in detail the oldest known gaonic report on the alleged founder of the Karaite movement, Anan ben David (VIII c.). It is ascribed to rav Natronai (bar Hilai) Gaon (d. 865) and has been preserved in a prayer book authored by Rav Amram ben Sheshna (d. 875), Sidur rav Amram ha-ssalem. The ensuing conclusions is that if not for this and other Babylonian geonim (such as Rav Saadia Gaon), who made use of Anan’s name as a convenient label for religious instigators and heretics (that is any opponents of Babylonian tradition, including supporters of the Palestinian one), it is not unlikely that he would not have been recognized by the Karaites as the founding father of their movement. By employing his name as an emblem of rebellious freethinker, they made this – otherwise marginal for the development of Karaism – figure more important than it really was. Thanks to that, he could later on be appropriated by the Karaite movement – which at the time of its emergence and coalescence (9th-10th century) was in desperate need of unifying myths – and become its symbolic originator. In this sense, it can be said that the Babylonian representatives of medieval Judaism wishing to define the limits of their own religious authority through the unification of Jewish doctrines and practices, as well as centralization and concentration of the (political) power in their own hands, created the founding myth of Karaism.

  • Issue Year: 263/2017
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 321-340
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: Polish