IBN JANAḤ, ABU AL-WALID MERWAN (also known as R. Marinus; his Hebrew name was Jonah [lit. "dove"]; hence "Ibn Janaḥ" = "the winged"):


Greatest Hebrew philologist of the Middle Ages; born at Cordova between 985 and 990; died at Saragossa in the first half of the eleventh century. He studied at Lucena, Isaac ibn Saul and Isaac ibn Gikatilla being his principal teachers. He studied poetry with the former and essayed poetry himself as a youth, although he recognized later that the gift of poetry had been denied him. Isaac ibn Gikatilla, an accomplished Arabic scholar, seems to have exercised a powerful influence over Ibn Janaḥ, who early attained an intimate acquaintance with the Arabic language and literature, and acquired an easy and graceful Arabic style. Ibn Janaḥ adopted the profession of medicine, and became a skilful physician ("the physician" is often added to his name).

His Opponents.

Ibn Abi Uṣaibi'a, the biographer of Arabic physicians, says that Ibn Janaḥ wrote a book on simple remedies and their weights and measures ("Kitab al-Talkhiṣ"), which acquired some reputation. He also studied logic with especial interest, but was an opponent of metaphysical speculation. His principal pursuit, however, was the study of the Holy Scriptures and the Hebrew language, in which he was aided by other masters in Lucena besides the two already mentioned. Judah Ḥayyuj was reverenced by Ibn Janaḥ as his chief master in the field of Hebrew philology, although he can hardly have been personally his teacher, for when Ibn Janaḥ returned to Cordova, Ḥayyuj was dead. In 1012 Ibn Janaḥ, with some of his fellow citizens, was obliged to leave Cordova. After a long period of wandering he settled in Saragossa, where all his works were written. In regard to his external circumstances it is known only that at Saragossa he was the center of a circle occupied with scientific questions, and that he had young pupils, for whose benefit he wrote some of his works. The Talmudic scholars of Saragossa were hostile to him and opposed his scientific studies. In the introduction to his chief work Ibn Janaḥ severely criticizes their ignorance, which, he says, they hid under a mantle of piety, and defends his own efforts by appealing to the example of the Geonim and of the teachers of the Talmud. He knew and quoted the Vulgate.

In Saragossa Ibn Janaḥ gradually drifted into polemical relations with both Mohammedan and Christian teachers. The great event of his life was his dispute with Samuel ha-Levi ibn Nagdela, his celebrated compatriot, who had left Cordova at the same time as himself, and had acquired high repute in southern Spain. The dispute arose from Ibn Nagdela's wish to defend his teacher Ḥayyuj against the criticism to which Ibn Janaḥ had subjected his writings. The dispute was a very acrimonious one, but only a few fragments have been preserved. The "Epistles of the Companions" ("Rasa'il al-Rifaḳ"), as Ibn Nagdela calls the pamphlets which he and his friends launched against Ibn Janaḥ, as well as Ibn Janaḥ's "The Book of Shaming," or "The Book of Confounding" ("Kitab al-Tashwir"; Hebr. "Sefer ha-Haklamah"), which appeared in four consecutive parts, has been lost. But the substance of the lost pamphlets is to be found in Ibn Janaḥ's "Kitab al-Tanḳiḥ," in which the author often refers to these polemical writings, which he valued highly.

His Chief Work.

The "Kitabal-Tanḳiḥ" (Book of Minute Research) is Ibn Janaḥ's chief work, on which he was engaged during his dispute with Ibn Nagdela. It is devoted to the study of the Bible and its language, and was the first complete exposition of the Hebrew vocabulary and grammar. The book is divided into two parts, grammatical and lexicographical. Each of these parts has a separate name and appears as a separate book. The first part is called "Kitab al-Luma'" (Book of Many-Colored Flower-Beds). It is preceded by a very interesting grammatical introduction to the entire work. The Arabic original of the "Luma'" was published by Joseph Derenbourg in association with W. Bacher (Paris, 1886). The Hebrew translation by Judah ibn Tibbon (who translated "Luma'" by "Riḳmah") was edited in 1855 (Frankfort-on-the-Main) by B. Goldberg and R. Kirchheim. The second, lexicographical part of the work, "Kitab al-Uṣul," is provided with a special introduction. The Arabic original was edited by Neubauer (Oxford, 1875); the Hebrew translation by Judah ibn Tibbon ("Sefer ha-Shorashim") was edited by W. Bacher (Berlin, 1897). A French translation of the "Luma'" was made by Metzger, with the title "Le Livre des Parterres Fleuris" (Paris, 1889).

Since Ibn Janaḥ excludes, as the established results of research, everything found in Ḥayyuj's fundamental works and much found in his own earlier writings, and since he does not discuss vowels and accents, on the ground that their treatment belongs properly to Masoretic works, both the grammar and the dictionary contain serious gaps, which, however, are balanced by a mass of other material outside the province of a purely grammatical andlexicographical work. The "Kitab al-Tanḳiḥ" is indeed a rich mine of information on Biblical syntax, rhetoric, hermeneutics, and exegesis. Its historical and scientific value is discussed under Bible Exegesis; Dictionaries, Hebrew; Grammar, Hebrew. The other writings of Ibn Janaḥ are as follows:

Other Works.

Kitab al-Mustalḥaḳ (not "Mustalḥik"; see "R. E. J." xxx. 299; Hebr. "Hassagot," or "Tosefot"); this was Ibn Janaḥ's first work, and was begun in Cordova. It is a criticism of, and "supplement" to, the two works of Ḥayyuj on the verbs with weak and double consonants. Ibn Janaḥ states that he read the Scriptures eight times to collect material for this book.

Kitab al-Tanbih (Book of Excitation [Hebrew, "Ha'arah"]), a polemic against a pamphlet written by his enemies in Saragossa. It is in the form of a letter to a friend at Cordova, and discusses at length several questions of grammar.

Kitab al-Taḳrib wal-Tashil (Book of Bringing Near and Making Easy: "Sefer ha-Ḳerub weha-Yishshur"), a commentary on some passages in Ḥayyuj's writings, with an independent grammatical excursus.

Kitab al-Taswiyah (Book of Retribution: Hebr. "Hashwa'ah," or "Tokaḥat"), an account of a dispute which took place at Saragossa in the house of a friend, Abu Sulaiman ibn Taraḳa. In this dispute a stranger from Granada, who belonged to Ibn Nagdela's circle, gave the first information of the attacks on Ibn Janaḥ in course of preparation. Ibn Janaḥ enumerates the criticisms advanced by the stranger against single points of the "Mustalḥaḳ," and then proceeds to refute them. This inaugurated the great controversy. The four books enumerated here have been published, with Arabic texts and French translations, by Joseph and Hartwig Derenbourg ("Opuscules et Traités d'Aboû l-Walîd Merwan ibn Djanâh de Cordoue," Paris, 1880).

His Motive.

Although Ibn Janaḥ is careful to exclude his personal affairs from his works, his personality can be plainly seen. He regarded the study of the Scriptures as his life-work, and considered as indispensable thereto an exhaustive and exact knowledge of the Hebrew language. The study of Hebrew philology was in his eyes a religious duty. In the introduction to his principal work ("Luma'," p. 1; "Riḳmah" iv.) he makes this statement: "Since the revealed Scriptures can be understood only by the aid of the science of language, the endeavor to comprehend them from all sides becomes a more imperative duty the higher the end aimed at and the more our reason recognizes the greatness and majesty of Him who has revealed these books."

The consciousness of the value of the results of his tireless research, and his indignation at the petty disparagements and injustices he had to endure, made him at times refer with pride to the work he had accomplished. Once he says ("Kitab al-Uṣul," col. 552): "This explanation belongs to the sum of what I have produced of unusual thoughts and noteworthy opinions which no one else has expressed or noticed. I was enabled to do so much through God's grace and goodness manifested toward me, together with great endurance and a zeal for study and research by day and by night; so that I have expended twice as much on oil as another on wine." With this proud self-consciousness Ibn Janaḥ united respect for the achievements of others. He characterizes the opinions of earlier authorities with great precision, whereby his writings have become an excellent source of information concerning the literary history of linguistic science and Biblical exegesis. His relation to Ḥayyuj should especially be mentioned. Although he criticized him and corrected his errors, he vigorously upheld his grammatical system, even against the prejudices of the followers of the old school. In his criticisms he never forgets the respect and gratitude due the man to whom he owes his knowledge of science. In the introduction to his first work Ibn Janaḥ says: "If we can criticize him, we owe our ability to do so to his teaching and to the good we have received from his writings." Ibn Janaḥ's own estimate of himself coincided with the estimate of him held by the Spanish historian of Judaism, Abraham ibn Daud ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," end): it fell to him to complete that which Ḥayyuj had begun. The annals of Hebrew philology and Bible exegesis bear witness to the effects of Ibn Janaḥ's writings. They, indeed, fell into comparative oblivion after David Ḳimḥi; but they were brought again into notice during the nineteenth century, and became once more a source of inspiration and suggestion.

  • S. Munk, Notice sur Abou'l Walid Merwan, Paris, 1851;
  • J. Derenbourg, Opuscules et Traités d'Aboû l-Walîd Merwan ibn Djanâh de Cordoue, Introduction, Paris, 1880;
  • W. Bacher, Leben und Werke des Abulwalîd Merwân ibn Ganāḥ und die Quellen Seiner Schrifterklärung, Leipsic, 1885;
  • idem, Aus der Schrifterklärung des Abulwalîd Merwan ibn Ganāḥ, ib. 1889;
  • idem, Sefer ha-Shorashim, etc., Introduction, Berlin, 1897;
  • idem, Die Hebräisch-Arabische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalîd Merwân ibn Ganâh, Vienna, 1884;
  • idem, Die Hebräisch-Neuhcbräische und Hebräisch-Aramäische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalîd, ib. 1885;
  • Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, ii. 170-180, 259 et seq.
T. W. B.
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