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Living with Unanswered Questions: The Meaning of the Queries about the Book of Job in Isaac Nathan’s Ḥazut Qashah (“Grievous Vision”)

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Hazut Qashah (Grievous Vision) is one of a number of studies on the Hebrew Bible by the fifteenth-century Jewish intellectual Isaac Nathan of Arles. This peculiar Hebrew text is composed of a list of thirteen questions about the book of Job without answers. An analysis of this work on the backdrop of Christian and Jewish scholasticism along with possible Eastern precedents such as Masaʾail, demonstrates its literary innovation, which is derived not from the questions it poses, but rather, from the author’s willingness to acknowledge that the Bible had failed to provide adequate answers to them. Some of the questions were liable to provoke skepticism and raise doubts, but in contrast to the corpus of critical and heretical Jewish literature, Nathan had no interest in destroying the foundations of Judaism by attacking the biblical infrastructure. The significance and power of Hazut Qashah does not issue from any theological insights, but from its novel format. There is no similar medieval text, be it Jewish or Christian, which presents a set of theological problems without offering any corresponding explanations. As such, living with an open question—the existential solution presented in Hazut Qashah—becomes just one more facet of Nathan’s own rich intellectual project.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History of the Jewish People, Faculty of Humanities, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem JerusalemIsrael


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