Jew اليهودي

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I’m going to write up some thoughts on Cynthia Baker’s Jew, but for now want to share this link to Simon Hopkins, “On the Words for “Jew(s) in Arabic,” Israel Oriental Studies XVII (1997), 11-27. I do so in order to push back against the geneaological claim that “Jew” is a largely Christian construct as one that omits the Arabic cognates. In a private conversation, AV passed the reference on to me. In his words: in classical Arabic the most common is “yahudi” (singular) and “yahud” (plural). The Qur’an also has the term “hud,” but that is very rare both in the Qur’an and outside it. “Banu Isra’il” is used to refer to the biblical children of Israel but never to contemporary Jews.  He suggests the same about Judeo Arabic, having checked Goitein’s Mediterranean Society. “There’s a letter in which Jews refer to an ‘insan yahudi, a Jewish person who is a trader.” The claim by Hopkins is perhaps an obvious one, that yahud was widely recognized by Arab philologists as non-Arabic in origin (p.12). You can read the whole piece by Hopkins here. Technical, it’s quite dull for non-specialists, but not at all uninteresting.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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