Medieval Karaism

Meira Polliack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Karaism is best defined as a Jewish religious movement of a scripturalist and messianic nature, which crystallized in the second half of the ninth century in the areas of Persia-Iraq and Palestine. This article highlights new developments and breakthroughs in research, with specific emphasis on the state of manuscript sources, and the fields of Karaite history and hermeneutics. It also attempts to redefine the major impetus behind the Karaite movement. It concludes by reviewing the issues that have been raised and outlines the major paradigmatic shift in the current understanding of Karaism. Two separate modes of explanation have traditionally been pursued in the light of comparative religious phenomena. One identifies the major motivation underlying Karaism as intrinsic to Judaism, drawn from earlier scripturalist models, and the other identifies it as external to Judaism, borrowed or grafted onto it from heterodox Islamic models.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies
EditorsMartin Goodman
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577260
ISBN (Print)0199280320, 9780199280322
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2004


  • Jewish religious movement
  • Judaism
  • Karaism
  • Karaite hermeneutics
  • Karaite history

RAMBI Publications

  • rambi
  • Karaite philosophy
  • Karaites -- Historiography


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