Dīn as Torah: “Jewish Religion” in the Kuzari?
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2018-0002
The book known in Hebrew as the Kuzari from twelfth-century Sefardic Spain and one of its iconic texts was written by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and is called in Arabic, usually translated with the English "religion," as "The Book of Refutation and Proof of the Despised Religion." Modern Hebrew translators give dat for Arabic din, just as English translators give "religion," presupposing that which has to be interrogated and shown, to wit what did the author of the Kuzari and his contemporaneous translator, Rabbi Yehuda Ibn Tibbon (1120 -1190) mean when they used the Arabic term din or Hebrew dat, or better put, how did they use those words? We dare not read back from modern usages to interpret these medieval texts without risking simply burying their linguistic-cultural world under the rubble of a modern one, the very contrary of an archaeology. My hypothesis to be developed in the rest of this paper is that Judeo-Arabic (at least) din corresponds best to nomos as used by Josephus and (with a very important mutatis mutandis qualification) to Torah as well. Some powerful evidence for this claim comes from ibn Tibbon's translation of Halevi's Arabic into Hebrew.