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Wilhelm Bacher

BACHER, WILHELM (1850–1913) Hungarian Semitic scholar. Bacher was born in Liptó-Szent-Miklós (now Liptovsky Svätý Mikuláš, Slovakia), the son of the Hebrew poet Simon *Bacher. In 1876 he was ordained and appointed rabbi of Szeged, Hungary, and the following year professor at the newly founded rabbinical seminary in Budapest, where he taught biblical exegesis, Midrash, homiletics, and Hebrew poetry and grammar. From 1907 until the end of his life he was head of the seminary. In 1884 with Joseph Banoczi he founded the Hungarian Jewish monthly Magyar Zsidó Szemle. In 1894 he helped found a Jewish-Hungarian literary society, Izraelita Magyar Irodalmi Társulat, and was the editor of its yearbook until 1899; this society instituted the publication of a Hungarian translation of the Bible (1898–1907). At the same time Bacher served as a consulting editor for the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–06) and wrote a number of monographs for it. Bacher's fields of study included biblical exegesis, Hebrew philology, aggadah and Midrash, and Judeo-Persian literature. Many of his works were translated into Hebrew by A.Z. *Rabinovitz. In his works on aggadah he classified aggadic sayings by author determining the contribution of each tanna and amora. These works include Die Agada der Babylonischen Amoräer (1878, also in Hg., 19132); Die Agada der Tannaiten (2 vols., 1884–90); Die Agada der Palaestinischen Amoräer (3 vols., 1892–99; repr. 1965; Die Prooemien der Alten juedischen Homilie (1913); Rabbanan, Beitrag zur Geschichte der anonymen Agada (1914); and Tradition und Tradenten in den Schu len Palaestinas und Babyloniens (1914). In the last work Bacher discusses the manner in which the amoraim in Babylonia and Palestine transmitted the teachings of the early scholars, especially the tannaim of the beraitot. Of particular significance from the standpoint of content and style is Bacher's Exegetische Terminologie der juedischen Traditionsliteratur (2 parts, 1899, 1905, repr. 1965). In the first part of this work Bacher arranged the Hebrew and Aramaic terms used by the tannaim in their exegesis in alphabetical order and in the second part, those of the Palestinian and Babylonian amoraim. He also dealt with the terms used by the amoraim to explain the terminology of the tannaim. Bacher dealt extensively with medieval Jewish biblical exegesis. In addition to Die Juedische Bibelex egese vom Anfange des Zehnten bis zum Ende des Fuenfzehn ten Jahr hunderts (1892), he wrote detailed studies on Abraham ibn Ezra's works, Saadiah's Arabic translation of the Book of Job (in: Derenbourg, Oeuvres Complètes de R. Saadiah, 1899), Moses ha-Kohen ibn *Gikatilla's work on the same book, and on *Samuel b. Hophni. He published a study in German and Hungarian on the biblical exegesis of Jewish religious philosophers before Maimonides, Die Bibelexegese der Juedischen Re ligionsphilosophen des Mittelalters vor Maimûnis (1892), and on the exegetical methods of Maimonides, Die Bibelexeges Moses Maimünis (1896). He wrote two works on the biblical commentaries of Ibn Janaḥ, Leben und Werke des Abulwaîd Merwân ibn Ganâh (1885), and a detailed study of the biblical exegesis of the Zohar. Bacher dealt extensively with the development of Hebrew during the Middle Ages, including the masorah, the beginning of the study of Hebrew grammar (Die Anfaenge der hebraeischen Grammatik, 1895), and the pioneering work of Judah ibn *Ḥayyuj in the field of Hebrew grammar (Die Grammatische Terminologie des Jehuda b. Dawid Hajjug, 1882). Bacher was the only Jewish scholar of his generation to deal with Judeo-Persian literature. His continuous flow of publications, based on the collection of Judeo-Persian manuscripts of Elkan Nathan *Adler, made him the undisputed authority in this field. Among his many works on Judeo-Persian literature are Hebraeisch-Persisches Woerterbuch aus dem vierzehn ten Jahrhundert (1900) by Solomon b. Samuel of Turkestan; "Ein persischer Kommentar zum Buche Samuel" (in ZDMG, 51 (1897), 329–425); Zwei juedisch-persische Dichter, Schahin und Imrani (1907–08); and "Juedisch-Persisches aus Buchârâ" (in ZDMG, 55 (1901), 244–57; 56 (1902), 729–59). Bacher helped lay the foundations for the study of Hebrew grammar from the talmudic period to the end of the Middle Ages; he was the first scholar to deal with the Hebrew and Arabic poetry of Yemen. Above all, he was one of the first scholars to engage in the scientific study of aggadah and Midrash.


S. Kraus, in: Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 30 (1914), 168–78, 384 92, 487–97; Magyar Zsidó Szemle, 27 (1910), 1–81, articles honoring Bacher, including bibliography of his works; L. Blau, Bibliographie der Schriften Wilhelm Bachers (1910), completed by D. Friedmann, Nachtrag zu L. Blau's Bibliographie der Schriften Wilhelm Bachers (1928); M. Liber, in: REJ, 67 (1914), 161–9; B. Heller, in: Zsidó Plutarchos (1928), 9–38 (Hg.); W.J. Fischel, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), The Jews, Their History, Culture and Religion, 2 (1960), 1149–1190 (with bibliography); J.I. Dienstag, in: Sinai, 55 (1964), 65–82.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.