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Paul Ernst° Kahle

KAHLE, PAUL ERNST° (1875–1965), Orientalist, masoretic scholar, and minister. Kahle, who was born in Hohenstein (East Prussia), served for five years as a pastor in Cairo. He then taught at the universities of Halle, Giessen, and Bonn, and from 1923 was director of the Oriental Institute at Bonn. Under his guidance, many of his students devoted themselves to the study of the *Genizah, especially the early history of *piyyut. Many of his students, including M. *Zulay, settled in Israel and became prominent in Jewish scholarship. In 1924 Kahle wrote an opinion defending the Talmud against the libels of the notorious antisemite, T. Fritsch. Because of his and his wife's pro-Jewish activities following Kristallnacht, the family had to seek refuge in England (Oxford) in 1938. Kahle continued his work at Oxford University. He received two doctorates: his philosophy thesis was published as Textkritische und Lexikalische Bemerkungen zum samaritanischen Pentateuchtargum (1898), while his theology thesis was published as Der masoretische Text des Alten Testaments nach der Ueberlieferung der babylonischen Juden (1902, repr. 1966). Masoretic studies were the dominating interest of his life. His first major work in this field was Masoreten des Ostens (1913, repr. 1966), and the two-part Masoreten des Westens (1927–30, repr. 1967). This research led him from the popular text of Jacob ben Ḥayyim's Second Rabbinic Bible (1524/25) to the Aaron ben Asher texts of the 11th century. Due to Kahle's research, one of these texts, the Leningrad Codex B 19a, supplanted the former as basis for Kittel's Biblia Hebraica (19373 and later), and was later used for its successor, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1969ff.). Kahle's main source of evidence for his study of the masorah were the fragments from the Cairo Genizah, in which his interest was aroused by Solomon Schechter. With the aid of the fragments he was able to make a pioneering contribution to the understanding of the emergence and development of the masoretic text. Using the Genizah material as his main source of evidence, he developed his thesis regarding Hebrew vocalization in which he contended that the two centers of rabbinic learning, Babylon and Palestine, each created both a simple and a complete system of vocalization, which ultimately emerged into the official Tiberian vocalization which is an integral part of the Ben Asher text and masorah.

This, and much else, is to be found in Kahle's Cairo Geniza (1947, enlarged 19592). Basically, to Kahle, all textual transmission was a matter of emergence from earlier traditions. The Targums of the Torah and the Prophets were originally free, random renderings and were later edited in Babylon as Targums Onkelos and Jonathan and transferred to Palestine as official renderings, c. 1000 C.E. The Septuagint, which originally had only the Torah, with its authorized form advocated in the Letter of *Aristeas, emerged as a full version only in and for the Christian Church. It was composed from a variety of Targum-like Greek renderings. This hypothesis was stretched to include all known versions. Opposition to Kahle's view was widespread, and it is possible that his attempt to make his hypothesis so universally applicable shows that it has a fundamental weakness, but his text remains important as a parallel to the Aleppo text of the Hebrew University Bible project.

Kahle's two-volume Volkserzaehlungen aus Palaestina (with H. Schmidt, 1918–30) deals with Ereẓ Israel. He also wrote a series of articles on Muslim holy places in Palestine (in PJB, vols. 6–8, 1910–12), and studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Die hebraeischen Handschriften aus der Hoehle (1951)). On the occasion of his 60th birthday, Kahle was honored by a festschrift (Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Nahen und Fernen Ostens (1935), with bibliography), and on his 80th birthday by a collection of his minor studies (Opera Minora (1956), again with bibliography). A memorial volume, In memoriam Paul Kahle, edited by M. Black and G. Fohrer, appeared in 1968.


M. Zulay, in: Molad, 4 (1949–50), 355–7; Recent Progress in Biblical Scholarship (1965). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Black, "Paul Ernst Kahle (1875–1965)," in: Proceedings of the British Academy, 51 (1965/66), 485–95; Biographisches-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, vol. 3 (1997), 943–45; International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Émigrés 19331945, vol. 2 (1999), 581–82.

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