Benjamin of Tudela (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Benjamin’s account of his travels presents the best record available of the number, the leaders, and the social, religious, and economic conditions of the Jews in southern Europe and the Middle East during the twelfth century. At the same time, he provides the best documentation of trade and commerce in these areas in the period between the Second and Third Crusades.
All that can be learned of the life of Rabbi Benjamin ben Jonah of Tudela is found in his only surviving literary work, Massa’ot (c. 1173; The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, 1840), and its Hebrew preface, written by a contemporary of Benjamin. This preface refers to Benjamin as “a wise and understanding man, learned in the Law and the Halacha [Book of Practices],” and observes further that “wherever we have tested his statements we have found them accurate, true to fact and consistent; for he is a trustworthy man.” Unfortunately, Benjamin stood outside his narrative, revealing little about himself as he chronicled what he had seen and heard during his travels.
The Hebrew preface speaks of Benjamin as a rabbi, and in his observations Benjamin demonstrated a familiarity with the rabbinical literature of his time as well as a thorough knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. He wrote in a formal medieval Hebrew sometimes called Rabbinic Hebrew. He seems to have known Arabic, for his account is...
(The entire section is 2078 words.)
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