Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

A Jewish sect professing to follow the text of the Bible ( Miqra ) to the exclusion of Rabbinical traditions, and hence opposed to the Talmud. They are called in Jewish writings Bene Miqra' Ba' Migra', Qera'im — i.e. followers of the Bible . The tendency to reject or minimize the traditions and decisions of the Elders is rather old; the Sadducees were, in that respect, the forerunners of Caraism. Our Lord himself is said to have discarded such traditions altogether, but, when more closely examined, the passages quoted show simply that He, knowing such traditional lore to be human, insisted more on the true spirit of the Bible . He corrected individual traditions to safeguard the true import of the Biblical legislation, but He did not deny the principle. (Cf. Matthew 15:2 sq. ) Caraism in the strict sense owes its origin to Anan (died about A.D. 780), and for a time it bore the name of Ananism. It gained ground among the Jews up to the tenth century, but then met with a decided and able opponent in Saadia al-Fayyumi, 892-942. During the eleventh century there was a lively struggle between Rabbinites and Caraites, especially in Spain, but through the influence of two statesmen, Joseph Faussol and Judah ben Ezra, Caraism was almost entirely driven out of that country, and practically out of Western Europe. Since then it has succeeded in maintaining itself in the East, but has steadily lost ground to the parent orthodox Judaism. To-day Caraism numbers about 10,000 adherents in Russia and 2000 in other countries. In keeping with their principle, that the text of the bible alone is authoritative, the Caraites have made some valuable contributions to grammar and Biblical philology; it must be granted, however, that the desire of finding in the bible a justification for certain beliefs held on other grounds has led many of the Caraites to vindicate rules of interpretation as arbitrary as many of those of ancient Judaism. Anan and his successors have been greatly influenced by Islamic models in deducing laws from their own Sacred Books. Among the best-known authors of Caraism we may mention Judah Hadassi (twelfth century) whose "Eskhol ha-Kofer" was in the Middle Ages, and still is, one of the main sources of Caraism; Aaron ben Joseph (thirteenth century); Aaron ben Elijah (fourteenth century); Elijah ben Moses Bashyasi (fifteenth century). In modern times the most celebrated Caraite scholar is Abraham Firkowich (1786-1874), whom his well-deserving labours and discoveries, and still more his literary forgeries in favour of Caraism, have made especially famous.

The beliefs of Caraism with regard to God and man are substantially those of orthodox Judaism. They differ especially in religious observances. The Caraites have retained, or reverted to, many of the mystical views of Xssenism, particularly with regard to cleanliness. The Sabbath law is very rigorous. It must be added, also, that whatever may be their independence from Rabbinism in theory, the Caraites have adopted in practice many Rabbinical customs and observances.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter