BĀBĀʾĪ BEN NŪRĪʾEL, a rabbi (ḥāḵām) from Isfahan who, at the behest of Nāder Shah Afšār (r. 1148-60/1736-47), translated the Pentateuch and the Psalms of David from Hebrew into Persian. Three other rabbis helped him in the translation, which was begun in Rabīʿ II, 1153/May, 1740, and completed in Jomādā I, 1154/June, 1741. At the same time, eight Muslim mollas and three European and five Armenian priests translated the Koran and the Gospels. The commission was supervised by Mīrzā Moḥammad Mahdī Khan Monšī, the court historiographer and author of the Tārīḵ-ejahāngošā-ye nāderī. Finished translations were presented to Nāder Shah in Qazvīn in June, 1741, who, however, was not impressed.

There had been previous translations of the Jewish holy books into Persian, but Bābāʾī’s translation is notable for the accuracy of the Persian equivalents of Hebrew words, which has made it the subject of study by linguists. Bābāʾī’s introduction to the translation of the Psalms of David is unique, and sheds a certain amount of light on the teaching methods of Iranian Jewish schools in eighteenth-century Iran. He is not known to have written anything else.



J. P. Asmussen, “Einige Bemerkungen zu Baba ben Nuriel’s Psalmenübersetzung,” Acta Orientalia 30, 1966, pp. 15-24.

M. Mahdī Eṣfahānī, Neṣf jahān fī taʿrīf al-Eṣfahān, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, p. 256.

W. J. Fischel, “The Bible in Persian Translation,” Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge 1952, pp. 33-42.

G. Margoliouth, Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum I, London, 1899, pp. 120-21, nos. 159, 160, mss. Or. 4729 and Or. 2452.

A. Netzer, Montaḵab-e ašʿār-e fārsī az āṯār-e yahūdīān-e Īrān, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, introd. pp. 21-22.

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(Amnon Netzer)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

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Vol. III, Fasc. 3, p. 298