A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Karaites

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KARAITES, or CARAITES. This name denotes a scripturist, and is given to a Jewish sect which adhered to the literal sense of the old testament, and considered the scriptures as the whole and only rule of their faith and practice. This denomination was given them about thirty years before Christ, when, upon the dissension betwixt Hillel, the president of the Sanhedrim, and Shammai, the vice president, by which their respective pupils were divided into two parties, betwixt whom there were perpetual contests; those that were of the opinion of the Karaites, sided with the school of Shammai, and those who were zealous for traditions, with that of Hillel. According to Dr. Prideaux, they did not absolutely reject traditions, but only refused them the same authority with the written oracles of God. They were distinguished from the Sadducees, by maintaining the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, and future rewards and punishments.[1] A considerable number of this sect is still found in Turkey, and other parts of the East.

A colony of Karaite jews reside in a fortress in the Crimea, and enjoy the free exercise of their ancient customs and religious rites. They pretend to have the text of the old testament in its most genuine state, and deem it an act of piety to copy the bible, or pious commentaries upon the text once in their lives. Their character is said to be directly opposite to that which is generally attributed to their brethren, being altogether without reproach. They pay great attention to the education of their children, who are taught publicly in the synagogues. Almost all of them are engaged in trade or manufactures.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Calmet's Dict. in Caraite, chap, xvi, xvii. Prideaux's Conn. vol. ii. p. 388. Jenning's Lectures. Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. p. 348.