Was Judah he-Ḥasid the “Author” of Sefer Ḥasidim?

David I. Shyovitz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


SeferḤasidim (The Book of the Pious) has long served as a crucial source for medieval Jewish historiography. Yet the dual question of who composed the anonymous text and how its varying recensions came into existence has been a contentious one among scholars of medieval Ashkenaz. In particular, opinions have been split on the issue of the book’s authorship. Ever since the 1538 publication of the editio princeps, Judah he-Ḥasid (“the Pious,” d. 1217) has been credited as the work’s singular “author,” but in the intervening years numerous theories of composite authorship have been proposed as well. The present article reassesses notions of “authorship” in medieval Ashkenaz and does so in dialogue with Ivan Marcus’s recent Sefer Ḥasidim and the Ashkenazic Book in Medieval Europe (2018), a work that seeks to deconstruct the reductive category of unitary “books” in medieval Ashkenaz, but which simultaneously reifies Judah’s self-conscious “authorial identity.” In contrast, I argue on methodological and conceptual grounds that “authorship” is a problematic category in medieval Ashkenazic culture and suggest that in the case of Sefer Ḥasidim there are textual reasons to doubt that a single individual (Judah he-Ḥasid or anyone else) was solely responsible for “authoring” the text in its entirety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalJewish History
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Authorship
  • German Pietism
  • Judah he-Ḥasid
  • Medieval Ashkenaz
  • Sefer Ḥasidim

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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