Karaites or Caraites (both: kârˈəĪts) [key], form of Judaism, reputedly founded (8th cent.) in Persia by Anan ben David and originally known as Ananites. Its adherents were called Karaites after the 9th cent. The Karaites rejected the Talmudic interpretation of the Bible (see Talmud), and they developed their own commentaries, which were in many respects more rigorous and ascetic than the Talmudic interpretations. In the 10th cent. they produced a splendid literature in both Arabic and Hebrew. The sect declined after the 12th cent., but remnants are still extant, notably in Israel and the United States.

See Karaite Anthology (ed. and tr. by L. Nemoy, 1952), Z. Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium: The Formative Years, 970–1100 (1957, repr. 1968); P. Birnbaum, ed., Karaite Studies (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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