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I seem to encounter the following theory regarding piyyutim fairly requently:

The piyyutim were originally composed as replacements for the fixed texts of the various blessings in the prayer service.

(see e.g. the lede of this Hebrew Wikipedia article)

What are the earliest sources (both rabbinic and academic) to explicitly state this theory? And what are the main pieces of evidence that those early sources use to support this claim?

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  • Hm. Just last week I heard in class something similar. Not that piyyutim replaced, but that they were added in between parts of the tefilah, particularly amidah. This was in Eretz Yisrael in the Geonaic period, and this was one of the criticisms that the Babylonians had regarding the Jews of E"Y.
    – Harel13
    Jan 23, 2023 at 9:58
  • It's not a theory but a fact that many piyyutim were composed for replacing תפילות הקבע. We have many many manuscripts that omit entirely the usual brachot and just contain the piyyutim and the חתימות. And the ones where the original bracha remains in its entirety come much later.
    – magicker72
    Jan 23, 2023 at 12:09
  • @magicker72 How do we know that those manuscripts are not relying on the chazzan knowing the fixed text of the bracha by heart, and therefore not bothering to write it down?
    – Joel K
    Jan 23, 2023 at 12:16
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/86117/759
    – Double AA
    Jan 23, 2023 at 13:52
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1 Answer 1

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The Tur in 236 brings that there was a time that ויראו עינינו was said instead of maariv.

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