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By Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Hebrew Union College. 


In the above we have ascertained the date and the 
reason for the introduction of the Mishnah-form, and have 
traced its gradual adoption by the teachers. Now that 
we know the motives for its first use, and the causes for 
its extensive adoption, we may be able to explain the 
strange silence of the talmudic-rabbinic sources concerning 
this significant change in the form of teaching and all its 
important consequences. 

For this purpose we need only to review the main 
points in this whole process and examine them with 
reference to their possible effect upon the theories of the 
later Rabbis. We shall then be able to judge whether 
these later teachers had cause for ignoring these facts and 
for remaining silent about them. 

We have found that the first motive for teaching inde- 
pendent Halakot in the Mishnah-form was the fact that 
during a period of time when there was no official activity 
of the teachers, certain customs and practices came to be 
observed by the people. These customs and practices 
subsequently had to be recognized and taught by the 
teachers as religious ordinances, although no proof or 
scriptural basis for them existed. This means that certain 
religious practices, considered by the later teachers as part 



of the traditional law, or as handed down from Moses, 
originated in reality from other, perhaps non-Jewish, 
sources, and had no authority other than the authority 
of the people who adopted them. This, of course, reflects 
unfavourably upon the authority of the traditional law 
in general. We have, furthermore, seen that the teachers 
themselves could not agree in regard to the origin of 
certain laws. While some teachers endeavoured to find 
artificial supports for these laws, using even forced in- 
terpretations for the purpose of giving them scriptural 
endorsement, others preferred to accept them as traditional 
laws, presumably of ancient Jewish origin. This disagree- 
ment among the earlier teachers in regard to the origin 
and authority of certain laws speaks very strongly against 
two fundamental theories of the later talmudic teachers, — 
theories that were considered almost as dogmas. One is 
the belief in an oral law, na b]}^^ niin, handed down from 
Moses together with the written Torah. The second is 
the belief in the validity of the laws which the wise teachers 
derived from the Torah by means of their new interpreta- 
tions, D^DSn B'mD. The disagreement noted above shows 
unmistakably that in earlier times these two theories were 
disputed and neither was accepted by all the teachers. 
For some teachers hesitated to recognize the authoritative 
character of certain laws merely on the ground that they 
were traditional. Therefore they felt constrained to seek 
proofs for these laws in the Torah. On the other hand, 
there were teachers who objected to the validity of the 
new interpretations by which certain laws were proved 
from Scriptures. They pinned their faith to the traditional 
character of these laws. Thus these earlier differences 
between the teachers could be used as a strong argument 


against the authority of their teachings. This fear was 
actually entertained by the later teachers. 

Again, we have seen, that one of the motives for using 
the Mishnah-form was the desire on the part of the 
Pharisaic teachers to assert their authority and indispensa- 
bility. This is apparantly at variance with another theory 
of the Talmud, viz. the belief that from Moses until the 
Tannaim there was an uninterrupted succession of teachers 
of the law, recognized as the chief religious authorities 
whose direct and undisputed successors were the Pharisees. 
However, the fact that the early Pharisaic teachers had 
to assert their authority against the opposition of the 
Sadducees, shows that these teachers were new claimants 
to authority. This fact, as we have seen, reveals the true 
state of affairs, viz. that the priestly teachers, the Sadducees, 
were originally the authoritative teachers, whom the 
Pharisees subsequently tried to supplant. 

Thus, we see that the real conditions which accompanied 
the change from Midrash to Mishnah cast many unfavour- 
able reflections upon the theories and views held by the 
later Pharisaic teachers, the Rabbis of the Talmud. We 
can, therefore, well understand the silence of the Rabbis 
about this important change. They did not care to dwell 
upon facts which, if misunderstood, would reflect on their 
theories. They hesitated to refer too frequently to 
circumstances from which some people might, by mis- 
interpretation, draw such conclusions as would shake the 
foundation of the whole system of the traditional teachings.''* 

'" That the Pharisaic teachers had such apprehensions is evident from 
the following saying of R. Eleazar b. Azariah (or, according to Rashi, 
R. Joshua b. Klananiah) in ^iagigah 3 b : It n»*t33 HD ^''5)103 nn»DKi31 

□"■Dan n»Di>n iba ,ms\D» "hv^ pani pna min nm f\n nmi ma 



This was not done with the intention of suppressing historic 
facts, as they indeed mentioned these facts. They would 
speak of them to those pupils who were prepared to see 
things in their proper light, and were not disposed to 
misinterpret them. They deemed it unwise to discuss 
these matters before the pupils at large, fearing that there 
might be among them some who could be misled by 
opponents and thus arrive at erroneous conclusions. This 
is a course of conduct followed by the teachers in regard 

innoo ihbm pndod "bbn mina ppDijn niaiON nisiDX paK'vc? 
onN nDN» NDc .I'-KE'aD ihbm p^ois "bbn jn^nn i^i»m inow 'h'?n 
bn ,nnN nin-m uru ab^s loi^ tKhn Jnnyo min id^ 'jn ^nh 
Nin ina D'B'yDn b pitt '•ao poN im ojns pnj inx (compare 

also Num. r. XIV, 4). We have in this saying both a defence on the part 
of the Pharisaic teachers for making the Torah grow and increase so as to 
contain more than its plain words warrant, as well as a refutation of the 
arguments advanced against them that their very disagreement in many 
questions speaks against their having reliable traditions. Against this 
accusation the Pharisaic teachers insist that all their teachings come from 
the same source, the same leader, DJHS, Moses gave them in the name 
of God. We see from this that such arguments were raised against the 
Pharisees by their opponents, for the phrase, DIN ^DN' NDK' ' Lest some 
might say ', is here not meant altogether in a hypothetical sense. It refers 
to certain people who actually raised the question. Compare the saying : 

bbn nu3 nabni D"n D'nbx nan i^ni i^n mcNi h^p na nnx' 

* A heavenly voice was heard declaring that both the words of the School 
of Hillel and the words of the School of Shammai [despite their disagree- 
ments] are the words of the living God, but the practical decision should 
be according to the words of the School of Hillel ' (Erubin 13 b). Compare 
also the passage in Gittin 6 b, where Elijah is reported to have said that 
God 'declared both the opposing views of R. Abiathar and R. Jonathan 
to be the words of the living God. All these utterances were intended 
to serve as a refutation of the attacks made against the teachings of the 
Rabbis on account of their disagreements. We see from these covert 
replies of the Rabbis that the arguments of the Karaites against the 
Rabbanites (see below, note 85) were not original with the Karaites, but 
were repetitions of older arguments. 


to Still Other subjects which they likewise deemed unsafe 
to communicate to the public at largeJ* 

This course was not altogether culpable, seeing that 
it was animated by no selfish motive, and that it was 
pursued for the sake of the cause which the Rabbis wished 
to serve. They were desirous of having their teachings 
accepted by the people as authoritative. They therefore 
refrained from dwelling upon the fact that there was once 
a time when some people did not accept these teachings 
as authoritative. Instead of reporting in detail the earlier 
struggles of the Pharisaic teachers for recognition, and 
their disputes with their opponents, they dwelt more 
frequently on the continuous chain of tradition by which 
they received their teachings. They mentioned only those 
teachers and members of the Sanhedrin who were of the 
Pharisaic party, whom they considered as having always 
been the true religious leaders of the people. They quite 
overlooked the fact that their opponents, the Sadducees, 
were the ruling authorities in former times. Instead of 
making explicit mention of the origin of the Mishnah-form, 
which would reveal the late date of so many traditional 
laws, they assumed the fact that the two Laws, the written 
and the oral, were both handed down by Moses through 
the agency of an uninterrupted chain of true teachers, the 
bearers of tradition. The result was that to most of the 
later teachers, especially the Amoraim, the origin and 
development of the Mishnah-form was almost unknown. 

" The same was done with the records of the families which the Rabbis 
did not care to teach or discuss in public, fearing to cause unpleasant 
controversies. They would hand them over to their chosen pupils 
(b. Kiddushin 71 a). The same was the case with certain ineffable names 
of God which they communicated only to a few chosen pupils, lest the 
multitude misunderstand the significance of these names {ibid,), 

X 2 


The time when this change was made, the motives that 
caused it, and the circumstances that accompanied it, were 
almost forgotten. They were known only to a very few 
of the later teachers. These, like their predecessors, the 
early teachers, did not care to speak about them. The 
later Tannaim, and even the Amoraim, had the same 
reasons for avoiding the mention of these conditions that 
led to the adoption of the Mishnah-form as had the earlier 
Pharisaic teachers for their silence about these facts. Just 
as the earlier Pharisaic teachers, so the later teachers, i. e. 
the Rabbis, had to contend with more or less opposition. 
They had to combat those who denied their authority and 
rejected their teachings, i. e. the traditional law. 

After the destruction of the Temple and the dissolution 
of the Jewish state, the Sadducees ceased to be a powerful 
party and lost their former influence among the people. 
However, it would be a mistake to assume with Buchler 
{Der galildische Am ha-Arez, Wien 1906, p. 5) that in the 
beginning of the second century C. E. the Sadducees had 
altogether disappeared. They continued, if not as an 
influential party, nevertheless as a group of people holding 
peculiar views about the Torah, denying the binding 
character of the traditional law and rejecting the authority 
of the Rabbis who were the advocates of that traditional 
law. We have evidence of their existence throughout the 
entire tannaitic period.*" Many sayings of the later 

«« R. Jose b. Halafta declares (M. Niddah IV, 2) that the daughters 
of the Sadducees are to be considered as daughters of Israel, except in 
cases where we know that they are determined to follow in their observance 
the ways of their forefathers (i. e. the former Sadducees). The reason for 
this view of R. Jose is found in his other saying where he states the 

following: pn D''»3ni' DT Twvna Dm i^an ;d nnv \r\z i:n ps^pa 
nn»i D'oanl? dt nnxnn ^v u^njiaca nn^nu' nnx hcnd 'We are 


Tannaim refer to them, though they do not always desig- 
nate them expressly by the name Sadducees. They even 

very well informed about them. They all show their blood to the wise 
teachers (i. e. the Rabbis). There was only one [Sadducean] woman in 
our neighbourhood who would not do so, but she is 'dead now ' (Tosefta V, 
3, b. Niddah 33 b). Buechler {JQR., 1913, 446) erroneously takes this 
saying of R. Jose to be merely another version of what the high priest's wife 
told her husband. Such an interpretation of R. Jose's saying is absolutely 
unwarranted. R. Jose describes conditions prevalent in his own day. 
He justifies his attitude towards the Sadducean women by the information 
that, with few exceptions, they follow the Pharisaic regulations in observing 
the laws of menstruation. This shows that in the time of R. Jose b. Halafta, 
i. e. about the middle of the second century c. e., there still were Sadducees. 
Their wives, however, would, in most cases, be guided by the decisions of 
the Rabbis in regard to the observance of the laws about menstruation. 
The same R. Jose also says (M. Parah III, 3), nrrh D'pnvi) DipD fnO h^ 
' Do not give the Sadducees an opportunity to rebel (i. e. controvert us in 
argument) ', and this again shows that in his time there were Sadducees 
who still argued against the teachers. 

These Sadducees are also referred to, though not expressly designated 
by the name Sadducees, in the sayings of other teachers of that time. Thus 
the passage in Num. ig. 31, ' He hath despised the word of the Lord ', is 
explained by R. Nathan in a Baraita (Sanhedrin 99 a) to refer to one who 
disregards the Mishnah, ni'i'Dn i'J) n''J2'D 13'K!5' 'D i>3, that is to say, 
one who denies the traditional law. In another Baraita {ibid.) it is stated 
that the expression, ' He hath despised the word of the Lord ', applies even 
to such people who would accept the entire Torah as divine but would take 
exception to a single detail in the traditional interpretation : 73 IDIXn 

nt nitr mnao ht inim ^Jpo rn pnpiD pn d^dot p rh\'2 rninn. 

An anonymous saying in Sifra, Behukkotai II (Weiss iiib) interprets the 
passage, 'But if ye will not hearken unto Me' (Lev. a6. 14), to mean, ' If 
ye will not hearken to the interpretation given by the teachers ', X7 DN 
D'Dan t^lD? IJfOETI . The saying continues and speaks of people who 
despise and hate the teachers although they accept the laws given on Sinai. 
All these utterances were certainly not made without provocation. There 
must have been people who accepted the Torah and disputed the 
rabbinical laws. 

Another teacher, R. Joseb. Judah, living in the second half of the second 
century, rules that if a Gentile wishes to accept the Law with the exception 
of even one detail of the rabbinical regulations, we should not admit him 
as a proselyte (Tosefta, Demai II, 5 ; Bekorot 30b). This shows that there 


lingered on in the time of the Amoraim.*^ Throughout 
the entire period of the Amoraim there were certain people 

must have been Jews who rejected the rabbinical laws. Therefore it could 
occur to a Gentile that it was possible to become a Jew without accepting 
all the rabbinical laws. 

This is also evident from the following story told in Jerushalmi, Shebiit IX, 
39 a. A certain man who disregarded the regulations regarding the sab- 
batical year instructed his wife to be careful in separating the priest's share 
from the dough (hallah\ His wife, to whom this conduct seemed inconsistent, 
asked him why he insisted on the observance of the hallah-law when he was 
disregarding the law about the sabbatical year. His answer was : The law 
of hallah is biblical, the regulations about the sabbatical year are rabbinical, 
having originated with R. Gamaliel and his colleagues, rnin inO nbn 
mum b^bm pane Jryaa'. This shows beyond any doubt that there 
were people who observed the Torah strictly but who denied the validity 
of the rabbinical teachings. 

" R. Hanina and Abba Areka (Rab), Amoraim of the first generation 
(first half of the third century c. e.), describe the Epicuros as one who 
despises the teachers, D'D3n 'TD?/! ntDDH (b. Sanhedringgb). R. Johanan, 
an Amora of the second generation, and R. Eleazar b. Pedat, an Amora of 
the third generation (second half of the third century), characterize the 
Epicuros as one who says (in a tone expressive of contempt), ' That teacher ', 
NIDD fnx IDNT fna, or as one who says, 'Those Rabbis', nONT p3 
p3m pi''N (P- Sanhedrin X, 27 d). Buechler makes the mistake of reading 
inb instead of pD , and therefore makes the saying refer to ' a priest ' who 
uses that contemptuous expression about the Rabbis {Der Galiloiische Am 
ha-Arez, p. 187). This is palpably wrong. The same characterization of 
the Epicuros is given by R. Papa, an Amora of the fifth generation (second 
half of the fourth century): p3T ''3n nONT |"l33 (b. Sanhedrin 100 a). 
R. Joseph, an Amora of the third generation, applies the name Epicuros 
to a class of people who say, ' Of what use have the Rabbis been to us ', 
pan f^ liHN '>SD nONT 'Jn ;M3 (»6«a.). Raba, an Amora of the fourth 
generation (first half of the fourth century), refers to a certain family of 
Benjamin the physician who said, ' Of what use have the Rabbis been to us ; 
they have never allowed a raven or forbidden a dove' {ibid.). This is 
a saying which seems to express that we do not need the Rabbis, the 
biblical laws being clear enough. These people lived according to the Law, 
and as stated in the Talmud (ibid.) would occasionally consult Raba con- 
cerning some ritual question. Their ridiculing remark about the Rabbis 
was evidently the expression of their peculiar attitude towards the teachings 
of the Rabbis and of their opposition to the latter's authority. 


who upheld the views and ideas of the old Sadducees. 
They were opposed to the authority of the Rabbis, and 
rejected their teachings. They were no longer called 
Sadducees. They were designated as * Epicureans ', 
Dmp'SX, or referred to without any special name, merely 
as ' people who deny the authority of the Rabbis and 
reject the traditional law '. These anti-rabbinic elements 
of the talmudic period formed the connecting link between 
the older Sadducees and the later Karaites.*^ Knowing, 
that the Sadducean tendencies continued throughout the 
entire period of the Talmud, and had both open and 
secret advocates, we can readily understand why the 
talmudic teachers hesitated to report indiscriminately all 
the details of the disputes between the Pharisees and 
Sadducees, and also all the differences of opinion and the 
disagreement as to methods among the Pharisees them- 
selves. All these, as we have seen, were the causes that 
led to the adoption of the Mishnah-form. The talmudic 
teachers were careful not to place weapons in the hands of 
their opponents. 

Thus the strange fact is explained why no explicit 
report about this matter was preserved in the talmudic 
literature. Only a few occasional remarks which escaped 
the teachers hint at the actual historic conditions, and 
they show us that a knowledge of the real facts did exist 
among some of the teachers. 

The Geonim, likewise, seem to have had a purpose in 
avoiding the mention of these significant points in the 
historic development of the Halakah. When occasionally 

'^ Compare Friedmann in his Introduction to the Seder Eliahu Rabba, 
&c.,Wien 1902, pp. 97-8, and Harkavy, Zur Entstehung des Karaismus, 
in Graetz's GeschicMe, V, pp. 472 ff. 


forced to speak about the same, they reveal by their very 
reticence as much as by their casual remarks that they 
had knowledge of the facts. We pointed out above the 
awkward pause in the letter of R. Sherira Gaon. In 
answer to the question of the people of Kairuan regarding 
the origin of the Mishnah and the Sifra and Sifre, the 
Gaon was compelled to speak about the Midrash and the 
Mishnah. He barely touches upon the subject of the Mid- 
rash, saying merely that this was originally the exclusive 
form. Here he stops abruptly and turns to another subject, 
viz. the Baraita collections of R. Hiyya and R. Oshaya. 
We might assume that something is missing in the text 
of the letter.*^ This, however, is improbable. It is almost 
evident that R. Sherira broke off in the middle of a 
thought, because he deemed it unwise to say any more 
about the adoption of the Mishnah-form in addition to the 

This reluctance on the part of the Geonim to speak 
about this subject is more noticeable in the responsum of 
R. Zemah Gaon. The people of Kairuan inquired of R. 
Zemah Gaon regarding the attitude to be taken towards 
Eldad. Eldad reported that in the Talmud of his own 
people the names of individual teachers were not mentioned. 
As in our Talmud differences of opinion and names of 
individual teachers are mentioned, they found this report 
of Eldad very strange. Zemah answered that this was not 
a reason for doubting the character of Eldad and his 
teachings, because the method described by Eldad was 
indeed the earlier mode of teaching. He states that in the 
time of the Temple, when they taught all the traditional 
law in the Midrash-form, they did not mention the names 

*' See above, note 9. 


of individual teachers.** Now, this would seem to be a 
sufficient answer, and he should have stopped here. But 
R. Zemah Gaon adds the following significant words : 
pNi pniK* bn nnK pyooi niciria pa nja-ea pa nm nnx minni 
-in -inon cvhK niaa ncNiK' ,-)an b trnsi' paj 'The Torah 
is one. It is embodied in the Mishnah and in the Talmud. 
All draw from one and the same source. It is not advisable 
to explain everything, for it is said : It is the glory of God 
to conceal a thing (Prov. 25. 3).' Why this mysterious 
admonition, and what was the secret he sought to hide? 
The account of the origin of the Mishnah-form, given 
above, will help us to understand the need for the admoni- 
tion and the nature of the secret. The Karaites in the 
time of the Geonim denied that the teachings of the 
Mishnah and Talmud embodied the true tradition. They 
characterized these teachings as later rabbinic inventions. 
In support of their attitude they instanced the numerous 
disagreements and frequent disputes of the Rabbis of the 
Talmud. They argued, How could there have been tradi- 
tion among the teachers when there was no agreement 
among them as to their teachings and Halakot.** 

We have seen above that the history of the development 
of the Mishnah-form reflects unfavourably upon the tra- 
ditional character of the Pharisaic teachings. This was 
the reason for the talmudic silence about the origin of the 
Mishnah-form. The Geonim were silent on this point for 
the same reason. Neither Zemah nor Sherira wanted to 
state exactly how long the Midrash continued in exclusive 

'* See above, note 33. 

" See, for instance, the arguments used by Sahl ben Mazliah (Pinsker, 
Lt^kute Kadmoniyyot, Nispahim, pp. 26, 35 . The same arguments are 
raised by many other Karaitic writers. 


use, for it would have shown that the Mishnah was of 
comparatively late origin, and that its adoption was due 
mainly to the differences of opinion that arose between the 
Pharisaic teachers and the earlier authorities, the Sadducees. 
When compelled to refer to the time when Midrash was in 
exclusive use, both Zemah and Sherira used the vague term 
t5'np»3 ' in the Temple times '. This, however, as we have seen, 
can refer only to the time before the division of the parties.*^ 

'^ It is possible that the use of the term BnpD3 in this peculiar sense 
was suggested to Zemah and Sherira by a passage in Mishnah Berakot IX, 5, 
where the term is likewise used in referring to a custom that was prevalent 
in the Temple during the time previous to the division of the parties. The 
passage in the Mishnah reads as follows : BnpD3 IMB' ni313 *Omn ?3 

tm t6f( D^Jiy pN nosi D'-pnvn ihpbpm> ch^vn p onDis vn 

ohyn np D^Jfn p OntSIN Vn-tr U<pnn. [The text in the editions 
of the Mishnayot reads D'^Dn 1i:p^pt^'D, but in the Talmud-editions the 
reading is D'pHSn vp?p2'D, which is the correct reading. Compare 
A. Schwartz, Tosifta Zeraim (Wilsa, 1890), p. 57, note 189.] Here we have 
the report of a Pharisaic regulation aimed against the Sadducees who 
rejected the belief in a future world. Here the term DHptSa, while 
designating the place, i. e. the Temple, also includes an element of time. 
' In the Temple ' evidently refers to the time prior to this Pharisaic regu- 
lation, i. e. prior to the division of the parties. The Pharisaic regulation 
reported in this passage originated in the very early days of the differences 
between the Sadducees and Pharisees, and not as Buechler {Priester und 
CuUus, p. 176) assumes, in the last decade of the existence of the Temple. 
This is evident from the fact that in the same paragraph the Mishnah reports 
another regulation which no doubt originated in the early days of the 
differences between the priests and lay teachers. This other regulation 
prescribed that a man should use the name of God in greeting his neighbour. 
This was either a reaction against the religious persecution under Antiochus 
when it was forbidden to mention the name of God (comp. b. Rosh ha-Shanah 
18 b and Meg. Taanit VII), or according to Gei^er {Jiidische Zeitschrift.V, 
p. 107 ; comp. also Urschrift, pp. 264 ff.) it was to emphasize the claim of 
the Pharisees to use the name of God as the priests did. Anyhow, this 
second regulation originated in the very earliest days of the division of the 
parties. From this we may conclude that the first regulation also originated 
at the same time. It is quite evident that the author of this report in our 


Sherira, who was merely asked about the origin of the 
Mishnah and the halakic Midrashim, could easily avoid 
mentioning anything he did not desire to state. He limited 
himself to answering the questions put before him. He 
stated that the Midrash was the earlier form, used ex- 
clusively in the earlier days of the second Temple. He 
was careful, however, not to define this period. He also 
told them the history of the Mishnah. He could well 
refrain from stating why the Mishnah was introduced as 
an additional form to the Midrash, for he was not expressly 
asked about this point. His questioners did not ask why 
a change in the form of teaching was made, and probably 
did not know that the Mishnah-form was the result of 
such an important change, Sherira did not find it neces- 
sary to enlighten them about this point. 

R. Zemah found himself in a more difficult position. 
He was compelled to commit himself to some extent. He 
was expressly asked why in Eldad's Talmud no names are 
mentioned, while in our Talmud many names of debating 
teachers, representing conflicting opinions, are found. This 
question implied a doubt in the minds of the questioners 
concerning the authority of our Talmud. R. Zemah had 
to address himself to this doubt. He first admits that 
originally all teachings were given in the Midrash-form. 
Since in this form all teachings are presented as interpreta- 
tions of the written Torah and not as opinions of the 
teachers, the names of the teachers were therefore not 
mentioned. He also avoids definite dates, using like Sherira 
the vague term ' in Temple times ' to designate the period 
of the exclusive use of the Midrash. However, he still 

Mishnah mentions these two regulations in the same paragraph to denote 
their simultaneous origin. 


fears that the people might be led to doubt the traditional 
character of the Mishnah on account of the disputes and 
opposing views of individual teachers that are found in it. 
He therefore admonishes the questioners to entertain no 
doubts about the Mishnah and the Talmud, but to con- 
sider them as coming from the same source as the written 
Torah and as being one with the Torah. This admonition 
of R. Zemah Gaon is a warning against the Karaites of 
his day. It is of the same character as the warning 
uttered by Joshua b. Hananiah (Hagigah 3 b) against the 
Sadducees of his own time.*^ 

The result of our inquiry into the cause of the talmudic- 
rabbinic silence about our subject may be summed up in 
the following conclusions. The early Pharisaic teachers 
refrained from pointing to the causes for the adoption of 
the Mishnah-form, and to its effects upon the development 
of the Halakah, in order not to strengthen the position of 
their opponents, the Sadducees. The later talmudic 
teachers similarly avoided discussion of these subjects out 
of fear of those of their opponents who followed the old 
Sadducean doctrines. The Geonim, in like manner, re- 
frained from mentioning these facts, in order not to place 
weapons in the hands of their opponents, the Karaites. 

" At the end of his responsum (Yellinek, Beth Hamidrash, II, p. 113) 
Zemah repeats his warning not to deviate from the Talmud and the teachings 
of the Rabbis in the following words : nnK PJJOOB' Dai" MVmn 1131 

tab "nD^ic nio^jnai t::h rt^'in ccannc n»a iprnnni pmc b:>n 
-imi minn 's by aina pB* onnm hi nns<» ^xccn pc ion b»'\ 

ICVn ^ib nOK< ICN DBB^iT bvn nnV. This repetition of the ad- 
monition and the citation of the passage in Deut. 17. 11, so often used by 
the Rabbis is support of the authority of their traditional teachings, further 
proves that Zemah aimed to allay any disquieting doubts in the minds of 
the people in regard to the traditional character of the Rabbinical teachings. 



Saadya's Statement Concerning the Beginnings 


In the course of our discussion, we have proved from a 
talmudic report as well as from certain utterances of the 
Geonim, that the first introduction of the Mishnah-form 
took place in the last days of Jose b. Joezer. There is but 
one gaonic statement about the beginnings of the Mishnah 
which seems to be at variance with this conclusion. I refer 
to the statement of Saadya Gaon in his Sefer Hagaluj 
(Schechter, Saadyana, p. 5 ; also quoted by a Karaitic 
writer, see Harkavy, Studien und Mitteilungen, V, p. 194). 

This statement of Saadya places the time for the 
beginnings of the Mishnah soon after prophecy ceased, 
in the fourtieth year of the second Temple, This is 
apparently a much earlier date than the time of Jose b. 
Joezer. A closer examination, however, will show that the 
period to which Saadya assigns the beginnings of the 
Mishnah is actually the same as the one which we have 
found given in the Talmud and indicated by the Geonim 
R. Zemah and R. Sherira, viz. the time of Jose b. Joezer. 
It is merely due to the faulty chronology, followed by 
Saadya, that his date appears to be earlier than the one 
which we fixed on the basis of the evidence derived from 
the Talmud and the statements of R. Zemah and R. 

We must keep in mind that Saadya followed the 
rabbinic chronology as given in Seder 01am and in the 
Talmud. This chronology, however, at least in so far as 


it relates to the earlier period of the second Temple, is 
absolutely incorrect. In order to be able to fix the actual 
time to which Saadya's date refers, we must first point 
out the peculiarities of the talmudic-rabbinic chronology 
which he followed. To account for the errors and the 
confusion in this chronology, it is sufficient to know its 
character. It is an artificial chronology, constructed by 
the later teachers for the apparent purpose of establishing 
a direct connexion between the true teachers of the Law, 
that is to say, the Pharisees, and the prophets, and thus 
to prove the authority of the Pharisaic teachers and the 
traditional character of their teachings. Such a direct 
connexion between the prophets and the Pharisaic teachers 
of the traditional law could be established only by utterly 
ignoring the time during which the priests were the sole 
religious teachers and leaders, and consequently contracting 
long stretches of time into short periods. Hence all the 
inaccuracies in this artificial and faulty chronology. 

The Rabbis assume that the Pharisaic teachers received 
the Law, as well as all their traditional teachings, directly 
from the prophets. In their chronology, therefore, the 
prophets are succeeded not by the priestly teachers, the 
D^jna, but by the n^DOn, the wise lay-teachers. This is 
expressed by the Rabbis in the statement: 1N3JnJ JKO iy 
D'Don nan iK>m 12'? an ']W'i |N3d trnpn nna D^xuin (Seder 
Olam Rabba, XXX ; comp. also Seder Olam Zutta, VII). 
By D^Don are evidently meant bxnt^ 'Dan, lay-teachers, 
or more exactly, Pharisaic teachers, in contradistinction to 
the priests or Sadducees, the D'jna. This is confirmed by 
the fact that in passages in the Mishnah and the Tosefta 
which likewise contain the idea that the wise teachers 
directly succeeded the prophets, the Zuggot are expressly 


mentioned. Thus in Mishnah Peah II, 6 and Tosefta 
Jadayyim II, 16, we read that the Zuggot, that is to say, 
the earliest Pharisaic teachers, received traditional laws 
directly from the prophets, D'X'asn ;d ibpc niJTO b^C. 

The same idea also underlies the statement in Mishnah 
Abet I, according to which the Zuggot received the law 
from the last members of the Great Synagogue. For, 
according to the Rabbis, this Great Synagogue also in- 
cluded the last prophets among its members. There is 
only one slight difference between the line of succession 
as given in M. Abot and that given in M. Peah and Tosefta 
Jadayyim, namely, that the name of Antigonos is mentioned 
in the former between the Zuggot and the Great Synagogue. 
However, in stating the authority from whom the first pair 
received the Law, the Mishnah (Abot I, 4) uses the words 
DDD li)Tp 'they received from them'. This clearly shows 
that the first pair, the two Joses, did not receive the law 
from Antigonos alone. For, if this were the case, the 
Mishnah would have said : w»o '>i'3''p ' they received from 
him '. The expression Dnio ipa^p warrants the supposition 
that the two Joses received the Law from the last members 
of the Great Synagogue, or perhaps Antigonos was con- 
sidered to have been the younger colleague of Simon. 
According to this supposition there is no discrepancy 
between all these talmudic reports. They all assume that 
the last members of the Great Synagogue, among whom 
were also the last prophets, transmitted the Law and the 
traditions directly to the Zuggot or D^Dan, i. e. the earliest 
Pharisaic teachers. 

This transmission of the Law by the prophets to the 
wise teachers, or the disappearance of the prophets and 
the rise of the D''D3n, the Pharisaic teachers, took place 


according to the Rabbis, in the time of Alexander the 
Great, shortly after the overthrow of the Persian Empire 
(Seder 01am Rabba and Zutta, /. c). This rabbinic 
chronology finds no difficulty in extending the time of the 
last prophets to the end of the Persian period. For by 
some peculiar error, which we are unable to account for, 
the Rabbis reduced the entire period of the existence of 
the second Temple under Persian rule to thirty-four years. 
They assume that thirty-four years after the second Temple 
was built, the Persian rule in Judea ceased and the Greek 
rule began (Seder 01am Rabba, /. c, and Shabbat, 15 a). 
Accordingly, it was not found strange that Haggai who 
urged the building of the Temple as well as the other 
prophets of his time, should have lived to the end of the 
Persian period and have handed over the Law and the 
traditions to their successors, the D'can, or wise lay- 
teachers at that time. 

How the Rabbis could identify these d'oan with the 
Zuggot, so that the latter, living in the second century B.C., 
could be considered the direct recipients of the Law from 
the last prophets at the end of the fourth century B. C, 
is not difficult to explain. The Rabbis had a tradition that 
the High Priest in the time of Alexander the Great was 
Simon the Just (I) (Yoma 69 a). They also had a reliable 
report of a high-priest Simon the Just (H) who lived shortly 
before the time of the Zuggot, either a little before or 
contemporary with Antigonos. These two Simons they 
confused with one another. They identified Simon the 
JUst II, who lived about 200 B.C., with Simon the Just I, 
one of the last survivors of the Great Synagogue who lived 
at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third 
century B. C. In this manner they established a direct 


connexion between the prophets who were among the last 
members of the Great Synagogue and the Zuggot or the 
D'osn, the wise lay-teachers, who were the fathers of the 
Pharisaic party. They were probably unaware of the fact 
that they passed over an interval of an entire century, or 
it may be that they consciously ignored it, because, as we 
have seen, there was no official activity of the teachers 
during that period. 

According to this faulty chronology, then, the Zuggot, 
or the first pair, Jose b. Joezer and Jose b. Johanan, 
succeeded the prophets, or the last members of the Great 
Synagogue, and commenced their activity as teachers of 
the Law shortly after the overthrow of the Persian Empire 
by Alexander ; that is to say, not much later than the 
year 34 of the second Temple. And it is actually this 
time, i. e. the time of the two Joses, that Saadya fixes for 
the beginnings of the Mishnah. The meaning of the passage 
in Saadya's Sefer Hagaluj is now clear, and its date fully 
agrees with our date for the beginnings of the Mishnah. 
The passage reads as follows : '•CO D*3{J' pj^N njnoi' IN^JD '•3 Tiil 
rmi prn Dinn:i no rw^i Qis^ajn mr* Dni> D%-6Nn b>''N nco 
I's: •'3 iionn ns unin rmyi djj t3jno3 rr'iB' mnn nwai) cyaisn 
ip^nvn IK'S rba b isdnm nstrrr Tibi) wnn i»jj nwi j'nNn ba 
(Schechter suggests the reading i'NntJ'ii') \vh pin^l nivoij Dnp liO 

We may, therefore, assume with certainty that Saadya 
had a correct tradition that the teaching of Mishnah was 
first begun in the time of the first pair, the two Joses. 
But, misguided by the erroneous rabbinic chronology which 
he followed, he puts the date of this first pair in the year 
40 of the second Temple. 

The conditions which, according to Saadya, caused the 


teachers to begin the composition of Mishnah, also point 
to the time of the two Joses. For, as Saadya assumes, 
what prompted the teachers to seek to preserve their 
teachings in Mishnah-form was the fact that the Jewish 
people were then scattered all over the earth, and the 
teachers feared that the study of the Law might be for- 
gotten, Njnn i>v nwi j'lsn i»3a yft: ■•a nonn ns wmn nwia 
naBTi ^rh^b. These conditions actually prevailed in the 
time of the two Joses. From the Sibylline Oracle III, 371, 
we learn that about the middle of the second century B. c. 
the Jewish people had already scattered all over the earth, 
and were to be found in every land (comp. Schiirer, 
Geschichte, III*, p. 4). Indeed, the decree of the two Joses 
declaring the lands of the Gentiles unclean (Shabbat 15 a) 
may have been issued for the very purpose of stopping 
this extensive emigration of the people into foreign lands 
{see Weiss, Dor, I, p. 99). 

Again, from the quotation of Saadya's statement by 
the Karaitic writer, it would seem that Saadya designated 
the teachers, who first composed Mishnah, by the name of 
nUN. If this be so, if Saadya really applied the term nux 
to these teachers, he could have had in mind only the 
earliest Pharisaic teachers, or the Zuggot, who are called 
in the Talmud (p. Hagigah 77 d) rh\'ir<. nnK. I am, 
however, inclined to think that Saadya did not use the 
term ni3N in referring to these teachers. Saadya probably 
used the term unin, as we find it in the Hebrew text 
(edition Schechter), and which simply means, our fore- 
fathers. The Karaitic writer who quotes Saadya's state- 
ment translated this Hebrew word wmn by the Arabic 

Our contention that Saadya's date refers to the time 


of Jose b. Joezer might be objected to on the ground that 
according to Saadya (Schechter, I.e.) it took about 500 
years from the beginnings of the Mishnah to the final 
completion of our Mishnah. If, then, Saadya's date coincides 
with the time of Jose b. Joezer, the actual time between 
the beginnings of the Mishnah and the completion of our 
Mishnah is scarcely 400 years. This objection, however, 
can easily be removed. Here again the mistake is due 
to the faulty chronology followed by Saadya. Having 
placed the beginnings of the Mishnah, i. e. the time of the 
first pair, in the year 40 of the second Temple, and assuming 
that our Mishnah was completed 150 years after the 
destruction of the second Temple, Saadya had to extend 
the period of the Mishnah to 530 years. For, according 
to the talmudic chronology, the second Temple existed 
420 years. Accordingly the period of time which elapsed 
between the year 40 of the second Temple and the year 
150 after its destruction was 530 years. This number was 
actually given by Saadya, as quoted by the Karaitic 
writer. The copyist, however, by mistake wrote ''"\>n = ^xo, 
instead of h"pr\=$y) (see Harkavy, op. cit., p. 195, note 6). 
The number 500 years, niND B'Dn n'^ifih, assigned to the 
period of the Mishnah in Sefer Hagaluj (edition Schechter, 
p. 5), probably represents a round number, as Schechter 
(/. c) correctly remarks. 

Y a