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Halakhah

(727 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The term (derived from the Hebrew root hlk, ‘to go’) describes both a particular Jewish legal requirement or fixed regulation as well as the entire system of legal requirements dictated by Jewish tradition. The fundamental principles of these requirements, traditionally considered to be the ‘Oral Torah’ ( Tora she-be-al-peh) and the revelations to Moses on Mt. Sinai, form the legal corpora of the Pentateuch (e.g., the so-called ‘Book of the Covenant’ [ Ex 20,22-23,19], Deuteronomic law [Dt 12,1-26,15] or the Holiness Code [Lv 1…

Priestly document

(542 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Based on its choice of words, style and motifs, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was able to identify a certain segment of the OT Pentateuch as distinct from the other documents that have been preserved, using the findings of older Pentateuchal criticism in the context of the 'Documentary Hypothesis' (1876 f.). Characteristic of this document are not only certain concepts and phrases (e. g. ēdā, 'assembly', 'community'; megūrīm, 'sojourning'; berīt ōlām, 'everlasting covenant'), but also numbers, lists and genealogies as well as an emphasis on the …

Gamaliel

(279 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] [1] G. I. »The Old Man«; grandson of Hillel Also called ‘the Old Man’ (died c. AD 50), a grandson of Hillel. G. was a Pharisee ( Pharisaei) and member of the Sanhedrin ( Synhedrion). G., about whom little is known historically (for discussion of the problem, cf. [1]), is thought to have been  Paulus' teacher prior to his conversion to Christianity (Acts 22:3). According to Acts 5:34-39 his intervention saved Peter and other apostles from prosecution by the Sanhedrin. Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) [German version] [2] G. II. Successor to Jochanan ben Zakkai Grandson of [1], a…

Sabbath

(537 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew šabbat; Greek σάββατον/ sábbaton; Lat. sabbata). Seventh day of the Jewish week and day of rest observed weekly; its origin is unclear (cf. suggestions of a connection with the Akkadian šapattu, the day of the full moon). It is likely that it developed in ancient Israel as an expression of Yahweh's prerogative, based on the commandment to let the land lie unplowed during the seventh year (Ex 23:10 f.). The Sabbath was explained in two ways in the Biblical tradition. In the version contained in the Deute…

Sirach

(369 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Σοφία Σιραχ/ Sophía Sirach). The apocryphal book of Jesus son of Sirach (Hebrew Ben Sîrâ), one of the most significant works of wisdom literature, was written in Hebrew in about 190 BC by S., a Jewish scribe from Jerusalem, and later translated into Greek by his grandson (cf. the preface). The earliest Hebrew fragments were found in Qumran and Masada; two thirds of the Hebrew text were discovered in MSS of the Cairo Genizah. Although not adopted into the canon of the Jewish tradition, S. is cited in the Talmud (Rabbinical literature) as a canonical book. S. consists of indi…

Raphael

(177 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Literally 'God heals', Gr. Ραφαήλ/ Rhaphaḗl; cf. the personal name in 1 Chr 26:7). In Jewish angelology, one of the four (or seven) archangels who have a special role in the celestial hierarchy for their praise and glorification of God before His throne (1 Enoch 9,1; 20,3; 40,9). True to his name, R. is the angel of healing (cf. Hebr. rāfā, 'to heal'), ruling over "all illnesses and all torments of the children of men" (1 Enoch 40,9). He plays a significant role in the Book of Tobit, where, disguised as Tobias' travelling companion, he d…

Levites

(434 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] According to the Chronistic History ( Bible), the Levites - clearly distinguished from the priests - form a type of clerus minor who are entrusted with the supervision of the Temple courtyards, provision rooms with cult equipment, sacrifices and offerings as well as being active as singers, musicians and gatekeepers and assisting the priests in the sacrificial service. Various genealogies document internal disputes and rivalries. The details of the history of the Levites can be clarified only with dif…

Amoraim

(84 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The term Amoraim (from Hebr. amar, ‘to say, comment’) describes in the traditional periodization those rabbinic teachers who worked both in Palestine and Babylon in the period from the finalization of the Mishna ( c. AD 200) to the time when the Babylonian Talmud was essentially completed, except for a few final revisions ( c. AD 500). They commented on the interpretations of the early  Tannaites, who have more authority in tradition. Ego, Beate (Osnabrück) Bibliography G. Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch, 81992.

Masorah, Masoretes

(494 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Since the Hebrew alphabet is a consonantal alphabet and thus does not write any vowels, written words can often be pronounced and interpreted in various ways. In order to solve this problem, individual consonant letters were used also as vowel letters ( matres lectionis) from early on (so called plene writing; cf. Aramaic documents from as early as the 9th century BC or the Shiloah inscription from the 7th century BC). Furthermore, in order to secure the pronunciation of the holy text definitively, the so-called Masorah (‘tradition’, from Hebrew msr, ‘to pass down’) w…

Death, angel of

(231 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew Malakh ha-mawet). Figure of Rabbinical angelology, can be identified with  Sammael or  Satan (e.g. bBB 16a). The angel of death, given by God the power over life and death, stands at the side of someone who is dying. If that person opens his or her mouth in fright, the angel casts a drop of gall from his sword into the open mouth, whereupon death occurs (bAZ 20b). Up until the sin of the golden calf (Ex 32,1-24), the angel was intended only for the peoples of the world, beca…

Elisha ben Abuja

(158 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Eliša b. Abuja). Jewish scholar of the first half of the 2nd cent. AD, in the Rabbinic literature considered a prototypical apostate and probably therefore bearing the name Aḥer (Hebrew ‘the Other’). However, Rabbinic legendary tradition attributes to him a number of very different heresies: the reference in bHag 15a, according to which he believed in the existence of two heavenly powers, seems to point to Gnostic ideas ( Gnostics); according to yHag 2,1 (77b), he is supposed to …

Diaspora

(418 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] The term diaspora (Greek διασπορά; diasporá, ‘scattering’) refers to Israelite or rather Jewish settlements outside Palestine. The main reason for their formation was the  deportation of the population as a consequence of military conquest; but alongside that, flight for political reasons, emigration in response to economic hardships, as well as expansion of trade also played a part. Despite considerable cultural differences, the country of Israel and in particular the temple in Jerusa…

Aqiba

(149 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Rabbi A. ( c. AD 50-135), an important Jewish teacher in the time of  Jabne, often appears as an opponent of rabbi Yishmael in discussions on the interpretation of Scriptures. He plays a significant role in the context of early esoteric traditions (see the tale of the four who entered Paradise; bHag 14b par.). He allegedly proclaimed Bar Kochba the Messiah of Israel (‘Star of Jacob’; cf. Num 24,5), which provoked objections because of the primarily anti-apocalyptic tendency of the ea…

Zion

(288 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ζιών/Ziṓn or Σιών/Siṓn, fem.; Lat. Zion, masc., fem. or neutr.). The Hebrew proper noun Z. was originally the name for the citadel of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem on the southeastern karst hill above the source of the Gihon, which was conquered by David [1]. The Hebrew text explains the phrase 'Fortress of Z.' ( meṣudat ṣijjōn) as 'David's City' (2 Sam 5:7; cf. 1 Kg 8:1; for the distinction from the remainder of the city cf. 2 Sam 6:10; 6:12; 6:16). After the expansion of Jerusalem under Solomon the name could also be applied to th…

Judith

(331 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Ιουδιθ, Iudith, Iudit). The Book of J., which has come down to us only in Greek and (dependent on it) in Latin and belongs to the Apocrypha ( Apocryphal literature), goes back to a Hebrew original. In a politically and militarily difficult situation, with the inhabitants of the mountain city of Betylia besieged by Nebuchadnezzar's commander  Holofernes, and consequently suffering from lack of water, Judith, a young, rich and pious widow, appears. After admonishing the people to tru…

Hillel

(170 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] the elder, of Babylonian descent, lived at the time of  Herodes [1] the Great (end 1st cent. BC/beginning 1st cent. AD); pupil of the Pharisees Shemaya and Abtalion. H. was one of the most important ‘rabbinic’ authorities from the period before the destruction of the temple of  Jerusalem (AD 70). Tradition ascribes to him the seven rules of interpretation ( Middot), strongly influenced by Greek rhetoric, as well as the introduction of the so-called prosbul: according to this a creditor could demand payment of his debt even after a sabbat…

Jehuda ha-Nasi

(292 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] Most often simply called ‘rabbi’ or ‘our holy rabbi’, c. AD 175-217; son and successor of Simeon ben Gamaliel [2] II, the most important of the Jewish Patriarchs, under whose rule the office was at its most powerful. He was officially acknowledged by the Romans as the representative of Judaism and in addition acted as the head of the Sanhedrin ( Bēt Dīn;  Synhedrion), being the highest authority in questions of teachings ( Ḥakham). J. had at his disposal a solid financial basis, and maintained extensive trading relations and contacts with the  Diaspora…

Targum

(402 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew targûm, 'translation'). Name of the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible since the Tannaitic Period ( c. 2nd cent. AD). Of the Pentateuch, several Targum versions exist: a) Targum Onqelos, probably based on a Palestinian text ( c. late 1st/early 2nd cents. AD) and revised in Babylonia presumably between the 3rd and the 5th cents. AD, is largely a literal translation of the Hebrew text; b) Targum Neofiti, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (= Targum Jerushalmi I) as well as the Fragment Targum (= Targum Jerushalmi II), …

Gaon

(240 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew gāōn, ‘Eminence’, later ‘Excellency’; pl.: Gōnı̄m). Official title of the head of the Rabbinic academies in Babylonian  Sura and  Pumbedita. There the gaons functioned from the 6th cent. AD to the end of the academies in the 11th cent. as the highest teaching authorities (cf. the name of this period as the ‘Gaonic period’). The most important representatives of this office were Amram ben Sheshna (died about AD 875; author of the earliest preserved prayer book), Saadiah be…

Toledot Yeshu

(239 words)

Author(s): Ego, Beate (Osnabrück)
[German version] (Hebrew for ‘Life of Jesus’), a Jewish popular pseudo-history of the life of Jesus (A.1.), describing his birth, life and death in a satirical and polemic manner. The mediaeval compilation, which was in circulation in numerous different versions in several languages (including Hebrew, Yiddish, Judaeo-Arabic and Judaeo-Persian) and whose roots can be traced back as far as Talmudic tradition (cf. e.g. bSot 47a; bSan 43a; 67a; 107b), tells e.g. of Jesus's ignominious origin, since hi…
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