ABBAHU (fl. toward the turn of the fourth century ce), Palestinian amora. Abbahu was the younger contemporary of both Shimʿon ben Laqish ("Resh Laqish") and Elʿazar ben Pedat, with whom he studied, but his main teacher was Yoḥanan bar Nappaḥaʾ. Abbahu eventually settled in Caesarea, where he became head of the rabbinic academy. Because of the cosmopolitan nature of that city he had frequent contacts with Christians, Samaritans, and other "heretics"; surviving reports suggest that Abbahu engaged in frequent polemics against these rivals.
Among the reports of these polemics are an exegesis attributed to Abbahu in which Isaiah 44:6 is taken to be God's explicit denial of a father or a brother or a son (Ex. Rab. 29.4) and a remark ascribed to Abbahu to the effect that "if a man tells you 'I am God' he is lying" (J.T., Taʿan. 2.1, 65b). Abbahu is also said to have brought about a change in the legal status of the Samaritans in the Jewish community so that now they were to be considered Gentiles in all respects (J.T., ʿA. Z. 5.4, 44d).
Abbahu engaged in secular studies and, to his colleagues' consternation, taught his daughter Greek (J.T., Shab. 6.1, 7d). His familiarity with the surrounding culture gave him relatively easy access to the Roman authorities, a privilege that he used to intercede for his brethren when the occasion demanded (B.T., Ket. 17a). This combination of openness to the surrounding culture and willingness to combat rival religious movements made Abbahu an effective advocate of the rabbinic viewpoint. He was able to insist on the exclusive legitimacy of rabbinic teachings without seeming to demand that Jews live in isolation from their surroundings or that they abjure any interest in the activities of their neighbors.
Some of Abbahu's ritual enactments, most notably concerning the sounding of the ram's horn on Roʾsh ha-Shanah, the New Year festival (B.T., R. ha-Sh. 34a), became normative practice in Jewish life. Despite his polemical activities, he was remembered within his own community as a peacemaker and a man of modesty (B.T., Sot. 40a). He was said to have been a man of wealth and good looks. His disciples included leading scholars of the next generation.
Hyman, Aaron. Toledot tannaʾim ve-amoraʾim (1910). Reprint, Jerusalem, 1964.
Levine, Lee I. "R. Abbahu of Caesarea." In Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults, edited by Jacob Neusner, vol. 4, pp. 56–76. Leiden, 1975.
Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Rabbi Abbahu and the Minim." Jewish Quarterly Review 60 (1970): 197–212.
Robert Goldenberg (1987)
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