Bathyra, Sons of

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BATHYRA, SONS OF (according to tb; in tj known as "Elders of Bathyra"), members of a famous Jewish family who were prominent from the first century b.c.e. to the second century c.e. Some scholars conjecture that the family was named after the city of *Bathyra in northern Transjordan. It is inferred from talmudic sources that members of this family were the religious authorities of their time, but that when Hillel demonstrated his superior knowledge of Torah (on the question of whether the paschal offering overrides the Sabbath) "they set him at their head and appointed him nasi over them" (TJ, Kil. 9:4, 32b; Pes. 66a; bm 85a). As a result of this abdication they were regarded exemplars of humility; Judah ha-Nasi said of them "whatever I am bidden I am prepared to do except what the Elders of Bathyra did for my ancestor (Hillel), namely abdicating from their high office in order to elevate him" (tj, Ket. 12:3, 35a). The talmudic sources do not specify their names. According to the Jerusalem Talmud they were nesi'im. In other talmudic sources, while they were not specifically designated as such, it is implied that they held the patriarchate before Hillel was appointed. According to Halevy, the Sons of Bathyra carried out the functions of the patriarchate when the Sanhedrin was not functioning (possibly at the beginning of Herod's rule). Apparently members of this family exercised influence even after the destruction of the Temple, when the Sanhedrin was in Jabneh. Johanan b. Zakkai was said to have consulted the Sons of Bathyra in regard to certain legal rulings. A number of tannaim known by this patronymic, e.g., Judah b. Bathyra, Joshua b. Bathyra, and Simeon b. Bathyra, presumably belonged to this family.


Halevy, Dorot, 1 pt. 3 (1923), 36–89; 1 pt. 5 (1923), 190–9; Hyman, Toledot, 365ff.; Graetz, in: mgwj, 1 (1851), 115–20; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 4 (19502), 56, 143; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1965), index, s.v.Bathyrans.

[Zvi Kaplan]