BEI AVIDAN , meeting place in talmudic times where scholars of various nations and faiths met for religious discussions and disputations. Enjoying the protection of the authorities, the institution was visited by some of the Jewish sages, while others, such as *Joshua b. Hananiah (Shab. 152a) and Eleazar b. Perata (Av. Zar. 17b), refrained from doing so, for which they were compelled to apologize to the authorities. Similarly, the amora Rav did not enter a Bei Avidan, whereas his colleague Samuel did (Shab. 116a). The Bei Avidan is mentioned in this context in association with a Bei Niẓrefei (or Bei Naẓrufei), to which neither Rav nor Samuel would enter, and which was apparently an idolatrous house of worship (cf. Er. 80a). R. Abbahu was asked whether it was permitted to save the books of a Bei Avidan from a fire on the Sabbath (Shab. loc. cit.). It apparently contained books of the Bible (see R. Hananel, ad loc.), but since it was not known whether a Jew or a sectarian had copied them, the doubt arose whether or not they could be saved on the Sabbath. Various theories have been advanced to explain the origin of the word. According to S.J.L. Rapoport (Erekh Millin (1852), 3), it derives from the Persian abdan ("a forum"), the meeting place there being called Bei Avidan (i.e., "house of"). L. Ginzberg (Festschrift … Schwarz, 1917, 329) suggests that the word derives from the name of a person, possibly the astrologer Abidas-Abidan, who was active in Persia at the beginning of the third century. L. Loew (He-Ḥalutz, 2 (1853), 100ff.) contends that the correct reading is "Bei-Evyoni," i.e., the meeting place of the Ebionites in the Land of Israel. However, the fact that the word "Bei Avidan" is not found in Palestinian sources and that, furthermore, the statement about Joshua b. Hananiah and Eleazar b. Perata is in Aramaic indicate that the Bei Avidan originated in Babylonia and that the term was adopted by the rabbis to apply to the institution in Ereẓ Israel. More recently, S. Shaked has suggested that the term is derived from a Persian word meaning "temple"; see Sokoloff, dpja, p. 209b.
Levy J., Neuhebr Tal, 1 (19242), 9; Jastrow, Dict. 1 (1950), 5; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1966), 73ff. (citing further literature).
[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]