Johanan ben Nuri

views updated


JOHANAN BEN NURI (first half of the second century), tanna. Johanan lived in Bet She'arim (Tosef., Ter. 7:14; ibid., Suk. 2:2) and was also in Ginnegar and Sepphoris. His teacher was apparently *Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, since he transmits several sayings in his name and engaged in discussions in his presence (Tosef., Kelim, bk 6:3; et al.). During the war of Lucius *Quietus (115–17 c.e.), Johanan was in Sepphoris in the company of outstanding scholars (Tosef., Kelim, bb 2:2). He had great influence in molding the laws and customs of the Jews of Galilee, who followed his rulings, in contrast to Judea where they followed *Akiva (tj, rh 4:6). Despite the fact that *Joshua b. Hananiah praised him for his great knowledge and as one who "was able to estimate the number of drops of water in the sea," he was extremely poor and "went out with the last of the gleaners to bring home his living for the whole year" (tj, Pe'ah 8:1). Even after Rabban *Gamaliel appointed him a member of the Sanhedrin, he continued to behave with simplicity: "It happened that Rabban Gamaliel promoted Johanan b. Nuri and Eleazer b. Ḥisma, and the disciples did not recognize them. In the evening they took their place among the disciples… [Rabban Gamaliel] entered and found them sitting among the pupils. He said to them: 'You have already shown publicly that you deserve no position of authority. In the past you were your own masters, henceforth you are servants subject to the community'" (Sif. Deut. 16; and cf. Hor. 10a). He is frequently mentioned in the Mishnah, chiefly in discussions with Akiva with whom he was intimate. Johanan b. Nuri said: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses that on more than five occasions Akiva was criticized because of me before Gamaliel in Jabneh, because I complained about him and Gamaliel rebuked him, but despite that I know that his affection for me grew" (Sif. Deut. 1). He is frequently mentioned as conveying the teaching of the scholars of Jabneh to the older scholars of Galilee (Tosef., bb 2:10; ibid., Oho. 5:8; et al.). His halakhot are frequently mentioned in the Mishnah and baraita and he was called "a basket of halakhot" (arn1 18–68). Johanan b. Beroka is referred to as one of his pupils (Tosef. Ter. 7:14), and Yose transmitted halakhot in his name (Ket. 1:10; et al.). He was still alive after the *Bar Kokhba war and the fall of Bethar (Yev. 14:2–15:1), and Judah ha-Nasi still went to visit him in Bet She'arim (Tosef. Suk. 2:2; see Lieberman, Toseftaki-Feshutah, 4, 850/51).


Frankel, Mishnah (1923), 130–2; J. Brill, Mevoha-Mishnah, 1 (1876), 122–5; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; L.A. Rosenthal, in: Hoffmann-Festschrift (1914), 234–40.

[Shmuel Safrai]