views updated


SHEMAIAH (late first century b.c.e.), the colleague of *Avtalyon (see *Zugot). In talmudic sources they are usually mentioned together. They are described as having taught in the same bet midrash (Yoma 35b), cooperating in an exemplary fashion. Like Avtalyon, Shemaiah was said to have been a convert to Judaism, descended from Sennacherib (Git. 57b; cf. tj, Mak. 3:1, 81d). Those who identify Avtalyon with Pollio mentioned by Josephus, identify Shemaiah with Samaias, as one of the Pharisee leaders in the time of Herod. Shemaiah's dictum (Avot 1:10), "Love work, hate lordship, and seek no intimacy with the ruling power," probably reflects his attitude to the government of his time, and accords with Josephus' statement about Pollio (see *Avtalyon). Shemaiah and Avtalyon administered the soṭah rite, presumably within the framework of the Temple ritual (Eduyot 5:6). In an early discussion of faith and belief in rabbinic literature, Avtalyon expresses the view "that the faith in God of the children of Israel in Egypt sufficed for the Red Sea to be divided for them," while Shemaiah holds that this merit stemmed from Abraham's faith in God (Mekh. 2, 3). The late report that Shemaiah and Avtalyon were darshanim gedolim (masters of homiletical exposition) would seem to be anachronistic (Friedman, Netiot le-David, 234).


A. Buechler, Das Synhedrion in Jerusalem, 178–81 (1902); S. Zeitlin, in: Journal of Jewish Lore and Philosophy, 1 (1919), 63–67; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 228f., 253–5; E.E. Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 27 (1957/58), 175. add. bibliography: S. Friedman, in: Netiot le-David, Festschrift in Honor of David Weiss Halivni (2004).

[Bialik Myron Lerner /

Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]