Zeitlin, Solomon

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ZEITLIN, SOLOMON (1892–1976), U.S. scholar of post-biblical literature. Zeitlin, born in Russia, studied in Dvinsk and was influenced by the Ragoshover Illui (R. Joseph Rozin) and R. Meir Simḥah Ha-Kohen. In 1908 he attended the Institute of Baron David *Guenzberg in St. Petersburg, where his roommate was Zalman (Rubashov) *Shazar. Enrolling at the Ecole Rabbinique, Paris, in 1912, Zeitlin received ordination and a doctorate in theology there. His article on "Les 'dix-huit mesures'" was published in rej, 68 (1914), 22–36. Immigrating to the U.S. during World War i, Zeitlin received a Ph.D. at Dropsie College, Philadelphia, in 1917; his dissertation was on Megillat Ta'anit as a Source for Jewish Chronology and History in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods (1922). Zeitlin taught first at Yeshiva College, New York, then became professor of rabbinics at Dropsie College in 1921. As an outstanding authority on the Second Commonwealth period, he wrote over 400 articles and books in the fields of rabbinics, Josephus, the Apocrypha, and Christianity.

Zeitlin's assertions that the so-called Christ passage in Josephus was not authentic but only an interpolation by Eusebius, contrary to the opinion of most scholars, gained him early scholarly fame (jqr 18 (1927/28), 231–55).

His main concern was the analysis of tannaitic sources and the recognition of a clear distinction in historic eras before and after the Temple destruction; differentiating institutions, laws, and concepts.

Zeitlin was the main protagonist against dating the Dead Sea Scrolls in the intertestamental period. His understanding of the continuity of history is reflected in studies on the sources and nature of the teachings of Saadiah Gaon, Maimonides, Rashi, and other sages to ascertain the halakhic process in Judaism. He was the author of many basic writings on Josephus, on Jewish historiography and law, on the crucifixion of Jesus (Who Crucified Jesus? …, 19644) and on halakhic traditions. He was editor of the *Jewish Quarterly Review and editor in chief of the Jewish Apocryphal Literature Series. He was also instrumental in organizing the American Academy of Jewish Research in the U.S. Zeitlin's two volumes on the Rise and Fall of the Judean State (19682) present a definitive view of the Second Temple era, and include comprehensive rabbinic, non-rabbinic, and classical sources. An original and fearless scholar, he stressed that the scholar must not allow theological bias, which often influences writings on the Second Temple era and the Dead Sea Scrolls.


S.B. Hoenig, Solomon Zeitlin: Scholar Laureate; an Annotated Bibliography 19151970 With Appreciations of His Writings (1971); ibid., in: jba, 29 (1971/72), 94–100.

[Sidney B. Hoenig]