Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah

“Yehoshua” is “Joshua” in some English translations.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah was a major figure in the rabbinic community at Yavneh following the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. He was a teacher of Rabbi Akiva’s and a peer of Rabbi Eliezer’s.The story of Yohanan ben Zakkai’s escape from Jerusalem during the Roman siege attests to his senor status in the community, as he and Rabbi Eliezer are named as the sages who conducted the ruse to smuggle their leader out of the city (Bavli Gittin 56a). Rabbi Yehoshua is the hero of the texts represented on the Seventy Faces of the Talmud, and he emerges as the victor in his ideological struggles with rival philosophies advocating the maintenance of a strong centralized authority and the conservative impulse to adhere strictly to the “original intent” of the canon. He stands for the intellectual autonomy necessary for individual sages to determine the most compelling interpretation of the texts of Judaism. His embrace of novelty in interpretation implied pluralism in tension with rabbinic unity, which he resolved through decision making by consensus. The committment to unfettered interpretation as the essence of the rabbinic enterprise may have opened the door to ideological threats. Two of his students, Rabbi Akiva and Shimon ben Zoma, flirted with Gnoticisim; or a dualism of some sort. Gnosticism was very popular during this period, and it drew much of its appeal from a close, albeit subversive, reading of the canonical texts. The passages in Seventy Faces of the Talmud in which he appears are set in the late 1st – early 2nd century and are as follows:

 

Dispute over the Calendar

The Deposing of Rabban Gamaliel

Tanur shel Achnai (Oven of Achnai”)

Interpretive Innovation

Frustrated Hope

Interfaith Dialogue as Political Critique

 

An English translation of the passage depicting Yehoshua and Eliezer smuggling Yohanan ben Zakkai out of Jerusalem may be found at:

http://www.halakhah.com/gittin/gittin_56.html

 

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Seventy Faces of the Talmud

 

Rabbi Mitchell Levine reserves the rights to the name The Seventy Faces of the Talmud as well as all original texts and translations written herein.  Reuse in most circumstances is acceptable with citation and link to the landing page of this section of the Agudas Achim site.