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In my experience, many religious Jews think that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai wrote the book we have today called the Zohar.

The Zohar is a Jewish work of mysticism that was published in the 13th century. It was said at the time to have been written by Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai in the second century, while he hid in a cave from the Romans with his son Eliezer. The manuscript then disappeared from history only to resurface without explanation a millennium later in the hands of R Moses ben Shem-Tov de Leon. However, during and ever since its publication there has been controversy over this works authenticity, both scholarly and anecdotal, including statements by the publisher, Moses ben Shem-Tov de Leon's wife as noted in the following excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

a rich man of Avila, named Joseph, offered [de Leon's] widow, who had been left without means, a large sum of money for the original from which her husband had made the copy; and she then confessed that her husband himself was the author of the work. She had asked him several times, she said, why he had chosen to credit his own teachings to another, and he had always answered that doctrines put into the mouth of the miracle-working Simeon ben Yohai would be a rich source of profit.

Furthermore, included in the Zohar there seem to be references to historical events (such as the Crusades in Zohar II, 32a and III, 212b), Hebrew orthographic conventions (eg. Zohar I 24b, III 65a), Spanish words (eg. Esnoga), and names of rabbis (eg. Rav Hamnuna Sava, Rav Yeva Sava, R' Hezkiah bar Rav, etc) which all appear to post-date Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

What are the detailed historical arguments supporting or denying Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's authorship of the Zohar?

(Note this question does not seek names of authorities or non-authorities who personally support or deny Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's authorship. It seeks detailed historical arguments.)

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@IsaacMoses I think it includes details supporting the existence of controversy. (The existence of controversy is a very important premise to the question.) –  Double AA Dec 30 '13 at 19:46
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I think we went through this here somewhere (I remember Alex quoted a chabad.org article about this) –  Shmuel Brin Dec 30 '13 at 20:58
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@ray I don't know what you mean by "really answer this". He didn't ask for the actual truth. He asked for arguments. Even millions of people can be fooled sometimes. It is up to us to evaluate the evidence. There is no coercive proof of anything historical (with the possible exception of the existence of yourself). –  Double AA Dec 30 '13 at 21:02
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No one claims that he put pen to paper (quill to parchment?) on the Zohar. Given that Mishna wasn't written down until much later, that shouldn't be a surprise (the traditional claim is Rav Hamnuna Saba, I believe). But @ShmuelBrin is right, the opposing opinion (to the one of the Jewish encyclopedia - including the alledged spanish word existing in Onkles) was covered here at some point. –  Yishai Dec 30 '13 at 21:03
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talkreason.org/articles/zohar.cfm has much better, more detailed arguments than the Chabad article. He covers everything from the usual at-the-time witnesses, then moves on to later(next several generations) historical researchers' efforts. He also goes on to show how historic error details and the topography of the Land of Israel, as written in the Zohar, could NOT have been written by somebody in the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE..also some of the Aramaic language errors....lots of information! –  Gary Dec 31 '13 at 2:31

1 Answer 1

The traditional argument is explored and defended at length here and the subsequent links in the series. No one claims that the entirety of the Zohar as we have it was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (and no one says that he actually wrote as opposed to taught orally any of it).

It would seem rather repetitive to restate all the arguments there, but the real bottom line is that its authenticity is attested to not due to a clear chain of custody of the text (of which there is no single such chain) but due to the Kabbalists contemporary to its dissemination attesting to the authorship claims (for reasons unknown due to the writings on the question being lost) and their analyzing its contents and finding them acceptable. The rest consists of refuting the arguments to the contrary.

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How does analysis of its contents showing it is a Kabbalistic work attest to its authorship? (Also, what about those at the time who rejected it?) –  Double AA Dec 30 '13 at 21:43
    
"at length" That link (and the nexts parts of that article) doesn't address most of the problems which were mentioned in the question. There is no discussion of the crusades, Hebrew vowels, esnoga... Overall I found that series to be handwaving and not thorough. –  Double AA Dec 30 '13 at 21:44
    
Which kabbalists of his time? –  avi Dec 30 '13 at 21:46
    
It doesn't address crusade by name, it just speaks about the later authorship of other portions of the work, so the idea that showing one area of later authorship invalidates the traditional claim just shows a non-understanding of the traditional claim. –  Yishai Dec 30 '13 at 21:50
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Regardless of what name you want to assign to the position presented in the cited article, this answer post should include a great deal more specifics of what the article actually says and how that relates to the question at hand. The more work you make the reader do to understand how your answer addresses the question, the less useful your answer is. –  Isaac Moses Dec 30 '13 at 21:54

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