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The phrase "‫כי אתא [name] אמר [name],‏ [statement]‏‬‬" appears many times in the Bavli. For example,

  • Rosh Hashana 35:1: כי אתא רבין אמר רבי יעקב בר אידי אמר רבי שמעון חסידא לא פטר רבן גמליאל אלא עם שבשדות
  • Shabas 52:1: כי אתא רב דימי אמר ר׳ חנינא מולאות של בית רבי יוצאות באפסריהן בשבת
  • Avoda Zara 73:1: כי אתא רב דימי א״ר יוחנן המערה יין נסך מחבית לבור אפילו כל היום כולו ראשון ראשון בטל

I've always understand that it means — in the last quotation, for example — "when R. Dimi came [from Israel], he said that R. Yochanan said 'one who pours…'". But that seems to be missing an "אמר": it should logically be "כי אתא רב דימי א״ר יוחנן אמר המערה…‏" or perhaps "כי אתא רב דימי אמר א״ר יוחנן המערה…‏" or even "כי אתא אמר רב דימי א״ר יוחנן המערה…‏". So what is the meaning of the phrase, and how does that meaning fit the words?

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I think it's just an elliptical construction, and the meaning is as you suggest. There are other times in the Talmud where the word אמר is dropped, aside from just כי אתא statements (e.g. P'sachim 106b, where what should be ואמר רבה אמר רב נחמן turns into ורבה אמר רב נחמן). – Fred Jul 2 '14 at 20:04

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