Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In "Al Hanisim" we say "Bimei Matisyahu ben Yochanan Kohen Godol", "in the days of Matisyahu the son of Yochanan the Kohen Gadol (=high priest)".

Who was the Kohen Godol: Matisyahu or Yochnan?

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

A rabbi of mine just gave shmuz on this, and he said that Yochnan was definitely Kohen Godol (the gemara indicates that Yochnan later became a Sadducee, apparently referring to this Yochnan), and that it's a machloket whether Matityahu was as well (a machloket between the Maharsha and the Kesef Mishna).

I can't give precise locations, because I don't know them, and it wasn't my place to ask during the shmuz.

share|improve this answer
Its a machlokes. – SimchasTorah Dec 3 '10 at 7:10
I don't think this is the Yochanan who is the father of Matisyahu. The Gemara in Brachos 29a discusses Yochanan and Yannai, two high priests associated with the Tzedukim. These personalities are associated with John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus, grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of Matisyahu – Yosef 1 min ago – Yosef Dec 3 '10 at 16:46
See also mi.yodeya.com/questions/4236/yochanan-kohen-godol. – Alex Dec 3 '10 at 17:56

Rav Yosef Engel (Gilyoni HaShas to Yoma 10a) is unsure whether "Kohen Gadol" refers to Matisyahu or to Yochanan. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (Yishuv HaDaas to Pesachim 57a) writes based on the Rambam (introduction to Pirush Mishnayos) and Meiri (intro to Avos) and the Tashbatz (responsa vol 3, siman 135) that Matisyahu was not the Kohen Gadol, rather his father Yochanan was. See also responsa Divrei Yatziv from the Sazner Rebbe (Orach Chaim vol 1, siman 282) who discusses this.

share|improve this answer

The gemarah in Megillah 11a (16 lines down in the widest lines) says that Matisyahu was a Cohen Gadol.

share|improve this answer
Note that in Josephus's list of Cohanim Gedolim, neither Matisyahu nor his father appears. Josephus does, however, include either in his Antiquities (see XII:5:1 and XII:9:7, where two high priests are mentioned as serving consecutively during the time of the Chanukah story. In XII:10:6, Josephus writes that Judah Maccabee served immediately following the high priest who acceeded in XII:9:7). – Yosef Dec 3 '10 at 16:57
Hyman, in Toldos Tannaim V'Amoraim (hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43958&pgnum=385 and elsewhere) argues that during 2nd Temple times there were two offices called Kohen Gadol: one was the political leader of the Jewish People (who rarely, if ever, actually served in the Beis Hamikdash), and the other was a spiritual leader. Occasionally one person held both offices, like Shimon Hatzaddik and Yochanan Kohen Gadol; but usually they were separated. So Matisyahu might well have been the "real," spiritual, Kohen Gadol while the Hellenists Jason and Menelaus held the political office. – Alex Dec 3 '10 at 18:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.