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In Pesochim 94b, the Gemora brings the Braisa D'Mazolos 1:6 which relates an argument between the "Sages of Israel" and the "Sages of the nations," as follows:

תנו רבנן חכמי ישראל אומרים גלגל קבוע ומזלות חוזרין וחכמי אומות העולם אומרים גלגל חוזר ומזלות קבועין אמר רבי תשובה לדבריהם מעולם לא מצינו עגלה בדרום ועקרב בצפון

In a discussion related to the structure of the natural world, the Sages taught: The Jewish Sages say the celestial sphere of the zodiac is stationary, and the constellations revolve in their place within the sphere; and the sages of the nations of the world say the entire celestial sphere revolves, and the constellations are stationary within the sphere. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said: A refutation of their words that the entire sphere moves can be derived from the fact that we have never found the constellation of Ursa Major in the South or Scorpio in the North. This indicates that it is the stars themselves that revolve in place and not the celestial sphere as a whole, because otherwise it would be impossible for Ursa Major to remain in the North and Scorpio to remain in the South.

The Gemora then brings another Braisa that relates a similar argument, as follows:

חכמי ישראל אומרים ביום חמה מהלכת למטה מן הרקיע ובלילה למעלה מן הרקיע וחכמי אומות העולם אומרים ביום חמה מהלכת למטה מן הרקיע ובלילה למטה מן הקרקע אמר רבי ונראין דבריהן מדברינו שביום מעינות צוננין ובלילה רותחין

The Gemara presents a similar dispute: The Jewish Sages say that during the day the sun travels beneath the firmament and is therefore visible, and at night it travels above the firmament. And the sages of the nations of the world say that during the day the sun travels beneath the firmament, and at night it travels beneath the earth and around to the other side of the world. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said: And the statement of the sages of the nations of the world appears to be more accurate than our statement. A proof to this is that during the day, springs that originate deep in the ground are cold, and during the night they are hot compared to the air temperature, which supports the theory that these springs are warmed by the sun as it travels beneath the earth.

Are these "Sages of Israel" the same people who are usually referred to in Tannaic texts as the "Sages" or are they different people (and if so who are they?)?

  • If I recall correctly, Rav Meiselman in Torah Chazal and Science discusses their identity, but I don't have access to it to check – robev Jul 30 at 22:31

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