In the entry for Talmud Bavli/Yerushalmi in Chida's Shem Hagedolim Hashalem (c.1800, the older versions do not have this paragraph), he references a theory from maskilim of his time that the Rabbis chose the Talmud Bavli over the Talmud Yerushalmi since the Yerushalmi might have been corrupted by the early Karaites, although Chida himself strongly opposes this view:

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Do we have any other records of this suggestion, and who might have made it? In other words, who might the "maskilim haacharonim" be?

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    The fact that it’s from the Maskilim doesn’t give it very much credence, now, does it? :)
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 2:44
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    This is mentioned here (see footnote 17 for citation).
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 3:55
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    Ironically, Salmon ben Ruchim, one of the Karaites of the time of Rasag thought the opposite: After Rasag's death, he went to the Geonim of Bavel (he lived in the then-Karaite center of Yerushalayim) and angrily informed them that during one of his debates with Rasag, Rasag had denied the existence of a certain story in the Yerushalmi about people from Beit Shamai killing people from Beit Hillel. He then proceeded to show them that the story does exist in the Talmud (having brought from Eretz Yisrael a copy of the Yerushalmi).
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 17:21
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    @harel13 fascinating source. I wonder if the people who formulated this theory used Rasag's claims as some form of support. Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 12:15
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    רבות מחשבות quite possibly, although the book I saw that in, בקרת לתולדות הקראים, was quoting Graetz's work on the Karaites who in turn was paraphrasing Pinsker's לקוטי קדמוניות, who maintained a defense of Rasag - that though it seems that he did, in fact, deny the existence of that story in the Yerushalmi whilst it does actually exist in there, it seems that he did it because he did not know how to properly react to Salmon at the time. Salmon, on the other hand, waited only until after Rasag's death to confront his students, hoping he would use this anecdote to convince them of Rasag's
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


B"H, I believe I've discovered who is being referred to here.

First of all, as I mentioned in the comments, this quote is not from the Chida but from R' Menachem Mendel Krengel, who published a revised version of Ben-Yaakov's edition of Shem Hagedolim. Since the B"Y Edition, it has become customary for just about every new edition of Shem Hagedolim to have new sections and/or footnotes added to the original text (source). R' Krengel added info mostly about Polish rabbis and books that the Chida wasn't aware of or had come out after his death, but he also added a number of footnotes which he titled "Hagahot Menachem Tzion". The OP's quote is from one of those footnotes.

The "Maskilim" here, I believe, is a reference to a kuntress called "Givat Yerushalayim: Chakirah Al HaTalmud HaYerushalmi, Mekoro, Inyano U'Zmano" by R' Dr. Yonah Wiesner, and by extension, the other maskilim who agreed with him, or partially agreed with him. The kuntress came out in 1871, a little over 30 years before R' Krengel came out with his Shem Hagedolim. In the kuntress, R' Wiesner sets out to prove that not only was the Yerushalmi not written before the Bavli, but it was written either by a Karaite or a Karaite-sympathizer, building over an old tosefta and was intended as a work of satire, mocking the rabbis and strengthening the Karaite positions. I'll bring some examples:

Pg. 7-8:

"ואגב אורחא לא אכחד שמה שנמצא בירושלמי (שם פ"ב ה"ד): "א"ר חייא חובא אנא מן יומי לא כוונית אלא חד זמן בעי מכוונה והרהרית בלבי ואמרית מאן עליל קומי מלכא קדמי ארקבסה או ריש גלותא, שמואל אמר אנא מנית אפרוחיא, ר' בון בר חייא אמר אנא מנית דימוסיא, א"ר מתניה אנא מחזזק טיבו לראשי דכד הוה מטי מודים הוא כרע מגמריה", לדעתי שקר גמור הוא, יען אלו המורים אנשי השם ובראשם ר' חייא רבא בודאי התפללו בכונה כיאות לאנשים צדיקים יראי ה', ואם לפעמים באשר יציר אדמה היו, לא עלתה בידם לטהר את מחשבתם כראוי, בודאי היו חסים על כבוד קונם ולא היו מתפארים בכך כאחד הריקים. ומה לו לר' חייא רבא שהיה שרוי בא"י לחשוב מחשבות על ריש גלותא ועל אלקפתא שבבבל או בפרס מה לו ולהם? אלא ודאי כל הדברים האלו בדוים הם, ואולי חכם או מעתיק מבני מקרא כתבם להתלוץ על גדולי הרבנים, כאשר נראה להלן ששלטו הקראים בתלמוד הירושלמי ועשו בו כרצונם."

"and by the way, I won't deny that what's written in the Yerushalmi (there 2:4): "Said Rabbi Chiya [not too sure how to translate this line, but he's saying that during prayer, he would think about the king or about the reish galuta], Shmuel said: "I would count chicks", R' Bon bar Chiyah said: "I would count [dimosiya], said R' Matanyah I would fasten [tivu] to my head [something about bowing during modim]", In my understanding this is a complete lie, for all of these teachers were great people and above them R' Chiya Rabah who surely prayed with concetration, as befits righteous men, Hashem-fearers, and if they would sometimes be as a creation of the earth, and they didn't manage to purify their thoughts as needed, surely they would grace the honor of their Lord and wouldn't boast like one of the simpletons. And what did R' Chiya, who lived in Eretz Yisrael, have to do with thinking about the reish galuta and the Alkafta in Bavel or Persia, what did he have to do with them? From this we see that all of these things were invented, and perhaps a sage or a scribe from the Bnei Mikra [early name of the Karaites] wrote these things to mock the rabbinical giants, as we shall see later on how the Karaites controlled the Talmud Yerushalmi and did with it as they pleased."

Pg. 13:

"בירושלמי (שבת פ"א ה"ד): איתא: תנא ר' יהושע אונייא, תלמידי ב"ש עמדו להן מלמטה והיו הורגין בתלמידי בית הלל, תני ששה מהן עלו והשאר עמדו עליהן בחרבות וברמחים". על הדבר הזה ישתומם כל נבון, מי שמע כאלה שיהיו חכמי ישראל הורגין זה את זה, ובקנאתם קנאת סופרים ימהרו לשפוך דם נקי ח"ו, ואדרבא אמרו בתוספתא (יבמות י"ד ע"ב) אע"פ שנחלקו ב"ש וב"ה בצרות וכו' לא נמנעו ב"ש לישא נשים מב"ה ולא ב"ה מב"ש, ללמדך שחיבה וריעות נוהגים זה בזה לקיים מה שנאמר האמת והשלום אהבו. אלא ודאי נשתקע הדבר ולא נאמר והמחבר הירושלמי בדא את הסיפור המכוער מלבו. – וכאן המקום להעיר איך הקראים הסתייעו בזה המאמר של הירושלמי להוכיח בכל דור ודור עד שאיש את רעהו הרגו בחרב. והחכם הקראי סלמון בן ירוחם (885-960) לא נתעצל לכתת את רגליו מא"י לבבל ובידו תלמוד ירושלמי סדר מועד עם פירוש יעקב בן אפרים (זה המפרש לא נודע שמו במחנה הרבנים בלי ספק גם הוא קראי היה והם החולמים הם הפותרים) לדבר משפטים עם רס"ג, שהחליט, שחכמי ישראל אף שחולקים זה עם זה בהלכה, בכל זאת אהבה ואחוה היתה ביניהם (עיי' רש"פ לקוטי קדמוניות, נספחים צד י"ד). וזה דרכם של הקראים להמציא ספרים מזויפים על שם חכמים הראשונים..."

"In the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 1:4) it is brought: R' Yehoshua Oniyah taught, The students of Beit ShamMai stood beneath them and would kill by the students of Beit Hillel, we learned that six of them rose and the rest stood over them with swords and spears". On this any intelligent person will wonder at, who ever heard that the sages of Yisrael would kill one another, and in their zeal of scribes would rush to spill clean blood Cha"V, but the opposite, in the tosefta (Yevamot 14b) Beit Shammai did not refrain from marrying women from Beit Hillel, nor did Beit Hillel refrain from marrying women from Beit Shammai. This serves to teach you that they practiced affection and camaraderie between them, to fulfill that which is stated: "Love truth and peace". Surely, this was hidden and not stated and the author of the Yerushalmi invented this ugly story. - And here it is the place to state that the Karaites were assisted by this story of the Yerushalmi to prove in every generation that it was until a man slew his friend by the sword. And the Karaite scholar Salmon ben Yerucham (885-960) was not lazy and went from Eretz Yisrael to Bavel and in his hand the Talmud Yerushalmi, Seder Mo'ed with the commentary of Yaakov ben Efraim (this commentator was not known by the encampment of the rabbis, without a doubt he was also a Karaite, and they who dream are those who solve), to argue with RaSa"G, who decided, that though the sages of Yisrael disagree with one another in halacha, there was still love and friendship among them (see RS"P Likutei Kadmoniyot, appendix pg. 14). And that is the way of the Karaites to invent forged books upon the name of the early sages..."

Pg. 52:

"...לכן שפטתי משפט צדק שהתלמוד ירושלמי חובר בין אלף ע"ב, לאלף ר"י דהיינו בין 760-900 למספר הרגיל."

"...therefore I judged justly that the Talmud Yerushalmi was written between the elef ayin-bet, and the elef reish-yud, meaning 760-900 to the regular [secular] count."

The year 760 is right around the time of the rise of Anan ben David, the father of the Karaite movement.

And there are many, many more examples throughout the kuntress. He deals with chronological problems, with evidence for the Yerushalmi being older than the Bavli, several "mini-issues" such as R' Elazar ben Hyrcanus and so forth. Interestingly, he makes it clear that his intention is not to simply put down the Yerushalmi, but that he wanted to lift up and empower the Bavli (the more liberal maskilim at the time mocked all rabbinical texts, after all).

The publisher wrote in the beginning that he decided to print this text because he thought that R' Wiesner made many good points, though he didn't agree with all of them. Perhaps for this reason, he attached at the end refutations of several of the points. He also wrote that Avraham Geiger and Aharon Jellinek had seen the work and had been very impressed.

Therefore, I would include in the group of maskilim also Geiger and Jellinek, two of the most noted maskilim of the 19th century.

I would also add to the list Michael Levi Rodkinson, a maskil and the first person to translate the Talmud into English, who wrote in his book "The History of the Talmud", vol I, pg. 157-158:

"As the Samaritans have forged and falsified the Pentateuch...so also did the Karaites forge and falsify the Talmud...Jerusalem Talmud...And they did not conceive that Sahl himself has forged the manuscript of the Talmud by writing in this statement [the one about B"H and B"S killing each other]..."

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    Amazing research! Certainly bounty-worthy. Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 0:37
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    @רבותמחשבות, Thank you. One of the things that most surprised me was that this book does mention the story of Rasag and Salmon Ben Ruchim/Yerucham, as we previously discussed in the comments.
    – Harel13
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 4:33

Rabbi Berel Wein: "All those dissident Jews who rejected the traditions of the Oral Law and sought to create "new" forms of Jewish life also attacked the Talmud bitterly and discredited its ideas and formulations. From the Karaites in the seventh century to the Yevsektzia (the Jewish section of the Bolshevik party that Stalin would later purge) in the twentieth century, the Talmud was vilified and its pages torn and destroyed by Jews who were bitterly opposed to its teachings and who recognized that no "new" form of Judaism could ever take hold as long as the Talmud was still studied, respected and loved within the Jewish world".

In addition many unintentional corruptions happened:

The Yerushalmi text that we have contains many corrupt passages. When a new Yerushalmi manuscript was written, errors crept in; and since very few people were learning the Yerushalmi, there was no one to correct them. As each subsequent manuscript was copied from the previous one, old errors were copied and new ones were added. This is the main problem with our current text of the Yerushalmi. Correcting these errors is very difficult and sometimes impossible, as our printed text of the Yerushalmi is based on the Leiden Manuscript (written in 1289), the only extant complete manuscript of the Yerushalmi. There are, however, various partial manuscripts that can help us reconstruct some corrupted texts.

Fortunately, today we have access to many partial manuscripts which often shed light on obscure and corrupt passages. 108 : Ḥakirah, The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought The first manuscript to which one should turn is the Vatican Manuscript. This manuscript is very corrupt and there is hardly a line without an error. The copyist who wrote the Vatican Manuscript had absolutely no knowledge of the text he was copying. He therefore made many obvious errors. For example, the letters כו are sometimes copied as מ .A ה is copied as a ח ,and a ב as a כ ,etc. These errors are easy to discern and interpret. But the weakness of this manuscript is also its greatest strength. The copyist never dared make any “corrections” to the text since he had no knowledge of it. He thus preserved, to a large extent, the integrity of the text of the manuscript from which he copied.

Another manuscript that sheds light on many corrupt passages is that of R. Solomon Sirillio, which survives in two manuscript versions known as MS. Paris 1389 (his earlier manuscript) and MS. London 403–405 (his later manuscript). These manuscripts contain many variant readings, some of which are found in the Rishonim. When reading these manuscripts, however, it is important to differentiate between variant texts that R. Sirillio copied from an older manuscript (which are more valuable), versus changes he made to the text himself. (source)

The editio princeps of the Jerusalem Talmud is the Venice edition printed by Daniel Bomberg (1523–24), published after the completion of the printing of the Babylonian Talmud (1523) and before he undertook the printing of the Yad of Maimonides which was completed the following year. This edition is based upon the sole extant manuscript of the Jerusalem Talmud, the Leiden manuscript, which was written by Jehiel b. Jekuthiel b. Benjamin ha-Rofe in 1289. The scribe explicitly states that he copied it from a woefully corrupt text, full of errors; although he had attempted to correct it as much as possible, "I know that I have not corrected even half of the mistakes," and he begs the indulgence of his readers. In addition to those mistakes, it is evident from statements and quotations of the rishonim that the scribes in many cases freely changed the orthography characteristic of the original text to make it accord with the accepted spelling and terminology of the Babylonian Talmud. For instance it is specifically stated that in the Jerusalem Talmud אדם is spelled אדן, yet those differences have been eliminated from the manuscript. (source)

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    A valuable piece by itself, but I feel compelled to downvote because it doesn't even attempt to answer the question in the OP.
    – Mordechai
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 20:59
  • You're right I initially didn't really find a source that the Karaites corrupted the text, however I just found some more information which does state that they, I added it to the beginning of my answer. Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 22:27
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    The bit you added in the beginning doesn't refer specifically to the Yerushalmi. In any case, the questioner doesn't seem to be looking for evidence of the corruption of the Yerushalmi but simply the identity of those who according to the Chida said that the Karaites corrupted it.
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 22:33
  • A. Rabbi Wein names the Karaites in the 7th century for attacking and discrediting the ideas and formulations of the Talmud. B. From "Talmud was vilified and its pages torn and destroyed by Jews who were bitterly opposed to its teachings and who recognized that no "new" form of Judaism could ever take hold as long as the Talmud was still studied" it would seem that the Jerusalem Talmud would have the same target Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 22:40
  • @yaakov attacking or destroying a text that you don't agree with (TB) is very different than secretly corrupting another text (TY) to insert your own ideals. Not to mention that my question was about the source of the theory. The rest of your answer seems to be a copy of an article about some of the textual history of the TY, which again, doesn't answer my question. Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 12:12

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