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Both Hillel and Shammai are referred to by the Mishna as "the Elder".

  1. Age: according to WIKI, Hillel lived to 120, but Shammai only to 80. Also, other Tannayim lived longer than 80 (R' Akiva?)
  2. Wisdom: earlier or later sages weren't called "the Elder"
  3. Numbering: there were no other Hillels and Shammais (there were two R' Gamliel, for example)

Why those two specifically are called "the Elder"?

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  • 3
    Hillel had descendants named Hillel, so calling him hazakein showed that he was the first, the way people use sr. in English.
    – N.T.
    Mar 30 at 4:22
  • @N.T. If you have a theory please address all facts: did Shammai have also Shammai descendants? Who were later Hillels?
    – Al Berko
    Mar 30 at 18:24
  • If I have time I might put in the work to develop this into an answer. There were people like Hillel Nesiah who arranged the Jewish calendar. Shamai might get the title Hazakein because he is linked to Hillel.
    – N.T.
    Mar 30 at 20:50
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Michael Satlow has a publicly available list (digitized from Aaron Hyman, Toldot Tanaʾim ṿe-Amoraʾim : mesudar ʻa. p. a.b. ʻim beʾurim ṿe-hagahot ṿe-girsaʾot shonot) of Tannaim and Amoraim.

Yes, there were later Hillels and Shammais. He has (based on an Excel spreadsheet version I have privately) the following later people:

  • Shammai (I) the Zaken
  • Rabbi Shammai, a 4th / 5th generation Amora from Eretz Yisrael -- for this, see e.g. Yerushalmi Demai 5:1, and others listed by Hyman.
  • Hillel (I) the Zaken
  • Rav Hillel (I), a 4th / 5th generation Amora from Bavel
  • (Rabbi) Hillel (II), a 1st generation Amora from Eretz Yisrael
  • Rav Hillel (II), a 6th generation Amora from from Bavel
  • Hillel (III), sometimes with the addition of "the brother of Gamliel Zuga).

There are also several Hillels who have patronymic or who incorporate place names (e.g. "from kifra"). But the aforementioned are sufficient that a clarifying HaZaken might be necessary.

That doesn't mean that that was the necessarily the reason for HaZaken. But in terms of point 3, there indeed were others.

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  • Some of the Hillels are well known enough, but can you mention an example of where "Rabbi Shammai, a 4th generation Amora from Eretz Yisrael" appears? Yerushalmi somewhere?
    – Double AA
    Apr 2 at 0:33
  • Yes, see the list of Yerushalmis here, at the bottom left corner, in Hyman: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43958&st=&pgnum=286 Apr 2 at 0:39
  • @DoubleAA edited post to include an example of Rabbi Shammai and the link to Hyman. Apr 2 at 0:42
  • Wow, thank you very much. Here's an edited version with distinctive titles drive.google.com/file/d/1jiBpINWFtPLPt_N2GUTNKTEI8awH_UkI/…
    – Al Berko
    Apr 2 at 7:45
  • If you're stating that "Hazaken" meant to distinguish from the later Hillels, it seems impossible, because the rest of Hillels appear hundreds of years after the Mishnah.
    – Al Berko
    Apr 2 at 7:49

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