I really do not wish to repeat any of the general discussions about Zohar authorship in any of the questions that discuss that. What I would like to know is the following very specific point:

Given that there are some opinions who hold that the Zohar was not written by the Rashbi, and is not a "lost Tannaic work", but is actually written down by a medieval author, yet these opinions also don't throw the Zohar in the bin, but accept it as a valid holy Torah work, how do they get around the fact that this author wrote the Zohar in what appears to be a deceptive way?

To phrase it differently, how is it acceptable that someone in the middle ages will write, without disclaimer or qualification "Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said the following...", when they never met Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and are simply attributing their own words to him? Is this not deceptive, among other halachic issues (arrogant, disrespectful of Chazal etc.)? Is deception a good basis for a holy work, especially one that purports to teach the holiest secrets of the Torah?

I have a friend who holds of the above opinion and I asked him the same question and he said that it's not deceptive, but rather poetic. The medieval scholar was teaching a lesson that they believe is "in the school of" who they are quoting, i.e. it is their attempt at continuing the themes and teachings of the personality they are "quoting".

Is this a done thing?

EDIT: It is, it's called pseudepigraphal. Are there any leads to positions that hold the Zohar and related works are examples of pseudepigrapha?

  • 3
    I'm not familiar with any Torah authority who holds it's a forgery and doesn't throw it out. My impression is those who don't think it was written by Rashbi take a third route: it was written by him, his students, and others over centuries until it became what it is today
    – robev
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 17:46
  • 1
    The technical term is pseudepigraphal. While it seems weird to you and me, it's hard to deny it was a thing historically. (Not commenting on this particular case, just noting this was an acceptable thing.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 17:57
  • 1
    As for technical justification for deception, see perhaps the sugya of היתלה באדם גדול. Alternatively it wasn't deceptive because no one expected anyone to take the claims literally.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 17:59
  • @DoubleAA are there any uncontroversial Torah examples of pseudepigrapha you know off hand? In your second comment above, I have considered your alternative explanation myself, and yes, if it was a done thing, then that can be acceptable, although it seems in this case the author did intend for it to be taken literally? I will look up היתלה באדם גדול in Pesachim (right?), thank you very much for that
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 18:03
  • 1
    An uncontroversial Torah example of pseudepigrapha might include the Kuzari, where the author used the story of the khazar’s conversion to Judaism as a framework for his philosophical work.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 8:00


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .