There is a rabbi in the Talmud referred to as רבה בר בר חנה. Why is he called that way? It says that Rabba was the grandson of Chana.

Who was Chana? Was it(?) a woman? Why wasn't he called after his father or grandfather?

Who was his father?


I have a book about the personalities of the zugos - geonim era. It quotes an opinion that suggests that Rabbah bar bar Channa is in fact the son of Rabbah bar Channa, whom we find elsewhere in older manuscripts (since many printers later confused him with Rabbah bar bar Channa), who in turn is the son of Channa, brother to R' Chiya. According to this, it suggests that Rabbah bar bar Channa is called by his grandfather's name, since he had the same name as his father, which apparently the Talmud felt would be confusing.

Also, Channa would consequently be male, and although I'm not sure of the correct vowelization, the book I quoted above feels that his name should be spelled "חנא" (though I don't see that this is justified).

  • 4
    Toldos Tannaim V'Amoraim (entry for Rabbah bar Chana) quotes this idea but disagrees with it, on the grounds that (a) we never find them interacting with each other, and (b) Rabbah bar Chana seems to have spent most of his life in Babylonia (though he lived in Eretz Yisrael for a time), while Rabbah bar bar Chana was native to Eretz Yisrael. (To be honest, though, neither of these strikes me as particularly telling.)
    – Alex
    Feb 13 '12 at 20:55
  • 1
    @Alex, Yes, those arguments are not very convincing. The book I have claims that Rabba bar bar Channa was born in Bavel, then traveled to E"Y to study and then eventually came back. I suppose it's impossible to know for sure. Nobody seems to have swaying arguments either way.
    – jake
    Feb 13 '12 at 21:04

Chono was his grandfather (not Chana). The reason his father's name was unknown is due to Gezeiras HaShemad in those times.


  • 2
    Is 'Chono' with choloms or komatzes?
    – Double AA
    Feb 13 '12 at 19:56
  • 3
    Then I think 'Chana' would be an appropriate transliteration for those who speak Sepharadit (or Modern-Israeli-t)
    – Double AA
    Feb 13 '12 at 19:59
  • 1
    However most people will read that as the female version of the name. Feb 13 '12 at 20:01
  • 1
    Regardless, I think it would be best to type it in Hebrew with vowels, if you have the capability, rather than debate the correct English transliteration. You could also have gone with "Chunuh" if you wanted (esp. since it ends in a silent Hei). Besides, no offense intended, but I don't know many women who write their names "Chano", which would follow your proposed transliteration scheme. What do you think, @DoubleAA?
    – Seth J
    Feb 13 '12 at 20:11
  • 1
    To clarify, my previous comment was reponding to Gershon's comment starting 'however'. Seth and I posted here nearly simultaneously.
    – Double AA
    Feb 13 '12 at 20:34

Could it be simply that his father's name was actually "Bar Chana"? There are quite a lot of figures mentioned in the Gemara who are called "Ben/Bar X," and it doesn't seem like all of those are patronymics or locatives.

(For Biblical equivalents, consider "Ben Chanan" and "Ben Zoches" in I Chron. 4:20. A later example of a personal name formed in this way is Ben Tzion.)

  • Would you count Ben Zoma or Ben Azai in this phenomenon?
    – jake
    Feb 13 '12 at 23:01
  • 1
    @jake: no - both of them are known to have had the personal name Shimon. I'm thinking of examples like Rava's non-Jewish friend Bar Sheshach in Avodah Zarah 65a (why identify him only by his father's name?), or (lehavdil) Ben Zaza in Rosh Hashanah 25b (it speaks there of "the mother of Ben Zaza," where if that was his patronymic, it might well have said "the wife of Zaza"), etc.
    – Alex
    Feb 13 '12 at 23:27

it explains in the artscroll about his name in BabaBasra, in the agada that deals with Bar Chana's adventures. I don't remember why they called him Rabbi Bar Bar Chana but his real name is Abaye, but he is not the Abaye that is commonly refered to in the gemera. Mabye they called him Rabbi Bar Bar Chana so he wouldn't get confused with Abaye?

  • 1
    Jordan, welcome to the site, and thanks for the reference! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.
    – msh210
    Mar 23 '12 at 18:51
  • Can you edit in the Artscroll? Mar 26 '12 at 18:08

Zevachim 9a brings down Rav Chana Bigdetah, though the name is spelled with an aleph. It seems to have been a unisex name for a time.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .