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There seems to be an accepted list of who served as Reish Gelutha. Is it possible to deduce who was Reish Gelutha in any or all references in stories involving the office holder in the Gemara?

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  • "There seems to be an accepted list of who served as Reish Gelutha"?
    – msh210
    Sep 13, 2012 at 22:27
  • According to Wikipedia. I started to phrase my question differently until I read that. Wikipedia attributes the list to Seder 'Olam Zuta.
    – Seth J
    Sep 14, 2012 at 1:01
  • It is not an accepted list at all. In fact, Seder Olam Zutta is the only "historical document" that provides many of these names, and it possesses an overt (and obvious) bias in favour of the geonim.
    – Shimon bM
    Sep 14, 2012 at 1:47
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    @Shimon bm can you point to an alternative list? My original question was simply, do we know who held the position and when, and can we deduce...?
    – Seth J
    Sep 14, 2012 at 3:31

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Presumably, it would be possible. In two of the three versions of Seder Olam Zutta brought by Neubauer (Version A, Version B), along the names of each Reish Galuta it says some of the sages who were active in their time. For example, in Version B it says that Abayei and Rava lived in the time of the RG Huna Mar (Huna III in Wikipedia's list), so it seems that interactions that those two - and contemporary sages - had with the RG were with Huna Mar. Scholars have a pretty good idea of when most of the sages lived, so with some simple calculations, I think it would be possible, at least in some of the cases.

One example: I searched for ריש גלותא in Sefaria and clicked on the first result, Shabbat 119a:

"The Exilarch said to Rav Hamnuna: What is the meaning of that which is written, “The holy one of God is honored” (Isaiah 58:13)? Rav Hamnuna said to him: That is Yom Kippur, when there is no eating or drinking, and so the Torah said: Honor it with a clean garment. And with regard to that which is stated about Shabbat, “And you shall honor it,” Rav said: To honor Shabbat, make the Shabbat feast earlier than on other days, in order to show that one delights in eating it. And Shmuel said: To honor Shabbat, make the Shabbat feast later, so that one’s appetite will be greater."

This Rav Hamnuna is either the second or the third, because he isn't called here "Sava" like the first and is quoting Rav and Shmuel; the second Rav Hamnuna was a student of Rav and the third was a student of Rav Yehudah, who was a student of Shmuel. Therefore, this RG was either Rav Huna (Huna II in Wikipedia), who came after Rav and Shmuel or Nechemiah, who came after Rav Yehudah (per Seder Olam Zutta B). Thus, we've narrowed down the list to just two possibilities.

Another example, Brachot 40a:

"Rava bar Shmuel himself happened to come to the House of the Exilarch. They brought him bread, which he immediately broke, without waiting for them to bring salt or relish. They said to him: Did the Master reconsider his halakhic ruling? He said to them: Although poor quality bread requires salt in order to give the bread flavor, and therefore one must wait before breaking bread, this refined bread served in the House of the Exilarch needs no salt, and does not require waiting."

According to here, Rava bar Shmuel was probably the son of Shmuel. Therefore, the RG in his time was Natan Ukban.

Note: It would be an interesting idea to go over all of the mentions of the RG in Chazalic texts and try to deduce who's who. Obviously it would take quite some time.

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