I have seen various discussions over time arguing about who wrote the Zohar.

In one discussion a person arguing for the side that the Zohar was written by Moses de Leon stated that one interesting thing was that this is the only major Jewish work whose authorship is in dispute.

I thought that this was a good point. So my question is:

Are there any other major Jewish (post-Biblical) work whose authorship is in dispute?

Note that I specifically use the word Jewish as the Zohar is not necessarily Halachic, and I am not limiting the question to Kabbalistic works. Also I am not specifically interested in books whose authorship is simply unknown or a matter of speculation. This question is specifically about a dispute.

  • 4
    Bahir, besamim rosh, eshkol, chinuch, yetzira, iyov
    – Double AA
    Mar 25, 2015 at 0:37
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    "The only major Jewish work whose authorship is in dispute"?? Sounds like a bold claim. In dispute by whom? In my experience, every single major Jewish work with scarcely an exception has its authorship in dispute, from the biblical literature through to the commentaries of individual rishonim. Maybe they mean that the authorship of the Zohar is disputed in yeshivish circles?? Because in academic circles, that's par for the course.
    – Shimon bM
    Mar 25, 2015 at 0:59
  • @DoubleAA, I was under the impression that there was a consensus about the Besamim Rosh, inasmuch as it was written by R' Sho'ul Berlin to provide a basis for his views on modern life among younger Jews. Mar 25, 2015 at 1:53
  • @ShimonbM - You are correct. I should have clarified that I mean in dispute amongst Orthodox Jewish Rabbis
    – Ask613
    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:04
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    R. Yaakov Emden said that Moreh Nevuchim was not written by the Rambam. The Mishna is a Machlokes between Rashi and the Rambam who actually put it in writing (not sure if that is equivalent). Targum Yonasan on the Torah, I don't know if someone black and white accepts the attribution, but they do use the name (e.g. the Rikanti)).
    – Yishai
    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:09

8 Answers 8


The author of the Seffer HaChinuch was hotly disputed as well.

  • Interesting. What was the dispute?
    – Ask613
    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:05
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    Well it was either the Ra'ah (which is the popular opinion nowadays) who often wrote works anonymously along with his town-mate the Rashba, or somebody else. In the begining of the new Minchas Chinuch printing the dispute is brought down.
    – user6591
    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:11
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    It is pretty much proven there it cannot be the Ra'ah and probably one of Rashba's students. In general, later disputes arise from lack of sources to compare, the old ones simply have hardly anything to rely on
    – Zeev
    Mar 25, 2015 at 6:14

As was mentioned in a comment, "Targum Yonatan/Yonasan" (aka "Pseudo-Jonathan") is of "disputed" authorship. "Disputed", however, may be the wrong word; it would be more correct to say that it is of "often mistaken, and in fact unknown, authorship".

Chabura-Net lists major Halachic works and authors by era. (Eg. and eg.) According to the site, sections of the RiTV"A are of disputed authorship, as is the Kol Bo. Their list also includes the BeH"aG. Browse the site and see if it provides what you're looking for.


The authorship of the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim has been under dispute for many years as well as the date of the original printing. Some claim it was written in 1430 or as late as 1581

Some have attributed it to Rabbeinu Yonah who died in 1246

Some have attributed it to Yom-Tov Lipmann-Muhlhausen

There is even speculation that it was written by a woman as it draws on a lot of Tanach instead of Talmudical passages.

The general assumption is that it was written anonymously, and has stayed that way thus far.


The Mishmeres HaBayis response to the Bedek HaBayis (of the Ra'ah) glosses to the Toras HaBayis (of the Rashba) is of disputed authorship. It is generally assumed to be written by the Rashba himself, but it is written as if it is not by the same author as the Toras HaBayis, and there are other theories of its authorship.

The Iggeres HaKodesh is often assumed to be written by the Ramban, and was historically attributed to him (by Menoras HaMe'or and Reishis Chochma, for example), but there are those who question that. Some attribute it to R' Yosef Shushan. The Chavel printing of the Ramban concludes it was written by Rabbeinu Azriel (one of the Ramban's mentors in Kabbala).


Rash"i's commentary on the Ri"f is also a subject of dispute.

Some claim that is was indeed written by Rashi, but it is an earlier version of his commentary that he eventually would edit three times. Or that a student compiled it with his own additions.

Some have claimed that his daughter wrote it. (I heard this many times in yeshiva) but have not found an actual source to this claim.


The Mishnah Berurah (MB).

I went to a shiur by Rabbi Hershel Schachter who discussed the disputed authorship of the MB. He had heard evidence from a friend/colleague (I can't remember who) that the MB was compiled by close relatives of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (aka the 'Chofetz Chaim') and that Rabbi Kagan himself was merely the editor.

When the Chabad library was famously released by court order in 1986 from Russia ("Hey Tevess"), many books and manuscripts were returned. Rav Schachter recounts that he knew that an original manuscript of the MB was among the collection and asked a colleague to seek it out, to check for evidence regarding it's authorship. The colleague confirmed that different sections of the MB manuscript were written with different handwriting (he didn't specify how many) styles and inks, and that the 'easily recognizable' style of Rabbi Kagan was intermittently found on some margins on some of the pages within the manuscript.

Rav Schachter then noted some of the 'famous' discussions around the internal contradictions within the MB. Admittedly, he said, we cannot know whether the post-hoc resolutions of these discrepancies are an accurate representation of what Rabbi Kagan had intended, or whether they are a result of subtle differences in the opinions of the multiple authors; that were hard for the editor (Rabbi Kagan) to fully resolve. Teiku.

I can't vouch for the veracity of the anecdotal claims of the story, but it is, more or less, how Rav Schachter recounted the story.


Some claim that the famous Iggeret Tehiat Hametim was not composed by Maimonides¹,² but by pro-Maimonideans in the heat of Maimonidean controversy. Nevertheless, in the same vein, these charges are disputed as well³.

¹ זיוף ספרותי במאה הי"ג : מאמר תחיית המתים של הרמב"ם. י. ל. טייכר.

² Moses Maimonides' Treatise on Resurrection: An Inquiry into Its Authenticity by Lea Naomi Goldfeld.

³ A Scrutiny of the Charges of Forgery against Maimonides' "Letter on Resurrection by Isaiah Sonne.


In Mitpachas Seforim (Part II 8:21), R' Ya'akov Emden disputes that the Rambam authored Moreh Nevuchim.

  • Should be noted that many believe Yaavetz was claiming so bec of the turbulent times he lived in.
    – Oliver
    Sep 3, 2019 at 18:19

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