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Most of pirkei avot is very specific about attribution of various ethical teachings, with the notable exception of the 5th parek, mishnayot 1-19, which are all anonymous.

Is there a tradition of who is to be credited for these teachings?

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    Any reason to assume that it should be different to other stam mishnayes elsewhere in the Mishna? (Like all of the 5th perek in Zevachim, for example?) – Shimon bM Jan 30 '17 at 2:38
  • only because of the conspicuously well-attributed style of the rest of the masechta – Jeremy Jan 30 '17 at 13:47
  • Maybe they're Rebbi's? I really don't know. +1 on this question. – ezra Jan 30 '17 at 18:14
  • @ShimonbM Interestingly the Tiferes Yisroel on the 5th perek in Zevachim (note 24 in the parentheses) claims that this particular perek is still in its original form untouched since Moses. – Ir Relevant Jul 14 '17 at 6:52
  • i know who is not the auther of "10 plagues in mitzrayim and10 plagues at the sea": in mechilta that we read in haggada there is a 3 way arguement how many plagues were at the sea rabbi Yossi hagelili says 50, rabb0 Eliezer says 200 and rabbi Akiva 250 plagues, my guess is that stam mishna ce rabi meir, that is quoted many times throughout shas – user15464 Aug 18 '17 at 13:29
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R. David Zvi Hoffman has a fascinating monograph called HaMishnah HaRishonah uFelugta deTannai, in which he traces the development of various mishnayot, from their earliest forms to what we have today.

He dedicates one section to the development of Masechet Avot. He claims here that the earliest part of Avot consisted of the first part of our first perek, the later part of our second perek, and parts of our fifth perek, in particular those mishnayot dealing with the numbers ten, seven and possibly four. He also claims that these mishnayot were authored by Rabbi Akiva.

His thesis is that Rabbi Akiva was tracing the development of the mesorah until his day. Thus the relevant mishnayot from our perakim one and two list the chain of tradition from Moshe until Rabbi Akiva's own teachers - the students of R. Yohanan ben Zakkai.

The reason for the focus on the number ten at the start of what we call the fifth perek is because there were ten generations from the Anshei K'nesset HaGedolah until Rabbi Akiva's teachers.

Bottom line: according to R. David Zvi Hoffman, the nucleus of what is now known as the fifth perek of Avot was most likely written by R. Akiva.

  • If you have the time and inclination, I would recommend reading the whole of R. Hoffman's piece. At the very least, the section on Avot is not too long - pages 28 - 40 in the HebrewBooks.org version I linked to in my answer. – Joel K Sep 25 '17 at 8:23

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