From: Stephen Williamson
Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2012 6:52 PM
Subject: Rabbis and Princes :-)

Hi all

Well, one thing the Jews have done (by the grace of God) is look after those texts, in the original Hebrew.

With the wiping out of the temple in 70AD, it’s been their teacher presidents (called nasi — princes, or rab/rabbi — master guides) over the past 2000 years who’ve been responsible. For those interested, here are some good links to their early ones, starting off with Hillel. Note, dates are approximate in many cases as many of the records were lost.

Jewish Academies/Councils (and Jewish Presidents)


  1. Hillel the Elder Circa 111BC — 10AD A Pharisee. Famously said to have lived for 120 years, in Babylon for 40 years, studied in Jerusalem for 40 years, then became president (nasi or prince) of the Sanhedrin Council from 31BC till about 10AD when he died.
  2. Simeon son of Hillel Circa 80BC — 20AD Very little is known of Simeon. He may not have lived more than 10 years after the death of his father. Became president for a brief period before being succeeded, according to some, by his son Gamaliel.
  3. Shammai Circa 50BC — 30AD Also a Pharisee and more strict when it came to relationships with Gentiles. Vice president of the Sanhedrin, frequently at odds with Hillel, and succeeded Hillel for ten years (or so) upon his death, well, according to his followers, as president.
  4. Gamaliel Circa 50BC — 52AD the grandson of Hillel and famously, the teacher of Paul, was recognized by many of the Sanhedrin (though not all) as their president after 30AD. Gamaliel died in 52AD.
    In 30AD Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple and (probably) a Sadducee became vice president and chief of the Sanhedrin whenever it sat as a criminal court e.g. at Jesus's trial.
    Note that after Antigonus, who became high priest in 40BC, many priests including the high priests identified with the Sadducees — military bureaucrats and aristocrats who had zero belief when it came to angels, spirits, and the coming resurrection of the body. Seen in that famous encounter with Jesus.
  5. Simeon son of Gamaliel Circa 10BC — 70AD Succeeded his father as president of the Sanhedrin in 50AD. According to Josephus he was killed by the Zealots during the civil war in 70AD, when the city was surrounded by the Romans.
  6. Johanan son of Zakai Circa 30AD — 90AD Escaped from Jerusalem (hiding in a coffin), made peace with Vespasian the Roman commander, correctly prophesying that he would become emperor. Helped to reestablish the Sanhedrin at a school in Yavne (20kms south of modern day Tel Aviv) and became a primary contributor to the core text of Rabbinical Judaism, the Mishna.
  7. Gamaliel II Circa 55AD — 118AD Grandson of Gamaliel via his father Simeon. After the fall of Jerusalem and the death of his father, he was mentored by Johanan at his school in Yavne (20kms south of modern day Tel Aviv), becoming president in 80AD until his (peaceful) death in 118AD.

    But, instead of Gamaliel II's son succeeding him, an obscure figure, Simeon bar Kochba (the "son of the star") declared he had come down from heaven to be their messiah. Between 132-135, he led the Jews in open rebellion against the Romans. He was defeated and killed at his last stronghold in Beitar (10 kms south west of Jerusalem). All of Jerusalem was then destroyed in Rome's "scorched earth" reply, with Jews being forbidden from subsequently reentering and rebuilding, upon pain of death.

  8. Simeon son of Gamaliel II circa 95AD — 180AD Son of Gamaliel II. He was in Beitar and a follower of Bar Kochba, but when that fortress was taken by the Romans he managed to escape the massacre. On the restoration of a college at Usha, a small village in Northern Israel, just inland from modern day Haifa, Simeon was elected its president.
  9. Judah the Prince 135AD — 217AD Grandson of Gamaliel II. Judah (the Prince) was now born and grew up in Usha. He compiled the Jewish oral traditions, the Mishna, which later developed into the Jerusalem Talmud.

With the (temporary) expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem, Tiberias in Galilee became a major Jewish centre, and the centre of religious scholarship. It was later to become the home of Masoretic scribe Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, commonly regarded as producing the most accurate version of the masoretic text of the Old Testament (around 950AD). Click here for further details.


Abba Arika 175-247 Lived at Sura (60kms south of modern day Baghdad) in Babylon. Working with the Mishna, started the large Jewish Academy at Sura. His analysis and teaching of the Mishna then developed into the Babylonian Talmud.

Judah Ben Ezekiel 220-299 A disciple of Arika, he started another large Jewish Academy at Pumbedita (modern day Fallujah) 70kms west of Baghdad.

These two academies in Babylon lasted 800 years. With the death of Hezekiah Gaon in 1038, the Pumbedita Academy closed. His sons moved to Spain, the Sura Academy also closing around the same time.

Click here for a map of Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East in 1165, as recorded in the travels of Benjamin of Tudela (a town in northern Spain).

Blessings all Steve

Stephen Williamson Computing Services Pty Ltd