BAR ANINA or ḤANINA ():
Palestinian scholar of the end of the fourth century; lived in Bethlehem, where he was the teacher of the church father Jerome. The Talmudic and Midrashic literature mentions many halakists and haggadists whose fathers were named Ḥanina, and who, therefore, were called "Bar Ḥanina" or "Bar Anina." It is, however, impossible to identify any of these with Jerome's teacher; nor can it be proved with certainty from the above-mentioned literature that any one of such name lived when Jerome studied Hebrew in Bethlehem in the year 386. Jerome mentions his teacher by name only twice: once to relate how the Christians, who held it unseemly that he should receive instruction from a Jew, ridiculed his teacher's name by corrupting it to "Barabbas" (Jerome, "Apologetici Adversus Ruffinum Libri III." i. 13; ed. Migne, ii. 407). His teacher, too, would no doubt have encountered the animosity of his coreligionists had they learned that he was teaching the Bible to a monk (for the prohibition against teaching the Bible to heathen, see Ḥag. 13a). Bar Anina, therefore, could give his instruction only at night, and probably Jerome paid highly for the books which his teacher borrowed from the synagogue (Jerome, "Epistola lxxx. ad Pammachium," ed. Migne, i. 745).
It is impossible to form any opinion as to the knowledge and importance of Bar Anina; for Jerome had other Jewish teachers, and Hebrew traditions in his works can not, therefore, be attributed specifically to Bar Anina. Jerome's complete lack of grammatical knowledge of Hebrew, and the defective etymology of this, the greatest Hebraist among the church fathers, can, therefore, not be laid upon the shoulders of his teacher; for, in many cases, it is evident that Jerome has misunderstood his instructors. The fact, however, may be taken to indicate that Bar Anina was himself not a very distinguished scholar. When Jerome says (commentary on Hab. ii. 16), concerning another teacher, that he was called "Sapiens" () and "Deuteroses" () among the Jews, one may infer that Bar Anina possessed neither of these titles. Be that as it may, this Bethlehemite teacher can at least boast of having exerted a commanding influence, through his pupil, upon the development of the Christian Church. Without his assistance, the Vulgate—the accepted form of the Old Testament in the Catholic Church for fifteen centuries —would hardly have come into existence; and he was, likewise, undoubtedly the means of introducing to the Church some of the rabbinical exegesis.
- Rahmer, Hebräische Traditionen in den Werken des Hieronymus, i. 8;
- idem, in his Jüdisches Literaturblatt, xxv. 89-91;
- Weiss, Dor Dor we-Dorshaw, iii. 127.