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BE ABIDAN () and BE NAẒREFE or NAẒRUFE ():

Supposed names of two places where, according to the Talmud, disputations between Jews and non-Jews were held. The location of these places is as much a matter of dispute as the words themselves—were they really names of places or merely distorted designations for certain non-Jewish institutions? The data given in the Babylonian Talmud are as follows (the passages are not found in the Palestinian Talmud): At the time of Hadrian, Jewish scholars were required to come to Be Abidan, or to give an excuse for their absence ('Ab. Zarah 17b; Shab. 152a). It is furthermore mentioned that Abba Arika visited neither Be Abidan nor Be Naẓrefe, while his friend and colleague, Samuel, freely visited the former place, avoiding only the latter (Shab. 116a). The "books of Be Abidan" () are also mentioned (Shab. l.c.) in a way which shows clearly that they are similar to the , mentioned elsewhere in the Talmud, being the sacred Scriptures of the Judæo-Christians.

In view of the fact that one place could not have served as the seat of disputation both for the Palestinians and, a century later, for the Babylonians, the following dilemma arises: Either the expressions "Be Abidan" and "Be Naẓrefe" are merely general names for places where Jews and non-Jews met to discuss religious topics, or the Talmud designated thereby things that were related but not identical, and transferred Babylonian conditions to Palestinian soil. Jastrow takes "Be Abidan" to be a scornful appellation for ("a place of gathering"), Joel and Löw for ("house of the Ebionites") and "Be Naẓrefe" for ("house of the Nazarenes"); the two expressions being used for the gathering-places of the Jewish Christians. This and similar explanations are controverted by the fact that Abba Arika and Samuel lived in Babylonia at a time when the Christians were utterly without influence; while the passages which mention the disputations at Be Abidan presuppose not Christian, but pagan opponents. Decisive against this supposition is the passage in 'Erubin 80a and 'Ab. Zarah 48a, which recounts that the heathen priests brewed beer from the fruit of a number of trees to supply the demand on the feast-days at Be Naẓrefe; and it is evident that this assertion of the Babylonian amoraim must refer to conditions in their own country.

It may therefore be assumed with certainty that Be Abidan and Be Naẓrefe were two places, which, in the first half of the third century—they are not mentioned in later times—were considered in Babylonia to be the intellectual centers, where Jews and Persians disputed on religious subjects. They must have been so important that the Talmud applied the general name "Be Abidan" to those localities where disputations between Jews and non-Jews occurred, in the same way that the "Academies" of Berlin or Vienna are spoken of, without reflecting that "Academia" was the garden of Academe in Athens, where Plato taught. It may be mentioned that an astrologer of the name of Abidas, the Greek equivalent of Abidan (Epiphanius, "Hæres." i. 56, ed. Migne, i. 990) disputed about the year 200 with Christians in Persia; hence "Be Abidan" may mean, linguistically and actually, the place where Abidas or his followers had a school. "Be Naẓrefe" may be referred to the name of the place Zerifin, which was known to the Arabian geographers, or to Assyrian "naẓraptu" (crucible), Be Naẓrefe being a place where crucibles were made.

Bibliography:
  • Anonymous, in Literaturblatt des Orients, vi. 3-5;
  • Delitzsch, in Zeitschrift für die Gesammte Lutherische Theologie, vii. 75-79;
  • Joel, Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte, ii. 91, 92;
  • Funk, Die Haggadischen Elemente . . . (Vienna, 1891), note B, who combines "Be Abidan" with "Be Abdin" (house of the servants), as the monks used to call themselves "servants of God";
  • Jastrow, Dict. s.v. and ;
  • Kohut, Aruch Completum, ii. 45-47; the Persian "Abdan" means only a busy place, which does not apply here;
  • Levy, Neuhebr. Wörterbuch, s.v.;
  • Löw, in Ha-Shaḥar, i., No. 9, pp. 57-59, and in He-Ḥaluẓ, ii. 100, 101;
  • Rapoport, 'Erek Millin;
  • idem, in Ha-Shaḥar, l.c., No. 10, pp. 111-113;
  • Wiesner, Scholien zum Babylonischen Talmud, ii. 230, 231 (his identification of "Naẓrefe" with "Nicephorium" is as impossible as that of "Be Abidan" with "Bezabde." The Greek "K" is never צ, nor could "z" be omitted from "Bezabde").
J. Sr. L. G.
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