ELEAZAR B. MATTAI (MATTHIAS):
Tanna of the third and fourth generations (second century); contemporary of Hananiah b. Ḥakinai, Ben 'Azzai, and Simon of Teman (Tosef., Ber. iv. 18). It is stated that, together with Ḥalafta and Hananiah, he examined the stones which, by order of Joshua, the Israelites brought up from the Jordan and pitched in Gilgal (Josh. iv.), and approximated their weight (Tosef., Soṭah, viii. 6). Eleazar was a disciple of R. Tarphon (Tosef., Ber. l.c.; compare Mek., Beshallaḥ, 5), and is met with in scholastic disputations with Judah b. 'Illai and Simon b. Yoḥai (Tosef., Pes. vi. 2; Pes. 79b et seq.). According to one report, he and Hananiah were "the disciples" present at the dispute between R. Meïr and the rabbis; (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. ii. 53d); according to another, they were among the four expert linguists of the Jamnian Sanhedrin (Yer. Shek. v. 48d; compare Sanh. 17b). From the Scriptural dictum (Lev. v. 1), "If a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing," he argues that one is subject to hear the voice of swearing because of his having sinned. Accordingly, he teaches, "Whoso witnesses a transgression was doomed to see it; and whoso witnesses a good deed has deserved to see it" (Tosef., Shebu. iii. 4). He is mentioned once in the Mishnah (Yeb. x. 3), and several times in baraitot, in connection with halakic controversies.
- Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, i. 141;
- Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 133;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 123.