JOHANAN B. NAPPAḤA (HA-NAPPAḤ):
Palestinian scholar; born at Sepphoris in the last quarter of the second century; died at Tiberias 279. He is generally cited as "Johanan," but sometimes by his cognomen only (Yer. R. H. ii. 58b; Sanh. 96a), which he himself uses once (Mak. 5b); but he is never cited by both together. He traced his descent from the tribe of Joseph (Ber. 20a), but he knew neither of his parents, his father having died before, and his mother at, his birth; he was brought up by his grandfather. His first teachers were the last Tannaites or semi-Tannaites Yannai, Ḥanina b. Ḥama, and Hoshaiah Rabbah. For a short time he also attended the lectures of Judah I. (Rabbi); but, as he himself said, his acquaintance with Rabbi was only slight (see Yer. Beẓah v. 63a.) He mentions again his pupilage under Rabbi in a reference to an occasion when he sat seventeen rows behind Rab (Abba Arika), and could not comprehend the discussions (Pes. 3b; Ḥul. 137b). But in the short time he sat under him he is said to have manifested such aptness as to convince Rabbi that great things might reasonably be expected of him (Yoma 82b). By Ḥanina he was instructed in the homiletic interpretation of the Bible—except the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (Yer. Hor. iii. 48b)—and probably in medicine, in which he became skilled ('Ab. Zarah 28a).
Johanan had an agreeable presence and a pleasing disposition; he was kind and considerate to the stranger as well as to his brethren; to the non-observant as to the pious; to the 'am ha-areẓ as to the ḥaber; wherefore he was beloved by his teachers and honored by all (B. M. 84a; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah iii. 42c; Meg. 10b, 16a; 'Ab. Zarah 26b; Yer. Dem. ii. 23a; Bek. 31a). For a time he subsisted on the proceeds of some arable land, a vineyard, and an olive-orchard, which he had inherited, and which he sold one after another in order to obtain an education. As he expressed it, he exchanged the things that God created in six days for the things the delivery of which required forty days (Ex. xx. 11, xxxiv. 28; Deut. ix. 10; Cant. R. viii. 7). But all his resources having been at last exhausted, he was compelled to follow some bread-winning occupation. After a short time, however, he felt impelled to return to his school, where he earned, not without a struggle, the encomiums of his masters (Ta'an. 21a; Yeb. 57a; Yer. Yeb. viii. 9b; Yer. R. H. ii. 58a et seq.; Shab. 112b; 'Er. 24a). At last, owing to the universal homage paid to the young master, the patriarch accorded him a pension, and soon a lecturer's place was found for him.His Teaching.
Johanan began teaching at his native place, Sepphoris, and quickly became very popular there. One day his former teacher Ḥanina noticed unusually large crowds hurrying toward one place. Inquiring the reason of his attendant, he was told that Johanan was to lecture at the college lately presided over by R. Banna'ah, and that the people were flocking to hear him. Ḥanina, thereupon thanked God for permitting him to see his life's work bearing such blessed fruit (see Ḥanina b. Ḥama). How long Johanan continued to act as teacher at Sepphoriscan not be ascertained; but he removed some time before Ḥanina's death. They had disagreed on two points of ritual, and Johanan, not wishing to oppose his master at his home, removed to Tiberias (Yer. Beẓah i. 60a; Yer. Sheb. ix. 38c, where the text is mutilated). It is doubtful whether the two ever met again. With his other teachers he maintained intimate relations to the end of their days. This was particularly the case with Hoshaiah. He, too, removed from Sepphoris and settled at Caesarea, where he opened a college and whither Johanan often went from Tiberias to consult him on difficult problems (Yer. Ter. x. 47a; Yer. Ḥal. i. 58b). These visits to his aged teacher Johanan continued during the last thirteen years of Hoshaiah's life, but they were merely social visits, Johanan no longer needing Hoshaiah's help: "He that pays his respects to his teacher is considered as one waiting on the Divine Presence" (Yer. Sanh. xi. 30b).His Pupils.
At Tiberias Johanan opened an academy, which soon drew large numbers of gifted students, native and foreign, among whom were the great scholars Abbahu, Ammi, Assi II., Eleazar ben Pedath, Ḥiyya ben Abba, Jose ben Ḥanina, and Simon ben Abba; as many scores of his disciples accepted and taught his decisions, and as he himself did not confine his labors to the precincts of the college, but visited and lectured at other places (Yeb. 64b; Ket. 7a), his fame spread far and wide, and his name more than that of any other teacher was on the lips of scholars. In the Diaspora, whither his teachings were carried by his disciples, his authority was almost as great as in his native land, and few contemporary scholars in Babylonia opposed him. As for Johanan himself, he recognized no foreign authority except that of Rab (Abba Arika), his senior schoolmate under Judah I. With Rab, Johanan kept up a correspondence, and addressed him as "our master in Babylonia." After Rab's death Johanan wrote to Rab's colleague Samuel, but addressed him as "our colleague in Babylonia." Samuel sent him a complete calendar covering the intercalations for a period of sixty years; Johanan, however, admitted merely that Samuel was a good mathematician. But when Samuel transmitted to him a mass of dis quisitions on the dietary laws, Johanan exclaimed, "I still have a master in Babylonia!" He even resolved to pay him a visit, but rumor made him believe that Samuel had in the meantime died (Ḥul. 95b).Halakic Method.
Johanan pursued a strictly analytical method in his studies of the Halakah. Penetrating deeply into the sense of the Mishnah, and subjecting every part to a thorough examination and careful comparison with more or less related laws, he soon perceived that Rabbi's compilation contained contradictory decisions, based in many cases on the opinions of individuals. These he endeavored to reconcile; but as that could not always be done, he perforce rejected many halakot adopted in the Mishnah, preferring the authority of baraitas taught by his former masters Ḥiyya and Hoshaiah. To carry out his line of thought systematically and consistently he laid down certain rules for the final decision of cases where two or more tannaim were found to have entertained opposite opinions, or where halakot are ascribed to recognized authorities, but are in conflict with anonymous opinions given elsewhere (see Conflict of Opinion). Some rules of this kind had been devised before his, but had proved insufficient. Johanan therefore elaborated and supplemented them (see Yer. Ter. iii. 42a; Shab. 39b; 'Er. 46a et seq.; Yeb. 42b; Giṭ. 75a), and most of his rules are to this day authoritative for the student of Talmud. All of them were collected in the geonic period and embodied in the so-called "Order of the Tannaim and Amoraim" (; abridged, ), which is ascribed to Naashon b. Zadok of the ninth century (see Grätz, "Einleitung in den Talmud von Ibn-Aknin," p. vii.). Later Talmudists, seeing that Johanan was so prolific an amora that his name is more frequently mentioned in the Gemara than any other, ascribed to him the compilation of the Palestinian Gemara (see Maimonides, "Haḳdamah," ed. Hamburger, p. 58, Berlin, 1902). Modern scholars for obvious reasons deny this, but admit that he projected the compilation, which, however, was not completed till over a century after him (see
In his religious decisions Johanan was comparatively liberal. He aided Judah II. in the repeal of the prohibition against using oil made by pagans ('Ab. Zarah 36a); he permitted Greek to be studied by men, because it enabled them to defend themselves against informers, and by women because familiarity with that language is an attractive accomplishment in their sex (Yer. Peah i. 15c); he allowed the painting of decorative figures on the walls (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah iii. 42d). Under certain circumstances he permitted emigration from Palestine: "If thou art mentioned [nominated by the Romans] for office make the Jordan thy boundary friend [escape over the Jordan], even on a semiholiday" (Yer. M. Ḳ. ii. 81b).
Johanan is the subject of many legends (Ber. 5b; Yer. Ber. v. 9a; Ḥag. 15b; B. Ḳ. 117a et seq.; B. M. 84a; B. B. 75a), in which some further traits of his are preserved. His servants he treated with great kindness: "Did not he that made me in the womb make him? " (Job xxxi. 15; Yer. B. Ḳ. viii. 6c). He was blessed with many children, but lost ten sons. The last one is said to have died by falling into a caldron of boiling water. The bereft father preserved a joint of the victim's little finger, which he exhibited to mourners in order to inspire resignation. "This is a bone from the body of my tenth son," he would say (Ber. 5b; see Ḥiddushe Geonim ad loc.). However, he himself was not resigned at the death of his brother-in-law Resh Laḳish, his fellow amora, whom he affectionately called "my counterpart" ( —Ket. 54b, 84b). He mourned for him long and deeply, weeping often and crying, "Bar Laḳish, where art thou? O Bar Laḳish! " At last he became melancholy, and for three years and a half could not attend his college;but it seems that he finally recovered his health and resumed his labors (Yer. Meg. i. 72b; B. M. 84a). On his death-bed he ordered that he should be dressed neither in white nor in black, but in scarlet, so that on awaking after death he would not feel out of place in the company either of the pious or of the wicked (Yer. Ket. xii. 35a; Gen. R. xcvi. 5).
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. i. 205-339;
- Frankel, Mebo, pp. 95b-97b;
- Grätz, Gesch. 2d ed., iv. 257 et seq.;
- Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 149b et seq.;
- Hamburger, R. B. T.;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
- Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, ii. 149, passim;
- Weiss, Dor, iii. 69 et seq.