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December 18, 2007



Another problem concerning Antignos copied below. I wrote this down several years ago and never got a good answer.

According to the Talmud, the Greek era in Israel was for 180 years, followed by the Hasmoneans for 103, followed by the Romans for another 103. This makes 386 years from the conquest of Israel by Alexander until the Destruction of the Second Temple. According to the Talmudic narrative, Shimon the Tzadik was an old man when he met Alexander personally at the time of his conquest. Following Shimon was Antiginos of Sokho and then 5 generations of the “Pairs”, followed by Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai. Excluding Shimon, who was apparently near the end of his life at he time of the Greek conquest, there were 7 generations of Jewish leaders from the time of Alexander till the Destruction. 386 divided by 7 equals an average of 55 years per generation. Even if we would include Shimon and add another generation, the average would be 48 years. These are not overlapping father-son generations in which the son is newborn at a certain time DURING his father's life, but generations of successive national leaderships, in which each successive leader, already well matured, usually at least in his 30s to 50s (an average of 45), assumes leadership AFTER the DEATH of his predecessor. 55 plus 45 equals an average lifespan of 100 years for each leader for 7 generations in a row, something that, although possible, does not seem to be probable.

Another problem related to this chronology: Antiginos was apparently the greatest disciple of Shimon, since he was chosen to succeed him. He must therefore have studied under Shimon for many years and succeeded him at the probable age of 30 to 45. However, Antiginos had a GREEK personal name, which would seem to indicate that by the time of Shimon's death, Greek influence in Israel was already so pervasive that it would no longer have been anomalous for a great rabbi, let alone the leader of the generation, to be known to Jews and in Jewish literature by a Greek personal name. (Imagine today a great Rosh Yeshiva, even in America, let alone in Israel, referred to by his disciples as “Reb William” or “Rav George”.) Such a degree of influence would have had to develop over a long period of time, but the Greeks assumed power only towards the death of Shimon, after Antiginos was already born and mature.


There are seceral approaches to the chronological isssue, that I can suggest.
1. The missing years - the Herodotus based chronology adds more than a century that is not reflected in the Seder Olam count. There is much literature and there are extensive discussions of this on an Avodah thread under Persian era, http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/getindex.cgi?section=P#PERSIAN%20ERA
2.The Zugot probably served non-concurrently - one may have died and the other served alone until replaced with a zug. This alone adequately answers the question.
3.Talmud in Yoma 69b is not explicit that Shimon Hatsaddik was very old at the time he met Alexander
4.Antigonos may have taken on his Greek name later in life and that is the name by which he is remembered. It may have been a translation of his Jewish name, which is quite common later in history.
5.I agree with the point about the name Antigonos that you bring up, which is why I am suggesting a non-literal, more metaphoric reading of the name.


A correspondent was not able to get his comment posted and I am posting it for him.

1. I am well aware of the “missing years” theory, and after studying it thoroughly believe it to be a highly problematic, but open issue. On one hand, I do not believe that Hazal were infallible except when they reported received, unbroken traditions from the Prophets and earlier Sages. But when they reported scientific, historical, or other information that they gathered from other sources, or even Torah exegesis that they expounded on their own, they were liable to error. On the other hand, although there is substantial evidence for the long Persian period from archeological and literary sources, I reject Rav Schwab’s reasoning due to total lack of evidence from either Nigleh or Nistar that Hazal did in fact, or even had any reason to hide those specific years or any others. On the contrary, rejecting the 420 year figure for Bayit Sheni will result in serious problems for the Kabbalistic World Plan based upon the 6000 year calendar, which plan forms a central theme in Kabbalah from as early as the Talmudic period, the Geonim, Ramban, and is later greatly expanded on even by such rationalistic kabbalists as Ramhal, the Vilna Gaon, and Rav Kook. The Gra, in Kol HaTor goes so far as to break up the years of the sixth millennium according to their spiritual roots to describe the stages of the geulah that will occur therein.
2. It is certain that one member of each Zug died sometime before the other, but the language of Avot indicates that the lion’s share of their service was together AS A ZUG, not one alone, and not one with one member of the preceding or succeeding Zug.
3. You are right, and I myself indicated this when I wrote, “Excluding Shimon, who was APPARENTLY near the end of his life at he time of the Greek conquest…” and “Even if we would include Shimon and add another generation, the average would be 48 years”. This would make the average lifespan 93 years for 7 consecutive generations, which is also highly unlikely, and is assuming that Shimon was then a YOUNG man.
4. What Hebrew name is a translation of Antigonos? And since the Sages at that time were concerned about containing budding Hellenistic influence, why would he himself change his Hebrew name to a Greek one, even if such a custom might have been coming into vogue among the amei ha’aretz?
5. If you come up with a “non-literal, more metaphoric reading of the name” please let me know.

Avakesh responds:
All good points. I would address only the 5th point.

When you put together the meaning of the name, the sectarian movements (against the fathers) that came out of his students and his apparent "outside" status that I pointed out in the post, the significance both of the Greek name and the meaning of that name begin to fall into a structure.

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