Hillel I, Ha-zaken

Hillel I, Ha-Zaken (הִזָּקֵן, or the Great), BEN-SIMON, was born at Babylon about B.C. 75. He was one of the most eminent Jewish rabbis, founder of a school which bore his name, and by his self-denying, holy life, and great wisdom and learning, exercised a very remark-able influence both upon the theology and literature of his nation. About B.C. 36 he came to Jerusalem, where, while obliged to work for his daily bread, he attended at the same time the lectures of Shemaja and Abtalion, then the presiding officers of the Sanhedrim. About B.C. 30 he was himself chosen president of the Sanhedrim. This office he held for forty years with great success. Etheridge says: "His administration, along with his coadjutor Shammai, forms an era in the history of rabbinical learning. His scholars were numbered by thousands. The Talmud commemorates eighty of them by name, among whom are the celebrated R. Jochanan ben-Zachai, and Jonathan ben-Uziel, the Chaldee Targumist on the Prophets." Some have asserted (Ginsburg in Kitto, among others) that by his teachings he prepared his people for the coming of Christ, but we are inclined to believe that, while Hillel was a most noble leader of the Jews, teaching as he did that the cardinal doctrine and aim of life is "to be gentle, showing all meekness to all men." and "when reviled not to revile again," yet his views of the prophecies rather inclined him to give warning to his nation-especially prepared, by their social and political discomfort, to look more intently for the coming of that mysterious king who, according to their idea, was to free them from the oppression of Herod as well as Caesar, and establish in the land of Judah a throne that should have supremacy over all others-by asserting that "no such king will ever appear" (Sanhedrin). But it is undoubtedly true that he foresaw the dispersion of his nation, for the Talmud informs us that he drew up civil and political ordinances intended to regulate their relation to each other after their separation. While president of the Sanhedrim, his great aim was to give greater precision to the study of the law. Before his time tradition learning had been divided into six hundred, or, as some 'have it, seven hundred sections. He simplified the subject by arranging this once complicated mass under six (Sedarim) treatises-the basis, really, of the future Mishna labors of Akiba, Chijja, and Jehuda Hakkodesh in this department. Hillel was also the first who laid down definite hermeneutical rules for the interpretation of the O.T. They are very important for a proper understanding of the ancient versions (Midrash). His colleague, the vice-president of the Sanhedrim, Shammai, became displeased with the liberality of Hillel's mind, and this finally resulted in the establishment of "the school of Shammai" by the side of "the school of Hillel." Their points of difference related to questions of jurisprudence and Church discipline, not to dogmas, yet their disputes caused great excitement among the Jews. Hillel's party finally prevailed, in consequence, it is said, of a bath kol (q.v.) in his favor. Jerome and some other writers have considered Hillel as the founder of the sect of Pharisees, and Shammai as the first Scribe. This, however, is an error, for the Scribes and Pharisees did not constitute two distinct sects, and, moreover, were anterior to these two teachers. Hillel died when Jesus was about ten years of age. It seems strange that Josephus makes no mention of Hillel. Arnold (in Herzog, Real Encyklop. 7, 97, thinks that Pollio (Ant. 16, 1, 1, 10) stands for Hillel. To the school of Hillel is attributed the authorship of Megillath Beth Hashmonaim, a work on the history of the Maccabees, now lost. See Bartolocci, Magna Biblioth. Rabbin. 2, 783-796; G. E. Geiger et H. Giessman, Brevis Commentatio de Hillel et Schammai, etc. (Altdorf, 1707, 4to); Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, 24, 686; Engl. Cyclopaedia; Fürst, Kulturgesch. 1, 13; Etheridge, Introd. to Hebr. Literat. p. 33; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 8, 207; Jost, Gesch. d. Israel. 1, 254; Kitto, Cyclop. of Bib. Liter. 2, 303; Wolf, Biblioth. Hebr. 2, 824-8. (J. H. W.)

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