Hillel II, Ben-jehudah III
Hillel II, ben-Jehudah III
(sometimes called the younger, because a descendant of Hillel I, or the elder, q.v.), came to the presidency of the Sanhedrim about A.D. 330 (some say A.D. 258), which he held for about thirty-five years. As president of the Sanhedrim, he was, of course, the head of the Jewish school at Tiberias, and it is said that while in this position he was often consulted by Origen. Some think him the Ellel mentioned by Epiphanius (adver. Haeres. 30, 4 sq.), who embraced the Christian faith on his deathbed. But this fact is unlikely, as the Jews of Hillel's time make no mention of it whatever. Had it occurred they would undoubtedly have execrated his name. It is an interesting fact, however, connected with Biblical literature to learn from Epiphanius that a Hebrew translation of the Gospel of John, of the Acts of the Apostles, and of Christ's genealogy as recorded by Matthew, existed at this early period of Christianity, for it is said of the Ellel above referred to, that a Hebrew translation of the parts of the N.T. just mentioned was found secreted in the cabinet of the nasi (president), subsequently to his death. Hillel is said to have convoked a rabbinical synod which adjusted the period of the sun with that of the moon in calculating time, though it was not used until the change introduced under Alphonso, king of Castile (Bartolocci, Magna Bibliotheca Rabbinicarum, 2, 415 sq.). This calendar, while it greatly facilitated the uniform observance of the Paschal festival and other great festivals, tended to promote unity among a people dispersed through so many lands. "If the acts of this synod had been handed down in a written form, we should probably have had in them some light on the present discrepancies between the chronology of the Hebrew text and that of the Septuagint." It is generally believed that the rabbins of this synod fixed the epoch of the Creation at the vernal equinox, 3761 years before the birth of Christ. Indeed, Hillel's great reputation, nay, immortality, rests upon his introduction of the calendar (q.v.) of the Jewish year, used even at present with little variation. "According to this calendar, the difference between the solar and lunar year upon which the cycle of the Jewish festivals depends, is yearly made up; the length of the month is made to approximate to the astronomical course of the moon, and attention is also paid in it to the Halachic matters connected with the Jewish festivals. It is based upon the cycle of nineteen years (מחזר הלבנה), introduced by the Greek astronomer Meton, in which occur seven intercalary years. Each year has ten unchangeable months of alternately twenty-nine and thirty days; the two autumnal months, Cheshvan and Kislev, which follow the important month Tisri, are left changeable, SEE HAPHTARAH, because they depend upon certain astronomical phenomena and the following points of Jewish law:
1. That the month of Tisri is never to begin with the day which, to a great extent, belongs to the former month.
2. The Day of Atonement is not to fall on the day before or after the Sabbath; and,
3. That the Hosanna Day is not to be on a Sabbath. It is impossible now to say with certainty how much of this calendar is Hillel's own, and how much he took from the national traditions, since it is beyond question that some astronomical rules were handed down by the presidents. This calendar Hillel introduced A.D. 359." A similarity of names has caused him to be considered as the author of a MS. copy of the O.T., which was preserved until the close of the 13th century, and was used to correct later copies. He died towards the close of the 4th century. — Rossi, Dizion. storico degli Autori Ebrei, p. 170,171; Wolf, Biblioth. Hebraica; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, 24, 688; Etheridge, Introd. Hebr. Lit. p. 138; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 4, 386 sq.; Kitto, Cyclop. of Bib. Lit. 2, 305. (J. H.W.)