Nechunjah Ben-ha-kanah

Nechunjah Ben-Ha-Kanah a famous rabbin at Jamnia, who, like his contemporary Nahum of Gimso (q.v.), had a school and method of his own, was a disciple of Hillel (q.v.), and a contemporary and equal colleague of Jochanan ben-Zachai (q.v.). Nechunjah strictly adhered to his teacher's method of Biblical interpretation, and decidedly opposed Nahum's additional rule of "extension and restriction." He was of a mild and compliant character, and is said to have chiefly occupied himself with mystical theology. So much was this the case, that later tradition ascribed the composition of the oldest cabalistic works to him or to his father, viz., the books Bahir (סֵ8 הִבָּהַיר) and Peliah (סֵ8 הִפּלַיאָה '), which, however, belong to a later time. Like his colleague, Jochanan ben-Zachai, Nechunjah reached a good old age. Himself a living protest against the supposed worldliness of some of his contemporaries, his recorded motto was, "Every one who takes upon himself the yoke of the law is set free from the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of conformity to the world; but to every one who discards the yoke of the law shall be given the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of the fashions of this world" (Aboth, 3:5). It is interesting to notice that Nechunjah was one of the few who were wont to ejaculate a short prayer both when entering the college and again when leaving it. He assigned the following reasons for this unusual practice: "When I enter," he said, "I pray that I may not be the occasion of error; and when I leave I bless the Lord for my calling" (Beracoth, 4:2). Later writers (Bartol. 4:246, etc.) have, without sufficient reason, supposed that he became a convert to Christianity. Certainly both the ground and the objects of his prayers savor more of the pride of the Pharisee than of the spirit of the Christian. See Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden (Leipsic, 1866), 4:22; Jost, Gesch. d. Juden. u.s. Sekten, 2:26; De Rossi, Dizionario storico (Germ. transl.) page 245; Edersheim, History of the Jews, page 158; Etheridge, Introd. to Hebrew

Literature, page 65; Frankel, Hodegetica in Mishnam (Leipsic, 1859), page 99. (B.P.)

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