Simlai, Rabbi - Biblical Cyclopedia

Simlai, Rabbi

Simlai, Rabbi, a famous Jewish teacher of the 2d century, is known as the first who reduced all laws of Judaism to certain principles. Thus we read in the Talmud Babyl. Maccoth, fol. 23, col. 2 sq. "R. Simlai said that Moses was instructed to give 613 injunctions to the people, viz. 365 precepts of omission, corresponding to the days of the solar year, and 248 precepts of commission, corresponding to the members of the human body. David reduced them all to eleven in the fifteenth Psalm: 'Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell on thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly,' etc. The prophet Isaiah reduced them to six (Isa 33:15): 'He that walketh righteously,' etc. The prophet Micah reduced them to three (Mic 6:8): What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' Isaiah, once more, reduced them to two (Isa 56:1): 'Keep ye judgment and do justice.' Amos reduced them all to one (Am 5:4): 'Seek ye me, and ye shall live.' But lest it might be supposed from this that God could be found in the fulfilment of his whole law only, Habakkuk said (Hab 2:4): 'The just shall live by his faith.'" Rabbi Simlal also acquired fame for his virulent opposition to Christianity. It has been suggested, and with apparent probability, that he had been chiefly engaged in controversy with the celebrated Origen, who spent considerable time in Palestine, and, as is well known, introduced into the Church a kind of Hagadic exegesis. It will readily be conceived that Christian truth was placed at disadvantage when made to depend on isolated portions or texts, and defended by exegetical niceties and subtleties, instead of resting on the general scope and bearing of the Old Test. teaching, and on whole passages, taken in their breadth and fullness, as the individual exponents of general and well ascertained, principles. However, Hagadic studies sometimes led to a spirit of zealous inquiry, and to frequent controversies between Christians and Jews. An instance of these has, among others, been recorded by Jerome (Quoest. in Genesin) in a discussion between Jason, a converted Jew, and his friend Papiscus. In the Talmud Jerus. Berachoth, 9, 11 d, 12 a, and Genesis Rabba, c. 8, we still find some of those controversial points disputed by Simlai. See Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 4, 265 sq.; Edersheim, Hist. of the Jewish Nation, p. 517; Back, Die Gesch. des jud. Volkes (Lissa, 1878), p. 207; Cassel, Lehrbuch der judischen Geschichte u. Literatur (Leipsic, 1879), p. 182. (B.P.)

 
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