The Death of Honi the Circle Maker

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

Ancient literature preserves two accounts of the death of Honi the Circle Maker. One is in Josephus, where Honi is murdered by Jews after failing to participate in the Hasmonean civil war; the other is found in B. Ta. 23a, where Honi prays for death when nobody recognizes him after he awakes from sleeping for seventy years. While these two accounts seem to have no relation to each other, upon comparing the Bavli story to other tales of saintly long sleepers it appears that the Bavli story is a negative twist on the classic plot. The Bavli story is now understood as an aggadic version of the Josephus story, in the same category as the Bar Kamtza story and other similar explanatory narratives meant to highlight the reasons for tragedies in Jewish history.

The Death of Honi the Circle Maker

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism

References

  • 2

    Jacob NeusnerThe Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70 (Leiden: Brill1971) p. 177.

  • 5

    Ralph Marcus trans. JosephusAntiquities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1963) vol. 14 pp. 13–15. The version found in the medieval Jewish historical work Josippon based on Josephus accepts this story of the death of Honi over the one found in the Talmud. See David Flusser The Josippon (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute 1981) vol. 1 pp. 148–149 and the discussion in vol. 2 p. 113. On the various editions of Josippon see A.M. Haberman “Sefer Josippon and Its New Edition” in Sinai 85 1978 pp. 172–184 (Hebrew).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8

    Otto Betz“The Death of Choni-Onias” p. 85.

  • 9

    Gad Ben-Ami Sarfati“Chasidim v’Anshei Ma’aseh v’ha-Nevi’im haRishonim,” in Tarbizvol. 26:2 (1956) p. 127. Betz “The Death of Choni-Onias” p. 86 notes that the Josephus episode took place when Honi was already an old man.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10

    Jacob NeusnerThe Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70 p. 177; Betz “The Death of Choni-Onias” p. 85; Yonah Fraenkel Midrash and Agadah (Tel Aviv: The Open University of Israel 1993) pp. 351–352 (Hebrew); Federico M. Colautti Passover in the Works of Josephus (Leiden: Brill 2002) pp. 91–92.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11

    Tessel Marina JonquierePrayer in Josephus (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill2007) p. 200.

  • 14

    Adapted from Jacob Neusner ed.The Talmud of the Land of Israel vol. 18: Besah and Taanit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1987) p. 226.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15

    RubensteinStories of the Babylonian Talmud p. 68.

  • 16

    Ibid. pp. 69–70.

  • 18

    Louis GinzbergLegends of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society2003) vol. 2 p. 1091 n. 58; Gad Ben-Ami Sarfati “Chasidim v’Anshei Ma’aseh v’ha-Nevi’im haRishonim” pp. 152–153.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19

    See the full study in Bernard Heller“Éléments parallèles et origines de la légende des sept dormants” pp. 190–218. For the date of composition see the overview in Gabriel Said Reynolds The Qur’an and Its Biblical Subtext (New York: Routledge 2010) p. 181 n. 628.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21

    W.G. Ryan Jacobus de VoragineThe Golden Legend (Princeton: Princeton University Press1993) pp. 401–403.

  • 22

    Jens Herzer4 Baruch p. xv.

  • 23

    ReynoldsThe Qur’an and Its Biblical Subtext p. 167–178.

  • 24

    Jens Herzer4 Baruch p. 89 n. 37.

  • 25

    J. Rendel HarrisThe Rest of the Words of Baruch (London: Cambridge University Press1889) pp. 41–42.

  • 27

    William HansenAriadne’s Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature (New York: Cornell University Press2002) p. 398. Even before the story of Epimenides Aristotle in Physicsiv (218b23) mentions the fabled Sleepers of Sardinia but these are understood to be heroes who died in Sardinia and after death their bodies did not corrupt giving the appearance of sleep. See Sam Broadie trans. Philoponus On Aristotle Physics 4.10–14 (London: Bloomsbury Academic 2011) p. 17; Carolyn Dinshaw How Soon Is Now? Medieval Texts Amateur Readers and the Queerness of Time (Durham: Duke University Press 2012) pp. 8–9.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29

    Diogenes Laertius transl. C.D. YongeThe Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (London: Henry Bohn1853) 1.109 pp. 50–51.

  • 30

    van der Horst“Pious Long-Sleepers in Greek Jewish and Christian Antiquity” p. 255.

  • 32

    See the discussion in John LimonWriting after the War: American War Fiction from Realism to Postmodernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press1994) pp. 9–10.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33

    Herzer4 Baruch p. 88.

  • 34

    Gad Ben-Ami Sarfati“Chasidim v’Anshei Ma’aseh v’ha-Nevi’im haRishonim” pp. 151. He charts the points of comparison and differentiation on pp. 152–153.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 35

    Jens Herzer4 Baruch p. 90.

  • 39

    Jens Herzer4 Baruch pp. 86–87. In the later Swiss folktale of Pror Evo he crumbles to dust when he realizes that he slept for 308 years but even there it is only after he was recognized. See Max Luthi Once upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1976) p. 44; William Hansen Ariadne’s Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature (New York: Cornell University Press 2002) pp. 397–398.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 40

    Gad Ben-Ami Sarfati“Chasidim v’Anshei Ma’aseh v’ha-Nevi’im haRishonim” pp. 151. See the discussion in Bernard Heller “Éléments parallèles et origines de la légende des sept dormants” in Revue des Études Juives vol. 49 (1904) pp. 206–207; Michael Huber Die Wanderlegende von den Siebenschläfern. Eine literarische Untersuchung (Leipzig: Harrassowitz 1910) 418–422; Jens Herzer 4 Baruch p 84 understands that the Honi legend emerged by “the middle of the first century.”

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 41

    RubensteinStories of the Babylonian Talmud p. 65. The Stammaitic concerns revolve around the importance of the beit midrash and scholarship.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 43

    Abraham Joshua HeschelHeavenly Torah: As Refracted through the Generations (New York: Continuum International Publishing2006) p. 389.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 44

    Jeffery RubensteinRabbinic Stories (Mahwah: Paulist Press2002) p. 50. See also Eli Yassaf The Hebrew Folktale: History Genre Meaning (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1999) p. 134.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 46

    William Whiston trans. JosephusThe Wars of the Jews (New York: Digireads Publishing2010) 1:7:6 p. 20.

  • 49

    Gedalyahu Alon“Did the Jewish People and Its Sages Cause the Hasmoneans to Be Forgotten?” in Jews Judaism and the Classical World (Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1977) pp. 1–17.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 50

    Eyal RegevThe Hasmoneans: Ideology Archaeology Identity (Bristol: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht2013) pp. 164–165.

  • 51

    Stuart CohenThe Three Crowns: Structures of Communal Politics in Early Rabbinic Jewry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1990) p. 92. See also Regev The Hasmoneans p. 96.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 52

    Stuart CohenThe Three Crowns p. 104.

  • 53

    See Federico M. ColauttiPassover in the Works of Josephus (Leiden: Brill2002) p. 92. The story of Honi’s praying for rain has also been compared to the Balaam episode. See Jacob Neusner First Century Judaism in Crisis (Eugene: Wipf and Stock 1975) p. 215.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 56

    Similarly in B. San. 96bLamentations Rabbah 4:13.

  • 59

    Yonah FraenkelThe Aggadic Narrative: Harmony of Form and Content (Tel Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad2001) pp. 185–189 (Hebrew); Rubenstein Stories of the Babylonian Talmud p. 67.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 61

    Aharon AgusBinding of Isaac and Messiah: Law Martyrdom and Deliverance in Early Rabbinic Religiosity (New York: State University of New York Press1988) p. 82.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 102 100 6
Full Text Views 195 196 0
PDF Downloads 5 5 0
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0