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JOSIAH (middle of the second century C.E.), tanna. His father's name is not known. He originated in Babylon and apparently taught in Huẓal (Git. 61a). He discussed law in Nisibis with *Judah b. Bathyra. At that time he was already quoting halakhot he heard in the name of "the Men of Jerusalem" (Sif. Num. 123; Deut. 218). Later he moved to Ereẓ Israel, where he studied under R. Ishmael (Men. 57b). He is mentioned in the Talmud about 50 times, never in the Mishnah, and once in the Tosefta (Shevu. 1:7). He is quoted very often in the Mekhilta, and in the Sifrei on Numbers, both of which belong to the school of R. Ishmael. Very frequently he appears alongside his colleague Jonathan, another of R. Ishmael's pupils, with whom Josiah often disagrees. Their disagreements as a rule depend on different methods of biblical interpretation, both variants of R. Ishmael's particular method (Yoma 57–58; Sota 24–25, et al.). A characteristic method of his is Sares ha-Mikra ve-Doreshehu, i.e., "transpose the order of the words [lit. "emasculate"] of the verse and then interpret it." His talmudic dicta cover a wide variety of subjects. One of his most famous rulings, which was accepted by the posekim, concerns heterogeneous sowing in a vineyard and so limits culpability as to make the interdiction almost nonexistent as far as the biblical law is concerned (Kid. 39a et al.). Many of his other rulings also incline to leniency. Although from Babylon, he firmly upheld the authority of the Great *Bet Din in Jerusalem as the sole body competent to intercalate the year (Mekh. Pisḥa 2). Josiah was still alive in the first age of the amoraim and is therefore sometimes called Josiah the Great, to distinguish him from an amora of the same name (Sanh. 19b). Of his few aggadic dicta, the following may be noted: "the deeds of the righteous yield fruit … the deeds of the wicked do not produce fruit, for if they produced fruit they would destroy the world" (Gen. R. 33:1); "If a good deed comes your way, do it immediately" (Mekh. Pisḥa 9).


Bacher, Tann; Frankel, Mishnah, 154–7; Hyman, Toledot, 529–31; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1965), 128–35; idem, in: PAAJR, 30 (1962), 92ff.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.