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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Ḥiyya ben Abba Rabbah
Hebrew Name(s): רבי חייא בר אבא
Other Names: Ḥiyya ben Abba, Ḥiyya, Ḥiyya the Great
Period: Tannaim - Amoraim — 2nd–3rd Century
Location: b. Kafri, Babylonia. D. Palestine.
Dates: c. 180–230 CE

Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba called Rabbah (The Great or Elder) was a Palestinian Fifth GenerationTanna/First Generation Amora, a student of Judah NaNasi, and is traditionally associated with the Tosefta.
Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba Rabbah was the father of Judah and Hezekiah, and the uncle of Rav (Abba or Abba Arikha.)
Rabbi Ḥiyya was a disciple of Judah the Prince (who arranged/redacted the Mishnah c.200 CE) and contemporaneous with Levi bar Sisi and Ḥanina bar Ḥama.
Ḥiyya together with Oshaiah was responsible for a collection of beraitot which had great prominence, to the extent that it was said, "Any baraita that did not come from the academy of Ḥiyya and Oshaiah has no authority" (Hul. 141 a-b).
Rashi was of the opinion that Ḥiyya, together with his student, Oshaiah edited the Tosefta, another compilation of Oral Law made during the same time period as the Mishnah (Commentary on Sandehrin 33a). Modern scholarship, however, rejects this supposition and asserts that, at least, the final redaction must be later than R. Ḥiyya since he himself is mentioned in the Tosefta (Neg. 8.6).
Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba Rabbah should not be confused with the Third Generation Palestinian Amora, Ḥiyya ben Abba, a contemporary of Rabbi Assi and Rabbi Ammi.


Tosefta (Aramaic: תוספתא) means "supplement" and is a compilation of Oral Law not included in the Mishnah but contemporaneous with it. The Tosefta is a halakhic work with a similar structure to the Mishnah, containing the same divisions of Orders and Tractates, written mainly in Mishnaic Hebrew with a little Aramaic and offers both aggadic and halakhic material. The traditional view is that it should be dated to the period concurrent with or slightly later than the Mishnah.
Traditional scholarship has attributed the editing of the Tosefta to Ḥiyya ben Abba and his student, Hosaiah ben Ḥama (Oshaiah or Hosaiha Rabbah). This attribution stemmed from the fact that the schools of the Amoraim regarded as authoritative only those Tannaitic traditions that had their origins in the collections of R. Ḥiyya and R. Osaiah. Since only one Tosefta from the Tannaitic Period was preserved it was accepted that this material was, therefore, authentic anauthoritativeve.
Modern scholarship offers several theories to explain the source and reason for the compilation of the Tosefta. It has been found (Friedman) that the Tosefta contains material form the Tannaitic period (c. 70-200 CE) which predates the Mishnah which can linguistically be dated to a compilation in the Amoraic period (c. 200-500 CE) from baraitot received from oral tradition (Elman). Some scholars suggest that the Tosefta was compiled to establishauthoritativetive work on halakhic tradition (Houtman) and others that the Tosefta was compiled to avoid the impression that the Mishnah contained the whole of the Oral Torah.
However, because the Tosefta was supposedly edited by just two persons (definite authorship is unkown) while the Mishnah was complied from the work of many, and also because of the powerful influence of Judah haNasi, the Tosefta ultimately had less authority than the Mishnah and is held as supplementary material to the Mishnah. The Tosefta often supplies authors' names for materials quoted anonymously in the Mishnah and contains additional glosses and discussions. It also supplies commentary on unquoted Mishnaic material and offers additional haggadic and midrashic material. It also, at times, contradicts the Mishnah in matters of halakhah, and in declaring in whose name a law is given.


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