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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Hebrew Name(s): אושעיא בריבי; אושעיא; הושעיה
Other Names: Hoshaiah Rabbah, Hoshaiah ben Ḥama, Hosaiah I, Hoshaiah
Period: Amoraim — 3rd Century
Location: Palestine
Dates: c. 200 CE

R. Oshaiah (Hosaiah) was a Palestinian Amora of the First Generation active in the early Third Century. He was a disciple of R. Ḥiyya ben Abba (Rabbah) and R. Bar Kappara. Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Oshaiah were both disciples of Judah the Prince (who arranged/redacted the Mishnah c.200 CE). After the death of Judah the Prince Oshaiah left Sepphoris and established his own school in Caesarea. Oshaiah is often referred to as Oshaiah the Great (Hoshaiah Rabbah.) One of his disciples, R. Johanan, said that Oshaiah "in his generation was like R. Meir in his: even his colleagues could not always grasp the profundity of his arguments" (Er. 53a). Oshaiah's excellence in explaining and interpreting mishnayot earned him the title, "Father of the Mishnah." Many of Oshaiah's haggadic teachings are quoted in Midrash Rabbah.
Oshaiah, together with Ḥiyya bar Abba, 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 and his student, Oshaiah, edited the Tosefta, another compilation of Oral Law made during the same time period as the Mishnah (Commentary on Sanhedrin 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).
Oshaiah was contemporaneous with Levi bar Sisi and Ḥanina bar Ḥama.
Oshaiah ruled that every candidate for conversion to Judaism must undergo circumcision and tevillah (immersion) in the presence of three witnesses. His decision became the law. Oshaiah also said, "Custom overrides the law" (Talmud Yerushalmi 7:1) and thus provided the precedent for the principle that the people provide the primary source for halakhah.
Oshaiah is thought to have been in contact with Origen while both lived in Caesarea. Examples from the Talmud suggest that Oshaiah was the representative of Judaism in touch with the early Christians in Caesarea.
Oshaiah (Hoshaiah Rabbah) should not be confused with Hoshaiah (Oshaya) a Palestinian Amora who died in 350 CE.


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 thTannaiticic 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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