Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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GEVARYAHU /HEBREW AUTHORSHIP
175
and Pirke d’Rabbi Eliezer, whose opening words are the
gematria
of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. . . .
Historically speaking, Judah Hasid was right, for the early rab­
binic literature was basically anonymous. The numerical equiva­
lents adduced by Eleazar of Worms are hardly adequate proof for
his contention. Actually, he merely confirmed a custom which
was already in practice during his time but which Judah Hasid
sought to curtail.
The first to draw attention to the names of great spiritual fig­
ures and authors was Simeon Ben Sira, who eulogized the proph­
ets and sages of old. He writes in praise of the famous men whom
he calls “fathers of the world” and is aware of the fact the “There
be some, which have no memorial” (ch. 44 :9). He adds, however,
that the righteous are among those “whose memory shall remain
forever . . . and whose name will live on from generation to gen­
eration” (ch. 44 :13 , 14). He indicates further that the perpetua­
tion of a name depends on divine benevolence. It is to be noted
that among those to whom Ben Sira refers are authors who “recite
verses in writing,”which can be taken to mean the prophets whose
names are already recorded in the opening verses of their books
or, for that matter, any creative writer whose name was
transmitted orally from generation to generation together with
the book attributed to him.
MILLENIUM OF ANONYMITY
All types of apocryphal literature, such as the historical books
of Maccabees and the apocalyptic writings, are anonymous works.
The practice of anonymity was firmly established and left no
room for exceptions among the Pharisees and the other sects,
namely the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Dead Sea sectarians.
It is noteworthy that not only did the books of the Apocrypha
which were originally written in Hebrew come down to us as
anonymous works, but the Jewish Hellenistic literature is also for
the most part anonymous. It may appear strange that Jewish writ­
ers who had recourse to the Greek language did not attach their
names to their works, as was the custom of the time, but remained
faithful to the traditional Jewish practice of the anonymity of
authorship.
During the days of the Second Commonwealth there evolved