Page 183 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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LUR IE /OUR LIBRARY OF LOST BOOKS
175
days,’ [it follows that] he was thirty-three or thirty-four years
old. He rejoined: You have said correctly; I have personally seen
Balaam’s writing- tablet in which it is stated, ‘Balaam the lame
man was thirty years old when Phinehas the Robber killed him.’”
(Sanhedrin
106b)
A SCROLL IN ASSYRIAN CHARACTERS
“R. Hana b. Tahlifa sent word to R. Joseph: I once met a man
who possessed a scroll written in Hebrew in Assyrian characters.
I said to him: ‘Whence has this come to you?’ He replied, i
hired myself as a mercenary in the Roman army, and found
it amongst the Roman archives. In it is stated that four thousand,
two hundred and ninety-one years after the creation the world
will be orphaned. Some o f the years following will be spent in
the war o f the great sea monsters, and some in the war o f Gog
and Magog, and the remaining will be the Messianic era, whilst
the Holy One, blessed be He, will renew his world only after
seven thousand years.’”
(Sanhedrin
97b)
Who was the mercenary and what was the scroll? It can be
conjectured that he was a Jewish soldier o f learning who was
acquainted with the contents o f the book. Apparently the book
contained some o f the writings o f those who calculated the end,
whose numbers had increased after the Bar Kokhba rebellion.
BOOKS OF BE ABEDON AND BE NITSREFE
The public polemics which the Church forced upon rabbis
in the Middle Ages are well known. The books o f Be Abidan
thrust us into such polemics already in the early generations
o f Christianity. The mishnah states:
“Any o f the Holy Scriptures may be saved from burning.”
(Shabbat
16a)
“R. Joseph b. Hanina asked R. Abbahu: As for the books o f
Be Abedan, may we save them from a fire or not? Yes and no,
and he was uncertain about the matter.”
(Shabbat
116a)
The sages tried to refrain from taking part in any polemics:
“The emperor asked R. Joshua b. Hanania, ‘Why did you not
attend the Be Abedan?”
(Shabbat
152a)