Birkat haMinim

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The Birkat ha-Minim (Hebrew ברכת המינים "Blessing on the heretics") is a Jewish prayer of blessing on heretics in general, and sometimes Christians, though in this context "blessing" may also be a euphemism for a curse. The blessing is the 12th of the Eighteen Benedictions or Amidah.[1]

The writing of the benediction is attributed to Shmuel ha-Katan at the supposed Council of Jamnia which was inserted in the "Eighteen Benedictions" as the 19th blessing in the silent prayer to be said thrice daily, the Amidah. The benediction is thus seen as related to the Pharisees, the Development of the Hebrew Bible canon, the split of early Christianity and Judaism as heresy in Judaism, the origins of Rabbinic Judaism, Origins of Christianity, Christianity in the 1st century, and history of early Christianity.

According to one theory, the Blessing was useful as a tool for outing minim ("heretics"), because no min would recite aloud or reply amen to it, as it was a curse upon minim.[2]


According to the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Berakhot 28b–29a, Shmuel ha-Katan was responsible for the writing of the Birkat haMinim:

"Rabban Gamaliel said to the sages: Is there no one who knows how to compose a benediction against the minim? Samuel Ha-Qatan stood up and composed it."[3]

The blessing exists in various forms.[4][5] Two medieval Cairo Genizah copies include references to both Minim and Notzrim ("Nazarenes", i.e. "Christians").[6][7][8]

"For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim and the minim be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant" (Schechter)."[9]

The extent of reference to Notzrim, or application of Minim to Christians is debated.[10]

In his analysis of various scholarly views on the Birkat haMinim, Pieter W. van der Horst sums up,

"It is certain that minim in Tannaitic times are always Jews... It is certain that notsrim was not a part of the earliest version(s) of our berakhah."[11]

Identification of Minim[edit]

Main article: Minuth

The extent of the minim included by the birkat is debated.[12] During the medieval period, whether the birkat had historically included Christians or not was the subject of disputations, a potential cause for persecution and thus a matter relevant for the safety of Jewish communities.[13] It is generally viewed in modern studies that the term "heretics" at an early point in the split between Christianity and Judaism had included Jewish Christians.[14][15][16][17] It was David Flusser's view (1992) that the Birkat haMinim was added in reference to the Sadducees.[18]

Many scholars have seen reference to the Birkat haMinim in Justin Martyr's complaint to Trypho of the Jews "cursing in your synagogues those that believe on Christ." Reuven Kimelman (1981) challenged this, noting that Justin's description places the curse in the wrong sequence in the synagogue service.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pieter Willem van der Horst, Hellenism, Judaism, Christianity: essays on their interaction, Kok Pharos: 1998, Page 113 ".. who humblest the insolent" (Palestinian recension) The 12th berakhah in the Jewish Shemoneh Esreh (Eighteen [benedictions]) is usually called the Birkat ha-minim 'the blessing of the heretics', which is a euphemism for a curse"
  2. ^
  3. ^ Translation supplied from Steven T. Katz, "Issues in the Separation of Judaism and Christianity after 70 C.E.: A Reconsideration", in Journal of Biblical Literature, 103/1, p.64
  4. ^ Ruth Langer, “The Earliest Texts of the Birkat Haminim”, with Uri Ehrlich, forthcoming in Hebrew Union College Annual 77.
  5. ^ Pieter Willem van der Horst, Selected works: The Birkat Ha-minim in Recent Research. T. & T. Clark, 1994. "Aspects of Religious Contact and Conflict in the Ancient World."
  6. ^ Yaakov Y. Teppler, Birkat haMinim: Jews and Christians in conflict in the ancient world, Mohr Siebeck: 2007 - p.56 "Thus Krauss speaks on the one hand of notzrim and on the other of minim, and his two pleas do not really hold up side by ... 207 Rashi on BT Megillah 17b: "The minim are disciples of Jesus the Notzri which is why they put Birkat haMinim ..."
  7. ^ Marvin R. Wilson, Our father Abraham: Jewish roots of the Christian Faith, Wm. B. Eerdmans: 1989, p.68 "We must emphasize that only two texts of the Birkat ha-Minim (both found in the Cairo Genizah) explicitly mention Christians. Both texts refer to "the Christians [notzrim, ie, the Nazarenes] and the heretics / minim]. "
  8. ^ William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, Steven T. Katz (eds.) The Cambridge History of Judaism: The late Roman-Rabbinic period 2006, p.291 "He (Gedaliah Alon) proposes that the original Yavnean version of the Birkat ha-Minim, following the medieval Genizah fragment, included both minim and 'Nazarenes,' and that 'in this liturgical fragment minim and Notzrim are synonymous, ie, that both refer to the Jewish Christians.' But Alon's 'assumption' about the form of the original version is unconvincing, and this not least because, if the terms minim and Notzrim are synonymous, there would be no need for both of them in the benediction. Thus, as already argued, it appears more reasonable to suspect that Notzrim was added to a pre-existing malediction after the period of Yavneh – and most likely after the Bar Kochba Revolt (or later)"
  9. ^
  10. ^ Antti Marjanen, Petri Luomanen, A Companion to Second-Century Christian "Heretics", 2008 p.283 "59–61, in contrast to R. Kimelman, "Birkat ha-Minim and the Lack of Evidence for Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity," in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, II: Aspects of Judaism in the Greco-Roman Period, ed. E. P. Sanders, A. I. Baumgarten, and A. Mendelson, London, 1981, 226-244.
  11. ^ Pieter Willem van der Horst, "The Birkat ha-minim in Recent Research", in The Expository Times, 1994, p.367
  12. ^ William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, Steven T. Katz (eds.) The Cambridge History of Judaism: The late Roman-Rabbinic period, p.291-292
  13. ^ Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in ... (2008), p.116.
  14. ^ From the back cover of Yaakov Y. Teppler, Birkat haMinim: Jews and Christians in conflict in the ancient world, 2007, "Yaakov Y. Teppler studies the identity of those Minim and lays a firm foundation for understanding the processes of separation between Judaism and Christianity in this stormy and fascinating period."
  15. ^ James D. G. Dunn, Jews and Christians: the parting of the ways, A.D. 70 to 135, 1992
  16. ^ Edward Kessler, An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations, 2010
  17. ^ Pieter Willem van der Horst, Hellenism, Judaism, Christianity: essays on their interaction, 1998
  18. ^ Doris Lambers-Petry; Peter J. Tomson, (eds.) The image of the Judaeo-Christians in ancient Jewish and Christian literature, 2003, chapter 'The War Against Rome', p.15 "... who unearthed the conceptual background of the birkat ha-minim. In his analysis, the material of the berakha basically dates from temple times, when it was directed against such 'separatists' (perushim or porshim) as Sadducees who ..."
  19. ^ Ora Limor, Guy G. Stroumsa (eds.), Contra Iudaeos: ancient and medieval polemics between Christians and Jews, 1996, p.31 "Although this has been generally accepted, R. Kimelman recently challenged the view that Justin's mention of a curse has to do with the 12th benediction: "Birkat Ha-Minim and the Lack of Evidence for an Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity" in EP Sanders et al., eds., Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, vol. 2: Aspects of Judaism in the Greco-Roman Period, London, 1981, "... But it is not as clear whether one may take Justin's words in a too narrow sense"