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I believe we need to address the following question: to what extent where the rulings of the Geonim followed by most communities of the time? Put in another way - to what extent where the Geonim marginal? If there was such a situation, what caused it to change? What were the effects of the spread of Islam on the eventual hegemony of Rabbinic Judaism, such as we know it?

Hasdrubal 08:12, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)


The second paragraph is word-for-word from the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906.

There's a link to the JE at the bottom of this page. But doesn't this still count as plagiarism without an explicit cite?

Lawrence King 06:41, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The Jewish Encyclopedia is public domain. Jayjg (talk) 16:59, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Conflicting dates[edit]

Paragraph One says the Geonim were active from 650 to 1250 CE.

Paragraph Two gives two start dates (589 and 609) which seem to conflict, and then two ending dates for different dynasties, both in the 1030's.

Some of these dates are errors. Or perhaps they refer to different "dynasties" of Geonim? Can anyone clarify this?

Lawrence King 06:54, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Encyclopedia Brittanica says c. 640-1038. I've put a message on the Talk: page of the author of that section asking him for clarification. Jayjg (talk) 17:13, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC) says: "the period of the Geonim may be said to begin with the year 589, when Mar Rab Ḥanan of Isḳiya became gaon of Pumbedita. The first gaon of Sura, according to Sherira, was Mar Rab Mar, who assumed office in 609. The last gaon of Sura was Samuel b. Ḥofni, who died in 1034; the last gaon of Pumbedita was Hai, who died in 1038; hence the activity of the Geonim covers a period of nearly 450 years."

We should thus write 589 to 1038 or loosely c. 600 to 1038...

Fintor 13:09, 31 May 2005 (UTC)

I just noticed this too...the 1st paragraph stills says 650–1250 which seems way off (1038 with death of Hai is generally considered the end - start date is more flexible - say c. 600? As a newbie, I am reluctant to jump in and change - is there a general standard/protocol for fixing small (and apparently indisputed) errors like this? YKahn 17:34, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)

YKahn: Be bold and fix those errors. If someone disagrees, he/she will probably tell you. Don't be too careful; exceptions to this rule are intensely contested topics such as The Holocaust and Yasser Arafat. JFW | T@lk 18:24, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)
The 1250 date is probably correct in that it refers to how long the schools stood. The 1038 date refers to the death of Rav Hai Gaon, and the end of centricity to Halakha in Babylon. Perhaps there "era" and the "school" should be delineated better. Chacham 16:51, 22 Sep 2005 (UTC)

The term Gaon[edit]

"(Singular: Gaon [גאון] meaning "Genius" in Hebrew)". Gaon does not mean genius in Hebrew. The word [גאון] is used in Leviticus 26:19 and is translated by nearly every translation as "pride". (The "New Living Translation" used "arrogant spirit"). It is used colloquially as "genius" as in call someone a gaon is to call them your pride.

I do not have the source for this next statement, so perhaps it can be researched by someone who knows how to. The reason they were called "Geonim" was that they were the heads of the school called "Geon Ya'akov" (Pride of Jacob). Only the heads of the schools got this name, and this became the name of the era in Judaism. Once the era got the name, anybody who was a commentary in the era was called a "geon". Incorrect in origin, but correct in the final use. -- Chacham 16:51, 22 Sep 2005 (UTC)

The common translation is "genius", although I agree that the shoresh is related to that of gaavah. I was unaware of the existence of Ge'on Yaakov. I'm not sure if changes need to be made. JFW | T@lk 16:39, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
I do not think it is the common translation. Perhaps the opposite is true though, that when wanted to say genius people commonly use gaon. The word gaon is more common as a sage from the geonic period. If someone says "tell me something a geon says", it would be a joke to say a remark a "genius" made.
And even so, even if it was common today, it would have to be proven that this was true 1500 years ago when the term was in use, which it quite doubtful.
As for the school, i do not know the source (i heard it at a lecture). But if it is true, that would be the origin of the term, and not that they were called "geniuses". -- Chacham 20:18, 27 Sep 2005 (UTC)

I don't know what the *definitive* source for the original title of "rosh yeshivah, ge'on ya'akov" would be, but Salo Baron discusses it in Vol. V of his 'Social and Religious History of the Jews'. I would assume the origin of the title is known from early letters. The term Gaon did NOT originally mean "genius" and it's probable that it didn't come to mean that until after the Geonic period entirely.

islamic lands?[edit]

The article says that the Exilarch held sway in "islamic lands". Wasn't Babalonia islamic at the time? I don't understand the point of contrasting Geonim to Exilarch. 12:55, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

The Exilarch and the two Geonim functioned as a trio, each receiving income from a different part of Jewish-owned lands in Babylonia. So far as there was a difference, the Exilarch acted as a temporal sovereign (on a small scale) while the Geonim were the religious authorities and gave legal rulings: it was a kind of Pope and Emperor relationship. Geographically, the Exilarch only had authority within the Islamic Caliphate. The rulings of the Geonim were primarily applicable within the Caliphate; but they were also respected (though not necessarily regarded as binding) in other countries. The article is therefore correct: it is not saying that the Exilarch had authority only within Islamic lands and the Geonim only outside them. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 10:00, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

reason for decline of academies[edit]

Ha'Aretz had an article reviewing a new book by Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum: "The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean: Climate Change and the Decline of the East, 950-1072" (Cambridge University Press, 2012) in which he apparently claims that a series of severe winters was responsible for the collapse:

"According to Ellenblum, this explains why the academies of Sura and Pumbedita − which operated in Baghdad at the time and were the most important centers for Jewish study in the east − ceased to exist in the late 1030s, and their closure brought an end to the period of the Geonim (heads of the academies). “Some have claimed that the academies in Baghdad lost their eminence gradually,” he says, “but not too many years earlier, the head of the Jerusalem academy sent his son to study at the academy of Baghdad.” In other words, the Babylonian academy was still in its prime a few years before it closed down."

(Article in Ha'Aretz online, 6 Oct 2012, Asaf Shtull-Trauring, "The Hunger Claims",

I haven't seen the book yet so am only quoting from the Ha'Aretz article, and not sure where to fit this in in the Wiki page (and I'd be reluctant to do so without reading the book first, rather than a review), but thought I'd bring it up on this Talk page.

BristolChris (talk) 19:35, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

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