Elisha ben Abuyah

Born in Jerusalem about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, Elisha ben Abuyah was a brilliant Pharasaic scholar whose lasting influence on Jewish life is well represented in both the Mishnah and Talmud.  By all accounts he gave up on his Judaism and was removed by the Pharisees from their midst. Despite this, his teachings lived on. He was provided the pseudonym Aher, the other one, by his former colleagues. According to tradition, when the term aherim omrim (others say) appears in a talmudic discussion, it is to introduce the teaching of Elisha ben Abuyah.  After his apostasy it is unclear what belief system he embraced.  Different scholars argue that he became a Gnostic, Christian or Sadducee.  By all accounts it is clear that he had a deep knowledge of the Greek language and culture. Despite his apostasy, interchanges with his former student Rabbi Meir make it clear that Elisha still maintained respect for the practices of the rabbinic tradition. A selection of documents drawn from his life experiences follows.


Elisha ben Abuyah and Rabbi Meir

Gnostic Creation Midrash

Four Entered the Pardes

Where is Long Life?

Two Thrones in Heaven