MIN

MIN (Heb. מִין, pl. מִינִים, minim; "heretic," "sectarian"). The term min for which no truly convincing etymology has yet been found (see talmudic dictionaries ; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 3 (1930), 68f.; S. Krauss, Griechische und Lateinische Lehnwoerter, 1 (1898), introd. 15, n. 2, etc.), occurs frequently in rabbinic literature, though in the printed texts, due to the censors, the terms ẓedoki and kuti ("Samaritan") have often been substituted. The term was widely applied to cover many different types of "heretics" or sectarians. From some halakhic definitions in the Talmud, it would appear the min was used to refer only to a Jewish sectarian (Ḥul. 13b; cf. Tosef., Shab. 13:5). Thus, for example, Horayot 11a states that a Jew who eats forbidden fat in a flaunting and defiant manner or (according to another opinion) worships idols is a min. The minim who ridiculed aggadic descriptions given by the rabbis (Git. 57a; BB 75a) were probably Jewish. However, there is also abundant evidence to show that the term was applied to non-Jews as well, as in Pesaḥim 87b where a Roman nationalist is called a min (see Ḥul . 13b; see also S. Lieberman , Greek in Jewish Palestine (1942), 141, n. 196; idem, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), 135, n. 69). Any attempt to identify minim with one single sectarian group is thus doomed to failure. H. Hirschberg's discussion (in JBL, 67 (1948), 305–18) in which he defends his own earlier thesis that in talmudic literature the term denotes Pauline Christians is a case in point, since at various historical periods, the word min was applied to different kinds of "heretics." Thus the min who according to (the printed editions of) Leviticus Rabbah 13:5 upbraided Alexander the Great for standing up before Simeon the Just was probably a Samaritan, or even a member of Alexander's own retinue (cf. Mss. readings in M. Margalioth ed., 2 (1954), 294). The minim mentioned in Berakhot 9:5 (variant Sadducee, JQR, 6 (1915–16), 314, n. 86) who taught that there was but one world and who apparently had considerable influence in the Temple were undoubtedly Sadducees, who among other things, as is well-known, denied the existence of an afterlife. According to Johanan, the people of Israel did not go into exile until they had become 24 different groups of minim (TJ, Sanh. 10:6, 29c), i.e., Jewish schismatics. Johanan was probably referring to the situation in his own time, when there appears to have been a proliferation of Jewish schismatic groups, and there were numerous minim in most Galilean towns, with reference to whom the verse (Ps. 14:1) could be cited, "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God" (Sif. Deut. 320). Sometimes the term min may apply to more than one kind of sectarian even within one text. Thus, in Ḥullin 87a, two minim are mentioned: The first puts forward a proof (from a biblical verse) for the existence of two deities, and was therefore in all probability either a heathen Christian (believing in God the Father and God the Son) or a Gnostic; but the second min was invited by Rabbi (Judah ha-Nasi) to pronounce the blessing over food, and must therefore have been a Jew. Minim appear as wonder-workers (TJ, Sanh. 7:19, 25d), but again it is not clear whether they were Gnostics (Ebionites?) or (Judeo-) Christians, such as the well-known Jacob of Kefar Sekhanya (fl. c. 80–110), the wonder healer (Av. Zar. 17a, 27b; Tosef., Ḥul. 2:22, 24; et al.). In some passages, however, it is fairly certain that Gnostics are being referred to. Thus, the minim who (according to Tanh. B., Num. 30, 41) believe that God does not revive the dead nor receive penitents, etc., were probably Marcionite Gnostics (A. Buechler, Studies in Jewish History (1956), 271). Similarly, those of Megillah 29b were, according to Lieberman, Gnostics believing in the demiurge (S. Lieberman, in Biblical and Other Studies, ed. by A. Altmann (1963), 140f.). However, it is very often difficult to know for certain whether heathen Christians or Gnostics are meant (e.g., Sanh. 4:5 and Gen. R. 8:8, where the plurality of gods may be either a Gnostic or a Christian notion; see scholem , Mysticism, 359, n. 24). Now, though it is true that the term min had a wide and ambiguous range of application, and that consequently in individual passages it is generally difficult to pinpoint exactly the schismatic group to which a min belongs, nonetheless, it is possible to distinguish historically two semantic phases in the use of the term. Thus according to Buechler (op. cit., 247, 271 etc.), until the early second century C.E. "it denoted heretic Jews," whereas "in Galilee in the second and third centuries min denoted in the first instance non-Jewish sectaries… Bible-reading heathens who oppose Judaism and its basic doctrines, antinomian Gnostics, or, in a few cases, heathen Christians who agree with them." According to Berakhot 28b, Samuel ha-Katan (fl. c. 80–110), at the invitation of Gamaliel II of Jabneh, composed the "benediction against the minim," included in the Amidah as   the twelfth benediction (see E.J. Bickerman , in HTR, 55 (1962), 171, n. 35). This was directed primarily against Judeo-Christians (specifically mentioned in one old text – see schechter , JQR 10 (1897/98), either to keep them out of the synagogue or to proclaim a definite breach between the two religions. This undoubtedly "represented the formal recognition by official Judaism of the severance of all ties between the Christian and other schismatic bodies, and the national body of Judaism" (Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), 135, 381, n. 8, incl. bibl.). This severance of the minim from the national body of Judaism had obvious halakhic implications. Thus, meat slaughtered by a min was forbidden to a Jew (Ḥul. 13a). Likewise Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot written by him are barred from use (Git. 45b; cf. Tosef., Ḥul. 2:20). For Maimonides' five-fold classification of minim see mishneh torah , Teshuvah, 3:7. On the books of the minim, see sifrei ha-minim . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Buechler, Studies in Jewish History (1956), 245–74; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 3 (1930), 68f.; H. Hirschberg, in: JBL, 62 (1943), 73–87; 67 (1948), 305–18; Neusner, Babylonia, 3 (1968), 12–16; Allon, Meḥkarim, 1 (1957), 203–5. (Daniel Sperber)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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