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ELISHA BEN ABUYAH (ca. 80-150 C.E.).

Scholar and teacher of the Law. Though he was one of the most learned men of his time, Jewish tradition regards him as a traitor and apostate. He was the son of a wealthy Jerusalem family, and excelled early in both secular and rabbinic learning. He lectured at the academies of Jerusalem and was a close friend of Rabbi Akiva, as well as teacher and friend of Rabbi Meir. He is said to have turned to Greek mysticism and to have informed on his fellow-Jews to the Romans. Because of this reprehensible act his name is scarcely ever mentioned in the Talmud, all his sayings being attributed to Aher, “the other.” Modern scholars believe that he was a Sadducee rather than a convert to a gentile religion. This, they feel, would have been sufficient ground for his excommunication by the dominant Pharisee faction, which demanded complete conformity during a period when the Jewish people were struggling for spiritual survival.

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