Rabeina II "Sof hora'a" Rav Rav Huna Avina (רב אבינא בר רב הונא) - Conflicting genealogies for Ravina II

Started by Brian Pepper on Wednesday, January 27, 2021
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1/27/2021 at 12:37 PM

Rabeina II "Sof hora'a" Rav Rav Huna Avina (רב אבינא בר רב הונא) Ravina bar Huna HaKohen Ravina II, Last Rosh Yeshiva at Sura Last Rosh Yeshiva at Sura Huna bar Avin HaKohen Huna ben Nathan, Mar Huna IV, 24th Exilarch Zutra "the Pious" ben Kahana, 25th Exilarch Mar Zutra I

There seem to be several conflicts between these three genealogies for Ravina II, Rav Avina Bar Rav Huna. I would like to try to get to the bottom of this. Would any of you be willing to share your source material for these genealogies? Can we independently confirm any of these details?

In discussing these differences/conflicts, I will call them:

1. “Rabeina” (“Rabeina II ‘Sof hora’a’ Rav Rav Huna Avina” from Jaim David Harlow)
2. “Ravina HaKohen” (“Ravina bar Huna HaKohen” from Rabbi Shraga Kahana)
3. “Ravina” (“Ravina II, Last Rosh Yeshiva at Sura Last Rosh Yeshiva at Sura” from Kate Muir)

Some thoughts in the order they came to me:

A. The third, Ravina, has the problem that he is the son of Nahman who is the son of Huna IV. This is surprising, since he is supposed to be Rav Avina bar Rav Huna, and I cannot make sense of it.

B. The second, Ravina HaKohen, unlike the other two, identifies Ravina as a Kohen, and the son of Rav Huna bar Rav Avin HaKohen. The other two show him as the son or grandson of Huna IV, the exilarch; thus, he couldn’t possibly be a Kohen, since the exilarchs are from the trible of Judah. But then, it’s surprising that he would never be identified as “HaKohen” in sources, since his purported father is identified that way.

C. Also regarding the second, Ravina HaKohen, his purported father Huna Bar Avin HaKohen was Palestinian, not Babylonian. So wouldn’t he be Rav Avina bar RABBI Huna instead of Rav?

D. Regarding the first, Rabeina II, he is shown as the son of 24th exilarch Huna IV and “Wife #1 ben Nathan.” Meanwhile, Rabeina I is identified as 25th exilarch Zutra ben Kahana (Zutra "the Pious" ben Kahana, 25th Exilarch Mar Zutra I).

But the Talmud, in Ketubot 100b (https://www.sefaria.org/Ketubot.100b.18-19?lang=bi), states that Rabeina II was the son of Rabeina I’s sister, whom Rabeina I adopted after the death of his parents. So it is surprising that this genealogy does not show Rabeina I and the mother as siblings. Additionally, it shows Rabeina I as personally taking wine to Sikhra to sell and consulting Rav Ashi on the status of Rabeina II’s wine that he had inherited. But it seems fairly implausible that the SITTING EXILARCH personally took wine to the market to sell.

Additionally, I believe most consider Mar Zutra and Rabeina I to be different people.

E. Also regarding the first, Rabeina II’s father, 24th exilarch Huna IV, is shown as dying in 442… AFTER Rabeina I/Mar Zutra, the “25th exilarch,” who it shows as dying in 413. So this Rabeina I couldn’t possibly have adopted Rabeina II.

F. Also, regarding the first, Rabeina II is shown as marrying his paternal half-sister, Havah bat Mar Huna, in violation of Lev. 18:9. This seems implausible.

Please let me know your thoughts, and please share any source you have for the genealogy of these individuals.

Private User
1/28/2021 at 9:40 AM

Many thanks to Brian Pepper for raising this question. I am not a manager of any of these profiles. The primary questions seem to be a) whether the correct pedigree is Huna ben Nathan (Exliarch) or Huna ben Avin (HaCohen), and 2) whether the correct line of descent from Huna ben Nathan?/Avin? is to Rav David ben Rabeina II, Grandson of Exilarch Mar Huna IV or Huna bar Ravina HaKohen. Since it seems that the the tree of Rabeina #1 on the list was last revised several years ago, and the the tree of Ravina HaKohen #2 was added a few weeks ago, perhaps it would be easier for Shraga F kahana, Rabbi to source the pedigree of Ravinia HaKohen #2. Any guidance is much appreciated.

1/28/2021 at 9:42 AM


I salute your extremely well thought-out and reasoned query.

The Exilarch at the time of Rav Ashi was Huna bar Nathan, not Huna bar Avin. He was followed by Meriemar and Mar Zutra. (see Iggeret R' Shereira Gaon.) Ravina II was NOT a direct patrilineal descendant of this family, though he may have been through his maternal side (though as his mother was the sister of Ravina I, that would imply a connection that I have not found).

The name 'Huna' was extremely common at the time, particularly amongst the prominent families of the era. Thus, the Exilarch during the time of R' Yehuda HaNasi was Huna; the successor of Rav in Sura was Huna; and many others named Huna appear throughout the Talmud. I believe that '1' and '3' have conflated the Hunas of the Exilarch family with that of the priestly 'Ezra HaSofer' family, which likewise has many Hunas, including Huna bar Avin.

Turning to your specific questions on '2': I agree that Ravina II is not referred to as 'kohen' in the Talmud, to the best of my knowledge. However, that omission is not unique. In fact, it is rather unusual for any Amoraim to be referred to as kohen, other than 'en passant': for example, we only know that Abaye was a kohen because the Gemara cites his descent from Eli as a factor in his relatively short life span. Nevertheless, the fact is that if his father was a kohen, and his direct descendants were
kohanim, then he, too, was a kohen.

This would also, incidentally, explain why the 'completion of the Talmud' is credited to 'Ravina and Rav Ashi', though the 'Ravina' here (widely identified as Ravina II) was actually a generation AFTER Rav Ashi; since Ravina II was a kohen, his name would appear first (in a similar way to Abaye and Rava, though Rava was the elder of the 2, Abaye always comes first - Rava does not appear to have been a kohen, and the reference in the Gemara to the 'other' descendant of Eli, along with Abaye, was his uncle Rabba and not his friend Rava).

Finally, Huna bar Avin Hakohen was actually born and raised in Bavel, not Palestine. The Gemara does record the details of his ascent to Palestine from Bavel, but that does not necessarily mean that he received semicha there, and so the use of 'Rav' rather than 'Rabi' is appropriate. Furthermore, it is more than likely that he returned to Bavel after his reported trip to Palestine, since he passed away shortly after his son Ravina was born (alternatively, but less likely, his trip to Palestine took place after Ravina was conceived, but that presupposes that he left his pregnant wife or wife and young child behind, which is unlikely).

I hope this satisfactorily addresses your points, and I appreciate your interest in getting history right!

Shraga Kahana

1/28/2021 at 10:48 AM

Thank you very much for your reply, Shraga F kahana, Rabbi. I have two more questions for you:

1. Do you have a source for Huna bar Avin HaKohen being born in Bavel? I was going based on: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7933-huna-bar-abbin-ha-k...

2. Could you tell me more about the nature of your source for Ravina II being the son of Huna bar Avin HaKohen? Is this a family document/tradition, a midrashic source?

Thanks again.

Private User
1/28/2021 at 11:04 AM

This is to invite the curator of Rabeina (#1 of list) to view this discussion: Private User. Jaim David, are you able to provide any evidence indicating that Rabeina #1 is a direct patrilineal descendant of the Exilarch Huna ben Nathan? If it seems the fatner-son connection is not supported by evidence, but is just one of those glitches that happen on GENI from time to time, could you manage to adjust the tree accordingly? The easiest thing to do for now I suppose would be to rename him as an 'Unknown Son of Huna ben Nathan', edit the 'about' section accordingly, and thus keep the descending tree intact. This would involve the most minimal effort on everyone's part..

1/29/2021 at 7:51 AM

Good morning Brian!

In the Talmud Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 2:ii), R' Huna is quoted as saying 'when I arrived here (Palestine) from there (Bavel), I saw...
That R' Huna was a native of Bavel is also evident in that he often quotes R' Yosef who lived in Bavel and died in 320 (R' Huna was very young when he studied by R' Yosef, since R' Huna was born between 305 and 310).
R' HUna left Bavel shortly after the death of R' Yosef, though the exact year is not known. He remained there for about 40 years, before returning to Bavel, possibly after his Palestinian wife passed away. As was customary at the time of the Amoraim, he married again after his return to Bavel (it was considered forbidden for a man to remain single), whereupon he sired Ravina II in about 380, and passed away shortly thereafter.
Most of my information comes from 2 sefarim: 'Encyclopedia L'Tanaim V'Amoraim', and "Dorot HaTanaim V'Ha'Amoraim'. The former has more information on activities and accomplishments; the latter reports that he was the father of Ravina II.

I hope this helps.

Shabbat Shalom,


1/29/2021 at 12:13 PM

Thanks again, Shraga F kahana, Rabbi. I apologize, but I am having trouble identifying those specific books. Are any of these correct?


If not, could you please tell me the authors? The Hebrew spellings should be “אנציקלופדיה לתנאים ואמוראים” and “דורות התנאים והאמוראים”, correct?

Shabbat shalom.

2/2/2021 at 1:36 PM

Also 'Hatalmud V'Yoztrav' by Naftal; and 'Encyclopedia L'Chachmei HaTalmud V'Hagaonim' by Margolias.

For list of the Exilarchs, see iggeret rav shereira gaon. It is pretty evident that Ravina II was NOT from that family (though it is possible that his MATERNAL uncle, Ravina I, may have been).

R' Huna's father, Avin, died when he (Avin) was only 28 years old. He, too, had been born in bavel, and went to Teveria to study under R' Zeira. R' Huna did not know his father. Interestingly enough, his son, Ravina II, did not HIS father, either.

There is much about the era that is difficult to ascertain. In particular, the multitude of "Hunas" makes things very confusing. Furthermore, R' Huna ben Avin haKohen studied (at least in his youth) under R' Yosef (died in 320); since R' Yosef was considered a 3rd generation amora, R' Huna should have been a 4th; and if so, why would his son Ravina II be a 7th??? The answer, of course, is that 'generations' are fluid. R' Huna would have been a very YOUNG 4th gen, and any children he had when he was still young (under 30 +/- would indeed have been 5th gen. However, R' Huna married a second time, when he was much older, on his return to Bavel (he was forced to flee Palestine by government oppression); his child from THAT union would indeed have been a late 6th or early 7th gen - which is precisely what Ravina II was. There is evidence in the Talmud of conversation between R' Huna and R' Ashi, though R' Huna almost certainly was old at that time, and died shortly thereafter.

One can NOT be 100% of these facts. It is possible that the R' Huna who studied under R' Yosef was NOT the same as the R' Huna who spoke to R' Ashi. I concede that the 'generational issue' has led some to conclude that is the case. In fact, I found one source that there were actually TWO generations between R' Huna bar Avin and Ravina II - specifically, that R' Huna had a 5th gen son Avin, who had a 6th gen son Huna, who had the 7th gen son Ravina II. Personally, though, I do not like the 'Huna ben Avin ben Huna ben Avin' scenario. As happens most often (though admittedly not always) in those cases, it is a mistaken result of people reading too much into the 'generational' issue. The explanation that R' Huna was very old when he sired Ravina II is much more satisfactory and, in my opinion, likely.

There is no question that the Exilarch family had many 'Hunas'. That does not, though, mean that all Hunas are from that family. There is certainly no evidence whatsoever connecting Ravina II to the Exilarch family other than his father's name 'Huna'. R' Huna bar Avin, on the other hand, was most assuredly a kohen, and he is referred to as such at times in the Yerushalmi.

B' hatzlacha,


7/6/2021 at 1:48 PM

So just to be clear, Shraga F kahana, Rabbi what role did this profile (6000000169611503409, Ravina Hakohen) play in the authorship/compilation of the Talmud? Is this profile the famous co-author with rav ashi? How is this profile referred to in the Talmud? A small list of sample places where he is mentored would be appreciated but not necessary.

7/6/2021 at 1:51 PM

Said differently, was Ravina HaKohen or Rabeina II the co-author?

Private User
7/6/2021 at 5:07 PM

Shmuli Sternbach

This is quoted from the 'About' section of the profile you mention (Ravina bar Huna HaKohen):

"Ravina, known as Ravina 'the latter', was the nephew of Ravina the partner of rav Ashi. His mother, the sister of the elder Ravina, died while he was very young, and he was raised by his Uncle Ravina.

The younger Ravina is considered to be the last Amora in the Gemara.

He succeeded Rabbah Tosfa'a as Dean of the Sura academy in 474. Conflcting sources place his death in either 475 or 500, though the former seems more likely."

7/6/2021 at 7:10 PM

The problem is that the profile of Rabeina II also says "Ravina the latter (האחרון)", so which one was the true "Ravina the latter", and was "the latter" the co-author?

Private User
7/7/2021 at 4:46 AM

I can see the confusion. Appears to indicate the uncle was the partner of Rav Ashi. So if you can determine from this tree which was the uncle and which the nephew you should have your answer.

7/7/2021 at 8:55 AM

I believe that there only were 2 amoraim named Ravina at the relevant time (there were others, but they were a few generations earlier). They are distinguished by referring to the elder as 'Ravina', 'Ravina I', or "Ravina the elder'. The younger is referred to as 'Ravina II', 'Ravina bar Huna', or 'Ravina sof hora'a'. The elder Ravina was the uncle (mother's brother) of the younger Ravina, and he helped raise his nephew after the death of Huna, the brother-in-law of the elder Ravina who was the father of the younger Ravina. The younger Ravina was a kohain; the elder Ravina was not.
Whenever there is a discussion or disagreement in the talmud between R' Ashi and Ravina, the intent is to the ELDER Ravina. The elder Ravina was a contemporary, a friend, and a peer to R' Ashi. The younger Ravina was a student and not a peer of R' Ashi, and his primary teacher was his uncle, Ravina the elder - R' Ashi's friend.
When we find reference to 'Ravina sof hora'a', though, the intent is the YOUNGER Ravina, not the elder. This is because Ravina the younger is considered to be the last of the amoraim, and it was he who 'finished' the talmud that was arranged by his uncle's partner R' Ashi (that is not technically correct, since some of the talmud was further edited by the rabbanan savorai, but that is a different story). The ELDER Ravina, though a peer to R' Ashi who may have assisted in the task of compiling the talmud, is NOT the 'Ravina' who 'completed' the talmud after R' Ashi passed away; it was the YOUNGER Ravina who is credited with the 'completion' of the talmud, and he was the last head of the Sura Academy (at least for a while; it was later reestablished).
Now that the actual history is out of the way:
'Ravina I', Rabeina I', Ravina II', etc. are just titles given by different sources. If a given profile reflects the above information - that part of the profile is accurate. If it claims that the younger Ravina is the son of the exilarch - it is an error. If it claims that the father of the younger ravina was Nachman - it is an error.
I hope this clears up some of the ambiguity. If I just caused more confusion: my apologies.

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