Seder Olam Zutta

Seder Olam Zutta (Hebrew: סדר עולם זוטא) is an anonymous chronicle from 804 CE, called "Zuṭta" (= "smaller," or "younger") to distinguish it from the older Seder 'Olam Rabbah. This work is based upon, and to a certain extent completes and continues, the older chronicle. It consists of two main parts: the first, comprising about three-fifths of the whole, deals with the chronology of the 50 generations from Adam to Jehoiakim (who, according to this chronicle, was the father of the Babylonian exilarch), the second deals with 39 generations of exilarchs, beginning with Jehoiachin.

Genealogy of the Exilarchs

It is apparent that the object of this work was to show that the Babylonian exilarchs were direct descendants of David. After a short introduction, taken from the Seder 'Olam Rabbah, giving the general chronology from Adam to the destruction of the Second Temple—a period of 3,828 years—and stating the number of years which elapsed between the most important events, such as between the Flood and the confusion of tongues, etc., the chronology recommences with Adam. The Seder 'Olam Zuṭa is more complete at this point than the larger work, as it gives the duration of the generations between Adam and Abraham, which is lacking in the Seder 'Olam Rabbah. It gives also the lifetime of each of Jacob's twelve sons as recorded by tradition. Otherwise it merely enumerates the generations.

From David onward it gives the names of the high priests and prophets who lived in the time of each king. Thus, for instance, David had Abiathar as high priest, and Nathan and Gad as prophets; Solomon, who ascended the throne at the age of three, had Zadok for high priest, and Jonathan, Iddo, and Ahijah as prophets. In this way it completes the list of the high priests enumerated in 1 Chronicles 5:34 et seq. Shallum (verses 38-39) officiated in the time of Amon, and between the former and Azariah, who served in the time of Rehoboam, there were 12 high priests. But in I Chron. (l.c.) only five high priests are enumerated, whose names are not found at all among those given by the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa. The author of the work divided these 50 generations into five series, each of 10 generations, the last of each series being, respectively, Noah, Abraham, Boaz, Ahaziah, and Jehoiakim.

The Descendants of Jehoiachin

The second part of the work begins with the statement that Jehoiachin, who reigned only three months and ten days, was carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar (comp. 2 Kings 24:8; 2 Chronicles 36:9). He was afterward given high rank by Evil-merodach, thus becoming the first prince of the Captivity. Correcting the somewhat confused genealogical account of 1 Chronicles 3:17-19, the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa declares that Jehoiachin had four sons, the eldest of whom was Shealtiel, who succeeded his father.

It is worthwhile noting that, according to this chronicle, Darius conquered Babylon after it had been supreme for 70 years, beginning with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and 52 years after the destruction of the First Temple. Zerubbabel, Shealtiel's son, who departed for Jerusalem in the first year of the reign of Cyrus, returned to Babylon after the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt by Ezra, and succeeded his father in the exilarchate.

Then the chronicle enumerates the successive exilarchs, the account being in part taken from 1 Chronicles 3:16 et seq., but differing greatly from the text of the latter. In fact, the first, 13th, 16th, 18th, and 19th exilarchs (the last one being Shaphat, the father of Anan, whose lives extended over a period of more than 600 years, are mentioned in I Chron. (l.c.) not as immediate successors, but as related individuals, and in contemporaneous groups. Sometimes, too, the father in I Chronicles is the son in the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa.

With the deaths of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—more exactly, in the 52nd year of the Persian domination, or year 3442 of the creation—prophecy ceased and the period of the wise men ("ḥakamim") began. From Hananiah (Zerubbabel's grandson) onward every exilarch is indicated as having been guided by wise men. The names of the kings that reigned over Judea from Alexander the Great to Roman Palaestina during the destruction of the Second Temple are given. Like the Seder 'Olam Rabbah, this chronicle gives the reigns of the Maccabees and the Herods as covering 103 years each. It may be stated that the Herodian dynasty consisted, according to the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, of three kings only—Herod, Agrippa, and Monobaz; at the end of Monobaz's reign and during the time of the 11th exilarch, Shechaniah, the son of Shemaiah, the Romans destroyed the Temple. Further, from Nahum, the 17th exilarch, the names are given of the wise men, probably the chiefs of the academy, who assisted the exilarchs. With Rab Huna, 29th exilarch, the direct male line of descent from David terminated. The exilarchs following are stated to have been descendants of Rab Huna through his daughter, the wife of R. Hananiah, the head of the yeshibah, whose marriage is related at length.

After having stated that Mar-Zutra II, the 13th exilarch, was executed in the year 502 C.E., and that his posthumous son Mar-Zutra III betook himself, in the year 4280 of the Creation (= 520 C.E.), to Palaestina Prima, where he became chief of the Sanhedrin, the chronicle mentions eight succeeding exilarchs, the last one being Rab Ḥaẓub, son of Rab Phinehas. Apart from certain misstatements, this part contains many authenticated facts, and is therefore considered by modern scholars as a document of historical value. It may be seen that the lives of 31 exilarchs covered a period of more than 900 years, averaging three exilarchs to a century. This might help to determine the time at which the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa was written, for the 39th exilarch, according to this estimate, would have lived at the end of the 8th century. The additions of the copyists, however, render this task difficult.

In a fragment of a chronicle published by A. Neubauer (M. J. C. i. 197) there is a sentence, regarding the reign of John Hyrcanus, which is found in the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa but is referred to the "Seder 'Olam de-Rabbanan." Lazarus (Brüll's Jahrb. x. 8) supposes that after "de-Rabbanan" the word "Sabura'e" should be inserted, as a chronicle under the title "Seder 'Olam de-Rabbanan Sabura'e" is mentioned by Baruch b. Isaac of Worms (Sefer ha-Terumah, Hilkot Abodah Zarah, § 135) and by Moses of Coucy (Sefer Miẓwot Gadol, ii. 866), in connection with the statement that the year 4564 (= 804 C.E.) was a Sabbatical year. This induced many modern scholars, as H. Grätz, Steinschneider, and Zunz, to identify the "Seder 'Olam Zuṭa" with the "Seder 'Olam de Rabbanan Sabura'e."

Time of redaction

As to the determination of the time of its redaction, there have existed many differences of opinion among authorities. Zunz observed that the sentence quoted by R. Baruch and Moses of Coucy with regard to the year 804 C.E. (see above) might be the author's colophon—omitted by the copyist—showing the time of composition. Zunz's opinion has since apparently been confirmed by a manuscript of the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa (Parma, De Rossi MSS., No. 541, 10, published by S. Schechter in Monatsschrift, xxxix. 23 et seq.) which lacks the introduction spoken of above, but has at the end the following sentence: "From Adam to this day, which is the eleventh day of Kislew of the Sabbatical year, 4,564 years have elapsed": this gives the year 804 C.E. However, a closer examination of the text seems to show that the enumeration of the eight exilarchs following Mar-Zutra III was added by two later hands—that of six by one, and that of two, Phinehas and Hazub, by another—and that the chronicle was composed in the first quarter of the 6th century.

For the editions and Latin translations of the Seder 'Olam Zuṭa, see Seder Olam Rabbah. It must be added that Abraham Zacuto inserted in his Yuḥasin the greater part of this chronicle, his text being more nearly correct than that of any other edition or manuscript. Zacuto's text was republished by A. Neubauer in his Mediæval Jewish Chronicles (ii. 67 et seq.), where the text of the Mantua edition also is given. The second part, dealing with the exilarchs, has been edited by Lazarus in Brüll's Jahrb. (x. 157 et seq.).

Recent scholarship ascribes authorship to the 10th-century Nathan HaBavli of Kairouan [1]:19


Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

In addition to the sources mentioned in the article:

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. 

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