Jewish rabbi, said to have lived in Jerusalem in the time of the Second Temple, and to have devoted himself to the study of the law when somewhat advanced in years. After the destruction of Jerusalem he retired to the neighborhood of Jaffa and also undertook extensive travels. He was executed during the Jewish insurrection under Hadrian (c. 133); but there is no proof that he was active in the revolt, or took any part in it except to recognize Bar-Kokba as the Messiah (in accordance with Num. xxiv. 17). Jewish tradition assigns as the cause of his death, that he taught the law when it was forbidden to do so.
Many sayings are transmitted in Akiba's name. He defended the sacred character of the Song of Songs. which he interpreted allegorically (cf. F. Buhl, Kanon and Text, Leipsic, 1891, pp. 28-29; E. König, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, Bonn, 1893, p.450). He paid special attention to the development of the traditional law; a Mishnah is known under his name; and to his school no doubt belong the fundamental elements of the present Mishnah. His exegetical method found meaning even in the particles and letters of the law (cf. M. Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud, Cincinnati, 1894, pp. 125-126, 182-185; H. L. Strack, Einleitung in den Thalmud, Leipsic, 1894, pp. 100-104). The Greek translation of the Old Testament by Aquila (said to have been Akiba's pupil) seems to have been influenced by such an exegesis (Buhl, Kanon and Text, pp. 152-155). The midrashic works Siphra on Leviticus, and Siphre on Deuteronomy, contain much material from Akiba's school.