Fandom

Religion Wiki

Yeshu

34,278pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share

Ad blocker interference detected!


Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.

This article is about the character in Jewish literature. See Yeshua (name) for the similar sounding Hebrew name.

Yeshu (ישו in Hebrew) is a name that appears in a few anecdotes in the Tosefta and the Babylonian Talmud, and later as the name of the central character of the Toledot Yeshu narratives. The accounts in the Tosefta and Talmud take place in different historical periods (see below). A tradition outside mainstream Judaism first seen in the writings of Celsus regarded at least one of the accounts as a reference to Jesus and the Church would later claim that the accounts were derogatory remarks directed at Jesus. Many modern liberal scholars view at least some of them as references to Jesus, albeit spurious references.[1] With one exception, traditional mainstream Jewish commentators throughout the centuries rejected the view that the term referred to Jesus. Whatever the case may be, in the medieval Toledot Yeshu narratives, "Yeshu" would have been understood[who?] to be Jesus despite being misplaced in history by the stories. The term was revived in the 20th century as a name for Jesus in modern Israeli Hebrew.

Disputed early occurrences

Letters spelling out the term were found on the first century CE ossuary of a certain Yeshua bar Yehoseph, published by E.L. Sukenik in 1931. Although Sukenik considered the possibility that this was the same as the term in the Talmud, the letters instead appear to be those of the name Yeshua with the final letter ayin having been left out due to lack of space between the decorations between which it was inscribed. The fully spelled out name Yeshua and the patronymic are also found on the ossuary.[2][3]

The letters of the term have also been found in a fragment of the Jerusalem Talmud from the Cairo Genizah, a depository for holy texts which are not usable due to age, damage or errors. The fragment seemingly mentions a Rabbi Yeshu. David Flusser takes this as evidence of the term being a name[4], however the standard text of the Jerusalem Talmud refers to one of the numerous Rabbi Yehoshuas of the Talmud and moreover the fragment has the latter name at other points in the text.[3][5]

Talmud and Tosefta

The earliest undisputed occurrences of the term Yeshu are found in five very brief anecdotes in the Babylonian Talmud (c 500 CE) and Tosefta (c 200 CE). The Talmud and Tosefta are works on Jewish law and brief historical anecdotes such as these occur solely to illustrate particular points under discussion. All later usages of the term Yeshu are derived from these primary references. The text of the Jerusalem Talmud does not mention the name although it is found added as a secondary marginal gloss to the Leiden manuscript (13th century) by an unknown glossator.

Occurrences

  • Yeshu ben Pandera, cited as the teacher of a second century CE heretic (Chullin 2:22-24, Avodah Zarah 16b-17a)
  • A sorcerer who had been stoned on the eve of one Passover during a time when the region was ruled as a kingdom. (Sanhedrin 43a)
  • An example of a "son who burns his food in public" (Sanhedrin 103a, Berakhot 17b) identified as Manasseh of Judah son of Hezekiah in the passages as well as in a corresponding account in the Shulchan Arukh.
  • An idolatrous former student of the early first century BCE rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachiah. (Sanhedrin 107b).
  • The spirit of a foreign enemy of Israel summoned by Onkelos (Gittin 56b, 57a)

Interpretations of the term

The Tannaim and Amoraim who recorded the accounts in the Talmud and Tosefta use the term Yeshu as a designation in Sanhedrin 103a and Berakhot 17b in place of King Manasseh's real name. Sanhedrin 107b uses it for a Hasmonean era individual who in an earlier account (Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah 2:2) is anonymous. In Gittin 56b, 57a it is used for one of three foreign enemies of Israel, the other two being from past and present with Yeshu representing a third not identified with any past or present event. No explicit explanation is given for the term. The earlist explicit explanation comes instead from the mediaeval Toldoth Yeshu narratives which explain it as an acronym for the curse formula yimmach shemo vezikhro meaning "may his name and memory be obliterated" used for enemies of the Jewish people.

Celsus

A long tradition of interpreting the term as a reference to Jesus exists outside normative Jewish commentary. This interpretation is first seen in the writing of Celsus who provided an account of Jesus which he claimed he obtained from a Jew. In this account Jesus is said to be the illegitimate child of Mary and a soldier named Panthera. The Jewish tale that Celsus refers to is recognized as relating to Yeshu ben Pandera mentioned in the Tosefta [6], where Celsus understood Yeshu to mean Jesus and Pandera to be the name Panthera. (Celsus wrote in the late second century CE before the final redaction of the Talmud and Tosefta but well after origins of the account during the time of Eliezer ben Hurcanus.) The Talmud itself does not make any such equation and indeed places Yeshu ben Pandera in the mid second century CE. Celsus' account additionally draws from the story of the heretic ben-Stada from Shabbat 104b and Sanhedrin 67a who as part of a hermeneutical debate is suggested to be the illegitimate son of a woman Miriam the braider and someone named Pandera. No equation is made in the Talmud or Tosefta between this Pandera and that of the Yeshu ben Pandera account and indeed the term may be a generic insult [7], yet Celsus understood them to be the same. Similarly, despite "Miriam the braider" being used as a placeholder name (Chagigah 4b), Celsus understood it as a reference to Mary and refers to her as a "spinner". The detail of the lover being a soldier is drawn from the story of Miriam the daughter of Bilgah (Sukkah 70b) who in the Talmud is neither connected to Miriam the braider nor to Mary.

Medieval legend

The medieval Toldoth Yeshu narratives (which are not part of normative Jewish commentary or tradition) make similar equations: Their basic plot outline of a sorcerer concealing magic in a cut in his flesh derives from ben-Stada who as in Celsus account has been equated with Yeshu ben Pandera. The Toldoth Yeshu further place the events during the time of Shimon ben Shetach of the Hasmonean era thus additionally equating this Yeshu with the student of Yehoshuah ben Perachiah, an equation contradicted by the Talmudic placement of events. Many details draw from material common to the Gospel accounts of Jesus thus implying that Yeshu is identical to Jesus and compounding the chronological inconsistency even further. Still other details draw from material common to the account of Simon Magus in the Acts of Peter.

Early Jewish commentators (Rishonim)

These accounts of Celsus and the Toldoth Yeshu do not form part of mainstream Jewish interpretation. The only mainstream Jewish commentator to equate Yeshu with Jesus was the Rishon (early commentator) Abraham Ibn Daud (12th century) who held the view that the Jesus of Christianity had been derived from the figure of Yeshu the student of ben Perachiah. Ibn Daud was nevertheless aware that such an equation contradicted known chronology but argued that that the Gospel accounts were in error.[8].

Other Rishonim, namely Rabbi Jacob ben Meir (Rabbeinu Tam) (12th century), Nahmanides (13th century) and Jehiel ben Joseph of Paris (13th century)[9] explicitly repudiated the equation of the Yeshu of the Talmud and Jesus. Menachem Meiri (13th century) observed that the epithet Ha-Notzri attached to Yeshu in many instances was a late gloss.

The Church

The 13th century friar Raymond Martini in his anti-Jewish polemical treatise Pugio Fide began an accusation echoed in numerous subsequent anti-Jewish pamphlets that the Yeshu passages were derogatory accounts of Jesus.[10]

In 1554 a papal bull ordered the removal of all references from the Talmud and other Jewish texts deemed offensive and blasphemous to Christians. Thus theYeshu passages were removed from subsequently published editions of the Talmud and Tosefta.[11] Nevertheless several church writers would refer to the passages as evidence of Jesus outside the Gospels.

Later Jewish commentators (Acharonim)

Jehiel Heilprin (17th century) held that Yeshu the student of Yehoshua ben Perachiah was not Jesus.[12] Jacob Emden's writings (18th century) also show an understanding that the Yeshu of the Talmud was not Jesus. More recently Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz,[13] author of a prominent new Talmud commentary, holds that Yeshu is not a reference to the Christian Jesus.

Theosophists and esotericists

The interpretation of Yeshu as a proto-Jesus first seen in Abraham ibn Daud's work would be revisited by Egyptologist Gerald Massey in his essay The historical Jesus and Mythical Christ (1886)[14] and by G.R.S. Mead in his work Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.? (1903)[15]. The same view was reiterated by Rabbi Avraham Korman (1927) [16]. These views reflect the theosophical stance and criticism of tradition popular at the time but was rejected by later scholars. It has been revived in recent times by Alvar Ellegård.[17]

Critical scholarship

Modern liberal scholars debate whether Yeshu does or does not refer to the historical Jesus. Thiessen and Merz draw on Dalman (1893), Maier (1982), and Thoma (1990) in reaching this conclusion.[18] a view seen in several 20th century encyclopedia articles including The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906)[19], Joseph Dan in the Encyclopedia Judaica (1972, 1997).[20] and the Encyclopedia Hebraica (Israel). The early 20th century Christian historian R. Travers Herford, author of Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (1903) based his work on the understanding that the term refers to Jesus.[6] It was also the understanding of Joseph Klausner,[21] a Jewish scholar of early Christian history. They agree that the accounts offer little independent or accurate historical evidence about Jesus.[22] Herford argues that writers of the Talmud and Tosefta had only vague knowledge of Jesus and embellished the accounts to discredit him while disregarding chronology. Klausner distinguishes between core material in the accounts which he argues are not about Jesus and the references to "Yeshu" which he sees as additions spuriously associating the accounts with Jesus. Recent scholars in the same vein include Peter Schäfer a Professor of Judaic Studies at Princeton University[10], Steven Bayme the American Jewish Committee’s director of Contemporary Jewish Life, and Dr. David Kraemer, professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Recently, some scholars have argued that Yeshu is a literary device, and that the Yeshu stories provide a more complex view of early Rabbinic-Christian interactions. Whereas the Pharisees were one sect among several others in the Second Temple era, the Amoraim and Tannaim sought to establish Rabbinic Judaism as the normative form of Judaism. Like the Rabbis, early Christians claimed to be working within Biblical traditions to provide new interpretations of Jewish laws and values. The sometimes blurry boundary between the Rabbis and early Christians provided an important site for distinguishing between legitimate debate and heresy. Scholars like Rabbi Jeffrey Rubenstein (PhD. in Religion from Columbia University; professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University) and Dr. Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmud at the University of California, Berkeley, argue that it was through the Yeshu narratives that Rabbis confronted this blurry boundary.

Jeffrey Rubenstein has argued that the accounts in Chullin and Avodah Zarah reveal an ambivalent relationship between rabbis and Christianity. In his view the tosefta account reveals that at least some Jews believed Christians were true healers, but that the rabbis saw this belief as a major threat. Concerning the Babylonian Talmud account in Avoda Zarah, Dr. Boyarin views Jacob of Sechania as a Christian preacher and understands Rabbi Eliezer's arrest for minuth as an arrest by the Romans for practising Christianity (the text uses the word for heretic). When the Governor (the text uses the word for chief judge) interrogated him, the Rabbi answered that he "trusted the judge." Boyarin has suggested that this was the Jewish version of the Br'er Rabbit approach to domination, which he contrasts to the strategy of many early Christians, who proclaim their beliefs in spite of the consequences (i.e. martyrdom). Although Rabbi Eliezer was referring to God, the Governor interpreted him to be referring to the Governor himself, and freed the Rabbi. According to them the account also reveals that there was greater contact between Christians and Jews in the second century than commonly believed. They view the account of the teaching of Yeshu as an attempt to mock Christianity. According to Dr. Rubenstein, the structure of this teaching, in which a Biblical prooftext is used to answer a question about Biblical law, is common to both the Rabbis and early Christians. The vulgar content, however, may have been used to parody Christian values. Dr. Boyarin considers the text to be an acknowledgment that Rabbis often interacted with Christians, despite their doctrinal antipathy.

According to Dr. Rubenstein, the account in Sanhedrin 107b recognizes the kinship between Christians and Jews, since Jesus is presented as a disciple of a prominent Rabbi. But it also reflects and speaks to an anxiety fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism. Prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70, Jews were divided into different sects, each promoting different interpretations of the law. Rabbinic Judaism domesticated and internalized conflicts over the law, while vigorously condemning any sectarianism. In other words, rabbis are encouraged to disagree and argue with one another, but these activities must be carefully contained, or else they could lead to a schism. Although this story may not present a historically accurate account of Jesus' life, it does use a fiction about Jesus to communicate an important truth about the Rabbis (see Jeffrey Rubenstein, Rabbinic Stories). Moreover, Rubenstein sees this story as a rebuke to overly harsh Rabbis. Boyarin suggests that the Rabbis were well aware of Christian views of the Pharisees and that this story acknowledges the Christian belief that Jesus was forgiving and the Pharisees were not (see Mark 2:1-2), while emphasizing forgiveness as a necessary Rabbinic value.[23][24]

An intermediate view is that of Hyam Maccoby[25], who argues that most of these stories were not originally about Jesus, but were incorporated into the Talmud in the belief that they were, as a response to Christian missionary activity.

Skeptical writers

Skeptical science writer Dennis McKinsey has challenged the view that the term refers to Jesus at all and argues that Jewish tradition knew of no historical Jesus.[26] Like Klausner he views the accounts as finally understood to be at most spurious legends combining Jesus with other individuals. Similar views have been expressed by skepical science writer Frank R. Zindler in his polemical work The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources [27] deliberately published outside the realm of Christian and Jewish scholarship.

The skeptical view that Yeshu does not refer to Jesus echoes that of the majority of traditional Jewish commentators and has also been promoted by Rabbi Gil Student in his online series defending the Talmud The Real Truth About The Talmud.

Etymology

Early 20th century writers such as Herford and Klausner assume without explanation that Yeshu is an equivalent of Jesus. McKinsey points out that the names are not identical and cannot simply be assumed to be equivalent and notes furthermore that even if equivalent one cannot assume that the Jesus of Christianity is intended as "Jesus" was a common name. Indeed in the Septuagint and Greek language Jewish texts such as the writings of Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, Jesus is the standard Greek translation of the common Hebrew name Yehoshua יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Joshua), Greek having lost the h sound, as well as of the shortened form Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ which originated in the second temple period. (Jesus was also used for the name Hoshea in the Septuagint in one of the three places where it referred to Joshua son of Nun.) The term "Yeshu" is not undisputedly attested prior to the Talmud and Tosefta, let alone as a Hebrew original for "Jesus". (In the case of the Jesus of Christianity, Clement of Alexandria and St. Cyril of Jerusalem claimed that the Greek form itself was his original name and that it was not a transliteration of a Hebrew form.[28])

Adolf Neubauer (19th century), aware of the problem but believing the term to be a reference to Jesus, argued that it was a shortened form of Yeshua resulting from the final letter ayin no longer being pronounced.[29] Hugh J. Schonfield argued similarly that it was the northern pronunciation resuting from a silent ayin.[30] This view was shared by Joachim Jeremias[31] and David Flusser[4] who argue that it was the Galilean pronunciation. The views of these theological scholars however are contradicted by the studies of Hebrew and Aramaic philologist E. Y. Kutscher,[3] Professor of Hebrew Philology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and member of the Hebrew Language Academy, who noted that the although the ayin became a silent letter it is never dropped from written forms nor is its effect on the preceding vowel lost (the change of the "u" to the diphthong "ua") as would have had to occur if Yeshu were derived from Yeshua in such a manner. Kutscher noted moreover that the guttural ayin was still pronounced in most parts of Galilee.[32]

Indeed the term may not be a name at all let alone a form of the name "Jesus". Christian missionary Kai Kjaer-Hansen points out that its letters correspond to the abbreviation (יש"ו) for the Hebrew expression ימח שמו וזכרו (yimmach shemo vezikhro), meaning "May his name and memory be blotted out",[3][33] an expression used for deceased enemies of the Jewish people.[34] The term is explained as such in the medieval Toldoth Yeshu narratives.[33]

The Toldoth Yeshu narratives seemingly identify two of the Yeshus in the Talmud and Tosefta with the central character of the texts which draw on several other sources including material resembling the Gospels thereby identifying "Yeshu" with Jesus in a sense, despite the understanding of the term as an acronym for yimmach shemo vezikhro. Indeed they claim that it was a deliberate shortening of the character's real name "Yehoshua".[33][35] This has led to the accusation first voiced by anti-Jewish writer Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (17th century) in his Entdecktes Judenthum that "Yeshu" was always such a deliberately insulting term for Jesus.[3] Eisenmenger claimed that Jews believed that they were forbidden to mention names of false gods and instead were commanded to change and defame them and did so with Jesus' name as they considered him a false god. He argued that Jesus' original name was "Yeshua" and as Jews did not recognize him as saviour (moshia`) or that he had even saved (hoshia`) himself, they left out the ayin from the root meaning "to save".[3] However Eisenmenger's book against Judaism was denounced by the Jews as malicious libel.[36]

Yeshu Ha-Notzri

In the surviving pre-censorship Talmud manuscripts, Yeshu is followed by the epithet Ha-Notzri in most occurrences. Herford and Klausner translated it as "the Nazarene." The term does not appear consistently in the manuscripts and Menachem Meiri (1249 – c. 1310) in his commentary on the Talmud Beit HaBechirah regarded it as a late interpolation.

Klausner noted objections by other scholars on grammatical and phonetic grounds to the translation of Notzri as "Nazarene" meaning a person from Nazareth (Hebrew Natzrat),[21] however the etymology of "Nazarene" is itself uncertain and one possibility is that it is derived from Notzri and did not mean a person from Nazareth.[37]

In 1180 CE Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 11:4 briefly discusses Jesus in a passage later censored by the Church. He uses the name Yeshua for Jesus (an attested equivalent of the name unlike Yeshu) and follows it with Ha-Notzri showing that regardless of what meaning had been intended in the Talmudic occurrences of this term, Maimonides understood it as an equivalent of Nazarene. Late additions to the Josippon also refer to Jesus as Yeshua Ha-Notzri but not Yeshu Ha-Notzri.[38]

Summary of views

Thus there is a spectrum of opinion divided over several related but subtly differing questions such as:

  • whether Yeshu was intended to mean Jesus or not (e.g. Klausner vs Steinsaltz)
  • whether the core material in the accounts regardless of the name was originally about Jesus or not (e.g. Herford vs Klausner)
  • whether the core material is derivative of Christian accounts of Jesus, a forerunner of such accounts or unrelated (e.g. Herford vs Ibn Daud vs McKinsey)
  • whether Yeshu is a real name or an acronym (e.g. Flusser vs Kjaer-Hansen)
  • whether Yeshu is a genuine Hebrew equivalent for the name Jesus, a pun on the name Jesus or unrelated to the name Jesus (e.g. Klausner vs Eisenmenger vs McKinsey)

The question has historically been a delicate one because Yeshu is portrayed in the Talmud in a negative light; and posterior negative portrayals of Jesus in Jewish literature have incited negative Christian reactions, even anti-semitism as in the case of Eisenmenger's work.

The references of Yeshu have been used as evidence for the Historicity of Jesus (e.g. Herford) but also to dispute the Gospel account (e.g. Ibn Daud)

The Toldoth Yeshu narratives

Toldoth Yeshu is not part of rabbinic literature and are not considered canonical or normative.[39]. There is no one authoritative Toldoth Yeshu story; various medieval versions existed that differ in attitudes towards the central characters and in story details; it is considered unlikely that any one person wrote it. Each version seems to be from a different set of storytellers.[39] In these manuscripts "Yeshu" is used as designation of the central character. The stories typically understand the name Yeshu to be the acronym yimmach shemo vezikhro but justify its usage by claiming that it is wordplay on his real name Yehoshua (i.e Joshua, a Hebrew equivalent of "Jesus"). The story is however set in Hasmonean era reflecting the setting of the account of Yeshu the student of Yehoshuah ben Perachiah in the Talmud.

The main elements of this story begin with an explanation that Miriam comes from a good family, and marries a decent man who can trace his line back to King David. However, she is raped by a neighbour. After Miriam is raped, she is left by her husband and left to raise her child alone. Her child, Yeshu is depicted as being of unusual intelligence and wit, but shows disrespect to those older than him and to the sages. The story holds that Yeshu had some supernatural powers, which he obtained by using the name of God written on scroll; Toldoth Yeshu also accepts that other rabbinic sages of Yeshu's era could display similar supernatural powers. A struggle emerges between Yeshu and one or more of the sages, and Yeshu is left powerless. The Queen has Yeshu executed and trouble ensues for many decades. Eventually, mysterious sages appoint Simon Caipha to re-establish order.[39] In the more developed versions of the narrative, the story contains other motifs. Many details were added, secondary characters were developed, and the story became a romance about the tragic fate of a young man mistaken in his ways.[39]

Due to the Gospel parallels the story of Toldoth Yeshu narratives is typically viewed as a derogatory account of the life of Jesus resulting from Jewish reaction to persecution by Christians.[39][40]. The story has also been described a "romance about the tragic fate of a young man mistaken in his ways" [39]

Although the Toldoth Yeshu stories identify Yeshu with Jesus they are much later than the primary references in the Talmud and Tosefta upon which they are based and cannot be used to infer that the writers of the Talmuds intended Yeshu to mean Jesus.

Revival in modern Hebrew as a name for Jesus

The term Yeshu is used in modern Hebrew as a standard name for Jesus and Yeshu Ha-Notzri as the modern Hebrew equivalent for "Jesus the Nazarene". Kjaer-Hansen argues that this modern usage resulted from the influence of Klausner who used the term for Jesus in his Hebrew works believing it to be a correct Hebrew equivalent. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the "father of modern Hebrew", had instead used Yeshua for Jesus (the name used in Maimonides and the expanded Josippon) but this choice lost out to Yeshu as a result of Klausner's influential Hebrew work on Jesus titled Yeshu HaNotzri published in 1922.[3]

Kjaer-Hansen, notes that many Jewish writers have assumed that "Yeshu" is a correct Hebrew name for Jesus and have used it without intending any disparagement, but advises against its usage due to its probable origin as a derogatory term.[3]

The Talmudic accounts in detail

Yeshu ben Pandera

Tosefta and Talmud references

In the Tosefta, Chullin 2:22-24 there are two anecdotes about the min (heretic) named Jacob naming his mentor Yeshu ben Pandera (Yeshu son of Pandera).

  • Chullin 2:22-23 tells how Rabbi Eleazar ben Damma was bitten by a snake. Jacob came to heal him (according to Lieberman's text[41]) "on behalf of Yeshu ben Pandera". (A variant text of the Tosefta considered by Herford reads "Yeshua" instead of "Yeshu". This together with anomalous spellings of Pandera were found by Saul Lieberman who compared early manuscripts, to be erroneous attempts at correction by a copyist unfamiliar with the terms.)

The account is also mentioned in corresponding passages of the Jerusalem Talmud (Avodah Zarah 2:2 IV.I) and Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 27b) The name Yeshu is not mentioned in the Hebrew manuscripts of these passages but reference to "Jeshu ben Pandira" is interpolated by Herford's in his English paraphrasing of the Jerusalem Talmud text. Similarly the Rodkinson translation of the Babylonian Talmud account interpolates "with the name of Jesus".

  • Chullin 2:24 tells how Rabbi Eliezer was once arrested and charged with minuth. When the chief judge (hegemon) interrogated him, the rabbi answered that he "trusted the judge." Although Rabbi Eliezer was referring to God, the judge interpreted him to be referring to the judge himself, and freed the Rabbi. The remainder of the account concerns why Rabbi Eliezer was arrested in the first place. Rabbi Akiva suggests that perhaps one of the minim had spoken a word of minuth to him and that it had pleased him. Rabbi Eliezer recalls that this was indeed the case, he had met Jacob of the town of Sakhnin in the streets of Sepphoris who spoke to him a word of minuth in the name of Yeshu ben Pandera, which had pleased him. (A variant reading used by Herford has Pantiri instead of Pandera.)
  • Avodah Zarah, 16b-17a in the Babylonian Talmud essentially repeats the account of Chullin 2:24 about Rabbi Eliezer and adds additional material. It tells that Jacob quoted Deuteronomy 23:19: "You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the price of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow." Jacob says that he was taught this by Yeshu. Jacob then asked Eliezer whether it was permissible to use a whore's money to build a retiring place for the High Priest? (Who spent the whole night preceding the Day of Atonement in the precincts of the Temple, where due provision had to be made for all his conveniences.) When Rabbi Eliezer did not reply, Jacob quoted Micah 1:7, "For they were amassed from whores' fees and they shall become whores' fees again." This was the teaching that had pleased Rabbi Eliezer.

The surname ben Pandera is not found in the Talmud account. (Rodkinson's translation drawing on the Tosefta account paraphrases the reference to Yeshu having taught Jacob by "so taught Jeshu. b. Panthyra", in this case not translating "Yeshu" as "Jesus".) The name is found again in the Midrashic text Kohelet Rabba 10:5 where a healer of the grandson of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is described as being of ben Pandera. The source of this account is Shabbat 14:4-8 and Avodah Zarah 40 in the Jerusalem Talmud, but there ben Pandera is not mentioned. The word Yeshu is however found as a secondary marginal gloss to the first passage in the Leiden manuscript which together with the Midrashic version show that the account was understood to be about a follower of Yeshu ben Pandera. (Herford again takes liberty and adds "in the name of Jeshu Pandera" to his translation of the Talmud passages despite these words not being in the original text. Schäfer similarly provides a paraphrased translation mentioning "Jesus son of Pandera" which he admittedly has constructed himself by combining the Talmudic and Midrashic texts and the marginal glosses.[10]) Kohelet Rabba also relates the account of Rabbi Eliezer (Kohelet Rabba 1:24) in this case some copies mention Yeshu ben Pandera as in the Tosefta passage but others instead read peloni a placeholder name equivalent to English "so-and-so".[10]

Jeffrey Rubenstein has argued that the accounts in Chullin and Avodah Zarah reveal an ambivalent relationship between rabbis and Christianity. In his view the tosefta account reveals that at least some Jews believed Christians were true healers, but that the rabbis saw this belief as a major threat. Concerning the Babylonian Talmud account in Avoda Zarah, Dr. Boyarin views Jacob of Sechania as a Christian preacher and understands Rabbi Eliezer's arrest for minuth as an arrest by the Romans for practising Christianity (the text uses the word for heretic). When the Governor (the text uses the word for chief judge) interrogated him, the Rabbi answered that he "trusted the judge." Boyarin has suggested that this was the Jewish version of the Br'er Rabbit approach to domination, which he contrasts to the strategy of many early Christians, who proclaim their beliefs in spite of the consequences (i.e. martyrdom). Although Rabbi Eliezer was referring to God, the Governor interpreted him to be referring to the Governor himself, and freed the Rabbi. According to them the account also reveals that there was greater contact between Christians and Jews in the second century than commonly believed. They view the account of the teaching of Yeshu as an attempt to mock Christianity. According to Dr. Rubenstein, the structure of this teaching, in which a Biblical prooftext is used to answer a question about Biblical law, is common to both the Rabbis and early Christians. The vulgar content, however, may have been used to parody Christian values. Dr. Boyarin considers the text to be an acknowledgment that Rabbis often interacted with Christians, despite their doctrinal antipathy.[23]

Meaning and etymology of Pandera

The meaning and etymology of this name are uncertain:

Besides the form Pandera, variations have been found in different Tosefta manuscripts for example Pantiri and Pantera [6]. Saul Lieberman's investigation of Tosefta variations revealed Pandera to be the original form. (Some authors such as Herford spell it Pandira in English.)

Celsus in his discourse The True Word gives the name as Panthera in Greek [6]. This name is not known from any graves or inscriptions, but the surname Pantera (a Latin rendering) is known from the first century tombstone of Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera [42]. Origen (c. 248 CE) responded to Celsus' claim by saying that Pantheras was the patronymic of Joseph the husband of Mary on account of his father, Jacob, being called Panther. An alternative claim was made in the Teaching of Jacob (634 CE) where Panther is said to be the grandfather of Mary.[43] Friedrich August Nitzsch (1840) suggested that the name may refer to a panther being a lustful animal and thus have the meaning of "whore", additionally being a pun on parthenos meaning virgin.[10] Herford also considered the Greek pentheros meaning son-in-law [6], however he dismissed all of these forms including Celsus' Panthera as spurious explanations of the Hebrew Pandera as they do not match phonetically. He noted that Hebrew would have represented the sounds correctly if any of these were the origin.[6] The interpolated form Panthyra appearing in the Rodkinson translation of the Talmud suffers the same problem.

Neubauer understand the name to be Pandareus.[44] The Toldoth Yeshu narratives contain elements resembling the story of Pandareus in Greek mythology, namely stealing from a temple and the presence of a bronze animal.

Robert Eisler [7] considered the name to be derived from Pandaros. He also argued that it may not have been a real name but instead as a generic name for a betrayer. He notes that in the Iliad, Pandaros betrays the Greeks and breaks a truce confirmed by solemn oath. He argues that the name came to be used as a generic term for a betrayer and was borrowed by Hebrew. The name is indeed found in Genesis Rabba 50 in the expression qol Pandar (literally "voice of Pandaros" denoting false promises of a betrayer) used as a derogatory placeholder name for a judge of Sodom. The -a at the end of the form Pandera can be understood to be the Aramaic definite article [6].

Yeshu the sorcerer

Sanhedrin 43a relates the trial and execution of Yeshu and his five disciples. Here, Yeshu is a sorcerer who has enticed other Jews to apostasy. A herald is sent to call for witnesses in his favour for forty days before his execution. No one comes forth and in the end he is stoned and hanged on the Eve of Passover. His five disciples, named Matai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah are then tried. Word play is made on each of their names, and they are executed. It is mentioned that leniency could not be applied because of Yeshu's influence with the royal government (malkhut).

In the Florence manuscript of the Talmud (1177 CE) an addition is made to Sanhedrin 43a saying that Yeshu was hanged on the eve of the Sabbath.

Yeshu summoned by Onkelos

In Gittin 56b, 57a a story is mentioned in which Onkelos summons up the spirit of a Yeshu who sought to harm Israel. He describes his punishment in the afterlife as boiling in excrement.

Yeshu the son who burns his food in public

Sanhedrin 103a and Berachot 17b talk about a Yeshu who burns his food in public, possibly a reference to pagan sacrifices. The account is discussing Manasseh the king of Judah infamous for having turned to idolatry and having persecuted the Jews (2 Kings 21). It is part of a larger discussion about three kings and four commoners excluded from paradise. These are also discussed in the Shulkhan Arukh where the son who burns his food is explicitly stated to be Manasseh.

Yeshu the student of Joshua ben Perachiah

In Sanhedrin 107b and Sotah 47a a Yeshu is mentioned as a student of Joshua ben Perachiah who was sent away for misinterpreting a word that in context should have been understood as referring to the Inn, he instead understood it to mean the inkeeper's wife. His teacher said "Here is a nice Inn", to which he replied "Her eyes are crooked.", and then from his teacher "Is this what your are occupied in?". (This happened during their period of refuge in Egypt during the persecutions of Pharisees 88-76 BCE ordered by Alexander Jannæus. The incident is also mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud in Chagigah 2:2 but there the person in question is not given any name.) After several returns for forgiveness he mistook Perachiah's signal to wait a moment as a signal of final rejection, and so he turned to idolatry (described by the euphemism "worshipping a brick"). The story ends by invoking a Mishnaic era teaching that Yeshu practised black magic, deceived and led Israel astray. This quote is seen by some as an explanation in general for the designation Yeshu.

According to Dr. Rubenstein, the account in Sanhedrin 107b recognizes the kinship between Christians and Jews, since Jesus is presented as a disciple of a prominent Rabbi. But it also reflects and speaks to an anxiety fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism. Prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70, Jews were divided into different sects, each promoting different interpretations of the law. Rabbinic Judaism domesticated and internalized conflicts over the law, while vigorously condemning any sectarianism. In other words, rabbis are encouraged to disagree and argue with one another, but these activities must be carefully contained, or else they could lead to a schism. Although this story may not present a historically accurate account of Jesus' life, it does use a fiction about Jesus to communicate an important truth about the Rabbis. Moreover, Rubenstein sees this story as a rebuke to overly harsh Rabbis. Boyarin suggests that the Rabbis were well aware of Christian views of the Pharisees and that this story acknowledges the Christian belief that Jesus was forgiving and the Pharisees were not (see Mark 2:1-2), while emphasizing forgiveness as a necessary Rabbinic value.[23]

Ben Pandera and ben Stada

Another title found in the Tosefta and Talmud is ben Stada (son of Stada). However in Shabbat 104b and Sanhedrin 67a in the Babylonian Talmud, a passage is found that some have interpreted as equating ben Pandera with ben Stada. The passage is in the form a Talmudic debate in which various voices make statements, each refuting the previous statement. In such debates the various statements and their refutations are often of a Midrashic nature, sometimes incorporating subtle humour and should not always be taken at face value. The purpose of the passage is to arrive at a Midrashic meaning for the term Stada.

Shabbat 104b relates that a ben Stada brought magic from Egypt in incisions in his flesh. Sanhedrin 67a relates that a ben-Stada was caught by hidden observers and hanged in the town of Lod on the Eve of Passover. The debate then follows. It begins by asking if this was not ben Pandera rather than ben Stada. This is refuted by the claim that it is both, his mother's husband was Stada but her lover was Pandera. This is countered with the claim the husband was Pappos ben Yehuda (a second century figure elsewhere remembered as having locked up his unfaithful wife and visiting R. Akiva in jail after the Bar-Kokhba revolt) and that the mother was named Stada. This is then refuted by the claim that the mother was named Miriam, the dresser of women's hair, but that she had gone astray from her husband (a Miriam the daughter of Bilgah, is mentioned elsewhere as having had an affair with a Roman soldier). In Aramaic, "gone astray" is satat da, thus a Midrashic meaning for the term Stada is obtained. Real historical relationships between the figures mentioned cannot be inferred due to the Midrashic nature of the debate. Pappos and Miriam might have been introduced simply as a result of their being remembered in connection with a theme of a woman having gone astray.

The character of Miriam the dresser of woman's hair is of interest. (Her name is also mentioned briefly in Chagigah 4b in the Babylonian Talmud where it is used together with Miriam the teacher of children simply as an arbitrary choice of names in illustrating a point.) Some[who?] suggest that the expression "dresser of women's hair" is a euphemism for a woman of ill repute. The original Aramaic for her name is Miriam megadela neshaya in which many[who?] see Mary Magdalene. Some[who?] have thus identified her with Mary Magdalene while others[who?] are more cautious merely suggesting dresser of women's hair as a possible meaning of Magdalene alternate to the traditional understanding of the name as a toponymic surname (Migdolit, from the town of Migdol).

Ben-Stada is also mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud. In Shabbat 12:4 III he is mentioned as having learnt by cutting marks in his flesh. In Sanhedrin 7:12 I he is mentioned as an example of someone caught by hidden observers and subsequently stoned. This information is paralleled in the Tosefta in Shabbat 11:15 and Sanhedrin 10:11 respectively.

The literal meaning of the term Stada is no longer known. It does not correspond to any known name, suggesting that son of Stada might also be a designation of a class of individuals rather an a patronymic, or perhaps an invented title like that of the Jewish general Bar Kochba (son of the star). The only known parallel to the term is found in the apocryphal Christian text the Acts of Peter where the villain Simon Magus describes himself as `uios `o stadios - the son who remains standing. The Toldoth Yeshu narratives combine elements from the Talmud about ben-Stada with elements resembling the account of Simon Magus in the Acts of Peter suggesting that there is indeed a connection. As a result of the difficulty in understanding the name some attempt to explain it by focusing on variant spellings in certain manuscripts containing an r (resh) instead of the d (daleth), however these variants are generally regarded as copyist errors.

Scarcity of references to Jesus in the Talmud

To explain the dearth of references to Jesus in the Talmud, it has been argued that

  • The Talmud was subject to censorship, as passages deemed blasphemous by the Church were expurgated as of 1264 (the entire Talmud was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pope Paul IV in 1559).
  • Although restoring these passages still produces only a few mentions of Yeshu, the Mishnah, which forms the skeleton of the Talmud, was written at a time when Christianity was first emerging. The Christians were just one sect with which the authors contended (others included Sadducees, Samaritans, and Gnostics).
  • The final redaction of the Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud was created in Babylonia, where Christianity did not have the same impact as it did in the Mediterranean Basin. As such, it was not perceived of as a particularly noticeable phenomenon.
  • The Talmud was essentially the writing down of the basics of the Oral Law. Its 2,711 folio pages represent only part of the Jewish tradition. Midrash Rabbah and Midrash Halachah run to hundreds more pages and similarly fail to reference Jesus.

See also

References

  1. Thiessen and Merz draw on Dalman (1893), Maier (1982), and Thoma (1990) in reaching this conclusion. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 74-76.
  2. E.L. Sukenik, Jüdische Gräber Jerusalems um Christi Geburt, Jerusalem, 1931
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Kai Kjaer-Hansen, An Introduction to The Use Of The Names: Joshua, Jeshua, Jesus, Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, 1992
  4. 4.0 4.1 David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Israel Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1989
  5. L. Ginzberg ed., Yerushalmi Fragments from the Genizah, New York, 1909
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 R. Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (London: Williams & Norgate, 1903)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Robert Eisler, Alexander Haggerty Krappe trans., The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist according to Flavius Josephus' recently rediscovered 'Capture of Jerusalem' and other Jewish and Christian sources. The Dial Press, 1931
  8. G. Cohen, A critical Edition with a Translation and Notes of the Book of Tradition (Sefer haKabbalah) by Abraham Ibn Daud
  9. Jehiel ben Joseph of Paris, Vikuakh, ed. R. Margaliot, Lemberg (1928)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, 2007
  11. Simon Cohen, Isaac Landman ed. The Universal Jewish encyclopedia: an authoritative and popular presentation of Jews and Judaism since the earliest times, The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia inc., 1941, article Censorship
  12. Jehiel Heilprin, Seder ha-dorot, ed. Leṿin-Epshṭein ṿe-M. Ḳalinberg, 1867
  13. Steinsaltz, Adin. The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition. Random House, 1989
  14. Gerald Massey, The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ, Star Publishing Company, Springfield, Mass., 1886
  15. G.R.S. Mead, Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?, Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1903
  16. Avraham Korman, Zeramim VeKitot Bayahdut, Tel Aviv, 1927
  17. Alvar Ellegård Jesus – One Hundred Years Before Christ: A Study In Creative Mythology, London, 1999
  18. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 74-76.
  19. The Jewish Encyclopedia, article Jesus of Nazareth
  20. Encyclopedia Judaica CD-ROM Edition 1.0 1997, article Jesus
  21. 21.0 21.1 Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (Beacon Books), 1964
  22. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition)
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Jeffrey Rubenstein Rabbinic Stories (The Classics of Western Spirituality) New York: The Paulist Press, 2002
  24. Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999
  25. Judaism on Trial (Littman Library of Jewish Civilisation)
  26. Dennis McKinsey, Biblical Errancy, A Reference Guide, Prometheus Books, (2000)
  27. Frank R. Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources, American Atheist Press, 2003
  28. Origin of the Name Jesus Christ in The Catholic Encyclopedia
  29. A. Neubauer, Jewish Controversy and the Pugio Fidei, in The Expositor, no. 7, 1888, p. 24)
  30. Hugh J. Schonfield, The History of Jewish Christianity, From the First to the Twentieth Century London, Duckworth, 1936
  31. J. Jeremias, Neutestamentliche Theologie, Gütersloh, 1973, vol. I, p. 13
  32. E.Y. Kutscher, Studies in Galilean Aramaic, Ramat-Gan, 1976
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 1995
  34. John J. Parsons, Zola's Introduction to Hebrew, Zola Levitt Ministries Inc., 2002
  35. G. W. Foote and J. M. Wheeler ed., The Jewish Life of Christ, Being the Sepher Toldoth Jeshu, London: Progressive Publishing Company, 1885
  36. The Jewish Encyclopedia, article Eisenmenger, Johann Andreas
  37. William David Davies, Dale C. Allison, A critical and exegetical commentary on the gospel according to Saint Matthew, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1997
  38. David Flusser, The Josippon (Josephus Gorionides), The Bialik Institute , Jerusalem, 1978
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 Encyclopedia Judaica CD-ROM Edition 1.0 1997, article Toldoth Yeshu
  40. Morris Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, Macmillan, 1950
  41. http://talmud.faithweb.com/images/jnarr6.JPG
  42. Marcello Craveri, La vita di Gesù, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1966
  43. Hugh Joseph Schonfield, According to the Hebrews, Duckworth, 1937
  44. Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles and Chronological Notes, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1887-1895

Additional reading

  • Steven Bayme, Understanding Jewish History (KTAV), 1997
  • Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999
  • Robert Goldenberg, The Nations Know Ye Not: Ancient Jewish Attitudes towards Other Religions New York: New York University Press 1998
  • Mark Hirshman, A Rivalry of Genius: Jewish and Christian Biblical Interpretation in Late Antiquity trans. Baya Stein. Albany: SUNY PRess 1996
  • Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (Beacon Books), 1964
  • Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix of Christianity Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1986
  • Jeffrey Rubenstein Rabbinic Stories (The Classics of Western Spirituality) New York: The Paulist Press, 2002
  • R. Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (KTAV), 1975
  • Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, 2007
  • Dennis McKinsey, Biblical Errancy, A Reference Guide, Prometheus Books, (2000)
  • Frank R. Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources, American Atheist Press, 2003

External links

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki