Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jesus in the Talmud

In my amateurish examination of the Talmud for references to “any cause/reason/matter” divorces of Matthew 19:3, I couldn’t help but notice that there were instances of a Yeshu. Was Jesus mentioned in the Talmud? Yeshu or Yeshua is the accepted equivalent to the Hellenized name Jesus. Indeed there are several instances of a Yeshu in the Talmud. However, keep in mind that Yeshu is a common Hebrew name.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on this topic:

In the end the author casts doubt on the Talmud Yeshu as Jesus.

At this author has more to say

  • According to the Talmud, Yeshu was the son of a Jewish woman named Miriam who was betrothed to a carpenter. "Betrothed" means she was legally married to him, but she was not yet living with him or having sexual relations with him. The story says that Miriam was either raped by or voluntarily slept with Pandeira, a Greek or Roman soldier. Miriam than gave birth to Yeshu, who was considered a "mamzer" (bastard), a product of an adulterous relationship. The Talmud describes Yeshu as a heretic who dabbled in sorcery and lead the people astray. Later, the Sanhedrin (the Jewish "Supreme Court") ordered Yeshu stoned to death and his dead body was hung from a tree until nightfall after his death, in accordance with the ancient Jewish punishment for heretics.

    While some believe there is no connection between the Talmudic Yeshu and the Christian Jesus, others believe there is a connection. The main inconsistency between the Talmudic and Christian story is that during the time that Jesus was killed, the Romans ruled and the Sanhedrin did not have the power to impose the death penalty. Thus, some Jews believe that today's popular Christian ideas about Jesus are based on a melding of the Talmudic story of Yeshu and the historian Josephus' writing about Jesus, which included his execution by the Romans.

A mother named Miriam (Mary) betrothed to a carpenter, who supposed practiced sorcery and tried to lead Israel astray has too many coincidences with our Lord to ignore.

A contributor to a message board at Stanford University accepts that the Yeshu mentioned in the Talmud is Jesus of Nazareth. I can’t vouch for the scholarship of this contributor. A few highlights:

  • Quoting now from another Talmud passage about Jesus, Sanhedrin 43A: “On Passover Eve they hanged Jesus of Nazareth. He practiced sorcery, incited and led Israel astray…Was Jesus of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an enticer and the Torah says, ‘You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him!”
  • Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 107b declares that Jesus bowed down to a brick and worshipped it and that he practiced magic, and from Sanhedrin 43a, which says that it was right to kill Jesus and that he got what he deserved.
  • The Talmud in Gittin 57a contains a filthy attack on Jesus Christ pertaining to a punishment Jesus supposedly underwent after his death. “He (the rabbi) then went and raised by incantations (of) the sinners of Israel.

A Rabbi from a Messianic Jewish denomination again accepts that the Yeshu in the Talmud is Jesus of Nazareth. His focus was of a Yeshua mentioned in Sanhedrin 43a of the Babylonian Talmud. A few highlights from this thoughtful analysis:

  • Our rabbis taught, Yeshua had five disciples: Mattay, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah.

This Yeshua had 5 disciples as opposed to apostles. Only Mattay or Matthew would be recognizable to modern Christians. Each is sentenced to death. But the Rabbi has an interesting take on the meaning of the names of the 5 disciples.

  • I propose, not only in front of this group, but in academic circles as well, that what we have here is an ancient Jewish/Christian hymn, that did not talk about disciples, but spoke about teachings. A credo hymn, that talks about five points, that the early Church believed about Jesus. They are: mattay - when. When did the Messiah come? He came in the fullness of time. The second name is naki, which means clean, pure, innocent. He died innocently, without sin. The third name is netzer, from which we have the Hebrew name of Christians - Nazarine, and as you know in Acts chapter 24, verse 14. Paul is accused of being the head of the sect of Nazarines - Notzrim. This means that the New Testament is familiar with this Jewish appellation for early Christians, for the Jewish Christians, the Nazarine sect. Also, netzer has long been related to Isaiah 11, verse 1, as well as to other passages of Isaiah, from which we've gotten this idea of Nazareth, Nazarines, notzrim. In other words, he was the netzer or the scion of the house of Jessie, he was the seed of David. The fourth one - buni, which means my son. He is the Son of G-d. The fifth one - todah. He is the sacrifice of thanksgiving. I believe that what the original text of the hymn was, hamisha talmudim haia lo le Yeshu hanotzri. Five teachings Jesus the Nazarene had, about himself: 1) that he came in the fullness of time, 2) that he was innocent and sinless, pure, 3) that he was the Son of G-d, 4) that he was the seed of David, and 5) that he was the sacrifice of thanksgiving to G-d. And this hymn was taken by the rabbis, and used as a polemic, answering each line with a verse in it.

When his hypothesis is coupled with his other observations:

  • Joseph Klausner in his book Jesus of Nazareth, says that this section is a polemic fabrication during the Amoraic period, desiring to justify the alienation of the early church from its Jewish context.
  • The first way is to say that the whole thing is a fabrication in the Byzantine period by Babylonian rabbis that have a memory of some Baraita, that was a part of the polemics against Christianity in the second century, or in the early part of the third century. However, that does not explain the names used. It doesn't explain, where they get these names: Mattay, Naki, Nezer, Buni, and Todah. It's hard to believe that they simply fabricated those names. Like Herd said, it must be related to an actual occasion or to some event, or some text that was before them.

This adds credence that this Talmudic Sanhedrin passage was a polemic against a Jewish Christian hymm.

It’s interesting to note that in the Gospels there are verses indicating that Pharisaical scribes were recording Jesus.

In Matthew 12:22 Jesus heals a blind, deaf and possessed man. In turn the Pharisees accused Jesus of practicing sorcery in the name of Beelzebub the prince of demons in verse 24. So the Gospels seem to confirm the Talmudic view of Yeshu, who to me seems to be Jesus of Nazareth.

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