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Ancient Jewish Accounts of Jesus Christ

The passages  from R. J. Hoffmann, Jesus Outside The Gospels, Prometheus Books

Boris Artzybasheff

When Jannai the King[1] killed our rabbis, R. Jehoshua ben Perabjah[2] and Jeshu fled to Alexandria of Egypt.  When there was peace, Shimon ben Shetah sent to him.  “From [Jerusalem] the city of holiness to thee Alexandria of Egypt:  my husband stays in thy midst and I sit forsaken.”  He came and found himself at a certain inn; they showed him great honor.  He said, “How beautiful is this inn.”  Jesus said to him, “Rabbi [the hostess] has narrow eyes!”  He said, “Fool, do you pay attention to such things.”  He sent out four hundred trumpets and cast him out.  Jesus came before him many times thereafter, pleading, “Receive me back.”  But Jehoshua did not receive him.  One day R. Jehoshua was saying Shema  and Jesus came before him.  R. Jehoshua signaled that he would receive Jesus, but Jesus thought that the rabbi repelled him.  Then Jesus went out and hung up a title and worshipped it.  R. Jehoshua said to him, “Return [to the teaching of your fathers]” but Jesus said, “I have learned from you that everyone who sins and causes others to sin is given no chance to repent.”  Thus a teacher had said, Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led astray and deceived Israel.  [b. Sanh. 107b] 


Rabbi Eliezer said to the sages, “Did not Ben Stada bring spells from Egypt in a cut on his flesh?”  They replied, “He was a fool and one does not prove anything from a fool.”  Ben Stada is Ben Pandira.  Rabbi Hisda [a Babylonian teacher of the third century] said, “The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira.”   The husband was Pappos ben Jehudah; the mother was Stada.  The mother was Miriam [Mary], the dresser of women’s hair—as we say in Pumbeditha {a Babylonian town where there was a famous rabbinical college], “Such a one has been false to her husband”  [Shaddath 104b]

            “He that cuts marks on his flesh.”  Rabbi Eliezer condemns, the wise permit.  He said to them, “Did not Yeshu ben Stada [Jesus] learn only in this way?”  They said to him “Because of one fool, are we to destroy all discerning people?”

            There shall no evil befall thee.”  This means that evil dreams and evil thoughts will not tempt you7; “neither shall any plague come near thy dwelling” (Ps. 91:10) means that you will not have a son or disciple who burns his food in public like Jesus of Nazareth [b. Sanh. 103a]

            A certain man named Yochanan who was learned in the Law and feared God, a man of the House of David, was betrothed to a virgin of humble birth named Miriam, the daughter of his widowed neighbor.  This was in Bethlehem, Miriam, however, was seduced by a handsome fellow named Joseph ben Pondera, who tricked her on a Sabbath eve [in the following manner]:  Miriam had thought that [Pendera] was her espoused husband, Yochanan, and submitting only against her will, was astonished that her husband –to-be would act in such a way.  When [the real] Yochnan returned she chastised him for his behavior. [Yochnan] suspected Pondera and reported these suspicions to rabbi Shimean ben Shesh.  When it was known that Miriam was pregnant, Yochanan knew that it was not his:  but unable to prove guilt of [Pondera], he fled to Babylon.   

            Miriam brought forth a son and called him Yehoshua after her mother’s brother.  This name in course was shortened to Yeshu. . . .

            Yeshu fled to Jerusalem.  In the Temple he learned the Ineffable Name.  And to thwart the brass dogs who guarded the place of sacrifice and barked at those who had learned the name, making them forget, Yeshu wrote the name on a piece of leather and sewed it in the flesh of his thigh.  He gathered around him in Bethlehem a group of young Jews and proclaimed himself the Messiah and Son of God.  He rebuked those who rejected his claim, saying that they were only after their own greatness and wished to rule in Israel.  To confirm his claim, he healed a lame man and a leper by the power of the Ineffable Name.  For this, he was summoned before Queen Shalminon [or Helena], who found him guilty of acts of sorcery and beguilement. 




But Yeshu restored a dead man to life, and the amazed Queen came to believe in him.  He went next to Galilee, where he continued to work miracles and to attract crowds.  The sages of Israel then saw that it was essential that one of their number, Yehuda Iskarioto [Judas], should learn the Ineffable Name, as Yeshu did, and rival him in signs and wonders.  Yehuda and Yeshu came before the Queen.  Yeshu flew in the air, but Yehuda flew higher and caused him to fall to the earth.[3]  Thereupon the Queen condemned Yeshu to death and delivered him up to the Sages of Israel.  They took him to Tiberias [the city] and imprisoned him there.  But he had taught the followers that whatever happened to him had been prepared for the Messiah, the Son of God, from the beginning of creation—that the prophets had foretold it all.  The followers of Yeshu fought against the Sages of Israel, rescued him and fled to Antioch.  From Antioch, Yeshu traveled to Egypt where he learned spells.  But Yehuda Iskarioto had [managed to] infiltrate the ranks of the disciples and to rob Yeshu of the Name.  Hence, Yeshu went a second time to Jerusalem to learn the Name—and this Yehuda announced in advance to the Sages of Israel:  When Yeshu should come to the Temple it was agreed that Yehuda would bow before him and thus the Sages would be able to distinguish between Yeshu and his disciples.  [This was not easy, as they all dressed in garments of one color.]

            And so it happened that the Sages of Israel recognized him and arrested him.  They took him out and hanged him on a cabbage stem.  [This was done because Yeshu had adjured all trees by the Ineffable Name not to receive his body if he was hanged; but he had failed to abjure the cabbage stem.]

            The body was taken down while it was still the eve of the Sabbath—in order not to violate the prohibition.  “His body shall not remain there for the night”—and immediately buried.  A gardener, Yehuda, removed the body from the tomb and cast it into a ditch and let the water flow.  The disciples discovering that the body was not in the tomb announced to the Queen that Yeshu had been restored to life.  The Queen believing the story was tempted to put to death the Sages for having killed the Messiah.  Indeed, all of the Jews mourned, wept and fasted, until Rabbi Tanchuma, with the help of God, found the body in a garden.  The Sages of Israel removed it, tied it to the tail of a horse and paraded it in front of the Queen so that she could see the deception. 

            The disciples of Yeshu fled [for fear] and mingled among all nations.  Among these followers were twelve “apostles” who sorely distress the Jews; one of these, Shimeon Kepha [Simon Peter] undertook to separate the disciples of Yeshu from the Jews and to give [the former] laws of their own. . . .

[1]  Alexander Jannaeus who reigned from 104 to 78 BC.  Several scholars have written that Jesus legend could refer back to the execution of the Essene teacher during the reign of Jannaeus, and I find this suggest given the totality of evidence more reasonable than the Gospel account.  See skeptically.org/newtestament/id4.html.

[2] A leading Pharisee of the time.  The killing of rabbis was an historical event.  This account of Jesus flee to Egypt could be a source for Matthew and Luke’s account of the flight to Egypt to avoid the angry king—only theirs was move forward a century. 

[3]  This is exactly the tale told by Christians of the confrontation between Paul and Simon Magnus the Magician (see http://skeptically.org/onreligion/id4.html & id3 (among the most entertaining of biblical tales). 


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The skeptic is one who judges all things according to the evidence.  The common herd affirms many things to a degree well beyond what the evidence supports; and conversely doubts that which is worthy of greater affirmation.  The humanistic skeptic applies a second measure, that of  harm resulting from such beliefs.  Issues of economics and politics, of religion, quackery and corporate medicine, and of imprudent behavior top the harm done list.   Education and scientific psychology are gateways to following the dictates of reason.