Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

By G. R. S. Mead

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THAT the identification of Balaam (Bileam) with Jeschu[1] in a number of the Talmud stories we are considering cannot possibly be held in doubt, will be amply seen from the passages which we are now about to bring forward. The precise way in which the identification was arrived at, is, however, somewhat difficult to discover. It may be that we have the starting-point of this curious name-transmutation still preserved in a Midrash on the famous Balaam story in Numbers; on the other hand the origin of this strange name-change may be found in the domain of name-caricature and word-play. Let us first consider the extraordinary Midrash connected with the Numbers' Balaam story. 

"'He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice' [Prov. xxvii. 14]. How strong was the voice of Balaam? Rabbi Jochanan said; (It was heard) sixty miles. Rabbi Jehoshua ben Levi said: Seventy nations heard the voice of Balaam. Rabbi Eleazar ha-Gappar says: God gave strength to his voice, and he went up from one end of the world to the other because he was looking about and seeing the nations adoring the sun and the moon and the stars and wood and stone. And he 

[1] For the literature, see Krauss, "Leben Jesu," pp. 267, 268. 


looked about and saw that a man, son of a woman, will arise, who seeks to make himself God and to seduce all the world without exception. Therefore, he gave strength to his voice, that all nations of the world might hear (it), and thus he spake: Take heed that you go not astray after that man, as it is written [Num. xxiii. 19],' God is not a man, that he should lie,'—and if he says that he is God, he is a liar; and he will fall into error and say that he is going away and will come (again) at certain spaces of time, (then) he hath said and will not do it. Look what is written [Num. xxiv. 23], "And he took up his parable and said, Alas, who shall live when he makes himself God!' Balaam intended to say: Alas, who shall live from that nation which gives ear to that man who makes himself God?"[1] R. Jochanan (bar Nappacha) was a distinguished ornament of the Talmud schools at Sepphoris and Tiberias, and died in 279 A.D. at the age of eighty. Jehoshua ben Levi was one of the Rabbis of the Lud school, and flourished in the first half of the third century; while R. Eleazar ha-Gappar (the Pitch-seller) was a contemporary of the famous "Rabbi," R. Jehuda ha-Nasi (Jehuda the Prince), or Jehuda the Holy, who was the final redactor of the Mishna; he flourished somewhere about 200-220 A.D. This story then is presumably to be placed somewhere about the beginning of the third century. 

The story is in the form of a naive prophecy after the event (of which we have thousands of examples in allied Hebrew literature), and makes Balaam quote his 
[1] "Jalkut Shimoni" on Num. xxiii. 7, under the name of Midrash Jelammedenu.


own words (Num. xxxiii. 19) as holy scripture. But immediately afterwards R. Eleazar is made to drop the prophetical form of the argument against Christian dogmatics and frankly to tell us what Balaam "intended to say." 

The quotation, from Num. xxiv. 23—" Alas, who shall live when he makes himself God!"—is remarkable, for our Authorised Version gives an absolutely different rendering: "Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!" And that the Rabbinical exegesis of this passage differed entirely from the received interpretation of the English Authorised Version may be seen from the following glosses as found in the Babylonian Gemara. 

"'Woe to him who lives because he takes [sic] God.' Resh Lakish said: Woe to him, who vivifies himself (or who saves his life) by the name of God."[1] 

Resh Lakish (R. Simeon ben Lakish) was a Palestinian Rabbi who flourished about 250-275 A.D.; he is clearly interpreting this passage in connection with the Jesus stories, for it is precisely by the "name of God," the Shem, that Jeschu vivifies himself, and vivifies others, in the Toldoth Jeschu. 

Rashi (ob. 1105 A.D.), commenting on this passage says:

"'Balaam who vivifies himself by the name of God,' making himself God. Another reading has it, 'who vivifies himself as to the name of God,’ that is, Woe to those men that vivify and amuse themselves in this world and tear the yoke of the Law from their necks and make themselves fat." 

Here Rashi not only makes what was given as said 

[1] "Bab. Sanhedrin," 106a. 


by Balaam about another an act committed by Balaam himself, but further adds that the act committed by Balaam was in reality no other than his making himself God. The only doubt apparently which Rashi had in his mind was whether the prophecy referred to Balaam (i.e., Jeschu) only, or whether it might also be considered as embracing the Christians as well, for presumably they alone can be meant by those who "tear the yoke of the Law from their necks." 

Moreover in the Palestinian Gemara in expansion of the same famous verse in Numbers which contains the most important pronouncement of the traditional Balaam ben Beor,[1] and which constituted the main argument of the Rabbis against Christian dogmatic claims, we read: 

"R. Abbahu has said: If a man says to thee,' I am God,' he lies; 'I am Son of Man,' he shall rue it; 'I ascend to heaven,' this holds good of him,' He has said it and will not effect it.'" 

R. Abbahu of Caesarea was the pupil of R. Jochanan, who died in 279 A.D. The argument put in his mouth is clearly meant as a complete refutation of Christian dogmatic claims by the quotation of one of the most solemn pronouncements of the Torah. 

And if such inconvenient quotations from the Torah were met by the more enlightened of the Christian name, as we know they were by the Gnostics, by the argument that the inspiration of the Torah was of very 

[1] Num. xxxii. 19, A.V.: "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" 


variable quantity and quality, that it came sometimes from a good, sometimes from a mixed, and sometimes from an evil source, the Rabbis replied with still further quotations from the same Torah. Thus we read:

" R. Chia bar Abba said: 'If the son of the whore saith to thee, There be two Gods, answer him, I am He of the Sea, I am He of Sinai.' [That is to say, at the Red Sea God appeared to Israel as a youthful warrior, upon Sinai as an old man, as beseems a lawgiver; but both are one.] R. Chia bar Abba said: 'If the son of the whore say to thee, There be two Gods, answer him, It is here [Deut. v. 4] written not Gods but the Lord hath spoken with thee face to face.'" 

R. Chia, or more fully Chia Rabbah, was son of Abba Sela, and flourished about 216 A.D.; he was a pupil of "Rabbi" ( = Jehuda ben Simeon III.), to whom the final redaction of the Mishna is attributed. 

It is now evident that the main claims of dogmatic Christianity, that Jesus was God, that he was Son of Man,[1] and that he had ascended to Heaven physically in a miraculous manner, and would return again, were met on the side of the Rabbis with quotations from the 

[1] This title, as used in Christian tradition, seems to me to be entirely shorn of all its characteristic meaning if taken, as modern scholarship takes it, to he simply a Greek literal translation of the Aramaic idiom which was in common use as a synonym of "man" pure and simple, thus signifying that Jesus was the man par excellence. I am, therefore, inclined to think that the Greek term was of "Gnostic" origin. We know that in Gnostic tradition "The Man," or "Man," was a title of the Logos; "Son of Man" was therefore a very appropriate designation for one who was "kin to Him," that is, one in whom the "Light-spark" was bursting into a "Flame." 


Torah, which they considered to be the infallible word of God, and that the main passage on which they relied was the prophetic declaration of Balaam, made, as they believed, under the direct inspiration of Yahweh. 

But if we are asked to believe that here we have a sufficient basis to account for the astounding identification of the subject of subsequent haggadic prophecy with the prophet himself, we can hardly be persuaded that this is the case. Such a topsy-turvy transformation is a tour de force beyond even the capability of the legerdemain of Talmudic legend-making. 
The only thing that could have given the smallest justification for such an identification would have been some striking similarity between the doings of Balaam and of Jeschu; whereas the very opposite is found to be the case, as we have already seen, and as we are expressly told in the Babylonian Gemara. 

"'And Balaam, son of Beor, the soothsayer '[Josh. xiii. 22]. Soothsayer? he was a prophet. Rabbi Jochanan said: At first a prophet, at last a soothsayer. Rab Papa said: This is what people say: She was of prominent men and princes (and then) she prostituted herself for mere carpenters." [1] 

According to the tradition of ancient Israel, Balaam ben Beor was a soothsayer who was on one famous occasion compelled to prophesy truth by the power of Yahweh. Balaam-Jeschu, on the contrary, was a prophet; so at any rate the apparently oldest tradition of the Talmud period had it. In the third century R. Jochanan still admitted that Jeschu was 

[1] "Bab. Sanhedrin," 106a. 


"at first" a prophet, but contended that afterwards he fell away and was no longer inspired by the spirit of God. This we see is the exact reverse of the ancient Balaam's case. Could anything, then, be more puzzling than the name-identification Jesus-Balaam in spite of this? 

And here the saying attributed to Rab Papa, the founder of the Talmud school at Neresch, near Sura in Babylonia, who died 375 A.D., must delay us for a moment. This saying is universally regarded as referring to Mary, in which case it would confirm the tradition quoted above in a previous chapter, that Jesus was "near those in power." But does this saying really refer to Mary? Rab Papa is apparently quoted as further explaining the statement of R. Jochanan as to the prophetical status of "Balaam." When, then, he says," She was first of high estate and then she prostituted herself for carpenters," can "she," by any possibility, refer to the teaching of Jesus and not to Mary, who is nowhere mentioned, and who in any case would come in most awkwardly? If this hypothesis can in any way be entertained, R. Papa's saying would then mean that the teaching of Jesus formed first of all part of a true prophetical movement, but afterwards it got tangled up with the carpenter story of popular propaganda and all those other dogmas which the Rabbis so strenuously opposed. 

Be this as it may, if there were not some hidden link in the chain of transformation which eventuates in the Balaam-Jeschu identification, it is almost inconceivable that it could ever have held together for a moment. Let us now see whether this hidden link is, after all, so 


difficult to discover. We have already seen that the main charge of the Rabbis against Jesus was that he had corrupted and ruined Israel. In Hebrew the name Balaam means precisely destroyer or corrupter of the people.[1] Have we not here, then, the missing link, and a most natural explanation of this otherwise incomprehensible name-change? 

And if this be so, it is interesting to call to mind the clever conjecture that Nicolaos (nikan and laoV) in Greek is the exact equivalent of Balaam in Hebrew. And with Nicolaos before us we are at once reminded of certain Nicolaitans who came under the severe displeasure of the Jewish Christian circle to whom the over-writer of the canonical Apocalypse belonged (Rev. ii. 6 and 15). These Nicolaitans have been a great puzzle to the commentators, but many scholars are of opinion that under this name the Pauline Churches are aimed at.[2] Can it, then, be possible that the Nicolaitans were for the Jewish Christians the Balaamites, the innovators who were throwing off the yoke of the Law and introducing new ideas contrary to the orthodoxy of Jewry? If this be so, the identification Jeschu-Balaam may be conjectured to have been one of the immediate outcomes 

[1] See article "Balaam” in "The Jewish Encyclopedia." "The Rabbis, playing on the name Balaam, call him 'Belo 'Am' (without people; that is, without a share with the people in the world to come), or 'Billa 'Am' (one that ruined a people)." 

[2] See van Manen's article, "Nicolaitans," in "The Encyclopedia Biblica"; in which, however, the Leyden professor, while stigmatising Balaam = Nicolaos as a mere guess, does not in any way refer to the Talmud problem we are discussing. That the Nicolaitans = the Balaamites, however, is strongly supported by Kohler in his article in "The Jewish Encyclopaedia," to which we have just referred. 


of Pauline propaganda, and we have again found the origin of yet another Rabbinical nickname of Jeschu in doctrinal controversy. 

But the "leading astray "may have gone back even further than the days of Pauline propaganda; and we believe that the original charge against Jesus is to be found in the following passage preserved in the Babylonian Gemara. 

"'There shall no evil befall thee' [Ps. xci. 10]. (That means) that evil dreams and bad phantasies shall not vex thee. 'Neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent'; (that means) that thou shalt not have a son or disciple who burns his food publicly, like Jeschu ha-Notzri."[1] 

What is the meaning of this strange phrase, "to burn one's food publicly"? Dalman[2] says that this means "to renounce openly what one has learned." Laible [3] is of opinion that "public burning of food is a contemptuous expression for the public offering of sacrifice to idols. That the Christians in their assemblies offered sacrifice to idols was as firmly the opinion of the Jews of old time as it is that of many at the present day[!]. Naturally, therefore, it was concluded that Jesus must have commenced it." 

In this connection we are further reminded that the charge brought against the Nicolaitans by the final redactor of the Apocalypse is "eating things sacrificed to idols and committing fornication"; upon which van Manen comments : "not because they made a mock of all that is holy and trampled honour underfoot, but 

[1] "Bab. Sanhedrin," 103a. 

[2] Op. cit., p. 34.

[3] Ibid., p. 52. 


because they, like 'Paul,' had set aside the Jewish laws regarding foods and marriage, freely using food that had been set before heathen deities, and contracting marriages within the prohibited degrees, which in the eyes of the author of the Apocalypse were unchaste unions, just as in the eyes of the writer of I. Cor. v. 1 the marriage of the Christian who had freed himself from scruples with his deceased father's wife (not his own mother) was so, or as in the eyes of so many Englishmen the marriage with a deceased wife's sister is at the present day." 

There is, however, no consensus of opinion with regard to the meaning of the phrase "burning one's food publicly." The Rabbis, we must remember, applied the term "idolatry" in the loosest fashion to everything that was not a strict Jewish custom or belief; and it is hardly to be believed that the early Christians, least of all Jesus himself, could have been accused of "idolatry," in the literal meaning of the word, even by their most bitter opponents. I am, therefore, inclined to think that there may be some other meaning of this "burning of one's food publicly." The main point of the accusation is evidently contained in the word "publicly" It wasthe doing of something or other "publicly," which apparently might not only have been tolerated privately, but which was presumably the natural thing to do in private. Now the main burden of Christian tradition is that Jesus went and taught the people publicly—the poor, the outcast, the oppressed, the sinners, to all of whom, according to Rabbinical law, the mysteries of the Torah were not to be expounded unless they had first of all 


purified themselves. These ignorant and unclean livers were 'Amme ha-aretz (men of the earth), and the Torah was not for them. And if it was that no 'Am ha-aretz was admitted to the schoolhouse, much more strictly were guarded the approaches to those more select communities where the mysteries of the "Creation "and of the "Chariot," the theosophy of Judaism, were studied. To some such community of this kind we believe Jeschu originally belonged; and from it he was expelled because he "burnt his food publicly," that is to say, taught the wisdom to the unpurified people and so violated the ancient rule of the order. 
In connection with this there is a remarkable passage, preserved in the Babylonian Gemara, which demands our closest attention. It runs as follows: 

"When our wise men left the house of Rab Chisda or, as others say, the house of Rab Shemuel bar Nachmani, they said of him: 'Thus our learned men are laden' [Ps. cxliv. 14]. Rab and Shemuel, or, as others say, Rabbi Jochanan and Rabbi Eleazar (were of a different opinion). One said: 'our learned' in the Law, and 'are laden' with commandments [i.e., good works], and the other said: 'our learned in the Law and in the commandments,' and 'are laden' with sufferings. 'There is no breaking in,' that our company shall not be like the company of Saul, from whom Doeg, the Edomite, has gone out, and 'no going forth,' that our company shall not be like the company of David, from whom Ahitophel has gone out, and 'no outcry,' that our company shall not be like the company of Elisha, from whom Gehazi has gone out, 'in our streets,' that 


we shall not have a son or a disciple who burns his food publicly like Jeschu ha-Notzri." [l] 

Rab Chisda was one of the Rabbis of the Talmud school of Sura in Babylonia, and died 309 A.D. R. Shemuel bar Nachman (or Nachmani) was a teacher in the Palestinian school at Tiberias, but twice went to Babylonia. He was a pupil of R. Jonathan ben Eleazar, who was a pupil of R. Chanina, who was a pupil of "Rabbi." R. Shemuel was, then, presumably a contemporary of R. Chisda. 

Rab or Abba was the founder of the school at Sura on the Euphrates, and died 247 A.D.; Mar Shemuel was head of the Babylonian school at Nehardea, and died 254 A.D. 

R. Jochanan was a Palestinian Rabbi who flourished 130-160 A.D.; R. Eleazar flourished 90-130 A.D. 

The words of the text taken from the Psalms run as follows in the Authorised Version: "That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no complaining in our streets." 

Doeg, says Cheyne,[2] "had been detained (so one tradition tells us) before Yahwe'—i.e., by some obscure religious prescription, and had cunningly watched David in his intercourse with the priest Ahimelech. Soon after, he denounced the latter to the suspicious Saul, and when the king commanded his 'runners' to put Ahimelech and the other priests to death, and they refused, it was this foreigner who lifted up his hand against them." 

[1] "Bab. Berachoth," 17a f. 

[2] See article "Doeg," "Enc. Bib." 


Doeg is called by the strange title "the mightiest of the shepherds." 

Ahitophel, the Gilonite, was a councillor of David, and was much esteemed for his unerring insight; he, however, revolted against David and cast in his lot with Absalom's rebellion. He met his death by hanging (2 Sam. xvii. 23). 

Gehazi (= Valley of vision) was cast out by Elisha and smitten with leprosy for fraudulently obtaining money from Naaman at the time of the latter's miraculous cure by the prophet. 

With these data before us let us return to our Talmud passage. It is very evident that the whole point of the story has to do with heresy, with "going forth," or with some scandal or breaking of the established rule or order of things, or with paving the way for so doing. We have seen that in the Talmud stories Balaam is a substitute for Jeschu; can it, then, be possible that in Doeg, Ahitophel and Gehazi also we have to do with name-substitutions? 

The answer to this question will perhaps be made clearer by quoting the following passages from the Mishna.

"R. Akiba says: He also has no part in the world to come who reads foreign books, and who whispers over a wound and says: 'I will lay upon thee no sickness, which I have laid upon Egypt, for I am the Lord, thy physician.'" 

This interesting passage is followed by one of even greater interest. 

"Three kings and four private persons have no portion in the world to come. Three kings, namely, 


Jeroboam, Ahab and Manasseh. R. Jehudah says; 'Manasseh has a portion therein, for it is said [II. Chron. xxxiii. 13], "and he prayed unto him; and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom."' It was objected to him, He brought him again into his kingdom, but he did not bring him again into the life of the future world. Four private persons, namely, Balaam, Doeg, Ahitophel, and Gehazi."[1] 

These passages are old, for they are found in the Mishna. To take the saying ascribed to R. Akiba (n. 100-135 A.D.) first. The Gemara[2] says that by "foreign books "are meant Siphre Minim. The term Minim was for long taken to refer exclusively to Jewish Christians or Christians generally; but this has been hotly disputed of late years by many. It seems certain that though Jewish Christians may be sometimes included in this term, Minim does not mean them exclusively. Nor does Minim always mean "heretics "in a bad sense, it sometimes means "heretics "in its original signification, that is to say, simply the members of some particular school. That, however, most of the Rabbis considered these Siphre Minim, in a bad sense, to include the Gospel, is evident from a gloss in the Munich MS.,[3] where the word Evangelium is caricatured as follows: 

"Rabbi Meir calls it, 'Awen gillajon [blank paper, lit. margin, of evil], Rabbi Jochanan calls it, 'Awon gillajon [blank paper of sin]." 

R. Meir was one of the great redactors of the Mishna 

[1] "Sanhediin," xi. 90a; "Mishna," x. 1, 2.

[2] "Sanhedrin," l00b. 

[3] "Shabbath," 116a. 


and flourished about 130-160 A.D.; R. Jochanan was his contemporary. Gillajon means literally a "margin," that is, a paper which is left unwritten upon, and is therefore blank.[1] It must be confessed, however, that such apparently meaningless jesting is quite below the level of Rabbinical caricaturing with which we are acquainted, and I am inclined to think that Dalman has not got to the bottom of the matter. I can, however, offer no better conjecture myself.

The formula of healing is an interesting one. Whether or not we are to take "Egypt" literally, or as a substitute for the "body” as it was among certain of the Gnostic schools, must be left to the fancy and taste of the reader; the phrase, "I am the Lord, thy physician," however, reminds us strongly of the "Healers," and the "Servants" of the Great Healer, and suggests memories of some of the derivations conjectured for the names Therapeut and Essene. 

We may pass over the three kings in our second Mishna passage, but we cannot pass by the four private persons, Balaam, Doeg, Ahitophel and Gehazi, for the combination is so extraordinary that even the most careless reader must be struck by it. What has Balaam ben Beor to do dans cette galère? Whose "company" did he leave? Balaam ben Beor may be said rather to have joined forces with the Israelites; he certainly did not leave them. Balaam came in, he did not "go out." 

The point of the story is that there are certain Persons who have no part in the world to come. R. Akiba has just told us of what kind the orthodox 

[1] Dalman, op. cit., p. 30.


Jew considered these to be; they were heretics who looked to other Scriptures as well as the Torah, as we know the Gnostics did most freely, and the general Christians as far as the Gospel Scripture was concerned; they were further healers and wonder-makers, which indeed many of the Essenes, Therapeuts and Gnostics set themselves to be, and which general Christian tradition asserts Jesus and the Apostles were. 

But why should Balaam head the list of the condemned, when it is precisely the prophetical pronouncement of Ben Beor that the Rabbis were using for all it was worth against Christian dogmatic claims? Balaam here clearly stands for Jeschu; and if this be so, then it is reasonable to suppose that Doeg, Ahitophel and Gehazi stand for the names of some other teachers who had fallen under severe Rabbinical displeasure. Who they were precisely we have now no means of discovering, and the supposition that they refer to Peter, James and John[1] is considerably discounted by the following strange passage from the Babylonian Gemara: 

"Elisha went to Damascus—for what did he go? R. Jochanan has said, that he went for the conversion of Gehazi, But he was not converted. Elisha said to him: Be converted! He answered him: Is it thus that I am converted by thee? For him that sinneth and maketh the people to sin the possibility of repentance is taken away."[2] 

Rabbi Jochanan nourished 130-160 A.D. It will at once strike the attentive reader that the words put into the mouth of Gehazi are identical with those 

[1] See Streane, op. cit., p. 57. 

[2] "Bab. Sanhedrin," 107b. 


of the answer of Jeschu to Joshua ben Perachiah as found in the famous twice-told story of Jeschu's excommunication. [1] 
The answer is an extraordinary one, and may be taken to mean that the evil (from the point of view of the Rabbis) was irremediable. The thing had spread too far; even if the leaders were now to return to the strict fold of Jewry, the people would still continue to hold the new views which abrogated their servitude to the galling yoke of the Law. 
The mention of the name Damascus, moreover, in connection with Gehazi, at once brings Paul to mind, and disturbs the balance of the Peter and James and John supposition as the under-names of Doeg, Ahitophel and Gehazi. 

If by any means, then, Gehazi may be held to be a "blind” for Paul, we have to ask ourselves what has Elisha to do in this connection? Does "Elisha "represent some chief of the Sanhedrin? It may be so, but we should also recollect that the Essene communities and similar mystic associations were always looking for the return of Elisha. They were in connection with the line of descent from the "Schools of the Prophets," and expected their great prophet to return again in power to announce the advent of the Messiah. It is hardly necessary in this connection to recall to the reader's recollection the John-Elias of the Gospel story or to refer the student to the elaborate Gnostic tradition of the incarnation of the soul of Elisha in the body of John under the direct supervision of the Master, as found in the "Pistis Sophia "— later 

[1] "Sanhedrin," 107b, and "Sota," 47e. 


accommodations to the necessities of a historicising evolution. The recollection, however, of these and similar ideas and facts makes us hazard the conjecture that "Elisha” in our Mishna passage may be a "blind "for the official head of the chief Essene community, or at any rate of that "company" who looked to Elisha as its spiritual head. It was from this company that "Gehazi" had "gone out." Whether or not the other "companies" of Saul and David may refer to associations of a somewhat similar nature, I must leave for the consideration of those who are fully persuaded that the literal meaning of our Talmud passage, as far as the four private persons are concerned, was the one furthest from the intention of its Rabbinical authors. 
However this may be, the Rabbis were convinced that the disciples of Balaam en bloc would inherit Gehenna, as we read in the tractate devoted to the "Sayings of the Fathers”: 

"The disciples of our father Abraham enjoy this world and inherit the world to come, as it is written [Prov. viii. 21]: 'That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and that I may fill their treasuries.' The disciples of Balaam the impious inherit Gehenna, and go down into the pit of destruction, as it is written [Ps. Iv. 24] : 'But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.' "[l] 

And if there should by any chance be still the slightest hesitation in the mind of the reader that Balaam in these passages equates with Jeschu, the 

[1]"Aboth," v. 19. 


following remarkable passage from the Babylonian Gemara should for ever set his mind at rest.

"A Min said to R. Chanina: Hast thou by any chance ascertained what age Balaam was? He answered: There is nothing written concerning it. But since it is said, 'Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,' he was either thirty-three or thirty-four years old. The Min answered: Thou hast spoken well; for I have myself seen a chronicle of Balaam in which it is said : Thirty-three years old was Balaam the lame man, when the robber Phineas slew him." [1] 

I am not quite certain what R. Chanina is here intended. R. Chanina ben Dosa was a contemporary of R. Jochanan ben Zakkai, who nourished in the last third of the first century; while R. Chanina ben Chama was a pupil of "Rabbi's," and therefore must be placed at the beginning of the third century; he lived at Sepphoris in Palestine. That this specimen of Rabbinical exegesis, however, may be ascribed to the earlier Chanina in preference to the later, is suggested by the very similar passage in the same Gemara, which reads: 

"R. Jochanan said: Doeg and Ahitophel lived not half their days. Such, too, is the tenor of a Boraitha [2] : Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days. All the years of Doeg were not more than thirty-four, and of Ahitophel not more than thirty-three." [3]

[1] Bab. Sanhedrin," 106b 

[2] A saying or tradition not included in the canonical Mishna.

[3] "Sanhedrin,” 106b (end).


R. Jochanan flourished about 130-160 A.D. As it seems easier to assume that the splitting up of the "33 or 34" between Ahitophel and Doeg was the later development, rather than that the supposed ages of Doeg and Ahitophel should have been conflated into the age of Balaam, I am inclined to think that the R. Chanina of our penultimate passage is intended for the earlier Chanina. If this be so, and the story can be taken as genuine, that is as an old tradition, then we have an early confirmation from outside sources of the thirty-three years of Jesus at the time of his death. But to consider the wording of the passage in greater detail. 

Laible translates Min as "Jewish Christian"; but it is difficult to believe that a Jewish Christian of any school can have referred to Jesus as Balaam, and therefore I have kept the original without translation. The academical answer bases itself on the threescore and ten years given as the normal life of man in the Torah. It is interesting to note that E. Chanina knows of no Jewish tradition which gives the age of Jeschu; he can only conjecture an answer by means of a kind of Rabbinical sortilegium of texts. Wonderful—replies the Min—that is just what I have read in one of the "Chronicles of Balaam"—a Gospel story apparently. We can hardly suppose, however, that we have a direct quotation from this "Chronicle"; we have plainly a Rabbinical gloss put into the mouth of the Min. 

Now Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was the priestly leader of the army of Israel which destroyed the Midianites, and slew their kings, and with them Balaam son of Beor (Num. xxxi. 2 ff). But 


why should Phineas be called a "robber "(Aram, listaa from the Greek lhsthV), as Laible translates it? Bashi explains this word as meaning "general" (sar tzaba), and we should remember that though listaa is a loan-word from the Greek lhsthV (a "robber"), it was with the Jews rather the title of patriotic leaders, of zealots for the Law, as Phineas was represented to be par excellence. The meaning is thus simple and clear enough, and we see no reason for Laible's conjecture,[1] that Lista'a is a caricature-name for P'lista'a—Pilate. No doubt it would be convenient somehow to bring Pilate into the Talmud Jesus Stories, but as a matter of fact his name and every incident of the Gospel story connected with him are conspicuous in the Talmud by their absence. If listaa was a caricature-name, we should not find the combination "Phineas Listaa," but Listaa by itself. Otherwise we should expect to come across some such doubles as Ben Stada Balaam—a species of combination nowhere found in the Talmud. 

There still remains to be explained the curious combination "Balaam the lame man"; but I have so far met with no satisfactory conjecture on this point, and am quite unable to hazard one of my own.[2] Laible conjectures that the epithet had its origin in the breaking down of Jesus under the weight of the cross or the piercing of his feet; but did the Rabbis know anything of what Laible presupposes throughout, without any 

[1] Op. cit., p. 60. 

[2] The article in "The Jewish Encyclopaedia" says: Balaam in Babbinical literature "is pictured as blind of one eye and lame in one foot ('San.’; 105a); and his disciples (followers) are distinguished by three morally corrupt qualities, viz., an evil eye, a haughty bearing, and an avaricious spirit." 


enquiry of any sort, to have been the actual ungainsayable history of Jesus? 
Finally, with a sublime tour de force of inconsistency, the Talmud gives us a story where Balaam and Jeschu are introduced together in the same evil plight, but as entirely different persons and giving absolutely contradictory advice. This story runs as follows: 

Onkelos bar Kalonikos, nephew of Titus, desired to secede to Judaism. He conjured up the spirit of Titus and asked him: Who is esteemed in that world? He answered: The Israelites. Onkelos asked further : Ought one to join himself to them? He answered : Their precepts are too many; thou canst not keep them; go rather hence and make war upon them in this world; so shall thou become a head; for it is said [Lam. i. 5]: 'Their adversaries are become the head,' i.e., Everyone that vexeth the Israelites becomes ahead. Onkelos asked the spirit: Wherewith art thou judged? He answered: With that which I have appointed for myself: each day my ashes are collected and I am judged; then I am burnt and the ashes scattered over the seven seas. 

"Thereupon Onkelos went and conjured up the spirit of Balaam. He asked him: Who is esteemed in that world? The spirit answered: The Israelites. Onkelos asked further: Ought one to join himself to them? The spirit said: Seek not their peace and their good always. Onkelos asked: Wherewith art thou judged? The spirit answered: With boiling pollution. 

"Thereupon Onkelos went and conjured up the spirit of Jeschu. He asked him: Who is esteemed in that world? The spirit answered: The Israelites. Onkelos 


asked further: Ought one to join himself to them? 

The spirit said: Seek their good and not their ill. He who toucheth them, touches the apple of His eye. Onkelos asked: Wherewith art thou judged? The spirit said: With boiling filth. 

"For the teacher has said: He who scorneth the words of the wise is judged with boiling filth. See what a distinction there is between the apostates of Israel and the heathen prophets!"[1] 

In the first place We ask who was Onkelos and why Onkelos was he selected as the protagonist in this necromantic séance? 
Scholars of eminence, though entirely without reference to this passage, have identified the name Onkelos with the Talmudic Akilas, the Greek Akylas (‘AkulaV) and the Latin Aquila. The most famous Aquila in Jewish history was the translator of the Old Covenant documents into Greek, in a slavishly literal version which was held in the greatest esteem by the Jews as correcting the innumerable errors of the Septuagint version on which the Christians entirely depended. We are not certain of the exact date of this Aquila, but he is generally placed in the first half of the second century.

Now Irenaeus, Eusebius, Jerome and other Fathers, and the Jerusalem Talmud itself,[2] say that this Aquila was a proselyte to the Jewish faith. Moreover, Epiphanius[3] states that "Aquila was a relative (the exact nature of the relationship denoted by the otherwise unknown form penqeridhV is doubtful) of the 

[1] "Bab. Gittin," 56b ff. 

[2] "Megill.,''71c. 3; "Kiddush.," 59c. 1. 

[3] "De Pond, et Mens.," c. 14, 15. 


Emperor Hadrian, and was appointed by him to superintend the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the new name of Aelia Capitolina; that, impressed by the miracles of healing and other wonders performed by the disciples of the Apostles who had returned from Pella to the nascent city, he embraced Christianity, and at his own request was baptised; that, in consequence of his continued devotion to practices of astrology, which he refused to abandon even when reproved by the disciples, he was expelled from the Church; and that, embittered by this treatment, he was induced through his zeal against Christianity to become a Jew, to study the Hebrew language, and to render the Scriptures afresh into Greek with the view of setting aside those testimonies to Christ which were drawn from the current version on [sic,? of] the Septuagint."[1] 

With Dickson, the writer of the article from which we have been quoting, we may set aside the account of Epiphanius as a theological romance to discount the value of Aquila's translation; he, however, preserves the interesting fact that Aquila was a "relative" of some kind of Hadrian, and this is strongly confirmatory of our conjecture that the Onkelos, nephew of Titus, and the Aquila of history are one and the same person. 

With regard to the Talmud passage, however, in which Aquila plays the part of protagonist, it is not very easy to glean the precise meaning. Onkelos-Aquila is about to become a proselyte to Judaism; whereupon he seeks counsel from three of the greatest foes of Jewry according to Rabbinical traditions. These all are made to 

[1] See article "Aquila" in Smith and Wace's "Dictionary o£ Christian Biography" (London; 1877). 


admit the pre-eminence of the Israelites, if not in this world, at any rate in the world to come. Titus, the plain Roman soldier, says that the Jews' religious rules and customs are far too elaborate, and advises his kinsman to make war against them; Balaam is less extreme in his views and advises a moderate policy; while Jeschu is made to regard the Jews as the chosen race, the specially beloved, the apple of Yahweh's eye, and urges Aquila to seek ever their good. 

And yet; the punishment assigned to these three by Rabbinical opinion is in exact inverse proportion to their hostility to Israel. Whatever may be the technical distinction between "boiling filth "and "boiling pollution," they are evidently far more severe forms of torment than the punishment of Titus, who is burnt simply without the added vileness of "filth” or "pollution."

 Moreover, that by "boiling filth "we are to understand something of the most loathsome nature possible, far exceeding even the foulness of "boiling pollution," may be seen from the statement that this " ‘boiling filth' is the lowest abode in hell, into which there sinks every foulness of the souls which sojourn in the upper portions. It is also as a secret chamber, and every superfluity, in which there is no spark of holiness, falls thereinto. For this reason it is called 'boiling filth,' according to the mysterious words of Is. xxviii. 8: 'There is so much vomit and filthiness, that there is no place clean,' as it is said in Is. xxx. 52: 'Thou shalt call it filth.' "[1] 

And the reason that this "boiling filth" was chosen 

[1] Laible, op. cit., p. 95, quoting from Eisenmenger, "Entdecktes Judenthum" (see for latest edition F.X. Schiefel's, Dresden, 1893), ii. 335 ff., who refers to "Emek hammelech," 135c. chap. xix. 


by the Rabbis as the punishment of Jeschu is to be seen in the following deduction ascribed to Rab Acha bar Ulla (who flourished presumably in the second half of the fourth century): 

"From this [from Eccles. xii. 12] it follows, that he who jeers at the words of the doctors of the Law, is punished by boiling filth." [l] 

What the text in Ecclesiastes is to which reference is made, I am not certain. It would seem to refer to verse 11, which runs: "The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd," rather than to verse 12, which reads : "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh." 

And in connection with this the Tosaphoth add: 

'"Is there [Eccles. xii. 12] then really written [Lamed, Ayin, Gimel] (derision)'? At all events it is true that he is punished by boiling filth as we are saying in Ha-Nezakin.[2]"[3] 

Dalman[4] adds in a note: "The Tosaphoth mean, although it may not be allowed to derive this punishment from the words in Eccles. xii. 12, as Rab Acha bar Ulla does, 'Erubin,' 21b, it is nevertheless true." But how Rab Acha derived the "boiling filth" even illegitimately from this text is nowhere explained as far as I can discover, and I fear my readers are no less wearied than myself in following such arid bypaths of perverse casuistry. 

[1] "Bab. Erubin," 21b, referring evidently to the last paragraph of the passage from "Gittin," 57, quoted above. 
[2] That is chap. v. of "Gittin," 56b. 

[3] Tosaphoth to "Erubin," 21b. 

[4] Op. cit., p. 39.


The only thing we learn definitely from all of this is that Jeschu refused to be bound by the exegesis of the Rabbis and their decisions, and in this he seems to the non-Rabbinical mind to have been a wise man, if their decisions were anything like the one before us; whereas for the Rabbis this "scorning" of the words of their doctors was the sin of all sins, and therefore deserving of the greatest torment Hell could brew, and this for the Rabbis, no matter by what means they arrived at it, was the torment of "boiling filth." 

We have now come to the end of our Balaam Jeschu stories, but before we pass on to a consideration of what the Talmud has to say concerning the disciples and followers of Jesus, we will append a passage in the Targum Sheni to Esther vii. 9,[1] which is exceedingly curious in several ways and deserves our attention. 

The Targum, after relating that Haman appealed with tears to Mordecai for mercy, but in vain, proceeds to tell us that Haman thereupon began a great weeping and lamentation for himself in the garden of the palace. And thereupon is added: "He answered and spake thus: Hear me, ye trees and all ye plants, which I have planted since the days of the creation. The son of Hammedatha is about to ascend to the lecture-room of Ben Pandera." 

Tree after tree excuses itself from being the hanging-post of Haman; finally the cedar proposes that Haman be hanged on the gallows he had set up for Mordecai. 

[1] The A. V. reads : "And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon." 


Here again, as in the case of Balaam ben Beor, we have as protagonist a character who was ever regarded as one of the most inveterate enemies of the Jews -- Haman ben Hammedatha. With haggadic license Haman is represented as being in the midst of the "garden" in the midst of the "trees"; and yet it is Yahweh himself (though indeed there seems to be some strange confusion between the persons of Yahweh and Haman in the narrative) who addresses the trees "which I have planted since the days of the creation," and who announces that Haman is "about to ascend to the lecture-room of Ben Pandera." 
The word translated by "lecture-room "is aksandria, which Levy in his "Wörterbuch "connects with Alexandria, but which Laible says[1] must be explained by exedra, the regular term for the lecture room or lecture place of a philosopher; and certainly Laible here seems to give the more appropriate meaning, for what can Alexandria have to do in this connection? 
"The lecture-room of Ben Pandera" is then evidently a jesting synonym of the gallows, which in this particular case was not made of wood, otherwise the trees could not all have excused themselves. Here then again, according to Jewish tradition, Ben Pandera was hanged and not crucified, for the word gallows expressly excludes all notion of crucifixion. It is indeed a remarkable fact that the point which is above all others so minutely laboured in Christian tradition, the pivot of Christian dogmatics, is consistently ignored by Jewish tradition. 

It is also a point of great interest for us in this strange story that the same or very similar elements 

[1] Op. cit., p. 91. 


appear in some of the forms of the Toldoth Jeschu, in which we find that the body of Jeschu cannot be hanged on any tree because he had laid a spell upon them by means of the Shem; the plants, however, had not been brought under this spell, and so the body was finally hung on a "cabbage-stalk." 

That there is some hidden connection between this apparently outrageously silly legend and the Haman haggada is evident, but what that connection originally was it seems now impossible to discover. There may even be some "mystic" element at bottom of it all, as the "garden" and "trees" seem to suggest; and in this connection we must remember that there is much talk of a "garden" in the Toldoth, and that, as we have already seen from Tertullian ("De Spect," c. xxx.), there was some well-known early Jewish legend connected with a "gardener" who abstracted the body— "that his lettuces might not be damaged by the crowds of visitors," as the Bishop of Carthage adds ironically while yet perchance unintentionally preserving the "lettuce" and "cabbage-stalk" link of early legend-evolution.

As on the surface and in the letter all this is utter nonsense, we can only suppose that originally there must have been some under-meaning to such a strange farrago of childish fancies; we will therefore return to the subject when dealing with the general features of the Toldoth. Meanwhile the Talmud stories relating to the disciples and followers of Jesus must engage our attention.

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