Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?
By G. R. S. Mead
Content | Previous | Next
XVI.—THE 100 YEARS B.C. DATE IN THE TOLDOTH.
THE question which now arises is: Can this tangled growth of legend in any way help us in our present enquiry? The answer to this question is: If the Talmud Jesus stories are amazing in their contradictions on such a fundamental point as the time when Jesus lived, the Toldoth legends are even more astonishingly self-contradictory; yet, strange to say, the nature of the increased contradictions of the latter is such as to make us hesitate before we instantly reject the Ben Perachiah element as utterly unworthy of even momentary consideration.
A glance at the meagre external evidence as to the existence of early Toldoth stuff as distinguished from Talmud Jesus matter shows us how impossible it is to trace any distinct moments in the evolution of this rank growth of Jewish folk-lore; for from the time of Tertullian till the beginning of the ninth century, when we for the first time meet with traces of two absolutely contradictory Toldoth recensions, one placing Jesus in the days of Joshua ben Perachiah, and the other associating him with Tiberius and Pilate, we have hardly anything to guide us, for not even the fact
that the Ben Pandera legend had spread so far and wide that we find two Church Fathers compelled to insert the name in the genealogies of Jesus and Mary can help us in this connection.
It is evident, therefore, that any attempt to trace the main moments in the evolution of the Toldoth as it stands in the many varieties and recensions of its first written form, if, indeed, these all spring from a single original written form, is a matter almost entirely of internal evidence, if not of pure subjectivity. Moreover, we have not to deal with a Toldoth Jeschu only but we have also before us a kind of Maase Apostolim, or Apostle-history or Acts of Apostles, and also a heresy-history (Nestorius), which may or may not have formed part of the first written form of Toldoth; and, therefore, any attempt to make the date of this first written Toldoth depend on data drawn from what have all the appearance of being supplements or appendices is open to grave objections.
But, whatever the first written form of Toldoth Jeschu may have been, it must have depended upon older oral sources. What was the nature of those oral sources? Here again we cannot answer with any certainty, for we do not know what the first written form of the Toldoth contained. All we definitely know is that at the end of the second century Tertullian is acquainted with an element which we find in the Toldoth and nowhere else. When, then, Krauss (p. 3) says that the "whole content" of the Toldoth was known to Tertullian, by this he can only mean that the points mentioned by the Bishop of Carthage are found in the Toldoth generally, and also, it may be remarked,
in more or less the same order. But even so, it must be confessed that the indications are for the most part exceedingly vague, and we can draw no satisfactory conclusions from them.
It must be remembered that we are trying to get at the earliest Jewish sources of Toldoth stuff, for it is quite evident that the later, perhaps even, it may be, the earlier, written forms of Toldoth drew from Christian sources as well.
What, then, were these Jewish sources? Were they simply the Talmud Jesus stories? It is true that some of the Toldoth recensions, in some details, seem to draw directly from them, but they generally treat these elements with such great freedom, that we cannot believe they depended upon them as the only source; on the contrary, there is much in the Toldoth of a similar nature and yet entirely absent from the Talmud.
Krauss' theory (p. 242)  is that, seeing the Toldoth recensions know Jesus only as Ben Pandera, and never as Ben Stada, they, therefore, look back to that saga-circle known to Celsus, that is to a body of living oral tradition, part of which was gradually introduced into the Talmud and part worked up into the written Toldoth. This of course applies only to the oldest deposit of the Toldoth, whatever that may have been, and it is very probable that such may have been the case.
 Krauss' argument (pp. 238-242), that the "principal source" of the Toldoth is the lost Hebrew History of Josippon (not Flavius Josephus), whom, he says, the Jews regarded as the main source of the events of the period of the Second Temple, appears to me to be somewhat problematical; in any case we can no longer get at Josippon, for his History is unfortunately lost.
The question that next arises is: What elements of the Toldoth can be attributed to this oldest deposit of Jewish oral tradition? This is an exceedingly difficult question to answer. As far as the Ben Pandera or Mamzer element is concerned, we have no further interest in it as far as our present enquiry is concerned, for we hold that this element arose out of the controversy concerning the virgin-birth dogma, and whenever precisely this may have been first debated, it was clearly a comparatively late development even in Christian tradition.
Are there, however, any elements in this chaos of oral tradition older than the Mamzer-legend? And if so, is the Ben Perachiah date one of them? This latter is the whole crux of our enquiry, and we will, therefore, deal with it to the exclusion of any other elements which might be held to be of very early date.
We have already examined the Talmud Ben Perachiah story. Can the Toldoth recensions throw any further light on the question?
At first sight it would appear that they only add chaos to confusion. Many give the Joshua ben Perachiah (or Simeon ben Shetach) date, some give the Christian canonical date, and some confound the two. But the main interest of the Toldoth in this connection is that the most frequent date-indication, for it occurs in almost all recensions, is the mention of a certain Queen Helene, in whose hand is the sovereignty of all Jewry, and before whom the trial of Jesus takes place. This name never appears in the Talmud Jesus stories, nor, for a matter of that, do the names of Herod, or Pilate, or John the Baptist (or any
other that confirm the Christian canonical date); the only date-indications in the Talmud are, as we have seen before, on the one hand the mention of Joshua ben Perachiah and Jannai in connection with Jesus, and on the other the Akiba Mary story.
Even the few forms of the Toldoth which follow the Herod or Pilate date cannot escape from Joshua ben Perachiah, for instance, the Aramaic form referred to by Agobard and Schemtob, while even the late Huldreich recension, which in some things seems to adopt the Talmud Lud tradition (though there is no mention of Ben Stada), and works in more Christian elements than any of the other forms, states that Jesus went to the school of Joshua ben Perachiah. It is true that Bischoff’s Judaeo-German version introduces (§21) the name of Pilate, and associates him with Queen Helene, as also it brings in the twelve Apostles (who are otherwise unknown to Jewish tradition), in addition to the three hundred and twenty; but these glosses are unknown to S., which B. otherwise seems to follow, while B. itself categorically declares that Jesus was a pupil of Joshua ben Perachiah.
But we are not yet out of the jungle, for although in most MSS. Helene is mentioned without any further qualification than a statement which is equivalent to saying that she was queen of the Jews, in one or two MSS. of the de Rossi type she is said to be "wife of Constantine"—that is to say, she is identified with Helena the mother, not the wife, of Constantine the Great. Nevertheless in this same Toldoth form (e.g. in
 In which Jesus is condemned and executed under Herod the Great!
V.) we find that these things took place in the time of Tiberius and Herod II., while the teacher of Miriam's husband is still given as Simeon ben Shetach, and we are further told that the land had been left in the hand of Helene, "after Nebucadnezzar, King of Babylon, that is seventy years before the destruction of the Temple" (so also the Leipzig MS.).
Here is a magnificent tangle to unravel. What can it all mean? The Toldoth give us a new date-indication, but while giving it with one hand, they immediately snatch it away with the other. As far as the Christian elements are concerned, it is easy to understand how that in course of time the confused tradition of the Jews could not stand against the persistent and ever growing more consistent and uniform Christian tradition, and how that gradually some of the later Toldoth scribes were so influenced by it, that they accepted it and wove it into their legendary patchwork, though in so doing they involved themselves in the greatest contradiction with their predecessors, and could never succeed entirely in erasing air trace of the Ben Perachiah data.
What, however, seems to have most greatly puzzled those innovating scribes was the mention of Queen Helene; in fact, so hopelessly confused were some of them that, as we have seen, they had no hesitation in affirming that Helene was the wife of Constantine; even a so transparent fiction as this insensate anachronism, with a Nebuchadnezzar thrown in, could not spoil their literary digestion, unless—and this, after all, may perhaps be the means of unravelling the most complicated part of the tangle—it was a jest and known
to be one by every Jewish schoolboy. It is more than probable that there may be a grim humour behind some of those wild anachronisms, and that it is a waste of energy to expend our marks of exclamation on the stupidity of the legend-weavers.
For if we have to take seriously such manifest contradictions in one and the same sentence, it would be an egregious compliment to characterize such statements as simply betraying a total lack of any sense of history; if they were seriously meant they can be classed only with the productions of a lunatic asylum, and the general irresponsibility of mediaeval legend-making would have to blush for its incompetency before the magnificent and gorgeous spectacle of such transcendental irrationality.
It is true that Helena was the subject of a prolific legend-activity in the Middle Ages, principally because of the "finding of the cross" saga. But why Krauss should solemnly take this as his point of departure, and endeavour to show that the Helene element of the Toldoth was begotten of the Helena legends, is somewhat of a matter of surprise; for it is very evident that if in one of the "wife of Constantine" type of Toldoth recensions there is reference to "the finding of the cross," this incident was added either by some utterly ignorant scribe, or by some humorist to cap the joke, for it could not have been that any intelligent Jew could have been so foolish as to have seriously imported the figure of Saint Helena, whose faith in Jesus not only never wavered but was of the most transcendent type, out of the Christian legends, and have converted her, of all people in the world, into the
queen before whom the trial of Jesus took place, and who finally hands him over to the Jews to do with him as they would.
The Helene element is not a subsidiary matter of no special importance in the Toldoth, it is not even of only secondary consideration; far from it, it is one of the main elements of the whole story. If there is any ancient element in the Toldoth, it is precisely the figure of this queen, before whom the most dramatic and critical incidents of the whole story take place. It is impossible not to believe that there was the mention of some queen in the oldest deposit of the Toldoth-saga, and difficult to believe that the name given her in it was anything else than Helene.
The writer of the Toldoth recension printed by Wagenseil, however, seems to have had no doubt who this Helene was, for after telling us that Jesus was born in the 671st year of the fourth millennium (ab orbe condito)—that is 93 B.C., in the reign, of King Jannai who was also called Alexander, he goes on to say that this Queen Helene "was the wife of the before-mentioned Jannai, who held the sovereignty after the death of her husband. She is called by another name Oleina, and had a son King Munbasus, otherwise called Hyrcanus."
I say the writer "seems" to have no doubt who this Helene was, because the last sentence presents us with a new difficulty. It is true that Hyrcanus II. was the eldest son of Jannai, but Monobaz II. was the son, not of Jannai, but of Helene, Queen of Adiabene, a small
 See Krauss, pp. 182, 273, n. 3, who also suggests that the 3670 of Bischoff s Judaeo-German Toldoth is a mistake for 3760.
province of Mesopotamia, on the Tigris, who became a Jewish proselyte somewhere about 30 A.D., and spent some fourteen years (c. 46-60 A.D.) in Palestine, at Jerusalem and Lydda (Lud), under a Nazarite vow, consorting with the Rabbis of Hillel's school. It is also true that Helen of Adiabene and her sons had endeared themselves to the Jews by devotion to the Torah and rich gifts to the Temple; but that it could ever have been seriously imagined that the sovereignty of the land of Palestine could have been in this Helen's hand, as is usually stated in the Toldoth when the Toldoth Helene is mentioned, is unthinkable.
How, then, can we possibly explain such contradictory data coming in one and the same sentence? Is it another jest of the same nature as the one to which we have already referred? In this case it does not seem to be so. If not, can Monobaz be a gloss inserted by some later scribe, for this absurdity can hardly be set down to the account of the Toldoth redactor himself, who in every other respect is so precise concerning the date? May it not then be that this scribe, being like the redactor puzzled as to the name Helene, for he knows that this was not the historical name of the wife of Jannai, desired to add his own mite of information? He is an ignorant man, yet he knows of Helen of Adiabene and her son Monobaz; he accordingly flings this in to show his reading, without stopping to think whether the dates coincide or not. Perhaps, however,
 Josephus, "Antiqq.," xx. 2. 1-3. See art. "Helene, Königin," in Hamburger's "Real-Encyclopädie dea Judentums" (2nd imp. Neustrelitz; 1896), and also art. "Adiabene" in the new "Jewish Encyclopedia "(New York; 1901).
after all he is not to be blamed, for the great commentator Raschi himself, in the twelfth century, took Monobaz for a Hasmonaean. Was there by any chance another Monobaz?
But if this Oleina-Helene was neither the mother of Constantine nor the Adiabene Helen, who else could she have been for the Jews but the wife of Jannai? The only queen of the Jews in whose hand was all the land was Jannai's wife Salome, who, as we have seen in the chapter on "The Talmud 100 Years B.C. Story of Jesus," was sole ruler of the Jews from 78-69 B.C., and who died at the age of seventy-two. This Salome is said to have been the sister of Simeon ben Shetach, who in most of the Toldoth recensions is given as the teacher of the wronged husband of Miriam.
Unfortunately, the historical Greek name of this queen is Alexandra (presumably after her husband's Greek name Alexander), and not Helena or Helene. It is, however, to be noticed that both in Greek and Latin the name Salome is given as Salina. Now we have already seen that name-play was a frequent device of the Talmud story-tellers; not only so, but it had for centuries been a favourite occupation of the scribes of the Old Covenant documents, and for a matter of that a peculiarity of the Semitic genius generally. The oldest deposit of the Toldoth belongs, as we have seen, to the same sea of oral tradition as that from which
 "Baba Bathra," 11a. See Krauss, p. 274, n. 5.
 According to Schürer; Krauss, however, gives Jannai's reign as 103-76 B.C. (p. 182), and the new "Jewish Encyclopaedia" (art. "Alexandra ") says that Salome died in 67 B.C.
 See for references Schürer's "History of the Jewish People" (Edinburgh; 1897), Div. i. vol. i. p. 308, n.
the Talmud derived. Can we, then, have in Helene a name-transformation of this nature?
Salina helps us somewhat, for it is not so far from Helena (Oleina, Hilani, etc.), and s and h are philologically interchangeable. But in this connection there is a well-known instance of name-play which will help us still further. It is well known to all students of Christian origins that a certain Helen (Gk. Helene, Lat. Helena) was fabled to have been a harlot whom Simon Magus took about with him; Simon himself said that his Helen was the Sophia, but that is another story. Now in the Simon legends this Helene is also called in Greek Selene, the "Moon," while in the Simonian myth Simon (Shimeon, Shemesh) himself corresponds with the "Sun." Thus in Augustine ("De Haer.," i.) and elsewhere we find Selene and not Helene, while in the Clementine Recognitions (ii. 14), preserved to us only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, we find the name of the syzygy of Simon, who in the parallel passage of the Greek Clementine Homilies (ii. 23) is called Helena, given as Luna. From this we deduce that Helene is a play on Selene either for mystical or controversial purposes, for with the Ben Pandera instance before us we can readily see how that in those days of feverish theological polemics, a mystic teaching could easily be turned into a personal scandalous legend for controversial purposes.
If, then, Selene could be transformed into Helene for
 Salome's full Jewish name was Shalom Zion; for Hebrew and Aramaic transformations of this queen's name, see Derenbourg (J.) "Essai sur 1'Histoire et la Géographie de la Palestine, d'après les Thalmuds." etc. (Paris; 1867), p. 102, n.
some such purposes, why could not Salina (Salome) be so transformed for purposes of a somewhat similar nature? Whether or not this suggestion of ours may in any way be helped by the fact that the air-battle between Jesus and Judas in the Toldoth has also its exact parallel in the contest between Simon Peter and Simon Magus in the Simonian legends, is a secondary question. As to the quaint coincidence that Helene-Salome had a brother Simon (b. Shetach), I hardly dare mention it, were it not that legends are the most insatiate of prostitutes, and will unite with anything that takes their fancy.
It is in vain to ask why precisely such a name-change should have been made; or why if Salome was converted into Helene the names of Joshua ben Perachiah and Simeon ben Shetach were not also changed. Consistency and precise reasons are not to be expected in the arbitrary development of folk-tale. The least that can be said is that our hypothesis involves us in less difficulties than the Helen of Constantine and the Helen of Monobaz conjectures; while if our supposition should be thought to hold good, it would point to the fact that the overwhelming preponderance of Toldoth tradition is on the side of the Ben Perachiah date.
But it may be said, granted that this hypothesis would explain the otherwise inexplicable statement that the rule of the land was in the hand of Helene, it does not explain why this Helene is represented as being so wavering, now believing in Jeschu, now on the side of the wise men of Jewry, and, above all, why she speaks to the doctors of the Law, as one not only unlearned in
their scriptures, but as apparently being a non-Jewess. "Is this written in your Law?" she asks, whereas Salome was regarded as the champion of the Pharisees and a most devout Jewess.
But the dispute is between the learned, between the teachers and one who dares to expound Halachoth without their permission; the first part of this objection can, therefore, have no great weight, for the queen, even if learned in the Law, could not have appeared to he so in the presence of the wise men of Jewry. The second part of this objection is far more difficult to meet, and can only be met on the supposition that the Salome date is correct and that she did favour Jesus; for if she did so, as a historic fact, it would be natural for the later Rabbis to seek to excuse their favourite queen, in whose reign they placed the "golden age" of Pharisaism, and to represent her part in the proceedings as that of one unacquainted with the Law; and in order to do this with safety it would be natural for them to change her name from Salome to Helene. Can this supposition possibly contain some hint at the reason for which we previously said it was vain to ask?
But this, the convinced believer in the Christian canonical tradition will say, is a magnificent begging of the whole question, a speculating on the impossible. Even so, it is as well to argue both sides, for that many generations of Jews have believed unquestioningly in this Joshua ben Perachiah date is evident from both the Talmud and Toldoth; it is therefore legitimate to try and explain the developments of tradition on their own premisses, among which the Jannai date is most conspicuous. Indeed, if we step outside the
fantastic circle of the legends themselves, and seek information on this point from serious students of history, we are confronted with the categorical statement of the Spanish history-writer Abraham ben Daud, who about 1100 A.D. writes as follows :
"The Jewish history writers say that Joshua ben Perachiah was the teacher of Jeschu ha-Notzri, according to which the latter lived in the days of King Jannai; the history-writers of the other nations, however, say that he was born in the days of Herod and was hanged in the days of his son Archelaus. This is a great difference, a difference of more than 110 years." 
Ibn Daud evidently calculates this difference from the beginning of the reign of Jannai, but the exact number of years is of no consequence. Abraham makes a general declaration of the difference between the statements of Jewish and Christian writers; that is to say, he gives us the general impression he has on the matter. It is true that already in the ninth century we meet with a Toldoth form which introduces John the Baptist, Tiberius and Pilate, but evidently, in the opinion of Abraham ben Daud, the Jewish tradition was the 100 years B.C. date.
On the whole, therefore, we are inclined to the opinion that the amazing contradictions of the various Toldoth recensions as to their date-indications, are more easily explained on the supposition that the Ben Perachiah tradition was the only date-factor of the older Toldoth writers, and hence the contradictions were a later development, as Jewish tradition weakened before
 Neubauer, "Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles" (Oxford; 1887), p. 53. See Krauss, pp. 183, 273, n. 3.
the persistent strength of the Christian canonical tradition. In any case, we think that we have found a simpler solution of the Helene puzzle than the theory of Krauss, who would trace its source to the Christian legends of St Helena.
It is true that in the bitterest days of persecution some of the Jews argued that there were two persons of the name of Jesus mentioned in the Talmud; but as Krauss points out (p. 273, n. 4), this is as improved as is the argument that Ben Stada and Ben Pandera were two different people.
If, then, we are correct in our impression that the Ben Perachiah date was an integral part of the oldest deposit of the Toldoth, it seems more probable that in this the Toldoth did not copy from the Talmud, but that this element carne into both the Talmud and Toldoth from a floating mass of oral tradition from which both drew. In this connection also it is of interest to note that the Karaites, who were absolutely opposed to all Rabbinic authority, and utterly rejected the Talmudic tradition, nevertheless retained the Ben Pandera tradition, though they knew nothing of Ben Stada. Not only so, but Toldoth circulated among them, for in Codex de Rossi 96 we have a distinctly Karaite Toldoth.
There are many other points of interest connected with the Toldoth legends, but they do not immediately concern us in our present enquiry; as, however, we have presented the reader with a translation of one of the Toldoth recensions, we might subjoin a few very brief remarks on one or two of its most salient features.
 See Krauss, pp. 15, 31, 200 ff.
It is to be remarked that Miriam the mother is in nearly every form of Toldoth exonerated from any conscious breaking of her marriage vows. The bastardy of Jeschu was the result of a trick played upon her. Can we assign any motive for this? Can it possibly be that the original framers of this legend knew that it was no handing on of history, but the popularization of a doctrinal controversy? Indeed, not only is Mary excused from any conscious breaking of the Law, but from several forms of the Toldoth we glean that she was regarded as a woman of distinction. Not only is she said to have been the sister of a certain Joshua, who is presumably to be identified with Joshua ben Perachiah, but she is also said to have been related to Queen Helene, that is, if our argument holds good, to Queen Salome, whose brother was Simeon ben Shetach. Here we have the close relationship of Jesus to the most distinguished Rabbis of the time.
It is further to be remarked that Jesus is throughout always represented as a learned man, and so generally are his disciples. This might seem at first sight to be accounted for by the fact that much space is given in the Toldoth to the "proof from scripture." But in my opinion these Messianic disputations seem to be due to later developments, and to be part and parcel of doctrinal polemics between Jews and Judaeo-Christians; for I have never been able to believe that historically Jesus himself could have made any claim to be the Messiah. If the power of the great teacher, round whose transcendent person all these marvellous traditions and disputes have grown up, is rightly held to have been the power of a Master of Wisdom, not to speak of
still more transcendent claims put forward on his behalf, then it can hardly be believed that he would have claimed to be what he could have foreseen would never be admitted by those to whom the Messianic tradition chiefly belonged. True, he may very well have taught a more universal view of Messianism, but that he should have claimed to have been the Messiah of prophecy, in any sense in which the Jews could have understood the idea, without that prophecy turning out to be a bitter mockery, can hardly be believed of a wise and merciful Teacher. Jesus of Nazareth has in no sense been a Messiah to the Jews; and it is hardly in keeping with the idea of the Good God preached by him, to talk of the Jews having been punished for their rejection of Jesus. Not to speak of Deity, those who are truly wise, even as the average man can imagine wisdom, must have foreseen the rejection before the sending of the messenger. Surely, then, Jesus would not have said, "I am the Messiah" to those to whom he knew he, or rather that which men would make of his efforts, would never be a help, but a scourge; not that he would have had it so, but because of the forces which already existed in human nature and which were destined to focus themselves in Jew and Gentile for some high purpose of the Divine economy.
If we can. hold such a view without giving dire offence to the better feeling in both Jew and Christian, then the Messianic controversy can have had nothing to do with the original teaching of Jesus himself. It was not because of this facility of quotation that Jesus was held to be a learned man by Jewish legend. Rather was it that such legend was itself
based on ancient tradition among them that he was learned in their lore.
Not only so, but the Jews had no difficulty in admitting his power of wonder-doing. Their earliest tradition, however, seems to have been that the knowledge whereby these deeds were done was learned in Egypt. Popular belief would then naturally have it that if this gnosis was learned in Egypt, it must have been the acquiring of certain "words of power," and if "words" then "names." In the developed Toldoth, however, we find that the Egypt element has retired well into the background, while the "words of power" appear as the Shem ha-Mephoresh or Holy Name, and the Shrines of Egypt as the Sanctuary at Jerusalem.
The "brick-bat" which Jesus is jestingly accused of Mystic worshipping in the Talmud, appears in the Toldoth as the "foundation-stone" in the Holy of Holies, the prototype of both being probably some symbol of the Egyptian mystery-tradition, that "corner stone" or "key," the mystic writing on which was to be inscribed in the "heart." As we have already suggested the "heart" was to be "circumcised"—hence the cutting of the flesh and the rest of the folk-legend. This mystic stone was in the Holy of Holies, beyond the pillars, which were guarded by appropriate wardens, a symbolism familiar enough to the student of Masonry and its predecessors.
Much might be written on this most fascinating subject, but it would extend our essay to a too great length; it is enough here to say that, in protection of their own interests, the Mishnaic Rabbis considered the utterer of the Shem as a blasphemer, and the punish-
ment of such blasphemy was decided upon as death. The Shem element, therefore, could thus subsequently be made to work in most conveniently with the Toldoth patchwork, for it supplied an additional reason for the putting to death of Jesus.
In spiritual mysticism the knowing of names meant simply the possession of powers; while in material magic it was believed that the possession of the actual spoken name gave the man the power of the "name." It is somewhat interesting to see how the Jews gradually worked these ideas into their system of monotheistic exclusiveness, and how the mystery of the Shem ha-Mephoresh, or "distinctive name," YHWH, was developed among them. As to how this name was originally pronounced we have now no authentic information. But "in the early period of the Second Temple the Name was still in common use. . . . At the beginning of the Hellenistic era, however, the use of the Name was reserved for the Temple, . . . elsewhere they were obliged to use the appellative name 'Adonai' (Lord)."
Thus the pronunciation of a name once in common use gradually became more and more mysterious, and at the beginning of the Christian era we find Philo writing ("Life of Moses," iii. 11): "The four letters may be mentioned or heard only by holy men whose ears and tongues are purified by wisdom, and by no other in any place whatsoever."
While Josephus, at the end of the first century, gives the current myth of the name-giving as follows:
"Moses besought God to impart to him the know-
 "Mishna, Sanhedrin," vii. 5 (55b).
 The Tetragrammaton YHWH.
ledge of His name and its pronunciation, so that he might be able to invoke Him by name at the sacred acts, whereupon God communicated His name, hitherto unknown to any man; and it would be a sin for me to mention it."
In course of time the pronunciation of the Name even by the Temple priests fell into disuse, and the manner of its pronunciation at length "became a secret entrusted only to the Kasherim (worthy ones), or the Zena'im (Essenes = 'the humble or chaste ones'), but withheld from the frivolous, the Hellenists (Peruzim); and even the former were taught it only once every seven years, and then only after due purification and sanctification. . . . 'Woe unto you, ye Pharisees, who pronounce the Holy Name each morning without due purification!' said the Hemerobaptists; whereupon the Pharisees sarcastically replied: 'Woe upon you who pronounce the Holy Name with an organ of the body, while your body itself is unholy!' However, it appears from Ta'anit 19a and 'Ab. Zarah 18a, that the Essene saints made use of the Name in their invocations and miraculous cures, which was afterwards declared to be a grievous sin ('Sanh.,' x. i.; compare, also 'Book of Wisdom,' xiv. 21)."[l]
Now as in all probability Jesus was an Essene, and the Essene saints seem in his days to have used the Shem without let or hindrance, we can only conclude that the Toldoth accusation of an illegitimate use of the Shem by Jesus must proceed at earliest from the days when the Rabbis were more and more jealously guarding (or even creating) their rights and privileges, that is to
 See Kohler's art. "Adonai" in "Jewish Encyclopaedia."
say, from Mishnaic times. It follows, therefore, that if the Essene saints used the Shem without let or hindrance, Jesus could not historically have been accused on this count, and therefore the general charge of "magic" learned in Egypt must be held to have been the older form of accusation. And with regard to this, all that can be said is that it originated in the fact that Jesus had been to Egypt, the only probable historical element in the whole matter,
The magical fight in the air between Judas and Jeschu is paralleled not only in the Simonian legends, where the dramatis personae are Simon Magus and Simon Peter, but also in the Jerusalem Targum, or Aramaic translation of the Torah and its accompanying Midrashim, where we are told that when Phinehas decided to slay Balaam, the latter on seeing his pursuer "resorted to witchcraft and flew up in the air, but Phinehas made use of the Holy Name, seized him by the head," and slew him with the sword.
We have already seen that in the Talmud Balaam is one of the synonyms of Jesus; is it, then, that here too in the Targum Balaam stands for Jesus, and that both Targum and Toldoth depend on a common source of oral tradition, or was the Targum haggada the origin of this particular Toldoth element?
Another point of great interest in the Toldoth is that Jesus is never said to have been crucified. He is stoned or hanged, or first stoned and then hanged, or hanged in the stoning place. What, further, is the meaning of the hanging on a miraculous "cabbage-
 "Targum Yer.," to Num. xxxi. 8; see also "Sanh.," 106b. See Kohler's art. "Balaam" in "Jewish Encyclopaedia."
stalk"? It is perhaps almost impossible to conjecture any explanation, but I cannot get rid of the impression that there may have originally been some mystical tradition behind it, perhaps connected with the "tree of life," the tree that grows from the "mustard seed," connected also with the "dark stalk" which grew in Eridu, the Hidden Abode of the God of Wisdom, of the Chaldaean creation-tablet found in the Temple library of Kuta, dating from the fourth millennium B.C.; but this is, of course, pure conjecture.
With regard to the casting of the body into a "canal," it is to be noticed that in some forms of the Toldoth this canal is given as a public place for refuse. Can it then possibly be that Jesus was stoned, and his body hanged on a stake as a warning, according to the legal regulations of the Torah, and that then the body was cast out into the common dust-heap of the city? Who can conjecture with any historic probability in such a chaos of legendary fantasy?
We will now turn our attention to Epiphanius, and what he has to say concerning the earliest Christians, and to the riddle he sets us to solve by a hitherto absolutely unintelligible statement concerning the date of Jesus.
 See the "Temples of the Orient" (London; 1902), p. 85.
Content | Previous | Next