Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?
By G. R. S. Mead
Content | Previous | Next
V.—THE TALMUD IN HISTORY
"FROM Justinian, who, as early as 553 A.D., honoured it by a specia1 interdictory Novella, down to Clement VIII., and later—a space of over a thousand years— both the secular and the spiritual powers, kings and emperors, popes and anti-popes, vied with each other in hurling anathemas and bulls and edicts of wholesale confiscation and conflagration against this luckless book."
So writes Immanuel Deutsch, and truly, in his graphic and romantic panegyric, which for the first time gave the English-reading public a reasonable account of the Talmud and its history.
Although it has been lately disputed  whether it is the Talmud --expressly to which Justinian referred in his edict “Concerning the Jews," of February 13, 553, it seems highly probable that Deutsch is correct. By this outrageous Novella the wretched Hebrews were
 Deutsch (I.)., art. "What is the Talmud?"—in "The Quarterly Review” (London), Oct. 1867, pp. 417-464.
 Popper (W.), "The Censorship of Hebrew Books" (New York; 1899), p. 3. This is the best monograph which has so far appeared on the subject of Talmud persecutions and censorship. An excellent bibliography of the literature is given on pp. iv. and v.
permitted to use only a Greek or Latin translation of the Torah in their synagogues. They were strictly forbidden to read the Law in Hebrew, and, above all things, they were prohibited from using what is called the "second edition" (secunda editio), which was evidently also written in Hebrew or Aramaic. This "second edition “can hardly mean anything else than the Mishna and its completions, for the Greek equivalent of mishna was de¢uterwsiV , generally taken by those imperfectly acquainted with Hebrew to signify some “second rank” or form of the Law, instead of "learning" in the secondary sense of "repetition."
Such impolitic tyranny in those darkest days of narrowest ecclesiasticism, which had succeeded in closing every school of philosophy and learning in the Christian world, could not but make the Talmud all the more dear to the Jews. The more they were persecuted for their faith's sake, the more desperately they clung to the immediate cause of their martyrdom —that tradition in which no Christian had part or lot. The Talmud thus gradually became more precious to the Jew than even the Torah itself, which, by translation, had become the common property of the Gentiles, few of whom at this time in the West could read a word of the ancient Hebrew original.
Thus ignorance bred fear and fostered hate, and already, by the eleventh century, we find the passions of a fierce fanaticism let loose against the luckless Hebrews, when the Crusaders, in their wild rush towards Constantinople, left behind them a path of desolation for the Dispersion of Israel in every land they traversed, marked out by blood and fire, by the
bodies of murdered little ones and smouldering piles of Hebrew rolls. It is said that, after this avalanche of ruthless destruction, in many towns scarce a single prayer-book remained for the use of a whole synagogue. There is another side to the romance of the Crusades, of which our school-books breathe no word; not infrequently they degenerated into pure Jew-hunts, where hecatombs of Hebrews paid ever anew the ancient debt of one slain Christ, whose ever-living heart, we may well believe, felt keener torture at the savagery of His self-styled followers than did even the bodies of the victims of their hate.
But it was not till the thirteenth century, which witnessed the founding of the Mendicant Orders, and the establishment of that instrument of terror known as the Holy Inquisition, that we meet with what may be called the organised official destruction of Hebrew books, and the saddest part of the sad story is that in almost every instance it was a Jew who brought masters to a crisis, and procured the deliverance of the books of his race to the flames.
The first official burning of Hebrew books took place in 1233, at Montpellier, where a Jew, a fanatical Antimaimonist, persuaded the Dominicans and Franciscans of the Inquisition, who knew nothing of this purely internal struggle between conservatism and liberalism in Jewry, to commit to the flames the works of the great Maimonides.
In the same year, at Paris, no less than 12,000 volumes of the Talmud were burned. Converts gave information to those who could not read a single line of the great literature which they so madly longed to
extirpate, and eagerly pointed out the hiding places where the precious rolls of their former co-religionists were stored away.
In 1236, Donin, of Rochelle, in France, a convert baptised under the name of Nicolas, laid thirty-five formal charges against the Talmud before Pope Gregory IX.; the chief of which was that in many passages it used blasphemous language in speaking of Jesus and Mary. A few years later (May or June, 1239), Gregory issued a stringent decree to all rulers, temporal and spiritual, in France, England, Castile, Aragon and Portugal, commanding them to seize every copy of the Talmud upon which they could lay hands. Whereupon in France a formal trial was held before a commission consisting of two Bishops and a Dominican, not one of whom knew a single word of Hebrew, and the Talmud was incontinently condemned to the flames. The Jews, however, appealed against this cruel decree with such energy that the carrying out of the sentence was postponed, and a new trial ordered, at which Nicolas himself was the accuser, while four French Rabbis undertook the defence, led by R. Jehiel of Paris.
"After seeking to invalidate most of the charges, the Rabbis turned to the most important point, and acknowledged that the Talmud, contained slighting references to a certain Jesus. But, by taking into account the dates mentioned in the Talmud, and other
 He is said to have done so in revenge for having been excommunicated by the French Rabbis because of the doubts he had expressed concerning the validity of the Talmudic tradition. See art. "Apostasy and Apostates from Judaism" in the "Jewish Encyclopedia," on which I have drawn for some of the following details.
evidence furnished by the early Church Fathers themselves they attempted to show that another Jesus, who, had lived at some time earlier than Jesus of Nazareth was the subject of these notices."[l]
It is hardly necessary to add, however, that the unfortunate Rabbis failed to convince the commission. The Talmud was again formally condemned. No less than twenty waggon-loads of MSS. were collected in Paris and on June 17, 1244, a huge auto-da-fé of some 17,000 or 18,000 volumes lit up a conflagration, the insatiable flames of which spread rapidly to every Jewish home throughout the Holy Roman Empire and devoured that treasure of tradition which the Rabbis held dearer than their lives.
With the condemnation of the Talmud all the rest of Hebrew literature was practically involved. Thus in 1263 we find another convert, baptised under the name of Paul Christian (Pablo Christiani or Fra Paolo, of Montpellier), inducing the Pope, Clement IV, to issue an order that all Hebrew MSS. of every kind in Aragon should be collected for examination, and if they were found to contain any passages obnoxious to Christians, they should be destroyed or strictly expurgated, while in 1266, also at Barcelona, we meet with a commission assembled for the same purpose.
In England, however, the Talmud was apparently not burnt, for a simpler means of suppressing it was found in the wholesale expulsion of the Jews, a method
 Popper, op. cit. p.10. But this apology can be as little sustained as can the evasion of Wülfer, Lippmann and Isaac Abarbanel, that the Jesus of the Talmud and the Jesus of the Toldoth were different persons. See Kraus, “Das Leben Jesu” (Berlin; 1902), pp. 8, 9, 273, n. 4.
resorted to in other countries as well. Nevertheless, we find Honorius IV., in 1286, writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, warning him against that “damnable book," and strictly admonishing him that he should allow no one to read it (meaning doubtless that no Jew should be permitted to read it, for the Christians, in consequence of their ignorance of Hebrew, could not) —for in the Pope's opinion “all evils flow from it," a phrase which suggests that the influence of the Talmud teachings and traditions was not confined to Jewry.
In the midst of all this hurly-burly of anathema one Pope alone, Clement V., showed some signs of common-sense. Before condemning the Talmud on sight, Clement desired to know something about it, and in 1307 proposed that chairs should be founded for the study of Hebrew, Chaldee and Arabic in the Universities of Paris, Salamanca, Bologna and Oxford. But this liberal proposal came to nothing, and though we are told that somewhat of a lull succeeded to the most acute stage of Talmud persecution from 1232 to 1322, it was owing probably to the great secrecy to which the Jews were compelled to resort in multiplying and transmitting the remnants of their literature from generation to generation, rather than to any greater toleration on the part of the authorities.
In Spain, indeed, things were still at fever heat, where Solomon Levi of Burgos, who was formerly a Rabbi and pillar of Jewish orthodoxy familiar with the great Talmudists of the age, but who became a Christian under the name of Paul de Santa Maria, and quickly rose to the position of Archbishop of Carthagena, devoted his great talent and learning to overthrow
Judaism. His disciple, Joshua ben Joseph ibn Vives of Lorca, who also became a Christian under the name of Geronimo de Santa Fé, accused the Talmud of teaching blasphemy and of every hostility against the Christians, after he had unsuccessfully conducted a debate concerning the Messianity of Jesus for no less than twenty-two months with some of the learned Rabbis of Aragon (1413-1414). He is known to the Jews as "The Blasphemer."
Even the prayer-books of the Hebrews could not escape. Already in 1336 Abner of Burgos (Alfonso Burgensis), a Talmudic scholar, philosopher and physician, who is said to have turned Christian, “to become a sacristan of a wealthy church of Valladolid," wrote bitter attacks against his former co-religionists, declaring that one of their daily prayers, “Birkat ha-Minim," was directed against the Christians; whereupon Alfonso XI. issued an edict forbidding them to recite this prayer.
We find subsequently that even the simplest Hebrew prayers could not escape the subtle refinements of accusation brought against them by inquisitorial informers. Thus we learn that in Germany a certain Pessach, who on conversion took the name of Peter in 1399, declared that the Jewish prayer-books  secretly contained attacks on Christianity. The following is a curious instance of this rage of accusation.
In one of the most famous and apparently the most innocent prayers of the nation ("'Alenu"), which extols the omnipotence of God on earth, there is a passage which
 Dalman gives the original text of sixteen subsequently expurgated prayers from the Liturgy of the Synagogue,
runs: “He hath not made our portion like theirs nor our lot like that of all their multitudes. For they worship and bow down before idols and vanities." The words “and vanities“ stand in unpointed Hebrew W R K; by one of the well-known methods of kabalistic computation the sum of these number-letters = 316, precisely the same as the sum of the letters J Sh U or Jeschu, the Talmudic form of Jesus!
Pessach would thus have it that even the most innocent-looking prayers of Jewry contained attacks on Christianity, and it is in truth marvellous that in the face of such bitter and relentless persecution a scrap of Jewish writing remained. Indeed, had it not been for the inexhaustible sources of replenishment in the East, and the wonderful memory of the Rabbis, the triumph of the Destroyer would have been complete and the Talmud wiped from off the face of the earth by the Inquisition.
With the age of the Renaissance, however, and the enormous impetus given to liberal studies by the invention of printing, some respite was given to the long-suffering Talmud, but by no means as yet was liberty assured; for though the unfortunate Jews had no longer to fear the wholesale destruction of their books in all countries, they were still subjected to the galling tyranny of the official censor.
Indeed, even in this age of comparative enlightenment the bitterest foes of the Talmud still lived in hopes of reviving the old campaign of extermination with all its terrors, and it is sad to record that the history of nearly
 The first Hebrew book printed was probably a commentary of Rashi on the Torah (February 17th, 1475).
all the troubles of the second stage of persecution is still almost entirely “a history of apostates." [l]
Not to speak of the bitter enmity of Victor von Karhen, a German Jew who became a Dominican in the early part of the sixteenth century, the most notorious name is that of Joseph (baptised as Johann) Pfefferkorn of Moravia, a name despised above all others by the Jews even in the present day. Pfefferkorn also joined the Dominicans, and in 1507 published his first attack in a fierce tract, “Der Judenspiegel," an onslaught which was intended to culminate in one fatal blow to Judaism, namely the confiscation of all Talmudic writings. And indeed Pfefferkorn at first succeeded beyond all expectation, for the immediate result of his agitation was to induce the Emperor Maximilian to revive the time-honoured decree of confiscation, which was eagerly carried out under Pfefferkorn's supervision, who knew only too well where he could lay hands on the precious books of his former co-religionists. But this time, as Deutsch says, “a conflagration of a very different kind ensued." Reuchlin, the distinguished Humanist, the most famous Hebraist and Hellenist of the time, was appointed to sit on the commission. His enlightened mind refused to condemn the Talmud without a most searching enquiry. He accordingly set himself to work in his painstaking fashion to make himself
 Popper, op. cit., p. 22.
 So Deutsch; but Karben in “Jewish Encyclopaedia."
 The “Jewish Encyclopaedia “(art. sup, cit.) says that he was “a butcher by trade, a man of little learning and of immoral conduct, convicted of burglary and condemned to imprisonment, but released upon payment of a fine."
master of its voluminous contents. The Talmud had at last found an impartial mind among its judges; nay, it had found a courageous defender, for in October 1510, Reuchlin issued his famous answer to Pfefferkorn's onslaught, and boldly declared himself in favour of the book.
Hereupon ensued a fierce battle, in which the massed hosts of official theology and obscurantism were marshalled against the courageous champion of enlightened toleration and elementary justice. Europe was flooded with pamphlets, and faculty vied with faculty in angry condemnation of Reuchlin. Without exception, every university was against him. Indeed the faculty of Mainz, among other egregious notions, put forward the ludicrous proposition, that as the Hebrew Bible did not agree with the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin translation), the Hebrew must manifestly have been falsified in many places by the malevolence of the Jews, and, in particular, the wording of the "original references" to Jesus in the Old Testament had been deliberately altered.
Had Reuchlin stood absolutely alone he would have been overwhelmed by the first onrush of his countless foes; but to their lasting credit there rallied to his banner a chosen band of enlightened and courageous friends, the Humanists, who, though they were clubbed "Talmutphili," declared themselves to be the “Knights of the Holy Ghost," and the “Hosts of Pallas Athene," fighting for the credit of Christianity and not for the Talmud as Talmud.
At first the Pope, Leo X., favoured Reuchlin, but the outcry was so fierce that he finally weakened, and in 1516 sought a way out of the hurly-burly by promulgat-
ing a Bull that in future no book should issue from the press without previous submission to the official censor. The germ of the “Index Expurgatorius"—"Index Librorum Prohibitorum"—had been conceived.
But before this instrument of emasculation and prohibition could be brought into play, the first complete edition of the Talmud had escaped the censor, and had already been printed at Venice in 1520, at the very time when the knell of much in the old order of things was being sounded in Germany, and Luther was burning the Pope's bull at Wittenberg.
This much, at least, was won by the courage of Reuchlin and those who rallied round him—the Talmud had escaped the fire. Not only so, but many began to study the treasures of Jewish literature for themselves, and in Italy there ensued the greatest industry in printing Hebrew books; indeed, some writers have called this the “Golden Age “of the Talmud. It was a time when the greatest minds among the Humanists were drinking deeply of “Jewish philosophy," the age of revived Kabalism and mystic culture.
But it was not to be expected that the fierce spirit of persecution would quietly yield to the gentler influences at work, and be content with censorship alone; nay, these humanising tendencies exasperated it to such a pitch, that in 1550 Cardinal Caraffa, the Inquisitor-General, and—in this connection, one need hardly add —a Dominican, almost succeeded in lighting up the Talmud fires again throughout the land. He procured a Bull from the Pope repealing all previous permission
 From that day onwards the Talmud has always been on the Index, and is still on the Index of Leo XIII.
to study the Talmud, and bursting forth with fury at the head of his minions, seized every copy he could find in Rome and committed it to the flames.
In Italy also Sixtus of Sienna, a converted Jew, supported by Pope Paul IV., incited the mob to burn every copy of the Talmud upon which they could lay hands. In Cremona, Vittorio Eliano, also a convert, testified against the Talmud, and 10,000 to 12,000 Hebrew books were burned in 1559. His brother Solotiron Romano also procured the burning of many thousands of Hebrew rolls. In the same year every Hebrew book in the city of Prague was confiscated.
But, fortunately, this was the expiring flicker of the life of the Destroyer in that form, and in the future we hear of no more burnings. The Talmud was hereafter committed to the tender mercies of an ignorant censorship, and therewith of a deliberate self-censorship, whereby every sentence which might by any means be thought to refer to Christianity was omitted by the Jews themselves, so that their books might escape the sad disfigurement of slap-dash obliteration. There was much expurgation by ignorant heads and careless hands, till gradually lists of passages were drawn up, mostly by converts, to guide the unlearned officials, and finally, in 1578, the "licensed" Basle edition of the Talmud was issued—in conformity with the censorship and the decisions of the egregious Council of Trent—on which nearly every subsequent edition of the book has been based. Not only so, but we find the Rabbis themselves forming their own censorship committees [l] to prevent
 In 1631 the Jews held a synod at Petrikau, in Poland, and decided to leave out all such passages for fear of the
[footnote continued on page 98]
Christians. Nevertheless, we find that the Amsterdam edition of the Talmud (1644-1648) was not bowdlerised.
any book being printed by their co-religionists which might bring down the wrath of the authorities upon their long-suffering communities. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries thus witnessed the circulation of an emasculated and defaced Hebrew literature, from which not only was the root of offence to Christian susceptibilities cut out, but much that was entirely innocent of any offence whatever. The nature of this ridiculous and hysterical susceptibility to find offence in the simplest words and phrases may be seen from Deutsch's humorous word-picture.
“In the Basle edition of 1578—. . . which has remained the standard edition almost ever since—that amazing creature, the Censor, stepped in. In his anxiety to protect the ' Faith' from all and every danger —for the Talmud was supposed to hide bitter things against Christianity under the most innocent words and phrases—this official did very wonderful things. When he, for example, found some ancient Roman in the book swearing by the Capitol or by Jupiter 'of Rome,' his mind instantly misgave him. Surely this Roman must be a Christian, the Capitol the Vatican, Jupiter the Pope. And forthwith he struck out Rome and substituted any other place he could think of. A favourite spot seems to have been Persia, sometimes it was Aram and Babel. So that this worthy Roman may be found unto this day swearing by the Capitol of Persia or by the Jupiter of Aram and Babel. But wherever the word 'Gentile' occurred, the Censor was seized with the
 See Popper, op. cit., chh. viii.-xii.
most frantic terrors. A 'Gentile' could not possibly be aught but Christian; whether he lived in India or in Athens, in Rome or in Canaan; whether he was a good Gentile—and there are many such in the Talmud— or a wicked one. Instantly he christened him, and christened him as fancy moved him, an 'Egyptian,' an 'Aramaean,' an 'Amalekite,' an 'Arab,' a 'Negro '; sometimes a whole 'people.' We are speaking strictly to the letter. All this is extant in our best editions."
"Deutsch himself was a Jew converted to Christianity when he wrote his famous article in 1867, yet how marvellously does he differ from his predecessors of the Middle Ages, who led the onslaught on the Talmud, and expressly singled out the subsequently expurgated passages for the main strength of their attack! Deutsch passes them by with scarcely a notice, and seems never to have realised that they were the main cause of all the trouble, and we have the new and pleasant spectacle of a converted Jew penning the most brilliant defence of the Talmud which has ever been written outside the circles of orthodox Jewry."
So I wrote when this chapter appeared as an article in "The Theosophical Review" (Oct. 1902); I had then no doubt on the subject, because of the frequent use of the words “our Lord” throughout this famous defence. What, then, was my surprise to find that an old friend of Deutsch's denied absolutely that he was a convert, and asserted that the editor of the “Quarterly," much to Deutsch's annoyance, had deliberately changed “Jesus” into “our Lord’ throughout the article. The “Jewish Chronicle" (Nov. 21, 1902) also pointed out that I was mistaken in describing Deutsch as a convert to
Christianity. Whereupon I wrote to the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hermann Adler, who courteously replied as follows: “I was very intimate with the late Immanuel Deutsch, and can state unhesitatingly that he was deeply annoyed that in the first edition of the ' Quarterly Review ' Jesus was spoken of as 'our Lord.' This was changed in the subsequent seven or eight editions of that number of the 'Quarterly.' It so appears, however, in the republication of the article in the 'Literary Remains of the late Immanuel Deutsch' (Murray; 1874)."
The self-constituted censor, therefore, had not ceased his activity even in 1867; it is a matter of profound interest to notice how morality in theology hangs behind morality in ordinary affairs, even in our own day.
But to the student of history and the watcher of the fates of nations, the proceedings of the ignorant Talmud censor are of profound interest. It would almost seem as though, by a curious turning of the karmic wheel, the very methods used deliberately by the Jews themselves in the far-off days of Talmud genesis had come back to vex the Jewish soul against its will. How often in those days of bitter religio-political strife had they not substituted Babylon or Edom for Rome, and hidden their real thought and feeling under glyph and imagery! And now what they had done willingly, and so vexed the soul of history, was being done to them unwillingly by the hands of the dull censor. "Who knows what a thorough study of the Talmud from, this point of view may not yet reveal of hidden history? For, as Deutsch says, and in its wider sense it remains true until the present day:
"We have sought far and near for some special book on the subject, which we might make the theme of our observations—a book that should not merely be a garbled translation of a certain twelfth century ' Introduction,' interspersed with vituperations and supplemented with blunders, but which from the platform of modern culture should pronounce impartially upon a production which, if for no other reason, claims respect through age—a book that would lead us through the stupendous labyrinths of fact, and thought, and fancy, of which the Talmud consists, that would rejoice even, in hieroglyphical fairy-lore, in abstruse propositions and syllogisms, that could forgive wild bursts of passion, and not judge harshly and hastily of things, the real meaning of which may have had to be hidden under the fool's cap and bells."
We have italicised the words which point to a most important element in the Talmud, especially in connection with our present enquiry, an element of concealment, the secrets of which even a text in which all the expurgated passages have been replaced, and the whole critically restored to its original purity, would in nowise reveal to the pure objectivist. This element will doubtless for many a day to come make the Talmud in many passages as puzzling a study as those strange books of alchemy to which Reuchlin so aptly compared it. But in spite of its great difficulty, it cannot but be that with a deeper study of this element, and perhaps some day with the help of those methods of a scientific subjectivism to which we referred in our Introduction, some clear light may at no distant date be thrown, even on some of those passages which the
hate and fear of centuries have singled out as referring to Jesus in the Talmud.
Whether or not the present praiseworthy attempt, as set forth in the pages of the “Jewish Encyclopaedia," at last to supply the thinking public with a reliable account of the Talmud in its multifarious aspects, will cover the whole ground and boldly face the most difficult of all its problems without fear or prejudice, remains to be seen. Unknown as this ancient controversy is to the English-speaking world, it is not unknown on the Continent even in our own day. Indeed, in Russia and Austria it still enters into the deplorable Anti-semitic question. Thus we find a Professor of Theology and Lecturer in Hebrew of the Imperial Roman Catholic Academy at St. Petersburg, in a recent work,  raising the whole question again, not in the interests of science and history, but in the interests of theology and Anti-semitic propaganda. In it he brings forward a number of the Jesus passages in the Talmud, and in his concluding words introduces us to a thoroughly mediaeval state of affairs. He tells us that all who had heard of the publication of his book told him with one voice that he would be put away by the Jews. Some tried to dissuade him by reminding him of the fate of Professor Chiarini, who died suddenly when he determined on undertaking a translation of the Talmud; others spoke of the monk Didacus of Vilna, a Jewish convert, who was killed, and of others who were persecuted in
 This seems a contradiction in terms, but so it stands on Deckert's title-page (op. sub. cit.).
 Pranaitis (I. B.), “Christianus in Talmude Judaeorum, sive Rabbinicae Doctrinae de Christianis Secreta" (St. Petersburg; 1892). No copy of this is in the British Museum.
various ways because they disclosed the secrets of the Jewish religion; not only himself but his relatives would be exposed to danger. But, continues this theological Bombastes, after evoking the phantasms of his own imagination, no consideration for his own personal safety will deter him from his task, and from rushing into the fray between Semites and Anti-semites, who both think they are fighting for the truth; whereas he at last really knows what is the truth of the whole matter. He is willing to bear all, even to offer his life for the cause.
This is, of course, pure childishness, but it shows the ingrained mediaevalism of the theological nature. If Pranaitis' thesis had remained in its original Latin, it might have soon sunk into oblivion, but it was immediately translated into German by Dr. Joseph Deckert of Vienna, who more than doubled its length by adding notes and comments, crammed with citations from the most recent Anti-semitic literature and the reports of ritual murder trials. Deckert especially singled out for animadversion a book by a Jewish controversialist Dr. Lippe, and we move in a hurly-burly so utterly foreign to the temper of the twentieth century in its dealings with every other subject, that we are almost inclined to think that Odium Theologicum is the last enemy which humanity will ever slay.
 “Das Christenthum im Talmud der Juden oder die Geheimnisse der rabbinischen Lehre über die Christen “(Vienna; 1894).
 See art., “Blood Accusation," in “Jewish Encyclopedia."
 Lippe (K.), “Das Evangelium Matthaei vor dem Forum der Bibel und des Talmud” (Jassy; 1889). This also is not in the British Museum; it is a curious work, with, among other things, no less than six pages of misprints in it, and many more not noticed by the author.
Content | Previous | Next