Yeshua and Talmud
Why Did They Write of Him If He Did Not Exist?
Miriam Mother of Messiah
by Dr. Peterson
Yeshua in Talmud - A Window View, Part One
YES, there is more evidence for the historical presence of the Messiah … and it's found in rabbinic writings! Absolutely worth a study!
This page is based on a book that is now beyond copyright restrictions. We offer the PDF version here at WindowView in both a 'light version' (smaller file size) and also as an OCR version (i.e, with text you can select and highlight).
This page on Yeshua in Talmud is the first in a series. This adds to the most popular page in the WindowView that concerns evidence for the Messiah in relation to the time just before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (ca. 30 C.E.). You can read that article at its respective page, as we say: 'in the Window.'
The main point we wish to highlight, is that unwittingly or by necessity the early rabbis had to acknowledge the life and events of Yeshua. This fact alone attests to his historical reality. While the book we use as a source (see text and reference below), is written by a Gentile, yet the core of our attention here is on a Jewish writing. And this essentially is related to Jewish writings in response to a Jewish figure ... all of this is associated with the possible or certain identity of the Jewish Messiah. But there is in this a powerful testimony to both Jew and Gentile, from a significant Jewish source document.
Furthermore, the manner in which the rabbis deal with this figure is at times somewhat veiled or diffuse. Might it be somewhat embarrassing to even have any acknowledgement of Yeshua by name? Might the writers also question or wonder about the criticism or doubts they imply, state, or boast?
In some places, stated names can be related, linked, or tied to Yeshua (i.e. Jesus of Nazreth), but in other various places some effort is required. We are careful to note that in some cases this is a "stretch," but given the context, some speculation, where warranted, is clearly recognized with equal care. What need not be a stretch are cases where the name is clearly declared in the rabbinical writings. And that reflects back on other less obvious references. THIS point alone is better than archeology in that living beings penned words that live as a witness to us today!
Because the author refers to Messiah as Jesus, we wish to encourage Jewish readers to keep an open mind. The WindowView includes other scripture based articles that clearly link the identity of Messiah to this same person, and that from the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible.
Mr. Herford, author
Let's turn to the writing of Mr. Herford below. I will block quote a large section from the book, but you can also obtain the source itself here (see links at end of the article).
The first section of the book is entitled "Passages Relating To Jesus," and we will examine first the rabbinic writing and then selected quotations from Mr. Hereford. This will be followed by our "wrap up" or commentary here.
From Mr. Hereford:
"PASSAGES RELATING TO JESUS
"BIRTH AND PARENTAGE OF JESUS
"(1) b. Shabbath I04. (The passage in [ ] occurs also b. Sanh. 67a.) "He who cuts upon his flesh." It is tradition that Rabbi Eliezer said to the Wise, 'Did not Ben Stada bring spells from Egypt in a cut which was upon his flesh?' They said to him, 'He was a fool, and they do not bring a proof from a fool.' [Ben Stada is Ben Pandira. Rab Hisda said, 'The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira.' The husband was Pappos ben Jehudah, the mother was Stada. The mother was Miriam the dresser of women's hair, as we say in Pumbeditha, 'Such a one has been false to her husband.']
"Commentary -- The above passage occurs in a discussion upon the words in the Mishnah which forbid all kinds of writing to be done on the Sabbath. Several kinds are specified, and among them the making of marks upon the flesh. The words at the beginning of the translation are the text, so to speak, of the Mishnah which is discussed in what follows. To illustrate the practice of marking or cutting the flesh, the compilers of the Gemara introduce a tradition (Baraitha, not included in the Mishnah, see above, p. 21) according to which R. Eliezer asked the question, 'Did not Ben Stada bring magical spells from Egypt in an incision upon his flesh?' His argument was that as Ben Stada had done this, the practice might be allowable. The answer was that Ben Stada was a fool, and his case proved nothing. Upon the mention however of Ben Stada, a note is added to explain who that person was, and it is for the sake of this note that the passage is quoted. First I will somewhat expand the translation, which I have made as bald and literal as I could.
"Ben Stada, says the Gemara, is the same as Ben Pandira. Was he then the son of two fathers? No. Stada was the name of the husband (of his mother), Pandira the name of her paramour. This is the opinion of Rab Hisda, a Babylonian teacher of the third century (A.. D. 217-309). But that cannot be true, says the Gemara, because the husband is known to have been called Pappus ben Jehudah. Stada must have been not the father but the mother. But how can that be, because the mother was called Miriam the dresser of women's hair? Miriam was her proper name, concludes the Gemara, and Stada a nickname, as people say in Pumbeditha S'tath da, she has gone aside, from her husband.
"The two names Ben Stada and Ben Pandira evidently refer to the same person, and that that person is Jesus is shown clearly by the fact that we sometimes meet with the full name 'Jeshu ben Pandira' -- thus T. Hull, ii. 23, "in the name of Jeshu ben Pandira" ; and also the fact that 'Jeshu' is sometimes found as a variant of ' Ben Stada ' in parallel passages -- thus b. Sanh. 43a says, " On the eve of Pesah (Passover) they hung Jeshu," while in the same tractate, p. 67a , it is said, "Thus did they to Ben Stada in Lud, they hung him on the eve of Pesah. Ben Stada is Ben Pandira, etc." Then follows the same note of explanation as in the passage from Shabbath which we are studying. (See below, p.79).
"There can be no reasonable doubt that the 'Jeshu' who is variously called Ben Stada and Ben Pandira is the historical Jesus, the founder of Christianity. It is true that the name Jeshu'a, though not common, was the name of others beside Jesus of Nazareth; and even in the New Testament (Col. iv. II) there is, mention of one Jesus is called Justus. It is also true that the Jewish commentators on the Talmud try to prove that another Jesus is referred to, who is described in various passages as having been contemporary with R. Jehoshua ben Perahjah, about a century B.C. These passages will be dealt with hereafter. But when it is said. as in the passage referred to above (T. Hull, ii. 28), and elsewhere, that certain persons professed to be able to heal the sick in the name of "Jeshu ben Pandira," it is impossible to doubt that the reference is to Jesus of Nazareth.
"Various conjectures have been made in explanation of the epithets Ben Stada and Ben Pandira. In regard to the first, the explanation of the Gemara that Stada is a contraction of S'tath da is certainly not the original one, for it is given as a common phrase in use in Pumbedithu, a Babylonian town where there was a famous Rabbinical College. But the epithet Ben Stada in reference to Jesus was well known in Palestine, and that too at a much earlier date than the time of R. Hisda. This is shown by the remark of R. Eliezer, who lived at the end of the first century and on into the second. The derivation from S'tath da would be possible in Palestine no less than in Babylonia; but it does not seem to have been suggested in the former country, and can indeed hardly be considered as anything more than a mere guess at the meaning of a word whose original significance was no longer known. 2 It is impossible to say whether Stada originally denoted tIle mother or the father of Jesus; we can only be sure that it implied some contempt or mockery. I attach no value to the suggestion that Stada is made up of two Latin words, 'Sta, da,' and denotes a Roman soldier, one of the traditions being that the real father of Jesus was a soldier.
"Of the term Ben Pandira also explanations have been suggested, which are far from being satisfactory. Pandira (also written Pandera, or Pantira, or Pantiri) may, as Strass suggested (quoted by Hitzig in Hilgenfeld's Ztschft., as above), represent [greek word]; meaning son-in-law; but surely there is nothing distinctive in such an epithet to account for its being specially applied to Jesus, The name Pandira may also represent [greek word] (less probably [greek word], the final a being the Aramaic article, not the Greek feminine ending); but what reason there was for calling Jesus the son of the Panther is not clear to me. Again, Pandira may represent [greek word], and the obvious appropriateness of a name indicating the alleged birth of Jesus from a virgin might make us overlook the improbability that the form [greek word] should be hebraized into the form Pandira, when the Greek word could have been reproduced almost unchanged in a Hebrew form. It is not clear, moreover, why a Greek word should have been chosen as an epithet for Jesus. I cannot satisfy myself that any of the suggested explanations solve the problem and being unable to propose any other, I leave the two names Ben Stada and Ben Pandira as relics of ancient Jewish mockery against Jesus, the clue to whose meaning is now lost.
"Pappos ben Jehudah, whom the Gemara alleges to have been the husband of the mother of Jesus, is the name of a man who lived a century after Jesus, and who is said to have been so suspicious of his wife that he locked her into the house whenever he went out (b. Gitt. 90a). He was contemporary with, and a friend of, R. Aqiba; and one of the two conflicting opinions concerning the epoch of Jesus places him also in the time of Aqiba. Probably this mistaken opinion, together with the tradition that Pappos ben Jehudah was jealous of his wife, account for the mixing up of his name with the story of the parentage of Jesus.
The name Miriam (of which Mary is the equivalent) is the only one which tradition correctly preserved. And the curious remark that she was a dresser of women's hair conceals another reminiscence of the Gospel story. For the words in the Talmud are 'Miriam m'gaddela nashaia.' The second word is plainly based upon the name 'Magdala'; and though, of course, Mary Magdalene was not the mother of Jesus, her name might easily be confused with that of the other Mary.
The passage in the Gemara which we are examIning shows plainly enough that only a very dim and confused notion existed as to the parentage of Jesus in the time when the tradition was recorded. It rests, however, on some knowledge possessed at one time of the story related in the Gospels. That story undoubtedly lays itself open to the coarse interpretation put upon it by Jewish enemies of Jesus, viz., that he was born out of wedlock. The Talmud knows that his mother was called Miriam, and knows also that Miriam (Mary) of Magdala had some connexion with the story of his life. Beyond that it knows nothing, not even the meaning of the names by which it refers to Jesus. The passage in the Talmud under examination cannot be earlier than the beginning of the fourth century, and is moreover a report of what was said in Babylonia, not Palestine.
All quoted sections are from:
CHRISTIANITY IN TALMUD AND MIDRASH.
BY R. TRAVERS HERFORD, B.A.
1903-KTAV PUBLISHING HOUSE, INC. NEW YORK
PDF of Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (15 Megabytres)
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Also, see our related article:
References of Interest