ל׳ באב ה׳תשע״ב (August 18, 2012)

Berakhot 17a-b: Jesus in the Talmud

The Gemara relates that when took leave of Rav Ḥisda (some say it was Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani) they would say the following homiletic interpretation of the passage in Sefer Tehillim (144:14):

“There is no breach”; that our faction of Sages should not be like the faction of David, from which Ahitophel emerged, who caused a breach in the kingdom of David.
“And no going forth”; that our faction should not be like the faction of Shaul, from which Doeg the Edomite emerged, who set forth on an evil path.
“And no outcry”; that our faction should not be like the faction of Elisha, from which Geihazi emerged.
“In our open places”; that we should not have a child or student who overcooks his food in public, i.e., who sins in public and causes others to sin, as in the well-known case of Jesus the Nazarene.

In standard versions of the Talmud, this story appears without the name Jesus the Nazarene, which was removed by censors due to sensitivity to the Christian society in which they lived.

Another example appears in tractate (47a), where Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya is depicted as one who pushed aside Jesus the Nazarene with both hands. The Gemara relates that Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was returning to Jerusalem following his flight to Alexandria in Egypt, together with his student, Jesus the Nazarene. When they stopped in an inn and were treated well, Yehoshua ben Peraḥya mentioned to Jesus that the service was good. Jesus responded that the innkeeper was unattractive. This response led Yehoshua ben Peraḥya to ostracize Jesus. Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was unable to bring himself to revoke the ostracism until it was too late and Jesus turned away from traditional Judaism.

It should be noted, however, that the story of Yehoshua ben Peraḥya, who was driven from Jerusalem by the Hasmonean King Alexander Yannai, could not have taken place any later than 76 BCE. Consequently, the reference to Jesus the Nazarene cannot be connected with the individual surrounding whom the Christian faith was established. Many commentaries suggest that all talmudic references to Jesus refer to another person, or perhaps there was more than one person with that name who lived during the time of the Mishna.

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