Jesus in the Talmud
" . . .
[A]ccording to them [rabbis], Jesus was not born from a
virgin . . . but out of wedlock,
the son of a whore and her
lover, therefore, he could not be the
Messiah of Davidic descent, let alone the Son of God."1a
"The most bizarre of all the Jesus stories is the one that
tells how Jesus shares his place in the Netherworld with Titus and
Balaam, the notorious archenemies of the Jewish people. Whereas
Titus is punished for the destruction of the Temple by
being burned to ashes, reassembled, and burned over and over again,
and whereas Balaam is castigated by sitting in hot semen,
Jesus' fate consists of sitting forever
in boiling excrement. The obscene story has
occupied scholars for a long time, without any satisfactory
solution. I will speculate that it is again the deliberate, and
quite graphic, answer to a New Testament claim, this time
Jesus' promise that eating his flesh
and drinking his blood guarantees eternal life to his followers.
Understood this way, the story conveys an ironic message:
not only did Jesus not rise
from the dead, he is punished in hell forever;
accordingly, his followers -- the
blossoming Church, which
maintains to be the new Israel -- are
nothing but a bunch of fools, misled by a cunning deceiver."1b
Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World
"The Exodus from Egypt under
the leadership of Moses is one of the decisive events of Jewish
history. According to the biblical story, the people of Israel
left Egypt voluntarily and against the will of the Pharaoh and his
fellow Egyptians . . . Quite different is the Egyptian and
Greco-Roman tradition of the Exodus: the Jews were driven out
of Egypt by force in a kind of 'ethnic cleansing'
because they were polluted lepers and/or unwelcome foreigners
. . . "2a
" . . . Tacitus connects with
the motif of impiety that of misanthrōpia:
the Jews are loyal only to their fellow countrymen but express hostile
odium toward all other people (adversus omnes).
This is reminiscent of Hecataeus, Manetho, . . . , and above all
Lysimachus, according to whom the Jews should not show good
will to any man and should always offer the worst possible
"Juvenal accuses only the Jews . . . of
proselytism. And it is precisely the combination of proselytism
and exclusiveness that alarms him. One can hardly think of a more
serious attack on the customs of Rome's ancestors than the
insistence that one has to abandon the "laws of Rome"
(Romanas contemnere leges) in order to follow the "Jewish
law" (Judaicum ius)."2c*
"As the course of history shows, this
fear was well-founded. The vanquished did succeed in giving
laws to their victors: at first as Jews and later, and most
effectively, in the guise of Christianity."2d
Italics in the original. Editor's emphases.
1 Peter Schäfer (b.
1943). Jesus in the Talmud. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
a Introduction, at 10.
b Ibid., at 13.
2 Peter Schäfer (b.
1943). Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the
Jews in the Ancient World. The President and Fellows
of Harvard College, 1997. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
a Part 1. Who Are the Jews. Ch. 1. Expulsion
from Egypt, at 15.
b Ibid., at 32-33.
c Part III. Centers of Conflict. Ch. 11. Rome, at 185.
d Part III. Centers of Conflict. Anti-Semitism, at 211.
UPDATED 20090120, 20170909.