PS on Jesus and the Talmud

that link is to a page historian giving an amazing reference to Jesus in the Talmud that I have not heard before. This was brought to my attention by a guy on a message boardl.

From  the secular CafĂ©. Here is  post--No Robots is his name:

Here is one significant passage from the Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: When R. Eliezer was arrested because of Minuth they brought him up to the tribune to be judged. Said the governor to him, 'How can a sage man like you occupy himself with those idle things?' He replied, 'I acknowledge the Judge as right.' The governor thought that he referred to him — though he really referred to his Father in Heaven — and said, 'Because thou hast acknowledged me as right, I pardon; thou art acquitted.' When he came home, his disciples called on him to console him, but he would accept no consolation. Said R. Akiba to him, 'Master, wilt thou permit me to say one thing of what thou hast taught me?' He replied, 'Say it.' 'Master,' said he, 'perhaps some of the teaching of the Minim had been transmitted to thee and thou didst approve of it and because of that thou wast arrested?' He exclaimed: 'Akiba thou hast reminded me.' I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah by name, who said to me: It is written in your Torah, Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot … into the house of the Lord thy God. May such money be applied to the erection of a retiring place for the High Priest? To which I made no reply. Said he to me: Thus was I taught by Jesus the Nazarene, For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return. They came from a place of filth, let them go to a place of filth. Those words pleased me very much, and that is why I was arrested for apostacy; for thereby I transgressed the scriptural words, Remove thy way far from her — which refers to minuth — and come not nigh to the door of her house, — which refers to the ruling power.—Abodah Zarah, folio 16b-17a
And here is Constantin Brunner's comment on this passage from his essay against the Christ myth theory:
The passage in Avodah zavah 16a deserves special attention: it is the most remarkable reference to Jeshua in the talmudic tractates, ascribing to him as it does a certain spiritual significance. It speaks of him as one who taught; things learned from him had come down, through his disciple Jacob of the village of Zechania, to Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, who adopted this tradition. In fact, Rabbi Eliezer b. Hyrcanus was one of the most distinguished Tannaim, the brother-in-law of the Patriarch Gamaliel II.; he was also called Eliezer the Great. And so this Rabbi Eliezer, who lived in the first Christian century, speaks of an opinion of Christ which had come down to him from a disciple of Christ (and some identified this Jacob with Christ's brother). This seems to me to be an important fact, particularly as it touches Christ's historical reality, and I find it astonishing that the critics have thus far paid no attention to it. Moreover, it is more than probable that important, really important sayings of Christ (not under his own name, of course) are contained in Talmud and Midrash. There are plenty of sayings and parables of great clarity, beauty and dignity which could have come from his mouth.
For those having difficulty understanding all this, a famous rabbi was called to account for repeating an opinion of Jesus of Nazareth that a whore's donation to the temple should be used for the priests' toilets, from filth to filth.

Super. If that is true think Jesus' sense of humor there. 


Don McIntosh said…
Interesting. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, filth to filth.

As an admitted non-expert on all this, my first impression is that the cited passage, if authentic, strongly supports historicity. What Jesus is reported to have said, and how the rabbis are reported to have responded to it, is just the sort of thing we would expect if Jesus was the man the Gospels describe. And the implicit sanction against acknowledging Jesus would help explain why more about him is not found in the rabbinical writings generally.
actually I would expect Jesus to say something more like he who is without sin cast the first stone. I would expect him to recognize the victimhood of prostitutes rather than imply that they are not good enough. Yet the fact that the guy got in trouble for quoting him indicates he they thought of him as a real guy.
Don McIntosh said…
Thanks for clarifying this! Yes, of course Jesus would not judge prostitutes or cast stones at them. Perhaps I should clarify myself, that by "authentic" I don't mean something Jesus actually said, but something actually found in the Talmud. That being the case, and Jesus being a man of then-recent history, I would expect occasional Talmudic references to describe Jesus in a manner much like the one you brought to the board for discussion. Recall that in the Gospels Jesus was not too refined to mention bodily wastes ("filth") as in Matt. 15:17, and recall that his enemies were not hesitant to misrepresent him to suit their purposes (Matt. 11:19; Matt.26:59-61; Mark 2:16-17; Luke 6:7; etc.).
Barrett Pashak said…
No Robots here. It seems to me that when Christ is put on the spot on this question, he comes up with something witty and memorable, as one would expect. That it is somewhat at the expense of harlots isn't such a big deal: he utters similar disparaging remarks in the Gospels, all in the quest of making a point. The point here, to my mind, is that it is indeed ridiculous to worry about such trivialities, and also that the priests are in fact just as filthy as harlots when we view human physical functions from a lofty perspective.
Jason Pratt said…
I've head of this before at secondhand, i.e. that Rab Elizear the Great got in trouble for being appreciative of a saying of Jesus; but I haven't seen the actual reference before.

Under the circumstances it looks quite genuine as a lost logion; although likely enough taken out of context.

Of course it helps bolster the point, which isn't in dispute anyway, that the ancient enemies of Jesus didn't regard Jesus as a fictional character, although they thought people had invented fictions about Jesus (and sometimes didn't mind inventing their own fictions in opposition.) The non-Christian Jewish opponents would have seemed the first and most likely to accuse Christians of following (and worshiping!) a man who had never even existed.

I recall Edersheim (himself a late 19th century rabbinic convert) being of the opinion that a number of rabbis in the Talmudic tradition were passing on teaching from Jesus quietly, either by being secretly disciples or perhaps not knowing where the material came from, or perhaps knowing but not particularly caring. But he didn't think it was possible to do more than suspect such things existed. (He knew about this logion, btw, but I don't recall him reporting it in detail -- but he's one of the people I heard about it from, I'm pretty sure.)

His appendix on a prevalent strand of late-antiquity Jewish tradition about Simon Peter is amazing: essentially it's an apologetic legend to explain why Peter was STILL SO HIGHLY HONORED AMONG SYNAGOGUES!! -- and this is 4th century material or later.

I may do a post on it later. It's one hundred percent insane, but fascinating.

Don McIntosh said…
Good points, NR.

I agree on the style, less on the substance. I felt chastened a bit by Joe's comment, and that may partly explain why I suspect that Jesus never uttered the words attributed to him in this instance. It just seems on its face a little too far out of character. But maybe also the saying is genuine, or mostly genuine, and the words were stripped from some other context, as JRP suggested.

Barrett Pashak said…
Here we see him unvarnished by devotees. All the same, the usual insight is there. It is another example of his radical rejection of all moralizing.
Jason Pratt said…
Sorry, Barrett, you got accidentally listed in the spam. (There was a run of spam on other comments, and someone accidentally swept yours in with that haul.) I've put you back.

Barrett Pashak said…
Cool. I thought I'd already been blacklisted. :)

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