A Rivalry of Genius: Jewish and Christian Biblical Interpretation in Late Antiquity

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Hauser, Alan J. I: The Ancient Period Eerdmans, Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms. If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

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Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form. This website uses cookies. Please read our cookie policy for more information. Book now Ask a question. Overview Programme Fees Tutors Application. We will focus in on three intriguing biblical passages, as they were interpreted by Jews and Christians in the early centuries of the Common Era: The first verse of Genesis, whose grammatical peculiarity had far-reaching consequences. It would be useful to bring a Bible. Rubenstein, the structure of this teaching, in which a biblical prooftext is used to answer a question about Biblical law, is common to both the rabbis and early Christians.

The vulgar content, however, may have been used to parody Christian values. Boyarin considers the text to be an acknowledgment that rabbis often interacted with Christians, despite their doctrinal antipathy. A medieval account of Jesus, in which Jesus is described as being the son of Joseph, the son of Pandera see translation of the 15th-century Yemenite manuscript: Toledot Yeshu , gives a contemporary view of Jesus and where he is portrayed as an impostor.

The meaning and etymology of this name are uncertain.

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Besides the form Pandera, variations have been found in different Tosefta manuscripts for example Pantiri and Pantera. Some authors such as Herford spell it Pandira in English. He noted that Hebrew would have represented the sounds correctly if any of these were the origin. Neubauer understand the name to be Pandareus. Robert Eisler [26] considered the name to be derived from Pandaros. He also argued that it may not have been a real name but instead as a generic name for a betrayer.

He notes that in the Iliad , Pandaros betrays the Greeks and breaks a truce confirmed by solemn oath. He argues that the name came to be used as a generic term for a betrayer and was borrowed by Hebrew.


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The name is indeed found in Genesis Rabba 50 in the expression qol Pandar literally "voice of Pandaros" denoting false promises of a betrayer used as a derogatory placeholder name for a judge of Sodom. The -a at the end of the form Pandera can be understood to be the Aramaic definite article. In the surviving pre-censorship Talmud manuscripts, Yeshu is followed by the epithet Ha-Notzri in most occurrences. Travers Herford , Joseph Klausner and others translated it as "the Nazarene.

He uses the name Yeshua for Jesus an attested equivalent of the name unlike Yeshu and follows it with HaNotzri showing that regardless of what meaning had been intended in the Talmudic occurrences of this term, Maimonides understood it as an equivalent of Nazarene. Sanhedrin 43a relates the trial and execution of Yeshu and his five disciples. Here, Yeshu is a sorcerer who has enticed other Jews to apostasy.

A herald is sent to call for witnesses in his favour for forty days before his execution. No one comes forth and in the end he is stoned and hanged on the eve of Passover. Word play is made on each of their names, and they are executed. It is mentioned that excessive leniency was applied because of Yeshu's influence with the royal government malkhut. In the Florence manuscript of the Talmud CE an addition is made to Sanhedrin 43a saying that Yeshu was hanged on the eve of the Sabbath. In Gittin 56b, 57a a story is mentioned in which Onkelos summons up the spirit of a Yeshu who sought to harm Israel.

A Rivalry of Genius: Jewish and Christian Biblical Interpretation in Late Antiquity

He describes his punishment in the afterlife as boiling in excrement. Sanhedrin a and Berachot 17b talk about a Yeshu who burns his food in public, possibly a reference to pagan sacrifices. The account is discussing Manasseh the king of Judah infamous for having turned to idolatry and having persecuted the Jews 2 Kings It is part of a larger discussion about three kings and four commoners excluded from paradise. These are also discussed in the Shulkhan Arukh where the son who burns his food is explicitly stated to be Manasseh. In Sanhedrin b and Sotah 47a a Yeshu is mentioned as a student of Joshua ben Perachiah who was sent away for misinterpreting a word that in context should have been understood as referring to the Inn, he instead understood it to mean the inkeeper's wife.


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  • His teacher said "Here is a nice Inn", to which he replied "Her eyes are crooked", to which his teacher responded "Is this what your are occupied in? The incident is also mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud in Chagigah but there the person in question is not given any name. After several returns for forgiveness he mistook Perachiah's signal to wait a moment as a signal of final rejection, and so he turned to idolatry described by the euphemism "worshipping a brick". The story ends by invoking a Mishnaic era teaching that Yeshu practised black magic, deceived and led Israel astray.

    This quote is seen by some as an explanation in general for the designation Yeshu. Rubenstein, the account in Sanhedrin b recognizes the kinship between Christians and Jews, since Jesus is presented as a disciple of a prominent rabbi. But it also reflects and speaks to an anxiety fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism. Prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70, Jews were divided into different sects, each promoting different interpretations of the law. Rabbinic Judaism domesticated and internalized conflicts over the law, while vigorously condemning any sectarianism.

    In other words, rabbis are encouraged to disagree and argue with one another, but these activities must be carefully contained, or else they could lead to a schism. Although this story may not present a historically accurate account of Jesus' life, it does use a fiction about Jesus to communicate an important truth about the rabbis. Moreover, Rubenstein sees this story as a rebuke to overly harsh rabbis. Boyarin suggests that the rabbis were well aware of Christian views of the Pharisees and that this story acknowledges the Christian belief that Jesus was forgiving and the Pharisees were not see Mark , while emphasizing forgiveness as a necessary rabbinic value.

    Another title found in the Tosefta and Talmud is ben Stada son of Stada. However, in Shabbat b and Sanhedrin 67a in the Babylonian Talmud, a passage is found that some have interpreted as equating ben Pandera with ben Stada. The passage is in the form of a Talmudic debate in which various voices make statements, each refuting the previous statement. In such debates the various statements and their refutations are often of a Midrashic nature, sometimes incorporating subtle humour and should not always be taken at face value. The purpose of the passage is to arrive at a Midrashic meaning for the term Stada.

    Shabbat b relates that a ben Stada brought magic from Egypt in incisions in his flesh. Sanhedrin 67a relates that a ben-Stada was caught by hidden observers and hanged in the town of Lod on the Eve of Passover. The debate then follows. It begins by asking if this was not ben Pandera rather than ben Stada.

    This is refuted by the claim that it is both, his mother's husband was Stada but her lover was Pandera. This is countered with the claim the husband was Pappos ben Yehuda a 2nd-century figure elsewhere remembered as having locked up his unfaithful wife and visiting Rabbi Akiva in jail after the Bar-Kokhba revolt and that the mother was named Stada. This is then refuted by the claim that the mother was named Miriam, the dresser of women's hair, but that she had gone astray from her husband a Miriam the daughter of Bilgah, is mentioned elsewhere as having had an affair with a Roman soldier.

    In Aramaic, "gone astray" is satat da , thus a Midrashic meaning for the term Stada is obtained. Real historical relationships between the figures mentioned cannot be inferred due to the Midrashic nature of the debate. Pappos and Miriam might have been introduced simply as a result of their being remembered in connection with a theme of a woman having gone astray. Ben-Stada is also mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud.

    In Shabbat III he is mentioned as having learnt by cutting marks in his flesh. In Sanhedrin I he is mentioned as an example of someone caught by hidden observers and subsequently stoned. This information is paralleled in the Tosefta in Shabbat and Sanhedrin respectively. The Tannaim and Amoraim who recorded the accounts in the Talmud and Tosefta use the term Yeshu as a designation in Sanhedrin a and Berakhot 17b in place of King Manasseh 's real name.

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    Sanhedrin b uses it for a Hasmonean era individual who in an earlier account Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah is anonymous. In Gittin 56b, 57a it is used for one of three foreign enemies of Israel, the other two being from past and present with Yeshu representing a third not identified with any past or present event. The only classical Jewish commentator to equate Yeshu with Jesus was the Rishon early commentator Abraham Ibn Daud who held the view that the Jesus of Christianity had been derived from the figure of Yeshu the student of ben Perachiah.

    Ibn Daud was nevertheless aware that such an equation contradicted known chronology but argued that the Gospel accounts were in error. Menachem Meiri observed that the epithet Ha-Notzri attached to Yeshu in many instances was a late gloss. Friar Raymond Martini , in his anti-Jewish polemical treatise Pugio Fidei , began the accusation echoed in numerous subsequent anti-Jewish pamphlets that the Yeshu passages were derogatory accounts of Jesus. In a papal bull ordered the removal of all references from the Talmud and other Jewish texts deemed offensive and blasphemous to Christians.

    Thus the Yeshu passages were removed from subsequently published editions of the Talmud and Tosefta. Mead in his work Did Jesus Live B. Modern critical scholars debate whether Yeshu does or does not refer to the historical Jesus, a view seen in several 20th-century encyclopedia articles including The Jewish Encyclopedia , [39] Joseph Dan in the Encyclopaedia Judaica , Travers Herford , pp.

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    Klausner distinguishes between core material in the accounts which he argues are not about Jesus and the references to "Yeshu" which he sees as additions spuriously associating the accounts with Jesus. David C. Recently, some scholars have argued that Yeshu is a literary device, and that the Yeshu stories provide a more complex view of early Rabbinic-Christian interactions.

    Whereas the Pharisees were one sect among several others in the Second Temple era, the Amoraim and Tannaim sought to establish Rabbinic Judaism as the normative form of Judaism. Like the rabbis, early Christians claimed to be working within Biblical traditions to provide new interpretations of Jewish laws and values. The sometimes blurry boundary between the rabbis and early Christians provided an important site for distinguishing between legitimate debate and heresy.

    Scholars like Jeffrey Rubenstein and Daniel Boyarin argue that it was through the Yeshu narratives that rabbis confronted this blurry boundary. According to Jeffrey Rubenstein, the account in Sanhedrin b recognizes the kinship between Christians and Jews, since Jesus is presented as a disciple of a prominent rabbi. Although this story may not present a historically accurate account of Jesus' life, it does use a fiction about Jesus to communicate an important truth about the rabbis see Jeffrey Rubenstein, Rabbinic Stories.

    Boyarin suggests that the rabbis were well aware of Christian views of the Pharisees and that this story acknowledges the Christian belief that Jesus was forgiving and the Pharisees were not see Mark 2 , while emphasizing forgiveness as a necessary rabbinic value.

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    An intermediate view is that of Hyam Maccoby , [43] who argues that most of these stories were not originally about Jesus, but were incorporated into the Talmud in the belief that they were, as a response to Christian missionary activity. Dennis McKinsey has challenged the view that the term refers to Jesus at all and argues that Jewish tradition knew of no historical Jesus. Writers have thus differed on several distinct but closely related questions: [ citation needed ]. The Toledot Yeshu are not part of rabbinic literature and are considered neither canonical nor normative.

    It is considered unlikely that any one person wrote it, and each version seems to be from a different set of storytellers. The stories typically understand the name "Yeshu" to be the acronym Y'mach Sh'mo V'Zichrono , [ citation needed ] but justify its usage by claiming that it is wordplay on his real name, Yehoshua i. Joshua , a Hebrew equivalent of "Jesus". The story is set in the Hasmonean era , reflecting the setting of the account of Yeshu the student of Yehoshuah ben Perachiah in the Talmud.

    Sukenik in , and catalogued by L. Rahmani in Although Sukenik considered this the same as the term in the Talmud, he also entertained the possibility that the final letter ayin was left out due to lack of space between the decorations between which it was inscribed. The fully spelled out name Yeshua and the patronymic are also found on the ossuary. The name Yeshu has also been found in a fragment of the Jerusalem Talmud from the Cairo Genizah , a depository for holy texts which are not usable due to age, damage or errors.

    Flusser takes this as evidence of the term being a name; [53] however, the standard text of the Jerusalem Talmud refers to one of the numerous Rabbi Yehoshua s of the Talmud and moreover the fragment has the latter name at other points in the text. Yeshu is also mentioned in Isaac Luria 's "Book of the Reincarnations", chapter Within the long list of Jewish Tzadiks it is written:.

    A similar legend was reported by a Spanish monk when he visited Safed in , with the difference in that the place was not where he was buried but where he hid.