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Re: [XTalk] Re: Sefer Toledot Yeshu

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  • Elizabeth Stryker
    ... From: Basil Lourie To: Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 1:54 AM Subject: Re: [XTalk] Re: Sefer Toledot Yeshu
    Message 1 of 18 , Jan 1, 1996
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Basil Lourie <byzros@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 1:54 AM
      Subject: Re: [XTalk] Re: Sefer Toledot Yeshu


      > Excuse me for such belated two kopecks to the bibliography:
      >
      > Guenter Schlichting, _Ein jüdische Leben Jesu. Die verschollen
      > Toledot-Jeschu-Fassung Tam u-mu`ad. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung,
      > Kommentar, Motivsynopse, Bibliographie_ Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1982
      > (WUNT, 24) XVI, 292 S.
      >
      > The author is inclined to choise an earlier date within the span from the
      > 1st to the 10th cent. (p. 2).
      >
      > Basil Lourie
      > revue _Xristianskij Vostok_
      > St. Petersburg, Russia
      >
      >
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    • David C. Hindley
      ... wrote: Prof. Smith, that was an excellent post! ... of historical evaluation was the tradition that Jesus was illegitimate. That does appear to be an
      Message 2 of 18 , Jul 16 8:30 AM
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        --- In crosstalk2@egroups.com, "Mahlon H. Smith" <mahlonh.smith@w...>
        wrote:

        Prof. Smith, that was an excellent post!

        >>That said, the one Toledoth tradition that the JS considered worthy
        of historical evaluation was the tradition that Jesus was
        illegitimate. That does appear to be an ancient Jewish rebuttal to Xn
        claims that Jesus was born of a virgin. And from the standpoint of
        dialectical criticism, the Xn claim of Jesus' virgin birth is more
        likely to be a rebuttal to a Jewish claim that he was a bastard
        rather than vice versa. Since there are (a) some passages in Xn
        sources that indicate a question of HJ's legitimacy & (b) Celsus' 2nd
        c. claim Jewish traditions that identify Jesus as son of a Roman
        soldier & (c) Talmudic traditions that identify Jesus as Ben Pantera
        (Pandera, Phanthera) & (d) a German tombstone from the 1st c. CE of a
        Tyrian archer named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera who served for 40
        years in the Roman legions, the JS voted the thesis that HJ was
        illegitimate at least historically possible (gray) [born without the
        agency of a human male parent was voted black]. But though we
        reviewed the Toledoth passages relevant to this issue, they were not
        judged as a reliable or independent source of historical
        information.<<

        This was a tradition that the TJ derived, it seems, from the Talmud,
        as you say. I agree with you that the legitimacy of Jesus' birth was
        an early element in Jewish-Christian dialectic. But even if Jews had
        introduced this as a criticism of Jesus, it does not follow that it
        was necessarily based upon factual information. It may have been
        introduced as a rhetorical device to smear Jesus' reputation in hopes
        of discrediting his teachings (at least as they were being
        represented by the Christians who engaged in such debates). It is not
        like Christians did not similarly try to discredit Jews (admittedly
        in a later period) in order to discourage the adoption of Jewish
        practices by Christians.

        On the other hand, dialectic involves the resolution of conflicting
        claims by means of synthesis. I would think that other concepts and
        ideas could find their way into the synthesis as well as the initial
        conflicting arguments. In the progression 1) Jesus is asserted by his
        followers to be a messiah descended from David, countered by 2) the
        Jewish assertion that Jesus was illegitimate and could not thus be a
        messiah, to 3) the concession that Jesus was not a descendant of
        David but a divine man born of a virgin, the concession in the 3rd
        stage of the debate could be due to a shift in Christian theology
        over time rather than an admission that Jesus was factually
        illegitimate. By the time the dialectic process required the third
        stage response from the Christians, it was no longer an issue, as the
        Christian focus had progressed from the messiahship of Jesus to his
        function as a Savior.

        >>As for David's suggestion that the Toledoth "interject a degree of
        uncertainty" about the claims of Xn sources, that was precisely the
        intent of the Jewish polemicists who composed them. And the modern
        historian has far better reasons for being uncertain about the
        reliability or accuracy of much of the information about Jesus
        reported in the gospels or other lines of early Xn tradition than
        these 13th c. novels. Read the Toledoth the way you would any
        historical novel or fantasy. They are stimulating reading & an
        excellent source of firsthand information about the war of myths
        between medieval Xns & Jews. But they contribute absolutely nothing
        directly to the quest of HJ.<<

        Admittedly, the TJ stories probably have little if any direct bearing
        on 1st century CE history. The Talmud probably offers a little better
        security, but even in those cases significant problems exist.

        I am still, however, curious why so much of Jewish polemic against
        Jesus, his family, and his followers (in the Talmud, and as attested
        by statements of Celsus, etc.) had to be fabricated from unrelated
        stories (e.g., the b. Perachiah story from the time of A. Janneus).

        Regards,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Robert M. Schacht
        ... According to a recent review of Robert Van Voorst s new book, Jesus Outside the New Testament (Eerdman s), Voorst seems to take a similar view. Has
        Message 3 of 18 , Jul 16 11:57 AM
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          At 07:22 AM 07/16/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

          ....That said, the one Toledoth tradition that the JS considered worthy of
          historical evaluation was the tradition that Jesus was illegitimate.
          That does appear to be an ancient Jewish rebuttal to Xn claims that
          Jesus was born of a virgin. And from the standpoint of dialectical
          criticism, the Xn claim of Jesus' virgin birth is more likely to be a
          rebuttal to a Jewish claim that he was a bastard rather than vice versa.
          Since there are
          (a) some passages in Xn sources that indicate a question of HJ's
          legitimacy & (b) Celsus' 2nd c. claim Jewish traditions that identify
          Jesus as son of a Roman soldier &
          (c) Talmudic traditions that identify Jesus as Ben Pantera (Pandera,
          Phanthera) &
          (d) a German tombstone from the 1st c. CE of a Tyrian archer named
          Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera who served for 40 years in the Roman
          legions,
          the JS voted the thesis that HJ was illegitimate at least historically
          possible (gray) [born without the agency of a human male parent was
          voted black]. But though we reviewed the Toledoth passages relevant to
          this issue, they were not judged as a reliable or independent source of
          historical information....

          According to a recent review of Robert Van Voorst's new book, "Jesus Outside the New Testament" (Eerdman's), Voorst seems to take a similar view. Has anyone here read that book? If so, can you outline Voorst's argument if it differs in any important detail from that outlined above?

          Voorst also considers at length(?) the well-known b.Sanhedrin 43a, which possibly provides a rather different take on the prosecution of Jesus. If this text in fact refers to Jesus (itself a debatable proposition), it implies that Jesus was executed only after a forty-day evaluation that included a fruitless search for favorable witnesses. We have discussed this text on the old Harper-Collins CrossTalk before, and most previous opinion seems to be (following Neusner) that the text is too late to be a reliable witness. I think there is also a theory that the name in the text is interpolated into a different account.

          Bob
        • Brian Tucker
          ... Is it possible to be more specific? I m not clear here? ... Van Voorst quotes (Against Celsus 1.28; 1.32; 1.39) Conclusion: The value of Celsus s comments
          Message 4 of 18 , Jul 16 2:08 PM
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            >"Robert M. Schacht" wrote:

            >>At 07:22 AM 07/16/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote:


            >>(a) some passages in Xn sources that indicate a question of HJ's
            >>legitimacy &

            Is it possible to be more specific? I'm not clear here?

            >>(b) Celsus' 2nd c. claim Jewish traditions that identify
            >>Jesus as son of a Roman soldier &

            Van Voorst quotes (Against Celsus 1.28; 1.32; 1.39)
            Conclusion: "The value of Celsus's comments about the historical
            Jesus is limited. Because we do not have the exact wording of
            True Doctrine and cannot be sure that Origen has given us the
            order of Celsus's book, conclusions must be tentative.
            Nevertheless, Celsus's main attack on Christianity is
            philosophical, not historical...Polemical and tendentious, his
            treatment of Christ is of little value in our knowledge of the
            historical Jesus." 67-8


            >>(c) Talmudic traditions that identify Jesus as Ben Pantera (Pandera,
            >>Phanthera) &

            Van Voorst argues Celsus becomes a "rich source for Jewish
            polemic against Christianity." 68 (i.e. Against Celsus 1.32)
            "Our results so far have been negative, but the final proposed
            code name, Ben Pantera (sometimes given as Ben Pandera)
            is reasonably identified with Jesus. In the Talmud, this name
            occurs in conjunction with Ben Stada in b. Shabbat 104b and
            its parallel passage in b. Sanhedrin 64a. The passage reflects
            confusion over the identity of Stade: Mary's husband, or
            Mary herself?...While the passage is clearer about Pantera
            as Mary's extramarital lover, it offers no description of him.
            In fact, this tradition of Ben Pantera is so slim and difficult
            here that, were it not for external corroboration, this
            passage's reference to Jesus probably would be given
            up as unauthentic...Pantera likely derives...from a
            polemical reaction to the Christian proclamation of
            Jesus' virgin (Gk. PARQENOS) birth." 117

            So Jesus would have no authority because of his
            illegitimate birth.


            >>(d) a German tombstone from the 1st c. CE of a Tyrian archer named
            >>Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera who served for 40 years in the Roman
            >>legions,

            I would like some information on this?


            >>the JS voted the thesis that HJ was illegitimate at least
            >>historically possible (gray)

            Van Voorst concludes, "We have seen how the tradition of Jesus'
            illegitimacy, and Ben Pantera story related to it, arose from the
            Christian doctrine of the virgin birth. This doctrine was not
            explicitly formulated by Christians until near the end of the first
            century (Matthew and Luke), and even then may not have been
            widely shared as a leading doctrine by other Christians." 121



            >According to a recent review of Robert Van Voorst's new book, "Jesus
            >Outside the New Testament" (Eerdman's), Voorst seems to take a
            >similar view. Has anyone here read that book? If so, can you outline
            >Voorst's argument if it differs in any important detail from that
            >outlined above?

            Yes, see above



            >Voorst also considers at length(?) the well-known b.Sanhedrin 43a,
            >which possibly provides a rather different take on the prosecution
            of
            >Jesus.

            114-121
            He concludes, "the presentation of Jesus' trial and death in
            b.Sanhedrin 43a seems to represent a Jewish rebuttal to Christian
            traditions about Jesus'death; it cannot be claimed to represent
            early,
            independent information about Jesus, even though according to the
            Synoptic accounts some leading Pharisees were present at the trial of
            Jesus." 121

            >We have discussed this text on the old Harper-Collins CrossTalk
            >before, and most previous opinion seems to be (following Neusner)
            >that the text is too late to be a reliable witness.

            Van Voorst agrees and follows Neusner, as well. 105

            >I think there is also a theory that the name in the text is
            >interpolated into a different account.

            I am not clear on what you mean here unless you are referring to the
            pseudonyms: Jesus as: Balaam, Ben Stada, a certain one?

            Thanks for the great and helpful posts (Mahlon, Bob, David and
            Stephen)

            --
            Brian Tucker
            15633 Pennsylvania
            Riverview, Michigan 48192
            jbtucker@...
            music@...
          • Robert M. Schacht
            ... This was also discussed on CrossTalk many moons ago. For this to have any significance at all, don t we have to assume that there was only one Pantera in
            Message 5 of 18 , Jul 16 5:05 PM
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              At 02:08 PM 07/16/00 , Brian Tucker wrote:
              >"Robert M. Schacht" wrote:

              >>At 07:22 AM 07/16/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

              ...
              >>(d) a German tombstone from the 1st c. CE of a Tyrian archer named
              >>Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera who served for 40 years in the Roman
              >>legions,

              I would like some information on this?

              This was also discussed on CrossTalk many moons ago. For this to have any significance at all, don't we have to assume that there was only one Pantera in all the known world in the first century? So far as I can tell, all there is connecting this Pantera and that Pantera is (1) the name "Pantera" and (2) the first century date. Isn't this somewhat far fetched?


              ....
              >According to a recent review of Robert Van Voorst's new book, "Jesus
              >Outside the New Testament" (Eerdman's), Voorst seems to take a
              >similar view. Has anyone here read that book? If so, can you outline
              >Voorst's argument if it differs in any important detail from that
              >outlined above?

              Yes, see above

              Many thanks for your report!

              >Voorst also considers at length(?) the well-known b.Sanhedrin 43a,
              >which possibly provides a rather different take on the prosecution .
              >I think there is also a theory that the name in the text is
              >interpolated into a different account.

              I am not clear on what you mean here unless you are referring to the
              pseudonyms: Jesus as: Balaam, Ben Stada, a certain one?

              What I meant was that the substance of b.Sanhedrin 43a  was originally about someone else, and the Tannaim substituted a name referring to Jesus to turn the story into a useful bit of propaganda against the Christian tradition that the trial was hasty. I have no evidence for this, but I think I read about this hypothesis somewhere (sorry, no clue as to where.)

              Thanks for the great and helpful posts (Mahlon, Bob, David and Stephen)

              --
              Brian Tucker

              You're quite welcome.

              Bob
            • Mahlon H. Smith
              ... Apart from the story in Matt 1:18ff, most are only inferences & they are all reviewed in Jane Schaberg s book (which I don t happen to have handy). The
              Message 6 of 18 , Jul 17 1:49 AM
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                I wrote:
                >
                > >>(a) some passages in Xn sources that indicate a question of HJ's
                > >>legitimacy &

                Apart from the story in Matt 1:18ff, most are only inferences & they are
                all reviewed in Jane Schaberg's book (which I don't happen to have
                handy). The main one that comes to me off the top of my head is the
                reference to Jesus in Mark 6:3. 1st c. Jewish males were regularly
                identified by their patronym rather than the name of their mother. *If*
                HJ was *regularly* known by the name of his mother, it would be a clear
                sign that he was illegitimate (paternity unknown or extramarital). The
                Markan reference to Mary is particularly odd since unlike the gospels of
                Matt & Luke Mary is not named anywhere else in Mark's narrative. [In
                Mark 3:3ff she is simply referred to several times as Jesus' mother --
                again with Jesus' brothers but no human father in sight].

                >
                > >>(b) Celsus' 2nd c. claim Jewish traditions that identify
                > >>Jesus as son of a Roman soldier &
                >
                > Van Voorst quotes (Against Celsus 1.28; 1.32; 1.39)
                > Conclusion: "The value of Celsus's comments about the historical
                > Jesus is limited. Because we do not have the exact wording of
                > True Doctrine and cannot be sure that Origen has given us the
                > order of Celsus's book, conclusions must be tentative.
                > Nevertheless, Celsus's main attack on Christianity is
                > philosophical, not historical...Polemical and tendentious, his
                > treatment of Christ is of little value in our knowledge of the
                > historical Jesus." 67-8
                >

                While I would agree that Celsus is not a good source of primary info
                about HJ much of his text can reasonably be reconstructed from Origen's
                careful refutation & it presents an excellent reliable source of the
                type of rebuttals to Xn preaching that early Xn writers had to take very
                seriously & try to formulate effective counter arguments.

                > >>(c) Talmudic traditions that identify Jesus as Ben Pantera (Pandera,
                > >>Phanthera) &
                >
                > Van Voorst argues Celsus becomes a "rich source for Jewish
                > polemic against Christianity." 68 (i.e. Against Celsus 1.32)
                <SNIP>
                > ...Pantera likely derives...from a
                > polemical reaction to the Christian proclamation of
                > Jesus' virgin (Gk. PARQENOS) birth." 117
                >

                I disagree. Pantera was a legitimate [non-Semitic?] name as is evidenced
                by the tombstone found in Germany. I don't consider it very likely that
                a Greek speaking opponent of Xn claims that Jesus' *mother* was PARQENOS
                when she conceived him would have been led to twist this into a *father*
                named Pantera. The vocalization of these words in Greek is not close
                enough to inspire such a pun & there isn't any literary evidence in
                Greek identifying Jesus hUIOS TOU PANTERA. In reading a *Semitic text*,
                a Jewish pundit *might* transpose the unvocalized consonants PRThNS to
                read them as PNThR(S) to produce a witty interpretation. This type of
                thing happens all the time in Jewish exegesis of scripture. But in such
                cases most of the time both terms are usually meaningful *Semitic*
                words. But that is clearly not what is claimed in this case. Van Voorst
                would have to develop the logic & linguistic mechanics of this alleged
                derivation of Pantera to make it dialectically plausible.
                >
                > >>(d) a German tombstone from the 1st c. CE of a Tyrian archer named
                > >>Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera who served for 40 years in the Roman
                > >>legions,
                >
                > I would like some information on this?
                >

                See John J. Rousseau & Rami Arav _Jesus & His World_ Fortress 1995 pp.
                223-225.

                > >>the JS voted the thesis that HJ was illegitimate at least
                > >>historically possible (gray)
                >
                > Van Voorst concludes, "We have seen how the tradition of Jesus'
                > illegitimacy, and Ben Pantera story related to it, arose from the
                > Christian doctrine of the virgin birth. This doctrine was not
                > explicitly formulated by Christians until near the end of the first
                > century (Matthew and Luke), and even then may not have been
                > widely shared as a leading doctrine by other Christians." 121
                >

                And I conclude that you do not show that Van Voorst has demonstrated
                that the tradition of Jesus' illegitimacy "arose from the Christian
                doctrine of the virgin birth." That *may* be the case here. But
                dialectically, it is just as plausible that the claim of virgin birth
                arose as a rebuttal to charges of uncertain paternity. You said that the
                claim of virgin birth is a relatively late development & I would add one
                that had little or no basis in Jewish traditions or expectations. It was
                not part of messianic prophecy & oddly in the two gospels which report
                it was juxtaposed to (variant) Davidic genealogies of a man identified
                as Mary's legitimate husband. It is tangential to Matthew's agenda of
                showing that Jesus fulfilled scripture & in tension with other Lukan
                stories that portray both Mary & the home town folk as regarding Jesus'
                real father as Joseph (Luke 2:48, 4:22).

                So while there are good arguments against giving historical credence to
                opposition charges of Jesus' illegitimacy, I don't find Van Voorst's
                claim that this slur was invented in reaction to a "Christian doctrine"
                of the virgin birth to be one of them.

                Shalom!

                Mahlon


                --

                *********************

                Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
                Associate Professor
                Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
                Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
                New Brunswick NJ

                Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
                http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

                A Synoptic Gospels Primer
                http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

                Jesus Seminar Forum
                http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
              • Basil Lourie
                Excuse me for such belated two kopecks to the bibliography: Guenter Schlichting, _Ein jüdische Leben Jesu. Die verschollen Toledot-Jeschu-Fassung Tam u-mu`ad.
                Message 7 of 18 , Jul 18 2:54 AM
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                  Excuse me for such belated two kopecks to the bibliography:

                  Guenter Schlichting, _Ein jüdische Leben Jesu. Die verschollen
                  Toledot-Jeschu-Fassung Tam u-mu`ad. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung,
                  Kommentar, Motivsynopse, Bibliographie_ Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1982
                  (WUNT, 24) XVI, 292 S.

                  The author is inclined to choise an earlier date within the span from the
                  1st to the 10th cent. (p. 2).

                  Basil Lourie
                  revue _Xristianskij Vostok_
                  St. Petersburg, Russia
                • smartin@webzone.net
                  ... have any ... one Pantera in ... there is ... and (2) the ... Pantera could be the name of a Roman soldier and is not simply a corruption of Greek
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jul 29 8:16 PM
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                    --- In crosstalk2@egroups.com, "Robert M. Schacht" <r_schacht@y...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    > This was also discussed on CrossTalk many moons ago. For this to
                    have any
                    > significance at all, don't we have to assume that there was only
                    one Pantera in
                    > all the known world in the first century? So far as I can tell, all
                    there is
                    > connecting this Pantera and that Pantera is (1) the name "Pantera"
                    and (2) the
                    > first century date. Isn't this somewhat far fetched?
                    >
                    >
                    >Isn't the significance of the inscription that it demonstrates
                    Pantera could be the name of a Roman soldier and is not simply a
                    corruption of Greek parthenos, deriving from the virgin
                    birth/illegitimacy conflict? It lends some support to the view that
                    there could be an historical foundation underlying the Pantera story
                    and that it is not necessarily a mere parody of the Gospel.
                    >
                    >
                    > Sid Martin
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