Freethought Archives > G W Foote & J M Wheeler > The Jewish Life of Christ



[iv:1] The Lost and Hostile Gospels. By Rev. S. Baring Gould, M.A.; 1874.

[v:1] Rodriguez de Castro, Biblia Espana, tom i., p. 223.

[13:1] "In the year 671 of the fourth millenary." The Rev. S. Baring Gould translates it "in the year 4,671," which, he says, would be 910 B.C. We cannot understand this computation; it agrees with no chronology known to us, neither the Samaritan, the Septuagint, Josephus nor Usher. According to the established Jewish chronology the world was 3,761 years old at the beginning of our era. The year 3,671 would therefore be 90 B.C. This fairly harmonises with what Gibbon says of "the anachronism of the Jews, who place the birth of Christ near a century sooner." It also agrees with the date of Janneus, the Sadducee king of Judaea, who reigned from 106 B.C. to 79 B.C. If we suppose, with the author of "Revelations of Antichrist," that the Olympiad of Iphitus is meant in in the text, the year 671 of that era, which began 884 B.C., would be 106 B.C. This brings the birth of Jeshu barely within the reign of Janneus. On the whole we prefer to regard the Jewish chronology as the one the writer employed. He wrote for Jews and would naturally use it.

[13:2] Pandera, according to the Jewish Gemara (compiled between the fourth and sixth centuries of our era, but containing ancient traditions orally transmitted), was the paramour of a wanton who went astray from her husband. The Talmudic references to Miriam and Pandera may be found fully cited in the works of Lightfoot and Lardner. These scattered accounts of Jesus, when brought together, give us the following:--In the time of Janneus the Sadducee, one Mary, a plaiter of woman's hair, was false to her husband, and had, by a person named Pandera, a son called Jesus. This son was taken in tutorship by Rabbi Joshua ben Perachia, President of the Sanhedrim, and, at the time when the rabbis were persecuted by Janneus, accompanied him to Alexandria in Egypt, where he learnt how to charm diseases, and other magic arts. On his return with, his master they fell out because Jesus praised a woman's beauty. Jesus then taught new doctrines, defamed the rabbis and gave himself up to magical practices. He had five chief disciples, Mathai, (Matthew?), Nezer, Boni and Thodah (Thaddeus?). They were put to death, and Jesus himself was stoned at Lud or Lydda, twenty-two miles north-west of Jerusalem, and then hanged on the evening before the passover.

Celsus, writing in the second century, as quoted by Origen who "refuted" him a hundred years later, says that Jesus was born of a countrywoman, and that when she was pregnant she "was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera" ("Origen against Celsus," book 1, ch. xxxii., p. 431.--"Ante-Nicene Christian Library"). This calumny the Christian Father easily confuted by such powerful arguments as that God would not make a teacher of a bastard, and that some animals--for instance vultures--conceived without any connection with a male.

Celsus, speaking on behalf of the Jews, further says, as reported by his opponent, "that he (Jesus) having been brought up as an illegitimate child, and having served for hire in Egypt, and then coming to the knowledge of certain miraculous powers, returned from thence to his own country, and by means of those powers proclaimed himself to be God" (book 1, ch. xxxviii., p. 438).

[14:3] Pandera's living at Bethlehem might account for the gospel tradition of Jesus being born there. According to the Apocryphal Gospel of Mary, she lived at Jerusalem before Joseph married her, and Bethlehem is not far from the holy city. Actually, it is more probable that Jesus was born at Nazareth, where Joseph lived. The Rabbinical writers refer to him as Ha Notzri, a native of Nazareth; his disciples were called Nazarenes before they received the name of Christians; and a Nazarene is still the designation for a Christian throughout the East.

[14:4] Miriam is the Hebrew word for Mary, and signifies bitterness. Lardner says, "In several other places of these Talmudical writers, Mary is called 'a plaiter of woman's hair'; as may be seen in Lightfoot p. 270. And from some things alleged just now it seems that thereby they denote a transgressor of the laws of purity. And we are led to think that by this description they intended to represent not her outward condition, but her moral character" ("Jewish Testimonies." Works, vol. vi., p. 524; 1838).

[15:5] We are obliged to keep these passages veiled in Latin. There are worse things in the Bible, but we do not feel at liberty to emulate the indecency of the inspired writers. A reference to Leviticus xx., 18, will give a fair idea of the meaning of Miriam's exclamation in the first sentence.

[15:6] This rabbi is undoubtedly an historical character. He flourished about 90 B.C., and is mentioned in the Talmud. It was customary for rabbis, like the Greek sophists, to take pupils, who generally became their disciples. Paul tell us (Acts xxii., 3), that he was "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel."

[15:7] Ever since the captivity there had been an extensive Jewish colony at Babylon, where the chief part of the Gemara was compiled, and whither many Hebrews repaired after the fall of Jerusalem. This reference to Babylon seems an unmistakeable touch of authentic history.

[16:8] The apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy and the History of Joseph both give Jesus a schoolmaster, and both praise his bright parts. Luke (ii., 40) also says that "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom." The only indication, however, that Jesus could write is furnished by John (viii., 8). But this story of his writing on the ground is wanting in the earliest manuscripts.

[16:9] Verses 24-27.--Jesus in our Gospels argues with the rabbis, and bestows all his impertinence on his mother; but Jeshu offers it all to the doctors.--The same story is thus told in the Talmud;--"As once the elders sat at the gate there passed two boys before them. One uncovered his head, the other did not. Then said Rabbi Elieser, The latter is certainly a bastard; but Rabbi Jehoshua said, He is a son of an adulteress. Akiba said, He is both a bastard and a son of an adulteress. They said to him, How canst thou oppose the opinion of thy companions? He answered, I will prove what I have said. Then he went to the boy's mother, who was sitting in the market selling fruit, and said to her, My daughter, if you will tell me the truth I will promise you eternal life. She said to him, Swear to me. And he swore with his lips, but in his heart he did not ratify the oath." Lardner notes that "though no person is here named, there can be no doubt who is intended."

[16:10] "Joseph Pandera." R. von der Alm conjectures that the Christian story kept the first name of Pandera-- Joseph--as that of the father of Jesus. According to Luke iv., 22, the Jews inquired of Jesus "Is not this Joseph's son?" They obviously knew or suspected nothing of his divine parentage. The passage in brackets in Luke's genealogy, iii., 23, representing Jesus as the "supposed" son of Joseph is the language of the evangelist himself, who was not a contemporary. The friends and countrymen of Jesus allude to him as a man, a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter. See Mark vi., 3; Matthew xiii, 55. In the face of these texts, it is astonishing that Origen, in reply to Celsus, should assert that "in none of the gospels current in the churches is Jesus himself ever described as being a carpenter." This sweeping denial can only be explained on one of three hypotheses: Origen's unscrupulous audacity, his ignorance of our gospels, or the subsequent interpolation of the passage he contradicts.

[17:2] Bastard is a strong word, but it is accurate of Jesus as well as of Jeshu. There was a Jewish law against bastards entering the congregation until the tenth generation (Deuteronomy xxiii., 2).

[17:3] Proclamations among the Jews were made by the sound of trumpets. See many places in the Old Testament. The same ceremony has been performed in more modern times. The blowing of rams' horns was a conspicuous feature in the excommunication of Spinoza.

[17:4] Jehoshua, which we shorten into Joshua, is a common Jewish name, of which Jesus is the Greek [version]. It means "Jehovah is his salvation." Rabbi Abraham Farrissol, in his מנב אברהם (Megan Abraham) Ch. 59, says "His name was Jeshua, but as Rabbi Moses Maimonides has written it, and as we find it throughout the Talmud, it is written Jeshu. They have carefully left out the ain, because he was not able to save himself." So Elias in Tishbi, under the word Jeshu, says "Because the Jews will not acknowledge him (Jesus) to be the savior, they do not call him Jeshua, but reject the ain and call him Jeshu." By omitting this letter a peculiar significance was given to the name. In the curtailed form it is composed of the letters jod, shin, vau, which are taken to stand for: ימח שמו וזכרונו -- "his name and remembrance shall be extinguished," the meaning which is given in the text.

[17:5] Jesus also returned from Jerusalem and dwelt in Galilee, from which district all his disciples were chosen. It was just the place for prophets and demagogues. Renan remarks very justly that "Palestine was one of the countries most in arrear in the science of the day; the Galileans were the most ignorant of all the inhabitants of Palestine, and the disciples of Jesus might be reckoned among the most stupid Galileans."

[17:6] This was the Shem Hamphoras -- שם המפרש, the Sacred Ineffable Name, by which expression the Jews name Jehovah or Jahveh, the correct pronunciation of which is lost, the word Adonai (Lord) being substituted. The rabbis affirm that the decadence of Israel is due to the loss of this sacred name, and that, if any one were able to pronounce it, he might thereby create or destroy worlds. Numerous wonders are ascribed to it. By its aid Moses slew the Egyptian, and it was engraved on Solomon's seal. The great prophet must, however, have forgotten it during his residence with Jethro; for according to the Kabbalists he spent forty days on Mount Sinai, learning it afresh from the angel Saxael.

[18:7] Mr. Gould considers that this verse shows the writer's "amazing ignorance" of Jewish history, which represents Solomon as the builder of the Temple. But the remark rather shows Mr. Gould's amazing ignorance; for, according to Rabbinical tradition, although Solomon erected the Temple, its foundation was laid by David; and this tradition is corroborated by 1 Chronicles xxii., 1-4. The foundation stone of the Temple is said to have been the same block that Jacob reposed on (Genesis xxviii., 22), and which he prophesied "shall be God's house."

[18:8] The Talmud calls them "brazen dogs," and Luther appears to have thought them of this species. Alm refers to Ezekiel i., containing a description of the Cherubim, Jehovah's four-faced body-guard, one aspect being leonine. Madame Blavatsky thinks the text refers unmistakeably to these Hebrew chimeras, or, to use her own phrase, "symbolical monstrosities" ("Isis Unveiled," vol. ii., p. 201; 1877).

[18:9] The Talmud refers to a similar performance in the query "Did not Ben Stada bring enchantment out of Egypt in the cutting which was in his flesh?" Ben Stada (the son of Stada) of course is Jesus, who according to our Gospels went into Egypt. It is curious that Revelation (xix., 12, 16) ascribes to Jesus "a name written, that no man knew but he himself;" and this, or an equivalent name, was "on his thigh;" but whether tattooed or sewn in we are not informed.

[19:1] According to several passages in our Gospels, the Pharisees charged Jesus with casting out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of devils. There are many illustrations in the Bible of the superstition of using the divine name as a spell. When Jacob wrestled with the angel he demanded his name (Genesis xxii., 29). Manoah made the same request to the angel who predicted the birth of Samson (Judges xiii., 18). The third commandment prohibits the taking of God's name in vain (see also Lev. xxiv., 16). Jesus (Mark xvi., 17) says of his disciples "in my name they shall cast out devils." According to Acts iii., 16, his name made a lame man strong; and Peter in answer to the question "By what power or by what name have ye done this?" replies (Acts iv., 12) that there is none other name under heaven given whereby we must be saved." Paul also (Phillipians ii., 9) says "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every other name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth."

[19:2] Jeshu boasts of his virgin mother; the Christians claim the same glory for Jesus, and probably with equal truth. Mary did not, however, conceive at the top of her head, although according to St. Ambrose she was impregnated through the ear -- Maria per aurem impregnata est. Dr. Clemens mentions an early Christian belief that Jesus was born from his mother's head. Both these notions are plagiarisms from the Greek mythology, which represents Minerva as springing full-armed from the brain of Jove. Justin Martyr, indeed, in his First Apology (Ch. 21) places the miraculous births of Jesus and the offspring of Jove in the same category. In the legends of the birth of Buddha, the Indian savior is born from the side of his mother Maya.

[19:3] The claims of Jeshu and Jesus are equally founded on a false interpretation of Isaiah. The word almah (vii., 14) means any young woman, whether single or wedded. Besides, Isaiah took care to fulfil his own prediction by the aid of a female colleague, leaving nothing to be added by the labor of his successors (viii., 3).

[20:4] Jeshu's readiness to work a miracle is in striking contrast to the reluctance of Jesus. Instead of calling people evil, wicked and adulterous, for seeking a sign, he promptly acquiesces in their request, and at once calls for a good subject.

[20:5] Matthew puts a similar exclamation into the mouth of the centurion at the Crucifixion.

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