The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Jesus of Nazareth
Founder of Christianity; born at Nazareth about 2 B.C. (according to Luke 3:23); executed at Jerusalem 14th of Nisan, 3789 (March or April, 29 C.E.). His life, though indirectly of so critical a character, had very little direct influence on the course of Jewish history or thought. In contemporary Jewish literature his career is referred to only in the (interpolated) passage of Josephus, "Ant." 18:3, § 3, while the references in the Talmud are for the most part as legendary as those in the apocryphal gospels, though in an opposite direction (see see Jesus in Jewish Legend). Under these circumstances it is not necessary in this place to do more than to give a sketch of the main historical events in the public career of Jesus, with an attempt to ascertain his personal relations to contemporary Judaism; for the theological superstructure based upon his life and death, and certain mythological conceptions associated with them, see Jew. Encyc. 4:50a, s. Christianity.
Sources of Life.
In the New Testament there are four "Gospels" professing to deal with the life of Jesus independently; but it is now almost universally agreed that the first three of these, known by the names of "Matthew," "Mark," and "Luke," are interdependent, corresponding to the various forms of contemporary Baraitot, while the fourth, the Gospel of John, is what the Germans call a "Tendenz-Roman," practically a work of religious imagination intended to modify opinion in a certain direction. The supernatural claims made on behalf of Jesus are based almost exclusively on statements of the fourth Gospel. Of the first three or synoptic Gospels the consensus of contemporary opinion regards that of Mark as the earliest and as being the main source of the historic statements of the other two. This Gospel will, therefore, be used in the following account almost exclusively, references to chapter and verse, when the name of the Gospel is not given, being to this source. Beside the original of the Gospel of Mark, there was another source used in common by both Matthew and Luke, namely the "logia," or detached sayings, of Matthew and Luke; and besides these two documents the apocryphal "Gospel According to the Hebrews" has preserved, in the opinion of the critics, a few statements of Jesus which often throw vivid light upon his motives and opinions. Much industry and ingenuity have been devoted by A. Resch to the collection of extracanonical statements of Jesus, known as "agrapha" (Leipsic, 1889).
The earliest of all these sources, the original of Mark's Gospel, contains references which show that it was written shortly before or soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70; in other words, forty years after the death of Jesus. Like the other Gospels, it was originally written in Greek, whereas the sayings of Jesus were uttered in Aramaic. It is therefore impossible to lay much stress upon the perfect accuracy of the records of events and statements written down forty years after they occurred or were made, and then in a language other than that in which such statements were originally uttered (even the Lord's Prayer was retained in variant versions; comp. Matthew 6:10-13; Luke 11:2-4); yet it is upon this slender basis that some of the most stupendous claims have been raised. For the processes by which the traditions as to the life of Jesus were converted into proofs of his super-natural character, see Jew. Encyc. 4:51-52, s. Christianity. Many incidents were actually invented (especially in Matthew) "in order that there might be fulfilled" in him prophecies relating to aMessiah of a character quite other than that of which Jesus either claimed or was represented by his disciples to be.
Yet the supernatural in the life of Jesus according to the Gospels is restricted to the smallest dimensions, consisting mainly of incidents and characteristics intended to support these prophecies and the dogmatic positions of Christianity. This applies especially to the story of the virgin-birth, a legend which is common to almost all folk-heroes as indicating their superiority to the rest of their people (see E. S. Hartland, "Legend of Perseus," vol. ). Combined with this is the inconsistent claim of Davidic descent through Joseph, two discrepant pedigrees being given (Matthew 1, Luke 3).
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the life of Jesus as presented in the Gospels is the utter silence about its earlier phases. He was one of a rather large family, having four brothers, Jacob, Jose, Simon, Judah, besides sisters. It is known that he earned his living by his father's trade, that of a carpenter; according to Justin Martyr, plows and yokes made by Jesus were still in existence at his (Justin's) time, about the year 120 ("Dial. cum Tryph." § 88). It is doubtful whether he received any definite intellectual training, the great system of Jewish education not being carried into effect till after the destruction of Jerusalem (EDUCATION). It is probable, however, that he could read; he was certainly acquainted, either by reading or by oral instruction, with much of the Old Testament; and his mode of argumentation often resembles that of the contemporary rabbis, implying that he had frequented their society. In defending his infringement of the Sabbath he seems to have confused Abiathar with Ahimelech (2:25; comp. 1 Samuel 21:1), if this is not merely a copyist's blunder. It would appear from his interviews with the scribe (12:29-31; comp. Luke 10:27) and with the rich young man (10:19) that he was acquainted with the see DIDACHE in its Jewish form, accepting its teachings as summing up the whole of Jewish doctrine. Only a single incident of his early days is recorded: his behavior about the time of his bar miẓwah (or confirmation) in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). It is strange that so masterful a character showed no signs of its exceptional qualities before the turning-point of Jesus' career.
Influence of John the Baptist.
The crisis in Jesus' life came with JOHN THE BAPTIST's preaching of repentance and of the nearness of the kingdom of God. At first Jesus refused to submit to baptism by John. According to a well-authenticated tradition of the "Gospel According to the Hebrews," he asked wherein he had sinned that it was necessary for him to be baptized by John. Nevertheless the sight of the marked influence exercised by the latter evidently made a profound impression on the character of Jesus: he probably then experienced for the first time the power of a great personality upon crowds of people.
It is at this moment of his life that Christian legend places what is known as the temptation, information concerning which, from the very nature of the case, could have been communicated only by Jesus himself. In the "Gospel According to the Hebrews" account this is given in the form: "My mother, the Holy Spirit, took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me up to the great Mount Tabor" (which was in the neighborhood of his home). As Jerome remarks (on Isa. 9), the form of this saying implies a Hebrew (or rather Aramaic) original ("Ruḥa Ḳaddisha"); and for this reason, among others, the saying may be regarded as a genuine one. It is significant as implying two things: (1) the belief of Jesus in a special divine origin of his spirit, and (2) a tendency to ecstatic abstraction. This tendency is found in other great leaders of men, like Socrates, Mohammed, and Napoleon, being accompanied in their cases by hallucinations; auditory in the first case (the "demon" of Socrates), and visual in the last two (Mohammed's dove and Napoleon's star). These periods of ecstasy would tend to confirm in Oriental minds the impression that the subject of them was inspired (comp. the original meaning of "nabi"; Prophet), and would add to the attractive force of a magnetic personality.
In Jesus' family and among his neighbors the effect seems to have been different. His own people regarded him even as being out of his mind (3:21), and they do not appear to have been associated with him or with the Christian movement until after his death. Jesus himself seems to have been greatly incensed at this (comp. 6:4), refusing to recognize any special relationship even to his mother (3:33; comp. John 2:4), and declaring that spiritual relationship exceeded a natural one (3:35). He felt perforce driven out into public activity; and the feverish excitement of the succeeding epoch-making ten months implies a tension of spirit which must have confirmed the impression of inspiration. On the whole subject see O. Holtzman, "War Jesus Ekstatiker?" (Leipsic, 1902), who agrees that there must have been abnormal mental processes involved in the utterances and behavior of Jesus.
His Belief in Demonology.
Instead, however, of remaining in the wilderness like John, or like the Essenes, with whose tendencies his own show some affinity, he returned to his native district and sought out those whom he wished to influence. Incidentally he developed a remarkable power of healing; one sick of a fever (1:29-34), a leper (1:40-45), a paralytic (2:1-12), and an epileptic (9:15-29) being severally cured by him. But his activity in this regard was devoted especially to "casting out demons," e., according to the folkmedicine of the time, healing nervous and mental diseases. It would appear that Jesus shared in the current belief of the Jews in the noumenal existence of demons or evil spirits; and most of his miraculous cures consisted in casting them out, which he did with "the finger of God" (Luke 11:20), or with "the Spirit of God" (Matthew 12:28). It would seem also that he regarded diseases like fever to be due to the existence of demons (Luke 4:39). One of the chief functions transmitted to his disciples was the "power over unclean spirits, to cast them out" (Matthew 10:1), and his superiority to his followers was shown by his casting out demons which they had failed to expel (9:14-29). As regards the miracle in which Jesus cast out a demon or several demons whose name was "Legion" into some Gadarene swine (5:1-21), it has recently been ingeniously suggested by T. Reinach that the name "Legion" given to the spirits was due to the popular confusion between the Tenth Legion (the sole Roman garrison of Palestine between the years 70 and 135) and the wild boar which appeared as the insignia on its standard ("R. E. J." 47:177). From this it would seem that the legend arose, at any rate in its present form, after the destruction of Jerusalem, at which time alone the confusion between the title "legion" and the insignia could have occurred. For a full account of the subject see F. C. Conybeare in "J. Q. R." 8:587-588, and see compare Demonology.
It is difficult to estimate what amount of truth exists in the accounts of these cures, recorded about forty years after their occurrence; but doubtless the mental excitement due to the influence of Jesus was often efficacious in at least partial or temporary cures of mental illnesses. This would tend to confirm the impression, both among those who witnessed the cures and among his disciples, of his possession of supernatural powers. He himself occasionally deprecated the exaggeration to which such cures naturally led. Thus in the case of Jairus' daughter (5:35-43) he expressly declared: "She is not dead, but sleepeth" (39). Notwithstanding this, her resuscitation was regarded as a miracle.
In essentials Jesus' teaching was that of John the Baptist, and it laid emphasis on two points: (1) repentance, and (2) the near approach of the kingdom of God. One other point is noted by Christian theologians as part of his essential teaching, namely, insistence upon the fatherhood of God. This is such a commonplace in the Jewish liturgy and in Jewish thought that it is scarcely necessary to point out its essentially Jewish character (FATHER). As regards repentance, its specifically Jewish note has been recently emphasized by C. G. Montefiore ("J. Q. R." Jan., 1904), who points out that Christianity lays less stress upon this side of religious life than Judaism; so that in this direction Jesus was certainly more Jewish than Christian.
As regards the notion of the "kingdom of heaven," the title itself ("malkut shamayim") is specifically Jewish; and the content of the concept is equally so (see KINGDOM OF GOD). Jesus seems to have shared in the belief of his contemporaries that some world-catastrophe was at hand in which this kingdom would be reinstated on the ruins of a fallen world (9:1; comp. 13:35-37 and Matthew 10:23).
Almost at the beginning of his evangelical career Jesus differentiated himself from John the Baptist in two directions: (1) comparative neglect of the Mosaic or rabbinic law; and (2) personal attitude toward infractions of it. In many ways his attitude was specifically Jewish, even in directions which are usually regarded as signs of Judaic narrowness. Jesus appears to have preached regularly in the synagogue, which would not have been possible if his doctrines had been recognized as being essentially different from the current Pharisaic beliefs. In his preaching he adopted the popular method of "mashal," or see PARABLE, of which about thirty-one examples are instanced in the synoptic Gospels, forming indeed the larger portion of his recorded teachings. It is obvious that such a method is liable to misunderstanding; and it is difficult in all cases to reconcile the various views that seem to underlie the parables. One of these parables deserves special mention here, as it has obviously been changed, for dogmatic reasons, so as to have an anti-Jewish application. There is little doubt that J. Halevy is right ("R. E. J." 4:249-255) in suggesting that in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:17-37) the original contrast was between the priest, the Levite, and the ordinary Israelite—representing the three great classes into which Jews then and now were and are divided. The point of the parable is against the sacerdotal class, whose members indeed brought about the death of Jesus. Later, "Israelite" or "Jew" was changed into "Samaritan," which introduces an element of inconsistency, since no Samaritan would have been found on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem (ib. 30).
While the aim of Jesus was to redeem those who had strayed from the beaten path of morality, he yet restricted his attention and that of his followers to the lost sons of Israel (7:24). He particularly forbade his disciples to seek heathens and Samaritans (10:5), and for the same reason at first refused to heal the Syrophenician woman (7:24). His choice of twelve apostles had distinct reference to the tribes of Israel (3:13-16). He regarded dogs and swine as unholy (Matthew 7:6). His special prayer is merely a shortened form of the third, fifth, sixth, ninth, and fifteenth of the Eighteen Benedictions (Lord's Prayer). Jesus wore the see ẒIẒIT (Matthew 9:20); he went out of his way to pay the Temple tax of two drachmas (ib. 17:24-27); and his disciples offered sacrifice (ib. 5:23-24). In the Sermon on the Mount he expressly declared that he had come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it (ib. 5:17, quoted in Shab. 116b), and that not a jot or tittle of the Law should ever pass away (ib. 5:18; comp. Luke 16:17). It would even appear that later tradition regarded him as scrupulous in keeping the whole Law (comp. John 8:46).
Attitude Toward the Law.
Yet in several particulars Jesus declined to follow the directions of the Law, at least as it was interpreted by the Rabbis. Where John's followers fasted, he refused to do so (2:18). He permitted his followers to gather corn on the Sabbath (2:23-28), and himself healed on that day (3:1-6), though the stricter rabbis allowed only the saving of life to excuse the slightest curtailment of the Sabbath rest (Shab. 22:6). In minor points, such as the ablution after meals (7:2), he showed a freedom from traditional custom which implied a break with the stricter rule of the more rigorous adherents of the Law at that time. His attitude toward the Law is perhaps best expressed in an incident which, though recorded in only one manuscript of the Gospel of Luke (6:4, in the Codex Bezæ), bears internal signs of genuineness. He is there reported to have met a man laboring onthe Sabbath-day—a sin deserving of death by stoning, according to the Mosaic law. Jesus said to the man: "Man, if thou knowest what thou doest, blessed art thou; but if thou knowest not, accursed art thou, and a transgressor of the Law." According to this, the Law should be obeyed unless a higher principle intervenes.
While claiming not to infringe or curtail the Law, Jesus directed his followers to pay more attention to the intention and motive with which any act was done than to the deed itself. This was by no means a novelty in Jewish religious development: the Prophets and Rabbis had continuously and consistently insisted upon the inner motive with which pious deeds should be performed, as the well-known passages in Isaiah 1 and Micah 6 sufficiently indicate. Jesus contended that the application of this principle was practically equivalent to a revolution in spiritual life; and he laid stress upon the contrast between the old Law and the new one, especially in his Sermon on the Mount. In making these pretensions he was following a tendency which at the period of his career was especially marked in the HASIDÆANS and ESSENES, though they associated it with views as to external purity and seclusion from the world, which differentiated them from Jesus. He does not appear, however, to have contended that the new spirit would involve any particular change in the application of the Law. He appears to have suggested that marriages should be made permanent, and that divorce should not be allowed (10:2-12). In the Talmud it is even asserted that he threatened to change the old law of primogeniture into one by which sons and daughters should inherit alike (Shab. 116a); but there is no evidence for this utterance in Christian sources. Apart from these points, no change in the Law was indicated by Jesus; indeed, he insisted that the Jewish multitude whom he addressed should do what the Scribes and Pharisees commanded, even though they should not act as the Scribes acted (Matthew 23:3). Jesus, however, does not appear to have taken into account the fact that the Halakah was at this period just becoming crystallized, and that much variation existed as to its definite form; the disputes of the Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai were occurring about the time of his maturity.
It is, however, exaggerated to regard these variations from current practises as exceptionally abnormal at the beginning of the first century. The existence of a whole class of 'Am ha-Areẓ, whom Jesus may be taken to represent, shows that the rigor of the Law had not yet spread throughout the people. It is stated (3:7) that, owing to the opposition aroused by his action on the Sabbath, Jesus was obliged to flee into heathen parts with some of his followers, including two or three women who had attached themselves to his circle. This does not seem at all probable, and is indeed contradicted by the Gospel accounts, which describe him, even after his seeming break with the rigid requirements of the traditional law, as lodging and feasting with the Pharisees (Luke 14), the very class that would have objected to his behavior.
Tone of Authority.
Nothing in all this insistence upon the spirit of the Law rather than upon the halakic development of it was necessarily or essentially anti-Jewish; but the tone adopted in recommending these variations was altogether novel in Jewish experience. The Prophets spoke with confidence in the truth of their message, but expressly on the ground that they were declaring the word of the Lord. Jesus adopted equal confidence; but he emphasized his own authority apart from any vicarious or deputed power from on high. Yet in doing so he did not—at any rate publicly—ever lay claim to any authority as attaching to his position as Messiah. Indeed, the sole evidence in later times of any such claim seems to be based upon the statement of Peter, and was intimately connected with the personal demand of that apostle to be the head of the organization established by or in the name of Jesus. It is expressly stated (Matthew 16:20) that the disciples were admonished not to make public the claim, if it ever was made. Peter's own pretensions to succession in the leadership appear to be based upon a half-humorous paronomasia made by Jesus, which finds a parallel in rabbinic literature (Matthew 16:18; comp. Yalḳ., Num. 766).
Indeed, the most striking characteristics of the utterances of Jesus, regarded as a personality, were the tone of authority adopted by him and the claim that spiritual peace and salvation were to be found in the mere acceptance of his leadership. Passages like: "Take my yoke upon you . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29); "whosoever shall lose his life for my sake . . . shall save it" (8:35); "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40), indicate an assumption of power which is certainly unique in Jewish history, and indeed accounts for much of modern Jewish antipathy to Jesus, so far as it exists. On the other hand, there is little in any of these utterances to show that they were meant by the speaker to apply to anything more than personal relations with him; and it might well be that in his experience he found that spiritual relief was often afforded by simple human trust in his good-will and power of direction.
This, however, raises the question whether Jesus regarded himself as in any sense a Messiah or spiritual ruler; and there is singularly little evidence in the synoptic Gospels to carry out this claim. These assert only that the claim was made to some of the disciples, and then under a distinct pledge of secrecy. In the public utterances of Jesus there is absolutely no trace of the claim (except possibly in the use of the expression "Son of Man"). Yet it would almost appear that in one sense of the word Jesus regarded himself as fulfilling some of the prophecies which were taken among contemporary Jews as applying to the Messiah. It is doubtful whether it was later tradition or his own statements that identified him with the servant of Yhwh represented in Isaiah 53; but there appears to be no evidence of any Jewish conception of a Messiah suffering through and for his people, though there possibly was a conception of one suffering together with his people (MESSIAH). Jesus himself never used the term "Messiah." He chose for specific title "Son of Man," which may possibly have been connectedin his mind with the reference in Daniel 7:13, but which, according to modern theologians, means simply man in general. In his own mind, too, this may have had some reference to his repudiation by his family. In other words, Jesus regarded himself as typically human, and claimed authority and regard in that aspect. He certainly disclaimed any application to himself of the ordinary conception of the Messiah, the Davidic descent of whom he argues against (12:35-57) entirely in the Talmudic manner.
No New Organization, Contemplated.
It is difficult to decide the question whether Jesus contemplated a permanent organization to carry out his ideals. The whole tendency of his work was against the very idea of organization. His practical acceptance of the Law would seem to imply an absence of any rival mode of life; and his evident belief in an almost immediate reconstruction of the whole social and religious order would tend to prevent any formal arrangements for a new religious organization. The opposition between his followers and the "world," or settled and organized conditions of society, would also seem to imply that those who were to work in his spirit could not make another "world" of their own with the same tendency to conventionality and spiritual red tape. On the whole, it may be said that he did not make general plans, but dealt with each spiritual problem as it arose. "It would almost seem as if he had no consciousness of a mission of any definite sort, so content had he been to let things merely happen" (E. P. Gould, "St. Mark," p. ): that is certainly how his career strikes an outside observer. He was content to let the influence of his own character work upon the persons immediately surrounding him, and that they should transmit this influence silently and without organization; working by way of leaven, as his parable puts it (Matthew 13). His chief work and that of his disciples consisted in the conscious attempt at "saving souls." Jesus was justified in thinking that this new departure would tend to bring dissension rather than peace into families, dividing sons and parents (ib. 10:53).
On the character which, whether designedly or otherwise, produced such momentous influence on the world's history, it is unnecessary in this place to dilate. The reverential admiration of the greater part of the civilized world has for a millennium and a half been directed toward the very human and sympathetic figure of the Galilean Jew as presented in the Gospels. For historic purposes, however, it is important to note that this aspect of him was shown only to his immediate circle. In almost all of his public utterances he was harsh, severe, and distinctly unjust in his attitude toward the ruling and well-to-do classes. After reading his diatribes against the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the rich, it is scarcely to be wondered at that these were concerned in helping to silence him. It must also be remembered that in his public utterances he rarely replied directly to any important question of principle, but evaded queries by counter-queries. In considering his public career, to which attention must now be turned, these two qualities of his character have to be taken into account.
During the ten months which elapsed between the ripening of the corn about June of the year 28 and his death in March or April of the following year Jesus appears to have wandered about the north-west shore of Lake Gennesaret, making excursions from time to time into the adjacent heathen territories, and devoting himself and his disciples to the spread of John the Baptist's message of the nearness of the kingdom of heaven and of the need of repentance in order to enter it. The details of these wanderings are very obscure, and need not be discussed here (see Briggs, "New Light on the Life of Jesus," New York, 1904).
The antinomianism of Jesus became more evident to the rulers of the people; and many of the more religious classes avoided contact with him. He had from the beginning laid stress upon the difficulty of associating sanctity with riches; and in this he adopted the quasi-socialistic views of the later Psalms, Psalms 9, , , , , , , (comp. I. Loeb, "La Littérature des Pauvres dans la Bible," Paris, 1894). He insisted to the fullest extent on the view implied in those Psalms and in various utterances of the Prophets, that poverty and piety, riches and antisocial greed, were practically synonymous (comp. the form of the beatitudes given in Luke 6:20,24-26). The parable of Lazarus and Dives and the interview with the rich young man show a distinct and one-sided tendency in this direction similar to that of the later Ebionites; though, on the other hand, Jesus was willing to lodge with Zaechæus, a rich publican (Luke 19:2,5). In the form of the interview with the rich young man given in the "Gospel According to the Hebrews," sympathy seems to be restricted to the poor of the Holy Land: "Behold, many of thy brethren, sons of Abraham, are clothed but in dung, and die for hunger, while thy house is full of many goods, and there goeth not forth aught from it unto them."
Jesus in Jerusalem.
As the Passover of the year 29 approached, Jesus determined to carry out the injunction of the Law which made it incumbent to eat the sacrificial lamb at Jerusalem. In the later tradition attempts were made to convey the impression that Jesus was aware of the fate that awaited him at Jerusalem: but in the earliest forms (9:32, 10:32) it is recognized that the disciples did not understand the vague hints, if they were at all given; and there is little to show that his visit to Jerusalem was a case of sublime suicide. At the last moment at Gethsemane he made an attempt to avoid arrest ("Rise up, let us go," 14:42). Jerusalem at this time appears to have been in a very unsettled state. An attempted revolution seems to have broken out under one Jesus bar Abbas, who had been captured and was in prison at the time (15:7). It appears to have been the practise of Pontius Pilate to come up to Jerusalem each year at Passover for the purpose of checking any revolt that might break out at that period recalling the redemption of Israel. It is indicative of the temper of the people that during the first half of the first century several risings occurred against the Romans: against Varus, 4 B.C.; under Judas against the Census, 6 C.E.; by the Samaritans against Pilate in 38; and by Theudas against Fadusin 45—all indicating the continuously unsettled condition of the people under Roman rule.
In the Temple.
As far as can be judged, his reception was as much a surprise to Jesus as it was to his followers and to the leaders of the people. His reputation as a miracle-worker had preceded him; and when the little cavalcade of some twenty persons which formed his escort approached the Fountain Gate of Jerusalem he was greeted by many of the visitors to the city as if he were the long-hoped-for deliverer from bondage. This would appear to have been on the first day of the week and on the 10th of Nisan, when, according to the Law, it was necessary that the paschal lamb should be purchased. It is therefore probable that the entry into Jerusalem was for this purpose. In making the purchase of the lamb a dispute appears to have arisen between Jesus' followers and the money-changers who arranged for such purchases; and the latter were, at any rate for that day, driven from the Temple precincts. It would appear from Talmudic references that this action had no lasting effect, if any, for Simon ben Gamaliel found much the same state of affairs much later (Ker. 1:7) and effected some reforms (see Derenbourg in "Histoire de la Palestine," p. 527). The act drew public attention to Jesus, who during the next few days was asked to define his position toward the conflicting parties in Jerusalem. It seemed especially to attack the emoluments of the priestly class, which accordingly asked him to declare by what authority he had interfered with the sacrosanct arrangements of the Temple. In a somewhat enigmatic reply he placed his own claims on a level with those of John the Baptist—in other words, he based them on popular support. Other searching questions put to him by the Sadducces and the Scribes received somewhat more definite answers. On the former asking what evidence for immortality he derived from the Old Testament, he quoted Exodus 3:6, and deduced from it that as God is God of the living, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must have been living after their death—a deduction quite in the spirit of Talmudic see ASMAKTA (comp. Sanh. 90b).
The Test of the Tribute.
To a scribe asking him (in the spirit of Hillel) to what single commandment the whole Law could be reduced, he quoted the doctrine of the Didache, which gives the two chief commandments as the Shema' (Deuteronomy 6:4) and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 18:19), thus declaring the essential solidarity of his own views with those of the Old Testament and of current Judaism, But the most crucial test was put to him by certain of the adherents of Herod, who asked him whether it was lawful to pay tribute to Cæsar. Here again he scarcely answered directly, but, asking for a denarius of tribute, deduced from the image and superscription thereon the conclusion that it ought to be returned unto Cæsar (Matthew 22:21). A very probable tradition, retained in Tatian's "Diatessaron," declares that the colloquy with Peter recorded in Matthew 17:24-26 occurred on this occasion. Neither the original answer nor his further defense of it was satisfactory to the Zealots, who were anxious for an uprising against the Romans. He had made it clear that he had no sympathy with the nationalistic aspirations of the common people, though they had welcomed him under the impression that he was about to realize their hopes. It is only this incident which accounts historically for the contrast between the acclamations of Palm Sunday and the repudiation on the succeeding Friday.
This change of popular sentiment cleared the way for action by the priestly class, which had been offended in both pride and pocket by Jesus' action in clearing the purlieus of the Temple. They may have also genuinely feared a rising under Jesus, having in view the manner in which he had been welcomed on the previous Sunday, though this was possibly brought forward merely as a pretext. It would appear that they determined to seize him before the Feast of the Passover, when the danger of an outbreak would be at its greatest height and when it would be impossible for them to hold a court (Yom-Ṭob 5:2).
The Last Supper.
According to the synoptic Gospels, it would appear that on the Thursday evening of the last week of his life Jesus with his disciples entered Jerusalem in order to eat the Passover meal with them in the sacred city; if so, the wafer and the wine of the mass or the communion service then instituted by him as a memorial would be the unleavened bread and the unfermented wine of the SEDER service (see Bickell, "Messe und Pascha," Leipsic, 1872). On the other hand, the Gospel of John, the author of which appears to have had access to some trustworthy traditions about the last days, represents the priests as hurrying on the trial in order to avoid taking action on the festival—which would, according to this, have begun on Friday evening—though this view may have been influenced by the desire to make the death of Jesus symbolize the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. Chwolson ("Das Letzte Passahmal Christi," St. Petersburg, 1893) has ingeniously suggested that the priests were guided by the older Halakah, according to which the law of the Passover was regarded as superior to that of the Sabbath, so that the lamb could be sacrificed even on Friday night; whereas Jesus and his disciples would seem to have adopted the more rigorous view of the Pharisees by which the paschal lamb ought to be sacrificed on the eve of the 14th of Nisan when the 15th coincided with the Sabbath (see Bacher in "J. Q. R." 5:683-686).
It would seem that by this time Jesus had become aware of the intention of the high priests to do him harm; for after the Seder ceremony he secreted himself in the Garden of Gethsemane outside the city walls, where, however, his hiding-place was betrayed by one of his immediate followers, Judas, a man of Kerioth (JUDAS ISCARIOT). On what grounds Jesus was arrested is not quite clear. Even if he had claimed to be the Messiah, he would have committed no crime according to Jewish law. It appears that he was taken first to the house of the high priest, probably Anan's, which was without the walls, and where in a hurried consultation the only evidence against him was apparently an assertion that he could overthrow the Temple and replace it with one made without hands—in other words, with aspiritual kingdom. This, according to Holtzmann ("Leben Jesu," p. 327), was equivalent to a claim to the Messiahship. Jesus is reported to have distinctly made this claim in answer to a direct question by the high priest; but the synoptic Gospels vary on this point, 14:62 making the claim, and Matthew 26:64 and Luke 22:69 representing an evasion, which was more in accord with the usual practise of Jesus when questioned by opponents. The rending of his clothes by the high priest seems rather to imply that the charge was one of "gidduf" or blasphemy (Sanh. 7:10,11).
There could be no question of anything corresponding to a trial taking place on this occasion before the Sanhedrin. Whatever inquest was made must have occurred during the Thursday night and outside Jerusalem (for on entering the city a prisoner would have had to be given up to the Roman garrison), and can not have been held before a quorum of the seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin. It is more probable that the twenty-three members of the priestly section of the latter, who had most reason to be offended with Jesus' action in cleansing the Temple, met informally after he had been seized, and elicited sufficient to justify them in their own opinion in delivering him over to the Romans as likely to cause trouble by his claims or pretensions to the Messiahship, which, of course, would be regarded by them as rebellion against Rome. Nothing corresponding to a Jewish trial took place, though it was by the action of the priests that Jesus was sent before Pontius Pilate (see CRUCIFIXION). The Gospels speak in the plural of the high priests who condemned him—a seeming contradiction to Jewish law which might throw doubt upon their historic character. Two, however, are mentioned, Joseph Caiaphas and Annas (Hanan), his father-in-law. Hanan had been deposed from the high-priesthood by Valerius Gratus, but he clearly retained authority and some prerogatives of the high priest, as most of those who succeeded him were relatives of his; and he may well have intervened in a matter touching so nearly the power of the priests. According to the Talmud, Hanan's bazaars were on the Mount of Olives, and probably therefore also his house; this would thus have become the appropriate place for the trial by the Sanhedrin, which indeed just about this time had moved its place of session thither (see SANHEDRIN (2)).
In handing over their prisoner to the procurator, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish officials refused to enter the pretorium as being ground forbidden to Jews. They thereby at any rate showed their confidence in the condemnation of Jesus by the Roman power. Before Pilate the sole charge could be attempted rebellion against the emperor. In some way, it would appear, the claim to be king of the Jews (or possibly of a kingdom of heaven) was made before him by Jesus himself, as is shown by the inscription nailed up in derision on the cross. To Pilate the problem presented was somewhat similar to that which would present itself to an Indian official of to-day before whom a Mohammedan should be accused of claiming to be the Mahdi. If overt acts in a disturbed district had accompanied the claim, the official could scarcely avoid passing sentence of condemnation; and Pilate took the same course. But he seems to have hesitated: while condemning Jesus, he gave him a chance of life. It appears to have been the practise to grant to the Jewish populace the privilege of pardoning a prisoner on public holidays; and Pontius Pilate held out to the rabble surrounding the pretorium (for most responsible heads of families must have been at this time engaged in searching for leaven in their own homes) a choice between Jesus and the other Jesus (bar Abbas), who also had been accused of rebellion. The mob had naturally more sympathy for the avowed rebel than for the person who had recommended the payment of tribute. It chose Barabbas; and Jesus was left to undergo the Roman punishment of see CRUCIFIXION in company with two malefactors. He refused with some not overkindly words (Luke 23:28-31) the deadening drink of frankincense, myrrh, and vinegar which the ladies of Jerusalem were accustomed to offer to condemned criminals in order that they might pass away in an unconscious state (Sanh. 43a). Whatever had been Jesus' anticipations, he bore the terrible tortures, due to the strain and cramping of the internal organs, with equanimity till almost the last, when he uttered the despairing and pathetic cry "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" (the Aramaic form of Psalms 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"), which showed that even his resolute spirit had been daunted by the ordeal. This last utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for him after his death by his disciples. The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for "He that is hanged is accursed of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23), "an insult to God" (Targum, Rashi). How far in his own mind Jesus substituted another conception of the Messiah, and how far he regarded himself as fulfilling that ideal, still remain among the most obscure of historical problems (MESSIAH).
- Of the enormous literature relating to Jesus it is unnecessary to refer in this place to more than a few of the more recent works, which give in most cases references to their predecessors. On the sources the best work, at any rate in English, still remains E. A. Abbott's Gospels in Encyc. Brit. On the parallels with rabbinic sources:
- Lightfoot, Horœ Talmudieœ; (best ed., Oxford, 1854);
- A. Wünsche, Neue Beiträge zur Erlduterung der Evangelien aus Talmud und Midrasch, Göttingen, 1878;
- G. H. Dalman, The Words of Jesus, Edinburgh, 1901. On the life of Jesus the best and most critical recent work is that of O. Holtzmann, Leben Jesu, Leipsic, 1901 (Eng. transl. London, 1904). W. Sanday, in Hastings, Dict. Bible, s., presents a moderate and candid estimate of the various aspects of the life from the orthodox Christian standpoint, and gives a critical bibliography to each section. A similar critical view, with a fuller account of the literature attached to each section, is given by Zöckler in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. s. With regard to the relation of the Law to Jesus, the Christian view is expressed by:
- Bousset, Jesu Predigt in Ihrem Gegensatz zum Judentum, Göttingen, 1892;
- G. H. Dalman, Christianity and Judaism, London, 1901. Of Jewish writers on Jesus may be mentioned:
- G. Solomon, The Jesus of History, London, 1880;
- H. Weinstock, Jesus the Jew, New York, 1902;
- J. Jacobs, As Others Saw Him, London, 1895.
- See also Polemics.
Because the Gospels, while containing valuable material, are all written in a polemical spirit and for the purpose of substantiating the claim of the Messianic and superhuman character of Jesus, it is difficult to present an impartial story of his life. Nor is the composite picture ofJesus drawn from the synoptic Gospels, such as is presented by modern Christian writers and in which the miraculous is reduced to the minimum, an approximation to the real Jesus. The Jesus of history was equally as remote from Paulinian antinomianism as from the antagonism to his own kinsmen which has been ascribed to him; the Pharisees having had no cause to hate and persecute him, nor had they given any cause for being hated by him even if their views differed from his (see NEW TESTAMENT).
It was not as the teacher of new religious principles nor as a new lawgiver, but as a wonder-worker, that Jesus won fame and influence among the simple inhabitants of Galilee in his lifetime; and it was due only to his frequent apparitions after his death to these Galilean followers that the belief in his resurrection and in his Messianic and divine character was accepted and spread. The thaumaturgic and eschatological views of the times must be fully considered, and the legendary lives of saints such as Onias, Ḥanina ben Dosa, Phinehas ben Jair, and Simeon ben Yoḥai in the Talmud, as well as the apocalyptic and other writings of the Essenes, must be compared before a true estimate of Jesus can be formed.
However, a great historic movement of the character and importance of Christianity can not have arisen without a great personality to call it into existence and to give it shape and direction. Jesus of Nazareth had a mission from God (see Maimonides, "Yad," Melakim, 11:4, and the other passages quoted in Jew. Encyc. 4:56 et seq., s. see Christianity); and he must have had the spiritual power and fitness to be chosen for it. The very legends surrounding his life and his death furnish proofs of the greatness of his character, and of the depth of the impression which it left upon the people among whom he moved.
Legends Concerning His Birth.
Some legends, however, are artificial rather than the natural product of popular fancy. To this category belong those concerning Jesus' birthplace. The fact that Nazareth was his native town—where as the oldest son he followed his father's trade of carpenter (Mark 1:9, 6:3; comp. Matthew 13:55; John 7:41)—seemed to be in conflict with the claim to the Messiahship, which, according to Micah 5:1 (A. V. 2) (comp. John 7:42; Yer. Ber. 2:5a; Lam. R. 1:15), called for Beth-lehem of Judah as the place of his origin; hence, the two different legends, one in Luke 1:26, 2:4, and the other in Matthew 2:1-22, where the parallel to Moses (comp. Exodus 4:19) is characteristic. In support of the Messianic claim, also, the two different genealogies were compiled: the one, in Matthew 1:1-16, tracing Joseph's pedigree through forty-two generations back to Abraham, with a singular emphasis upon sinners and heathen ancestresses of the house of David (comp. Gen. R. , ,; Ruth R. 4:7; Naz. 23b; Hor. 10b; Meg. 14b); the other, in Luke 3:23-38, tracing it back to Adam as "the son of God" in order to include also the non-Abrahamic world. Incompatible with these genealogies, and of pagan origin (see Boeklen, "Die Verwandtschaft der Jüdisch-Christlichen mit der Parsichen Eschatologie," 1902, pp. 91-94; Holtzmann, "Hand-Commentar zum Neuen Testament," 1889, p. 32; Soltau, in "Vierteljahrschrift für Bibelkunde," 1903, pp. 36-40), is the story representing Jesus as the son of the Virgin Mary and of the Holy Ghost (taken as masculine, Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:27-35). So also the story of the angels and shepherds hailing the babe in the manger (Luke 2:8-20) betrays the influence of the Mithra legend (Cumont, "Die Mysterien des Mithra," 1903, pp. 97, 147; "Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft," 1902, p. 190), whereas the legend concerning the prophecy of the two Essene saints, Simeon and Anna, and the bar miẓwah story (Luke 2:22-39,40-50) have a decidedly Jewish character.
From the "Gospel According to the Hebrews" (Jerome, commentary on Matthew 3:13,16), it seems that Jesus was induced by his mother and brothers to go to John to be baptized in order to obtain the forgiveness of his sins; his vision, too, is there described differently (comp. Justin, "Dial. cum Tryph." ,; Usener, "Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen," 1889, pp. 1, 47; and HOLY SPIRIT). Genuinely Jewish also is the legend which depicts Jesus as spending forty days with God among the holy "ḥayyot" (not "wild beasts," as rendered in Mark 1:13) without eating and drinking (comp. Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9); and his encounter with Satan is similar to the one which Moses had in heaven (Pesiḳ. R. , based upon Psalms 68:19; comp. Zoroaster's encounter with Ahriman [Zend Avesta, Vend., Fargard, 19:1-9]) and to Buddha's with Mara (Köppen, "Die Religion des Buddha," 1857, 1:88, and R. Seydel, "Das Evangelium von Jesu," 1882, p. 156).
As Healer and Wonder-Worker.
When, after John's imprisonment, Jesus took up the work of his master, preaching repentance in view of the approach of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14; Luke 1:79; comp. Matthew 3:2, 4:16-17), he chose as his field of operations the land around the beautiful lake of Gennesaret, with Capernaum as center, rather than the wilderness; and he had as followers Peter, Andrew, John, and others, his former companions (John 1:35-51; comp. Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16 with Luke 5:1). His chief activity consisted in healing those possessed with unclean spirits who gathered at the synagogues at the close of the Sabbath (Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40). Wherever he came in his wanderings through Galilee and Syria the people followed him (Matthew 4:23-24; 12:15; 14:14,34; 15:30; 19:1; Mark 3:10; Luke 6:17-19), bringing to him the sick, the demoniacs, epileptics, lunatics, and paralytics to be cured; and he drove out the unclean spirits, "rebuking" them (Matthew 17:18; Luke 4:35,39,41; 9:42; comp. "ga'ar" in Zechariah 3:2; Isa. 1. 2; Psalms 68:31 [A. V. 30]) with some magic "word" (Matthew 8:8,16; comp. "milla," Shab. 81b; Eccl. R. 1:8), even as he "rebuked" the wind and told the sea to stand still (Mark 4:35 and parallels). At times he cured the sufferers by the mere touch of his hand (Mark 1:25; Matthew 8:8, 9:18-25), or by powers emanating from him through the fringes of his garment (ib. 9:20, 14:36), orby the use of spittle put upon the affected organ, accompanying the operation with a whisper (Mark 7:32, 8:23; John 9:1-11; comp. Sanh. 101a; Yer. Shab. 14:14d: Loḥesh and Roḳ). By the same exorcismal power he drove a whole legion of evil spirits, 2,000 in number, out of a maniac living in a cemetery (Josephus, "B. J." 7:6, § 3; Sanh. 65b) and made them enter a herd of swine to be drowned in the adjacent lake (Luke 8:26-39 and parallels; comp. Ta'an. 21b; Ḳid. 49b; B. Ḳ. 7:7). It was exactly this Essenic practise which gained for him the name of prophet (Matthew 21:11,46; Luke 7:16,39; 24:19; John 4:19). In fact, by these supernatural powers of his he himself believed that Satan and his hosts would be subdued and the kingdom of God would be brought about (Luke 9:2, 10:18, 11:20); and these powers he is said to have imparted to his disciples to be exercised only in connection with the preaching of the kingdom of God (Matthew 9:35-10:6; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1-2). They are to him the chief proof of his Messiahship (Matthew 11:2-19; Luke 7:21-22). It was as the healer of physical pain that Jesus regarded himself "sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"; and in the same spirit he sent forth his disciples to perform cures everywhere, yet always excluding the heathen from such benefits (Matthew 10:6-8, 15:22-28). Other miracles ascribed to Jesus, such as the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 (Mark 6:30-46, 8:1-9, and parallels), have probably been suggested by the miracles of Moses, and the raising of the dead (Luke 7:11-17, 8:40-56; John 11:1-46) by those of Elijah.
As Helper of the Poor and Forsaken.
While the Essenes in general were not only healers and wonder-workers but also doers of works of charity, there was aroused in Jesus, owing to his constant contact with suffering humanity, a deep compassion for the ailing and the forsaken (Matthew 14:14, 15:32). With this there came to him the consciousness of his mission to bring good tidings to the poor (Luke 4:16-30, 7:22) and to break down the barrier which Pharisaism had erected between the Pharisees as the better class of society and the 'Am ha-Areẓ, the publicans and fallen ones (Matthew 9:10-13, 11:19, and parallels; Luke 7:36-50). This was a great departure from Essenism, which, in order to attain a higher degree of pharisaic sanctity, kept its adherents entirely apart from the world, in order that they might not be contaminated by it. Jesus, on the contrary, sought the society of sinners and fallen ones, saying, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32; comp. parallels). No wonder that, when performing his miracles, he was believed to be in league with Satan or Beelzebub, the spirit of uncleanness, rather than to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22 and parallels). This anti-Essenic principle, once announced, emboldened him to allow the very women he had cured to accompany him and his disciples—in sharp contrast to all tradition (Luke 8:1-3); and they repaid his regard with profound adoration, and subsequently were prominent at the grave and in the resurrection legend.
Another departure from pharisaic as well as Essenic practise was his permission to his disciples to eat with unwashed hands. When rebuked he declared: "Whatsoever from without entereth into the man can not defile him, but that which proceedeth out of the man [evil speech], that defileth the man" (Mark 7:15 and parallels)—a principle which scarcely implied the Paulinian abrogation of the dietary laws, but was probably intended to convey the idea that "the profane can not defile the word of God" (Ber. 22a).
In another direction, also, Jesus in his practises as a physician was led to oppose the rigorists of his day. The old Hasidæan Sabbath laws were extremely severe, as may be seen from the last chapter of the Book of Jubilees; to these the Shammaites adhered, prohibiting healing on Sabbath. But there were also the Hillelites, who accepted liberal maxims, such as "Where a life is at stake the Sabbath law must give way" and "The Sabbath is handed over to you, not you to the Sabbath" (Mek., Ki Tissa). Jesus, following these latter, performed cures on the Sabbath (Mark 2:27, 3:1-16, and parallels; Luke 13:10-21, 14:1-8); but that the Pharisees should on this account have planned his destruction, as the Gospels record, is absurd. In fact, the compilers misunderstood the phrase "The son of man is lord of the Sabbath"—as if this abrogation of the Sabbath were the privilege of the Messiah—as well as the story of the plucking of grain by the disciples, which Luke (6:1) alone has preserved more correctly. It was not on the Sabbath, but on the first day of the second Passover week (called δετεροπρώτη from the Biblical expression "the morrow of the Sabbath," Leviticus 23:11-14), when no new corn was allowed to be eaten before some had been offered on the altar, that the disciples of Jesus passed through the field and plucked the new corn, called "ḥadash" in rabbinical literature. In defending their action Jesus correctly referred to David, who ate of the holy bread because he was hungry (1 Samuel 21:5-7)—an argument which would not at all apply to the Sabbath.
Man of the People; Not a Reformer.
Jesus spoke with the power of the Haggadists—compare, e.g., "the men of little faith" (Soṭah 48b); "the eye that lusts, the hand that sins must be cut off" (Nid. 13b); "no divorce except for fornication" (Giṭ. 90b); "purity like that of a child" (Yoma 22a)—and not like the men of the Halakah (Luke 4:32; comp. Matthew 7:29, "not like the scribes"). He often opposed the legalism of the Halakists (Matthew 23:9; Mark 7:6-23), but he affirmed in forcible and unmistakable language the immutability of the Law (Matthew 5:17-19). The Sermon on the Mount, if this was ever delivered by him, was never intended to supplant the law of Moses, though the compiler of the Gospel of Matthew seeks to create that impression. Nor does any of the apostles or of the epistles refer to the new code promulgated by Jesus. As a matter of fact the entire New Testament teaching is based upon the Jewish DIDACHE (see Seeberg, "Katechismus der Urchristenheit," 1903, pp. 1-44).
The Kingdom of God.
Only in order to be prepared for the kingdom of God, which he expected to come in the immediatefuture and during the lifetime of his hearers (Matthew 16:28, 24:42-44, 25:13), Jesus laid down especial rules of conduct for his disciples, demanding of them a higher righteousness and purity and a greater mutual love than the Pharisees practised (Matthew 5:20, 18:4-5). It was the Essenic spirit which dictated a life of voluntary poverty, of abstinence from marriage and domestic life, and of asceticism (Matthew 19:12,21-24,29), as well as that principle of non-resistance to evil which the Talmud finds commendable in "the lovers of God" who "take insult and resent not" and shall in the life to come "shine like the sun" (Shab. 88b). The kingdom of God of which Jesus spoke had a decidedly political character, and all the apocalyptic writers so regard it. The Messiah with the twelve judges of the twelve tribes was expected to rule over the land (Matthew 16:27, 19:28); the Judgment Day was to have its tortures of Gehenna for the wicked, and its banquet in Paradise for the righteous, to precede the Messianic time (Matthew 8:11-12, 18:8-9; Luke 13:28-29, 14:15-24); the earth itself was to produce plenty of grapes and other fruit of marvelous size for the benefit of the righteous, according to Jesus' own statement to John (Papias, in Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses," 5:33-34).
Often Jesus spoke of the "secrets" of the kingdom of God in allegories and enigmas (not "parables"; see Matthew 13:1-52; comp. 2:35), "dark sayings hidden from the foundation of the world (Psalms 78:2; John 16:25,29), because they referred to the kingdom of Satan (Matthew 13:39)—that is, Rome—whose end was nigh. Of course such "secrets" were afterward turned into spiritual mysteries, too deep even for the disciples to comprehend, while simple words announcing the immediate nearness of the end were changed into phrases such as "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21, for "among you"). On the other hand, the rabbinical phrase "the yoke of God's kingdom which liberates from the yoke of the kingdom of the worldly power" (Ab. 3:5) is spoken of as "my yoke" and declared to be "easy" (Matthew 11:29); for the allegory of the tares and the wheat (Matthew 13) used for the heathen and the Jews in the Judgment Day, comp. Midr. Teh. to Psalms 2:12. Occasionally political strife, as a means of bringing about the catastrophe, is approved by Jesus (Luke 12:51-53, 22:36; comp. verses 49-50).
Like all the Essenes of his time (Tosef., Men. 13:21-23), Jesus was a sworn enemy of the house of the high priest Hanan. His indignation at seeing the Temple hill turned into a poultry-and cattle-market for the benefit of the arrogant hierarchy (Mark 11:15-18) fired him into action against these "bazaars of the Hananites" (Derenbourg, "Histoire de la Palestine," p. 466), which he called with Jeremiah (7:1) "a den of thieves"; he seized the tables of the money-changers and drove their owners out of the Temple. Whether he had then actually claimed for himself the title of Messiah in order to be empowered to act thus, or whether he allowed the band of his followers to call him thus, it is certain that he laid no claim to the Messiahship before his entrance into Jerusalem (see Jew. Encyc. 4:51, s. Christianity; SON OF MAN). According to the more authentic older records (Mark 8:31, 10:33, 11:18, 14:43, and parallels), he was seized by the high priests and the Sanhedrin, and was delivered over to the Roman authorities for execution. The high priests feared the Roman prefect (John 18:14); but the people clung to Jesus (Matthew 26:5; Luke 19:48, 21:38, 23:27), and lamented over his death (Luke 23:48). Later "the Pharisees" were added to the list of the persecutors of Jesus (Matthew 22:15; Mark 12:13; John 18:3; and elsewhere), and the guilt of shedding his blood was laid upon the Jews, while the bloodthirsty tyrant Pontius Pilate was represented as having asserted Jesus' innocence (Matthew 27:24; John 18:28-19:16). The term "heathen" or "Romans" was changed into "sinners" or "men" (Mark 9:31, 14:41, and parallels), and the charge of rebellion against Rome with the implied instigation to refuse the tribute (Luke 23:2) was put into the mouth of the Jewish authorities, whereas Jesus is represented as having declared: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) and "Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's" (Mark 12:13-17 and parallels).
The story of the resurrection of Jesus is the natural consequence of the belief of his followers in his miraculous powers as the subduer of Satan. Indeed, it is stated that it was not he alone who arose from the grave, but that many saints arose with him (Matthew 27:52) just as many saints in Jewish folk-lore overcame death (Shab. 55b; Mas. Derek Ereẓ, ); and resurrection is the proof of the working of the Holy Spirit (Soṭah 15:15; Cant. R., Introduction, 9; RESURRECTION). The disciples and the women who had been his constant companions when he was alive beheld him in their entranced state as partaking of their meals and heard him address to them instruction and argumentation (Matthew 28:9,18-20; Luke 24:27-49; John 20:15-21:23). Many apparitions of Jesus after his death were in the course of time related as having taken place during his lifetime. Thus the strange stories of his walking at night as a spirit upon a lake (Matthew 14:24-36; Luke 9:28-36; and parallels), of his transfiguration and conversation with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-13), and others became current in those credulous times when all the Apostles had their visions and direct communications from their master, whom they beheld as "the Son of Man in the clouds" waiting for "his return with myriads of angels" to take possession of this earth. And so it came about that, consciously or unconsciously, the crystallized thought of generations of Essenes and entire chapters taken from their apocalyptic literature (Matthew 24-) were put into the mouth of Jesus, the acme and the highest type of Essenism.
It was not the living but the departed Jesus that created the Church with Peter as the rock (Matt. xvi, 18); while, according to the Jewish Haggadah, Abraham was made the rock upon which God built His kingdom (Yalḳ., Num. 766). See Lord's Prayer; LORD'S SUPPER.
- Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., 3:281-314;
- F. Nork, Rabbinische Quellen Neu-Testamentlicher Stellen, Leipsic, 1839;
- August Wünsche, Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der Evangelien aus Talmud und Midrasch, Gättingen, 1872.
—In Jewish Legend:
The Jewish legends in regard to Jesus are found in three sources, each independent of the others—(1) in New Testament apocrypha and Christian polemical works, (2) in the Talmud and the Midrash, and (3) in the life of Jesus ("Toledot Yeshu'") that originated in the Middle Ages. It is the tendency of all these sources to be-little the person of Jesus by ascribing to him illegitimate birth, magic, and a shameful death. In view of their general character they are called indiscriminately legends. Some of the statements, as that referring to magic, are found among pagan writers and Christian heretics; and as the Ebionites, or Judæo-Christians, who for a long time lived together with the Jews, are also classed as heretics, conclusions may be drawn from this as to the origin of these legends.
It ought also to be added that many of the legends have a theological background. For polemical purposes, it was necessary for the Jews to insist on the illegitimacy of Jesus as against the Davidic descent claimed by the Christian Church. Magic may have been ascribed him over against the miracles recorded in the Gospels; and the degrading fate both on earth and hereafter of which the legends speak may be simply directed against the ideas of the assumption and the resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish legends relating to Jesus appear less inimical in character when compared with the parallel passages which are found in pagan authors and Christian sources, more especially as such legends are fixed and frequently occurring themes of folk-lore; and imaginations must have been especially excited by the historical importance which the figure of Jesus came to have for the Jews.
The earliest authenticated passage ascribing illegitimate birth to Jesus is that in Yeb. 4:3. The mysterious phrase ("that man") cited in this passage as occurring in a family register which R. Simeon ben Azza is said to have found seems to indicate that it refers to Jesus (see Derenbourg in "R. E. J." 1:293), and here occur also the two expressions so often applied to Jesus in later literature— (= "that anonymous one," the name of Jesus being avoided) and (="bastard"; for which in later times was used). Such a family register may have been preserved at Jerusalem in the Judæo-Christian community.
Birth of Jesus.
The Jews, who are represented as inimical to Jesus in the canonical Gospels also, took him to be legitimate and born in an entirely natural manner. A contrary statement as to their attitude is expressed for the first time in the "Acts of Pilate" ("Gospel of Nicodemus," ed. Thilo, in "Codex Apoc. Novi Testamenti," 1:526, Leipsic, 1832; comp. Origen, "Contra Celsum," 1:28). Celsus makes the same statement in another passage, where he refers even to a written source (ἀναγέγραπται), adding that the seducer was a soldier by the name of Panthera (c. 1:32). The name "Panthera" occurs here for the first time; two centuries later it occurs in Epiphanius ("Hæres." 78:7), who ascribes the surname "Panther" to Jacob, an ancestor of Jesus; and John of Damascus ("De Orthod. Fide." , § 15) includes the names "Panther" and "Barpanther" in the genealogy of Mary. It is certain, in any case, that the rabbinical sources also regard Jesus as the "son of Pandera" (), although it is noteworthy that he is called also "Ben Sṭada" () (Shab. 104b; Sanh. 67a).
It appears from this passage that, aside from Pandera and Sṭada, the couple Pappus b. Judah and Miriam the hairdresser were taken to be the parents of Jesus. Pappus has nothing to do with the story of Jesus, and was only connected with it because his wife happened to be called "Miriam" (= "Mary"), and was known to be an adulteress.
The one statement in which all these confused legends agree is that relating to the birth of Jesus. Although this is ascribed only to the Jews, even in Celsus, the Jews need not necessarily be regarded as its authors, for it is possible that it originated among heretics inimical to Jesus, as the Ophites and Cainites, of whom Origen says "they uttered such hateful accusations against Jesus as Celsus himself did" ("Contra Celsum," 3:13). It is probable, furthermore, that the accusation of illegitimacy was not originally considered so serious; it was ascribed to the most prominent personages, and is a standing motive in folk-lore (Krauss, "Leben Jesu," p. 214).
The incident of Jesus concerning the dispute with the Scribes was copied by the rabbinical sources (Kallah 18b [ed. Venice, 1528, fol. 41c]; comp. N. Coronel, "Comment. Quinque," p. 3b, Vienna, 1864, and "Batte Midrashot," ed. Wertheimer, 3:23, Jerusalem, 1895). All the "Toledot" editions contain a similar story of a dispute which Jesus carried on with the Scribes, who, on the ground of that dispute, declared him to be a bastard. Analogous to this story are numerous tales of predictions by precocious boys.
Sojourn in Egypt.
The sojourn of Jesus in Egypt is an essential part of the story of his youth. According to the Gospels he was in that country in his early infancy, but Celsus says that he was in service there and learned magic; hence he was there in early manhood. This assumption may serve to throw more light on the obscure history of Jesus than the account found in the Gospels. The Talmud also says that Jesus was in Egypt in early manhood. R. Joshua b. Peraḥyah is said to have fled with his pupil Jesus to Alexandria in order to escape the persecutions of the Jewish king Yannai (103-76 B.C.); on their return Jesus made a remark on the not faultless beauty of their hostess, whereupon R. Joshua excommunicated him; and when Jesus approached him again and was not received he set up a brick for his god, and led all Israel into apostasy (Sanh. 107b; Soṭah 47a; Yer. Ḥag. 77d). This account is supplemented by the statement, made on the assumption that Ben Sṭada is identical with Ben Pandera, that Ben Sṭada brought magic from Egypt (Shab. 104b). The story that Joshua b. Peraḥyah, a contemporary of Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ, was the teacher of Jesus, is not clearly stated in the various "Toledot"; it is saidmerely that Jesus was named after this brother of his mother. The assumption that Joshua b. Peraḥyah was the uncle of Jesus is confirmed by Ḳirḳisani, who wrote about 937 a history of Jewish sects (ed. Harkavy, § 1, St. Petersburg, 1894; comp. "J. Q. R." 7:687). The references to Yannai, Salome Alexandra, and Joshua b. Peraḥyah indicate that according to the Jewish legends the advent of Jesus took place just one century before the actual historical date; and some medieval apologists for Judaism, as Naḥmanides and Salman Ẓebi, based on this fact their assertion that the "Yeshu'" mentioned in the Talmud was not identical with Jesus; this, however, is merely a subterfuge.
Jesus as Magician.
According to Celsus (in Origen, "Contra Celsum," 1:28) and to the Talmud (Shab. 104b), Jesus learned magic in Egypt and performed his miracles by means of it; the latter work, in addition, states that he cut the magic formulas into his skin. It does not mention, however, the nature of his magic performances (Tosef., Shab. 11:4; Yer. Shab. 13d); but as it states that the disciples of Jesus healed the sick "in the name of Jesus Pandera" (Yer. Shab. 14d; 'Ab. Zarah 27b; Eccl. R. 1:8) it may be assumed that its author held the miracles of Jesus also to have been miraculous cures. Different in nature is the witchcraft attributed to Jesus in the "Toledot." When Jesus was expelled from the circle of scholars, he is said to have returned secretly from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he inserted a parchment containing the "declared name of God" ("Shem ha-Meforash"), which was guarded in the Temple, into his skin, carried it away, and then, taking it out of his skin, he performed his miracles by its means. This magic formula then had to be recovered from him, and Judah the Gardener (a personage of the "Toledot" corresponding to Judas Iscariot) offered to do it; he and Jesus then engaged in an aerial battle (borrowed from the legend of SIMON MAGUS), in which Judah remained victor and Jesus fled.
The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus. Jerome mentions it, quoting the Jews: "Magum vocant et Judæi Dominum meum" ("Ep. , ad Ascellam," 1:196, ed. Vallarsi); Marcus, of the sect of the Valentinians, was, according to Jerome, a native of Egypt, and was accused of being, like Jesus, a magician (Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergesch." p. 370, Leipsic, 1884). There were even Christian heretics who looked upon the founder of their religion as a magician (Fabricius, in "Codex Apocr. Novi Testamenti," 3:396), and public opinion at Rome accused all Christians of magic (W. M. Ramsay, "The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170," pp. 236, 392, London, 1897). The Apostles were regarded in the same light ("Acta Petri et Andreæ," ed. Bonnet, § 8). Neither this accusation nor that concerning the birth of Jesus is found in the canonical Gospels, but it occurs in the apocryphal accounts; e.g., "Gesta Pilati," 2:1; "Acta Pilati," version B, 2:3, 3:1; ib. 1:1 (μαγεΊαι; comp. γόης ἐστιν = "he is a magician"); ib. in ed. Tischendorf, 2d ed., p. 216, "maleficus est"; ib. p. 338 ("Zeit. für die Neutest. Wissenschaft," 1901, 3:94), with which comp "veneficus" = "poisoner" ("Evang. Infantiæ Arab." ed. Thilo, § 36). Somewhat different is the accusation that Jesus imposed upon the people and led them astray (comp. Bischoff, "Ein Jüdisch. Deutsches Leben Jesu," p. 20, Leipsic, 1895: , often also , and in the Greek texts πλανός, λαοπλανός; comp. πλανᾷ τὸν ὅχλον = "he deceives the people"; John 7:12). As Balaam the magician and, according to the derivation of his name, "destroyer of the people," was from both of these points of view a good prototype of Jesus, the latter was also called "Balaam."
The Disciples of Jesus.
Celsus (1:62) says there were ten or eleven apostles. A passage of the Talmud (Sanh. 43a) ascribes five disciples to Jesus: "Matthai" (Matthew), "Nakai" (Luke), "Nezer" (Nazarene, a general designation for Christian in antiquity), "Boni" (probably the Nicodemus mentioned by John), and "Thoda" (Thaddæus). The following are mentioned in the "Toledot" (Huldricus, p. 35): "Simeon" (Peter), "Matthia" (Matthew), "Elikum" (Luke), "Mordecai" (Mark), "Thoda" (Thaddæus), and "Johannos" (John)—that is, the four evangelists plus Peter and Thaddæus. Paul is mentioned in another connection, and (p. 48) Judas "the betrayer": it is to be noted that the last-named does not occur at all in Talmudic legends. The Twelve Apostles are mentioned in other versions of the "Toledot" (ed. Wagenseil, p. 19; ed. Bischoff, p. 21), while still other versions frequently mention a following of 300, 310, 320, 330 men. It is especially striking that all these disciples are described as eminently wise and learned, while according to Celsus (1:63, 2:46) the disciples of Jesus were common men, toll-keepers and seamen, an assumption that agrees to some extent with the canonical Gospels.
The Doctrines of Jesus.
In all the editions of the "Toledot" the doctrine of Jesus is summed up in the statements that he was the son of God, born of a virgin mother, a descendant of David and the promised Messiah; this he proved from passages of Scripture, in the rabbinic-Talmudic manner. In connection with these statements he is also represented as engaging in disputations with Jewish scholars. The only specifically Christian doctrine mentioned by the Talmud is (Shab. 116a, b) that the law of Moses has been annulled and the Gospels put in its place—the well-known Christian doctrine of the abrogation of the Law; the saying of Jesus, "I have not come to take away the law of Moses, but to add to it," is also cited (ib.). In the "Toledot" the doctrine of abrogation is put into the mouth of Peter, and the latter, secretly intending to separate the Christians from the community in the interest of the Jews, promulgates the following tenets: Jesus suffered the pain and punishment of death in order to redeem from hell those that believe in him (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:26,55); believers shall not hurt the Jews (comp. Acts 3:26); one who deserves to be accompanied one mile only shall be accompanied two miles; both cheeks shall be offered if one cheek has been struck (comp. Matthew 5:39-41); instead of the Sabbath, Sunday shall be kept holy; Easter shall be celebrated instead of the Passover, Pentecost instead of the Feast of Weeks, etc.; circumcision is abrogated, and the dietary laws annulled. All these doctrinesare merely external, while the essential points of the teachings of Jesus are hardly alluded to.
Jesus performed all his miracles by means of magic, as stated above. These miracles are not specified in the Talmud, but they are in the "Tole-dot"; they are partly such as are mentioned in the Gospels, as the healing of the halt, blind, and leprous, and are somewhat different in nature, though based on the Gospels, as the story of Jesus walking on the sea on a heavy millstone ("Toledot"—ed. Wagenseil, p. 14; ed. Huldricus, p. 43; ed. Bischoff, p. 25; MS. Adler, in Krauss, "Leben Jesu," p. 119; comp. Matthew 14:25, 18:6). Other miracles are derived from apocryphal accounts, as the story that Jesus fashioned birds from clay or marble and put life into them; this occurs also in the "Gospel of Thomas," in "Evang. Infantiæ Arab." § 36 (Thilo, ib. 1:111), and in the Koran. These legends are much amplified in the later "Toledot," although the substance remains the same.
Trial and Death of Jesus.
The Talmudic account of the manner of executing a person guilty of leading the people astray (Sanh. 67a) would be of signal historical importance if it were certain that it referred to Jesus. The proceeding against one who incites others to deny the religion of their fathers consists in convicting him of his guilt by means of concealed witnesses, as follows: The accused is placed in an inner room with a light, so that witnesses unknown to him and watching him from an outer room can see and hear him clearly. Then a companion says to him: "Tell me again what you told me in confidence [in regard to renouncing our religion]." If he does so, the other replies: "How could we leave our God in heaven and serve idols?" If he recants now, it is well; but if he says, "It is our duty and we must do it," then the witnesses outside take him into court and he is stoned. "Thus they did with Ben Sṭada at Lydda, who was hanged on the eve of the Passover." This passage refers to Jesus only if he is regarded as identical with Ben Sṭada; this can hardly be assumed in view of the reference to Lydda. The frequently repeated statement that Jesus was condemned for inciting to apostasy () is based on Sanh. 43a; there is added the entirely improbable statement that forty days before the condemnation of Jesus a herald called upon any one who could say anything in his favor to come forward and testify, but that no one appeared.
The proceeding is related very differently in the "Toledot"; although the several editions of the same differ in detail they agree in substance. The following account is found in a rather old edition (see Krauss, c. pp. 43 et seq.). The scholars of Israel took Jesus into the synagogue of Tiberias and bound him to a pillar; when his followers came to liberate him, a battle occurred in which the Jewish party was worsted and his disciples took him to Antiochia. On the eve of Passover he entered Jerusalem riding on an ass (comp. Matthew 21:4-17), disguised—according to several editions—so that his former disciple Judas had to betray him in order to secure his seizure. He was executed on the eve of the Passover festival, which was also the eve of the Sabbath. The executioners were not able to hang him upon a tree, for he had conjured all trees, by means of the name of God, not to receive him, and therefore they all broke; he was finally received by a large cabbagestalk (comp. Targ. Sheni to Esther 7:9). He was buried on the same day, in conformity with the Law, and the apostates, his disciples, wept at his tomb.
According to the "Toledot" his disciples sought for his body in the tomb, but being unable to find it they used the incident as proof before Queen Helena that he who had been slain had ascended into heaven. It then appeared that a man—sometimes called "Judas the Gardener" (Judas Iscariot), sometimes, indefinitely, the "master of the garden"—had taken the body out of the grave, used it as a dam to keep the water out of his garden, and had flooded the tomb. Then there was joy again in Israel; the body was taken before the queen at Jerusalem, and the Christians were shamed. Three points deserve notice in this account: (1) The fact that the body was stolen. According to Matthew 27:64, the Pharisees asked Pilate to guard the tomb so that the disciples might not steal the body and say that Jesus had ascended into heaven; but when the report was nevertheless circulated that Jesus had ascended, the Pharisees bribed the soldiers to say that the body had been stolen by the disciples (Matthew 28:13). The "Gospel of Nikodemus," § 13 (Thilo, ib. 1:616), adds that the Jews still persisted in this statement. A similar story is known to Justin ("Dial. cum Tryph." § 108; comp. § 17) and Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." ch. 4:18), while in the pseudo-Clementine "Recognitiones" (, § 42) this assertion is ascribed to "others" (probably the Jews). (2) The statement of the theft of the body and the statement of the gardener who was afraid that the multitude of disciples might destroy his lettuce-beds were both known to Tertullian ("De Spectaculis," § 30). (3) The insult offered to the body in the streets of Jerusalem is alluded to in the Koran (see below).
It is clear, therefore, that the Jewish legends deny the resurrection of Jesus; the halakic assertion that Balaam (e., the prototype of Jesus) had no part in the future life must also be especially noted (Sanh. 10:2). It is further said: "The pupils of the recreant Balaam inherit hell" (Abot 5:19). Jesus is accordingly, in the following curious Talmudic legend, thought to sojourn in hell. A certain Onḳelos b. Ḳaloniḳos, son of Titus' sister, desired to embrace Judaism, and called up from hell by magic first Titus, then Balaam, and finally Jesus, who are here taken together as the worst enemies of Judaism. He asked Jesus: "Who is esteemed in that world?" Jesus said: "Israel." "Shall one join them?" Jesus said to him: "Further their well-being; do nothing to their detriment; whoever touches them touches even the apple of His eye." Onḳelos then asked the nature of his punishment, and was told that it was the degrading fate of those who mock the wise (Giṭ. 56b-57a). This most revolting passage was applied in the Middle Ages to another Jesus (e.g., by R. Jeḥiel, in the Paris disputation; "Wikkuaḥ," p. 4, Thorn, 1873). A parallel to the story is found in the statement of the "Toledot" that when Judas found he could not touch Jesus in any way in theaerial battle, he defiled him. This feature naturally especially angered Christians (see Wagenseil, "Tela Ignea Satanæ," p. 77). According to a passage in the Zohar (Steinschneider, "Polemische Litteratur," p. 362) the same degrading fate is meted out to both Jesus and Mohammed.
Legends regarding Jesus are found in Mohammedan folk-lore. Although the innocence of Mary is most emphatically asserted, there are such striking parallels to Jewish legends that this material must certainly have been taken from Judaism into the Koran. In that work, also, it is stated that Jesus formed birds out of clay and endowed them with life (sura 3:43); both the Koran and Jalal al-Din (in Maracci, "Refutatio Alcorani," fol. 114b, Patavii, 1698) refer to the peculiar clothing worn by the disciples of Jesus; and in Ibn Said (Maracci, c. fol. 113b) is found the statement that the body of Jesus was dragged with ropes through the streets.
Karaites and Samaritans.
The cardinal point in the Jewish legends concerns the birth of Jesus. This question is discussed by both the Samaritans ("Chronique Samaritaine," ed. Neubauer, p. 18, Paris, 1873) and the Karaites, as may be seen in a recently published passage from the work of the Karaite Judah Hadassi ("J. Q. R." 8:440). Other essential points are that Jesus performed his miracles by conjuring with the name of God (ib. 8:436), and the legend appended to the "Toledot" editions regarding the finding of the cross (ib. 8:438). The Karaites, however, had their own "Toledot." Meswi al'Akkbari, the founder of a Karaite sect, engaged in similar polemics against the Christian doctrines ("R. E. J." 34:182).
The Jewish legends referring to Jesus can not be regarded as originally purely Jewish, because the Christian Antichrist legends also make use of them. The Antichrist is born of a wandering virgin, the latter being, according to one version, a Danitic, hence Jewish, woman, while the father belongs to the Latin race (corresponding to the Roman soldier Panthera). Similar details are found in the ARMILUS legend (Bousset, "Der Antichrist," p. 99, Göttingen, 1895; Krauss, "Das Leben Jesu," p. 216).
- Mehlführer, Jesus in Talmude, Altorf, 1699;
- Andr. Conr. Werner, Jesus in Talmude, Stade, 1738;
- D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque, Orientale, 2:349;
- Wagenseil, Tela Ignea Satanœ, Altorf, 1681 (where the Confutatio of the Toledot is separately paged);
- Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, 1:105,133,249, passim;
- Von der Alm, Die Urtheile, Heidnischer und Jüdischer Schriftsteller über Jesus, Leipsic, 1864;
- Hoffmann, Das Leben Jesu nach den Apokryphen, ib. 1851;
- G. Rosch, Jesusmythen, in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1873, pp. 77-115;
- Jüdische Sagen über das Leben Jesu, by Conard, in Neue Kirchliche Zeitschrift, pp. 164-176, Erlangen and Leipsic, 1901;
- Baring-Gould, Lost and Hostile Gospels, 1875;
- Laible, Jesus Christus im Talmud (with Appendix-Die Talmudischen Texte, by G. Dalman), Berlin, 1891 (has been transl. into English);
- Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach Jüdischen Quellen, Berlin, 1902;
- R. Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, pp. 1-96, London, 1903.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Jesus of Nazareth'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/j/jesus-of-nazareth.html. 1901.