Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Gospel According to the Pharisees, part 2

Jewish date:  24 Siwan 5771 (Parashath Ḥuqqath).

Today’s holidays:  Corpus Christi (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Archie McPhee (Church of the SubGenius).

I post this now in an effort to get caught up.  There are things going on religiously which are unlikely to be discussed by me, but at least I hope to make progress on what one might call “original content”.

About ten months ago I reported on a passage in Sanhedhrin 43a in the Talmudh Bavli dealing with one Yeshu the Noṣri (Jesus the Nazarene).  It is not clear if this Yeshu is the same as the subject of the Gospels, though there are suggestive similarities.

Around Shavu‘oth I was at a lecture which brought up another (commonly censored out) passage in Sanhedhrin which deals with Yeshu the Noṣri.  When I looked it up, I discovered it appears slightly differently in Soṭah, too.  Here are both versions, my translation (with apologies for any inaccuracies there may be, as the language is difficult):


Soṭah 47a:
Our Masters taught:  Always the left [hand] should push away and the right bring near.  [This is] not like [the prophet] ’Elisha‘, who pushed away [his assistant] Geḥazi with his two hands, and not like Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah, who pushed away Yeshu the Noṣri with his two hands.
Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah—what is this?  When King Yanna’y [one of the Maccabean kings] was killing Our Masters, Shim‘on ben Sheṭaḥ’s sister  [wife of King Yanna’y] hid him.  Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah went [and] fled to ’Aleksanderiyya’ of Miṣrayim [Alexandria, Egypt].
When there was peace, Shim‘on ben Sheṭaḥ sent to him:  “From me [in] Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] the Holy City to you [in] ’Aleksanderiyya’ of Miṣrayim:  My sister [says], ‘My husband dwells in your midst, and I sit desolate.’”
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said, “Hear from this he [Shim‘on ben Sheṭaḥ] had peace.”
When he came [and] reached a certain inn, he [the innkeeper] stood before him with much honor; they did for him great honor.  He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] sat and praised, “How pleasant/beautiful is this hostess!”
Yeshu the Noṣri said to him, “Rabbi, her eyes are ṭeruṭoth [oval?  long?  narrow?  tearful?  at any rate, probably not intended as a complement].
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said to him, “Evil [one]!  In this do you busy yourself?”  He brought out 400 shofaroth [for the sake of publicity] and excommunicated him.
Every day he [Yeshu the Noṣri] went before him [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah], and he did not receive him.
One day he [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] was reading Qeriyyath Shema‘ [a basic Jewish prayer].  He [Yeshu the Noṣri] came before him.  It was on his mind to receive him.  He showed him with his hand [i.e., made a sign to avoid interrupting his prayers].  He [Yeshu the Noṣri] thought that he [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] had pushed him away; he went [and] set up a brick [as] a worshipper.
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said to him, “Return yourself!”
He [Yeshu the Noṣri] said to him, “Thus I received from you:  All sinners and those who cause the masses to sin cannot succeed in doing repentance.  For Mar [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said, ‘Yeshu the Noṣri performed magic and incited [to transgression] and tempted [to commit transgressions] and caused Yisra’el [Israel] to sin.’”

Sanhedhrin 107b:
Our Masters taught:  Always the left [hand] should push away and the right bring near.  [This is] not like ’Elisha‘, who pushed away Geḥazi with his two hands, and not like Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah, who pushed away Yeshu the Noṣri with his two hands.
Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah—what is this?  When King Yanna’y was killing Our Masters, Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah and Yeshu went to ’Aleksanderiyya’ of Miṣrayim.
When there was peace, Shim‘on ben Sheṭaḥ sent to him:  “From me [in] Yerushalayim the Holy City to you [in] ’Aleksanderiyya’ of Miṣrayim:  My sister [says], ‘My husband dwells in your midst, and I sit desolate.’”
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] stood [and] came [and] arrived by chance at a certain inn.  They did for him great honor.  He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said, “How pleasant/beautiful is this hostess!”
He [Yeshu the Noṣri] said to him, “Rabbi, her eyes are ṭeruṭoth.
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said to him, “Evil [one]!  In this do you busy yourself?”  He brought out 400 shofaroth and excommunicated him.
He [Yeshu the Noṣri] came before him [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] several times [and] said to him, “Receive me!”  He would not look at him.
One day he [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] was reading Qeriyyath Shema‘.  He [Yeshu the Noṣri] came before him.  He thought to receive [him].  He showed him with his hand [i.e., made a sign].  He [Yeshu the Noṣri] thought, “He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] has pushed me away.”  He went [and] set up a brick and prostrated himself before it.
He [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said to him, “Return yourself!”
He [Yeshu the Noṣri] said to him, “Thus I received from you:  All sinners and those who cause the masses to sin cannot succeed in doing repentance.   And Mar [Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah] said, ‘Yeshu the Noṣri performed magic and incited [to transgression] and tempted [to commit transgressions] and caused Yisra’el [Israel] to sin.’”

Like the Sanhedhrin 43a passage, this passage takes place at a time of Jewish rule, not Roman; Herod the Great ruled after the Maccabean kings.  Like in the Gospels, this Yeshu spent time in Egypt due to persecution from the government; however, the Gospels blame Herod the Great for trying to kill Jesus as a small child, while here Yeshu is presumably an adult.

Clearly there is a lot left out of these passages.

1) The cause of Yeshu’s excommunication, that he was criticizing the appearance of a married woman’s eyes, is odd.  That he noticed there was something unusual about a married woman’s eyes is nothing unusual; since he was presumably not blind, it is to be expected.  Talking about it, however, is rude and improper, as it is completely irrelevant to how the inn staff were treating Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah and Yeshu—people who are physically unusual can be just as nice as anyone else—but this would be the first time your humble blogger is aware of anyone being excommunicated for being rude.

2) Like in the Sanhedhrin 43a passage, this Yeshu also goes horribly wrong.  Idolatry is strictly forbidden in Judaism, but why he fell that far is never stated.  Many people screw up horribly without becoming idolators.

3) What Yeshu was doing to cause others to transgress or what he did magically is not stated.  Why he did either is never stated.

Humans, even when they go bad, have reasons for what they do.  These reasons may be anything from excellent to idiotic, but they do not happen arbitrarily or suddenly.  Is Yeshu’s comment on a woman’s eyes part of a series of other misbehaviors which together justify his excommuication?  What happened to Yeshu which gave him the idea of practicing idolatry or magic?  Why would he make other people do wrong, too?  I have no idea.  But I find myself wondering if there are other passages in the Talmudh about Yeshu the Noṣri.  I hope further searching will turn up more information on  him which will fill in the gaps in his life.

Peace.

’Aharon/Aaron