Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Gospel According to the Pharisees, Part 4, or, The Gospel of Ben Seṭadha’:

Jewish date: 24 Tammuz 5771 (Parashath Mas‘e).

Today’s holidays: The Three Weeks (Judaism), Feast Day of Joachim and Ann (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Stanley Kubrick (Church of the SubGenius).

Upcoming events:
  • The group protesting for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and against the Waqf’s destruction of everything Jewish up there (myself included) will be at the Shuq in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) this Thursday (28 July 2011), probably around 7:00 PM, in an educational capacity.
  • One of the people at the last protest (this past Thursday) was handing out pamphlets promoting Jews visiting the Temple Mount on Ro’sh Ḥodhesh ’Av (1 August 2011). Visiting hours for Jews are 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. One should visit a miqweh, wear non-leather shoes, and bring a one’s identity card. See “The Temple Mount: Bird's Eye Guide to the Temple Mount” and “Ascending the Temple Mount: An Introduction and Brief Guide” and consult a competent Orthodox rav for more information. Remember: The more Jews who show up, the more the police and the politicians know that the Temple Mount matters to Jews and will be less likely to pander to Muslim discrimination.


And now for the fourth in my series on Jesus in the Talmudh. (See also “The Gospel According to the Pharisees”, “The Gospel According to the Pharisees, part 2”, and “The Gospel According to the Pharisees, Part 3”.) The Wikipedia article I got a lot of the references from (thanks to Stephen), “Jesus in the Talmud”, lists some references to one Ben Seṭadha’ who sounds a bit like Jesus and Yeshu the Noṣri.

Talmudh Yerushalmi, Shabbath 12:4:

[Mishnah:] One who writes on his flesh [on Shabbath] is liable [to bring a sin offering if unintentionally and to death if deliberately]. And one who scratches [letters] on his flesh [on Shabbath], Rabbi ’Eli‘ezer declares him liable to bring a sin offering, and Rabbi Yehoshua‘ exempts [him].

[Expositing on the Mishnah:] The one who draws like the form of writing on the skin [on Shabbath] is exempt.

Rabbi ’Eli‘ezer said to them, “And did not Ben Seṭadha’ bring out sorcery from Miṣrayim [Egypt] just this way?

They said to him, “Because of one incompetent, do we lose many smart [people]?”

Talmudh Bavil, Shabbath 104b:

[Expositing on the Mishnah:] “One who scratches [letters] on his flesh [on Shabbath—Rabbi ’Eli‘ezer declares him guilty to bring a sin offering, and the Sages exempt [him].]”: It was taught: Rabbi ’Eli‘ezer said to the Sages, “And did not Ben Seṭadha’ bring out sorcery from Miṣrayim in a scratch that [was] on his flesh [i.e., scratched into his flesh]?”

They said to him, “He was an incompetent, and one does not bring a proof [of how people normally behave] from incompetents.”

The term which I translate as “incompetent” in both passages, shoṭeh, is frequently grouped together with ḥeresh (“deaf-mute”) and qaṭan (“minor”, someone under age 13 if male and 12 if female) as part of the canonical group of people who are not legally responsible for their actions; someone has to have severe mental problems to be considered a shoṭeh. The term also is part of the compound term ḥasidh shoṭeh (“incompetent pietist”), which refers to someone whose priorities are severely wrong, such as a man who declines to save a woman drowning in a river because if he does so, he will have to see her naked. It is no stretch to interpret this passage as meaning that the Sages thought Ben Seṭadha’ was some sort of idiot or lunatic.

Do note that Ben Seṭadha’, like Yeshu the Noṣri and the Jesus of the Gospels spent time in Egypt. And like Yeshu the Noṣri, Ben Seṭadha’ was a magician. Also note that while the passages about Yeshu the Noṣri do not approve of his behavior, none of them suggest that he was mentally defective. Keep in mind: doing wrong is not the same thing as being stupid.

Talmudh Bavil, Sanhedhrin 67a:

[[In a discussion of the trial of inciters:]]

And if he said, “Thus are our obligations and thus is beautiful for us [to worship idols]”, the witnesses that hear from outside bring him to court and stone him. And thus they did to Ben Seṭadha’ in Ludh [Lod, a city near Tel ’Aviv and site of the Ben Guryon Airport], and they hung him on the eve of Pesaḥ [Passover].

Ben [= son of] Seṭadha’? He [was the] son of Pandera’!

Rav Ḥisda’ said, “The husband [was] Seṭadha’. The one who had intercourse [with his mother was] Pandera’.”

The husband [was] Pappos ben Yehudhah!

[Yes, ] but his mother was Seṭadha’.

His mother was Miryam the braider of women[’s hair = Miryam meghadela’ neshaya’]!

As they said in Pumbedhitha’ [a center of Jewish learning in Babylonia]: This one turned [seṭath da’] from her husband.

Like Yeshu the Noṣri and the Jesus of the Gospel According to John, Ben Seṭadha’ is executed on the eve of Pesaḥ. Like Yeshu the Noṣri, Ben Seṭadha’ is stoned and hung by Jews, not crucified by Romans. That this specifically happens in Ludh is unlike the Gospels, in which Jesus is executed in Yerushalayim.

Note there is some confusion over who were Ben Seṭadha’’s parents, with the resolution being that his father was Pandera’, his mother’s husband was Pappos ben Yehudhah, and his mother was Miryam [= Mary]. Only the last agrees to any degree with the Gospels and the Aramaic suggests an identification of Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. (Digest that, Dan Brown and Lady Gaga!) Miryam was an adulteress, which fits well with the Gospel claim that Jesus was literally the Son of God and with the Christian tradition that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or adulteress. (And, yes, I am aware the Gospels are silent on Mary Magdalene’s sex life and I have heard that such an identification may be late, but the parallel is still there.)

Though there was a bit of similarity of Ben Seṭadha’ to Yeshu the Noṣri and Jesus of the Gospels, there is not a lot to go on in the first place. That a scholar such as Rabbi Yehoshua‘ ben Peraḥyah could have at one point voluntarily associated with Yeshu the Noṣri suggests Yeshu was probably at least somewhat intelligent. This is confirmed by Yeshu being able to disgrace his learning—he had to be able to acquire the learning in order to be able to disgrace it. Ben Seṭadha’ seems to have not been mentally all there, suggesting that he was a different person.


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