Hayyim ben Yehoshua
1: THE MYTH OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS
concern has been expressed in the Jewish media regarding the activity
of "Jews for Jesus" and other missionary organizations who go out
of their way to convert Jews to Christianity. Unfortunately, many
Jews are ill-equipped to deal with Christian missionaries and their
arguments. Hopefully this article will contribute to remedying this
situation. When countering Christian missionaries it is important
to base one's arguments on correct facts. Arguments based on incorrect
facts can easily backfire and end up strengthening the arguments
of the missionaries. It is rather unfortunate that many well meaning
Jewish Studies teachers have unwittingly aided missionaries by teaching
Jewish pupils incorrect information about the origins of Christianity.
I can recall being taught the following story about Jesus at the
Jewish day school which I attended: "Jesus was a famous first century
rabbi whose Hebrew name was Rabbi Yehoshua.
father was a carpenter named Joseph and his mother's name was Mary.
Mary became pregnant before she married Joseph. Jesus was born in
a stable in Bethlehem during a Roman census. Jesus grew up in Nazareth
and became a learned rabbi. He travelled all over Israel preaching
that people should love one another. Some people thought that he
was the Messiah and he did not deny this which made the other rabbis
very angry. He caused so much controversy that the Roman governor
Pontius Pilate had him crucified. He was buried in a tomb and later
his body was found to be missing since it had probably been stolen
by his disciples." A few years after being taught this seemingly
innocent story, I became interested in the origins of Christianity
and decided to do some further reading on the "famous Rabbi Yehoshua."
Much to my dismay, I discovered that there was no historical evidence
of this Rabbi Yehoshua.
claim that Jesus was a rabbi named Yehoshua and the claim that his
body was probably stolen both turned out to be pure conjecture.
The rest of the story was nothing more than a watered down version
of the story which Christians believe as part of the Christian religion
but which is not supported by any legitimate historical source.
There was absolutely no historical evidence that Jesus, Joseph or
Mary ever existed, let alone that Joseph was a carpenter or that
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.
the lack of evidence for Jesus's existence many Jews have made the
tragic mistake of assuming that the New Testament story is largely
correct and have tried to refute Christianity by attempting to rationalize
the various miracles that allegedly occured during Jesus's life and
after his death.
books have been written which take this approach to Christianity.
This approach however is hopelessly flawed and is in fact dangerous
since it encourages belief in the New Testament. When the Israelites
were confronted with the worship of Baal they did not blindly accept
the ancient West Semitic myths as history. When the Maccabees were
confronted with Greek religion they did not blindly accept Greek
mythology as history. Why do so many modern Jews blindly accept
Christian mythology? The answer to this question seems to be that
many Christians do not know themselves where the distinction between
established history and Christian belief lies and they have passed
their confusion on to the Jewish community. Browsing through the
religion section of a local bookshop, I recently came across a book
which claimed to be an objective biography of Jesus. It turned out
to be nothing more than a summary of the usual New Testament story.
It even included claims that Jesus's miracles had been witnessed
but that rational explanations for them might exist. Many history
books written by Christians take a similar approach. Some Christian
authors will suggest that perhaps the miracles are not completely
historical but they nevertheless follow the general New Testament
story. The idea that there was a real historical Jesus has thus
become entrenched in Christian society and Jews living in the Christian
world have come to blindly accept this belief because they have
never seen it seriously challenged. Despite the widespread belief
in Jesus the fact remains that there is no historical Jesus.
order to understand what is meant by an "historical Jesus," consider
King Midas in Greek mythology. The story that King Midas turned
everything he touched into gold is clearly nonsense, yet despite
this we know that there was a real King Midas. Archaeologists have
excavated his tomb and found his skeletal remains. The Greeks who
told the story of Midas and his golden touch clearly intended people
to identify him with the real Midas. So although the story of the
golden touch is fictional, the story is about a person whose existence
is known as a fact - the "historical Midas." In the case of Jesus,
their is however, no single person whose existence is known as a
fact and who is also intended to be the subject of the Jesus stories,
i.e. there is no historical Jesus. When confronted by a Christian
missionary, one should immediately point out that *the very existence
of Jesus has not been proven*. When missionaries argue they usually
appeal to emotions rather than to reason and they will attempt to
make you feel embarrassed about denying the historicity of Jesus.
The usual response is something like _"Isn't denying the existence
of Jesus just as silly as denying the existence of Julius Caesar
or Queen Elizabeth?"_. A popular variation of this response used
especially against Jews is _"Isn't denying the existence of Jesus
like denying the Holocaust?"
should then point out that there are ample historical sources confirming
the existence of Julius Caesar, Queen Elizabeth or whoever else
is named, while there is no corresponding evidence for Jesus. To
be perfectly thorough you should take time to do some research on
the historical personalities mentioned by the missionaries and present
hard evidence of their existence. At the same time you should challenge
the missionaries to provide similar evidence of Jesus's existence.
You should point out that although the existence of Julius Caesar
or Queen Elizabeth etc, is accepted worldwide, the same is not true
of Jesus. In the Far East where the major religions are Buddhism,
Shintoism, Taoism and Confucism, Jesus is considered to be just
another character in Western religious mythology, on a par with
Thor, Zeus and Osiris. Most Hindus do not believe in Jesus, but
those who do consider him to be one of the many avatars of the Hindu
god Vishnu. Muslims certainly believe in Jesus but they reject the
New Testament story and consider him to be a prophet who announced
the coming of Muhammed. They explicitly deny that he was ever crucified.
To sum up, there is no story of Jesus which is uniformly accepted
worldwide. It is this fact which puts Jesus on a different level
to established historical personalities. If the missionaries use
the "Holocaust reply," you should point out that the Holocaust is
well-documented and that there are numerous eyewitness reports.
should be pointed out that most of the people who deny the Holocaust
have turned out to be antisemitic hate-mongers with fraudulent credentials.
On the other hand, millions of honest people in Asia, who make up
the majority of the world's population, have failed to be convinced
by the Christian story of Jesus since there is no compelling evidence
for its authenticity. The missionaries will insist that the story
of Jesus is a well-established fact and will argue that there is
"plenty of evidence supporting it"_. One should then insist on seeing
this evidence and refuse to listen any further until they produce
Jesus was not an historical person, where did the whole New Testament
story come from in the first place? The Hebrew name for Christians
has always been _Notzrim_. This name is derived from the Hebrew
word _neitzer_ which means a shoot or sprout - an obvious Messianic
symbol. There were already people called Notzrim at the time of
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyah (c. 100 B.C.E.). Although modern Christians
claim that Christianity only started in the first century C.E.,
it is clear that the first century Christians in Israel considered
themselves to be a continuation of the Notzri movement which had
been in existence for about 150 years. One of the the most notorious
Notzrim was Yeishu ben Pandeira, also known as Yeishu ha-Notzri.
Talmudic scholars have always maintained that the story of Jesus
began with Yeishu. The Hebrew name for Jesus has always been Yeishu
and the Hebrew for "Jesus the Nazarene" has always been "Yeishu
ha-Notzri." (The name Yeishu is a shortened form of the name Yeishua,
not Yehoshua.) It is important to note that Yeishu ha-Notzri is
not an historical Jesus since modern Christianity denies any connection
between Jesus and Yeishu and moreover, parts of the Jesus myth are
based on other historical people besides Yeishu. We know very little
about Yeishu ha-Notzri. All modern works that mention him are based
on information taken from the Tosefta and the Baraitas - writings
made at the same time as the Mishna but not contained in it. Because
the historical information concerning Yeishu is so damaging to Christianity,
most Christian authors (and even some Jewish ones) have tried to
discredit this information and have invented many ingenious arguments
to explain it away.
of their arguments are based on misunderstandings and misquotations
of the Baraitas and in order to get an accurate picture of Yeishu
one should ignore Christian authors and examine the Baraitas directly.
The skimpy information contained in the Baraitas is as follows:
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyah once repelled Yeishu with both hands.
People believed that Yeishu was a sorcerer and they considered him
to be a person who had led the Jews astray. As a result of charges
brought against him (the details of which are not known, but which
probably involved high treason) Yeishu was stoned and his body hung
up on the eve of Passover. Before this he was paraded around for
forty days with a herald going in front of him announcing that he
would be stoned and calling for people to come forward to plead
for him. Nothing was brought forward in his favour however. Yeishu
had five disciples: Mattai, Naqai, Neitzer, Buni, and Todah. In
the Tosefta and the Baraitas, Yeishu's father is named Pandeira
or Panteiri. These are Hebrew-Aramaic forms of a Greek name. In
Hebrew the third consonant of the name is written either with a
dalet or a tet. Comparison with other Greek words transliterated
into Hebrew shows that the original Greek must have had a delta
as its third consonant and so the only possibilty for the father's
Greek name is Panderos. Since Greek names were common among Jews
during Hashmonean times it is not necessary to assume that he was
Greek, as some authors have done.
connection between Yeishu and Jesus is corroborated by the the fact
that Mattai and Todah, the names of two of Yeishu's disciples, are
the original Hebrew forms of Matthew and Thaddaeus, the names of
two of Jesus's disciples in Christian mythology. The early Christians
were also aware of the name "ben Pandeira" for Jesus. The pagan
philosopher Celsus, who was famous for his arguments against Christianity,
claimed in 178 C.E. that he had heard from a Jew that Jesus's mother,
Mary, had been divorced by her husband, a carpenter, after it had
been proved that she was an adultress. She wandered about in shame
and bore Jesus in secret. His real father was a soldier named Pantheras.
According to the Christian writer Epiphanius (c. 320 - 403 C.E.),
the Christian apologist Origen (c.185 - 254 C.E.) had claimed that
"Panther" was the nickname for Jacob the father of Joseph, the stepfather
of Jesus. It should be noted that Origen's claim is not based on
any historical information. It is purely a conjecture aimed at explaining
away the Pantheras story of Celsus. That story is also not historical.
claim that the name of Jesus's mother was Mary and the claim that
her husband was a carpenter is taken directly from Christian belief.
The claim that Jesus's real father was named Pantheras is based
on an incorrect attempt at reconstructing the original form of Pandeira.
This incorrect reconstruction was probably influenced by the fact
that the name Pantheras was found among Roman soldiers. Why did
people believe that Jesus's mother was named Mary and her husband
named Joseph? Why did non-Christians accuse Mary of being an adultress
while Christians believed she was a virgin? To answer these questions
one must examine some of the legends surrounding Yeishu. We cannot
hope to obtain the absolute truth concerning the origins of the
Jesus myth but we can show that reasonable alternatives exist to
blindly accepting the New Testament. The name Joseph for Jesus's
stepfather is easy to explain.
Notzri movement was particulary popular with the Samaritan Jews.
While the Pharisees were waiting for a Messiah who would be a descendant
of David, the Samaritans wanted a Messiah who would restore the
northern kingdom of Israel. The Samaritans emphasized their partial
descent from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who were descended
from the Joseph of the Torah. The Samaritans considered themselves
to be "Bnei Yoseph" i.e. "sons of Joseph," and since they believed
that Jesus had been their Messiah, they would have assumed that
he was a "son of Joseph." The Greek speaking population, who had
little knowledge of Hebrew and true Jewish traditions could have
easily misunderstood this term and assumed that Joseph was the actual
name of Jesus's father. This conjecture is corroborated by the fact
that according to the _Gospel of Matthew_, Joseph's father is named
Jacob, just like the Torah Joseph. Later, other Christians, who
followed the idea that the Messiah was to be descended from David,
tried to trace Joseph back to David. They came up with two contradictory
genealogies for him, one recorded in _Matthew _ and the other in
_Luke_. When the idea that Mary was a virgin developed, the mythical
Joseph was relegated to the position of simply being her husband
and the stepfather of Jesus. To understand where the Mary story
came from we have to turn to another historical character who contributed
to the Jesus myth, namely ben Stada.
the information we have on ben Stada again comes from the Tosefta
and the Baraitas. There is even less information about him than
about Yeishu: Some people believed that he had brought spells out
of Egypt in a cut in his flesh, others thought that he was a madman.
He was a beguiler and was caught by the method of concealed witnesses.
He was stoned in Lod. In the Tosefta, ben Stada is called ben Sotera
or ben Sitera. Sotera seems to be the Hebrew-Aramaic form of the
Greek name Soteros. The forms "Sitera" and "Stada" seem have arisen
as misreadings and spelling mistakes (yod replacing vav and dalet
replacing reish). Since there was so little information concerning
ben Stada, many conjectures arose as to who he was. It is known
from the Gemara that he was confused with Yeishu. This probably
resulted from the fact that both were executed for treasonous teachings
and were associated with sorcery. People who confused ben Stada
with Yeishu had to explain why he was also called ben Pandeira.
Since the name "Stada" resembles the Aramaic expression "stat da,"
meaning "she went astray" it was thought that "Stada" referred to
the mother of Yeishu and that she was an adultress. Consequently,
people began to think that Yeishu was the illegitimate son of Pandeira.
These ideas are in fact mentioned in the Gemara and are probably
much older. Since ben Stada lived in Roman times and the name Pandeira
resembled the name Pantheras found among Roman soldiers, it was
assumed that Pandeira had been a Roman soldier stationed in Israel.
This certainly explains the story mentioned by Celsus.
Tosefta mentions a famous case of a woman named Miriam bat Bilgah
marrying a Roman soldier. The idea that Yeishu had been born to
a Jewish woman who had had an affair with a Roman soldier probably
resulted in Yeishu's mother being confused with this Miriam. The
name "Miriam" is of course the original form of the name "Mary."
It is in fact known from the Gemara [Talmud] that some of the people
who confused Yeishu with ben Stada believed that Yeishu's mother
was "Miriam the women's hairdresser." The story that Mary (Miriam)
the mother of Jesus was an adultress was certainly not acceptable
to the early Christians. The virgin birth story was probably invented
to clear Mary's name. The early Christians did not suck this story
out of their thumbs. Virgin birth stories were farely common in
pagan myths. The following mythological characters were all believed
to be have been born to divinely impregnated virgins: Romulus and
Remus, Perseus, Zoroaster, Mithras, Osiris-Aion, Agdistis, Attis,
Tammuz, Adonis, Korybas, Dionysus. The pagan belief in unions between
gods and women, regardless of whether they were virgins or not,
is even more common. Many characters in pagan mythology were believed
to be sons of divine fathers and human females. The Christian belief
that Jesus was the son of G-d born to a virgin, is typical of Greco-Roman
Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (c. 30 B.C.E - 45 C.E.),
warned against the widespread superstitious belief in unions between
male gods and human females which returned women to a state of virginity.
The god Tammuz, worshipped by pagans in northern Israel, was said
to have been born to the virgin Myrrha. The name "Myrrha" superficially
resembles "Mary/Miriam" and it is possible that this particular
virgin birth story influenced the Mary story more than the others.
Like Jesus, Tammuz was always called Adon, meaning "Lord." (The
character Adonis in Greek mythology is based on Tammuz.) As we will
see later, the connection between Jesus and Tammuz goes much further
than this. The idea that Mary had been an adultress never completely
disappeared in Christian mythology. Instead, the character of Mary
was split into two: Mary the mother of Jesus, believed to be a virgin,
and Mary Magdalene, believed to be a woman of ill repute. The idea
that the character of Mary Magdalene is also derived from Miriam
the mythical mother of Yeishu, is corroborated by the fact that
the strange name "Magdalene" clearly resembles the Aramaic term
"mgadla nshaya" meaning "womens' hairdresser."
mentioned before, there was a belief that Yeishu's mother was "Miriam
the women's hairdresser." Because the Christians did not know what
the name "Magdalene" meant, they later conjectured that it meant
that she had come from a place called Magdala on the west of Lake
Kinneret. The idea of the two Marys fitted in well with the pagan
way of thinking. The image of Jesus being followed by the two Marys
is strongly reminiscent of Dionysus being followed by Demeter and
Persephone. The Gemara contains an interesting legend concerning
Yeishu which attempts to elucidate the Beraita which says that Rabbi
Yehoshua ben Perachyah repelled Yeishu with both hands. The legend
claims that when the Hashmonean king Yannai was killing the Pharisees,
Rabbi Yehoshua and Yeishu fled to Egypt. When returning they came
upon an inn. The Aramaic word "aksanya" means both "inn" or "innkeeper."
Rabbi Yehoshua remarked how beautiful the "aksanya" was (meaning
the inn). Yeishu (meaning the innkeeper) replied that her eyes were
too narrow. Rabbi Yehoshua was very angry with Yeishu and excommunicated
him. Yeishu asked many times for forgiveness but Rabbi Yehoshua
would not forgive him. Once when Rabbi Yehoshua was reciting the
Shema, Yeishu came up to him. He made a sign to him that he should
wait. Yeishu misunderstood and thought that he was being rejected
again. He mocked Rabbi Yehoshua by setting up a brick and worshipping
it. Rabbi Yehoshua told him to repent but he refused to, saying
that he had learned from him that anyone who sins and causes many
to sin, is not given the opportunity to repent. The above story,
up to the events at the inn, closely resembles another legend in
which the protagonist is not Rabbi Yehoshua but his disciple Yehuda
ben Tabbai. In this legend, Yeishu is not named.
may thus question whether Yeishu really went to Egypt or not. It
is possible that Yeishu was confused with some other disciple of
either Rabbi Yehoshua or Rabbi Yehuda. The confusion might have
resulted from the fact that Yeishu was confused with ben Stada who
had returned from Egypt. On the other hand, Yeishu might have really
fled to Egypt and returned, and this in turn could have contributed
to the confusion between Yeishu and ben Stada. Whatever the case,
the belief that Yeishu fled to Egypt to escape being killed by a
cruel king, appears to be the origin of the Christian belief that
Jesus and his family fled to Egypt to escape King Herod. Since the
early Christians believed that Jesus had lived in Roman times it
is natural that they would have confused the evil king who wanted
to kill Jesus with Herod, since there were no other suitable evil
kings during the Roman period. Yeishu was an adult at the time that
the rabbis fled from Yannai; why did the Christians believe that
Jesus and his family had fled to Egypt when Jesus was an infant?
Why did the Christians believe that Herod had ordered all baby boys
born in Bethlehem to be killed, when there is no historical evidence
of this? To answer these questions we again have to look at pagan
theme of a divine or semi-divine child who is feared by an evil king
is very common in pagan mythology. The usual story is that the evil
king receives a prophecy that a certain child will be born who will
usurp the throne. In some stories the child is born to a virgin and
usually he is son of a god.
The mother of the child tries to hide him. The king usually orders
the slaying of all babies who might be the prophecied king. Examples
of myths which follow this plot are the birth stories of Romulus
and Remus, Perseus, Krishna, Zeus, and Oedipus. Although Torah literalists
will not like to admit it, the story of Moses's birth also resembles
these myths (some of which claim that the mother put the child in
a basket and placed him in a river). There were probably several
such stories circulating in the Levant which have been lost. The
Christian myth of the slaughter of the innocents by Herod is simply
a Christain version of this theme. The plot was so well known that
one Midrashic scholar could not resist using it for an apocryphal
account of Abraham's birth.
early Christians believed that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.
This belief is based on a misunderstanding of Micah _ 5.2 which
simply names Bethlehem as the town where the Davidic lineage began.
Since the early Christians believed that Jesus was the Messiah,
they automatically believed that he was born in Bethlehem. But why
did the Christians believe that he lived in Nazareth? The answer
is quite simple. The early Greek speaking Christians did not know
what the word "Nazarene" meant. The earliest Greek form of this
word is "Nazoraios," which is derived from "Natzoriya," the Aramaic
equivalent of the Hebrew "Notzri." (Recall that "Yeishu ha-Notzri"
is the original Hebrew for "Jesus the Nazarene.") The early Christians
conjectured that "Nazarene" meant a person from Nazareth and so
it was assumed that Jesus lived in Nazareth. Even today, Christians
blithely confuse the Hebrew words "Notzri" (_ Nazarene_, _Christian_),
"Natzrati" _Nazarethite_) and "nazir" (_nazarite_), all of which
have completely different meanings. The information in the Talmud
(which contains the Baraitas and the Gemara), concerning Yeishu
and ben Stada, is so damaging to Christianity that Christians have
always taken drastic measures against it. When the Christians first
discovered the information they immediately tried to wipe it out
by censoring the Talmud. The Basle edition of the Talmud (c. 1578
- 1580) had all the passages relating to Yeishu and ben Stada deleted
by the Christians.
today, editions of the Talmud used by Christian scholars lack these
During the first few decades of this century, fierce academic battles
raged between atheist and Christian scholars over the true origins
of Christianity. The Christians were forced to face up to the Talmudic
evidence. They could no longer ignore it and so they decided to
attack it instead. They claimed that the Talmudic Yeishu was a distortion
of the "historical Jesus." They claimed that the name "Pandeira"
was simply a Hebrew attempt at pronouncing the Greek word for virgin
- "parthenos." Although there is a superficial resemblence between
the words, one should note that in order for "Pandeira" to be derived
from "parthenos," the "n" and "r" have to be interchanged. However,
the Jews did not suffer from any speech impediment which would cause
this to happen! The Christian response is that possibly the Jews
purposefully altered the word "parthenos" to either the name "Pantheras"
(found in Celsus's story) or to "pantheros" meaning a panther, and
"Pandeira" is derived from the deliberately altered word. This argument
also fails since the third consonent of both the altered and unaltered
"parthenos" is theta. This letter is always transliterated by the
Hebrew letter tav, whose pronunciation during classical times most
closely resembled that of the Greek letter. However, the name "Pandeira"
is never spelled with a tav but with either a dalet or a tet which
show that the original Greek form had a delta as its third consonant,
not a theta. The Christian argument can also be turned on its head:
maybe the Christians deliberately altered "Pantheras" to "parthenos"
when they invented the virgin birth story.
It should also be noted that the resemblence between "Pantheras"
(or "pantheros") and "parthenos" is actually much less when written
in Greek since in the original Greek spelling their second vowels
are completely different. The Christians also did not accept that
Mary Magdalene was connected to Miriam the alleged mother of Yeishu
in the Talmud. They argued that the name "Magdalene" does mean a
person from Magdala and that the Jews evented "Miriam the womens
hairdresser _mgadla nshaya_)" either to mock the Christians, or
out of their own misunderstanding of the name "Magdalene." This
argument is also false. Firstly, it ignores Greek grammar: the correct
Greek for "of Magdala" is "Magdales" and the correct Greek for a
person from Magdala is "Magdalaios." The original Greek root of
"Magdalene" is "Magdalen-" with a conspicuous "n" showing that the
word has nothing to do with Magdala. Secondly, Magdala only got
its name after the Gospels were written. Before that it was called
Magadan or Dalmanutha. (Although "Magadan" has an "n," it lacks
an "l" and so it cannot be the derivation of "Magdalene.") In fact,
the ruins of this area were renamed Magdala by the Christian community
because they believed that Mary Magdalene had come from there. The
Christians also claimed that the word "Notzri" means a person from
Nazareth. This is of course false since the original Hebrew for
Nazareth is "Natzrat" and a person from Nazareth is a "Natzrati."
The name "Notzri" lacks the letter tav from "Natzrat" as so it cannot
be derived from it. The Christians argue that perhaps the Aramaic
name for Nazareth was "Natzarah" or "Natzirah" (like the modern
Arabic name) which explains the missing tav in "Notzri." This is
also nonsense since the Aramaic word for a person from Nazareth
would then be "Natzaratiya" or "Natziratiya" (with a tav since the
feminine ending "-ah" would become "-at-" when the suffix "-iya"
is added), and besides, the Aramaic form would not be used in Hebrew.
The Christians also came up with various other arguments which can
be dismissed since they confuse the Hebrew words "Notzri" and "nazir"
or ignore the fact that "Notzri" is the earliest form of the word
sum up, all the Christian arguments were based on impossible phonetic
changes and grammatical forms, and were consequently dismissed.
Moreover, although the legends in the Gemara cannot be taken as
fact, the evidence in the Baraitas and Tosefta concerning Yeishu
can be traced back directly to Yehoshua ben Perachyah, Shimon ben
Shetach and Yehuda ben Tabbai and their disciples who were contemporaries
of Yeishu, while the evidence in the Baraitas and Tosefta concerning
ben Stada can be traced to Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and his disciples
who were ben Stada's contempories. Consequently the evidence can
be regarded as historically accurate. Therefore modern Christians
no longer attack the Talmud but instead deny any connection between
Jesus and Yeishu or ben Stada. They dismiss the similarities as
pure coincidence. However, one must still be aware of the false
attacks on the Talmud since many Christian books still mention them
and they can and do resurface from time to time. Many parts of the
Jesus story are not based on Yeishu or ben Stada. Most Christian
denominations claim that Jesus was born on 25 December.
the eastern Christains believed that he was born on 6 January. The
Armenian Christians still follow this early belief while most Christians
consider it to be the date of the visit of the Magi. As pointed
out already, Jesus was probably confused with Tammuz born of the
virgin Myrrha. We know that in Roman times, the gods Tammuz, Aion
and Osiris were identified. Osiris-Aion was said to be born of the
virgin Isis on the 6 January and this explains the earlier date
for Christmas. Isis was sometimes represented as a sacred cow and
her temple as a stable which is probably the origin of the Christian
belief that Jesus was born in a stable. Although some might find
this claim to be farfetched, it is known as a fact that certain
early Christian sects identified Jesus and Osiris in their writings.
The date of 25 December for Christmas was originally the pagan birthday
of the sun god, whose day of the week is still known as *Sun*_day.
The halo of light which is usually shown surrounding the face of
Jesus and Christian saints, is another concept taken from the sun
god. The theme of temptation by a devil-like creature was also found
in pagan mythology. In particular the story of Jesus's temptation
by Satan resembles the temptation of Osiris by the devil-god Set
in Egyptian mythology. We have already hinted that there was also
a connection between Jesus and the pagan god Dionysus.
Dionysus, the infant Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed
in a manger; like Dionysus, Jesus could turn water into wine; like
Dionysus, Jesus rode on an ass and fed a multitude in the wilderness;
like Dionysus, Jesus suffered and was mocked. Some early Christians
claimed that Jesus had in fact been born, not in a stable, but in
a cave - just like Dionysus.
did the story that Jesus was crucified come from? It appears to
have resulted from a number of sources. Firstly there were three
historical characters during the Roman period who people thought
were Messiahs and who were crucified by the Romans, namely. Yehuda
of Galilee (6 C.E.), Theudas (44 C.E.) and Benjamin the Egyptian
(60 C.E.). Since these three people were all thought to be the Messiah,
they were naturally confused with Yeishu and ben Stada. Yehuda of
Galilee had preached in Galilee and had collected many followers
before being crucified by the Romans. The story of Jesus's ministry
in Galilee appears to be based on the life of Yehuda of Galilee.
This story and the belief that Jesus lived in Nazareth in Galilee,
reinforced each other. The belief that some of Jesus's disciples
were killed in c. 44 C.E. by Agrippa appears to be based the fate
of Theudas's disciples. Since ben Stada had come from Egypt it is
natural that he would have been confused with Benjamin the Egyptian.
They were probably also contempories. Even some modern authors have
suggested that they were the same person, although this is not possible
since the stories of their deaths are completely different. In the
New Testament book of _Acts_, which uses Josephus's book _ Jewish
Antiquities_ (93 - 94 C.E.) as a reference, it is made clear that
the author considered Jesus, Yehuda of Galilee, Theudas and Benjamin
the Egyptian, to be four different people. However, by that time
it was too late to undo the confusions which had already taken place
before the New Testament was written, and the idea of Jesus's crucifixion
had become an integral part of the myth. Secondly, the idea arose
that Jesus had been executed on the eve of Passover. This belief
is apparently based on Yeishu's execution. Passover occurs at the
time of the Vernal Equinox, an event considered important by astrologers
during the Roman Empire. The astrologers thought of this time as
the time of the crossing of two astrological celestial circles,
and this event was symbolized by a cross. Thus there was a belief
that Jesus had died on "the cross." The misunderstanding of this
term by those who were not initiated into the astrological cults,
was another factor contributing to the belief that Jesus was crucified.
In one of the earliest Christian documents (the _Teaching of the
Twelve Apostles_) there is no mention of Jesus being crucified yet
the sign of a cross in the sky is used to represent Jesus's coming.
should be noted that the centre of astrological superstition in
the Roman Empire was the city of Tarsus in Asia Minor - the place
where the legendary missionary Paul came from. The idea that a special
star had heralded the birth of Jesus, and that a solar eclipse occured
at his death, is typical of Tarsian astrological superstition. The
third factor contributing to the crucifixion story is again pagan
mythology. The theme of a divine or semi-divine being sacrificed
against a tree, pole or cross, and then being resurrected, is very
common in pagan mythology. It was found in the mythologies of all
western civilizations stretching from as far west as Ireland and
as far east as India.
particular it is found in the mythologies of Osiris and Attis, both
of whom were often identified with Tammuz. Osiris landed up with
his arms stretched out on a tree like Jesus on the cross. This tree
was sometimes shown as a pole with outstretched arms - the same
shape as the Christian cross. In the worship of Serapis (a composite
of Osiris and Apis) the cross was a religious symbol. Indeed, the
Christian "Latin cross" symbol seems to be based directly on the
cross symbol of Osiris and Serapis. The Romans never used this traditional
Christian cross for crucifixions, they used crosses shaped either
like an X or a T. The hieroglyph of a cross on a hill was associated
with Osiris. This heiroglyph stood for the "Good One," in Greek
"Chrestos," a name applied to Osiris and other pagan gods. The confusion
of this name with "Christos (= Messiah, Christ)" strengthened the
confusion between Jesus and the pagan gods. At the Vernal Equinox,
pagans in northern Israel would celebrate the death and resurrection
of the virgin born Tammuz-Osiris. In Asia Minor (where the earliest
Christian churches were established) a similar celebration was held
for the virgin born Attis. Attis was shown as dying against a tree,
being buried in a cave and then being resurrected on the third day.
We thus see where the Christian story of Jesus's resurrection comes
from. In the worship of Baal, it was believed that Baal cheated
Mavet (the god of death) at the time of the Vernal Equinox. He pretended
to be dead but later appeared alive. He accomplished this ruse by
giving his only son as a sacrifice.
occurence of Passover at the same time of year as the pagan "Easter"
festivals is not coincidental. Many of the Pessach customs were
designed as Jewish alternatives to pagan customs. The pagans believed
that when their nature god (such as Tammuz, Osiris or Attis) died
and was resurrected, his life went into the plants used by man as
food. The matza made from the spring harvest was his new body and
the wine from the grapes was his new blood. In Judaism, matza, was
not used to represent the body of a god but the poor man's bread
which the Jews ate before leaving Egypt. The pagans used the paschal
sacrifice to represent the sacrifice of a god or his only son, but
Judaism used it to represent the meal eaten before leaving Egypt.
Instead of telling stories about Baal sacrificing his first born
son to Mavet, the Jews told how _mal'ach ha-mavet_ (the angel of
death) slew the first born sons of the Egyptians. The pagans ate
eggs to represent the resurrection and rebirth of their nature god,
but the egg on the seder plate represents the rebirth of the Jewish
people escaping captivity in Egypt.
the early Christians noticed the similarities between Pessach customs
and pagan customs, they came full circle and converted the Pessach
customs back to their old pagan interpretations. The seder became
the last supper of Jesus, similar to the last supper of Osiris commemorated
at the Vernal Equinox. The matza and wine once again became the
body and blood of a false god, this time Jesus. Easter eggs are
again eaten to commemorate the resurrection of a "god" and also
the "rebirth" obtained by accepting his sacrifice on the cross.
The Last Supper myth is particularly interesting. As mentioned,
the basic idea of last supper occuring at the Vernal Equinox comes
from the story of the last supper of Osiris. In the Christian story,
Jesus is present with twelve apostles. Where did the story of the
twelve apostles come from? It appears that in its earliest version,
the story was understood to be an allegory. The first time that
twelve apostles are mentioned is in the document known as the _Teaching
of the Twelve Apostles_. This document apparently originated as
a sectarian Jewish document written in the first century C.E., but
it was adopted by Christians who altered it substantially and added
Christian ideas to it. In the earliest versions it is clear that
the "twelve apostles" are the twelve sons of Jacob representing
the twelve tribes of Israel. The Christians later considered the
"twelve apostles" to be allegorical disciples of Jesus. In Egyptian
mythology, Osiris was betrayed at his last supper by the evil god
Set, whom the Greeks identified with Typhon. This seems to be the
origin of the idea that Jesus's betrayer was present at his last
supper. The idea that this betrayer was named "Judas" goes back
to the time when the twelve apostles were still understood to be
the sons of Jacob. The idea of Judas (= Judah, Yehuda) betraying
Jesus (the "son" of Joseph) is strongly reminiscent of the story
of the Torah Joseph being betrayed by his brothers with Yehuda as
the ringleader. This allegory would have been particulary appealing
to the Samaritan Notzrim who considered themselves to be sons of
Joseph betrayed by mainstream Jews (represented by Judas/Yehuda).
However, the story of the twelve apostles lost its original allegorical
interpretation and the Christians began to think that the "twelve
apostles" were twelve real people who followed Jesus. The Christians
attempted to find names for these twelve apostles. Matthew and Thaddaeus
were based on Mattai and Todah, two of Yeishu's disciples.
or both of the apostles named Jacobus (James) is possibly based
on Jacob of Kfar Sekanya, an early Christian known to Rabbi Eliezer
ben Hyrcanus, but this is just a guess. As we have seen, the character
of Judas is mostly based on the Judah of the Torah but there might
also be a connection with Yeishu's contemporary, Yehuda ben Tabbai
the disciple of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyah. As already mentioned,
the idea of the betrayer at the last supper is derived from the
mythology of Osiris who was betrayed by Set-Typhon. Set-Typhon had
red hair and this is probably the origin of the claim that Judas
had red hair. This idea has led to the Christian stereotypical portrayel
of Jews as having red hair, despite the fact that in reality, red
hair is far more common among Aryans than among Jews. Judas is often
given the nickname "Iscariot." In some places where English New
Testaments have "Iscariot," the Greek text actually has "apo Kariotou"
which means "from Karyot." Karyot was the name of a town in Israel,
probably the modern site known in Arabic as Karyatein. We thus see
that the name Iscariot is derived from the Hebrew "ish Karyot" meaning
"man from Karyot." This is in fact the accepted modern Christian
understanding of the name.
in the past, the Christians misunderstood this name and legends
arose that Judas was from the town of _Sychar_, that he was a member
of the extremist party known as the _Sicarii_ and that he was from
the tribe of _Issacher_. The most interesting misunderstanding of
the name is its early confusion with the word _scortea_ meaning
a leather money bag. This led to the New Testament myth that Judas
carried such a bag, which in turn led to the belief that he was
the treasurer of the apostles. The apostle Peter appears to be a
largely fictitious character. According to Christian mythology,
Jesus chose him to be the "keeper of the keys to the kingdom of
heaven." This is clearly based on the Egyptian pagan deity, Petra,
who was the door-keeper of heaven and the afterlife ruled over by
Osiris. We must also doubt the story of Luke "the good healer" who
was supposed to be a friend of Paul. The original Greek for "Luke"
is "Lykos" which was another name for Apollo, the god of healing.
John the Baptist is largely based on an historical person who practised
ritual immersion in water as a physical symbol for repentence. He
did not perform Christian style sacramental baptisms to cleanse
people's souls - such an idea was totally foreign to Judaism. He
was put to death by Herod Antipas who feared that he was about to
start a rebellion. John's name in Greek was "Ioannes" and in Latin
"Johannes." Although these names were usually used for the Hebrew
name Yochanan, it is unlikely that this was John's actual Hebrew
name. "Ioannes" closely resembles "Oannes" the Greek name for the
pagan god Ea. Oannes was the "God of the House of Water." Sacramental
baptism for magically cleansing souls, was a practice which apparently
originated in the worship of Oannes. The most likely explanation
of John's name and its connection with Oannes is that John probably
bore the nickname "Oannes" since he practised baptism which he had
adapted from the worship of Oannes.
name "Oannes" was later confused with "Ioannes." (In fact, the New
Testament legend concerning John provides a clue that his real name
might have been Zacharia.) It is known from Josephus's writings
that the historical John rejected the pagan "soul-cleansing" interpretation
of baptism. The Christians, however, returned to this original pagan
interpretation. The god Oannes was associated with the constellation
Capricorn. Both Oannes and the constellation Capricorn were associated
with water. (The constellation is supposed to depict a mythical
sea-creature with the body of a fish and the foreparts of a goat.)
We have already seen that Jesus was given the same birthday as the
sun god (25 December), when the sun is in the constellation of Capricorn.
The pagans thought of this period as one where the sun god is immersed
in the waters of Oannes and emerges reborn. (The Winter Solstice,
when days start getting longer, occurs near 25 December.)
This astrological myth is apparently the origin of the story that
Jesus was baptised by John. It probably started as an allegorical
astrological story, but it appears that the god Oannes later became
confused with the historical person nicknamed Oannes (John). The
belief that Jesus had met John contributed to the belief that Jesus's
ministry and crucifixion occured when Pontius Pilate was procurator
of Judaea. It should be noted that most dates for Jesus quoted by
Christians are completely nonsense. Jesus was partly based on Yeishu
and ben Stada who probably lived more than a century apart. He was
also based on the three false Messiahs, Yehuda, Theudas and Benjamin,
who were crucified by the Romans at various different times. Another
fact that contributed to confused dating of Jesus was that Jacob
of Kfar Sekanya and probably other Notzrim as well, used expressions
like "thus was I taught by Yeishu ha-Notzri," even though he had
not been taught by Yeishu in person. We know from the Gemara that
Jacob's statement led Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus to incorrectly
conclude that Jacob was a disciple of Yeishu. This suggests that
there were rabbis who were unaware of the fact that Yeishu had lived
in Hashmonean times. Even after Christians placed Jesus in the first
century C.E., confusion continued among non-Christians. There was
a contempory of Rabbi Akiva named Pappus ben Yehuda who used to
lock up his unfaithful wife. We know from the Gemara that some people
who confused Yeishu and ben Stada, confused the wife of Pappus with
Miriam the unfaithful mother of Yeishu. This would place Yeishu
more than two centuries after he actually lived!
New Testament story confuses so many historical periods that there
is no way of reconciling it with history. The traditional year of
Jesus's birth is 1 C.E. Jesus was supposed to be not more than two
years old when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents. However,
Herod died before 12 April 4 B.C.E. This has led some Christians
to redate the birth of Jesus in 6 - 4 B.C.E. However, Jesus was
also supposed have been born during the census of Quirinius. This
census took place after Archelaus was deposed in 6 C.E., ten years
after Herod's death. Jesus was supposed to have been baptised by
John soon after John had started baptising and preaching in the
fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias i.e. 28 - 29 C.E., when
Pontius Pilate was governer of Judaea i.e. 26 - 36 C.E. According
to the New Testament, this also happened when Lysanias was tetrarch
of Abilene and Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. But Lysanias
ruled Abilene from c. 40 B.C.E until he was executed in 36 B.C.E
by Mark Antony, about 60 years before the date for Tiberias and
about 30 years before the supposed birth of Jesus! Also, there were
never two joint high priests, in particular, Annas was not a joint
high priest with Caiaphas. Annas was removed from the office of
high priest in 15 C.E after holding office for some nine years.
Caiaphas only became high priest in c. 18 C.E, about three years
after Annas. (He held this office for about eighteen years, so his
dates are consistent with Tiberias and Pontius Pilate, but not with
Annas or Lysanias.) Although the book of _Acts_ presents Yehuda
of Galilee, Theudas and Jesus as three different people, it incorrectly
places Theudas (crucified 44 C.E.) before Yehuda who it correctly
mentions as being crucified during the census (6 C.E.).
of these chronological absurdities seem to be based on misreadings
and misunderstandings of Josephus's book _Jewish Antiquities _which
was used as reference by the author of _Luke_ and _Acts_. The story
of Jesus's trial is also highly suspicious. It clearly tries to
placate the Romans while defaming the Jews. The historical Pontius
Pilate was arrogant and despotic. He hated the Jews and never delegated
any authority to them. However, in Christian mythology, he is portrayed
as a concerned ruler who distanced himself from the accusations
against Jesus and who was coerced into obeying the demands of the
Jews. According to Christian mythology, every Passover, the Jews
would ask Pilate to free any one criminal they chose. This is of
course a blatant lie. Jews never had a custom of freeing guilty
criminals at Passover or any other time of the year. According the
myth, Pilate gave the Jews the choice of freeing Jesus the Christ
or a murderer named Jesus Barabbas. The Jews are alleged to have
enthusiastically chosen Jesus Barabbas.
story is a vicious antisemitic lie, one of many such lies found
in the New Testament (largely written by antisemites).
is particularly disgusting about this rubbish story is that it is
apparently a distortion of an earlier story which claimed that the
Jews demanded that Jesus Christ be set free. The name "Barabbas"
is simply the Greek form of the Aramaic "bar Abba" which means "son
of the Father." Thus "Jesus Barabbas" originally meant "Jesus the
son of the Father," in other words, the usual Christian Jesus. When
the earlier story claimed that the Jews wanted Jesus Barabbas to
be set free it was referring to the usual Jesus. Somebody distorted
the story by claiming that Jesus Barabbas was a different person
to Jesus Christ and this fooled the Roman and Greek Christians who
did not know the meaning of the name "Barabbas." Lastly, the claim
that the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples is also based
on pagan superstition. In Roman mythology, the virgin born Romulus
appeared to his friend on the road before he was taken up to heaven.
(The theme of being taken up to heaven is found in scores of pagan
myths and legends and even in Jewish stories.) It was claimed that
Apollonius of Tyana had also appeared to his disciples after having
been resurrected. It is interesting to note that the historical
Apollonius was born more or less at the same time as the mythical
Jesus was supposed to have been born. In legends people claimed
that he had performed many miracles which were identical to those
also ascribed to Jesus, such as exorcisms of demons and the raising
to life of a dead girl. When confronted with Christian missionaries
one should point out as much information as possible about the origins
of Christianity and the Jesus myth. You will almost never succeed
in convincing them that Christianity is a false religion. You will
not be able to prove beyond all doubt that the story of Jesus arose
in the way we have claimed it has, since most of the evidence is
circumstancial. Indeed we cannot be certain about the precise origin
of many particular points in the story of Jesus. This does not matter.
What is important is that you yourself realize that logical alternatives
exist to blind belief in Christian myths and that reasonable doubt
can be cast on the New Testament narrative.
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