Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Story of Jesus



Translated from the original Hebrew by David Ben-Abraham

It once happened with a certain man whose name was Yohanan, who had a wife whose name was Miriam, and who had also a certain [Hebrew] maidservant,[2] that one whose name was Yoseph, the son of Pundera, [taking notice of the man's maidservant], came upon her whilst she was impure [by reason of her natural purgation]. He came upon her [when she had been lying alone in the dark] and she became startled, and could not answer him[3] a word until the morning, when she then said to her husband: "Yohanan, my Master. Why hast thou done this night that which is not lawful? For thou hast come upon me twice.[4] Moreover, I did warn you that I was unclean, yet, hast thou not heeded [my warning]."

[At this saying], he was very much distraught and went and told the matter to Shimon, the son of Shetah.[5] He said to him: "I will tell thee what happened to me this night. For my wife came and said unto me that such and such a thing had befallen her, but it was not me who came upon her." He then answered: "Who is it that thou dost suspect?" He said: "A certain one of my neighbours whose name is Yoseph, the son of Pundera." He asked him: "Hast thou any witnesses?" He answered: "I have no witnesses." He then replied: "Go and conceal the witnesses [from the culprit], for if he went in once, he will go in again. If you will do this thing, thou shalt make him liable thereby to the death penalty."

Yohanan sat [there idly and did not do a thing], until he overheard the town taken up entirely with the gossip over this matter, [even] those who were saying she committed an act of whoredom. Now [because of the public's slander], he went off into Babylonia, and did not return. Meanwhile, his wife gave birth to a son whose name is Jesus[6], may the name of the wicked rot. Now he excelled in wickedness until he had been heard saying: "Since Jethro [the mere proselyte] was Moses' Master, the greatness of Moses is thereby diminished." [At this], the Sages replied: "This is none other but a bastard, and the son of a menstruate woman." They went [also] unto his mother. They asked her: "What is the nature of this youth?" She replied unto them: "I was conceived with child by Yohanan, my betrothed, but he is [now] gone into Babylonia, and I knoweth not what he does." Shimon, the son of Shetah, [then interrupted and] said to them how Yohanan had told him such and such an affair had befallen her. The Sages asked him: "What shall we do to the woman?" Shimon answered them: "She is not liable to anything [on that account], for she has not become impoverished by her own volition."[7] When she heard that they did not make her liable to the death penalty, she then told them the [true] account of the matter, and said: "It was, afterwards, made known unto me the affair, [viz.], that it was Yoseph, the son of Pundera, [by whom I was conceived with child]."

When the son [whom she had borne] heard his mother confess, and [heard] that the Sages made [only] him liable to the death penalty,[8] he withdrew himself to the Temple precincts. Now the express letters of G-d's [ineffable] name were written upon the Foundation Stone [within the holy of holies], and anyone who learned them could do by them whatsoever he wished. Moreover, the nation of Israel used to fear lest perhaps the wicked of Israel should learn them, and thereby destroy the world. So it was that they made two brazen dogs, and had them tied at the entrance to the Temple Sanctuary, and anyone who learned the express letters [of the divine name] and then went out [of the Sanctuary], when he saw the dogs, would anon forget from his heart [that which he had learned].

Now the land of Israel was given over unto the hand of a queen in those days, whose name was Helena.[9] Jesus entered [the Temple Sanctuary] and learnt the letters, and made a stipulation over them that he shall not [feel] hurt at the rending of his flesh, and so wrote them down upon parchment. Then did he rend his thigh, and prepared the parchment [for insertion], and replaced the [torn] skin. When he departed, he forgot them. [Yet], when he reached the house, he ripped open his thigh and took out [thence] the parchment and learnt [once again] the letters. He [then] gathered together some young men of Israel, [to wit], three-hundred and ten,[10] and said [unto them]: "Ye call me a bastard, but I am the Messiah, and it was concerning me that Isaiah did prophesy and say, 'Behold! A young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Immanuel.' Moreover, it was said about me, 'Thou art my son. This day have I begotten thee.' [That is], without [my] father and mother lying together [carnally]. Yet, do ye seek your own self-aggrandizement."

They answered him: "If thou art Messiah, shew us a sign!" He [then] replied: "What sign is it that ye seek from me?" They brought unto him a lame man who had never yet stood upon his feet whom, [when Jesus had seen], spoke over him the express letters and [forthwith] did he begin to walk. [At their seeing this], they bowed down before him. When the Sages heard [this report], they brought him unto Helena the queen. They said unto her: "Your Majesty, [the Queen], this one here is a sorcerer." He [then] said to her: "I am the Messiah, and it was said about me, 'Who shall rise up with me against the wicked.' " The queen [then] asked: "Is there ought in the Law of which he saith?" They answered: "There is. But the Messiah whom we do expect hath with him other signs, [namely], 'In his days, Judah shall be delivered.' Moreover, concerning him it hath been said: 'He shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth, and by the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.' (Isa. 11:4) However, concerning this [man here], it was said, 'And that [false] prophet shall die.' [And again], 'And thou shalt put away the evil from amongst you.' " (Deut. 18:20; 19:19) He [then reiterated what he had] said: "I am he, the Messiah, and I resurrect the dead." She, [at hearing this], sent with him [certain] of her emissaries, and he did resurrect those who had been dead by the express letters [of G-d's divine name], and [the people of] Israel were with him in sorrow.

After many days, he conveyed himself away. The Sages came unto the queen [and] said: "Your Majesty, [the Queen], seest thou how he hath fled by the sorceries that be with him, for they have not suffered him to remain standing [in one place]. His reproach has become evident!" She [then] sent horsemen unto him, as far as Babylonia [where he had gone], but the citizens of Babylonia would not suffer him to go with them.[11] They waged war one with the other. Jesus [then] said to the men of Babylonia: "Do not fight with them. My father who is in heaven, and the [divine] letters which are in my hand, they shall deliver me." He said [unto them]: "Bring me a millstone," [which doing], he rode upon it and called out the express letters, whereby he floated [while sitting] thereon upon the surface of the water. Likewise, they made birds out of clay[12] and brought [these] before him, and they began to fly. He said [unto them]: "Go ye forth and say to your lady, [the Queen], what ye have seen." They [then] went and told the queen, saying unto her: "They brought unto him a great millstone and he mounted it, and began floating [while sitting upon it] over the surface of the water, like as [one floateth] an eggshell."

She then summoned the Sages [together] and said [unto them]: "This Jesus, whom ye did dismiss as a sorcerer, is none other but the son of G-d! For how many [wonderful] signs hath he wrought!" They replied unto her: "Your Majesty, [the Queen], let not a word of his sorcery enter into your heart, whereas we [too] are able to perform as he hath done." She [then] sent unto him several of those who believed in him. They entreated him, [saying]: "Come [back] unto the queen, for she is startled by the signs that thou hast wrought." He, [at their entreaty], gathered together his following and came [back into the land of Israel]. Yet, [meanwhile], those in Israel had taken a certain man by the name of Antichei,[13] and brought him into the Temple precincts, and he wrote them (i.e. the express letters) upon [a piece of] parchment, and he began to do just as Jesus had done. Then were they all come together unto the queen, and they made their accusations against him, having come [there] to make themselves victorious over him. He [then] began to say: "Behold! It is written, 'He shall take me,' (Ezek. 3: 12-14) [that is to say], like as a bird [is taken up in the air]." [Antichei answered]: "But it is written [elsewhere], 'And the children of those who go unrestrained of thy people,' [etc.]" (Dan. 11: 14)

He (i.e. Jesus) then spread out his hands as the wings of a vulture and began flying in the air. Those of Israel said to Antichei: "Do thou as he hath done, for thou hast learned as he hath [learned]." Forthwith did he fly away after him, until at length he attained unto him, and he would call out the express letters of G-d's name for an imprecation against him so as to cast him down [from the sky], while the other would [also] call out the express letters so as not to be cast down [from the sky]. When he saw that he did not fall down, for he had learned just as he had [learned], he (i.e. Antichei) [then] stood up and made an abominable act upon him. When they had thus been defiled, they [both] fell down to the earth. Those of Israel [then] caught hold of him and brought him to the queen. They said unto her: "Your Majesty, [the Queen], ask him where are [now] the signs that were with him!" When he understood that the express letters [of G-d's name] had vanished from his heart and that he had fallen [captive] in their hands, he said: "It is written, 'Their faces are become harder than flint stone.' (Jer. 5:3) And [again] it is written, 'Happy is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the wicked,' (Ps. 1) at which [saying] he escaped from them, and stood up, he and the following whom he had coerced through words, and began to make war, [a man's] brother against his brother, and father against his son, until at length [his following] delivered him, and fled away with him, remaining [in a certain place] until the Passover. Then he took an ass and mounted it, and gathered together his following, and went up to Jerusalem. He then said to his following: "Consider ye how the Scripture hath been fulfilled, 'He is poor, and riding upon an ass' colt.' (Zech. 9:9)

They came to offer the Passover [offering], when one of his own party came and said to those of Israel: "Are ye willing to have Jesus?" They asked [him]: "Where is he?" He answered: "In Jerusalem." They said [to him]: "Show him unto us." He answered: "He hath already adjured us by [the authority of] the Ten Commandments not to reveal himself [unto others], and hath clothed me (sic: should be "us") in common attire. Nevertheless, come and salute us, and I will [then] come in and bow down before him, and thereby ye shall know that he is that wicked one." When they had come, he [presently] bowed down [unto Jesus]. Those of Israel, [at this betrayal], stood and caught him, and they said [unto him]: "Thou art the Messiah. Deliver thyself from our hands!" When he had fallen into their hands, he said: "It is written, 'A priest and a prophet have they killed.' (Lam. 2:20) And it is written, 'For thy sake are we killed all the day long.' " (Ps. 44:23) His companions began to weep [when they realized] that they could not deliver him from [the people of] Israel, and so they killed him and they proceeded to hang him. Now this same wicked person had made a stipulation over the trees, whilst he had still the express letters [of G-d's divine name] with him, that they should not receive him, for he knew that they would not suffer him to be left alone. So it was that on every tree that they came to hang him, [that tree] would break whilst he was put thereto, until at length they brought the tree of the carob, and thereon they hung him, and it did not break. For he had made no stipulation over the carob [tree]. Thus his following began to weep and exclaim: "Out of the greatness of his righteousness, the trees would not receive him."

At eventide, they came to take him down, on account of [that Scripture which saith]: "Thou shalt not suffer his corpse to remain on the tree." So did they bury him, and his following began to weep [again] at his tomb while saying: "Ye have become liable to the death penalty, because ye have slain the Messiah!" Yet, those of Israel [retorted by] saying: "Ye, [yourselves], have become liable to the death penalty, because ye have believed in a false prophet!" His following [then] said [to themselves]: "Come and let us take him out of his tomb." They opened the tomb, but did not find him [there], and so did they go unto Helena the queen. They said unto her: "Consider, your Majesty, [the Queen], how many signs he hath wrought, and [how that] now he hath gone up into heaven." [At this declaration], she did send unto the Sages, and enquired of them: "Where is it that ye have buried Jesus?" They answered: "Near unto the waters of Siloam," She [then] returned answer [unto them]: "If ye do not bring him unto me, I shant leave off from harassing a single one of you." They sought [him], but could not find him. They [then] said unto her: "Give us time." She gave them time, and [meanwhile, the people of] Israel had [all] taken upon themselves a fast [of affliction] until the appointed time had expired, yet [still] they did not find him, by reason of which they began to flee from before the queen. Rabbi Tanhum did [also] flee unto the field, [and there] found a certain gardener eating. He said unto him: "Thou wicked man! [All of] Israel has undertaken fasting and are in sorrow, but thou [sittest here] eating!" He [then] replied: "My lord, on what occasion hast this sorrow [come over the nation]?" Rabbi Tanhum [then] told him the account [of the matter]. He [furthermore] said: "If they shall perchance find him, Israel shall find [some] relief." The same man (i.e. the gardener) answered: "I have stolen him and buried him in my own garden, so as not to give an opportunity for the wicked to steal him away." Rabbi Tanhum, [at hearing this], returned unto the city and exclaimed: "This day is [a day] of good tidings!" So those of Israel went and took him out of his tomb, and did tie a rope around his leg, and began to drag him along [the city lanes of] Jerusalem, until they brought him unto the queen. Forthwith did she praise the Sages and became wroth with the following of Jesus, banishing [certain] of them – three to a mountainous place, three to Greece, and thirteen [of their number] to Rome, while the rest were scattered among the nations. Then did the Most Holy, blessed be He, demand his judgment in every place. But, even so, those in Israel who stood up to make this breach [in faith], got themselves up and opposed [openly] the Sages, and said: "He is the Deliverer." Thus was there a schism in Israel.
Now after Jesus had been slain some thirty years, the Sages [then] said: "Come and let us remove them from the commonwealth of Israel. For on account of our many transgressions, they have stood up and opposed us, thereby fulfilling what hath been said, 'They have made me jealous over that which is not a G-d, [even] made me angry over their vanities. Yet shall I make them envious over those who are not a people, [yea] over a foolish nation shall I anger them.'" (Deut. 32: 21)

They stood up and called unto one from the Rabbinic Court in Tiberius, whose name was Elijah.[14] They said unto him: "Come and separate from amongst us these wicked persons, and thou shalt find great reprieve from the G-d of Israel. Meanwhile, we shall [also] pray for thee that it shall not be imputed unto thee [any] sin from the Lo-rd." So what did this wise man do? He stood up and made a declaration throughout all the border of Israel, saying: "I am an apostle of Jesus. All those who believeth in him, let him come unto me, and I shall inform him about what must be done."

[At this invitation], the entire wicked following [of Jesus] were gathered together. They answered [the man]: "Art thou an apostle of Jesus? Show us a sign." [He replied]: "What sign is it that ye demand of me? I shall [simply] do what Jesus hath done." They brought unto him a lame man, and he called out over him the express letters and did [forthwith] stand up. They [then] answered [the man]: "In truth, thou art his apostle." He said [unto them]: "Jesus doth have somewhat to give unto you." He said: "Know ye [of a certain] what is written in the Law. 'Thy new moons and feasts hath my soul hated.' (Isa. 1:14) [Seeing that] the Most Holy, blessed be He, already hateth those days, rather, come [now] and let us cease from all our labour on the first day of the week, for it was on this day that the Most Holy, blessed be He, enlightened His world. And let us make unto ourselves [new] festival days, [such as] the day in which Jesus was born, and the day in which he was appointed [by G-d's holy spirit], and the day in which he died, as well as that day in which he rose up into heaven. And know ye that our Father [in heaven] catcheth hold of iniquity, and doth know that Israel at some future time will be brought to give an account before the Most Holy, blessed be He, [over what they have done]. Moreover, [indeed], he could have [easily] delivered himself from them, but rather said, 'It was better for me to be killed than to behave in a presumptuous manner. And, as for you, if ye shall meet with an Israelite and he smite thee on thy left cheek, turn unto him the right cheek [also]; And if he shall sorely abuse you with blasphemous [words], do not answer him a word.' "

[At this great deliberation], he forthwith did separate them from amongst themselves, and they are those who are called [to this very day] Christians.[15] Then did Israel find some reprieve [in those days]. Now that man who did perform this act, may G-d forgive him over what he had done. END

NOTES to the Story of Jesus

[1] This story is found written in non-censored copies of the Yemenite "Midrash Hagadol," a 15th Century C.E. compendium of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic midrashic literature. In most printed editions of the "Midrash Hagadol," the story as told herein has been excised, so as not to offer an affront to those persons who see Jesus in a different light. The story has been published in its original Hebrew, in a book entitled, "Tzohar Lehasifath Ginzei Teman," by Yehudah Levy Nahum, pp. 221-223. The same story is also found in an ancient Yemenite Prayer Book (siddur), a microfilm of which is found at the Hebrew University National Library, Microfilm Dept., catalogued under # 26787.
[2] Who was also called Miriam (Mary). Hebrew maidservants are automatically given in marriage to their Masters when she reaches puberty, the money paid to her father accruing to her actual betrothals. (see: Exodus 21: 7 – 11). Miriam, though originally a Hebrew maidservant, was at that time the legally betrothed wife of Yohanan. In the "Midrash Hagadol" (Deut. 13:7), the mother of Jesus is named "Miriam Magdala Nishaia" (Mary Magdalene) which name, according to RASHI in Hagigah 4b, means, "Miriam, the Braider of women's hair."
[3] i.e. Yohanan, her betrothed husband. (Yohanan is the Hebrew equivalent for the name John.)
[4] Which thing is not permitted to do under Jewish law during that first night of co-habitation, since we suspect that the man who has had intercourse with his virgin, causes her not only to see the blood of her virginity, but also the blood of her menstrual cycle. For this reason, he is only permitted by a ranninic ordinance to come upon her once during the night of her nuptials, when she must then separate herself from her husband and begin to check herself for signs of purity. On all other occasions, he may come upon her as often as he may desire.
[5] It should be noted here that this Shimon would have been a very old man at the time when Jesus' mother conceived of him. For he served as President and Judge of the court at Jerusalem under the Hasmonaean king, Alexander Janneus, in the year 67 B.C.E., as also in subsequent years. He is a well-known personage in Jewish sources.
[6] This spelling follows the typical English rendition for this name, although, in Hebrew, the name given is "Yashua'," the Judeo-Palestinian derivative of "Yehoshua'."
[7] Implied by this statement that a Jewish father may only sell his under-aged daughter as a Hebrew maidservant when he and his family have become so impoverished that they cannot find sustenance enough to live. Miriam (Mary) would never have been raped had she not been sold.
[8] By heaven, but not by the court.
[9] This Queen Helena was the wife of King Monabazus (Heb. מונבז), who ruled over Adiabene (Kurdistan in northern Iraq) during the 1st Century C.E., and who became a Jewish proselyte, along with her son, Izates. The story is related how that when once her son stood in danger on account of the wars which he conducted, she made a vow unto G-d that if her son should be delivered safe out of those wars, she would become a Nazirite for seven years – during which time it would be forbidden for her to derive any use from the vine, or to become defiled by a corpse, or to shave her head. Her son was indeed delivered, and she came up to Jerusalem in order to perform her vows. (see: Antiquities)
[10] This number, 310, was significant, as it is an allusion to that Psalm which says: "To cause those that love me to inherit substance." The word "substance" (Heb. יש) has the numerical value of 310. Likewise, we find that the chosen people of G-d are to inherit in the future three-hundred and ten worlds.
[11] Most Jewish citizens who lived in Babylonia at that time resided in the towns of Nahardea and Nisibis, the latter town in the far north of present-day Iraq, near the Turkish and Syrian borders.
[12] This episode about the clay birds being made to fly is also related in the Mohammedan's Qur'an.
[13] This same Antichei is related elsewhere (in the Yemenite Prayer Book containing the same account of Jesus) as being the disciple of Jesus known as Judas Iscariot (Heb. Yehudah Espariota)
[14] In that account of this story related in an old, Yemenite Prayer Book, this man was none other than Saul of Tarsus, whom the Christians know as "Paul the Apostle."
[15] The Hebrew word used is "Notzrim."