A New Account, Pt. 9—The ministry of Yeshu

For our purposes, the witness of the Dead Sea Scrolls must be considered much more valuable than either the Talmud or Samaritan writings, for the DSS were written within a generation or two of the events that they describe. The sectarian DSS writings (especially the Pesharim) describe contemporary events of interest to the Yachad, including political developments, the founding of their community (Damascus Document), difficult relations with the Jerusalem priesthood (MMT, etc), and the activity of the renegade preacher Yeshu/Jonathan in Samaria. These all occurred in the first half of the first century BCE: Finally, a few texts from Cave 4 actually refer to historical individuals by name. These references, though isolated, are of enormous importance, as will be seen … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 8—The DSS, Yeshu, and Samaria

In the previous post I identified Yeshu ha-Notrsi—whom I consider to have been the founder of Christianity—as a significant figure written about in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “the Man of the Lie.” Once this identification is made, it becomes possible to investigate the ministry and death of Yeshu via the DSS. I have already noted that Yeshu, on his return from Egyptian exile shortly after the death of Aexander Janneus in 76 BCE, probably went to Samaria. This suspicion was initially based on evidence from Samaritan sources. They, however, are very late (dating to the Middle Ages). Welcome confirmation of a period of Yeshu’s activity in Samaria is now also to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. (a) “Therefore … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 5—The founder: Who was he?

The name As mentioned in a prior post (last paragraph), the early first century BCE prophet known to the Talmud as “Yeshu ha-Notsri” doubtless had some other name in actuality. We know this because Yeshu means “Salvation” and ha-Notsri means “the preserver” (also “watcher, keeper of secret wisdom” etc). Nobody is born with the name “Salvation the Preserver.” The later religious writings of various traditions vaguely remember the prophet under a number of pseudonyms. This shows that already in late antiquity the founder had attained mythical status, for his personal attributes (including his name) were soon discarded. The Talmud records at least three names: Yeshu ha-Notsri, Balaam, and ben Stada. Samaritan texts record Dositheus and Dusis. Mandean texts record John. … Continue reading

A New Account of Christian Origins—Pt. 1: General considerations

The preceding series of posts, “Yeshu ha-Notsri as the founder of Christianity,” is now complete. Those fifteen posts serve as an introduction to a new account of Christian origins presented on this website. The series began with an examination of the figure Yeshu ha-Notsri in the Talmud, an obscure figure that Christians have long considered anomalous and quite curious. We investigated what exactly the Talmud has to say about Yeshu, brought those clues together, and constructed a preliminary biography of the prophet. Yeshu lived in the early first century BCE. He was a Pharisee, a protegé of the leading Pharisee in Judaism, Joshua ben Perachiah. Joshua and Yeshu (together no doubt with other aristocratic Jews, their families, and servants) fled … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt. 14: Dositheus

In prior posts I have hinted that, after his excommunication in Egypt at age twenty-four, Yeshu ha-Notsri (not his actual name) returned to Palestine. The chronology for Yeshu that I have been using was pieced together from various places, including the Talmud (which explicitly dates Yeshu to the time of Joshua ben Perachiah, i.e., early I BCE) and the medieval Jewish writer Abraham ibn Daud (who gives a lifespan for Yeshu of about 34 years and his date of death in the 60s BCE). Additional information came from Epiphanius who—in an apparent slip of the pen—also dated the founder of Christianity to the time of King Janneus and Queen Salome Alexandra. The next step in our search for the prophet’s … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt.13: The falsified biography

The Toldoth Yeshu Before proceeding with Yeshu’s activities in Samaria after his return to Israel, I would like to expand a little on a remark made in the preceding post. There I noted that Yeshu was not merely a religious rebel due to his unconventional (Buddhist-gnostic) views, but also that he was a political threat. This suspicion derives from several clues, most importantly being that the young Yeshu was important enough to accompany Perachiah, the head of the Sanhedrin, into Egyptian exile. This alone suggests that Yeshu was probably associated somehow with an influential Jewish family. Many other clues, however, support the suspicion that Yeshu was indeed connected to Jewish aristocracy—if not to royalty itself. In his book Did Jesus … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 12: To Samaria

Yeshu’s teachings In preceding posts we looked at three central themes of Yeshu/Jesus’ teaching, as witnessed in the gospels and other Christian writings: not of this world, self-denial, and his adversarial relationship with ‘scribes and Pharisees’ (posts 8-10 in this series). These themes must also relate to the reasons Yeshu was excommunicated. ‘Not of this world’ signifies that Yeshu did not bestow honor upon the creator, Yahweh. ‘Self-denial’ signifies that Yeshu embraced the very un-Jewish doctrine of encratism (from Gk. egkrateia, ‘in continence’)—the sacrifice of pleasure in order to attain understanding. Finally, Yeshu was against ‘scribes and Pharisees’—very understandable given that they excommunicated him, and that Yeshu believed he knew a better way. Rabbinic literature preserves additional clues regarding the … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 11: Excommunication and aftermath

In 76 BCE Yeshu ha-Notsri was about twenty-four years old. Still officially a Pharisee in exile, he had been living in Alexandria, Egypt since boyhood. However, in that year the political situation in Israel altered and the balance of power radically shifted. The rabidly anti-pharisaic King Janneus died, and his wife Salome Alexandra ascended to the throne of Israel. She was as pro-Pharisee as her husband had been anti-Pharisee, doubtless because her own brother, Simeon ben Shetach, was a leading Pharisee and would himself become head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin after Perachiah. In all, later rabbinical writings romanticized the short reign of Alexandra (76–67 BCE) as the glory days of the Pharisees. With Salome’s ascendancy to the throne, suddenly the … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 10: Scribes and Pharisees

If we boldly proceed where the facts inexorably and surprisingly lead, then an amazing account of the founder of Christianity emerges, an account very different from that portrayed in the canonical gospels. As a young man, the historical Jesus/Yeshu was himself an elite Pharisee in the entourage of the highly-placed Joshua ben Perachiah, head of the Sanhedrin in the early decades of the first century BCE. As a mere boy of six, Yeshu fled to Alexandria with Perachiah and his entourage, probably including most members of the powerful Sanhedrin, along with their families and servants. Yeshu apparently stayed at least eighteen years in Alexandria. He would have lived in the large Jewish enclave of the Egyptian metropolis. But perhaps he … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 9: The hidden path

The scenario we are witnessing, via these posts, is a hidden path. It can only be found by piecing together disparate clues scattered in both rabbinic and Christian records. Despite thousands of scholars in the field of early Christian studies who are teaching in universities, who are researching, and who are regularly publishing, not a single one has dealt with the (sometimes obvious) clues that imperatively need to come before general attention. Indeed, few scholars have even seen the clues, and none has connected the dots—much less combined them in a coherent way. Doubtless, the principal reason is that—in order to take Yeshu ha-Notsri seriously as the founder of Christianity—one must first doubt the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth (on … Continue reading