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

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 8: Buddhism in Alexandria

The cosmopolitan metropolis Unless he was living under a rock, Yeshu would certainly have encountered Buddhism in Alexandria. We know that the Indian emperor Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries to the cosmopolitan city about 250 BCE (Rock Edict 13), this in response to a request from the curious and extravagant Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus. No doubt the Indian missionaries had copies of Buddhist sutras for the Alexandria library, which Philadelphus founded. Legend has it that Philadephus allowed no ship to dock at the harbor of Alexandria unless its cargo included new acquisitions for the library. The Alexandria library, however, was only part of the even more consequential Museion which, analogous to a modern university, brought together some of the best scholars … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 7: Not of the world

Talmudic records relate, as we have seen, that the nasi Joshua ben Perachiah excommunicated Yeshu ha-Notsri (literally, “Jesus the Nazarene”) on their way back from exile in Alexandria, Egypt, probably in 76 BCE, the year that the anti-Pharisee King Janneus died and his pro-Pharisee wife Salome Alexandra ascended to the throne. If we combine Ibn Daud’s chronology with what we learn from Talmudic passages, it appears that Yeshu was twenty-four years old at the time. Yeshu would not have been able to return to Israel with impunity. After all, excommunication is not merely a ban from pharisaism—it is the final, complete, and irrevocable expulsion from Judaism. For a young man raised in the entourage of the Sanhedrin (his association with … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 6: The flight to Alexandria

      Our rabbis teach, ‘Ever let the left hand repel and the right hand invite, not like Elisha who repulsed Gehazi with both hands, and not like R. Yehoshua ben Perachiah who repulsed Yeshu ha-Notsri with both hands…      What of R. Jehoshua ben Perachiah? When Jannai the king killed our rabbis, R. Jehoshua ben Perachiah and Yeshu fled to Alexandria of Egypt. When there was peace, Shimon ben Shetach sent to him [i.e. Perachiah], “From me the city of holiness, to thee Alexandria of Egypt. My husband stays in thy midst and I sit forsaken.”      Rabbi Perachiah came, and found himself at a certain inn; they showed him great honor. He said, “How beautiful is this Acsania!” [“Acsania” denotes both … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 5: The young prophet

NOTE:     In the preceding post we began to construct a biography of the early first century BCE prophet Yeshu ha-Notsri from Jewish rabbinical records. Though Jewish/Talmudic references to Yeshu are few, when viewed together they permit one to construct the outline of a radical, courageous, and successful prophet in Judea who was so hated and feared by the Jewish religious authorities that they arrested him, tried him for apostasy, and executed him.      Parallels with the later Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament are obvious. Not only did Yeshu’s biography certainly influence the canonical storyline, it may also surprise readers that the names are identical: Yeshu ha-Notsri translates directly to “Jesus the Nazarene,” as I explain here.      This post continues to … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 4: The ancient Jewish evidence

Note: It is no coincidence that the Mishna and Talmud preserve most of the information we have about Yeshu ha-Notsri (correctly translated “Jesus the Nazarene”!), for the prophet’s entire life was intimately enmeshed with the Jewish religious establishment of the early first century BCE. He grew up a highly-educated Pharisee groomed for the Sanhedrin, but astonishingly repudiated his Jewish heritage as a young man in Egyptian exile in favor of a foreign (I would say ‘Buddhist’) form of gnosticism. Yeshu then returned to Israel and preached with alarming success, was excommunicated by the Sanhedrin, arrested, tried, and executed for apostasy according to rigorous stipulations of Jewish religious law. All of these elements are attested in Talmudic records.      As we have … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity, Pt. 3: The strange witness of Epiphanius

     For at Christ’s arrival the rulers in succession from Judah came to an end. Until his time the rulers were anointed priests, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and changed with Alexander, a ruler of priestly and kingly stock. After Alexander this heritage from the time of Salina—also known as Alexandra—died out under King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus.      (Epiphanius, Panarion 29.3.3, Williams edition.) Scholars have ever found this passage inexplicable. Epiphanius wrote his Panarion about 375 CE, and it is entirely bizarre that the bishop of Salamis in Cyprus would date Jesus to the time of Alexander Janneus. Epiphanius writes that after Jesus’ “birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and changed … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as the founder of Christianity, Pt. 2: The witness of ibn Daud

     The historical works of the Jews state that this Joshua b. Perachiah was the teacher of Jesus the Nazarene [ישׂו הנצרי]. If this is so, it follows that he lived in the time of King Janneus. However, the historical works of the gentiles state that he was born in the days of Herod and crucified in the days of his son Archelaus. Now this is a significant difference of opinion, for there is a discrepancy between them of more than 110 years… [The gentile historians] argue this point so vehemently in order to prove that the Temple and kingdom of Israel endured for but a short while after his crucifixion. However, we have it as an authentic tradition from the Mishna … Continue reading