The Anti-Gospel of Yeshu the Magician

"But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree." -Acts 5:29-30, ESV

Chapter 1: Yeshu's Controversial Parentage

Sepher Toledot Yeshu means “Book of Generations of Jesus,” but rather than it being one single story, it is a midrashic literary tradition, made up of two variant medieval manuscripts collected together some time between 300 and 700 A.D. Some of it even made it’s way into the Babylonian Talmud, rabbinic laws written around 600 A.D. It was first attested to in 826 by an archbishop named Agobard of Lyon, but the stories themselves contain oral traditions that go back to the 100’s. The material that is known to have existed in ancient times comes from Christian sources who reference them like Tertullian and Origen from the early 200s, as well as St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome from the late 300s. The Toledot Yeshu, or Toledot Jeschu, was first translated into English by Richard Carlile in 1823 and consists of the only known traditions about Jesus to have ever been written in the language of his own people.

The books have brought no small amount of discontent to the Christian world. In 1514, Pope Valentine issued a papal bull denouncing and prohibiting it and in 1554 the Vatican issued a papal bull censoring the Babylonian Talmud and other Jewish texts to expunge it from existence. It is mentioned in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, but it only says that the Toledot “repeats the Jewish fiction that the body of Jesus had been stolen from the sepulchre,” and that “Hochstraten and the Universities of Mainz and Cologne decided (Oct 1510) against the Jewish books. Reuchlin declared that only those books obviously offensive (as the “Nizachon” and “Toledot Jeschu”) would be destroyed.” Johannes Reuchlin, was, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a “Celebrated German humanist” who had an “unfortunate quarrel with Johann Pfefferkornï,” a Jewish convert who wanted even more books confiscated, “and the Cologne Dominicans concerning the destruction of the Talmudic books...”

Roman Catholics were by no means the only ones who wanted to make the Sepher Toledot Yeshu disappear. A copy of it also fell into the hands of Martin Luther and other anti-Semitic theologians, who used it to help slander the Jews and build credibility for their arguments of violent repression against them:

"The haughty evil spirit jests in the book with a threefold mockery. First, he mocks God, creator of heaven and earth, with his son, Jesus Christ, as you may see for yourself if you believe, as a Christian, that Christ is the son of God. Secondly, he mocks all Christendom, because we believe in such a son of God. Thirdly, he mocks his own Jews by giving them such a scandalous, foolish, doltish thing about brazen dogs and cabbage-stalks, etc., which would make all dogs bark to death, if they could understand it, at such raving, ranting, senseless, foaming mad fools. Is not this a master of mocking, who can effect three such great mockeries? The fourth mockery is that herewith he has mocked himself, as we shall one day to our joy see, thank God!" -Martin Luther, Righteousness (”Werke”), Wittemberg, 1566, vol. 5, p. 515.

Tertullian, writing 1300 years earlier but also familiar with some of the elements of the story, writes his own scathing rebuke of the Jews in the form of a sadistic fantasy, imagining himself looking upon the Jews on Judgment Day while being allowed to mock them in the afterlife, saying:

This is your carpenter’s son, your harlot’s son; your Sabbath-breaker, your Samaritan, your demon-possessed! This is He who you bought from Judas; this He who was struck with your reed and fists, dishonored with spittle, and given a drink of gall and vinegar! This is He who His disciples have stolen secretly, that it may be said He has risen, or the gardener abstracted that his lettuces might not be damaged by the crowds of visitors!

A similar response is given by both Christians, but Tertullian lived during a time when Christianity was a minority, and he confined his Anti-Jewish rhetoric to sadistic fantasy. Martin Luther lived during a time when Christianity was the decisive majority, and his vile treatises helped inspire multiple generations of pogroms and minor holocausts that would culminate into the Nazi Holocaust.

Perhaps as a consequence of this kind of ongoing persecution, some Jews today consider all of the Sepher Toledot variants to be Christian forgeries, like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, propaganda purposely written in the role of the villain in order to incite hatred against the Jews. The Protocols, produced some time in the 1920s, must be one of the most obviously fraudulent literary forgeries of all time, purporting to be a treatise by Jewish Elders in an evil Zionist conspiracy to take over the world through media and finance, yet Adolph Hitler and many modern anti-Semitic Muslims have been able to convince themselves that the Protocols are genuine.

As for the Sepher Toledot Yeshu, a note hidden within two copies, written in Slavic Hebrew and later translated into German, and then translated into English by Frank Zindler, tells of long tradition of secrecy that gives the tone of the work as being more of an indictment than a work of self-incrimination:

This booklet is a tradition [handed down] man to man; one may only copy it [by hand], not however have it printed. The wise at such times will see it, but keep silent, for it is an evil time. He must keep silent, a consequence of the long and bitter exile. One reads it, God forbid, not openly or before young girls and before the frivolous, still less in front of Christians who understand German, [then] will he [the reader] receive his wages and his deed precede him, for it is strongly prohibited to publish it, rather one discloses it only to the initiated, for you cannot know what the day shall bring forth, and behold, even his saints trusts he not... I have coped it from three booklets which do not come from the same country but never the less agree with each other. I simply wrote it in the language of the wise [Hebrew] for he has chosen us from all the nations and has given us the language of the wise...

Judgment in modern times on the historicity of the Toledot amongst Jews has been mixed. Some believe that there is no relationship between Yeshu and the historical Jesus, while others think that he is a literary device used by Rabbis to satirize the relationship between Jews and early Christians. Others do believe that it refers to the historical Jesus. The fact that the name has been found with the epithet Ha-Notzri, or “the Nazarene,” makes it hard to believe it’s a coincidence.

What makes the Toledot different than other apocryphal gospels of Jesus is that the Toledot places Jesus in an entirely different time period:

In the year 671, the fourth millenary [of the world], in the days of Jannaeus, the king, a great misfortune happened to the enemies of Israel.

King Alexander Jannaeus was the successor to his short-lived younger brother, Aristobulus, and the second man after Aristobulus to call himself King of Judea since the Babylonian Exile. He ruled between 103 and 76 B.C., some 100 years before the Gospel Jesus is said to have lived. The year 671 would mean Yeshu was born in the year 93 B.C. Confirming this date is Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis from the late 300s A.D., a heresiologist and strong defender of the new Orthodox faith. In Panarion, or “Medicine Chest,” he wrote:

For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order [of succession] failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race; and after this Alexander this lot failed, from the times of himself and Salina, who is also called Alexandra, for the times of Herod the King and Augustus Emperor of the Romans; and this Alexander, one of the Christs and ruling princes placed the crown in his own head... After this a foreign king, Herod, and those who were no longer of the family of David, assumed the crown.

However, the same church father later places Jesus’ birth in 2 B.C. without even realizing the discrepancy. Jesus living 100 years B.C. was not lost to Jewish history after the first few centuries either, as the 12th century Spanish philosopher, physician, and historian, Abraham ben Daud, is recorded in Dr. Adolph Neubauer’s Medieval Jewish Chronicles from 1887 as saying:

The Jewish history-writers say that Joshua ben Perachiah was the teacher of Yeshu ha-Notzri, according to which the latter lived in the day of King Janni; the history-writers of the other nations, however, say that he was born in the days of Herod and was hanged in the days of his son Archelaus. This is a great difference, a difference of more than 110 years.

This seems to indicate that the history of Yeshu was not a tradition, but the tradition of Judaism all the way up to the 1100s.

Jerome’s description of the Jewish interpretation of Jesus in 374 is very similar to that of Tertullian’s. As G.R.S. Mead points out in his book Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?: “In his Letter to Heliodorus, which was written in 374 A.D., Jerome seems to have had in memory the passage of Tertullian (“De Spect.”) which we have already quoted, for he writes: “He is that son of a workman and of a harlot; He it is who . . . fled into Egypt; He the clothed with a scarlet robe; He the crowned with thorns; He a Magus demon-possessed, and a Samaritan!” Further, in his Letter to Titus (iii. 9), Jerome writes: “I heard formerly concerning the Hebrews . . . at Rome . . . that they bring into question the genealogies of Christ.” [Prof. Samuel] Krauss (p. 4.) thinks that this refers to a distinct altercation, or a set synod, in which the question of the Genealogies, that is, the “Generationes” (Toledot) of Jesus, were brought into question; but in the question of a synod I cannot follow him. (p. 288)

The first chapter of the story continues:

There was a certain idle and worthless debauchee named Joseph Panthera, of the fallen tribe of Judah. He was a man of fine figure and rare beauty, but spent his time in robbery and licentiousness. He lived in Bethlehem of Judea. Nearby there lived a widow, who had a daughter named Miriam, of whom mention is several times made in the Talmud as a dresser of women’s hair.

Epiphanius confirms that Joseph Panthera is the same Joseph from the gospels, saying that Jesus’ grandfather was named Panthera. The Talmudic explanation referenced here says that adulteresses were known as the curlers of women’s hair. Something else extraordinary shows up when we read the Aramic version of “Mary, the dresser of women’s hair”: Miriam m’gadela nashaia. This seems to have been the original root of the name Mary Magdalene, which may explain the oral tradition of her being an adulteress. We’ve already seen reason to believe Yeshua the Nazarene may have been mistranslated as Jesus of Nazareth, and now a similar situation has cropped up in which Miriam m’gadela may have been mistranslated as Mary of Magdala.

This daughter was betrothed by her mother to a very chaste, gentle, and pious youth named Jochanan. Now it happened that Joseph occasionally passed by Miriam’s door and saw her. Then he began to have unholy affection for her. So he went to and fro about the place, and at length the mother said to him, “What makes you so thin?” He replied, “I am madly in love with Miriam.” Then, said the mother, “I would not deny you favor; see if she is willing, and do with her as you please.” Obeying her counsel, Joseph Panthera went frequently by the house, but did not find a suitable time until one Sabbath evening, when he happened to find her sitting before the door. Then he went into the house with her, and both sat down in a dormitory near the door, for she thought he was her betrothed, Jochanan.

After this point, the text switches to Latin, the ancient version of the V-chip. A different version of the Toledot reads:

It was at night on the eve of the Sabbath, when drunken he crossed over to her door and entered in to her. But she thought in her heart that it was her betrothed Jochanan; she hid her face and was ashamed. He embraced her; but she said to him: touch me not, for I am in my separation. He took no heed thereat, nor regarded her words, but persisted. She conceived by him.

The concept of a woman being ignorant of the man she has slept with is hardly realistic, but is found in other literary devices throughout ancient mythology. For example Cupid’s nightly affair with Psyche in a dark castle can impress us with a motif about blind love, but the reasoning behind the exculpation of Mary is inexplicable. References to her in the Talmud speak of Panthera being Mary’s lover, not her rapist. In Origen’s book Contra Celsus, the second century philosopher Celsus is said to have identified Mary as “a poor woman of the country, who gained her substence by spinning, and who turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery.” According to Celsus, Panthera is a soldier. Since the Toledot says nothing about Mary being convicted of adultery nor mentions her living as a spinner, it can be assumed that Celsus is using a different but very similar source.

Mary becomes pregnant despite her menstruation (a miracle?) but when her real betrothed comes on the same night, she tells him about the other visit:

After three months, Jochanan was told that his betrothed was with child. In great agitation, he went to his teacher, Simon ben Shetach, and telling him about the matter, asked him what he ought to do.

According to the Talmud, Simon ben Shetach was a nasi, or “prince” of the Sanhedrian, Jerusalem’s supreme court in 90 B.C., as well as brother to Queen Salome, the wife of Alexander Jannaeus.

The teacher inquired, “Do you suspect anyone?” Jochanan said, “Nobody, except Joseph Panthera, who is a great debauchee, and lives near my house.” The teacher said, “My son, take my advice, and keep silent; for if he had been there he will surely go there again. Therefore, be wise, and get a witness, so that you may bring him before the Sanhedrin.” The young man went home and was sorely troubled during the night. He thought to himself, “When this thing becomes known the people will say it was my doing.” Therefore, to avoid the shame and disgrace, he ran away to Babylon and there took up his abode.

Many scholars argue that the accusation of bastardry is only a Jewish reaction to the Christian tradition of the Virgin Birth and so should not be considered historical. However, the fact that Jesus had a questionable paternity can also be extrapolated from the fact that the Gospel of Mark makes no mention of a father figure. The Gospel of Matthew, in its own subtle way, reminds readers familiar with the Old Testament of other women who, though showing questionable sexual morals, were nevertheless important to Jewish history. Ron Miller describes this in his book The Hidden Gospel of Matthew:

Five women are mentioned in [Matthew’s] genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (she is not mentioned by name but as “the wife of Uriah”) and Miriam, Jeshu’s mother. Now if any women were to be mentioned, one might expect Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachael, the great matriarchs of the Jewish people. Not only are these three exemplary women not mentioned, but it must be admitted that those chosen to be included seem less than apt candidates for Judaism’s social register. Tamar poses as a prostitute and Rahab is one; Ruth and Bathsheba are foreigners. Does this cast some aspirations on Miriam, too? Does it suggest some taint on Jeshu’s birth? Was there something unusual about the birth of Jeshu?

Ruth was a Moabite who was sent by her mother onto the threshing floor to sleep with a rich land owner named Boaz, who by her fathered David’s grandfather, Obed. Ironically, this Moabite impurity should have made it impossible for David to even join the congregation according to the Law, yet David’s sons were made priests. Bathsheba also cheated on her husband Uriah, and married David even after he had her husband killed, yet their union produced Solomon.

A reference to the tradition that Jesus was born out of wedlock to a man named Joseph Panthera can also be found in a refutation by Origen from the early 200s, although even this was later censored by the Vatican in earlier editions:

But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that “when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera;” and let us see whether those who have blindly concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera, and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to overturn his miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost: for they could have falsified the history in a different manner, on account of its extremely miraculous character, and not have admitted, as it were against their will, that Jesus was born of no ordinary human marriage. It was to be expected, indeed, that those who would not believe the miraculous birth of Jesus would invent some falsehood. And their not doing this in a credible manner, but (their) preserving the fact that it was not by Joseph that the Virgin conceived Jesus, rendered the falsehood very palpable to those who can understand and detect such inventions. Is it at all agreeable to reason, that he who dared to do so much for the human race, in order that, as far as in him lay, all the Greeks and Barbarians, who were looking for divine condemnation, might depart from evil, and regulate their entire conduct in a manner pleasing to the Creator of the world, should not have had a miraculous birth, but one the vilest and most disgraceful of all? -Origen, Contra Celsus, Book 1, Ch. 33

Origen admits that scholarly experts found it very hard to dispute the Panthera story even in his own time. He instead brings up that important philosophers like the Pythagoras and Plato were believers in physiognomy, that bodily features have been adapted to the habits of the soul within it. Thus, a person’s appearance can give insights into their personality, and by this logic Origen attempts to defend the accusation of bastardry by asserting that God would never have allowed his Son to have been born in such disgrace. Yet a comparison might be made to Moses, who in Exodus is said to be the son of his father’s aunt (6:20), but in Leviticus is made to deliver a law against such incest (18:12).

And I will ask of them as Greeks, and particularly of Celsus, who either holds or not the sentiments of Plato, and at any rate quotes them, whether He who sends souls down into the bodies of men, degraded Him who was to dare such mighty acts, and to teach so many men, and to reform so many from the mass of wickedness in the world, to a birth more disgraceful than any other, and did not rather introduce Him into the world through a lawful marriage?... Why, from such unhallowed intercourse there must rather have been brought forth some fool to do injury to mankind?

One thing that the Toledot texts and Origen both agreed on is that people are unworthy by virtue of the circumstance surrounding their birth. The stigma of being a bastard has often been translated throughout countless cultures throughout history as a mark of shame. Following Origen’s line of thinking, one might ask why God would have chosen the Messiah to born into a peasant family.

In dye time Miriam brought forth a son and named him Yehoshua, after her mother’s brother. She sent the boy to a teacher named Elchanan, with whom he made progress in learning, for his mind was very bright. And it came to pass by and by that he met the senators of Sanhedrim at Jerusalem. It was then the custom that whoever met those senators should cover his head and bow down. But this boy as he walked past them bared his head, and touching his forehead saluted the principal only. Then all began to say, “What impudence! Probably he is a bastard.” And one of them said, “Indeed he is a bastard, and the son of an adulteress.”

Then they published him as such by the blowing of 300 trumpets, declaring him not fit to come into the congregation, and called his name Yeshu, signifying that his name and memory deserved to perish. When it became known that he was declared unworthy to be admitted into the congregation, Yeshu with a sad heart fled to Upper Galilee, where he dwelt many years...

According to the Book of Deuteronomy, a bastard does not share in the congregation of Yahweh, nor his or her children to the tenth generation (23:2). The name Yeshu has in fact been used in Jewish literature as an acronym yemach shemo vezichro, “May his name and memory be obliterated.” Refusing to utter the name of a heretic was a common Jewish practice. For example, in Acts of the Apostles, a Roman soldier confuses Paul’s Messiah with another nameless Egyptian “who started a revolt and led 4,000 terrorists out into the desert” (21:38). Using it in this instance implies that the name of Jesus originated as a term used in place of his real name so that it would be forgotten and lost to history. To have such a name become the focal point of the most popular monotheistic religion in recorded history would be an irony of epic proportions.

The Greek name for Jesus, Iesous, is usually assumed to be a transliteration of the Hebrew name, Yeshua, which is presumed to be short for the Yehoshua. That name also belongs to the Old Testament successor of Moses, called Joshua in the Bible, and literally means “Yahweh saves,” a very meaningful connection. The Greek language didn’t have an sh letter like in Semitic -- Shemitic -- languages so that is why the h was dropped, and adding a masculine s at the end of all names is typical for the Greek language. But there is no good reason for the dropping of the Hebrew 'ayin letter other than it’s a silent letter and must have been mistakenly dropped, rendering his name Jesus instead of Joshua. Thus the name Yeshua does not contain the “Yeho” or “Yah” that’s common in Hebrew names as tribute to the name of the deity. The name Yeshua is derived from three Hebrew letters, YS' or yod-shin-'yin, which means “to save,” but other Hebrew names, like Hosea (“Salvation”) or Isaiah (“Yahweh has saved”) bear a more complete etymology describing the concept.

After this, Jesus is said to have gone into a cave at the remains of the holiest site in Judaism, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, where he came upon magical guardians:

In those days there was a stone in the temple on which was inscribed the inexpressible Name of God. For when David laid the foundation [of Solomon’s Temple] he found a certain stone at the mouth of an abyss on which the name was engraved, and taking it up he deposited it in the Holy of Holies. But when the wise men feared that perhaps some studious youths might learn this name and bring destruction upon the world (which calamity God forbid), they made by magic two brazen lions, and placed them at the entrance of the Holy of Holies, one on the right and the other on the left. If, therefore, anyone draw near and learn the hidden name, when he went away, the lions would roar, so that in his fright he would forget the name forever. Now, when the report that Yeshu was a bastard had spread abroad, he left Galilee and, coming secretly to Jerusalem, he went into the temple and there learned the sacred letters. And when he had written the hidden name on a piece of parchment, and spoken it, that he might feel no pain, he cut open his flesh and enclosed therein the mysterious parchment. Then, having again pronounced the name, he closed up the flesh.

As described in Frank R. Zindler’s book, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, the Talmud refers to something similar to this, asking, “Did not the son of Stada bring enchantment out of Egypt in the cutting which is in the flesh?” Zindler aptly suggests that this verse about Ben Stada probably refers to a tattooing, which was widely practiced at the time but was forbidden by in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus (19:28). Zindler also compares this reference to a passage in Revelation which seems to confirm this “secret message on the body”:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me on a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Logos of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule with an iron scepter.” [Psalm 2:9] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of King and Lord of Lords. -Revelation 19:11-16

Yeshu Ben Stada, or “Jesus, Son of Stada,” is known in Jewish tradition to be the same person as Yeshu Ben Panthera, although the exact relationship of what the names represented were already of divided opinion amongst rabbis when the subject appeared in the rabbinical commentaries in Babylon:

Ben Stada was Ben Panthera. Rab Chisda said, “The husband was Stada, the lover Panthera.” [Another said,] “The husband was Paphos ben Jehuda; Stada was his mother”; [or] “his mother was Miriam the women’s hairdresser”; as they would say at Pumbeditha, “she was unfaithful to her husband.” -Babylonian Gemara

Returning to the Toledot:

But to enter the temple it was necessary to use magic and incantations, otherwise how could the most holy priests, the descendants of Aaron, have allowed him to go therein. Therefore it is manifest that Yeshu did all this by the art of magic and the power of an impure name. Then he went to the place of his nativity [birth] and with loud voice cried out, “who are these bad men who report me to be a bastard and of impure birth? They are themselves bastards and impure. Did not a virgin bear me? Did not my mother conceive me in the top of her head?”

Clearly, Jesus must be referring to a spiritual mother when he speaks of “the virgin” giving birth to him. The “birth from the head’ seems to be used in the same symbolic way as the birth of the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, from the head of Zeus. This idea of “mental birth,” is perhaps best understood in the word “conception,” similar to the Greek word, Logos, which although is translated as “Word” or “Logo,” but can also mean thought, reason, or logic. A particularly interesting reference to the bastard accusation comes from an apocryphal gospel as well:

Jesus said: “Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore.” -Coptic Gospel of Thomas, verse 105

Returning to the story:

Indeed I am the son of God, and concerning me the prophet Isaiah spoke, saying, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and will give birth to a son, and will be called Emmanuel.”[7:14]. “Did I not form myself, and the heaven, earth, sea and all things contained therein?” Then they all answered and said, “Make known by some sign, and show by a miracle that thou art God.” He, answering, said, “Bring hither to me a dead man, and I will restore him to life,” The people made haste, and having dug into a certain sepulchre, found there nothing but dry bones. And when they told him that they had found only bones, he said, “Bring them here.” And when they were brought, he put all the bones together and covered them with skin, flesh, and nerves, so he that had been a dead man stood up on his feet alive.

The reference to Isaiah is also made in the Gospel of Matthew, which is commonly considered to be a particularly Greek mistranslation from the Septuagint, the Hebrew word in Isaiah translated as “virgin” actually being the word “maiden.”

When Jesus is asked to give a sign in the Gospel of Mark, he replies, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” This is rather a mysterious statement coming from someone doing continuous miracles. John’s Gospel, however, refers to all of Jesus’ miracles as “Signs.” The answer to this paradox may lie in that the Gospel of Mark was meant for readers in his own time while the signs Jesus gave had been used to prove himself to his own generation many years earlier. Mimicking the wording of the original tradition about Pharisees asking for signs, the author of Mark would have known Jesus provided them signs but then notably accentuates the point that no signs will be given for “this generation,” that is, Mark’s generation (8:12).

The people seeing this, marveled. Then he said, “Do you wonder at this? Bring here a leper and I will cure him.” And when they had brought a leper he restored him to health in like manner through the Name of God. When the people saw this, they fell down and worshipped him, saying, “Verily, you are the Son of God.” And it came to pass, after the fifth day, that the dismal tidings were brought to Jerusalem, the most holy city, and there all the things were told which Yeshu had done. Then the degenerates rejoiced greatly; but the old man, the devout, and the wise wept bitterly; and in the greater and the lesser Sanhedrim there was sore lamentation. At length they all resolved to send messengers to Yeshu, saying among themselves, “It may be that by the help of the Lord we shall capture him, bring him judgment, and condemn him to death.” Therefore they sent Ananias and Achasias, most honorable men of the lesser Sanhedrin, who went and fell down before Yeshu in adoration, thereby increasing his wickedness. Therefore, thinking that they were sincere, he received them with a smiling face and appointed them leaders of his wicked flock. Then they began to appeal to him: “Look, the leading citizens of Jerusalem have sent us ambassadors to you, praying that you would deign to come to them, for they have heard that you are the Son of God.” Then said Yeshu, “What they have heard is true, and look, I will do all that you ask, but upon this condition: “That all the senators of the greater and lesser Sanhedrin, and those also who have defamed my nativity, shall come forth and worship me, receiving me even as servants receive their lords.” The messengers, returning to Jerusalem, “We will do all that he asks.” Therefore, the men went again to Yeshu and declared that they would do whatever he desired. Then Yeshu said, “I will go with you at once.”

Chapter 2: Yeshu and Queen Helene

Chapter 2 begins with the familiar scene of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem:

And it came to pass that when Yeshu came to Nob, which is near Jerusalem, he said to them, “Have you here a good and comely donkey?” And when they replied that one was at hand, he said, “Bring him here.” And a beautiful donkey being brought, he mounted upon him and went to Jerusalem. And he entered the city all the people sallied out to meet him. And raising his voice he said to them, “Concerning me the prophet Zachariah testified, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, just and having salvation, lowly and sitting upon a donkey, and a colt the foal of a donkey’.” These things being known, there was great weeping and rending of garments, and the devout men went and complained to the queen. (She was Queen Helena, the wife of King Jannaeus mentioned above; she reigned after the death of [her] husband. She is otherwise called Oleina, and had a son Nunbasus, the king, otherwise called Hyrcanus, who was slain by his subordinate Herod.)

The devout men said to the queen, “This fellow serves the worst punishment, for he is a seducer of the people. Please, grant us the power, and we will take him by subtlety.” The queen answering, said, “Call him here that I may understand the accusation.” But she thought to save him from their hands, because she was related to him by blood.

Now things are really getting interesting. If Jesus was related to the wife of King Jannaeus, that would make him a possible heir to the Kingdom of Judea. That would give him far more legitimacy to the throne of David in the eyes of ancient Jews than being a peasant. If Jesus was only a peasant, as the gospels seem to support, then it didn’t matter how much of David’s blood was in him. Any claim by right of blood would be nullified by the fact that any peasant could have the blood of a king from 1000 years ago.

However, there are quite a few problems with this whole description. The wife of Alexander was named Salome, and her Greek name was Alexandra, not Helena nor Oleina. Although Salome did have a son named Hyrcanus, he is nowhere called Munbasus. As popularly suggested, the explanatory sentence seems to have been added by an interpolator. Mead suggests it was possibly added onto the recension printed by Wagenseil in the 1600’s.

However, another Helene, Queen of Adaibene, an independent province in Iraq, did have a son named Monobaz II. She became famous in Jewish circles after converting to Judaism in 30 A.D. Josephus mentions her in Book 20, Chapter 2 of Antiquities of the Jews. She is known for having food sent from Alexandria and Cyprus when Jerusalem was going through a famine, although the Talmud instead credits the act of generosity to Monobaz II.

The German professor Samuel Krauss first identified this Queen Helene as being a reference to the mother of Emperor Constantine, St. Helena. This identification has met criticism by Mead and Zindler, but one detail that would support this anachronous appearance is the mention of Tanhuma bar Abba in a later chapter, a rabbi who is also from the mid-fourth century, living some 20 years after Helen’s death.

There is a contradictory element in the way the queen is presented throughout the Toledot. On one hand the story constantly insinuates that she is the queen of Judea, on the other hand, she is portrayed as ignorant of Jewish law. She also at one point threatens to kill all the Israelites. Mead suggests that name-change may have been a part of the Semitic tendency towards name-play, pointing out that the name Salome is Salina in both Greek and Latin:

Salina helps us somewhat, for it is not so far from Helena (Oleina, Hilani, etc.), and s and h are philologically interchangeable. It is well known to all students of Christian origins that a certain Helen (Gk. Helene, Lat. Helena) was fabled to have been a harlot whom Simon Magus took about with him; Simon himself said that his Helen was the Sophia, but that is another story. Now in the Simon legends this Helene is also called in Greek Selene, the “Moon,” while in the Simonian myth Simon (Shimeon, Shemesh) himself corresponded with the “Sun.” Thus in Augustine (“De Haer.,” I.) and elsewhere we find Selene and not Helene, while in the Clementine Recognitions (ii. 14), preserved to us only in Latin translation of Rufinus, we find the name of sizing of Simon, who in the parallel passage of the Greek Clementine Homilies (ii. 23) is called Helena, given as Luna. From this we deduce that Helene is a play on Selene either for mystical or controversial purposes, for with the Ben Pandera instance before us we cdan readily see who that in those days of feverish theological polemics, a mystic teaching could easily be turned into a personal scandalous legend for controversial purposes.


It is in vain to ask why precisely such a name change should have been made; or why if Salome was converted to Helene the names of Joshua ben Perachiah and Simeon ben Shetach were not also changed. Consistency and precise reasons are not to be expected in the arbitrary development of folk-tale. The least that can be said is that our hypothesis involves us in less difficulties than the Helen of Constantine and the Helen of Monobaz conjectures; while if our supposition should be thought to hold good, it would point to the fact that the overwhelming preponderance of Toledot tradition is on the side of the Ben Perachiah date.

But it may be said, granted that this hypothesis would explain the otherwise inexplicable statement that the rule of the land was in the hand of Helene, it does not explain why this Helene is represented as being so wavering, now believing in Jeshu, now on the side of the wise men of Jewry, and, above all, why she speaks to the doctors of the Law, as one not only unlearned in their scriptures, but as apparently being a non-Jewess. “Is this written in your Law?” she asks, whereas Salome was regarded as the champion of the Pharisees and a most devout Jewess. (p.312)

The puzzle may yet be answered by the addition of fourth possibility into the mix. Queen Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III, ruled over Syria as co-regent alongside her husband/brother Ptolemy IX Lathyros. Ultimately she divorced her brother and remarried four more times in order to keep up with the changing politics of the region. Having five different husbands, her persona may be represented in the Gospel of John as the Samaritan woman with five husbands that Jesus meets at Jacob’s Well near Shechem. Unlike Helene, she lived around the same time as Simon Ben Shetach and Joshua Ben Perachiah, ruling from 115 to 81 B.C. This would also answer the riddle of why the queen would be unfamiliar with Jewish law, and although many of the miracles done by Yeshu are done in Upper Galilee just as they are done in the gospels, the Toledot repeatedly places the queen in Jerusalem, which could only be the seat of Alexander Jannaeus’ wife Salome.

There are two Salome’s in the gospels: the first is best known for killing John the Baptist, the second is a lesser-known disciple of Jesus who appears at the Crucifixion in the Gospel of Mark and brings spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Her name is replaced with “the mother of James and John” in the Gospel of Matthew, which has led many readers to assume that they are one and the same, but this seems to contradict the apocryphal Greek Gospel of the Egyptians, believed to have been written some time in the early 100’s A.D., in which Salome expresses gladness at “not bringing forth” any children. As a follower of Jesus, it would be assumed that Salome was of little means or import, yet a saying from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas insinuates that she is a woman of wealth and power:

Jesus said, “Two will recline on a couch; one will die, one will live.”

Salome said, “Who are you mister? You have climbed onto my couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the one who comes from what is whole. I was granted from the things of my Father.”

“I am your disciple.”

“For this reason I say, if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.” -Gospel of Thomas, v. 61

This saying makes more sense if it is applied to Queen Salome: In the Sepher Toledot Yeshu, Queen Salome accepts Jesus as a prophet, which could have become the basis for referring to her as a student. The table and couch signifies wealth, and it was the infighting between her two husbands, Aristobulus I and Alexander Jannaeus, and her two sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, that divided the Jewish Kingdom and caused it to fall to the Romans. Aristobulus I died and Alexander Jannaeus lived. Aristobulus II died and Hyrcanus II lived. Here the gospel writer may have wished to compare the spiritual unity of the risen Jesus to the political unity that the living Jesus did not accomplish.

Returning to the story:

Now the wise men, perceiving her design, said to her, “Do not, oh royal mistress, undertake to do this, or else you will become his accomplice; for by his sorceries he leads men into error and crime.” At the same time, they explained to her the whole matter of the Name of God, and then added. “It is for you to impose punishment, for he deserves the worst.” Then they narrated the history of Joseph Panthera. Therefore, the queen said, “I have heard you and will consent to this. Bring him to me and let me hear what he says, and see what he does; for everybody tells me of the great miracles he performs.” The wise men replied, “We will do as you say.”

Therefore they sent for Yeshu and placed him before the Queen. Then thus the Queen spoke, “I have heard that you perform many wonderful miracles. Now do one in my presence.” Yeshu replied, “Whatever you command, I will do. Meanwhile I pray this one thing: that you will not give me into the hands of these wicked men who have pronounced me a bastard.” The queen replied, “Fear nothing.” Then Yeshu said, “Bring here a leper and I will heal him.” And when a leper was brought he laid his hand upon him, and invoking the almighty name restored him to health, so that the flesh of his face became like that of a boy. Furthermore, Yeshu said, “Bring here a dead body.” And a dead body being brought, he straightway put his hand upon it, and pronounced the name, and it revived and stood upon its feet. Then said Yeshu, “Isaiah prophesized concerning me, “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams into desert.” Then the queen turning to the wise men said, “How can you affirm that this man is a sorcerer? Have I not seen him with my own eyes performing miracles as if he were the Son of God?” But the wise men answering, said, “Let not the queen speak such, for most certainly this man is a sorcerer.” But the queen said, “Get you away from my sight, and never bring a like accusation before me.”

Therefore the wise men left the presence of the Queen, sad at heart, and conferring one with another they said, “Let us show ourselves crafty, so that this fellow may fall into our hands.” Moreover a certain one of them said, “Whoever shall learn the name and shall secure this fellow, to him shall be given a double reward in the world to come.” At once a certain one of the wise men named Judas arose and said, “If you answer for the blame of the offense by which I shall speak the almighty name, I will learn it. And conceivably God in his mercy and great goodness will bless me, and bring into my hands this bastard and son of an adulteress.” Then all with one voice cried out, “On us be the guilt. Do as you have proposed, and may your work prosper.” Therefore, he also he went into the Holy of Holies, and did the same that Yeshu had done. Then going through the city he cried out, “Where are they who report that this bastard is the Son of God? Am not I, who am only flesh and blood, able to do all the things which Yeshu has done?”

The queen and her ministers having heard of this, Judas was brought before her, accompanied by the elders and wise men of Jerusalem. But the Queen summoned Yeshu and said to him, “Show us what you have lately done. And he began to perform his miracles before the people. Then Judas spoke these words to the queen and all the people: “Nothing that this fellow does in wonderful to us. Let him nestle among the stars and I will hurl him down. [Obadiah 1:4] Then Yeshu so addressed the whole people. “Have you not been from the beginning, from the time when I first knew you, a stiff-necked people? [Exodus 32:9] Judas answered, “Is it not true that you do practice wickedness, you bastard son of an adulteress? Did not our master Moses say concerning you, “If your brother, the son of your mother, entices you, saying, “Let us [follow others gods], you shall bring the man out and stone him with stones [so] that he [will] die?”

The full law from Deuteronomy is: “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other elohim [gods]” (elohim you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. Yahweh your Elohim is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is Yahweh your Elohim you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way Yahweh your Elohim commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” (13:1).

This last portion of text has had a few correlations to the Gospel of Matthew. The theme of a woman trying to deliver Jesus from the Jews’ hands is repeated when Pilate’s wife advises her husband to let Jesus go (27:19). The “wise men” accepting guilt in a unified voice parallel the people of Jerusalem calling for Jesus’ death: “Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’” (27:25). Matthew also references the Old Testament more, quoting Isaiah (6:9) instead of Obadiah, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” (13:15). The chief priests who assembled together and “consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him.” is found in the Synoptic gospels Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

But the bastard answering, said, “Did not Isaiah prophecy concerning me? And are not these the words of my great forefather [David] concerning me: “The Lord said unto me, ‘Thou art my son; this day have I begotten you?’” [Psalms 2:7] “And in like manner in another place he said, ‘The Lord said until my lord, sit at my right hand.’” [Psalms 110:1] “And now I will ascend to my heavenly father and will sit at his right hand, and you shall behold it with your eyes. But you, Judas, shall not attain this.” And now Yeshu uttered the almighty name, and there came a wind and lifted him up between heaven and earth. At once Judas invoked the same name, and the wind also suspended him between heaven and earth; and thus both soared round about through the air. At the sight of these things all were astonished. But Judas again recited the name, and seizing the wretch sought to hurl him down to the earth. Then Yeshu also invoked the name for the purpose of bringing Judas down, and thus they wrestled together.

At this point the texts diverge somewhat. In each of them, Jesus either proves stronger or the equal to Judas, so Judas is forced to befoul him in one unpleasant way or another. This makes them both ritually unclean. Much the way the Nazarite Samson lost his super strength after having his hair cut, this impurity causes both of them to lose their power of flight and they both come crashing to the ground.

Although Jesus performs all manners of miracles, nothing quite like this happens in any of the four gospels, but there are some instances in Luke-Acts where Jesus either teleports or flies or by some other unrevealed manner changes reality around him. For example, as earlier mentioned, when Jesus goes to his hometown in Nazareth, he is about to be thrown off a cliff and then all of then sudden, “he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” And that’s the end of the story! As seen here, there are times when the editor of Luke-Acts fails to elaborate on important details, often leading to an anti-climax. Even the ending of Acts of the Apostles is an anti-climax, saying Paul taught for two years in Rome “without hindrance.” The end. The question that has gone so far as to help define Protestantism begs to be asked, what happened after those two years? After giving a chapter-long account of the martyrdom of a relatively unknown Christian named Stephen, why didn’t the editor see fit to describe the fates of Peter and Paul? It may be that he or she did not know how they died, or it could be there was different accounts and he or she decided not to try to harmonize them (as done with the three different conversion stories of Paul found within the whole epic). Another possibility is that the text was originally more forthcoming but that some parts were cut out.

One time “Luke” acts suspiciously uncooperative is in the beginning of Acts of the Apostles. Although most everyone is familiar with Judas hanging himself, a far lesser known ending for Judas is given in this book:

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (a group numbering about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus; he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field: there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called the field in their language Akeldama, that is Field of Blood.) -Acts 1:15-19

Imagine “Matthew” and “Luke” being grilled by Roman centurions about how Judas died. Matthew tells one Roman guard that Judas hung himself. Luke tells another Roman guard that Judas “fell.” When asked for details about how Judas “fell,” the only thing Luke adds is that he fell at such a distance, his intestines spilled out onto the ground. What do you think those two centurions are going to believe when they compare stories? It sounds rather like he got thrown off a cliff and Matthew made up a cover story.

The “wizard contest” may hold the solution. This part in Acts may be referring to a lost gospel story where Judas is magically flying and falls to his death. It would make sense that the final Apostolic editor would want cut out possible acts done by Jesus or his disciples that could be construed as sorcery. There’s even a similar story in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which has something similar to the effect that Simon the Magus goes to Rome and begins to fly in the air in order to impress the Emperor Nero. Peter asks God to make Simon fall and break his leg in three places so that the people will believe him instead of Simon, and God does this; Simon dies soon afterwards according to the story. But in the Toledot, both Jesus and Judas make the fall without serious injury:

Therefore being rendered impure, they were both deprived of the use of the Name of God until they were washed. Then a death sentence was brought against Yeshu, and they said to him, “If you would be free, do the things which you have been wanting to do so far.” But Yeshu, when he found himself unable to do them raised his voice in lamentation saying, “David, my forefather, prophesized concerning me, saying, “Yet for your sake we face death all day long.” [Psalm 44:22]

Jesus’ critics telling him to work a miracle in order to make himself free mirrors the situation in the Synoptic gospels in which Jesus is mocked by one or both of the bandits he is crucified with and asked to save himself from the cross.

When his disciples and the wicked crowd that adhered to him saw these things, being exposed to the danger of death, they fought with the elders and the wise men of Jerusalem, and enabled Yeshu to escape from the city. So Yeshu went quickly to Jordan; and when he had washed and purified himself, he declared again the name and repeated his former miracles. Moreover, he went and took two millstones, and made them float upon the water, and seating himself on them he caught fishes before the multitude, which they then did eat. When the report of this reached Jerusalem, all the wise and devout men began to weep and to say, “Who will dare to risk death by going and taking away from this bastard the Almighty Name? See, we pledge ourselves that he shall enjoy eternal happiness.” Then Judas offered himself to go; to whom the wise men said, “Go in peace.” Therefore Judas went in disguise, and mingled among the wicked fellows.

The Jordan was believed to be a sacred river, which many scholars believe is why John the Baptist chose it in order to baptize people. Floating the millstones is reminiscent of Jesus walking on water, found in all four gospels. Feeding the multitudes with fish is also found in each of them, but is seen as a separate event (in John’s case, directly preceding the walking on water).

Chapter 3: Yeshu's Passion and Death

About the middle of the night God put the bastard into a deep sleep, and Judas enchanted him in his sleep. Then Judas entered Yeshu’s tent, and with a knife cut his flesh and took out from him the sacred parchment. Yeshu awoke out of sleep in fright by a great and horrid demon. Therefore he said to his disciples, “You shall know now that my heavenly father has commanded me to come to him; because he sees that I have no honor among men.” Then his disciples said, “What is to become of us?” He answered, “Oh blessed ones, great will be your reward if you keep my words, for you shall sit at my right hand with my heavenly father.” Then they all lifted up their voices and wept. But Yeshu said, “Do not weep, for a great reward is in store for your piety; only beware not to transgress my words.” To which they responded, “Whatever you command we will do, and whoever proves disobedient to your commands, let him die.” Then said Yeshu, “If you listen to my words and obey my commands you will treat me with favor and justice. As you go to fight for me at Jerusalem I will hide myself by mingling with you so that the citizens of Jerusalem will not notice me.” These things Yeshu spoke deceitfully, that he might go to Jerusalem and enter the temple and again obtain the knowledge of the name. Not in the least suspecting his evil intent, they all respond, “All things that you command we will do, nor will we depart from it a finger’s breadth, either to the right or to the left.” Again he said, “Make an oath to me.” So they all from the least to the greatest, bound themselves by an oath. And they did not know that Judas was among them, because he was not recognized. Afterwards Judas said to the attendants, “Let us provide for ourselves uniform garments, so that no one may be able to know our master.” This device pleased them, and they carried it out.

There are two parallels to the Gospel of John here. One of them comes from shortly after Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, when Jesus begins to comfort his disciples, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms...” (14:1), very similar to “Do not weep, for a great reward is in store for your piety...” Just a little further down, the Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey my command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of Truth.” (14:15). Jesus predicts that the Holy Spirit will come in his name and “teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” (14:26). This reminder no doubt refers to the later apostles who taught not through an ethical tradition handed down from the first disciples but from divination.

It also has a resemblance to an earlier episode during the Feast of Tabernacles in which Jesus’ brothers try to convince Jesus to go to Judea and perform miracles because, as they see it, “no one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret.” (7:4). In response, he tells them that his time had not come yet and that “for you any time is right,” a possible slight towards James and John for trying to effect a materialistic kingdom in Jerusalem. It’s a noticeable contrast to the accusation that Yeshu was hiding while telling his men to fight for him. This may answer why the parts of the Gospel of John attempt to paint in the seemingly reactionary fashion of heroically protecting the disciples. But despite repeated protests from Jesus that the time is not right, the gospel says that after his brothers left he went ahead “in secret.” Although the gospel does not specifically say that Jesus donned a disguise, that would be one way to go “in secret.”

Then they journeyed to Jerusalem, there to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]. Now when the devout men saw Judas they rejoiced with great joy, and said to him, “Point out to us, we ask you, what remains to be done. (For he had secretly withdrawn himself and come to the elders and wise men of the city.) Then Judas related all that had happened, and how he had obtained the name from the bastard. Therefore they rejoiced, and Judas said to them, “If you will obey my orders, tomorrow I will deliver this fellow into your hands.” Then said the wise men, “Have you enough knowledge of his going and coming?” Judas replied, “Everything is known to me. Look, he goes to the temple to attend the sacrifice of the paschal victim, but I have sworn to him by the Ten Commandments not to deliver him into your hands. And he has with him 2000 men. You should be prepared tomorrow, and know that the man before whom I bow down in adoration, he is the bastard. Act bravely, attack his followers, and seize him.” Simon, son of Shetach and all the rest of the wise men danced for joy, and they promised Judas to obey his orders. The next day Yeshu came with all his crowd, but Judas went out to meet him, and falling down before him, he worshipped him. Then all the citizens of Jerusalem, being well armed and mailed, captured Yeshu. And when his disciples saw him held captive, and that it was vain to fight, they took to their legs here and there, and gave themselves up to bitter weeping. Meanwhile the citizens of Jerusalem, waxing stronger, conquered the bastard and his crowd, killing many of them, while the rest fled to the mountains.

The descriptions of how Yeshu and Jesus are arrested are in completely different contexts, and yet a closer look shows some of the ideas to be complementary. In this story, Yeshu is captured in broad daylight while in disguise, and Judas points him out by falling down in worship before him. In the gospels, Jesus is not disguised, so presumably the only reason Judas is needed to point him out at all is because it’s dark. In this setting, Jesus was “hiding in plain sight” from within the city while in the gospels the reason Judas is needed is to bring them to where Jesus is. The Synoptic gospels have Judas betray Jesus with a kiss and tell his captors, “Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me.” The Gospel of John seems particularly focused on the subject:

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” [John 6:39]
-John 18:4-11

It could be said that John is arguing against silence that Jesus had not intended to escape his fate. Jesus certainly has to make an effort to turn himself in. But notice that while this gospel has no kiss, Judas “standing there with them,” falls to the ground, apparently out of fright. Yet this is notably done when Jesus says, “I am he,” in reference to his earlier statement in the fourth gospel, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (8:58), meant to symbolically identify Jesus with God. The picture of Judas falling down to Jesus in order to identify him to his enemies is morphed into Judas and the Romans falling to the ground in worship of Yahweh.

Then the elders of Jerusalem brought Yeshu into the city, and bound him to a marble pillar, and scourged him, saying, “Where now are all the miracles you have done?” Then they took thorn branches, and weaving a crown out of them, put it on his head. Then the bastard becoming thirsty, said, “Give me some water to drink.” So they offered him vinegar. Having tasted it, he cried out with a loud voice, “My forefather David prophesied concerning me, saying, ‘And they gave me gall for meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’.” They answering, said, “If you are God, why did you not make it known before you drank the vinegar was offered to you?” Then they added, “You do stand now upon the verge of the grave, nor will you at last convert gall into good fruit.” But Yeshu, weeping bitterly, said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then the elders said, “If you are the Son of God, why do you not deliver yourself out of our hands?” Yeshu replied, “My blood is shed for mortals, for Isaiah prophesized, “And from his wounds we are healed.” The same day was the preparation for the Sabbath and also the preparation for the Passover.

The Toledot has no mention of the Last Supper, first referenced in 1 Corinthians and also present in the Synoptic Gospels. Unlike John, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus crucified the day after Passover so that the Last Supper is enacted as a formal Passover meal. John places the crucifixion on the day of Passover, depicting Jesus as the symbolic paschal lamb that’s slaughtered for Israel’s sins. The Gospel of John has no description of the Last Supper, instead making a glossed over reference to an evening meal beforehand (13:1). In Corinthians, Paul takes credit for the revelation that Jesus broke bread with his disciples on the night he was betrayed (11:23). Since the bread/body and wine/blood metaphor is a distinctly Pagan sacrament, having been preceded by Mithraism, and because traditional Judaism is so antithetical to the concept, a great number of scholars believe that the sacrament must have begun with Pauline Christianity. By adding Paul’s vision for the old Jesus into his gospel, Mark gave accreditation to an already existing sacrament. The Epistle to the Hebrews and Cerinthus’ version of the Gospel of John made it a point to say that “the flesh is of no avail” and that ceremonial foods were unneeded. It was not until the final editor created a Presbyter version of John that Communion would be added back in, but not in the form of a story, but as rhetorical arguments made by Jesus, in effect validating a sacrament had had not yet introduced. The chronology of the gospel went unedited however, thus continuing to pay tribute to Jesus on the same day as Passover.

Then, taking him out to the place of punishment they stoned him to death. Then the wise men commanded him to be hung on a tree, but no tree was found that could support him, for all, being frail, were broken. His disciples seeing this, wailed and cried out, “Behold the goodness of our Master Yeshu, whom no tree will sustain. But they knew not that he had enchanted all wood when he was in possession of the name. But he knew that he would surely suffer the penalty of hanging, as it is written, “When any man shall be judged to death for an offense and shall be put to death, then you shall hang him. Then Judas, when he saw that no wood would hold him up, said to the wise men, “Behold the subtlety of this fellow, for he has enchanted the wood that it might not sustain him. But there is in my garden a great stem of a cabbage [carob tree?]; I will go and bring it here; perhaps it will hold the body.” To whom the wise men said, “Go and do so.” So Judas went at once and brought the stalk, and on it Yeshu was hanged. Toward night the wise men said, “It is lawful for us to break one letter of the divine law in regard to this fellow; we must do to him what the law demands, even though he did seduce men.” Therefore, they buried him where he was stoned.

The assumption has always been that it was Paul who was being symbolic when he said Christ was “nailed to a tree” and that it was Mark who was being historic when he presented Christ as crucified on a cross. From this renewed perspective, we now must ask the question: who is the one really using allegory here? The Greek word stauroo, which is rendered “crucify” in Paul’s epistles actually has the primary definition of “staked.” In a similar ambiguity of linguistics, the word for cross, stauros, mentioned several times in Paul’s epistles, is primarily defined as “an upright stake.” Amazingly enough, there is no evidence throughout any of Paul’s epistles, authentic or pseudo-graphical, that indicate that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. In fact, no book in the Bible except for the four gospels and Acts does! On the contrary, early Christian sources from all sects uniformly identify the Jews as the sole killers of Jesus. The reference in 1 Thessalonians that blames the Jews for the death of Jesus instead of the Romans is thought by many scholars as being far too anti-Semitic to be authentic, but this would mean that it’s just a co-incidence that the version of events in anti-Christian literature matches that of an anti-Semitic forgery. Tertullian also kept record of such a tradition, writing in his Latin work, Against Judaism, that the Jews did not even contend that Jesus performed miraculous healings, saying, “it was not on account of the works that you stoned him, but because he did them on the Sabbath.” This same sentiment is reflected in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus says, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?” (10:32).

The details about how all the trees were enchanted so as not to sustain Yeshu’s body is reminiscent of Norse myth of Balder, in which Balder’s mother sustains an oath from the plants so as not to harm Balder except for the mistletoe. Jesus being buried in a garden is also mentioned in the Gospel of John (19:41).

Now about the middle of the night his disciples came and sat down by the grave under the brook. Judas, seeing this, took away the body and hid it in his garden under a brook. Diverting the water elsewhere, he buried the body in the channel and then brought the water back. On the morrow, when the disciples came again and sat down to weep, Judas said to them, “Why do you weep? Look and see if the buried man is there.” And when they looked and found he was not there, the miserable crowd cried out, “He is not in the grave but has ascended to heaven.” For he foretold this himself when alive, and as if concerning himself the saying was interpreted, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me; Selah.”

The Gospel of Matthew reports that after the guards at Jesus’ tomb pass out in terror at seeing an angel come to the tomb and roll the stone away from it. Afterwards, the Roman guards report this to the Jewish chief priests, who pay them a large sum of money to report that Jesus’ disciples came in the night and stole him away, so that “this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this day.” (28:15).

Meanwhile, the Queen, finding out what had been done, commanded the wise men of Israel to appear; and when they came she said to them, “What have you done with this man who you have accused of being a sorcerer and a seducer of men?” They answered, “We have buried him according to the requirement of our law.” Then she said, “Bring him here to me.” And they went and sought for him in the grave, but did not find him. Then returning to the Queen, they said, “We know not who has taken him from the grave.” The queen answered and said, “He is the Son of God and has ascended to his Father in heaven; for thus it is prophesized for him, “For he shall receive me; Selah.” Then the wise men said, “Do not allow these thoughts into your mind, for surely he was a sorcerer”; and they gave proof by their own testimony that he was a bastard and the son of an adulteress. The Queen replied, “Why do I exchange words with you in vain? For if you bring him here, you shall be found innocent, but if not, none of you will survive.” They all responded in these words: “Give us time that we can determine the outcome of this affair. Perhaps we may find him there, but if we do not succeed, do unto us whatever pleases you.” She allowed them three days time, and they departed, grieved at heart, lamenting, and not knowing what to do.

Therefore they ordered a fast, and when the appointed time came and they had not found the body, many left Jerusalem to escape the sight of the Queen. Among the rest went a certain old man named Rabbi Tanchuma. He in great sorrow, wandering the fields, saw Judas sitting in his own garden, eating. Coming up to him, Rabbi Tanchuma said, “How is this? Why do you take food when all the Jews fast and are in sore distress?” Judas, greatly astounded, inquired why they fasted. Rabbi Tanchuma replied, “It is because of the bastard who has been hung and buried near the place of stoning; he has been taken away from the grave, and none of us know who has taken him. But his worthless disciples declare that he has gone up to heaven, and the Queen threatened all of us Israelites with death unless we find him.” Then Judas asked, “If this fellow shall be found, will it bring safety to the Israelites?” Rabbi Tanchuma said, “Indeed it will.” Then said Judas, “Come, and I will show you the man, for I took him away from the grave because I feared that perhaps the impious followers might steal him from the tomb, and I hid him in my garden, and made the brook run over him.” Then Rabbi Tanchuma hastened to the wise men of Israel and related the matter.

Therefore they all assembled, and tying the body to a horse’s tail, brought it and threw it down before the Queen, saying, “Behold the man of whom you have said, ‘He has gone up to heaven’.” When the Queen saw him, she was overwhelmed with shame and unable to speak. Moreover, while the body was dragged about for some time, the hair of the head was pulled out. And this is the reason why now the hair of a monk is shaved off in the middle of the head; it is done in remembrance of what happened to Yeshu.

Although the origin of the Christian tonsure has been lost to history, it is clear that shaving the head to show contempt towards the importance of fashion was being widely practiced by the 300s. Nazarite Christians like James the Just made an oath against applying the razor to his hair and the early Christian writer Tertullian considered it a perversion to change the face God had meant someone to have. But the Greek Orthodox church claims the tradition came from Paul, who shaved his entire head. A special tonsure was known to have been practiced by Celtic Christians in the 400s, which used a triangular pattern and left the hair in the back long, some claiming authority from the disciple John. Roman Christians were less accommodating to the practice; Jerome, for instance, believed it best not to go in either extreme but to keep one’s hair short. Some Roman Christians suggested the Celtic tonsure as originating from Simon the Magus. Tonsuring itself had been practiced hundreds of years earlier by Buddhists.

Chapter 4: The Twelve, Simon Cephas, and Elias

With the exception of the Luke-Acts epic, this is usually where the story of Jesus ends, but Chapter 4 gives an alternate history of the immediate after-effects of Jesus’ death:

After these things the strife between the Nazarenes and the Judeans grew so great that it caused a division between them, and a Nazarene meeting a Judean would kill him. The trouble increased more and more for 30 years, when the Nazarenes, having increased to thousands and myriads, prohibited the Israelites from coming to the greater festivals in Jerusalem. Then there was great distress among the Israelites, like what it was in the day the [golden] calf was forged, so that no one knew what to do. The pernicious faith increased, and there came forth 12 men (bad offspring of foul ravens), who wandered through the twelve kingdoms and spread false doctrines among mankind. Some of the Israelites followed them, and these being of high authority, strengthened the Yeshuitic faith; and because they gave themselves out to be apostles of him who was hanged, the great body of the Israelites followed them.

The wise men seeing the desperate state of things were sorely distressed, for wickedness abounded among the Israelites. Therefore everyone turning to his companion said, “Woe unto us; what sins have we committed that in our time so shameful a thing should happen in Israel, such as neither we nor our ancestors ever before heard of?” There with great sadness and weeping they sat down, and with their eyes turned towards heaven and said: “We pray to you, Oh, Lord, God of heaven, to give us counsel what to do, for we are entirely ignorant as to what ought to be done. We lift our eyes to you. In the midst of the people of Israel innocent blood is shed on account of this bastard and son of an adulteress. Therefore are we stretched on tenterhooks while the hand of the Nazarene prevails against us and great numbers of us are killed?” But few of us are left, and on account of sins in which the House of Israel is implicated these things have happened. Do you indeed for your Name’s sake give us counsel what to do that we may be delivered from the wicked crowd of Nazarenes.” When they had thus prayed, a certain aged man from among the elders whose name was Simon Cephas, who frequented the Holy of Holies, said to the rest, “My brethren and people, hear me: If you approve my counsel, I will root out these wicked men from the society of Israel, and they shall have no part or heritage with the Israelites. But what is necessary that you shall take upon you the guilt of an offense?” All responded, saying, “The sin be upon us; carry out your purpose.”

In this story, “the Twelve” are neither disciples of Yeshu, nor related in any way to Cephas. Compare this to Paul’s chronology in the First Epistle to the Corinthians:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the [Old Testament] Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-11

Just like in the Toledot, Cephas is not considered one of “the Twelve,” but they are at least contemporary with one another. There is also no indication from Paul that the Twelve knew Jesus during his lifetime. Mark makes mention of “the Twelve” 11 times, but only once are they designated as apostles (3:14), and only then on some versions of the gospel, which means it’s probably another late addition. What Paul does not say here, nor in any of his epistles, is that Jesus had lived during his lifetime. Rather, his appearance to Paul was the last of a long list of appearances, each separated by an unknown duration. However, the fact that Paul mentions that most but not all are still living some time in the 50s indicates that the visions could have taken place long before 30 A.D., the date Jesus was supposedly crucified.

The Epistle of James does not claim to have seen Jesus in his own lifetime, nor does Jude, nor John of Patmos from the Book of Revelation. In fact, no book outside the four gospels and Acts makes a clear indication that Jesus had lived in the same time as the apostles. Probably biggest reason most scholars discount the claim that the letters of James, Jude and Revelation were written by apostles is because the authors never claim to have seen Jesus themselves. But if Jesus had never lived during the first century, then there really is no conflict with assuming authentic apostolic authorship.

Therefore, Simon Son of Cephas went into the sanctuary and wrote out the Almighty Name, and cut his flesh with a knife and placed it inside. Then going from the temple, he drew up the writing, and when he learned the name he went away to the chief city of the Nazarenes.

No explanation is given here for why “Simon Cephas” suddenly becomes “Simon, son of Cephas.” It has long been assumed that Simon, Peter, and Cephas were all one and the same person.

And raising his voice he cried out, “Whatsoever believes in Yeshu let him come unto me, for I am sent by him.” Soon a great multitude drew near to him, as many as the sands of the sea, and said to him, “Show us something to confirm to us that you are sent by him.” And when he asked what sign they required of him, they replied, “The miracles which Yeshu performed while alive, you do these also and show us.” Therefore he commanded them to bring there a leper; and when they had brought him, he laid his hand upon him and he was healed. Again he asked them to bring to him a dead man, and when one was brought he laid his hand upon him and he revived and stood upon his feet. The wicked men seeing this fell down to the ground, before him, saying, “Without a doubt you are sent by Yeshu, for when he was alive he did these things for us.” Simon Cephas then said, “I am sent by Yeshu, and he has commanded me to come to you. Give me an oath that you will do all things that I command.” So at once they all exclaimed, “We will do all that you command.” Then Simon Cephas said, “Know that he who was hanged was the enemy of the Israelites and their law, because of the prophecy of Isaiah, saying, “Your new moons and appointed holidays my soul hates. Moreover, be it known to you, that he did not delight in the Israelites, even as Hosea prophesized, “You are not my people. And although it be in his power to sweep them from the earth in one moment, nevertheless he did not wish to utterly destroy them, but desired that there should ever be in your midst witnesses of his hanging and stoning. Moreover, he underwent those great sufferings and sorrows that he might redeem us from hell. And now he exhorts and commands you no longer to abuse any of the Judeans; but if a Judean says to a Nazarene, “Go with me one mile,” let him go with him two miles. And if a Judean strikes a Nazarene on his left cheek, let him turn the right also; that in this world they may have their reward, but in the world to come may be punished in hell. If you do these things, you shall be worthy to sit with him in his seats. Look, this also he requires of you, that you do not celebrate the Feast of the Passover, but that you hold sacred the say on which he died. And that, instead of the Feast of Pentecost, keep holy; and on the 8th day afterwards observe the memory of his circumcision.” All responded to these words, “Whatever you say, we will do; remain with us now.” To which he said, “I will abide with you if you will allow me to abstain from all food according to his precept, and only eat the bread of misery and drink the water of sorrow. But you must build me a tower in the middle of the city on which I may sit even until the day of my death.” The people answered, “We will do as you say.”

Therefore they built a tower and put him inside; and every day they brought him his allowance of miserable bread and scanty water, even up to the hour of his death, he stayed there all the time. For truly he served the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and composed many beautiful hymns, which he published through all the region of Israel, that they might be a perpetual monument to him; and he repeated all the hymns of his masters. This Simon lived on that tower for 6 years, and when he came to die, he commanded that he should be buried within it; and that request was obeyed. Afterwards they devised a most abominable fraud, and at this very time that tower is to be seen at Rome, and they call it Peter- that is, the name of a stone, because he sat on a stone even to the day of his death.

This seems to be a reference to the Catholic church in Rome claiming that the “stone” of Peter’s church was actually a reference to the city of Rome.

After the death of Rabbi Simon Cephas there arose a man name Elias, a wise man but of corrupt mind who went to Rome and publicly said: “Know you that Simon Cephas has deceived you, for your Yeshu gave to me his commands, saying, “Go and tell them: “Let no one believe that I despise the law; for whoever wishes to be initiated by circumcision I will allow him. But he who refuses to observe this, let him be plunged into foul water, nor indeed if he abstains from this shall he incur danger... This also he requires: that not on the 7th day but the 1st on which the heavens and the earth were created you shall worship.” And he added other bad instructions. But the people said, “Confirm to us by a miracle that Yeshu has sent you.” And he said, “What miracle do you expect?” Scarcely had he spoken when a stone fell from a huge wall and crushed his head. So perish all your enemies, Oh Lord; but let those who love you be even as the sun when it shines in it’s strength.

Selah, selah, selah.

“Selah” is used to conclude Pslams in the Old Testament.

Elias seems to be a reference to Elisha, Son of Abuyah, an apostate Jew and mystic mentioned in the Talmud, who lived sometime between 60 and 140 A.D. His dualistic theology that has been identified by different historians as Zoroastrian, Gnostic, Christian, and the Hellenistic Judaism of Philo. Like Paul, he is said to have been a mystic who had had a vision of paradise some time before 70 and saw two gods, Yahweh and a “little Yahweh,” called Metatron. The Talmud explains this was a mistake in that Metatron was only allowed to sit beside Yahweh because he was the scribe of heaven, second only to God. It was also said that when he entered the Garden of Eden, he caused some of the plants there to be destroyed.

A Different Version

There is another story that can be found in the Talmud. It comes from the Jewish Gemara, containing rabbinical commentaries and analysis of Mishnah, the core component of the Talmud. There are two versions, one from the Palestinian version and the other from the Babylonian version; this version comes from the Palestinian version:

It happened that R. Eleazar ben Dama was bitten by a serpent. Then came Jacob of Kephas Sama, to heal him in the name of Yeshu Panthera. But R. Ishmael suffered him not. Eleazar said to him: I will bring you proof that he has the right to heal me. But he had no more time to utter the proof; for he died. R. Ishmael said to him: “Blessed are you, Ben Dama, that you went in peace from this world and did not break through the dence of the wise, for it is written: “And whoever breaks through a fence, a serpent shall bite him,” not a serpent has bitten him, but [it means that] a serpent should not [sic] bite him in the time to come.

Better to die within the faith of Judaism than to be healed in the name of Yeshu according to Rabbi Ishmael, who was a contemporary of Akiva. There is a similar story in the Gemara that tells of the son or grandson of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi having something lodged in his throat and so goes to one of the men of Ben Panthera. The man whispers a verse over the youth and when Yehoshua asks what he said the man replies that it was a “certain verse” from a “certain man.” The rabbi replies that it would have been better that his son or grandson been buried than to hear that verse. “And so it happened to him, “as it were an error which proceeds from the ruler.’” This is a reference to Ecclesiastes: “There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.”(10:5).

We now turn to another version of the Toledot Yeshu, a German text which was translated from Hebrew in what’s called the Strassburg manuscript. It was translated into English by Samuel Krauss in 1902 (S. Calvary & Co., Berlin). The next year it was published by George Robert Stow Mead of the Theosophical Publishing Society in London under the title, An Enquiry into the Talmud Jesus Stories, the Toledot Jeshu, and Some Curious Statements of Epiphanius: Being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins.

In this version, there is no mention of Mary being a dresser of women’s hair, but the identity and circumstances behind Jesus’ birth remain the same. Mary gives Jesus over to a teacher, so that he would be wise in Halacha, which taught not only religious customs and beliefs but other aspects of day-to-day life. One day, the Rabbis were reading some laws involving civil and criminal law before the class, when Jesus began to dictate Halacha back to the teacher. This the “wise one” took great offense to, asking the boy if he did not know that those who spoke Halacha back to the teacher was guilty of death. To which he responded:

Who is the teacher and who is the disciple? Who between the two were wiser? Moses or Jethro? Was it not Moses, father of the prophets and head of the wise? And the Torah, moreover, bears witness to him: And from now on there arises no prophet in Israel like unto Moses. Also, Jethro was an alien, yet he taught Moses worldly wisdom, as it is written: Set you over them rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds. But if you say that Jethro is greater than Moses, then there would be an end to the greatness of Moses.

When the “wise ones” hear this, they’re shocked at his shamelessness and enquires after him and Simeon ben Shetach explains to them that he’s a bastard. This part is very similar to the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus astounds the teachers of law at the temple with his knowledge and then acts disrespectfully towards his worried parents (2:47).

Rabbi Simeon then explains that although Miriam was married to another man when she was conceived by Joseph, son of Panthera, she had not been subject to the death penalty because it was against her will. This makes for an interesting question about Jewish law and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both Matthew and Luke attempt to show that Jesus was descended from David through his father Joseph, yet at the very same time, they completely destroy their own argument by saying that Jesus was conceived by a virgin. This story may help solve that paradox, if we assume the two Josephs are the same person. If Mary was taken against her will and conceived by a miracle in that she was menstruating at the time of her conception, then that could help explain how a “virgin” can give birth to a king whose lineage came from the father.

Once again, Jesus flees Jerusalem, but returns to steal the Name of God, and then begins to announce himself as the promised Messiah:

“I am the Messiah, and they, so to rise up against me, are children of whores, for so it is written in the Scripture: For they are the children of whores.” [Hosea 1:2]

After healing a lame man and a leper, Jesus is taken before the queen. Jesus tells the queen that Isaiah prophesized him in scripture saying, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse.” (11:1). The queen asks the wise men if that really was in scripture, which they do admit to, but retort that the scripture also said the Messiah would “smite the earth with the rod of his mouth.” Jesus assures the queen that he is the Messiah and then stuns her by announcing that he can raise the dead. And so the queen let him go and he began to gather many apostates around him, causing a great schism in Israel. Then:

Yeshu went to Upper Galilee. The wise assembled together, went before the Queen and said to her, “Lady, he practices sorcery and leads men astray there.” Therefore she sent out horsemen concerning him, and they came upon him as he was seducing the people of Upper Galilee and saying to them, “I am the Son of God, who has been promised in your law. The horsemen rose up to take him away, but the people of Upper Galilee suffered it not and began to fight. Yeshu said to them, “Fight not, have trust in the power of my Father in heaven.” The people of Galilee made birds of clay; he uttered the letters of the Shem, and the birds flew away. At the same hour, they fell down before him.

In all four gospels, someone (either Peter or another follower) tries to stop the Romans from capturing Jesus and cuts off one of their ears. But similar to this passage, Jesus calls out to his followers not to resist. Turning clay birds into real birds is a miracle that’s accredited to Jesus as a young boy, found in both the First Infancy Gospel of Christ and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

He said to them: Bring over to me a millstone. They rolled it to the seashore; he spoke the letters, set it upon the surface of the sea, sat himself upon it, as one sits on a boat, and floated on the water. They who were sent saw it and wondered; and Yeshu said to the horsemen: Go to your lady, tell her what you have seen! And the wind raised him from the water and carried him unto dry land.

There horsemen came and told the queen all these things; the queen was frightened, and greatly amazed, and so sent and gathered together the elders of Israel and spoke to them, “You say he is a sorcerer, but every day he does great wonders.” They answered her, “Surely his tricks should not trouble you! Send messengers, that they can bring him here, and his shame will be made plain.” At the same hour she sent messengers, and his wicked company also joined itself to him, and they came with him before the Queen.

Once again Yeshu and Judas Iscariot have a Magic Contest in which Judas befouls Jesus and he is sentenced to death. It is said that his head was covered and he was hit with a pomegranate staff, and that they knew the Name of God had left him because he could not identify who had struck him. One version says that 70 elders with 70 staves beat him in this manner. This incident where Jesus is blindfolded and asked to identify who hits him is found in all three Synoptic gospels.

He began to speak to his companions before the Queen: “Of me it was said: “Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers? But of them he said, “The proud waters.” And of them he said, “Stronger than rocks make they their support.” When the Queen heard this she reproved the apostates and said to the wise men of Israel, “He is in your hand.”

But Jesus gets some help from his disciples:

They departed from the Queen and brought him to the synagogue of Tiberias and bound him to the pillars of the ark. Then there gathered together the band of simpletons and dupes, who believed on his words and desired to deliver him out of the hand of the elders; but they could not do so, and there arose great fighting between them.

When he saw that he had no power to escape, he said, “Give me some water. They gave him vinegar in a copper vessel. He began and spoke with a loud voice, ‘Of me David prophesized and said, “When I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink’.”

On his head they set a crown of thorns. The apostates lamented sore, and there was fighting between them, brother with brother, father with son; but the wise men brought the apostates low.

He began to speak: Of me he prophesied and said, “My back I gave to the smiters” Further of these scriptures say, “Draw here, sons of the sorceress. And of me has been said, “But we held him.” And of me he said, “The Messiah shall be cut off and he is not.” When the apostates heard this, they began to stone them with stones, and there was great hatred among them.

The disciples are actually able to overpower the guards:

Then were the elders afraid, and the apostates bore him off from them, and his 310 disciples brought him to the city of Antioch, where he sojourned until the rest-day of Passover.

As we have already seen, Antioch is a city very special to Christians, and the author of Acts says that it was the city where people first called themselves Christians.

During Passover, Jesus makes the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and Judas makes the deal to bow down before Jesus to point him out. Jesus is then captured and some text that was probably added later gives what seems to be a trial of four of his disciples in which they are asked for proof that their names were foretold in scripture:

They said to him: “What is your name?”
He answered: “Matthai.”
They said to him: “What proof do you have from Scripture?”
He answered them: “Mathai [When] shall I come and see the face of God?”
They said to him: “When shall he die and make his name perish?”

They said to him: “What is your name?”
He answered: “Naki.”
They said to him: “What proof do you have from Scripture?”
He answered: “With Naki [pure] hands and a clean heart.”
They answered: “He remains not unpunished.”

They said to him: “What is your name?”
He answered: “Boni.”
They said to him: “What proof do you have from Scripture?”
He answered: “My first-born Imeni [son] is Israel.”
They said: “Of you it was said: Behold, I will slay thy first-born son.”

They said to him: “What is your name?”
He answered: “Netzer.”
They said to him: “What proof do you have from Scripture?”
He answered them: “A Netzer [branch] shall spring up out of his roots.”
They said to him: “You are cast out of your sepulchre, like an abominable branch.”
And thus still more, as he gave himself many names.

A very similar scene appears in the Talmud, listing five disciples instead of four: Matthai, Neqai, Netzer, Buni, and Thodah. For each, it is asked if the man must die, quoting a Bible verse in defense. But for each, a different Bible verse is given condemning them, and each of the five men are put to death.

None of those names should be familiar; after all, the Twelve have been clearly identified in the last version of the story as being apostles of a later time. Yet one of them is: Matthai, equivalent to Matthew.

In this version, Jesus is once again put to death and hung on a cabbage stalk. It is said that he was unable to use the Name of God on the cabbage because it was not a tree but a vegetable. They take him down so as not to break the Torah law about leaving a body on a tree all night and buried him. Judas buries him in his garden and diverts the river over him but later reveals the body after the Queen threatens to kill the wise men. Jesus is dragged around the streets of Jerusalem before shown to the Queen, who then mocks the apostates and praises the wise men. Then:

His disciples fled and scattered themselves in the kingdom; three of them to Mount Ararat, three of them to Armenia, three to Rome, and others to other places, and misled the peoples, but everywhere where they took refuge, God sent his judgment upon them, and they were slain. But many among the apostates of our people went astray after him; there was strife between them and the Israelites, confusion of prayers and much loss of money. Everywhere the apostates caught sight of the Israelites they said to the Israelites: You have slain God’s Anointed! But the Israelites answered them, “You are children of death, because you have believed on a false prophet!” Nevertheless, they went not forth from the community of Israel, and there was strife and contention among them, so that Israel had no peace. When the wise men of Israel saw this they said: [It is now] 30 years since that rogue was put to death, until now we have no peace with these misguided ones, and this has befallen us because of the number of our sins, for it is written: “They have moved me to wrath with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities” [those are the Christians, who worship that which is not God; with a base people will I provoke them- that is, with the Ishmaelites].

This last part is rendered with problems and is thought to be a late addition. It seems to be insinuating that God punished the Christians by sending the Muslims on them.

The wise said: How long will the apostates profane Sabbaths and feasts, and slay one another? Let us rather seek for a wise man who may take these erring ones out of the community of Israel. It is now 30 years that we have admonished them, but they have not returned to God, because they have taken it into their heads that Yeshu is the Messiah, and so may they go to destruction and peace be with us.

Another so-called “plan” is drawn up, similar to the last one:

The wise men agreed on a man whose name was Eli-Yahu, and he was very learned in the Scripture and they said to him: “We have agreed, that we will pray for you, that you will be counted as a good Israelite in the other world. Go, and do good for Israel, and remove the apostates from us, that they may go to destruction!”

Eli-Yahu went to the Sanhedrin at Tiberias to Antioch, and made proclamation throughout the whole land of Israel: “Whoever believes in Yeshu, let him join himself to me!” Then he said to them: “I am the apostle of Yeshu, who sent me to you, and I will show you a marvel, as Yeshu did.

They brought him a leper, and he laid hands on him, so that he was healed. They brought unto him a lame man, he uttered the Name, laid his name on him, and he was healed and stood upon his feet. At which point they fell down before him and said, “Truly you are the messenger of Yeshu, for you have shown us marvels as he did.”

He said to them, “Yeshu sends his greetings and says, ‘I am with my Father in heaven at His right hand,’ until He shall take vengeance on the Jews, as David said: ‘Sit you on my right hand’.” At the same hour they all lamented and added foolishness to their foolishness. Eli-Yahu said to them: “Whoever will be with me in the other world, let him remove himself from the community of Israel and join himself not to them; for my Father in heaven has already rejected them and from now on no longer requires their service, for so said He through Isaiah: “Your new moons and feasts my soul hates.”

Eli-Yahu is said to have brought about a reform, changing the holy day from Saturday to Sunday, adding other new holidays, including the Feast of his Circumcision, which actually was celebrated until the end of the 400s A.D. He is also said to have allowed converts that were both circumcised and uncircumcised. Although the last version has this coming from the mouth of Peter, he also tells them to go ”the extra mile“ and ”turn the other cheek.“ This causes them to separate from Israel:

But Eli-Yahu who gave these laws, the not-good ones, did it for the welfare of Israel, and the Nazarenes call him Paul. After he had introduced these laws and commandments, the erring ones separated themselves from Israel, and the strife ceased.

The allegation here that Paul was originally set up by ”wise men“ who would promise him paradise in the afterlife if he only betrayed his fellow Christians is very reminiscent of how the ”wise men“ set Judas up to betray Jesus. Some equally absurd theories that Paul was a patsy for the Roman government attempting to de-radicalize Christianity has cropped up in modern times as well. Not only that, but the attributes given to Eli-Yahu are not exactly reminiscent of Paul. One noticeably irony is that although the whole point of the exercise was to attempt to stop Jews from profaning the Sabbath, etc., it is the patsy Paul himself who changes the Christians� holy day from Saturday to Sunday. Galatians has Paul ridiculing the congregation for observing ”special days“ and Colossians says that no one should be judged in regard to festivals or Sabbaths. Not until the middle of the second century did Justin Martyr first repeat a tradition of Christians meeting no Sunday and not until some time around the early 200s that Tertullian refers to it as a day of rest.

But if Eli-Yahu is Paul, then the Elias mentioned in the earlier version might have been a reference to Paul as well, or an editor of this version may have simply confused Elias with the far more popularly-known Paul. This spot may have been where the story originally ended, as the last part of the text makes a reference to the 900s. The current version goes on to speak of the heresy of Nestorius, who was a patriarch of Constantinople in the early 400s who was excommunicated and exiled for objecting that Mary should be called the “Mother of God.“ His followers dispersed into Persia, India, China and Mongolia. His beliefs seem to have been similar to Docetic Christians.

A long time after, the Persian power arose; then a Christian departed from them, made mock of them, just as the heretics had laughed at the wise men. He said to them: “Paul was in error in his scripture when he said to you, ‘Circumcise yourselves not- for Yeshu was circumcised. Yeshu also said, ‘I have come not to destroy even one jot from the law of Moses, but to fulfill all his words. And that is your shame, which Paul laid upon you, when he said, ‘Don’t circumcise yourselves’.” But Nestorius said to them: “Circumcise yourselves, for Yeshu was circumcised.” Also said Nestorius, “you heretics! You say Yeshu is God, though he was born of a woman. Only the Holy Spirit rested on him as on the prophets.”

Nestorius, who began to argue with the Chistians, persuaded their women; he said to them: I will enact that no Christian take two wives. But as Nestorius became detestable in their eyes, there arose a strife between them, so much that no Christian would pray to the abomination of Nestorius, or the followers of Nestorius to the abomination of the Christians.

Then Nestorius went to Babylon to another place, the name of which was Chazaza, and all fled before him, because Nestorius was a violent man. The women said to him, “What do you require of us?” He answered them, “I require only that you receive from me the bread-and-wine offering.” Now it was the custom of the women of Chazaza, that they carried large keys in their hands. He gave one of them the offering; she cast it to the ground. And the woman cast the keys in their hands upon him; smote him, so that he died, and there was for long strife between them.

The text now seems to jump back to the first century again to speak of Simon Cephas, but upon further inspection, “Simon Cephas” turns out to be the Eldar, Simon Stylites, a famous ascetic from the mid-400s, who lived in northern Syria:

Now the chief of the Sanhedrin, his name was Simon Cephas- and why was he called Cephas? Because he stood on the stone on which Ezekiel had prophesied at the river Chobar [in Babylonia], and on that stone it was that Simon heard the daughter of a voice from heaven. When the Christians heard that Simon Cephas was one of those who heard a voice from heaven, and that stores of wisdom were in him, they envied the Israelites, that so great a man was found in Israel. God brought it into Simon’s mind to go to Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles. And there were gathered together all the bishops and the Great Ancient of the Christians. They came to Simon Cephas to the Mount of Olives on the day of the great Feast of Willow-twigs [during the Feast of Tabernacles]. When they saw his wisdom, that there was not one in Israel like unto him, they tried to turn him to the religion of the Christians, and they constrained him, saying: “If you do not profess our religion, we will put you to death, and not leave even one remaining in Israel to go into the sanctuary.”

When the Israelites saw this, they told him, ”Humor them; act according to your wisdom, so that neither sin nor guilt be on you.” So when he perceived the hard fate for Israel, he betook himself to the Christians, and said to them: ”On this condition do I become a convert to your religion: that you put no Jew to death, that you not punish any Jew, or stop them from going in and out of the sanctuary.” The Ancient and the Christians accepted his words and all these conditions. He made a condition with them, that they would build him a lofty tower, he would go into it, would eat no flesh, nor anything except bread and water, letting down a box by a cord for them to supply him with only bread and water, and he would remain in the tower until his death.

All this he did with respect to God, that he might not be stained and sullied by them and that he might not mix with them; but to the Christians he spoke in their sense as though he would mourn for Yeshu and eat no flesh nor anything else but bread and water only. They built him a tower, and he dwelt inside; he did not burden himself with eating, and did not pray to the Cross.

This Simon Cephas is definitely a different Simon than the one from the last story. The history of the saints confirms that St. Simon Stylites did live the majority of his life in narrow spaces no larger than 20 meters. He had originally been ejected from the monastery after nearly starving himself and wearing a girdle so tight that he gave himself infected wounds. After this he shut himself up in a hut for 3 years, but crowds of pilgrims went through the desert to seek his advice out on prayer. He spoke mostly against money lending and profanity. After discovering a pillar amongst some ruins, it�s said he became determined to spend the rest of his life on it. However, not being tall enough, it was replaced several times, the last one being 15 feet high, at which point pilgrims would climb a ladder up to see him. He would not be the last to take this unique form of hermitage, as many pillar-ascetics came to follow his example.

The ”Ancient of the Christians” who threatened to kill everyone might be the Emperor Theodosius or the Pope of Rome. As we�ve seen, Theodosius was the first Christian Emperor to outlaw paganism and attempted to force all of Rome to convert to the Catholic/Orthodox religion of Constantine. The Roman Catholic Encyclopedia says this about St. Simon Stylites:

Great personages, such as the Emperor Theodosius and the Empress Eudocia manifested the utmost reverence for the saint and listened to his counsels, while the Emperor Leo paid respectful attention to a letter Simeon wrote to him in favour of the Council of Chalcedon. Once when he was ill Theodosius sent three bishops to beg him to descend and allow himself to be attended by physicians, but the sick man preferred to leave his cure in the hands of God, and before long he recovered. After spending thirty-six years on his pillar, Simeon died on Friday, 2 Sept., 459 (Lietzmann, p. 235). A contest arose between Antioch and Constantinople for the possession of his remains. The preference was given to Antioch, and the greater part of his relics were left there as a protection to the unwalled city. The ruins of the vast edifice erected in his honour and known as Qal `at Sim `an (the mansion of Simeon) remain to the present day. It consists of four basilicas built out from an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass. In the centre of the court stands the base of St. Simeon's column. This edifice, says H.C. Butler, “unquestionably influenced contemporary and later church building to a marked degree” (Architecture and other Arts, p. 184). It seems to have been a supreme effort of a provincial school of architecture which had borrowed little from Constantinople. -New Advent Encyclopedia

The story then concludes with a description of how Simon Stylites composed various kind of synagogue poetry, comparing him to a famous synagogue poet from around 900 A.D.:

Afterwards he composed in his tower Keroboth, Jotzroth, and Zulthoth in his name, like Eliezer son of Kalir. He sent and gathered together the elders of Israel and handed over to their care all that he found in his mind, and charged them that they should teach it to the leaders in prayer and use it for prayers, so that they might make mention of him for good.

They, moreover, sent [the Book of Prayers] to Babylon to Rabbi Nathan, the Prince of the Exile, and they showed it to the heads of the schools, to the Sanhedrin, and they said: It is good, and they taught it to the headers in prayer of all Israel, and they used it for prayers. Whosoever would mention the name of Simon in his chanting did so. May his memory endure to the life of the other world. But God in his mercy give him a good defender. Amen! Sela!

Although the Sepher Toledot Yeshu is undoubtedly an ancient text essential to the understanding of early Christianity, it has been profoundly missing from historic scholars. To give an idea of how estranged this text has become to scholars who could have found it instrumental to their studies, the Swedish scholar Alavar Ellegard wrote a book in 1999 called Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ, in which he argues the case for Jesus living 100 years B.C. almost entirely on negative evidence from the Pauline epistles and Christian apocrypha, seemingly without any knowledge of the Toledot�s existence.

Robert E. Van Voorst mentions the Toledot in his book, Jesus Outside the New Testament, in 2000, saying that “It may contain a few older traditions from ancient Jewish polemic against Christians, but we learn nothing new or significant from it. Scholarly consensus is correct to discount it as a reliable source for the historical Jesus.” He goes on to contemplate why there are not more references to Jesus that are contemporary with him, like from Philo, but concludes that the references to Jesus in Jewish literature “provide an even stronger case than those in classical literature that he did indeed exist,” (p. 133). Yet he does not even entertain the idea that the historical Jesus may have lived when these corroborative texts say that he lived!

In 1903, G. R. S. Mead wrote in Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.? (1903), wrote: ”if we search the two great works [the Encyclopedia Biblica and the Jewish Encyclopedia] to which we have referred for any authority in support of the hypothesis of the 100 B.C. date of Jesus, we shall find none. Indeed, we cannot find even a reference to the subject. Moreover, in the very few encyclopedias of earlier date which make reference to the Talmud Jeschu stories, we shall find that no Christian scholar has even dreamed of entertaining the possibility of such a hypothesis. In the older books of reference this universal abiding by tradition was to be expected, but in the most recent works, where tradition is so often set at naught and the most out-of-the-way material sifted for the smallest scrap of usable evidence, it seems at first sight somewhat strange, not only that there is no one courageous enough to suggest the possibility of there being some grain of probability at the bottom of some of the Jewish legends, but that there is no notice whatever taken of them by any writer. It would appear that they are regarded either as being of a so utterly apocryphal nature as to deserve no mention, or as falling outside the scope of the undertaking.” (p. 32).

Little has changed in the next century. The vast majority of modern scholarly writing takes it for granted that Jesus lived during the time of Pontius Pilate and instead focus on which of the many roles assigned to Jesus in scripture was the most original, with some notable exceptions: Six years after Mead�s book was published, Albert Schweitzer very briefly touched on the work in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, saying: ”A work with some ability and with much out-of-the-way learning is ”Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?” The author compares the Christian tradition with the Jewish, and finds in the latter a reminiscence of a Jesus who lived in a time of Alexander Jannaeus (104-76 B.C.). This person was transferred by the earliest Evangelist to the later period, the attempt being facilitated by the fact that during the procuratorship of Pilate a false prophet had attracted some attention. The author, however, only professes to offer it as a hypothesis, and apologizes in advance for the offence which it is likely to cause” (p. 327).

Alavar Ellegard and G. A. Wells argued that the gospel Jesus came from an a different tradition than the earlier Pauline epistles. Wells eventually concluded that the traditions behind the gospel Jesus must have come from another historical Jesus, but Ellegard argued that the gospels were a fictionalization of the real Jesus, who he identified with as the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, a historic man who lived about 100 years before the gospel Jesus. Earl Doherty, Timothy Freke, and Peter Gandy also acknowledged this essential division between the epistles and the gospels, but instead made equally good arguments that the Jesus of the epistles was a mythological savior figure in the mold of Adonis, Attis, Dionysus and Orpheus. However, the only person in the modern era to truly take on the question of the Toledot in a (not-so) popular book with any amount of thoroughness is the editor of the American Atheist Press, Frank Zindler. In his 2003 book, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, Zindler acknowledges quoting him often, and says that he considers Mead to be one of the two greatest early twentieth century authorities on rabbinical allusions to the historical Jesus, along with R. Travers Herford, who wrote Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (p.171). Zindler identifies the tradition of Jesus being ”hung from a tree” as older than that of the gospels, but goes on to say that even that even this tradition was only based on the reaction to Christian polemics which the Jews took ”at face value” since they had no firsthand knowledge of Jesus themselves. He then concludes that this earlier tradition is just as fictional as the gospel tradition. In the next few chapters, I will try to argue that the main thesis of his book is wrong: that there was originally a historical Jesus from an earlier era who was stoned to death and hung from a tree.