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Hayyim ben Yehoshua has a piece called The Myth of the Historical Jesus that can be found all over the Net, and it amounts to 21 printed pages, but at the end there are only seven footnotes -- one from John Allegro's Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth (a work so erroneous that a group of scholars of varying religious persuasions took out an ad in a major newspaper saying how bad it was); one from Randel Helms' Gospel Fictions (see here); one from Cohen's Mind of the Bible Believer (here); one from the Talmud, one from a Christ-myth book written in 1913.
The closest we get to a real scholar is Joseph Campbell, who made it on PBS explaining how Christianity stole everything from all of the other religions.
So who is Hayyim ben Yehoshua? He is a Jewish "anti-missionary" who claims that Jesus does not exist; his credentials are unstated and unknown. The following is typical of his expression:
To be perfectly thorough you should take time to do some research on the historical personalities mentioned by the missionaries and present hard evidence of their existence. At the same time you should challenge the missionaries to provide similar evidence of Jesus's existence. You should point out that although the existence of Julius Caesar, or Queen Elizabeth, etc., is accepted worldwide, the same is not true of Jesus. In the Far East where the major religions are Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism and Confucianism, Jesus is considered to be just another character in Western religious mythology, on a par with Thor, Zeus and Osiris. Most Hindus do not believe in Jesus, but those who do consider him to be one of the many avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu. Muslims certainly believe in Jesus but they reject the New Testament story and consider him to be a prophet who announced the coming of Muhammed. They explicitly deny that he was ever crucified.
"To sum up," Hayyim says, "there is no story of Jesus which is uniformly accepted worldwide. It is this fact which puts Jesus on a different level to established historical personalities."
Really? What does the opinion of people hundreds of years from the first century and thousands of miles removed from the Near East, reinterpreting data according to their own paradigms, have to do with anything? The same could be said also of Hitler, about whom thousands of biographies have been written, many emphasizing different aspects of his personality. But is he a myth too?
He says: "Although modern Christians claim that Christianity only started in the first century C.E., it is clear that the first century Christians in Israel considered themselves to be a continuation of the Notzri movement which had been in existence for about 150 years. One of the most notorious Notzrim was Yeishu ben Pandeira, also known as Yeishu ha-Notzri. Talmudic scholars have always maintained that the story of Jesus began with Yeishu."
Which Talmudic scholars, please? Jacob Neusner? Geza Vermes? No such as this fills their pages, and Hayyim offers not so much as a footnote for reference here. Some of them do recognize the cites Hayyim gives as being connected to Jesus (that he had five disciples, that he was a sorceror, etc.) but others disagree, and none of them connect it to any person 150 years earlier, and only mythers like Hayyim make such a link, usually by relying on the Toledeth Yeshu. Actually most scholars -- and even atheists, as on the Secular Web -- consider the Talmud references to Jesus historically almost useless.
Here's another argument without basis: "The Hebrew name for Christians has always been Notzrim....There were already people called Notzrim at the time of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyah (c. 100 B.C.E.)."
From this Hayyim has all kinds of ideas, but the fact is that the title of notzrim is found in only two copies of a general proscription against sectarian or deviant Jews, but from the Cairo synagogue "dump" for old mss. (in all other versions of the same document, the reference to notzrim is not found at all)and otherwise the only evidence that Jews called Christians "Nazarenes" is found in Jerome and Epiphanus c. 375-400 AD. The term therefore came into use sometime between 150-400 AD. [Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, 68-9]
But based on such slender threads, Hayyim has his own reconstruction to offer, with no documentation to speak of. Jesus' father being Joseph is explained thusly: "The Samaritans considered themselves to be 'Bnei Yoseph' i.e. 'sons of Joseph,' and since they believed that Jesus had been their Messiah, they would have assumed that he was a 'son of Joseph.' The Greek speaking population, who had little knowledge of Hebrew and true Jewish traditions, could have easily misunderstood this term and assumed that Joseph was the actual name of Jesus's father."
Really? We want to know: When some Samaritan missionary called Jesus "son of Joseph," why would this title be especially applied to Jesus, if it was a popular title for all Samaritans? What's the point, exactly, of making light of this? Hayyim thinks this explains confusion in Jesus' genealogies; we think Glenn Miller does it better.
If this was something Samaritan missionaries alone did, what was their proportion to non-Samaritan missionaries, and why didn't non-Samaritans say or do something about this? What is the evidence that the Samaritans had the numbers, power, or influence to make this interpretation superior?
There isn't any -- and I would go as far as daring to say that Hayyim is making this up.
We are told:
The story that Mary (Miriam) the mother of Jesus was an adulteress was certainly not acceptable to the early Christians. The virgin birth story was probably invented to clear Mary's name. The early Christians did not suck this story out of their thumbs. Virgin birth stories were fairly common in pagan myths. The following mythological characters were all believed to have been born to divinely impregnated virgins: Romulus and Remus, Perseus, Zoroaster, Mithras, Osiris-Aion, Agdistis, Attis, Tammuz, Adonis, Korybas, Dionysus. The pagan belief in unions between gods and women, regardless of whether they were virgins or not, is even more common.
Yes, just follow the links. These are the ones I (or in one case Glenn Miller) have checked up on, and none of them are products of virgin conceptions. Virgin "births," maybe -- if you count things like slipping divine sperm in through fruit as not violating virginity. Technically this may be true. Comparatively, it's nothing like the NT account.
You'll see the same about "crucified" and resurrected divinities in Hayyim's material as well. He also repeats the litany about Peter being named after a deity from the Egyptian Book of the Dead; as with Acharya S, I challenge anyone to find this for me in the online version I linked to in that article.
We are told, "Even today, editions of the Talmud used by Christian scholars lack these passages [that refer to Jesus]." Odd, then, how you can find them referred to even in Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Which editions of the Talmud are these, and which Christian scholars? Hayyim makes innumerable vague claims that this, without any citation or quotation, throughout his material.
You won't find much new here that isn't already answered on this page, but here are a few odd statements otherwise:
- The Christians also did not accept that Mary Magdalene was connected to Miriam the alleged mother of Yeishu in the Talmud. They argued that the name "Magdalene" does mean a person from Magdala and that the Jews invented "Miriam the women's hairdresser mgadla nshaya)" either to mock the Christians, or out of their own misunderstanding of the name "Magdalene." This argument is also false. Firstly, it ignores Greek grammar: the correct Greek for "of Magdala" is "Magdales" and the correct Greek for a person from Magdala is "Magdalaios." The original Greek root of "Magdalene" is "Magdalen-," with a conspicuous "n" showing that the word has nothing to do with Magdala. Secondly, Magdala only got its name after the Gospels were written. Before that it was called Magadan or Dalmanutha. (Although "Magadan" has an "n," it lacks an "l" and so it cannot be the derivation of "Magdalene.") In fact, the ruins of this area were renamed Magdala by the Christian community because they believed that Mary Magdalene had come from there.
I do not have the resource available to check this "Greek grammar" argument -- I can say that no scholar I have checked believes it, and I have found no evidence that Magdala received its name later, either -- but Hayyim's source for this sort of speculation is Jewish polemics dated hundreds of years after the Gospels. I see no reason why this isn't a case of the polemicists mixing two personalities together for polemical purposes, just as the Toledeth Yeshu sent people back and forth in time.
- "Where did the story that Jesus was crucified come from?" Hayyim thinks the story is a compiliation of "Messiahs and who were crucified by the Romans, namely Yehuda of Galilee (6 C.E.), Theudas (44 C.E.), and Benjamin the Egyptian (60 C.E.)."
Only problem: we have no evidence for either aspect -- that they claimed to be Messiahs, or were crucified.
- The idea that Jesus was crucified on a cross comes from this: "Passover occurs at the time of the Vernal Equinox, an event considered important by astrologers during the Roman Empire. The astrologers thought of this time as the time of the crossing of two astrological celestial circles, and this event was symbolized by a cross. Thus there was a belief that Jesus had died on 'the cross.'"
Really? Did the Roman astrologers use the word stauros (the word we translate "cross" in the NT) to signify this astronomic phenomenon? So the early missionaries just said "Jesus died on a cross" and meant "on" as in time rather than location, but never explained this? The Greek prepositions can be confused as our English one can?
- We are also told: "In one of the earliest Christian documents (the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) there is no mention of Jesus being crucified yet the sign of a cross in the sky is used to represent Jesus's coming." This document, also called the Didache, is a book of moral and practical instruction (i.e., how to do baptisms and the Eucharist) and says nothing about a "sign of a cross in the sky" representing Jesus' coming. It actually says, "And 'then shall appear the signs' of the truth. First the sign spread out in Heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead."
Do you see the word "cross" here? Not that it matters: Hayyim claims, with no textual backup at all, that the Didache "apparently originated as a sectarian Jewish document written in the first century C.E., but it was adopted by Christians who altered it substantially and added Christian ideas to it." He also says, "In the earliest versions it is clear that the 'twelve apostles' are the twelve sons of Jacob representing the twelve tribes of Israel." What "earliest versions"? Where are these alternate versions of the Didache now?
- We are told: "John the Baptist is largely based on an historical person who practiced ritual immersion in water as a physical symbol for repentance. He did not perform Christian style sacramental baptisms to cleanse people's souls - such an idea was totally foreign to Judaism."
It's foreign to Christianity, too; see here.
We are also told that John's name in Greek, Ioannes, "closely resembles 'Oannes' the Greek name for the pagan god Ea" who was the "God of the House of Water." Actually Oannes was a Babylonian merman-deity called "Lord of the Waves" and we know him in the OT as Dagon. We are told that John adapted his rite from the worship of Oannes, though since no one had been worshipping Oannes for quite some time, one wonders where he got it from. One also wonders what other Jews named Joannes/Jochanon did about this issue, and whether they would have cared that their names, in English characters, looked like the merman-god's would in English centuries later.
- "...the style of language used in Mark shows that it was written (probably in Rome) by a Roman convert to Christianity whose first language was Latin and not Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic."
No NT scholar of any persuasion believes this. It is simply another one of hundreds (literally) of undocumented assertions by Hayyim, like this one:
"The content of Mark is a collection of myths and legends put together to form a continuous narrative. There is no evidence that it was based on any reliable historical sources. Mark was altered and edited many times and the modern version probably dates to about 150 C.E."
Not a shred of evidence is offered for any of this; it is, again, mere assertion. One could just as well claim: "Tacitus' Annals are a collection of myths and legends put together to form a continuous narrative. There is no evidence that it was based on any reliable historical sources. Tacitus was altered and edited many times and the modern version probably dates to about 180 C.E."
Do I have any proof of this? No, and neither does Hayyim for his claims.
- On Papias: "Papias was a name-dropper and it is by no means certain that he was honest when he claimed that he had met Philip's daughters. Even if he had, this would at most prove that the apostle Philip in Christian mythology was based on an historical person."
One becomes a name-dropper by reputation, one of using names of people found out, by investigation, to not actually be known or known well. So which of Papias' contemporaries did Hayyim interview?
- Did Paul write any of his own letters? "...we are left with the conclusion that that all the Pauline epistles are pseudepigraphic."
How can this be determined unless we possess a genuine letter of Paul to compare with?
"Some of the Pauline epistles appear to be have been altered and edited numerous times before reaching their modern forms."
Appear, how? We aren't told, and there is no textual evidence for this.
- Hayyim's material on the secular references to Jesus contain little new. "In the Christian edited versions of the Jewish Antiquities there are two passages dealing with Jesus as portrayed in Christian religious works. Neither of these passages are found in the original version of the Jewish Antiquities which was preserved by the Jews."
There are NO versions of the Antiquities without these passages; there is no "original version preserved by the Jews" without them. And I'll close with this about Tacitus, which, when people have asked about Hayyim in the past, I have always pointed to as an example of his poor methodology:
"It is quite ironic that modern Christians use Tacitus to back up their beliefs since he was the least accurate of all Roman historians...Besides 'Christus' he also speaks of various pagan gods as if they really exist. His summary of Middle East history in his book the Histories is so distorted as to be laughable."
Every one of these points is incorrect: Tacitean scholars regard Tacitus as the most accurate of Roman historians; he does not speak of "various pagan gods" as existing to the extent, like Christus, that they came to earth, and not one Tacitean has said that his Middle East history is "distorted."
So it is that we may freely dispense with attention to another Internet-based critic of Christianity.