The Jewish Life of Christ being the SEPHER TOLDOT JESHU or Book of the Generation of Jesus - anonymous - ebook
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When we first announced our intention of publishing a translation of this work, we were unaware that it had ever appeared in English before it was inserted in the New York Truthseeker by “Scholasticus.” This able and learned writer, who has since published his translation, with other highly interesting matter, under the title of “Revelations of Antichrist concerning Christ and Christianity,” (Boston: J. P. Mendum.—New York: D. M. Bennett; 1879) supposed that he was the first who introduced it to the English-speaking world. He was, however, mistaken. We have quite recently lighted on a translation published by Richard Carlile in 1823. It was done by a Jew, who stated that it had “never before been wholly translated into any modern language.” He appears to have been right in this statement, as the earliest continental translation we can trace is in German, and was published at Stuttgart in 1850, in a volume together with the Apocryphal Gospels, by Dr. R. Clemons. No copy of the Richard Carlile edition (the Hebrew translator does not give his name) is to be found in the British Museum. It is a sixteen-page octavo pamphlet, with an Editor’s Preface, probably by Carlile himself, and a Dedication by the translator “To the Clergy of the Church of England.” His English text is substantially the same as that now published. Some of its phrases are rough and racy, possibly owing to his strict adherence to the original; and instead of veiling in Latin the amours of Pandera and Miriam, he relates them in plain English, with Biblical naïvité.The Sepher Toldoth Jeshu was first published in Latin, with the Hebrew text in parallel columns, by J. C. Wagenseil in his “Tela Ignea Satanae,” a collection of Jewish Anti-Christian tracts, all translated into Latin, with attempted refutations. To collect these valuable tracts, Wagenseil travelled widely through Spain and into Africa, where the chief centres of Jewish learning then existed. His work was published at Altdorf in 1681.

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THE

JEWISH LIFE OF CHRIST

BEING THE

SEPHER TOLDOTH JESHU.

ספר תולךזת ישז

OR

BOOK OF THE GENERATION OF JESUS.

Translated from the Hebrew.

EDITED

(With an Historical Preface and Voluminous Notes)

BY

G. W. FOOTE & J. M. WHEELER.

LONDON:

PROGRESSIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.

28 STONECUTTER STREET.

1885

LONDONPRINTED BY G.W. FOOTE,AT 14 CLERKENWELL GREEN, E.C.

Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

APPENDIX—JESUS IN THE TALMUD.

Was Jesus Hanged?

Lardner on the Toldoth Jeshu.

Celsus

Jesus and Magic.

Jeshu’s Contemporaries.

PREFACE

When we first announced our intention of publishing a translation of this work, we were unaware that it had ever appeared in English before it was inserted in the New York Truthseeker by “Scholasticus.” This able and learned writer, who has since published his translation, with other highly interesting matter, under the title of “Revelations of Antichrist concerning Christ and Christianity,” (Boston: J. P. Mendum.—New York: D. M. Bennett; 1879) supposed that he was the first who introduced it to the English-speaking world. He was, however, mistaken. We have quite recently lighted on a translation published by Richard Carlile in 1823. It was done by a Jew, who stated that it had “never before been wholly translated into any modern language.” He appears to have been right in this statement, as the earliest continental translation we can trace is in German, and was published at Stuttgart in 1850, in a volume together with the Apocryphal Gospels, by Dr. R. Clemons. No copy of the Richard Carlile edition (the Hebrew translator does not give his name) is to be found in the British Museum. It is a sixteen-page octavo pamphlet, with an Editor’s Preface, probably by Carlile himself, and a Dedication by the translator “To the Clergy of the Church of England.” His English text is substantially the same as that now published. Some of its phrases are rough and racy, possibly owing to his strict adherence to the original; and instead of veiling in Latin the amours of Pandera and Miriam, he relates them in plain English, with Biblical naïvité.

The Sepher Toldoth Jeshu was first published in Latin, with the Hebrew text in parallel columns, by J. C. Wagenseil in his “Tela Ignea Satanae,” a collection of Jewish Anti-Christian tracts, all translated into Latin, with attempted refutations. To collect these valuable tracts, Wagenseil travelled widely through Spain and into Africa, where the chief centres of Jewish learning then existed. His work was published at Altdorf in 1681.

A later and widely different version, the Sepher Toldoth Jeshu ha Nozri (History of Jesus of Nazareth), was published by J. J. Huldrich at Leyden in 1705. It is certainly a more modern version of the Jeshu story. Interpolations are found referring to Worms and the people of Germany, and the narrative abounds with capricious phantasies that belong to the superstition of a later age.

A shorter and earlier version of the Jeshu story was probably used by Luther and condensed in his Schem Hamphoras, although Mr. Gould1 considers that “the only Toldoth Jeshu he was acquainted with was that afterwards published by Wagenseil.” Luther was stung by it into a characteristic fit of vituperation, as the following passage will show:

“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!”—Werke, Wittemberg, 1566, vol. v., p. 515.

Long before the Sepher Toldoth Jeshu was published, in our modern sense, it was known to the learned. The work came to light in the dawning after the Dark Ages, but, says Mr. Gould, “it was kept secret, lest the sight of it should excite tumults, spoliation and massacre.” Those who know how flamingly the evidences of Christianity have been written on the tear-washed and blood-stained pages of Jewish history will appreciate this cautious reserve.

It was doubtless the Jeshu story which was denounced and prohibited by Pope Valentine in his Bull of May 11, 1514, under the title of Mar Mar Jesu2. Dr. G.B. de Rossi, in his Dizionario Storico degli Autori Ebrei, catalogues a book entitled מעשהישו, which he considers the same as the Toldoth Jeshu, and which may also be the same as the proscribed work.

In the thirteenth century, Raymond Martini, a Dominican friar, composed a work against the Jews and Mahommedans, with the suggestive title of Pugione Fidei, the Dagger of Faith. Without naming the Toldoth Jeshu, he gave long extracts from it, or at least a good summary. A Latin rendering of Martini’s Jeshu story appears in a folio volume by Porcheti de Salvaticis, published at Paris in 1520, and entitled Porcheti victoria adversus impios Hebreos—Porcheti’s victory over the impious Hebrews. As the Inquisition took part with Porcheti, the impious Hebrews did not venture to dispute the victory.

The author of “Revelations of Antichrist” gives a complete translation of Porcheti’s Latin narrative. It is substantially the same as the one now published, although much shorter. It ends with the hanging of Jeshu, and makes no allusion to any of the matters in our fourth chapter.

The learned Rossi, in his work already cited, after referring to Wagenseil and Huldrich, says that besides their editions several manuscript copies are to be found in various libraries. Some, he says, bear the different title of Maasi Jesù, or that of Storia di Gesù o del Crocifisso—The History of Jesus the Crucified. Rossi goes on to say that the most pronounced Deists, who have drawn from the Hebrew writings, and from the Chissuk Emuna of Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham, arguments against Christianity and its founder, agree that this book is a mass of Rabbinical sophisms and revolting false inventions; the celebrated Mendelssohn, whom he places among these Deists, protesting that it is one of those books which no sensible Hebrew reads or knows. It may be remarked, however, in opposition to Rossi, that the anonymous Jew who translated Carlile’s edition of our work says “it is considered of authority by the wise men of our nation.” Even Mr. Gould throws no doubt upon its having been widely and honestly accepted by the chosen race.

Perhaps the Deist whom Rossi had principally in his mind was Voltaire. The Heresiarch of Ferney, in his Lettres sur les Juifs, says that “Le Toledos Jesu est le plus ancien écrit Juif qui nous ait été transmis centre notre réligion. C’est une vie de Jésus-Christ, toute contraire à nos Saints Evangiles: elle parait être du premier siècle, et même écrite avant les évangiles.”—“The Toldoth Jeshu is the most ancient Jewish writing that has descended to us against our religion. It is a life of Jesus Christ, altogether different from our Holy Gospels. It appears to be of the first century, and even to have been written before the Gospels.” Voltaire’s error seems to have arisen from his supposing that Celsus “cited” the work, whereas he merely cites the story of Pandera, which forms its nucleus. In his “Philosophical Dictionary,” article Messiah, Voltaire writes on the Toldoth Jeshu in a delicious vein of grave irony, which appears to have deceived “Anti-Christ” himself, who is certainly no fool, nor devoid of humor.

Mr. Gould devotes a chapter to “The Jew of Celsus.” Celsus wrote, about A.D. 170, a work called “The True Word (Logos),” of which, as well as of the author, Mr. J. A. Froude gives a very interesting account in his fourth volume of “Short Studies on Great Subjects.” The writings of this early opponent of Christianity, like those of others, such as Porphyry, who would not bow to the Nazarene, were ruthlessly suppressed, so that nothing remains of them except the extracts given by Origen in his refutation. In a passage which will be found among our foot-notes, Celsus describes Jesus as a bastard, born of a Jewish countrywoman and a soldier named Panthera. The genealogy of Jesus, given by St. Epiphanius, induces Mr. Gould to say that “it shows that in the fourth century the Jewish stories of Panthera had made such an impression on the Christians that his name was forced into the pedigree of Jesus.” Basnage, in his “History of the Jews” (Taylor’s translation) has an extremely interesting passage on this subject:

“Celsus is excusable in having upbraided Christians with the virgin being forced by a soldier called Pandera, but how can St. Epiphanius [A.D. 367] be excused, who assures us that Jesus was the son of Jacob surnamed Panthera? Or how can John of Damascus [A.D. 760] be justified, who is indeed of another opinion, but for all that makes him come into the genealogy of J. Christ? for he maintains that Panthera was great-grandfather to Mary, and Barpanther her grandfather. Raban Maur [A.D. 874] doth also speak of these two men; and the learned Grotius [A.D. 1640] made an advantage of this tradition, as if it had been well grounded, that so the romance invented about the virgin might appear more probable. And indeed the name given here to the soldier, Panther, is a Greek one; how then can it be introduced into the genealogy of J. Christ as the surname of a family? There is good reason to believe that it was invented only to make the birth of the Messiah more odious. The panther, or male of the panther, is a savage and cruel beast that couples with a lioness, and from thence proceeds the leopard ... The manuscript of a Rabbi is also quoted, wherein it is said that as the leopard is produced by the mixture of different species, so J. Christ sprung from a Greek soldier and a Jewish woman. Those who reckon Panthera among Christ’s ancestors, fall into the snare which the most inveterate enemies of the Christian religion have laid for them. Emanuel de Tesauro is one of these, for he blesses the fate of Marham and Panther because Jesus Christ came from them.” (B. iv., ch. 27).

The learned Basnage rather hobbles than walks out of the difficulty. We leave it to the Christians to explain satisfactorily why Panthera crept into the ancestry of their Savior.