תולדות ישו (Toledot Yeshu), The Genealogy of Jesus
“Rav Naḥman said: All mockery is forbidden except for mockery of idolatry, which is permitted, as is written, Bel has knelt, Nebo has cowered. [Their images you bore aloft become burdens for beasts and animals loaded to exhaustion] (Isaiah 46:1) and it says, They cowered, they knelt together, could not free the burden, [and they themselves went into captivity] (ibid., 2). Rabbi Yannai said so from here: The calf of Beth-Aven they fear, the dwellers of Samaria. For his people mourns for it, and his priests for it. They wail over their glory, for it has departed from them (Hosea 10:5). Do not read כְּבוֹדוֹ (kevodo), their glory, but כְּבֵידוֹ (keveido), its burden [meaning that the calf of Beth-Aven is unable to restrain itself from defecating].
Rav Huna son of Manoaḥ said in the name of Rav Aḥa, son of Rav Iqa: It is permitted for an Israelite to say to a gentile, ‘Take your idol and shove it up your שִׁין תָּיו (shin tav)! [i.e., שֵׁת (shet), ass (Isaiah 20:4); cf. Genesis 31:34–35]’” (BT Megillah 25b).
The Genealogy of Jesus
In the year 3671 in the days of King Jannaeus, a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of יְהוּדָה (Yehudah), Judah, whose name was Yosef Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah.
Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yoḥanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in Torah and God-fearing.
Once at the close of Sabbath, Yosef Pandera, attractive and like a warrior in appearance, having gazed lustfully upon Miriam, knocked upon the door of her room and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yoḥanan. Even so, she was amazed at this improper conduct and submitted only against her will [the author may well be poking fun at the Christian genealogies when he (too) highlights the Davidic lineage of Yoḥanan, the man who did not impregnate Miriam].
Thereafter, when Yoḥanan came to her, Miriam expressed astonishment at behavior so foreign to his character. It was thus that they both came to know the crime of Yosef Pandera and the terrible mistake on the part of Miriam. Whereupon Yoḥanan went to Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah and related to him the tragic seduction. Lacking witnesses required for the punishment of Yosef Pandera, and Miriam being with child, Yoḥanan left for Babylonia [alt., Egypt].
Miriam gave birth to a son and named him יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, after her brother. This name later deteriorated to יֵשׁוּ (Yeshu), Jesus [cf. BT Arakhin 32b: “Scripture reproved Joshua, for in all passages it is spelt: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu’a), Joshua, but here, יֵשׁוּעַ (Yeshu’a), Joshua (Nehemiah 8:17)”]. On the eighth day he was circumcised. When he was old enough the lad was taken by Miriam to the house of study to be instructed in the [Jewish] tradition.
One day Jesus walked in front of the Sages with his head uncovered, showing shameful disrespect. At this, the discussion arose as to whether this behavior did not truly indicate that Jesus was an illegitimate child and the son of a נִדָּה (niddah), menstruate woman. Moreover, the story tells that while the Rabbis were discussing the tractate Neziqin, he gave his own impudent interpretation of the law and in an ensuing debate he held that Moses could not be the greatest of the prophets if he had to receive counsel from Jethro. This led to further inquiry as to the antecedents of Jesus, and it was discovered through Rabban Shim’on son of Shetah that he was the illegitimate son of Yosef Pandera. Miriam admitted it. After this became known, it was necessary for Jesus to flee to Upper Galilee.
After King Jannaeus and his wife Helene [Salome Alexandra] ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraved the letters of the Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished [cf. BT Sanhedrin 106a: “Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish said: Woe for whoever מְחַיֶּה (meḥayyeh), invigorates [or: resurrects], himself with the name of אֵל (El), God”]. Therefore, the Sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.
Jesus came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.
He gathered about himself three hundred and ten young men of Israel [cf. BT Sanhedrin 100a: “The blessed Holy One will give to every righteous man three hundred and ten worlds, as is written, So I may endow those who love Me with substance, and fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:21)—now the numerical value ofׁ יש (yesh), substance, is 310”]. He accused those who spoke ill of his birth of being people who desired greatness and power for themselves. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, A young woman is about to conceive and bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).” He quoted other texts, insisting, “David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: YHWH, He said to me: You are My son. I Myself today did beget you (Psalms 2:7).”
The insurgents with him replied that if Jesus was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked. Jesus spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the one afflicted with skin blanch was healed. Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest.
When word of these happenings came to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin decided to bring about the capture of Jesus. They sent messengers, Annanui and Ahaziah, who, pretending to be his disciples, said that they brought him an invitation from the leaders of Jerusalem to visit them. Jesus consented on condition the members of the Sanhedrin receive him as a lord. He started out toward Jerusalem and, arriving at Knob, acquired a donkey on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah [see Zechariah 9:9: Greatly exult, Zion’s Daughter, shout for joy, Jerusalem’s Daughter. Look, your king shall come to you, victor and triumphant is he, a lowly man riding on an ass, on a donkey, the foal of a she-ass].
The Sages bound him and led him before Queen Helene, with the accusation: “This man is a sorcerer and entices everyone.” Jesus replied, “The prophets long ago prophesied my coming: And a shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, [a branch shall bloom from his roots] (Isaiah 11:1), and I, I am He (Deuteronomy 32:39); but as for them, Scripture says Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel (Psalms 1:1).”
Queen Helene asked the Sages: “What he says, is it in your teaching?” They replied: “It is in our teaching, but it is not applicable to him, for it is in Scripture: But the prophet who willfully speaks a word in My name, which I have not charged him to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). He has not fulfilled the signs and conditions of the Messiah.”
Jesus spoke up: “Madam, I am the Messiah and I revive the dead.” A dead body was brought in; he pronounced the letters of the Ineffable Name and the corpse came to life. The Queen was greatly moved and said: “This is a true sign.” She reprimanded the Sages and sent them humiliated from her presence. Jesus’ dissident followers increased and there was controversy in Israel.
Jesus went to Upper Galilee. The Sages came before the Queen, complaining that Jesus practiced sorcery and was leading everyone astray. Therefore she sent Annanui and Ahaziah to fetch him.
They found him in Upper Galilee, proclaiming himself the Son of God. When they tried to take him there was a struggle, but Jesus said to the men of Upper Galilee: “Wage no battle.” He would prove himself by the power which came to him from his Father in Heaven. He spoke the Ineffable Name over the birds of clay and they flew into the air. He spoke the same letters over a millstone that had been placed upon the waters. He sat in it and it floated like a boat. When they saw this the people marveled. At the behest of Jesus, the emissaries departed and reported these wonders to the Queen. She trembled with astonishment.
Then the Sages selected a man named Yehudah Isqarioto and brought him to the Sanctuary where he learned the letters of the Ineffable Name as Jesus had done.
When Jesus was summoned before the Queen, this time there were present also the Sages and Yehudah Isqarioto. Jesus said: “Of me is said, To the heavens will I ascend (Isaiah 14:13).” He lifted his arms like the wings of an eagle and he flew between the heavens and earth, to the amazement of everyone.
The elders asked Isqarioto to do likewise. He did, and flew toward the heavens. Isqarioto attempted to force Jesus down to earth but neither one of the two could prevail against the other for both had the use of the Ineffable Name. However, Isqarioto defiled Jesus, so that they both lost their power and fell down to the earth, and in their condition of defilement the letters of the Ineffable Name escaped from them [according to an Italian manuscript (Leipzig BH 17 1–18): … he performed anal sex on him. Once he soiled him, and his seed went out from him (Leviticus 15:32), both of them fell to the ground. And all of the sages of the nations knew this secret and hid it, and cursed and banned Yehudah Isqarioto. And when they have a quarrel with another person, they say to him, “May what Yehudah Isqarioto did to Jesus be done to you!”]. Because of this deed of Yehudah, Judah, they weep on the eve of the birth of Jesus [the Ninth of Tevet (December 24th C.E.)].
Jesus was seized. His head was covered with a garment and he was smitten with pomegranate twigs; but he could do nothing, for he no longer had the Ineffable Name.
Jesus was taken prisoner to the synagogue of Tiberias, and they bound him to a pillar. To allay his thirst they gave him vinegar to drink. On his head they set a crown of thorns. There was strife and wrangling between the elders and the unrestrained followers of Jesus, as a result of which the followers escaped with Jesus to the region of Antioch [alt., Egypt]; there Jesus remained until the eve of the Passover.
Jesus then resolved to go the Temple to acquire again the secret of the Name. That year the Passover came on a Sabbath day. On the eve of the Passover, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, came to Jerusalem riding upon an donkey. Many bowed down before him. He entered the Temple with his three hundred and ten followers. One of them, Yehudah Isqarioto apprised the Sages that Jesus was to be found in the Temple, that the disciples had taken a vow by the Ten Commandments not to reveal his identity but that he would point him out by bowing to him. So it was done and Jesus was seized. Asked his name, he replied to the question by several times giving the names Mattai, Nakki, Buni, Netzer, each time with a verse quoted by him and a counter-verse by the Sages [see BT Sanhedrin 43a].
Jesus was put to death on the sixth hour on the eve of the Passover and of the Sabbath. When they tried to hang him on a tree it broke, for when he had possessed the power he had pronounced by the Ineffable Name that no tree should hold him. He had failed to pronounce the prohibition over the cabbage stalk [alt., carob stalk; cf. Teshuva le-Minim], for it was a plant more than a tree, and on it he was hanged until the hour for afternoon prayer, for it is written in Scripture, [And should there be against a man a death-sentence offense and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,] you shall not let his corpse stay the night on the tree [but you shall surely bury it on that day, for a hanged man is God’s curse…] (Deuteronomy 21:23). They buried him outside the city.
On the first day of the week his bold followers came to Queen Helene with the report that he who was slain was truly the Messiah and that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he prophesied. Diligent search was made and he was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.
Queen Helene demanded, on threat of a severe penalty, that the body of Jesus be shown to her within a period of three days. There was a great distress. When the keeper of the garden saw Rabbi Tanḥuma walking in the field and lamenting over the ultimatum of the Queen, the gardener related what he had done, in order that Jesus’ followers should not steal the body and then claim that he had ascended into heaven. The Sages removed the body, tied it to the tail of a horse and transported it to the Queen, with the words, “This is Jesus who is said to have ascended to heaven.” Realizing that Jesus was a false prophet who enticed the people and led them astray, she mocked the followers but praised the Sages.
The disciples went out among the nations—three went to the mountains of Ararat, three to Armenia, three to Rome and three to the kingdoms by the sea, they deluded the people, but ultimately they were slain.
The erring followers amongst Israel said: “You have slain the Messiah of the Lord.” The Israelites answered: “You have believed in a false prophet.” There was endless strife and discord for thirty years.
The Sages desired to separate from Israel those who continued to claim Jesus as the Messiah, and they called upon a greatly learned man, Shim’on Kefa, for help. Shim’on went to Antioch, main city of the Nazarenes and proclaimed to them: “I am the disciple of Jesus. He has sent me to show you the way. I will give you a sign as Jesus has done.”
Shim’on, having gained the secret of the Ineffable Name, healed one afflicted with skin blanch and a lame man by means of it and thus found acceptance as a true disciple. He told them that Jesus was in heaven, at the right hand of his Father, in fulfillment of YHWH’s utterance to my master: “Sit at My right hand till I make your enemies a stool for your feet” (Psalms 110:1). He added that Jesus desired that they separate themselves from the Jews and no longer follow their practices, as Isaiah had said, Your new moons and your appointed times I utterly despise. [They have become a burden to Me, I cannot bear them] (Isaiah 1:14). They were now to observe the first day of the week instead of the seventh, the Resurrection instead of the Passover, the Ascension into Heaven instead of the Feast of Weeks, the finding of the Cross instead of Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of the Circumcision instead of the Yom Kippur, the New Year instead of Ḥanukkah; they were to be indifferent with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws. Also they were to follow the teaching of turning the right if struck on the left and the meek acceptance of suffering [cf. Lamentations 3:30]. All these new ordinances which Shim’on Kefa—or Paul, as he was known to the Nazarenes (cf. Acts 5:34, 22:3)—taught them were really meant to separate these Nazarenes from the people of Israel and to bring the internal strife to an end.