Home » What Does Judaism Believe About Jesus? Christ in the Jewish Talmud

What Does Judaism Believe About Jesus? Christ in the Jewish Talmud

by Dr. Eitan Bar
2 minutes read

By the third century AD, rabbis attempted to further separate Jesus’ disciples from mainstream Judaism by introducing a controversial legend into the Oral Law. They hoped this legend would create discomfort among Jesus’ followers and ultimately create animosity between rabbinic Jews and Christian-Jews, expelling the latter from Jewish communities altogether. This legend, found in the Talmud’s tractate Sanhedrin 107b, claims that Jesus practiced witchcraft and lured the Israelites away from the God of Israel towards idolatry. According to the story, Jesus was a student of Rabbi Joshua Ben-Perahiah, with whom he had a dispute. In retaliation, Jesus allegedly studied witchcraft in Egypt, intending to corrupt the people of Israel.

However, this legend, authored by rabbis centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion, lacks any foundation outside the Talmud and displays a glaring chronological inconsistency. Rabbi Joshua Ben-Perahiah lived and taught in the second century BC, long before Jesus’ birth. Prof. Avigdor Shinan comments on this discrepancy, pointing to the implausibility of Jesus being Joshua Ben-Perahiah’s disciple due to living in different eras:

During his (Joshua Ben-Perahia) escape to Egypt, he was joined by one of his disciples, Jesus (yes indeed, the father of Christianity, although it is chronologically impossible!).[i]

Another account involving Jewish believers in Jesus appears in tractate Avodah Zara 17, which details a conversation between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva about a Jesus follower named Jacob of Sechania. Known for his ability to heal in Jesus’ name, Jacob, a Jewish believer in Jesus, is later mentioned in a story where Rabbi Ishmael’s nephew is bitten by a snake. Though Jacob offers to heal the nephew using Jesus’ name, Rabbi Ishmael, aware of the miraculous healing powers ascribed to Jesus’ disciples, declines the offer, allowing his nephew to die instead.

In the Talmud’s tractate, Gittin 56b-57a, another account referencing Jesus, describes him enduring eternal punishment in hell, submerged in boiling animal excrement. This punishment is presented as retribution for his alleged misdeeds and for supposedly leading the people of Israel away from the Torah and towards idolatry.

These intriguing legends underscore the contentious relationship between Jewish believers in Jesus and rabbinic Judaism.

As you can see, rejecting Jesus Christ – declaring him a false Messiah – became a core value in rabbinic Judaism and one of the primary pillars of Jewish theology. Fast forward two thousand years, and the core of Judaism still seems to revolve around the rejection of Christ. This is why nowadays we hear prominent Jewish leaders like Rabbi Aaron Moss declaring, “A Jew can believe in Jesus, just as much as a vegetarian can enjoy a steak.”[ii] However, such statements are mere propaganda and manipulation. Most Jews forget – or are simply unaware – that Jesus, the central figure of the New Testament, was himself Jewish. He taught the Jewish Scriptures, and his followers were also Jewish. They celebrated Jewish holidays and lived in Israel, not Babylon. The New Testament, authored by Jews, chronicles the lives of Jewish people in the land of Israel. This contrasts with the Talmud, which was primarily composed in Babylon, with its central figure being Rabbi Akiva—a descendant of Gentile converts to Judaism from the lineage of Sisera.[iii] Ironically, much like Akiva, Rabbinic Judaism shares little in common with the original biblical faith. At the same time, the greatest Jew of all is rejected and considered a stranger.

This article was taken from my book, “Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus.

[i] אביגדור שנאן, פרקי אבות: פירוש ישראלי חדש, ידיעות אחרונות, ספרי חמד, ירושלים, 2009, עמ’ 12.

[ii] https://he.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/504544/jewish/-.htm

[iii] Sanhedrin 96b in Yad HaRav Herzog manuscript (text: מבני בניו שלסיסרא לימדו תורה בירושלם ומנו ר’ עקיבה) but not other manuscripts; Nissim Gaon, commentary to Brachot 27b, quoting Sanhedrin 96b; Maimonides, commentary to the Mishna, introduction; Yalkut Reuveni, Vayeshev

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist