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re: Talmud x Gospel

Sep 17, 1996 03:22 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Hi Abrantes:

After citing material on the development of the Talmud from the
Encyclopedia Britannica, you concluded:

>Conclusion both Talmuds were written after the redaction of
>gospels, even though some material come possibly comes from 1 BC
>as you suggests. But this is only a possibility, that difficult
>can be confirmed....


Are we both reading the same Encyclopedic entry?  As I read it,
Your citation links the Talmud to the 5th century BCE:

     Ezra the scribe who, according to the Book of Ezra
     reestablished and reformed the jewish religion in the 5th
     century BCE, began the <search in the teach in
     Israel sattutes and ordinances>. His work was continued by
     soferim (scribes), who preserved, taught and interpreted the
     Bible. They linked the oral tradition to scripture,
     transmitting it as a running commentary of the Bible.

Your citation then narrates the continuation of this tradition up
to the 6th century CE.  So I am not sure what you are trying to
say when you write that pre-Christian material in the Talmud is
"only a possibility."   What is your criteria for evidence?  What
date do you assign to the Talmud?  When the collection of this
material was compiled into a single work?  If this is your
argument, then we would have to say that the Biblical tradition
did not begin until the publication of the first complete Bible
(I believe that was done around 1380).  If your argument bars
Talmudic material older than the oldest surviving text, then in
all fairness we would have to limit consideration of the
Christian tradition to the Codex Vaticanus, dated at about 300
CE.  Of course you would not accept this argument, and neither
would I.  Evidence suggests that the New Testament scriptures
were compiled in the first and second centuries.  I think we
agree on this.  Likewise, your Encyclopedia article claims that
the compilation of the material that makes up the modern Talmud
began in the 5th century BCE.   You wrote that it is possible
that some material:

     comes from 1 BC as you suggests. But this is only a
     possibility, that difficult >can be confirmed...."

Yes, without original copies of the texts, it is difficult to
confirm.  Likewise, it is difficult to confirm the New Testament
texts without original copies.  On the other hand, I think that
you will find that the existence of pre-Christian era material in
the Talmud is far less a matter of dispute than the tracing of
New Testament scriptures to the Apostles.  I think your citation
bears me out on this.

However, to put this all into perspective, I think the issue here
is that *if* Jesus was a historical figure who lived at a certain
date in history, and was known by the Jews and regarded as a
"false messiah," then it is likely that he was recorded in the
Jewish traditions along with all of the other "false messiahs."
Indeed the Jewish traditions do have stories that look
suspiciously like Jesus and some of his disciples, but they do
not match the New Testament accounts.  But which tradition is
true?  If we begin with the assumption that the Christian
accounts are true, then the Jewish accounts must be false.  Most
Biblical scholars have taken an a priori stand in favor of the
Christian traditions, thus leaving the Jewish accounts on the
trash heap of unexamined possibilities.  Is it a fair position to
take?  IMO, no.  Rather then using the New Testament and the
commentaries of the Christians fathers as the standard of what is
a correct history of Jesus, let us instead collect together the
New Testament stories, the Talmud stories, and whatever other
contemporary evidence is extant.  Let us put all of this into its
historical context.   Let us examine and compare this evidence
without operating from the assumption that the New Testament
account is the standard of truth to which the other evidence is
to be compared.  Rather, let us assume that none of the
traditions are necessarily true or false.  I believe that the
approach I am suggesting is what Blavatsky tried to do in ISIS.
As a result, she came to many conclusions that would be shocking
to Christians.  On the other hand, her account was inclusive of
all traditions and created a far more comprehensive view of that
period of history than any view that has been created through the
exclusion of some traditions and the unquestioned acceptance of
others.  Are her conclusion correct?  I don't know.  But I think
her approach is more objective than what is possible from the
methods used by theologians.


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