Friday, April 02, 2010

The censored Good Friday Gemarah

No coincidences? Hah. Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus was killed, and it was just five days ago that the Daf Yomi arrived at BT Sanhedrin 43, the page that once discussed the execution of Jesus, but does no longer because Jews respect and accept the judgment of Christian censors. More on that in a bit. First here are some of the highlights of the excised passages:

1 - Jesus was hanged on Passover eve (I only have it in English, so I can't tell you what the Hebrew or Aramaic is, but I assume it was not the word that means "executed by hanging" but the word that means "hung" as in the body was hung on a pole. According to the generally accepted history, Jesus was killed not on Passover eve, but on the second day of chol hamoed

2 - The passage immediately before the censored bits discusses the lengths a Jewish court would take to ensure that an innocent man was never executed (something our modern day pro-life/pro death penalty morons care nothing about) This included sending out a herald seeking witnesses who might have grounds for acquittal. According to the deleted passage, a herald announced that Jesus stood accused of both witchcraft and idolatry, and tried for forty days to find someone who could prove his innocence. The fact that a herald went out suggests that Jesus was executed by a Jewish court, and the forty day search suggests he was in their custody for quite some time. Both of these "facts" contradict the established history.

3 - Ullah challenges the Talmud's history, saying that a herald would not have gone out for Jesus, as he was someone who led people to idolatry, and the gemarah has already established that those who lead people to idolatry are not awarded protections such as having the herald go out. The gemarah responds that Jesus was different, and an exception was made for him because he was "connected to the government" (= royal or otherwise influential) This is yet another point where the Talmud's history and the established version of events do not agree.

4 - Next, the gemarah tells the very strange story of Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah, five deciples of Jesus who were executed by a Jewish court. I call it strange both because we have no record of the five men, and also because the court proceedings, as recounted by the Talmud, are most irregular. Each of the condemned men offers a text, based on his name, to prove that he should not be killed, and the court responds with a text, also based on the accused's name, to show that he should be killed. For example: "When Matthai was brought [before the court] he said to them [the judges], Shall Matthai be executed? Is it not written, Matthai [when] shall I come and appear before God? Thereupon they retorted; Yes, Matthai shall be executed, since it is written, When Matthai [when] shall [he] die and his name perish" Since when do we settle capital cases using puns? Clearly, this story isn't meant to be history, and I doubt the Gemarah recognized it as history, but I don't know what purpose the story is believed/intended to have served.

Now why don't we print these stories in our gemarahs anymore? What are we worried about? Why are we afraid to print the Talmud in full? We no longer have censors to worry about, and to the best of my knowledge, there's no tradition of allowing a suppressed Gemarah to remain suppressed. The only answer I can find to this question is a bad one: It seems to me that the publishers of the Talmud (including ArtScroll) are afraid to think for themselves and make reasonable changes. We haven't printed the Jesus passages in several hundred years so there's no reason to start now, I guess.... Other, than honesty, truth, and accuracy

Search for more information about other bad changes to Judaism that aren't corrected because the leading Jews are too scared to do what needs to be done at

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