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Jewish Doctrinal Defense
Was Jesus/Yeshua a Real Person or a Roman Forgery?

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © October 26, 2014 (latest update: June 2 2019)

I strongly dislike the term "Counter Missionary" because at its core it is the intentional destruction of another person's faith in G-d. As Jews we differ with Christians on many key issues to be sure, however they are worshipping the G-d of the Tanach according to their understanding and a large percentage of them, today at least, are standing with and supporting Israel. As Jews we discourage conversion and most Jews, including most rabbis, seem to have little interest in helping Noahidim. Jewish Counter-Missionaries therefore are not attempting to bring Christians to Torah Judaism nor to Derech Noahide, but only to destroy their faith, leaving them bereft of emunah. Among their tactics is the claim that the Jew Yeshua ben Miriam, better known as Jesus son Mary, never existed.

In support of this denial of his existence they weave a complex tale of Roman political espionage and intrigue mixed with covert Jewish misdirection worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. Personally I find this fiction to be baseless. There is far more evidence supporting his physical existence than there is for many important figures of antiquity who are accepted without question. Consider:

Lawrence Mykytiuk, an associate professor of library science at Purdue University and author of a 2015 Biblical Archaeology Review article on the extra-biblical evidence of Jesus, notes that there was no debate about the issue in ancient times either. “Jewish rabbis who did not like Jesus or his followers accused him of being a magician and leading people astray,” he says, “but they never said he didn't exist.”1

The baseless attempt to deny his existence is a lazy man's way to disavow the Christian religion and its claims. This argument would never convince a Christian, nor a biblical scholar. The way to know the truth of the matter is to compare Christian teachings to the Torah and the whitings of the biblical prophets. When you do this, my Jewish friend, there is no way the claims are true. Refuse to deny your Covenant with HaShem. Seeking to destroy another person's faith is not the Way of HaShem. For you however, my Jewish friend, it is important that you know Judaism, Torah, and the rabbinic rulings.

Let's consider some of the evidence concerning this unfortunate assimilated Jew. If we accept the essential New Testament account of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth we find that the historic Yeshua ben Yosef would have been a man of no real social or religious importance during his lifetime. Whatever the original New Testament may have said on any given issue uncertain due to the edits and internal contradictions of the various source materials, so for the purposes of this study we will accept its present form. In this study we will use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) for the New Testament as it is widely accepted as among the most accurate when compared with the conflicting source materials. For the Tanach we will use a quality translation, the Online English translation of the Tanach (Jewish Bible) with Rashi's commentary from the CHABAD website. Other versions will cited as needed.

According to the Four Gospels Yeshua/Jesus was questioned by certain of the "rabbis," which is to say, by the Parush or Pharisee, and the Tz'dukim or Sadducees hoping to promote his suggested reforms. We do not know how deeply or frequently these conversions went or if they rarely occurred. It is clear however that the Jerusalem rabbis knew him, heard his ideas, and almost universally rejected them. The Gospels claim that a rabbi named Nicodemus, who is otherwise unto history, secretly followed his heretical teachings. Based on Torah and Halacha his reforms were rejected by both major sects, Nicodemus aside. Yeshua then, according to the New Testament itself, committed serious lashon hara2 against the elders of the people, as described at Matthew 23 and elsewhere. Having no standing with the rabbis (arguably other than Nicodemus who was afraid to admit his belief: John 7:50), leading no significant Jewish movement at the time, he lived, taught, and was executed as a criminal by the Romans. According to the New Testament he was an unaffiliated itinerant reformist rabbi who was rejected by the rabbinate. At Matthew 23:1-3 he claimed to support the rabbinic office but he rejected those holding the position.

Doctrinally he was essentially rabbinic but he maintained some uncertain ties to the Essene Brotherhood at al-Eizariya (Bethany), the home of his followers Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who may have been members of the Brotherhood but this is not clearly stated. Such an irrelevant rejected reformer would likely not have been mentioned by the scholars of the day. Their lack of referencing him is therefore not evidence against his existence. There were many itinerant idealist at the time. With no reference point for him we have no real knowledge concerning his teachings. What is clear however is that the Yeshua/Jesus story believed by the Christian world is quite different from what even the New Testament teaches. Were one able to detect and remove all of the added dogmas and doctrines and return to his real teachings, one would rediscover nothing more than a rabbinic ally rejected heresy.

Yeshua's reform movement consisted of a handful of biblically ignorant teenagers and some curious commoners until well after his execution. Then arose from the educated Jewish community the charismatic Saul/Paul. He claimed to have studied under the respected Rabbi Gamaliel, however there is no evidence supporting his claim. There also is no evidence of Saul holding a smicha (rabbinic ordination). His teachings, as we have them, demonstrate knowledge of Torah and Talmud however his interpretations are often halachichally incorrect.

Were it not for Paul we probably never would have heard of Yeshua of Nazareth, just like most people have never heard of Athronges, Menahem ben Judah, nor the other many failed messiahs of that period. Paul's claimed credentials as a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel, coupled with his missionary zeal under persecution, is what lead to the explosion of the Jewish sect that, 200 years later, was formally usurped by Emperor Constantine, the true creator of the Christian religion. Between the missionary work of Paul and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, which led to the establishment of what we know of as Rabbinic Judaism (rather than Pharisaical Judaism) by the Romans, the Way sect was formally divorced from Judaism. The Way Sect became Christianity, the "universal" or catholic community, and soon became the official Roman Pagan religion and culture. There was nothing Middle eastern or Jewish about Constantine's 'universal religion'.

Jesus was not a Christian! But he did exist as a rejected Jewish reformer. According to the book "Jesus Never Existed", which is typical of the present anti-Christian movement:

Jesus is lauded as a wise teacher, savior, and a perfect being. Yet Jesus believed in Noah's Ark (Mt 24:37, and Lk 17:27), Adam and Eve and their son Abel (Lk 3:38 and Lk 11:51), Jonah living in a fish or whale (Mt 12:40), and Lot's wife turning into salt (Lk 17:31-32). Jesus believed "devils" caused illness, and even bought into the OT notion (Jn 3:14) that a magical pole proffered by the OT (Num 21:9) could cure snakebites merely by gazing upon it

When properly understood, which the author clearly does not, I also believe these things, as do most religious Jews. No doubt the historic Jew Yeshua ben Miriam did as well. According to the Four Gospels Yeshua believed Torah. That's a problem for a Jew? Our understandings or interpretations of such accounts may vary, but such beliefs only link the historic Yeshua to Rabbinic Judaism, despite his heresies. The author of "Jesus never lived" thus supports his existence! BUT Yeshua was not a Christian.

Again the author chides the claim that:

... his words going "unto the ends of the whole world" (Rom 10)...

They did, to the then known earth at least, and they certainly have by now. Again the authors appears to not understand what he reads. The quote is, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Following the destruction Temple in 70 CE Jews (including the original Jewish sect members) were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire (which was considered to be "the whole world"). By the late second century the increasingly heretical sect was spreading throughout the Empire and Africa, Thomas carried the sect's message to India according to Church tradition and the claims of the surviving sect there. I met and spoke with a few of them. The current group is not the Jewish sect established by Yeshua however. In an ironically true sense, around the point that his teachings reached the end of the known world the Way movement ceased to exist. It was absorbed into the Nicolaitan heresy, an increasingly religiously amalgamated Roman movement. Yes, he lived as a physical human being. His "gospel" or "way" sect existed for around two hundred years and then, as foreseen by Gamaliel, it ceased to exist.

Acts 5:33 ... On hearing [that the Way sect continued trying to convert the people], the members of the Sanhedrin were infuriated and wanted to put the emissaries to death.
34 But one of the members of the Sanhedrin rose to his feet, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Torah highly respected by all the people. He ordered the men put outside for a little while
35 and then addressed the court: "Men of Israel, take care what you do to these people.
36 Some time ago, there was a rebellion under Todah, who claimed to be somebody special; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, rallied behind him. But upon his being put to death, his whole following was broken up and came to nothing.
37 After this, Y'hudah HaG'lili led another uprising, back at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax; and he got some people to defect to him. But he was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
38 So in the present case, my advice to you is not to interfere with these people, but to leave them alone. For if this idea or this movement has a human origin, it will collapse.
39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them; you might even find yourselves fighting God!" They heeded his advice.

Our rabbis also acknowledge his existence in various Talmudic passages. There are many references to someone called "Yeshu" or "Yesu" for instance who certainly sounds like Yeshua, both in name and in description. Many rabbis say these references are not to Yeshua the Nazarene however, others say they are. We have no certain way to confirm or deny. Due to Christian persecution the rabbis by some accounts and the Church by others decided to expunge most references to Yeshua from the Talmud.

In his classic History of the Printing of the Talmud (Ma'amar Al Hadpasat HaTalmud), Raphael Rabbinovicz writes: The holy Talmud, the base and source of Jewish religious and national life - how numerous were its enemies and detractors! As was the fate of those who lived by it and devoted their lives to it, so was its fate. Already in the year 1239 Pope Gregory IX ordered the burning of the Talmud, and hundreds, nay thousands of volumes were put to the torch in France and Italy. In June 1242, twenty-four wagon loads of Talmudic tomes were publicly burned in Paris by the official executioner. Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg compared this conflagration to the burning of the Jerusalem Temple, in an elegy which has been incorporated in the Tishah B'Av (the holy day commemorating the destruction of the Temple) liturgy, Sha-ali Serufah, "Oh, inquire, thou consumed by flames . . ." Popes-Innocent IV, Alexander IV, John XXII, Alexander V-issued condemnations; monarchs-Louis IX of France and his successors Philip III and IV-ordered confiscations; and following the Council of Basle, Pope Eugenius IV issued a bull prohibiting the study of the Talmud. Fraught with danger and beset with difficulties though it was, study of the Talmud proceeded nonetheless, because without it Jews were convinced that Jewish life could not continue. But the condemnations and confiscations took their toll; very few Talmudic manuscripts have survived, and only one of the entire Talmud, the Munich manuscript of 1342.

Informing people about a heretic was not worth the persecution the Jews were experiencing. What really angered the Church is that while they could edit and update their presentations of Jesus, those in the Talmud could not be changed. The Talmud The Talmud's historically accurate descriptions were very different from the Christian teachings. The Munich Talmud, the earliest full manuscript of the Talmud we have was penned in 1343. It escaped the deletions and presents a truer presentation. For example:

The highlighted section is translated:

"On the Eve of Passover they hung ‘Yeshu ha-Notzri’ [Jeshu the Nazarine]. And the herald went out before him for 40 days [saying]: “Jeshu the Nazarine will go out to be stoned for sorcery and misleading and enticing Israel. Any who knows [anything] in his defence must come and declare concerning him.” But no-one came to his defence so they hung him on the Eve of Passover." 3

Among many of the differences found in the altered editions of the Talmud is that Yeshua had only five talmidim (disciples). This point is found in the following editions:

One can understand why the Church would oppose these earlier editions of the Talmud. They were exposing the truth that the Romans were replacing the heretic Yeshua with an even worse heresy. What is important for our purposes however is that the sages of Israel accepted that he was a real person and maintained evidence of the Church rewriting his history. By denying his existence, when defending ones Jewishness, one is basing ones loyalty to the Covenant on a false footing. The Missionary can easily expose the falsity of that claim. Having done so, the Jew (or Noahide) become an easier prey as they conclude, "If they lied to me about this what else is untrue?" The ONLY way to resist untruth is with truth, not with inaccurate anti-Christian modern conspiracy theory.

By the third century at the latest the Way sect had been severed from Judaism, from Torah, and even from the historic reformer and failed messiah. This had nothing directly to do with its founders who intended to remained 'reformed Jews.' They would doubtless be appalled to see what became of their reform movement. The truth is, the Roman Pagans stole Judea and Samaria, they destroyed our Holy Temple, they scattered the Jews, and usurped the Jesus story making the historic Yeshua one of the most misrepresented, slandered, and hated Jews in history. The price of committing lashon hara is very high!

lashon hara (lit., evil talk) is defined as information which is either derogatory or potentially harmful to another individual. A derogatory statement about someone is lashon hara, even if will definitively not cause that person any harm. To focus on the shortcomings of another person is in itself wrong. A statement that could potentially bring harm to someone -- be it financial, physical, psychological or otherwise -- is lashon hara, even if the information is not negative. (It should be noted that the term lashon hara refers even to true statements which are derogatory or harmful. Negative statements that are untrue or inaccurate are termed hotzaas shem ra, slander -- Sefer Chofetz Chaim page 50.)

It is true, according to my research, that there is no solid evidence from the first century that Yeshua lived, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence:

For instance there is no evidence of direct Roman usurpation of the sect prior to Constantine (they used persecution not conciliation in their attempt to stop the sect). The initial entrance of the Nicolaitan heresy was done by the converts and others seeking to minimize Roman persecution through appeasement. There is plenty of historic evidence however that people believed in Yeshua as a real person and regarded him as their rabbi/teacher well before the creation of Christianity in the 300's. With the scant communication options available at that time how could such far flung parts of the Roman Empire all embrace the notion of a reform Jewish rabbi with a message for the world so quickly if he did not exist? How could so many rival Way/Nazarene sects like the various Gnostic groups condemned by John (ex. I John 4:3), like the Roman Nicolaitan sect (condemned by John at Revelation 2:9 and 3:9), like the sects claiming to follow different disciples (referenced at I Corinthians 1:10-14), like the Paulist followers, like the followers of James (which seems to have been original Way sect after Yeshua's execution), etc all emerge so quickly and promote such devotion that millions were prepared to died for it? Who invented the original myth? Who could have spread such a lie and deceived so many people if there was no historic Yeshua to base the sect on? Before disregarding these points consider that the Way sect desperately wanted unity according to the New Testament. Their acknowledgement that the sect was dangerously splintering into various forms of Paganism and Gnosticism itself testifies to the truth of Yeshua's existence. It also explains how the sect was finally usurped and replaced by Nicolaitan assimilationist globalist Paganism and ceased to exist.

The infighting strongly supports the existence of Yeshua as an historic figure whose message ultimately failed and yet touched the hearts of a great many people. We have seen many groups begun by many well-meaning people splinter and die in just this way.

There is some objective evidence, although as stated above there really is no reason why we would expect to find any references to him from his lifetime. Everything on this subject is debated of course, however the following points seem pretty solid based on my research:

Josephus the Jew lived 37-100 CE (so he was born right after Yeshua's execution) and has two references to Yeshua in Antiquities of the Jews, books 18 and 20. Some scholars doubt the Josephus reference in Book 20 of his Antiquities. I do not, in part because had later Christian editors added it they would not have hidden it so deeply within the work and surely would have added much more and with much higher praise in my opinion.

There is also Tacitus circa 64 CE who wrote: Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus -- The Annals of Tacitus, Book 15.44. Again some debate the legitimacy of this one, but "someone" debates almost everything! The quote exists.

There is also "the Ossuary of James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" dating from AD 63. Despite the ongoing debate, its authenticity is accepted by a lot of unbiased archeologists. The Ossuary also contradicts the essential Christian dogma that Yeshua arose from the dead and 'ascended into the heavens in the sight of his followers' so logically they would not have conspired such a hoax.

And there is evidence from Pliny the Younger (lived 61-112 CE), the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (now known as Turkey). Pliny the Younger sent a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 CE requesting advise on dealing with the problematic Way sect. At this early point most of those involved would still have considered themselves to be a Jewish sect although the Gentiles (like the Nicolaitans and others) were already becoming a substantial part of the sect and bringing their Pagan influences to bear. The letter (Epistulae X.96) details how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Nazarene Jews appearing before him. Their only stated crime was refusing to worship the Roman gods (based on the Early Christian Church Volume 1 by Philip Carrington; Pagan Rome and the Early Christians by Stephen Benko):

BOOK TEN, LETTER 96, TO THE EMPEROR TRAJAN IT is a rule, Sir, which I inviolably observe, to refer myself to you in all my doubts; for who is more capable of guiding my uncertainty or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials of the Christians, I am unacquainted with the method and limits to be observed either in examining or punishing them. Whether any difference is to be made on account of age, or no distinction allowed between the youngest and the adult; whether repentance admits to a pardon, or if a man has been once a Christian it avails him nothing to recant; whether the mere profession of Christianity, albeit without crimes, or only the crimes associated therewith are punishable�in all these points I am greatly doubtful.

In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature of their creed might be, I could at least feel no doubt that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy deserved chastisement. There were others also possessed with the same infatuation, but being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried thither.

These accusations spread (as is usually the case) from the mere fact of the matter being investigated and several forms of the mischief came to light. A placard was put up, without any signature, accusing a large number of persons by name. Those who denied they were, or had ever been, Christians, who repeated after me an invocation to the Gods, and offered adoration, with wine and frankincense, to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for that purpose, together with those of the Gods, and who finally cursed Christ�none of which acts, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing these I thought it proper to discharge. Others who were named by that informer at first confessed themselves Christians, and then denied it; true, they had been of that persuasion but they had quitted it, some three years, others many years, and a few as much as twentyfive years ago. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the Gods, and cursed Christ.

They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food�but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.

I therefore adjourned the proceedings, and betook myself at once to your counsel. For the matter seemed to me well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. Persons of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes are, and will be, involved in the prosecution. For this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts; it seems possible, however, to check and cure it. 'Tis certain at least that the temples, which had been almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred festivals, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for sacrificial animals, which for some time past have met with but few purchasers. From hence it is easy to imagine what multitudes may be reclaimed from this error, if a door be left open to repentance.4
However the strongest evidence for the historicity of his humanity is that it united a huge number of people and absolutely infuriated a huge different group of people while leaving multitudes affected .

Religious truth is not like secular truth. Religious truth, regardless of the religion, requires a degree of faith. For faith to accomplish long term change, regardless of its specifics, there must be some basis for it however. "Blind faith," such as the claim that Yeshua never lived, never lasts that long. Hence Chief Rabbi Gamliel's alleged quote judgement:

33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law [FYI the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem at the time], respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God -- Acts 5:33-39.

The existence of G-d Himself is based on initial circumstantial evidence. The Torah begins with the declaration: "In the beginning of God's creating..." Not with evidence o His existence. As one progresses emunah (active ever more complete faith) develops. No one can objectively prove His existence and yet for the faithful of all religions His existence is a certainty. How to develop emunah?

Psalm 34:8: Comprehend and see that the Lord is good; praiseworthy is the man who takes shelter in Him..

In my opinion after a great deal o careful research coupled with hitbodedut, the case for Yeshua's historicity is greater than the case against it by far. Neither position can be "proven" nor "disproved."

As a Jew you need to understand the gift HaShem has bestowed upon you that you should be a member of His Covenant People! For a Jew, leaving Derech HaShem for another religion is a very serious crime both to yourself, to our people, and to HaShem. Hear what the Law of G-d says to such a Jew:

If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, "Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them," you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.

You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. f your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, "Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known."

Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; You shall not desire him, and you shall not hearken to him; neither shall you pity him, have mercy upon him, nor shield him. But you shall surely kill him, your hand shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And you shall stone him with stones so that he dies, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And all Israel shall listen and fear, and they shall no longer do any evil such as this in your midst...

For you shall hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you this day, to do that which is proper in the eyes of the Lord, your God.

As even Yeshua said to those who would worship other gods and believed they were still worshipping HaShem (in this case the Samaritans): You worship ye know not what:! We know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).

The Original Followers of Jesus Vanished Just As Rabbi Gamaliel Predicted

Notes: 1.
Quote from
2. Lashon hara (lit., evil talk) is defined as information which is either derogatory or potentially harmful to another individual. A derogatory statement about someone is lashon hara, even if will definitively not cause that person any harm. To focus on the shortcomings of another person is in itself wrong. A statement that could potentially bring harm to someone -- be it financial, physical, psychological or otherwise -- is lashon hara, even if the information is not negative. (It should be noted that the term lashon hara refers even to true statements which are derogatory or harmful. Negative statements that are untrue or inaccurate are termed hotzaas shem ra [i.e. slander] -- Sefer Chofetz Chaim page 50. More on lashon hara
3. Source:
4. Source of quotation:

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