(Not So) Hidden Anti-Gospels: Suppressed Talmudic and Medieval Polemics Against Jesus

By :  Eliezer B. Diamond Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics Posted On Oct 31, 2022 / 5783 | Dangerous Ideas Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “Dangerous Ideas: Censorship Through a Jewish Lens”

This session is generously sponsored by Lenore and Rabbi Melvin Sirner in memory of their beloved sister and sister-in-law Rabbi Amy Mayer

With Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, PhD, Rabbi Judah Nadich Associate Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics

Jews always viewed Jesus as one of their own, and they felt the need to account for the power he had in converting millions to a new religion that they viewed as a perverse usurpation of their own. They responded by writing parodic versions of the Gospels narratives, which are found both in the Talmud and in an early medieval work called Toledot Yeshu (The Jesus Chronicle). Eventually Christians became aware of these “anti-Gospels” and Jews had to engage in both self-censorship and apologetics. We will look at these texts and their history, concluding with a look at a very different approach to Jesus in the 20th century by Rabbi Stephen Wise.  


Throughout Jewish history, certain texts and ideas have been deemed too dangerous to circulate—whether by outsiders who banned Jewish writings, or Jewish leaders who suppressed ideas considered heretical or beyond the pale. In this series, JTS scholars will examine efforts to control knowledge from ancient to contemporary times, exploring the ways in which censorship both reflects and shapes broader ideological struggles. They will discuss the varying motivations for controlling or revising narratives, and consider whether and under what circumstances it might make sense to suppress certain ideas. These discussions will illuminate past struggles and help us understand the battles over censorship and free expression playing out today. 


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