Talmudic Influence on Christianity

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By William Jackson

What if I told you that the Christian messiah was influenced by Talmud and that a large chunk of the Christian Testament (NT) was Talmudic.  Most would shake their heads in disbelief, Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism see themselves as being different from the other. Actually one might say that one of the greatest obstacle that sets them apart are their individual writings (Talmud and NT).  Yet, Christianity which was born at the turn of the common era grabbed many common Jewish colloquialisms and infused them into their doctrine.

I compared passages of either and thought I was onto something;

  1. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the beam that is in your own eye? —Matthew 7:3
  2. Do they say, take the splinter out of your eye, he will retort: “Remove the beam out of your  own eye.”—R. Johanan, surnamed Bar Napha, 199-279 A.D., Baba Bathra 15b.
  1. Let what you say be simply yes or no.—Matthew 5:37
  2. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.—R. Abaye, died 338 A.D., Baba Metzia 49a
  1. The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. —Mark 2:27
  2. It (the Sabbath) is committed to your hands, not you to its hands. —R. Jonathan ben Joseph, flourished after the destruction of the Temple, Yoma 85a
KrauskopfJoseph

 Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf 

Alas the more I studied it out the more I found that this was not a unique finding.  Famous Rabbinical and Christian authors wrote books on these comparisons a century ago.  Probably one of the best works was done by Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf (1858-1923) who was a prominent American Rabbi of one of the oldest synagogue in Philadelphia1.   In 1901 he wrote “Talmudic Parallels to New Testament Teachings”2.   In his book, between pages 182 through 191, he cites 45 parallel understandings between the Talmud and the NT.  As an example, below is a list of some of the “Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:1-12) quoted by the Christian messiah and comparative verses in the Talmud:

                       New Testament

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890

                                      Talmud

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1. Blessed are the poor in spirit. 1. More acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice is the humble spirit.
2. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. 2. Whoso makes peace among his fellow-men enjoys the fruit thereof here, and shall reap his reward also in the world to come
3. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, Matthew 5:7 3. Whoso is merciful toward his fellow creatures will be mercifully dealt with by his Father in Heaven. R. Gamaliel Beribbi, 3rd century A.C., Shabbath 151b
4. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10. 4. Be rather of the persecuted than of the persecutors. Whoso is persecuted and reviled and does not persecute and revile in return will meet with his reward. -R. Abbahu, 279-310 A.C., Baba Kamma 93a
5. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 5. Even heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of the Lord shall endure forever.
6. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven 6. The least of the commandments demands as much of thy observance as the greatest.

That same year Reverend D.A. Friedman, a writer of Hebrew literature published his book “Maxims and Proverbs of Bible and Talmud”3. Two years after that Robert Travers Herford (1860–1950) a British minister and scholar of rabbinical literature, wrote “Christianity in Talmud and Midrash”4 in 1903.  All three authors had a workable understanding of the others religion and were able to easily couple passages between the Talmud and NT.

page2

Robert Travers Herford

So how did the Talmud influence the NT?  Let’s look at our own culture to grab a better understanding.  There are terms and phrases that are in our common use.  Many of us do not know where they come from but they are woven into the fiber of our western dialog.  Here are some expressions and their origins:

“A fool and his money are soon parted”

  • This was a rhyme by Thomas Tusser, 1573 CE, England.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed”

  • This was written in the 3rd century BCE by Quintus Ennius a Roman Poet

“A picture paints a thousand words”

  • Editor Arthur Brisbane to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club, March 1911

“You can’t teach a dog new tricks”

  •  John Fitzherbert’s “The boke of husbandry”, 1534 CE, England

These maxims in our daily language are 100s, even 1,000s of years old and many are not from our own country, yet we use them as simple guidelines.  So let’s go back about 2 millenniums.  We need to remember that many Talmudic expression and guidelines were used in the Jewish culture before and after the birth of Christianity.  Additionally, all of the Christian books within the NT were written almost entirely by Jewish authors.  This explains why Talmudic expressions and proverbs made it into the mouths of the Christian apostles.  Some might argue that many of these Talmudic phrases were taken from the NT not vice versa.  Yes, it is true that many of these Talmudic expressions are dated after the first century common era and many Christian believed the NT was accepted in the first century.  However, we need to remember that the Christian Testament wasn’t vented and canonized until 363 CE5 at the Council of Laodicea.  Before this there were hundreds of Christian books and several gospels6.  So the Christiaan Bible, as its understood today, did not exist in the first century.  Also there are no surviving originals of any of the books to the NT to back the theory it was made in the first century. As for the Talmudic phrases used in the Christian bible, they are dated before the canonization of the Christian testament.

Conclusion

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Although the NT has many philosophies and expressions from the Talmud this does not imply that the books are the same.  Each possesses doctrine and rituals that are distinctive to the other party.  Also, either book does possess understandings and concepts that are rich and unique to either religion.

References

(1) Fall River Daily Evening News” (Vol. 11, no. 227. Feb. 24, 1870-Mar. 26, 1926). Almy, Milne & Co. Library of Congress. 1870–1926.

(2) Joseph Krauskopf, Talmudic Parallels to New Testament Teachings, page 182, 1901

(3) D.A. Friedman, Maxims and proverbs of Bible and Talmud , 1901

(4) Robert Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, 1903

(5) Schaff (ed.), Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers XIV, The Christian classics ethereal library.

(6) Philip Jenkins, HOW MANY GOSPELS, Patheos, March 8, 2013

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