Bava Batra: A Surprising Look at the Messiah in the Talmud

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This is a rabbi’s teaching from the tractate Bava Batra, concerning the Messiah in the Talmud. Watch the video, or read the transcription below:

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and I want to share with you something very, very interesting that happened about a year ago, one Sunday evening after all the workers of Netivyah had already left the office, I heard a knock on the door.

I opened the door and I see a big man dressed in a silver striped kaftan, an Orthodox Jew.

The people, who wear the silver lined kaftans are usually from the most Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox groups in Jerusalem, in Mea Shearim. And at first sight, I was scared. I was alone in the office and I see this big guy, Orthodox guy standing there at the door. And I said, “What do you want?”

He said, “Well, I have a question for you. I was referred to you by somebody who said that you were an expert on the issue of the Messiah and especially about Yeshua, in English you would say, Jesus, in the Talmud.”

“Okay, come in, welcome.” He came in, he sat in my office, and he said, “Do you have a copy of the Talmud?” I said, “Sure, I have several”. He said, “Well, you know, bring me one.”

Joseph Studies Talmud with an Orthodox Rabbi

So I brought him one and I took a different version, in Hebrew only, in my hand. And he said, “Open the Talmud to Bava Batra page 60 B.” Okay, I opened up.

He said, Find the section that speaks about Rabbi Ishmael, the son of Elisha, it’s at the bottom of the page. Page two of 60 of the tractate Bava Batra. Okay, so I read.

I read the text about Rabbi Ishmael, the son of Elisha, that speaks about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, in the year 70. In fact, a lot of the surrounding context is what to do, how to react, how to swallow this cataclysmic event of the temple of God, of Israel in Jerusalem, being defiled and destroyed by the evil kingdom of Rome.

Joseph Introduced to Talmudic Mention of Yeshua of Which He Was Not Aware

The strange thing is that, you know, over the years I’ve looked at at least 40 texts that talk about Yeshua in the rabbinical literature, and most of them in the Talmud, talking about his birth, talking about what happened with a rabbi that lived before Yeshua was born, actually, a story attributed to a very famous Rabbi, Joshua ben Perahiah and his disciple who was supposed to be Yeshua, Jesus, and other texts, but this text here in Bava Batra, page 60, I had never seen, I had never encountered, it was totally new to me.

So this ultra-Orthodox man asks me, “What do you think about this text?” Well, here I’ll try to read the text for you in English from the Soncino edition.

“Rabbi Ishmael Ben Alicia said, ‘Since the day of the destruction of the temple, we should by right bind ourself not to eat meat nor drink wine. Only, we do not lay hardship on the community unless the majority can endure it. And from that day, a government has come into power, which issues cruel decrees against us and forbids us the observance of the Torah and the precepts and does not allow us to enter into the “week of the Son,” according to another version, the “salvation of the Son.” We ought by right to bind ourself not to marry and “beget children.” And the seed of Abraham, our father, “would come to an end of itself.’’” – Bava Batra 60b

That’s the English translation of the text, again, mentioning what to do after the destruction of the Temple, how to show our grief, our sorrow for the destruction of the Temple, rabbi Ishmael first says, we shouldn’t eat meat or drink wine because these are customs of happy days, of celebration. And we are mourning, so in the time of morning, we shouldn’t eat meat and not drink wine, but we can’t bind on the public in Israel something that they cannot endure.

Hebrew Context Says “Yeshua”

So he explains the context, he says, the evil kingdom that forbids us from observing the Torah and keeping the commandments is binding us, it’s forbidding us to celebrate the commandments of God and to enter into the week of the Son. And in Hebrew it says, “the week of the Son, say to yourself, Yeshua the Son.”

English Translation Differs From the Hebrew

But the English translation doesn’t translate it. It actually puts it in brackets and says, “According to another version, the salvation of the Son.” But salvation is yeshua and Yeshua is a name of a person, is a name that appears even in Joshua in the prophets called one time Yeshua, Joshua the son of Nun, who conquered the land after they entered from the desert to the Promised Land.

So Yeshua is a name of a person. Yeshua is a noun, a gerund in English grammar. So they say, It’s in another version it says, but actually the best version of the Talmud in Hebrew and Aramaic, the official, the Venetian and other versions say Yeshua the Son, doesn’t say the salvation of the Son, but Yeshua the Son.

In Hebrew and Aramaic it is the name “Yeshua”

So this rabbi, this Orthodox Jew comes to me and says, I don’t understand the text. Rashi says, it’s talking about circumcision, but circumcision doesn’t happen in a week, in the seven days, circumcision happens after eight days, not seven days. And Rashi is taking it out of its context to say that “the week of the Son” is the week of the circumcision.

Talmudic Commentators Try to Deny That it is Yeshua

But again, they changed the text from a name of a person to a gerund, to a noun, that is not in the context of the story itself, the general context of the chapter, in fact, that deals with the what to do.

The Talmud Mirrors Paul

Now, it’s interesting, another thing is interesting in this text is that the suggestion is that during this time of the destruction they shouldn’t marry and have children. This is interesting within itself, because the rabbi that objects to the New Testament, that objects to Yeshua actually condemned Paul for what he says in first Corinthians chapter seven, that people shouldn’t marry because of the times, the difficulty of the times.

But here we have Rabbi Ishmael suggesting the same thing in the Talmud. Because of the difficulty of the time, people shouldn’t marry and have children. Ah, exactly like the apostle Paul! So that’s interesting within itself, but I want to concentrate on this idea that “the week of the Son” and “Yeshua the Son.”

Does the Talmud Speak of Yeshua?

Okay, so the rabbi asked me, What do you think it’s talking about? Well, I said, “The first time I’m seeing this text, I don’t really rightly know. Give me a week to think about it, to research it, to try to understand it.” He said, “Fine, I’ll come back in a week.”

Well, during the week I really prayed and considered what it could be, what could be “the week of the Son.” And I find out in another tractate of the Talmud, Sanhedrin, page 97 and 98, there is seven days that each day brings another calamity and another disaster on the world, sometimes hunger, sometimes earthquake, sometimes other great problems on the world, during seven days before the appearance of the Son of David, of the Messiah.

The Talmud Mirrors the Book of Revelation

Ah, so “the week of the Son” is an interesting concept. It’s one week of tribulations. What is interesting is that the Book of Revelation has the same thing, one week of tribulation, each day another angel pours another cup of sorrow, of suffering, of disaster on the world.

Same as in the Talmud. But the Book of Revelation is at least 200 years before the Babylonian Talmud existed, even before the Jerusalem Talmud came into being.

So it’s very interesting, we’ve got seven days, each day another angel pours out another calamity on the world. We have the same thing in the tractate Sanhedrin.

So, okay, the “week of the Son” is the week before the Son appears, before the Son of David appears. And the same thing is in the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin, and in the Book of Revelation, and the same phrase, the week that the Son of David will appear, that’s the calamities that are supposed to happen.

English Translation Covers up Yeshua the Messiah

So the context is very interesting and connected with the destruction of the Temple. But what is more interesting is that it says, “Yeshua ha Ben,” Yeshua is the Son. And that’s in the Talmud, that’s why the Soncino English translation doesn’t translate it and says, “In another version ‘the salvation of the Son.’”

They changed the word “Yeshua” (Jesus) to “Yeshu-ah” (with the Hebrew letter “hay” in the end), and they reinterpreted it as “the salvation of the Son,” based on the influence of Rashi’s interpretation.

Rashi lived in the early medieval period in Europe in the city of Worms that then was a part of France and now is a part of Germany, not far from Frankfurt.

So, it’s an interesting text, and it’s not the only text. The old prayer books, siddurim, that were used in the Orthodox world, you know, on Rosh Hashanah, said that Metatron, the angel that is sitting next to the throne of God, is Yeshua, they changed there too to say the same thing, they put a “hay” in it first, made it “Yeshu-ah” to then make sense, because the angel name is not Yeshu-ah, but Yeshua, and that’s how it was spelled in the siddur.

And then we have in the Yom Kippur, Machzor, Machzor Rosh Hashanah first, Machzor Yom Kippur second, we have , then before the Genesis happened, before the creation of the world, also a very messianic text connected with Isaiah 53 and other prophetic texts related to the Messiah.

Early 3rd Century Christians at Odds With Jews

So what are we trying to say? I’m trying to say simply this, in the early days of the history of Israel, after the destruction of the temple, Yeshua was not a stranger.

When Christianity was born, later on in the late second, third, beginning of the fourth century, then the enmity set into a bitter competition and bitter persecution between the Christians and the Jews, and that hatred, that persecution bore a negation, a contradiction between the disciples of Yeshua, so-called disciples of Yeshua, that means the Christians of the second, third, fourth century, and the Jewish community.

Alienation Between Early Christians and Jews Linked to the Bar Kokhba Rebellion

The alienation happened after the Bar Kokhba rebellion. But before the Bar Kokhba rebellion, Rabbi Ishmael says, “The week of the Son,” meaning that week of the tribulations, and identified “the Son” as “Yeshua the Son.”

That’s an amazing text, a lot more to be studied about it and researched. But I just wanted you to be aware, that the early years after the destruction of the temple, the relationship with the rabbinical world, the pharisaic world, and Yeshua and his disciples was not such deep alienation and such deep negation, until well into the beginning of the second century with rabbi Akiva and that generation of the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

We have historical documents to document this, written by Bar Kokhba himself, where he says, you know, “Get the Galileans,” that’s another name for the disciples of Yeshua. “Get the Galileans, put them in chain.”

The reason is the disciples of Yeshua did not join the second rebellion. They did not join the first rebellion, but the reason they didn’t join the second rebellion is because Rabbi Akiva declared Bar Kokhba the Messiah, and the disciples of Yeshua knew that Bar Kokhba was not the Messiah, and that brought a great calamity and finally the exile of the Jews from Judea to Galilee, and from there to the rest of the Roman Empire.

So this is an interesting text that I wanted to share with you. “The week of the Son,” Yeshua is “the Son” in the Talmud, rabbinical literature, and something for us to ponder and to weigh more carefully.
God bless you all. Contact Netivyah if you have questions. Thank you.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah, June 8, 2020, and reposted with permission.