User:Scientz/Yehoshua ben Yosef

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This page refers to Yehoshua ben Yosef, using critical analysis of the evidence available before the Roman Catholic Church approved the doctrines of Pauline Christianity. For information on the Christian messianic figure, see Jesus Christ.

Yehoshua (ben Yosef), from the Hebrew or Aramaic: ישוע, variously translated as Yeshu, Yeshua or Yehoshua, considered by some to be a Jewish patriot, martyr and heir to the title "King Of The Jews" through the royal line of Galilee. He is seen by others as a revolutionary agitator to the Roman-endorsed Sadducee rule in David, part of the Roman province of Iudaea. There are also those who doubt the existence of such a man altogether.

Existence vs. non-existence[edit]

Any responsible coverage of this topic should begin with the caveat that not all scholars believe in the existence of this particular 1st Century Jew known as Yehoshua or Yeshua. The existence of a man known to the English-speaking world as Jesus is accepted by two major world religions, Christianity and Islam, based on their respective scriptures, the Bible and the Qur'an. However, the true historicity of Jesus is difficult to determine, as few reliable records of his life exist. While Christianity believes Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah) and Son of God and Islam views him as a prophet, secular historians and most other world religions (including Judaism) regard him as an ordinary human, perhaps even a rebellious rabbi in first century AD Israel, and a few dispute whether he ever existed[citation needed].

The few detailed accounts of Yehoshua's life from the time period describe various remarkable events and miracles, including virgin birth and resurrection. Most Christians believe these events took place, but many non-Christians and even some liberal Christians do not believe that these events actually occurred[citation needed].

Many scholars[who?] see the Biblical narrative of Yehoshua's life as a mythologized account of a historical figure's life, aimed at winning new converts rather than existing as a neutral historical record. The difficulty of distinguishing which parts of Yehoshua's life are historical and which belong to Christian mythology is one of the main obstacles for Biblical historians. Even accurate accounts of events in Yehoshua's life may have changed in subtle ways during retellings. Others may have been exaggerated on purpose, and some may even have been entirely new fabrications, possibly reinterpreted from older stories; virgin births and sacrifice were common features of Pagan godmen myths, such as Osiris-Dionysus.

Although the existence of a historical figure named Jesus is universally accepted by Christians and Muslims, there is a school of thought, called mythological school, which sees "Jesus" as a later interpolation into one of the mystery religions which resemble Christianity[citation needed]. This theory is commonly known as the Jesus Myth, and is based upon the supposition that Yehoshua did not exist. Others interpret the relationship between Gnosticism and Christianity as a real historical figure serving as a focal point for the linking of Jewish religious traditions and political history with a mystery religion, a syncretism—ultimately more popular among Gentiles than Jews—which eventually became Christianity[citation needed].

The rest of this article will be based on the assumption that Yehoshua ben Yosef did exist, and was a figure who laid the basis for—and yet was somewhat different from—the Jesus Christ of canonical Christian literature.

The name "Yeshua" or "Yehoshua"[edit]


The name was common—the Hebrew Bible mentions ten individuals with this name. It is derived from the three-letter root yod-shin-`ayin which has the meaning of "to save", but the name is not identical to the word "salvation" (y'shu`ah) or to any verb form such as "he will save" (yoshia`). It does not contain part of the name of God YHWH as the name Yehoshua` (Joshua) appears to do, although this name (yod-he-vav-shin-`ayin) could be considered a third person imperfect hiph`il verbal form of the same yod-shin-`ayin root.


The name Yeshua was pronounced with a tsere, a long e as in "neighbor" (but not diphthongized) not with a schwa (as Y'shua) or segol (Yesh-shua). The final consonent of the name was the voiced pharyngeal fricative consonant `ayin, sometimes transcribed by "`" (Yeshua`) The "a" represents the patach genuvah ("furtive" patach) indicating the diphthongization of the "u" vowel due to the effect of the final `ayin - in simple terms the "a" is not an additional syllable but indicates a modification of the "u" vowel which due to the `ayin was pronounced somewhat like the oo of English moor as opposed to that of food.

The original name for "Jesus"?[edit]

The claim that the form Yeshua is the original name for Jesus is debatable - other possibilities are that it was Yehoshua or that the Greek form itself was the original (Greek speaking communities existed in Israel already during the Hellenistic period and moreover our oldest manuscripts of the entire New Testament are in Greek). However, Jesus and his milieu normally spoke Aramaic, and Eusebius reports that Matthew wrote a gospel in "Hebrew" (a term used at the time for Aramaic). There is also evidence that the Gospel of John was originally written in Aramaic.

In the Septuagint and Greek language Jewish texts such as the writings of Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, Iēsoûs is the standard Greek form of the name Yehoshua (Joshua). Yeshua, although also rendered Iēsoûs in the Septuagint, is said to be a shortened form of Yehoshua in the dialect spoken at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and not undisputedly attested in other periods. All occurrences of the term in the Hebrew Bible are in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Two of the people bearing this name are mentioned in other books where they are instead called Yehoshua (Joshua son of Nun and Joshua son of Jehozadak). The name is used for Jesus son of Sirach in Hebrew fragments of the Book of Sirach. Based on comparison of texts, scholars agree that the book was originally written in Hebrew but some concern remains over whether the fragments faithfully represent the original Hebrew text. If accurate this would extend evidence of the usage of the name to the early second century BCE. No usage of the name is found in the Talmud except in verbatim quotations from the Hebrew Bible regarding Joshua son of Jehozadak. The name Yehoshua however is used for numerous individuals from the Hasmonean period and onwards.

In the Toldoth Yeshu narratives, Gospel elements about Jesus are conflated with accounts of the individuals called Yeshu in the Talmud. Price [1] interprets Yeshu as a shortened form of Yeshua and argues that the latter was the name by which Jesus was known to the Jews. However the Toldoth Yeshu narratives typically explain the designation Yeshu as the acronym yemach shemo vezikhro (may his name and memory be obliterated) or Yeshua as the acronym yemach shemo vezikhro olam (may his name and memory be obliterated from the world) and state that his real name was Yehoshua. Other Jewish sages sometimes give his name as Yeshua [1] although the usage of this form without the letter he (h) might have been chosen to indicate divine disapproval.

An argument in favor of the form Yeshua is that the name used for Jesus in the Old Syriac Bible (c. 200 AD) and the Peshitta has the same spelling as Hebrew Yeshua. (The modern Syriac pronunciation of this is Eesho but ancient pronunciation was similar to Yeshua`.) These were translated from the Greek but the name is not a simple transliteration of the Greek form (it has "sh" instead of "s" and ends with the pharyngeal `ayin not found in Greek). It can be argued that the Aramaic speakers who used this name could have had a continuous connection to the Aramaic speaking disciples of Jesus and thus preserved the actual name used for him.

Even if derived from Hebrew Yeshua, the possibility that it was simply chosen based on the correspondence between Iēsoûs and Yeshua in the Septuagint cannot be ruled out.

The Arabic name for Jesus used by Christians, Yasū`, is derived from Yeshua but it is not the name used for Jesus in the Qur'an and other Muslim sources. The traditional Islamic name for Jesus is `Isa (`ayn-ya-sin-ya). This superficially resembles the Hebrew name `Esav (Esau, `ayin-sin-vav). Juferi [3] argues that it is derived from the Aramaic Yeshû` which he regards as the original name. However, the Aramaic has `ayin only at the end, whereas the Arabic has `ayn only at the beginning.

Family background and childhood[edit]

Joseph (Yosef) — his father?[edit]

The main Christian sources about Joseph come from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Joseph was betrothed to Mary at the time that she conceived Yehoshua; and therefore they were already legally husband and wife then, although they were not yet permitted to live together.

In the Christian Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Joseph is referred to as "Jesus'" foster father. Joseph does not feature in any of the four canonical gospels, except in these childhood narratives; moreover, he does not feature in the Book of Acts, unlike "Jesus'" other relatives; these facts are generally taken to mean that he was dead by the time of his ministry. Since the focus of each of the Christian Gospel accounts is primarily found in "Jesus'" later life with special emphasis on the three year period of ministry prior to the Crucifixion, it is considered likely that the childhood narratives are non-historical.

Matthew's gospel tries to convince the Jews that Yehoshua was indeed the royal son of David. Seven times in the Matthew's Gospel we see where the statement "son of David" is used (1:1, 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30, 21:9, 22:42). Only in Matthew does Christ speak of "The throne of his glory" (19:28, 25:31). And only in Matthew is Jerusalem referred to as "the holy city" (4:5). Therefore, Matthew spends a great deal of time trying to convince the Jewish people that Yehoshua was indeed the "King of the Jews" (27:29, 27:37). It is therefore important to note that Yehoshua is treated within biblical genealogies as the descendant of King David, and this could only occur if Joseph was his actual father. Joseph is shown to be related to David through the line of Nathan.

Mary (Miryam) - his mother?[edit]

The majority of information on Yehoshua's mother Mary comes from her mention in three of the four canonical Gospels, and the Book of Acts; the Gospel of John does not mention her by name.

Beyond the accounts given in the Gospels and a few other early Christian sources, there is no independent or verifiable information about any aspect of Mary's life. An account of the childhood of Mary is given in the mid-second century non-canonical Gospel of James. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions built around the figure of Mary, and the centuries of Marian cult derived from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, are based on faith, traditions of the Church Fathers (including the Gospel of James), and their interpretations of the Scriptures.

Mark 6:3 (and analogous passages in Matthew and Luke) reports that Jesus was "Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon," and also states that Jesus had sisters. The Jewish historian Josephus and the Christian historian Eusebius (who wrote in the 4th century but quoted much earlier sources now unavailable to us) refer to James the Just as Jesus' brother (See Desposyni).

Mary is also directly named in the Qur'an, although this was written some six hundred years later.

James (Yacov) - his brother?[edit]

Yehoshua is also described in the Gospel of Mark as having brothers: (Yacov) James, Joses, (Judas) Jude, and Simon, and several sisters (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). The Christian tradition at least as early as the second century, still adopted by Eastern Orthodoxy, explains that these "brothers and sisters" were from Joseph's marriage to an unnamed woman, before Joseph married Mary and so making them step-brothers and step-sisters. This version of events is related in the apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter.

Early Christian debate on the topic of "Jesus'" brothers can be divided into three points of view, each named for the respective theologian who put forth the idea.

  • The Helvidius view, which accepts that "Jesus" did have brothers
  • The Epiphanius view, which suggests that "Jesus'" brothers were in fact Joseph's from another marriage
  • The Jerome view, accepted in Roman Catholicism, that term "brother" really meant "cousin"

Netzarim - Ribi Yehoshuas followers.

And Jeshua (Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living eternal God) grew in strength and wisdom.

Two pillars[edit]

Ebionite sect[edit]