Tabor Bookshelf: Jesus in the Talmud

Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton University Press, 2009) (Kindle and Hardcover links). There is no end of confusion regarding texts about the figure of Jesus of Nazareth and whether he is or is not referenced in the Talmuds and Rabbinic literature, and if so whether such references offer anything of value to the historian.

Joseph Klausner’s classic 1922 work in English, Jesus of Nazareth has fortunately been reissued just recently, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teachings (Wipf & Stock, 2020). It remains a standard despite later works such as Johann Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in her talmudischen Überlieferung (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978) who argued that there are no historical references to Jesus whatsoever.

In my estimation, Schäfer’s little 200 page volume clears the deck on all the confusion. Although I don’t agree with all of his arguments and conclusions, he offers a solid and reliable guide to the main issues and topics–including Jesus’ father Pantera, his mother Miriam, his Torah teachings, his execution, and passages about his fate in Hell. Unless one has carefully worked through Schäfer, the discussions that one encounters on Youtube and in other popular media–and even among scholars in some cases–are severely limited in value. The book is beautiful written, clearly argued, and very comprehensive. I highly recommend it to all students of the historical Jesus and Christian origins.

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