copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
Indeed I have no idea what planet most Jewish scholars think their religion must come from when they read these reports and think that their great heroes did not convert to Christianity in the period. Those who gathered in these clandestine meetings were in fact the real apostates in the period. They were resisting the new world order and its contemporary call to abandon the continued observance of Moses laws in favor of the “law of Christ.” This understanding is reflected in what we gather from our second story from Gamaliel’s clandestine struggle against Marcus Agrippa – that of folio Shabbath 116b from the Babylonian Talmud.
In this story which had to have taken place in the same historical period (i.e. 70 – 100 CE) Gamaliel’s sister Salome (herself married interesting to a min – viz. Eliezar ben Hyrcanus) decided to team up with her brother to bring down the gospel which it is clearly acknowledged acknowledged as the basis for all legal decisions in Marcus Agrippa’s Palestine. We are told with the example of one particular judge (who is unnamed) that “they wished to make sport of him” and so Salome
brought him a golden lamp, went before him, [and] said to him, “I desire that a share be given me in my [deceased] father's estate.” “Divide,” ordered he. Said he [R. Gamaliel] to him, “It is decreed for us, ‘Where there is a son, a daughter does not inherit.'” [The judge replied], “Since the day that you were exiled from your land the Law of Moses has been taken away and and the law of the Evangelium has been given, wherein it is written, 'A son and a daughter inherit equally.’” The next day, he [R. Gamaliel] brought him a Lybian ass [to bribe him]. Said he to them, “Descend to the book, wherein it is written, ‘I came not to destroy the Law of Moses but to add to the Law of Moses’ [cf. Matt. V, 17 seq] and it is written therein, ‘A daughter does not inherit where there is a son.’” Said she to him, “Let thy light shine forth like a lamp.” Said R. Gamaliel to him, “An ass came and knocked the lamp over!” [Shab 116b]
The gospel which is cited here is clearly the Marcionite gospel. Not only does it contain citations which are not found in our surviving canonical texts the content of the story makes clear that the aim of the pair wasn’t to completely destroy the authority of the gospel but strangely to “Judaize” its decrees.
The Marcionites are repeatedly reported to have used their version of the so-called “Pauline epistles” to argue for a similar understanding of the period. At the time the apostle wrote his decrees the gospel had already replaced the Law as the authority by which decisions were made in Israel. Along came “unnamed Judaizers” from Jerusalem who corrupted the original integrity of its message – adding additional references to Jewish scriptures which did not appear in the original. One might well suspect that Josephus mention of Agrippa’s ultimate expulsion of his secretary Justus for “forging epistles in his name” is somehow connected to this historical situation.
The situation is properly spelled out by Seagal who notes the story was taken by later Jewish sages as proof that the precepts of the Law could never be abrogated. He writes that it is important to take not that when Gamaliel brings in his bribe “the appreciative judge suddenly became receptive to Rabban Gamaliel's point of view. He piously quoted Jesus' proclamation that he had come "not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.” This line did not appear in the Marcionite gospel and was the constant source of controversy between the former Church and various “Judaizing” traditions which came after it.
Seagal goes on to say interestingly that:
From her seat in the courtroom, Imma Shalom blurted out the words "May your light shine like a lamp!" hoping to call the judge's attention to her original bribe--to which her brother quipped cynically: "It appears that the donkey has come and extinguished the lamp." To fully appreciate Rabban Gamaliel's gibe we must keep in mind that the Hebrew word for donkey, "hamor," is a homonym of "homer," a bushel. Thus Rabban Gamaliel was ingeniously punning on the well known Christian proverb (which happens to be found in precisely the same chapter that had just been quoted by the judge).
The point then is that it is inescapable that what we have here is a rabbinic parallel to the well established Marcionite claim that the “Gospel of the Hebrews” (i.e. the Jewish Christian gospel) was developed out of a deliberate corruption of an original “fuller” version of our canonical Gospel of Mark.
How anyone can read this passage and assume that the gospel – even this original “gospel of Mark” – had been established as the messianic “law of the land” is beyond me. It is inescapable that while Marcus Julius Agrippa ruled the land of Israel the lost original Gospel of Mark was used as its new messianic law. Of course none of this fits in with the fabricated history of the Acts of the Apostles. Yet none of this should surprise us. The Marcionites were again at the forefront of the argument that Acts was based on falsehoods and invented stories which had no basis in fact whatsoever.
Somehow it isn’t enough when we consistently hear the Marcionites and the rabbis agree with one another against the surviving Catholic tradition (this in spite of their clear and present mutual hostility towards one another). Yet we should take this one step further. What reason would the rabbinic authorities to “make up” such an embarrassing chapter in their history? Why would they want to spread around an “entirely erroneous notion” that at the end of the first century CE their sages were forced to live in a world governed by the gospel? If anything we might expect matters to have been turned around the other way. For we see with every chance they get the apologists for Jewish orthodoxy claim that a continuous chain existed between their Mishnah and the period before the destruction of the temple.
Indeed I wanted to stress again that we haven’t just challenged the religious orientation of the last king of Israel. Another thing which begins to stand out for us is why it is that Gamaliel is portrayed as acting through intermediaries. Whether it be through Samuel the Little or his sister Salome the master himself does his best to keep his hands clean. Is this because he didn’t want to lose his position of authority in the court of Agrippa? We are told from the earliest recollections of the Jewish War in the Talmud that “John” struck a deal with Vespasian to obtain Gamaliel’s pardon (Giṭ. 56b). Then we are told that Gamaliel took over the assembly at Yavneh.
Ah Yavneh that great institution where according to all the propagandists for the rabbinic tradition all authority in Jewish religious life was transferred during Agrippa’s rule (R. H. 31a). It is said that “Jabneh took the place of Jerusalem; it became the religious and national center of the Jews; and the most important functions of the Sanhedrin, such as determining the time of the new moon and of the festivals, were observed there.” Then suddenly the sages claim that Gamaliel abolished the assembly and moved it somewhere else. I wonder if this was deliberate because they recognized the original pun that perhaps, just perhaps “Yavneh” was an entirely imaginary city developed from the realities that Judaism in the period had went entirely “ over to Yavan” – i.e. over to the Greeks. I guess we will never know for sure.
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller