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Paul’s Depen­den­cy on Tal­mu­dic Writ­ings : Evi­dence of New Tes­ta­ment Borrowing

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While Chris­tians would pre­fer to allude to the notion that Paul, the self-acclaimed apos­tle” of Jesus, was inspired” when he wrote his epis­tles, the evi­dences we have researched states oth­er­wise. We have seen how Paul had cit­ed a verse from the apoc­ryphal books of Eli­jah” but claimed that he was cit­ing from the book of Isa­iah. Appa­rant­ly this cit­ing of quo­ta­tions from apoc­ryphal or Rab­binic writ­ings was not alien to Paul, for in the epis­tles of Paul, there are abun­dant signs that he was extreme­ly famil­iar with Rab­ban­ic mate­r­i­al and con­stant­ly refers to them. This is not sur­pris­ing since Paul him­self had admit­ted to famil­iar­i­ty with Jew­ish tra­di­tions under the tute­lage of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).

Paul’s Depen­den­cy on the Tal­mu­dic Writ­ings : The Evidence

In 2 Tim­o­thy 3:8, we see that Paul tra­di­tion­al­ly names two of the Egypt­ian magi­cians who with­stood Moses as Jannes and Jam­bres, respec­tive­ly. He com­pares the both of them with his ene­mies, as the fol­low­ing verse records :

Just as Jannes and Jam­bres opposed Moses, so do these men oppose the truth, cor­rupt thinkers as they are and coun­ter­feits so far as faith is concerned.”

The names of these two Egypt­ian magi­cians are nowhere to be found in the Old Tes­ta­ment. The Midrash Rab­bah on Exo­dus, how­ev­er, makes men­tion of these two names as Yochani” and Mam­re” respec­tive­ly, and states :

Amru Yochani uMam­re L’Moshe : teben atah makh­nis L’e­fray­im?” Amar Lahem L’matah yarqa yarqa sh’qol.”

Yochani and Mam­re said to Moshe Would you car­ry straw to Afraim?” He [Moses] said to them : car­ry herbs to herb-town.“Eng­lish-Hebrew of She­mot Rab­bah (Midrash Rab­bah on Exo­dus), 7:12

The names of these Egypt­ian magi­cians also appears in Midrash Tanchu­ma (Par­shat Ki Tisa) 19:19 as a Com­men­tary on Exo­dus 32 :

Forty thou­sand peo­ple had assem­bled to leave Egypt with the Israelites, and among them were two Egyp­tians named Jannes and Jam­bres, who had per­formed mag­i­cal feats for Pharaoh.Midrash Tanchu­ma’s Com­men­tary on Exo­dus 32, Samuel A. Berman (trans.), Midrash Tan­hu­ma-Yelamme­de­nu (KTAV Pub­lish­ing, 1996), p. 598

Thus it is clear that these magi­cians’ names came from the Rab­binic tra­di­tions and had no doubt influ­enced Paul con­sid­er­ably to include these names in his epistle.

Paul also adopt­ed the cur­rent Jew­ish chronolo­gies in Acts 13:20 – 21. He alludes to the notion that the Adam of Gen­e­sis 1 is the ide­al or spir­i­tu­al, the Adam of Gen 2 the con­crete and sin­ful Adam (1 Corinthi­ans 15:47, also found in Phi­lo, De Opif. Mund i.32). The con­cep­tion of the last trum­pet (1 Corinthi­ans 15:52 ; 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 4:16) , of the giv­ing of the Law at Sinai by Angels (Gala­tians 3:19), of Satan as the god of this world and the prince of the air (Eph­esians 2:2) and of the celes­tial and infer­nal hier­ar­chies (Eph­esians 1:21, 3:10 ; 4:12 ; Colos­sians 1:16 ; 2:15) are all recur­rent in Tal­mu­dic writings.

When Paul says in 1 Corinthi­ans 11:10 that a women ought to have a veil on her head because of the angel, as stat­ed in the following :

The woman, there­fore, ought to have a token of author­i­ty on her head, because of the angels”

he demon­strates a very high famil­iar­i­ty with the Tal­mu­dic writ­ings, as he is appar­ent­ly refer­ring to the Rab­binic inter­pre­ta­tion of Gen­e­sis 6:2 as follows :

Binei Elo­him. B’nei ha-sarim v’ha-shof­tim. Davar acher : b’nei ha-Elo­him, hem ha-sarim ha-holkhim bish­lichuto shel maqom, af hem hayu mitarvim bahem ; kal elo­him she­bamiqra l’shon marut, v’zeh yokhi­ach : V’atah tiyeh lo lelo­him, r’eh n’tatikha elohim.

THE SONS OF GOD. The sons of princes and rulers. Anoth­er expla­na­tion of B’nei Elo­him is that these were prince­ly angels who came as mes­sen­gers of God, and they inter­min­gled with the daugh­ters of men. Wher­ev­er the word elo­him” appears in the scrip­tures, it sig­ni­fies author­i­ty, thus the fol­low­ing pas­sages : And you shall be his mas­ter (elo­him)” [Exo­dus 4:16] and see, I have made you a mas­ter (elo­him).” [Exo­dus 7:1]Rashi’s Com­men­tary on B’reshit (Gen­e­sis), 6:2

Paul obvi­ous­ly believed this Rab­binic tra­di­tion which states that angels have min­gled with the daugh­ters of men to have includ­ed this in his epis­tle. The Tar­gum, as quot­ed in the epis­tle of Jude (2 Peter 2:4 ; Jude 6), clear­ly ascribe the Fall to the angels to their guilty love for earth­ly women.

The Jew­ish mind — a notion which is found over and over again in the Tal­mud, and which is still preva­lent among Ori­en­tal Jews, is that they nev­er let their women to be unveiled in the pub­lic lest the shedin, or evil spir­its, should injure them or oth­ers. A head­dress called khal­bi is worn as a reli­gious duty by Jew­ish women.

The rea­son why Solomon’s bed was guard­ed by six­ty valiant men with drawn swords was because of fear in the night. (Cant iii 7, 8). This is allud­ed to the fol­low­ing sto­ry in Pesachim 112b :

Lo yetse Y’chi­di bifnei ; lo b’leilei r’vi’iy­ot, v’lo b’leilei sha­ba­tot, mifnei she-Agrat bat Macha­lat, hi ush­moneh esreh ribo shel malakhei cha­bal­ah yotsin , v’kal echad v’echad yesh lo r’shut l’ch­aber bifnei atsmo.”

Do not go out at night. Not on Wednes­day night or on Sab­bath night, because Igrath (Agrat) the daugh­ter of Maha­lath (Macha­lat) along with 180,000 destroy­ing angels are out, each with per­mis­sion to cause destruc­tion inde­pen­dent­ly.“Pesahim 112b, Baby­lon­ian Talmud

They are called ruchin, shedin, lilin, tiharim.

Again, in Romans 4:5 – 12, Paul evi­dent­ly accepts the tra­di­tion, also referred to by St. Stephen, that Abra­ham had been uncir­cum­cised idol­ater when he first obeyed the call of God, and that he then received a promise — unknown to the text of the scrip­ture — that he should be the heir of the world. (Romans 4:13, cf. Joshua 24:15). In Romans 9:9, where­by it states :

For this is the mes­sage of the promise, At about this time next year, I will come, and Sarah will have a son’ ”

it has been sup­posed, from the form of his quo­ta­tion, that he is allud­ing to the Rab­binic notion that Isaac was cre­at­ed in the womb by a fiat of God. In Gala­tians 4:29, where­by it says

But just as then the one born in a flesh­ly way per­se­cut­ed the one born in accord with the Spir­it, so too at present”

this is in accor­dance to the Hag­gadah tra­di­tion that Ish­mael had not only laughed, but also jeered, insult­ed, and mis­treat­ed Isaac. Thus we find the fol­low­ing in San­hedrin 89b :

Rab­bi Levi aamar : achar d’varaiv shel Yish­ma’el l’Y­itschaq. Aamar lo Yish­ma’el l’Y­itschaq : Ani gadol mimkha b’mit­sot, she-atah mal­ta ben sh’­monat yamim, v’ani ben sh’lash esreh shanah.’ Aamar lo : Uvev­er echad atah m’ghareh bi ? Im omer li ha-Qadosh, baruch Hu, z’vach atsmkha l’fanay, ani zovech.’ Miyad v’ha-Elo­him nisah et Avraham.”

Rab­bi Levi said : These are the words of Ish­mael to Isaac. Ish­mael said to Isaac : I am greater than you in com­mand­ments, for you were cir­cum­cised at eight days old, and I when I was thir­teen years old.” He [Isaac] said to him : You tease me over one organ ? If the Holy One, blessed be He, says to me sac­ri­fice your­self to me,’ I will sac­ri­fice myself.” Imme­di­ate­ly God test­ed Abra­ham.San­hedrin 89b, Baby­lon­ian Talmud

In 2 Corinthi­ans 11:14, where­by we read that :

…and no won­der, for Satan him­self mas­quer­ades as an angel of light” 

Paul adhered to the notion that the angel who wres­tled with Jacob was Satan assum­ing the sem­blance of an Angel of Light. There is a remark­able resem­blance to the smit­ten rock in the wilder­ness, which in 1 Corinthi­ans 10:4 is called

…a spir­i­tu­al fol­low­ing rock.” 

To the Rab­bis the rock, from which water flowed, was round and like a swarm of bees, and rolled itself up and went with them in their jour­neys. When the Taber­na­cle was pitched, the rock came and set­tled in its vestibule. Then Israel sang the following :

Spring up, O well ; sing ye to it!” (Num­bers 21:17)

and it sprang up. Paul’s instant addi­tion of the words :

[…]which rock was Christ”

has Hag­gadis­tic ele­ments which, in the nation­al con­scious­ness, had got min­gled up with the great sto­ry of the wan­der­ings in the Wilder­ness. Sev­en such cur­rent nation­al tra­di­tions are allud­ed to in St. Stephen’s speech.

Con­clu­sions

The Rab­binic teach­ings as record­ed in the Tal­mu­dic writ­ings was influ­en­tial for Paul, and it is with these tra­di­tions in his mind that he had based his epis­tles on. Some of these sto­ries have no basis in the Tanakh or the Old Tes­ta­ment, but only in the Tal­mud of the Jews. This clear­ly shows that Paul’s claim of being an apos­tle” of Jesus and was divine­ly inspired” in his writ­ings can cer­tain­ly be cast into rea­son­able doubt. The evi­dences as shown above clear­ly shows that Paul had resort­ed to heavy bor­row­ing from the Jew­ish tra­di­tions as record­ed in the Tal­mu­dic writings. Paul's Dependency on Talmudic Writings: Evidence of New Testament Borrowing 26Endmark

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