Tertullian Mocks Jewish 'Slanders'

Tertullian wrote this passage late in the 2nd century, CE. In the context he is imagining himself, after Jesus' triumphant return, mocking the now damned Jews for their perversions of of the truth about Jesus (from his point of view). Much of what he accuses the Jews of saying/doing is straight out of the canonical gospels, but some, especially the last phrase, seems to reflect some of the traditions that will later be brought together in the Toldoth Yeshu. [AH]

Tertullian, De Spetaculis 100.30
Translation, quoted from Mead, p. 133.

This is your carpenter's son, your harlot's son;[1] your Sabbath-breaker, your Samaritan[2], your demon-possessed! This is he whom you bought from Judas. This is he who was struck with reeds and fists, dishonored with spittle, and given a draught of gall and vinegar! This is he whom his disciples have stolen secretly, that it may be said, 'He has risen', or the gardener abstracted that his lettuces might not be damaged by the crowds of visitors![3]


[1] The 'harlot's son' accusation is doubtless a commonplace. It is directly connected with Christian claims of virgin birth, but there is something of a chicken-egg problem. It is easy to imagine such a rebuttal to Christian claims, but it is also quite conceivable that the Christian version is a response to Jewish slanders about his origins. I am inclined toward the former explanation, but arguments can be made for either.

[2] Samaritan. Thanks to Mike Sassanian for reminding me of John 8:48 where Jesus is called a Samaritan and accused of being demon posessed.

[3] Presumably, in this version a gardener who grows cabbages near the grounds of the sepulcher is irritated by the large numbers of disciples who are trampling his crops when they come to visit the tomb. He solves the problem by moving the body, which gives rise to Christian claims of resurrection. The gardener parallel to the Toledoth tradition is clear enough, although not identical, particularly in motive. What is interesting is the peculiar detail of the cabbage. I am not aware of the Toledoth stories mentioning this, but they do often have Jesus being crucified on a cabbage. While the context is different, the wild improbability of the recurring vegetable seems too peculiar to be coincidence. There may also be a connection between this gardener and the story in John 20.14-16 where Mary Magdalene, on seeing the resurrected Jesus, fails to recognize him, taking him to be the gardener.


Back to Jewish Views of Jesus Index
Page: © Copyright 1995-2011 Alan Humm.
Comments and corrections:

Music: Interested in learning music theory? Look at An introduction to popular music theory. Aspiring guitarists should check out Guitar Learning Helps. If you just want to know what the author has been up to look at Alan Humm's music.