Some First-Century Zealots were Sexually Non-Conforming

Many people are unaware of the sexually non-conforming aspect of the Zealots. This according to Josephus (Wars of the Jews, IV.9.10):

“While the (Zealot) inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for the murdering of the men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them. They also devoured what spoils they had taken, together with their blood, and indulged themselves in feminine wantonness, without any disturbance, till they were satiated therewith; while they decked their hair, and put on women’s garments, and were besmeared over with ointments; and that they might appear very comely, they had paints under their eyes, and imitated not only the ornaments, but also the lusts of women, and were guilty of such intolerable uncleanness, that they invented unlawful pleasures of that sort. And thus did (Zealots) roll themselves up and down the city, as in a brothel-house, and defiled it entirely with their impure actions; nay, while their faces looked like the faces of women, they killed with their right hands; and while their gait was effeminate, they presently attacked men, and became warriors, and drew their swords from under their finely dyed cloaks, and ran every body through whom they alighted upon.”

Probably the main reason for the widespread ignorance of this passage is that it is not in the interest of any large religious group to publicize it. The fact of the Zealot’s sexualality is embarrassing for all the major players.

This passage reminds me of ACT-UP during the Reagan presidency, on steroids.

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Four Primates

Thirty thousand years ago a group of aging primates sat around a fire one night. There were three Homo Sapiens and a Neanderthal. The young ones were asleep. The area wouldn’t be called France for a long time.

Three of them were mourning the loss of an old friend. They didn’t speak English, but basically it was, “She’s gone to a better place “

One of the Homo Sapiens, the one who looked a lot like you, didn’t say anything. This one just nodded, not wanting to spoil things for the others.

And thought without speaking, “It’s not totally certain anyway, right?”

Posted in Deeper Life, Homo Sapiens, Humility | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Talmud and Gospels on Legal Entrapment

If you’re studying history, when two separate sources talk about the same thing, from different perspectives, that is worth focusing on. The Talmud and the gospels both talk about entrapment, but from different perspectives. The Talmud discusses entrapment from the perspective of Law Enforcement, and the gospels from the perspective of the target community.

I no longer assume that the target community I talk about is what I used to think it was. It was not what we think of when we think “Christians” or “the church”. These pictures all came later. You need to consider the possibility that the big picture you have developed in your mind could be inaccurate.

I need to draw your attention to lots of small.detaind. One important detail to notice: the phrase inner room or inner rooms.

◼️ Talmud (Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11)

“For all the capital crimes that are in the Torah, they do not entrap except for the enticer. How? They send to him two Sages in the inner room, and he sits in the outer room, and they light a candle so that they can see him and hear his voice.”

The basics of law enforcement guidance for entrapment has not changed much in the eons of history, except for the use of technology. You select and prepare the location. You make sure that you can see your target. You make sure that you can hear your target. After the arrest, you have two expert witnesses able to testify in court.

In historical study, when two different sources discuss the same phenomenon but from different perspectives, that’s an opportunity to learn something new.

◼️ Luke 12:1-3

As we now have it, the text reads, “Be on your guard against the [yeast of the] Pharisees [which is hypocrisy].” It is now a bit clumsy. I believe the original text was more straightforward. The addition of a few words was enough to muddy the meaning of the rest of the Lukan pericope.

“Be on your guard against the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” 

◼️ Matthew 24:26

“So if anyone tells you, “There he is out in the wilderness,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it.” 

These three passages all refer to the same law-enforcement practice, entrapment. The law enforcement perspective is a how-to, how to conduct an entrapment that will withstand judicial cross-examination. On the other hand, the target community is instructed on how to avoid entrapment.

It seems likely that in the original version of the trial and execution of Jesus Luke 2:1-3 and Matthew 24-26 were originally together, and were later divided. This is a good example of one technique used by scribes in the process of composing the gospels. The original version was as follows.

“Beware of the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is out ‘in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.” 

So, one technique illustrated from the gospels is dividing a passage into sections in order to mask the original content and context, but retain something interesting to read. Another technique is also illustrated in these verses, adding just enough distractor material to confuse the reader. Specifically, in the Luke 12:1-3 pericope there are two such phrases”, “in the ear” and “yeast of the . . . which is hypocrisy” were added to complicate and distract.

The words “in the ear” are three words in greek as well, πρὸς τὸ οὖς.

The six word phrase mentioning yeast and hypocrisy happens to be six contiguous words in greek, ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμη ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισι.

The Talmud discussion of conducting a bullet-proof entrapment belong with the target-community exhortation to avoid entrapment.

The addition of a few extra words is sufficient to muddy the waters of the pious reader. In terms of the Luke and Matthew material, we become concerned about the internal scrupulous issue of hypocrisy, instead of the life-and-death issue of law enforcement set-ups.

 

Posted in Gay Jew Jesus Trial, Law Enforcement Entrapment/Stings, The Galilee Episode | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Greetings Reader

I appreciate your interest in the topics here. Recently I’ve had readers from a very interesting assortment of places on the map.

United States, Israel, Germany, United kingdom, Philippines, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Nigeria, New Zealand, El Salvador, Romania, Norway, the Czech Republic, France, Brazil, and Finland.

I’d be very encouraged, if you want, if you would drop in and say hi. If you want to contact me BUT don’t want me to publish your name or anything, just type FYEO at the top of your comment.

You know, I love what I’m doing. Knowing that you are getting something that you value from my little hobby is very gratifying.

This is NOT a lead-in to a donation request. I am a retired widower, remarried to an absolutely WONDERFUL Iraqi woman, and am not in need of money.

The fact that you are reading this means that you are interested in the kinds of things that interest me. Who better to get to know?

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Evidence (and a little explanation) for “The Gay Jew Jesus Trial” Theory

This post includes key primary sources I use in “The Gay Jew Jesus Trial” theory. They are grouped together with headings.

You might want to copy and paste the following post to your device for further study, or repost somewhere for anyone you think might be interested.

EVIDENCE

A. ENTRAPMENT

◼️  Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11

For all the capital crimes that are in the Torah, they do not entrap except for the enticer. How? They send to him two Sages in the inner room, and he sits in the outer room, and they light a candle so that they can see him and hear his voice.

◼️ Luke 12:1-3

“Be on your guard against the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, 
or hidden that will not be made known.

“What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, And what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” 

◼️ Matthew 24:26

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is out in the wilderness,” do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.” 

B. DEFENDANTS and ARREST CHARGES 

◼️ Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 3.57

The ethnic makeup of the territory of Philip the Tetrarch, was “a mixture of Jews and Syrians.” [Wars of the Jews 3.57]

◼️  Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a (Grind)

“R. Yohanan said: ‘Grind’ means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: “Then let my wife grind unto another”. [Job 31:9-10] It teaches [in Judges 16:20-21] that [Samson did grind in the prison house], everyone brought his wife to him to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”

◼️ Luke 17:34 -3,5

▶ The Judge’s Decision (in some form)

“[I tell you,] in that night, 
Two men will be in one bed, 
one will be seized, and the other released. 
Two women will be grinding together, 
one will be seized, and the other released.”

◼️ Horace (Philosopher &Moralist, 65-8 BCE) writing in Latin.

“Once, when a noble left a brothel, ‘Blessed be thou for virtue!” quoth the wisdom of Cato: for when their veins are swelling with gross lust, young men should drop in there, rather than grind some husband’s private mill.” (i.e., “screw some husband’s wife)

◼️ Tale of the Seven Wise Men, Plutarch (46 to 119 CE), written in Greek.

“This remark arrested the attention of the whole company, and Thales said jestingly…. “when I was at Lesbos, I heard my landlady, as she was very busy at her mill, singing as she used to go at her work:

“Grind, mill, grind;
For even Pittacus grinds,
King of great Mytilene.”

B. The Judge, Philip the Tetrarch

◼️ Antiquities of the Jews, 18.4.6

“Philip had been tetrarch of Trachonitis, and Gaulanitis, and the Bataneans thirty-seven years.

“He constantly lived in that country. He used to travel a circuit with a few choice friends. His tribunal also which sat in judgment, when any one met him who required his verdict, he had his tribunal sit down to hear his complaint.

“He then ordered the guilty  to be punished: and absolved those that had been accused unjustly.”

(Edited for clarity.)

◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2; Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2

Antigonus the Prince [Hegemon] asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, “The ox will be stoned and the master also die (Ex. 21:29). Why?”

C.  GENERAL LEGAL GOSPEL MATERIAL, NOT TIED TO THE CANONICAL TRIAL STORY

◼️ Luke 12:6a

Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul. 

◼️ Luke 12:11-12

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.

◼️ LOCATION:  GALILEE

◼️  Shabbat 16:7 — ‘Arav

Rabbi Judah said: an incident came before Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in ‘Arav…  [17 mi from Bethsaida]

“THE FOUNDING OF BETHSAIDA-JULIAS: EVIDENCE FROM THE COINS OF PHILIP.”

♦  Talmud (7 Texts)

◼️  Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11 (entrapment)

◼️  Shabbat 16:7 — ‘Arav

One may [on the Sabbath] cover a lamp with a dish so that it shall not scorch a rafter, and [cover] animal droppings to protect a child, or a scorpion so that it not bite. Rabbi Judah said: an incident came before Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in ‘Arav and he said, ‘I doubt whether one [who does so] is not liable to a Sin-offering.’

And thus they did to So-and-So—they appointed against him two Sages and they stoned him.

THE TRIAL DOCUMENTS

◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2; Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2

(note the Prince and the multi-part explanation)

Antigonus the Prince asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, “The ox will be stoned and the master also die (Ex. 21:29). Why?”
He said to him, “The accomplice of a thief is like a thief.”

When he went out, the student asked, “Master, this one you pushed away with a reed, but to us, what will you reply?”
He said to them, “It is written, The ox will be stoned and also its master will die…

◼️THE CHARGE DOCUMENTS/SUMMARY OF
THE PROSECUTION CASE

◼️ Massekhet Semahot 8.7

The dorshe hamurot used to say, You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom thou shall dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills, and under every green tree; you shall tear down their altars, and dash to pieces their pillars (Deut. 12:2-3).

How did the wood and stones sin? [They did not sin.] But on account of them there came upon man confusion, and therefore Scripture said, You shall destroy their altars.

And behold it is a deduction: If in the case of stone and wood, which have neither merit nor demerit, neither good nor evil, because on their account confusion comes upon man, Scripture said to destroy their altars, a man who causes others to sin, and turns them from the way of life to the way of death, how much more so will he suffer.

◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5

And so too, if a woman approaches ANY beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast, they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:16).

If the woman sinned, what sin did the beast commit? [It did not sin.] But because there came upon man confusion on its account,

Scripture said to kill the beast, that the cow should not go into the market place and people say, “See, there is the cow on whose account so-and-so was put to death.”

▶ Yoḥanan b. Zakkai’s commentary follows here. [Neusner’s comment.]

And behold, it is a matter of deduction: If in the case of the beast, who has neither merit nor demerit, because on its account man was brought into confusion, Scripture said to stone it, a man who causes his fellow to sin, and leads him from the way of life to the way of sin, how much the more (will he suffer).

(Neusner, Life, note 1, pp 93-94)

Cows and Dogs as Women

Amos 4:1

THE RESPONSA

◼️  Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a (Grind)

“R. Yohanan said: ‘Grind’ means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: “Then let my wife grind unto another”.  [Job 31:9-10] It teaches [in Judges 16:20-21] that [Samson did grind in the prison house], everyone brought his wife to him to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”

The preceding responsa is directly related to the trial decision (verdict) in Luke 17:34-35 above. I a
M repeating it here for your convenience.

“[I tell you,] in that night, 
Two men will be in one bed, 
one will be seized, and the other released. 
Two women will be grinding together, 
one will be seized, and the other released.”

Cows and Dogs as Women

Amos 4:1“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria…” C. The Judge, Philip the Tetrarch

◼️ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.4.6:

“Philip had been tetrarch of Trachonitis, and Gaulanitis, and the Bataneans thirty-seven years.

“He constantly lived in that country. He used to travel a circuit with a few choice friends. His tribunal also which sat in judgment, when any one met him who required his verdict, he had his tribunal sit down to hear his complaint.

“He then ordered the guilty  to be punished: and absolved those that had been accused unjustly.”

(Edited for clarity.)

◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2; Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2

Antigonus the Prince asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, “The ox will be stoned and the master also die (Ex. 21:29). Why?”

◼️ Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)

“Now they will bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities.

D.  GENERAL LEGAL GOSPEL MATERIAL, NOT TIED TO THE CANONICAL TRIAL STORY

◼️ Luke 12:6a

Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul. 

◼️ Luke 12:11-12

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.”

◼️ LOCATION:  GALILEE

▶  Shabbat 16:7 — Yoḥanan ben Zakkai in Arav [in Upper Galilee]Rabbi Judah said: an incident came before Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in ‘Arav…  [17 mi from Bethsaida]

◼️ Strickert’s Article Precisely Dating Bethsaida’s Status Elevation to 30 CE

“THE FOUNDING OF BETHSAIDA-JULIAS: EVIDENCE FROM THE COINS OF PHILIP”, by Fred Strickert is available online at JSTOR and was published in the summer of 1995.

Strickert’s careful conclusion reads like this: “Thus coin evidence establishes the founding of Bethsaida-Julias to September 22, 30 CE.”

SEVEN ESSENTIAL TALMUD TEXTS

◼️  Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11 (entrapment)

And thus they did to Ben Stada in Lod—they appointed against him two Sages and they stoned him.

◼️  Shabbat 16:7 — ‘Arav

One may [on the Sabbath] cover a lamp with a dish so that it shall not scorch a rafter, and [cover] animal droppings to protect a child, or a scorpion so that it not bite. Rabbi Judah said: an incident came before Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in ‘Arav and he said, ‘I doubt whether one [who does so] is not liable to a Sin-offering.’

THE TRIAL DOCUMENTS

◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2; Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2

(note the Prince and the multi-part explanation)

Antigonus the Prince asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, “The ox will be stoned and the master also die (Ex. 21:29). Why?”
He said to him, “The accomplice of a thief is like a thief.”

When he went out, the student asked, “Master, this one you pushed away with a reed, but to us, what will you reply?”
He said to them, “It is written, The ox will be stoned and also its master will die…

◼️THE CHARGE DOCUMENTS/SUMMARY OF
THE PROSECUTION ARGUMENT

◼️ Massekhet Semahot 8.7

The dorshe hamurot used to say, You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom thou shall dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills, and under every green tree; you shall tear down their altars, and dash to pieces their pillars (Deut. 12:2-3).

How did the wood and stones sin? [They did not sin.] But on account of them there came upon man confusion, and therefore Scripture said, You shall destroy their altars.

And behold it is a deduction: If in the case of stone and wood, which have neither merit nor demerit, neither good nor evil, because on their account confusion comes upon man, Scripture said to destroy their altars, a man who causes others to sin, and turns them from the way of life to the way of death, how much more so will he suffer.

◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5

And so too, if a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast, they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:16).

If the woman sinned, what sin did the beast commit? [It did not sin.] But because there came upon man confusion on its account,

Scripture said to kill the beast that the cow should not go into the market place and people say, “See, there is the cow on whose account so-and-so was put to death.”

▶ Yoḥanan b. Zakkai’s commentary follows here. [Neusner’s comment.]

And behold, it is a matter of deduction: If in the case of the beast, who has neither merit nor demerit, because on its account man was brought into confusion, Scripture said to stone it, a man who causes his fellow to sin, and leads him from the way of life to the way of sin, how much the more (will he suffer).

(Neusner, Life, note 1, pp 93-94)

THE “RESPONSADOCUMENT

◼️  Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a (Grind)

“R. Yohanan said: ‘Grind‘ means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: “Then let my wife grind unto another”. [Job 31:9-10] It teaches [in Judges 16:20-21] that [Samson did grind in the prison house], everyone brought his wife to him to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”

The preceding responsa is directly related to the trial decision (verdict) in Luke 17:34-35 above. I am repeating it here for your convenience.

“[I tell you,] in that night, 
Two men will be in one bed, 
one will be seized, and the other released. 
Two women will be grinding together, 
one will be seized, and the other released.”

THE SUPPLEMENTARY TALMUD DOCUMENT (not necessarily used in the actual trial in its present form, but generated, I think, for tandem legal use.

◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2 and Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2, substantially the same.

(note the Prince and the two-part explanation)

The story, in Sanhedrin 1:6 (19d),

Antigonus the Prince asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, “The ox will be stoned and the master also die (Ex. 21:29). Why?”

He said to him, “The accomplice of a thief is like a thief.”

When he went out, the student asked, “Master, this one you pushed away with a reed, but to us, what will you reply?”

He said to them, “It is written, The ox will be stoned and also its master will die—the death of the ox is to be like the death of the master, for the death of the one is juxtaposed to the death of the other; just as the master dies after a fair trial with careful examination of the witnesses and twenty-three judges, so the ox dies with careful examination of the witnesses and twenty-three judges.”

RESPONSA in ROMAN AND JEWISH LAW

“Roman law recognised responsa prudentium, i.e. the responses and thoughts of jurists, as one of the sources of ius scriptum (written law), along with laws originating from magistrates, from the Senate, or from the emperor.”

(Wikipedia article, “Responsa”)

Responsa: Rabbinic responses to questions of Jewish law are called She’elot u-Teshuvot (Hebrew: שאלות ותשובות‎ “questions and answers”).

The gospel of Luke and the Tosefta Sanhedrin (inner room), Tractate Sotah (grind) intersect verbally regarding the legal activities taking place. Re-read and compare Luke 17:34-34, Luke 10:12-13 and Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11. Both the Talmud and the so-called Q Source use the words inner room(s) in the context of eavesdropping, and the word of grind(ing) as sexual idioms.

◼️ Matthew 24:26
◼️ Luke 10:12-13
◼️ Matthew 24:26
◼️ Luke 12:1-3
◼️ Luke 12:6a
◼️ Luke 12:11-12
◼️ Luke 17:34-35

◼️  Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11
re: Entrapment
◼️  Shabbat 16:7b
re: Zakkai in ‘Arav
◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2 and Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2
Antigone and Capital Crime
◼️ Massekhet Semahot 8.7
Execute Gay Gentiles
◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5
Execute Lesbian Gentiles
◼️ Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a
Yohanan’s definition of Grind

Talmud Trial Documents

◼️Massekhet Semahot 8.7
Execute Gay Gentiles
◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5
Execute Lesbian Gentiles
◼️ Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a
Yohanan’s definition of Grind

MEANS OF EXECUTION

◼️  Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:11 (

“And thus they did to Ben Stada in Lod—they appointed against him two Sages and they stoned him.”

The following is excerpted from sefaria.org. It gives some background for the policies surrounding capital trials.

“Cases of capital law are judged by twenty-three judges. An animal that copulated with a person and an animal that was the object of bestiality are judged by twenty-three judges, as it is stated: “And if a woman approaches any animal to lie with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal” (Leviticus 20:16), and it states: “And if a man lies with an animal, he shall be put to death and you shall kill the animal” (Leviticus 20:15). In cases of bestiality, the verse juxtaposes the execution of the animal to the execution of the person, and therefore the case of the animal is adjudicated in the same way as cases of capital law. Similarly, an ox that is to be stoned because it killed a person is judged by twenty-three judges, as it is stated: “But if the ox was wont to gore in time past, and warning has been given to its owner, but he did not guard it and it kills a man or a woman the ox shall be stoned and also its owner shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:29). From this verse it is derived that just as the manner of the death of the owner, so is the manner of the death of the ox. The same halakha applies in the case of a wolf or a lion, a bear or a leopard, or a cheetah, or a snake that killed a person: Their death is decreed by twenty-three judges. Rabbi Eliezer says these dangerous animals do not need to be brought to court; rather, anyone who kills them first merits the performance of a mitzva. Rabbi Akiva says: Their death is decreed by twenty-three judges.”

Posted in Devotional, Galilee, Gay Jew Jesus Trial, Grinding, Lesbian Grinding, The Galilee Episode | 2 Comments

Talmud Documents used in the Jesus Trial

What I’m doing here is explaining actual courtroom evidence that I am confident refers to the person we c Jesus. Some first century documents contain major records of a trial.

How do you prove a historical fact? For example, what if you wanted to prove that Alan Turing was actually gay. You couldn’t prove that from the story about his life, The Imitation Game. A story can be used for many things, but a story is always a kind of hearsay.

I can tell you that I heard something in a courtroom. But you’re generally on much safer ground if you have a trial transcript. It’s generally better to get it in writing.

‘”Alan Turing pleaded guilty in 1952 to being a homosexual. The court sentenced him to chemical castration. In 2016 the court documents related to his trial went on display in Chester, UK.”

If you ask nicely, you can travel to Chester, UK and examine the trial documents. Unless you live in Great Britain such a trip to Chester would take a bit of money and a lot of effort.

You can examine the trial documents I’m talking about below with a little bit of effort, but it won’t cost you airfare.

First, I’m going to give you some background. Second, we will take a look at several documents that I believe were used by Yohanan b. Zakka when he prosecuted Jesus and his friends.

The man we call Jesus was indeed executed, but it wasn’t by crucifixion, it was by stoning.

There was a man named Jesus, and just prior to his execution he did have a conversation with John and Mary. But John is not who you think John was, and Mary is not who you think Mary was.

There really were conversations about Jesus’ guilt or innocence, about whether or not he deserved to die, about how his guilt compared to the guilt of one of his friends, and to the acquittal of two others.

And you know that verse that talks about “a well-known Pharisee” (Luke 14:1)? That Pharisee existed, too. His name was Yohanan b. Zakkai.

This would have referred us to a second, independent historical source that discussed Jesus and people to whom he was connected, but was deliberately suppressed.

When Jesus was on trial, Yohanan b. Zakkai was the prosecuting attorney. But he wasn’t charged with sedition or with smoking peyote. We will see what the charges were when we come to the charge documents below.

Yohanan b. Zakkai was a Pharisee at the beginning of his career. As an expert in the law, he could arrest people, he could testify against people, he could act as the prosecutor (or the judge) in trials. Everything the apostle Paul did in terms of making arrests, acting as judge, these are all things that Rabbi Yohanan did in real life.

Now this Pharisee was in a chronic situation between Jerusalem and Rome. As part of their foreign policy, the Romans loved to establish official cities. This helped to Romanize their territories.

To my knowledge the Romans didn’t start many cities from scratch. Their strategy wasn’t simply to have official cities. The point was to Romanize people already in the cities slowly, step by step. Cities offered ambitious local people lots of incentives to do it Rome’s way.

In Palestine they declared certain cities to be official, Roman cities, almost like Roman territory. They converted settlements like Sepphoris and Tiberias, and Bania, each one, into an official polis. In these newly Roman cities, any free person born there had dual citizenship, and half of that dual citizenship was Roman. Saul of Tarsus was born in Tarsus (duh), an official Roman city, and that’s why he was a Roman citizen AND a member of the tribe of Israel. These dual citizenship people had a real edge on others in town.

So basically anyone born in Sepphoris or Tiberius or Bania had a special amount of pull as a Roman citizen and a special amount of pull as a Jew, or a Syrian, or whatever his parents were originally.

Here’s where it starts to get really interesting. In 30 CE a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee went through this process. It was elevated to the status of official Roman city. So a few miles north of Tiberias there was now Bethsaida-Julias.

No, we don’t have a lot of direct evidence about this event. We do have one piece of tangible evidence, however, a coin. We know the date of this status change because of that coin that was discovered in 1987. It was dug up by Yigail Yadin at the location of ancient Bethsaida. Another scholar, Fred Strickert, studied the inscriptions on the coin and pinpointed the date that Bethsaida became officially Roman: September 22, 30 CE. I am very grateful to people who study stuff like this.

In addition to this coin evidence, we actually know quite a bit about what was involved in this city status change.

There are what are called Flavian city charters. Hikers, picnickers and archaeologists have been digging up these charters for a long time. They may find one or two “pages”, they may find six. They were made of bronze. In an original Flavian city charter there were were 10 bronze tablets, which were on display in the city square for public inspection. Each plate had detailed directions about how to run a Roman city. There were 95 sections in every charter, covering every aspect of govern a Roman polis. By comparing these artifacts we know the charters were almost identical throughout Europe. This boiler plate made empire-building very efficient.

Anyone who became mayor or vice mayor or was born in that city became a Roman citizen automatically. That was an incentive for locals to get involved in Roman governance. The empire was not built on swords and Roman armies alone. The Romans used all kinds of inducements to get people to become productive members of the empire, and citizenship was one of the big ones. Lots of privileges came to smart people who knew how to use them.

We’ll get to the trial documents in just a moment.

Every time Rome established an official Roman city in Palestine, it nibbled away at Jerusalem’s hegemony. This city strategy was so effective in that it absolutely had to be countered by the Jerusalem Temple state.

Jerusalem was fighting a losing battle. They resisted the Babylonians, then the Greeks, and now the Romans. Their habit was to figure out how cooperate  just enough,, and resist total absorption.

So this Pharisee named Yohanan b. Zakkai went to work figuring out how to retain a foothold in Bethsaida. At some point he came up with a strategy.

Now the Jews hated intermarriage, they hated what they called moral pollution of their good Jewish offspring marrying outsiders. And of all the things they detested about this mixing, they hated homosexuality the most. They called gay and lesbian sex “The Sin of the Gentiles”.

They also had a strict policy of enforcing Jewish law on anyone living in Jewish territory, which should come as no surprise. This is one of the points of having a country. There are two verses in the Pentateuch which said they were to have one law for the native-born, and the same law for strangers and outsiders. If you were Syrian and lived in Jerusalem you knew what the Jewish laws were and you obeyed them. Or you suffered the consequences, legally.

Any organized country applies its laws to foreigners, whether they are visiting tourists or alien merchants,

But with Bethsaida becoming official Roman territory, everything in the region was going to change. We don’t understand everything about these two legal systems but we can discern the likely reasoning behind the Pharisaic legal strategy.

Ribaz (Yohanan b. Zakkai) wanted to keep a foot in the door for Torah. This status change in Bethsaida was a last-ditch opportunity. If he could get a Roman court to go on record allowing them to execute a non-Jew, like a Syrian or a.Syrophonecian,  for messing around sexually with a gay or lesbian Jew, this precedent could be used in courtrooms throughout the diaspora. It was a high-stakes gamble, but his jurisdiction presented him with an unique opportunity for a test case.

So Ribaz looked around for test cases. The city of Bethsaida itself was the first place to look. It was a Roman administrative hub for the smaller cities around it.

What ended up happening was a pair of arrests, there were arrests in Bethsaida and arrests in Chorazin, a satellite city. A mixed race pair of men were arrested in the larger city, and a mixed race pair of women in the smaller. These pairs of gays and lesbians could could set a precedent the diaspora could use throughout the empire.

Now the judge in this case was roughly equivalent to a  regional governor. His name was Philip the Tetrarch, and was one of the sons of Herod the Great.

Philip was what we would today call a secular Jew. He was ideal to rule a territory like this. He had been educated in Rome, which was typical for princes from cooperating territories. Philip knew Roman religion, Roman politics, Roman history, and Roman law. He probably picked up various Roman social attitudes as well.

He was equipped to assist Rome in the transition from local government to Roman Imperial government. This included embracing diversity.and tolerating differences.

We know from the sources that Philip the Tetrarch and Yohanan b. Zakkai both operated in this region at the same time. The Talmud tells us that R. Yohanan practiced law in the Galilean city of ‘Arav for 18 years (Shabbat 16:7). ‘Arav was about 17 miles from Bethsaida if memory serves. And we know that Philip the Tetrarch ruled his territory from 4 BCE to 34 CE. So, historically speaking, we know these two officials had met one another. Probably on many occasions. They were both active in the vicinity during the time in question.

Two test cases were prepared. One Jew and one Syrian in each chosen couple. Why and how the particular couples were selected would certainly be significant, but not here. We’re just trying to nail down the fact of a trial.

One thing at a time.

For a trial, the charging documents had to be prepared by the prosecutor. The Romans had been negotiating legal cases with tribes, allies and subject peoples for centuries. There were peregrine courts. There were peregrine praetors. Peregrine preators were officials responsible for everything related to non-Romans. They were similar, I suppose, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the US. Anything related to non-Romans was handled by qualified special officials.

On occasion, a local government would need to prosecute a case against a Roman citizen. If a Roman killed or defrauded a non-Roman, there had to be a way to obtain justice.

Now if the action was a crime in Rome and a crime in Tarsus, that case would be fairly simple. But if the activity was a crime ONLY in a province but not a crime in Rome, that would present a challenge for the local legal experts. The local expert would have to know Roman law quite well, and find a way to shoehorn the particulars of the local case into Roman jurisprudence.

I have referred to that as translating local law into categories that would be acceptable in a Roman court, to a Roman jurist.

That was the challenge faced by Yohanan b. Zakkai. The Romans had no outright prohibition of same-sex activity. Some activities were locked down on by some Romans, and certain arrangements between the members of a couple could result in penalties for a Roman, but there was no absolute prohibition. Being a sexually active gay or lesbian was, with certainty, not a capital offense for the Romans.

Somehow, Yohanan b. Zakkai needed to convince Philip the Tetrarch that it was legal for a Syrian (or any non-Jew) to be executed for having sex with a Jew. That would be a tough sell.

We now approach our destination, the prosecution documents.

Yohanan b. Zakkai prepared two charge documents to present to the judge. Each document explained the speciific charges against the accused, explaining their rationale since these charges depended on rabbinic extrapolation of the Torah.

One document explained how a gay Gentile was like the high place paraphernalia that was ordered destroyed. The other document explained how a lesbian Gentile was like a cow approached for sex by a Jewish woman.

R. Yoḥanan’s explanation could have been identical to centuries of Jewish legal understanding. Anyone who reads Hebrew can investigate this as they wish.

These two charge documents were necessary because of the gender gender differences in the law. In this case, the animal having sex with the Jewish woman had to be not just a beast but a cow.

Both laws were from the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) and required the destruction of something not normally subject to Torah.

In one case the objects to be destroyed were the paraphernalia connected with sexual worship at the indigenous high places in Israel. Wood and stone are not usually punished if they disobey the law. In the second case, the thing to be destroyed was a beast, specifically a cow.

The Ashera pole and the stone altar illustrate the intentional flexibility of some laws in the Torah. The Asherah pole was a phallic symbol. The stone altar was where a cult priestess or priest would recline for sex with the worshiper. This female symbol was to be destroyed. Through extrapolation, the male and female paraphernalia destruction includes male and female sexual transgressors.

The Court ruling in Luke 17 demonstrates that this Talmudic reasoning was actually exercised and the penalty actually imposed. These passages are not classroom what-ifs.

Whether or not this utility through extrapolation was intentional in the Torah, I don’t know. But I suspect it was.

There are two Tanakh commands to destroy cattle. One case requires the destruction of a bull who gores someone to death. The other is in the case of a beast or cow approached for sex by a woman.

These penalties are not intended as punishment. You do not destroy wood or stone objects to punish them. Punishment is literally not possible. The situation is slightly different for a cow, or an anonymous beast. A beast could conceivably be punished to correct behavior, but not a habitual man-killing bull. Such an animal is put down for the safety of human beings. Both charge documents disavow sin and punishment as factors.

The phallic symbol and the sex altar could only remind people of forbidden sex. The “cow” wandering through the marketplace could only remind people of its sex with the executed Jewish woman. To protect people from confusing and tempting reminders of sexual sin, certain  non-Jewish things must be destroyed.

At the beginning of various movies and m programs we see trigger warnings about things that might upset people. Such triggers exist in daily life. If you drive past a place where you have experienced things that you would prefer not to repeat, those locations can be triggers. In conversation, simply referring to a particular place or person can trigger emotional responses. “I asked you never to speak that name again.”

So these two charge documents began by explaining the legal grounds for destroying things, things that are not otherwise subject to penalties demanded by law.

After this, each charge document explains that the reason for destroying the high place paraphernalia and the cow is not punishment for sin, but for the protection of the living. (This protection is related to my discussion of Yohanan b. Zakkai in chapter 2 of my book, The Galilee Episode.)

(You can find these two Torah charge documents at the end of this article.)

In addition to the two charge documents, there is a third document related to this specific trial. This kind of document has a specific label in both Latin and Hebrew. In Roman law it is called a responsa. In Hebrew it is known as She’elot u-Teshuvot (Hebrew: שאלות ותשובות‎ “questions and answers”). What follows is precisely such an answer

“R. Yohanan said: ‘Grind’ means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: “Then let my wife grind unto another”. [Job 31:9-10] It teaches [in Judges 16:20-21] that [Samson did grind in the prison house], everyone brought his wife to him to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”

The following text is the judges verdict in the same case. This text is not from the Talmud, but from the New Testament, the book of Luke.

Most of us were never prepared to recognize and understand an actual legal verdict in Luke, not in chapter 17. When the text was being compiled and re-edited, someone decided to put this action in a vague, hazy future somewhere. So we learned to not inquire too deeply, since it probably didn’t relate to us anyway.

Or we may not have taken the predictive element seriously, but thought that the original writers and redactors had taken it seriously, so we ended up analyzing it prophetically and predictably anyway. It wasn’t that we believed it was actually prophecy, but many of us believed the original writers wrote it as prophecy.

Or, ideologically, we accepted the Sola Scriptura teaching we had been taught at church and in our seminaries. This cut us off from the Talmud and Josephus. These texts match the time frame and the geographic region. They could have helped us understand. But the texts haven’t gone away. We still have them if we want to check it out. The sources are available online if you don’t have a copy of the Bible or the Talmud laying around the house.

Now there’s not much that prepares the modern reader to understand the following text from the New Testament. We are used to parables, some genealogy, some apocalyptic, even some mystical and poetic stuff.

When I first studied this, I said to myself “Hebrew poetry.” I had a class in Hebrew poetry in college, and the parallelism in these two verses looked to be straight up poetic parallelism. But I was incorrect. Wrong genre. The correct answer is — law. It’s from the legal genre, directly out of law.

Luke 17:34-35
The Judge’s Verdict

◼️ “[I tell you, in that night,]
Two men will be in one bed,
one will be seized, and the other left.
Two women will be grinding together,
one will be seized, and the other left.” (Darby)

These are the two couples that were put on trial for sexual transgression. We’ll get to that assertion momentarily. In each couple there was one Jewish person and one Syrian person.

Answer to the Judge’s Question: “What Does ‘Grind’ Mean?”

◼️  Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a (Grind)

“R. Yohanan said: ‘Grind’ means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: “Then let my wife grind unto another”. [Job 31:9-10] It teaches [in Judges 16:20-21] that [Samson did grind in the prison house], everyone brought his wife to him to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”

These two texts use the same word. One text is a “responsa” which defines the word “grind” in response tof a judge’s query. The other text (in Luke) is the judge’s verdict. The charges against both couples were sexual transgression.
___________

The five primary source documents discussed above are
   ◼️Massekhet Semahot 8.7 (Execute the Gay Gentile)
   ◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5 (Execute Lesbian Gentile)
   ◼️  Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2 and Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2
(Antigone, Trial & Execution for the “Cow”, etc.)
   ◼️ Tractate Sotah, Folio 10a (Talmud definition of “grind”)
   ◼️ Luke 17:34-35  (Trial verdict uses “grind”)

The two charge documents follow.

◼️ Massekhet Semahot 8.7

(Note the transgression, and the human application of the original non-human, inanimate example.)

The dorshe hamurot used to say, You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom thou shall dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills, and under every green tree; you shall tear down their altars, and dash to pieces their pillars (Deut. 12:2-3).

How did the wood and stones sin? [They did not sin.] But on account of them there came upon man confusion, and therefore Scripture said, You shall destroy their altars.

And behold it is a deduction: If in the case of stone and wood, which have neither merit nor demerit, neither good nor evil, because on their account confusion comes upon man, Scripture said to destroy their altars, a man who causes others to sin, and turns them from the way of life to the way of death, how much more so will he suffer.

◼️ ySanhedrin 7.5

(Note the transgression, and the human application of the original non-human animal example.)

And so too, if a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast, they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:16).

If the woman sinned, what sin did the beast commit? [It did not sin.] But because there came upon man confusion on its account,

Scripture said to kill the beast, that the cow should not go into the market place and people say, “See, there is the cow on whose account so-and-so was put to death.”

Yoḥanan b. Zakkai’s commentary follows here. [Neusner’s comment.]

And behold, it is a matter of deduction: If in the case of the beast, who has neither merit nor demerit, because on its account man was brought into confusion, Scripture said to stone it, a man who causes his fellow to sin, and leads him from the way of life to the way of sin, how much the more (will he suffer).

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Necessary Respect, Tolerance, and Management of Excruciating Differences

I’m still in the middle of processing what it means that the Gospels were written by actual Flavians or people retained by Flavians to write what they did.

I rarely use the word conspiracy. All conspiracy is is a plan made by people with whom you disagree or appear to be in conflict with you.

Any powerful person or group knows how to make plans. Planning is an essential skill of leadership.. In a competitive world, any group or individual which cannot plan is going to be someone’s dinner.

The Flavian dynasty was following a completely understandable instinct, creating an Empire. Empire creation is endemic to intelligent primate social experience. Traditional history is replete with Empire building.

I believe the Roman Flavians understood what was necessary to create, expamd and preserve an Empire, certainly better than you or I.

One of the most misunderstood and neglected aspects of Roman imperialism was the fact that the Romans respected the uniqueness of every culture, people, or country that they Incorporated into their own entity. Empire is not Borg.

They did not require conformity from their subject peoples. In order to become part of the empire the subject peoples had to adopt a few practices or beliefs, while their own society and system was respected. Subject peoples were allowed self-government to a very high degree.

If the leadership of a subject peoples could yield to certain basic requirements, they were allowed to maintain and head their own existing hierarchies. Thus their status and prestige was preserved if they would accept a degree of Roman hegemony over them.

Theologically, The Book of Romans by the Flavian Paul was a tortured and ultimately successful endeavor to incorporate Roman tolerance and diversity into the many practical virtues of the Jewish temple state, which was built on the tanakh.

Part of the Roman genius of Empire was their ability to teach various subject peoples to tolerate differences between their society and the society of their neighbors, while managing their own societies and hierarchies. This was difficult for advanced peoples to accept. The Jewish temple state found this subservience very difficult to negotiate. In fact, this subservience proved impossible to tolerate.

The Romans violently dismantled the hierarchy of the Jewish temple state.

But they preserved the lessons learned by the Jews in at least two places. First, they preserved it through the creation of Christianity.

Second, they preserved it by assisting the creation of Rabbinic Judaism. This assistance took the form of creating the center at Yavneh on the southern coast of Israel. All the non-revolutionary Jewish leadership that remained after the destruction of Jerusalem retreated to this center at Yavneh.

It was here that the cream of the Jewish intelligencia worked out the transition from a Temple state to a unifying religion. This was an enormous task, and the Jewish intelligentsia perform this task brilliantly.

Personally, I can’t describe the Flavian accomplishment of creating a replacement ideology for Judaism, I cannot characterize this as a fraud, or a deception, or a conspiracy.

In English we have the idea of cherished illusions, sacred illusions.

These sacred illusions are essential to gain the cohesive cooperation of massive numbers of people.

If we are to preserve and Gain the act of cooperation of all the various factions in society, we must respect their various ideologies, believes, and religions.

We may feel astonished, incredulous, baffled or repulsed by the beliefs of other groups. But if we do not respect, embrace, or at least tolerate those differences, then as individuals we really have not learned the virtue of diversity and tolerance.

Not everyone can celebrate diversity. To reject tolerance and demand celebration is an essential flaw.

Responsible leadership will by definition respect diversity. The majority of large brained primates have genuine difficulties with tolerance and respect of what they consider fundamental differences. And that’s okay. We always have had this difficulty, and we will always have this difficulty. But our top leadership must learn how to manage and tolerate differences and how to manage and tolerate their own people who cannot respect and tolerate differences.

Let me repeat that. The top leaders of the groups which will persist into the future must learn to respect and tolerate the differences of other groups, as well as learn to respect, tolerate and MANAGE the differences within their own group, especially regarding that specific virtue itself, the virtue of tolerance and respect,  and the skill of MANAGEMENT.

It’s always a humbling experience for me to realize that at certain times I am an unruly person who needs to be managed. But when I realize that I am indeed being managed, I’ve gotten to the point that I can actually acknowledge that someone is managing me and sometimes express my gratitude to them.

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Evidence that Lesbianism was a Capital Crime in First-Century Judea

“What evidence is there that lesbianism was legally a capital crime in Jewish law?”

This is a jackpot question.

At the outset, let me emphasize that Jewish law includes two basic sources, not just one source.

The first source is, obviously, the Torah.

The Second Source is the Talmud. I need to clear up a misunderstanding that is common in Christian circles.

The Talmud is often called a commentary on the Torah. This is absolutely correct. But the common Christian understanding of the words “Torah” and “commentary” different from than Jewish scholars.

Most Christians understand the Bible as a source of stories and doctrine. Historically, the Torah was the primary text by which Jews governed their nation. It is a law book, a legal code, which Christians are used to dismissing, since they are not under the law.

In the first-century, Jerusalem governed a nation. Their laws were not simply “dietary laws”, they were laws that governed every aspect of commerce, crime, property rights, etc.

The Talmud is a commentary on the Torah in the same way that a three-volume commentary on the US Constitution is essentially, intrinsically a legal document.

The Talmud is not what Christians think of as a commentary, which can be Calvinist, or Wesleyan, or take a critical approach to a Biblical text.

Legal doctrine and theological doctrine are quite different. In a multicultural, diverse society, theology is mainly a matter of thought and internal understandings. Legal doctrine determines how the police view law enforcement, how attorneys apply the law, and how judges interpret cases and render judgments.

Forgive me for being so pedantic, but these differences really affect our discussion, and how we understand the words we use.

The Talmud is more like a law school commentary on the US Constitution, and less like a seminary commentary on the Book of Psalms.

Second Temple era scribes and Pharisees were running a country, not a congregation or a denomination.

But the law had to be applied to new and evolving circumstances. Reasoning needed to be applied to existing law.

The problem faced by the Jewish government was that the law was envisioned as being directly from God, unchangeable Law from an unchanging G-d. You csn’t monkey around with God and his law.

I have seen California ballot measures that use the strike through type font. This indicates the text of a law that is being deleted or canceled. The ballot measure then includes the replacement verbiage.

You can’t just use the strike through font when adjusting the application of the Bible. This was G-d’s law you were talking about.

The most basic set of rabbinic rules of interpretation are called Hillel’s Seven Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics. An overlapping and expanded set of rules are called Akiba’s Rules of Interpretation.

We lay people tend to complain about the multiplication of laws and the complexity of interpretation. It’s common to read something like, “The Old Testament expanded the original ten commandments to 613.” Today people complain about complexity, and the literally countless number of federal rules and regulations which have the power of law.

The Talmud is an example of the complexity of Jewish law, originally based on the Torah.

Now, as if that weren’t complicated enough, add two new laws, add the complexity of two binding Roman laws.

1) Subject peoples may not impose the death penalty.

Only a Rome-approved magistrate may impose the death penalty. A local death sentence must be reviewed and approved by such a magistrate.

2) A subject people may not impose their laws on a neighboring subject people. In this regard, every territory and subject people is self-governing.

Restrictions like these required a lot of adjustment on the part of local governments. These kinds of restrictions were a necessary part of conquest and occupation.

Taxation and tribute were not the only accommodations a conquered people had to make.

Which brings us to the opening question. “What evidence is there that lesbianism was legally a capital crime in Jewish law?”

A Talmud scholar could give you a complete answer. And even then, you could receive several different explanations or refutations.

ySanhedrin 7.5 is a small section in the Talmud. (Yes, the spelling is correct. The document is called ySanhedrin.)

There are two Talmud texts that argue for the death penalty for gay gentiles and lesbian gentiles apprehended having sex with Jews.

I did not discover these texts while studying the Talmud. I found them doing a word search using Yohanan ben Zakkai’s name and other search terms. I don’t recall what the other search terms were.

Jacob Neusner, the author of the source in which I discovered the yDanjedrin passage, did not use the word lesbian in his text.

I actually had this text in my possession for a long time before I realized what I’m about to explain. It is not immediately evident.

ySanhedrin 7.5 is divided into three sections. The first section is a prohibition of bestiality. The second section is the extrapolation I described earlier, where the rabbi extends its applicability to another crime.

The beast, in this case a cow, is extrapolated to include a human being. The third section, which is indicated by the phrase “behold, it is a deduction, is a further extrapolation for the benefit of a Rome-approved magistrate.

As you can see, this is a very complex document. First comes a generally accepted law prohibiting a human being from having sex with an animal. Next comes the extrapolation of this law to include human beings.

Now the question becomes, if sex with people other than a spouse is already prohibited in great detail, including in-laws, extended family, and the rest, then why would it be necessary to use this convoluted language to add yet further prohibitions against common adultery and fornication?

It seems like the rabbis wanted to have a legal ground work for prohibiting certain other sexual behaviors, without falling into the trap of putting ideas in people’s heads. Bestiality is quite enough.

Convoluted language was the necessary result.

I believe that the prohibition against bestiality ultimately served a variety of applications to other specific sexual behaviors.

I believe the prohibited sexual behaviors included sex with gentiles, and same-sex relationships.

The Talmudic change in nouns and pronouns, from beast to cow to he to she, is part of a built-in extrapolation potential.

Thus, this very early rabbinic record preserved in ySanhedrin 7.5 can/could be utilized in cases of a woman having sex with either a man or a woman, a beast or a human, against homosexuality or bisexuality.

The legal commentary is so legitimately complex that most Christians are unable to see the Talmud’s subtlety, utility, and brilliance.

Outsiders, non-jurists, are generally unable to see past the specificity of dill and cummin. This is as it should be. After all, the text was not meant for us, we can’t use it in court.

The third section of ySanhedrin 7.5, the section introduced by the phrase “Behold, it is a matter of deduction”, Is where Yohanan b. Zakkai translates a Jewish judicial truism into language that a Roman magistrate could not only understand, but could actually act upon if so inclined.

I suspect that the first two sections of ySanhedrin 7.5 were in common usage in Judean courts prior to 70 CE. The need for Torah hermeneutics did not spring into existence with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Judean Temple state had been maintaining law and order through the courts for many hundreds of years prior to the churban of the Second Temple. Such law enforcement included regulating the behavior of both Jews and gentiles.

I will publish the text of ySanhedrin 7.5 below, but I would like to make a final comment first.

When we discussed this ancient passage, it is important to distinguish between several things. First, there is the original verse about bestiality. Second, there is the application made by the rabbis. Third, there is Rabbi Yohanan’s explanation of the formula to the Rome-approved magistrate.

Fourth, and finally, there are our own rhetorical and polemical circumstances.

Different audiences view ancient scriptures differently. Some audiences depend on scripture very importantly, it matters to them what the scriptures say.

Other audiences don’t care at all what the scriptures say. They are totally irrelevant.

For those who view the Talmud as vitally important to their personal faith, it makes a great deal of difference whether the texts condemn homosexuality, or support LGBTQIA+ tolerance and diversity.

Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows that I have a gay son, and have spent a lot of time debunking the Clobber Passages.

To some people, it will seem ironic that I am arguing that some ancient rabbis were not inclusive.

ySanhedrin 7.5

(Note the transgression, the human application of the original non-human animal example, and the phrase, “Behold, it is a matter of deduction”)

ySanhedrin 7.4

And so too, if a woman approaches any beast and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast, they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:16). If the woman sinned, what sin did the beast commit? But because there came upon man confusion on its account, Scripture said to kill the beast, that the cow should not go into the market place and people say, “See, there is the cow on whose account so-and-so was put to death.”

Yoḥanan b. Zakkai’s commentary follows here. [Neusner’s comment.]

And behold, it is a matter of deduction: If in the case of the beast, who has neither merit nor demerit, because on its account man was brought into confusion, Scripture said to stone it, a man who causes his fellow to sin, and leads him from the way of life to the way of sin, how much the more (will he suffer).

(Neusner, Life, note 1, pp 93-94)

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Two Couples, Two Cities, Two Trials

Now about the two trials I mentioned., the ones in Chorazin and Bethsaida. Please remember these two trials were basically lost to history. There are details written down over here, some details are down there, there are a few details written over here, but it would seem that nobody ever told the whole story of these trials.

In many ways trials today are the same as trials were then. There was a judge, there was a prosecutor, and there were defendants.

And each of these groups kept its own kinds of records, just like today.

Now the prosecutor was a Jewish official, and his records ended up in the Talmud. Several of the actual documents he used in court were saved, and are still in the Talmud, all these years later.

Most people don’t know this, but there were actually four defendants in Chorazin and Berhsaida. We know this from Luke 17, those two couples that are described in verses 34 and 35: two men and two women.

Now this trial was a really big deal at the time. Think O.J. Simpson. Think Rodney King. Think Sacco and Vanzetti. The defendants had a lot of sympathizers. There were lots of issues in this trial: the tension between Jews and gentiles, sex, border disputes, collaborators, the works.

There were sting operations, there was eavesdropping, there were trials, there were controversial verdicts, and there were executions,

Hardly anyone liked the verdicts. The prosecution didn’t like the verdicts. The defendants didn’t like the verdicts. Only the Romans liked the verdicts, because the verdicts were fair, and they kept the peace between hostile factions.

Now contrary to popular ideas, Rome wasn’t just busy imposing its will on everybody. Rome was, however, busy keeping local groups from bullying one another, and imposing their will on neighboring tribes.

Every local tribe could run its own business and govern its own people, pretty much without interference, except they couldn’t impose the death penalty.

One tribe could not impose its laws on another tribe. The government of one tribe could not punish the members of another tribe. Otherwise there could be war. A big part of the famous Pax Romana was keeping tribes out of one another’s business.

Every tribe was allowed to govern its own people according to its own laws. When it came to conflicting social norms between different tribes, it was a matter of live and let live. Each tribe lived its own life, by its own rules.

The main thing Rome was interested in was maximizing its tax revenue. Gotta keep that gold and silver coming in. To do this Rome maintained the  peace and kept the roads safe between various regions. And almost more than anything else, they kept the peace between neighboring tribes.

As I said earlier, the one thing Rome prohibited the local governments from doing was executing capital crime. Rome and Rome’s surrogate rulers were the only entities that could impose the death penalty.

Philip the Tetrarch was one of these surrogate rulers. He was ethnically Jewish. Philips territory ran west to east in what we call Syria today, north of what we call Israel. He was one of the sons of Herod the Great. His brothers were Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus.

Regarding the two trials, one of the most important things about Philip’s territory is that it included Chorazin and Bethsaida, those two cities at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee.

Two couples, two cities, two trials. Two mysteries solved.

Mystery One: There is no evidence in Luke 17:34-35 to explain for the difference in treatment of the two couples.

Language-wise, there is very careful parallelism in the two verses, so much parallelism that the early editors of the material couldn’t do much to adapt it into a nice tidy parable, a nice tidy package. The only place the Luke 17 couplet found a real welcome, a real home, was in the notion of the rapture.

What was Luke 17:34-35 even about? Why was it in the form it was in? Was it better to be taken or to be left? What was the difference between the people in the first place?

Mystery Two: There are no details in Luke 10:13 about what happened in Chorazin and Bethsaida to account for such a strenuous condemnation.

This is one of the most severe condemnations anywhere in the gospels, but we are to believe that there is no explanation for it.

There is a significant clue, however. In the verse immediately before, Luke 10:12, there is a comparison to one of the more significant cities in the Hebrew bible.

“I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

That is the verse immediately preceding the condemnation of Chorazin and Bethsaida.

Is it possible that the disturbance in those two cities is related to what happened in Sodom?

Remember what we have in Luke 17: two men in one bed and two women grinding together. And remember what we have in Luke 10: references to two cities and a third: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Sodom.

Two couples, two cities, and two mysteries. And smack in the middle of both mysteries is language that points directly to same-sex relationships.

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Surviving this Upheaval

I wrote this to a comrade of mine:

What you said is important:

“I realized at that moment that the kind of finesse and [indistinct] I normally have been known for was just not going to work anymore.”

They say that when the culture is undergoing a paradigm shift, mysticism becomes popular in the church as it transitions from the old paradigm to the new.

Some have called this the Dark Night of the Soul, where all previous anchors are removed and we must move forward in darkness and unknowing.

Bonhoeffer had his Religionless Christianity, when logic and orthodoxy and values were useless to provide a rational, familiar framework for one’s life.

You and I are both in a transition. Pope Francis just ok’d same-sex civil unions. American Catholicism is reeling from sexual scandal.

American Evangelicalism is facing the reality of its own Will to Power.

Historically, Christendom has weathered paradigm shifts before. But our particular cohort has never experienced this before. The sheep are alarmed and confused. The shepherds are alarmed and confused.

Primate intelligence evolved and thrived because individuals in the species were able to solve real-life problems, problems of making better tools, working out more efficient social structures, etc.

Disciplines like theology and philosophy had a valuable role, but our species did not evolve because of language analyzing language, but intelligence analyzing actual threats to survival.

You and I and others must reacquaint ourselves with trusting the still small voice, aka intuition, aka tacit knowledge.

We must reacquaint ourselves with real threats to our thriving as a species, with the various things that motivate our fellow primates, and learn as individuals where we fit and what we do best.

Instead of saying “People need to be more kind and loving” we need to ask “How can we reduce excess conflict, and what is keeping me from being more effective in my tribe?”

As an intellectual fundamentalist I was used to enduring my own embarrassment at the historical (the Inquisition, the Klan, etc ) and contemporary actions (Moral Majority, etc ) of other Christians.

As a non-theist, I am learning to accept the unchangeable thought life (embedded instincts and ideology) of other tribes in my herd, embrace the awfulness of the Yin Yang, my essential One-ness with the Other, which Other is in our day the protest of the “Trump Mass”.

I am driven by my own intelligence-moderated instinct package, just as Steve Bannon is driven by his, just as you are driven by yours.

You said, “I realized at that moment that kind of finesse and [indistinct] I normally have been known for was just not going to work anymore.”

If we are going to survive this upheaval and thrive as a population, you and I must trust the intuition and tacit knowledge and mysterious problem-solving abilities given us by Providence.

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