Yeshua (WAS: Peter)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Fri Apr 27 07:12:17 UTC 2001

I don't think it is wise to treat literary works, such as the gospels, as
historical works and the make assumptions from there. We don't know when,
where, why, by whom, or for what the gospels were written. The first person to
cite surely from the gospels was Irenaeus (c.180 CE), though Justin Martyr
seems to have been acquainted with the texts (c.155). They are simply not
historically tenable sources. Therefore to go beyond an account which talks of
a character called Iesous to create a historical figure Yeshua is purely in the
realm of hypothesis.

As the gospels are written in Greek, although there are a few abracadabra
Aramaic phrases, it's extremely difficult to get past that Greek. People have
tried to invent Aramaic precusors for GMatt without gaining any substantial

All three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek were in use in Judaea at the
time as attested by the Dead Sea finds -- Wadi Murabba'at and another site
supplied administrative texts in all three langauges. The Qumran Dead Sea
Scrolls are mainly in Hebrew with some Aramaic and very few Greek religious


[ Moderators note:
  The following is quoted from Gordon Brown, who in turn was quoting Max Dashu
  on Mack's book.
  --rma ]

> Reminds me of another thing I've wondered for quite a while.  What
> languages is it likely that Yeshua spoke?

>> I dunno about that. Mack's book on the Book of Q states that Galilee
>> was a very heterogenous society, so much that it was called Galil
>> ha-goyim (i.e., 'of the nations'). With a strong Hellenistic presence.
>> And Nazareth was very close to the imperial center Sephoris. I
>> personally don't think Yeshua used "Petros" but the idea that he had
>> some familiarity with Greek is not really so outlandish.

Incidentally, there is no archaeological evidence for the town of Nazareth
until a few centuries later. (I would probably argue that Nazareth is a
secondary addition to the tradition, with the earliest gospel, GMark, giving
Capernaum as Jesus' hometown.) There has been a fair bit of literature lately
dealing with the significance of the term "nazarenos/nazaraios" and the
connection between it and the town is not transparent -- one might expect
"nazarethenos" or similar rather than nazarenos.

And the story about Peter is also somewhat problematic. With one exception Paul
only knows Kephas (and it is only used once in the gospels, GJn 1:42). The
exception is a gloss in Galatians 2:6-7. At the same time one should note that
a text called the Epistle of the Apostles has a list of apostles which includes
both a Kephas and a Peter. Were they two different people conflated due to the
significance of the names, or was there only one person involved? The lack of
historical support for the texts involved makes it hard to decide.


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