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Mystery of “The Censor” of the Dark Ages

Who was “the Censor” of the Dark Ages? Why and how was information about Jesus of Nazareth censored? 

Much like the explosion of information on the Internet today, invention of the Gutenberg press around 1500 AD opened up the Dark Ages with a burst of information to the masses. Aside from playing a key role in triggering the Renaissance, the Gutenberg press was a game changer in another way.[1]   

Imagine – now, as a result of the Gutenberg press, religious information was available to anyone who could read.[2] Losing control of religious information posed a threat to elite institutions that had previously held exclusive control over religious messaging. In an effort to regain control, they resorted to censorship.

“The Censor” doesn’t have a true identity and remains mysterious. Instead, the term is used by religious scholars referring to the many perpetrators, known and mostly unknown, who performed the censorship.[3] Encyclopaedia Judaica explains censorship of the Talmud began in the late 1500s such as with Sanhedrin 43a, 106a and 107b.[4]

Blame is largely attributed to the Roman Inquisition censorship of references deemed to be contradictory to the official teaching of Christianity. Some evidence points to Jewish censorship, too, that is exposed in newer translations of the Babylonian Talmud and other Jewish writings. Censorship extended to other written materials, too. Home-to-home searches imposed indiscriminate burning of scrolls and books, pages being torn out, and blacking out text.[5]

Irrespective of who pulled the strings of “the Censor,” the once-expunged content is viewed today as being insightful to a deeper understanding of both Jewish and Christian teachings. At the forefront of the censored restoration is the publishing of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud.[6]

Soncino Editor Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein explained an attempt was made to reproduce a “clear and lucid” literal English translation of the Talmud.  Missing content was restored either directly to the body of text or, albeit more obscurely, within the footnotes. Sometimes the Rabbi Editor added clarifying context in brackets.[7]

One previously censored folio in the Soncino translation is Sanhedrin 43a containing direct references to Yeshu, a Hebrew name for Jesus.[8] Some of the original text was restored only in the footnotes:[9]

“…On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [34] was hanged …’”

“But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of Passover!”[35]

“Yeshu” footnote #34 references the original Munich manuscript, the oldest complete Talmud copy in existence, saying it included the following words “the Nasarean” which referred to the home town of Yeshu.[10] The original Munich Talmud manuscript thus said: “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu, the Nasarean, was hanged.” (The Munich manuscript made other references to “Jesus the Nazarene” which was changed to “R. Joshua b. Perahiah” in its subsequent versions.)[11]

Footnote #35 noted the phrase “eve of the Passover” references a less than complete Florentine Talmud manuscript, 200 years older than the original Munich Manuscript, saying it includes the words “and the eve of Sabbath.”[12] Fully restored, the Talmud would read that Yeshu “was hanged on the eve of Passover and the eve of the Sabbath!” It thus provides double validation of the Gospel accounts saying Jesus was hanged or crucified on the  Friday leading into Passover .

After footnote #36, Editor Rabbi Epstein clarified the phrase “he was connected with the government” by adding the bracketed words “[or royalty, i.e., influential].” Since Hebrew royalty only comes through the lineage of King David, an exception was made in the handling of Jesus because of his royal influence.

Mishneh Torah formulates the 13 principals of the Jewish faith written by the revered Medieval RabbiMaimonides.[13] A heavy censorship focus was placed on the last two chapters called “Hilchos Melachim – the Laws Concerning Kings.”[14] An example of a formerly censored excerpt from the Sichos in English translation found restored only in a footnote:

Text body:  “If a king will arise from the House of David, who, like David his ancestor, delves deeply into the study of the Torah and engages in the mitzvos as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; – we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.”

Footnoted restoration: (continuing…) “If he did not succeed to this degree or he was killed, he surely is not [the redeemer] promised by the Torah. [Rather,] he should be considered as all the other proper and legitimate kings of the Davidic dynasty who died.  G-d only caused him to arise in order to test the multitude. As it is written [Daniel 11:35], “Some of the wise men will stumble, to purge, to refine, and to clarify, until the appointed time, for it is yet to come.”

“Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Moshiach and was executed by the court was also spoken of in Daniel’s prophecies [Daniel 11:14], “The renegades among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.”[15]

Was “the Censor” of Christian origin perhaps because of content in the Tulmud or that Maimonides said Jesus was a renegade, an aspiring messiah (Moshiach) who stumbled?[16] Or was “the Censor” of Jewish origin possibly because of references to Jesus of Nazareth, his royal Davidic dynasty lineage, and his execution by the court?[17]

“The Censor,” in the end, was unsuccessful in hiding certain common truths – Judaism’s agreement with the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth was a legitimate royal descendant of King David who was condemned by the court to be executed and was hanged on the Friday of leading into Passover. It is the beginning of the next part of the story of how and what happened next that separates Judaism and Christianity…

 

Updated September 28, 2021.

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REFERENCES:

[1] Chase, Jeffrey S. “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” Duke University|Department of Computer Science.  n.d.  <http://www.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>  
[2]  Whipps, Heather. “How Gutenberg Changed the World.”  2008. <https://www.livescience.com/2569-gutenberg-changed-world.html>   “The impact of the printing press.” Skwirk.com. n.d.  <http://www.skwirk.com/p-c_s-56_u-422_t-1108_c-4280/the-impact-of-the-printing-press/qld/the-impact-of-the-printing-press/renaissance-and-reformation/the-reformation>
[3] Valentine, Carol A. “Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please.” 2003.  Come and Hear. 2010. <http://come-and-hear.com/editor/censorship_1.html>  “Euphemism” and “Censorship of Hebrew Books.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5906-euphemism> and <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4170-censorship-of-hebrew-books
[4]  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica.  Pages 249-250.  Segal, Eliezer. A Page from the Babylonian Talmud.  “Mishnah” – “Redaction.” n.d.  <http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudPage.html#Page>; “The Gemara (Talmud)” – “Redaction.”  <http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudMap/Gemara.html#Redaction>   Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Ed. Isidore Epstein based on the Wilna Romm Edition. 1935 – 1948.  <http://come-and-hear.com/tcontents.html>   The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson transalation.  Internet Sacred Text Archives. 2010.  <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm>  “The Gemara (Talmud).” Valentine. “Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please.”  “Euphemism” and “Censorship of Hebrew Books.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.
[5] “Censorship of Hebrew Books.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  Maimonides.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Ed. Yechezkal Shimon Gutfreund, “Publisher’s Forward.”  Valentine. “Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please – Returning to Ezra the Scribe.” “Church Censorhip.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/censorship>
[6] Valentine. “Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please.” “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica.  Pages 249-250. Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Ed. Epstein.
[7]  “Talmud.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Hebrew Manuscripts.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hebrew-manuscripts>  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Ed. Epstein. “Method and Scope.” 
[8] Yassif, Eli. “The Jewish Jesus Story.” Tablet. 2017. <http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/220567/the-jewish-jesus-story>   KjaerHansen, Kai. “An Introduction to the Names Yehoshua/Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus and Yeshu.” 1992. Jews For Jesus. 2017. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/an-introduction-to-the-names-yehoshua-joshua-yeshua-jesus-and-yeshu>
[9]  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 43a.  “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.”  Teshuvas HaMinim.  2011.  Archived URL.  Archive.org. 2 Sept. 2012.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>
[10] Net.bible.org. Greek text – Matthew 2:23; 26:71; Mark 1:24; 14:67; 10:47; Luke 4:34; John 18:5.  Strong.  “Nazarenos <3478>  The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  “Nazarean” and “Nazarene.”  Merriam-Webster. 2017 <http://www.merriam-webster.com>   “-an” suffix. Dictionary.com. 2017.  <http://www.dictionary.comSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin, Folio 43a, footnote #34.   Shachter, J. and Freedman, H.  “Sanhedrin.”  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Epstein. “Introduction.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Abbreviation” ref. “MS.M”.&nbsp
[11] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sotah 47a, footnote #11, 27 & 28.
[12] “Babylonian Talmud.”  Word Digital Library | Library of Congress. 2017. <https://www.wdl.org/en/item/8910>  Pasternak, Nurit. “The Material Context of 15th-Century Hebrew Florentine Manuscripts.” 2013. Academia.edu. 2017. <https://www.academia.edu/4320985/The_Material_Context_of_15th-Century_Hebrew_Florentine_ManuscriptsSoncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 43a.  “Talmud.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.
[13] Rich, Tracey R.  “Jewish Beliefs.”  JewFAQ.org. n.d. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>  Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  “Moses Ben Maimon.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  Furst, Rachel. “The Mishneh Torah – Maimonides’ halakhic magnum opus.”  MyJewishLearning.com. 2010.  <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-mishneh-torah/>   Seeskin, Kenneth. “Maimonides.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006, revised 2017.  <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maimonides/>
[14] Schneerson, Menachem M.  From Exile to Redemption. Volume 2.  Chapter 4, “Studies in Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, Chapter 5, Chapter 11”, footnotes #551, #558, #559, #602, and Chapter 12.”  <http://www.sichos-in-english.org/books/from-exile-to-redemption-2/02.htm>  “Melachim uMilchamot – Chapter 11.” <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  Maimonides. “The Law Concerning Moshiach.”  Footnote #5.  Kesser.org. n.d. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>  “Mishneh Torah.” MishnahTorah.com. n.d. <http://web.archive.org/web/20161105145530/http://www.mishnehtorah.com:80>  Shulman, Moshe. “The Rambam on Isaiah 53.”  “Mishneh Torah.” MishnahTorah.com.  Maimonides.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Kesser.org. “Publisher’s Forward.” Ed. Gutfreund,
[15] Maimonides.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Sichos In English translation.
 [16] Segal. A Page from the Babylonian Talmud. “Mishnah” – “Redaction” and “The Gemara (Talmud)” – “Redaction.”  Schneerson, From Exile to Redemption. Volume 2. Chapter 11,” footnote #559.  “Melachim uMilchamot – Chapter 11.” Maimonides.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Kesser.org. Footnote #5. Kesser.org.
[17] Rich, Tracey R. “Mashiach: The Messiah.” JewFAQ.org. n.d. <http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm>

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