The Talmud, by Joseph Barclay, , at sacred-texts.com
Evil SpiritsSatanGood AngelsHeavenHellThe ResurrectionLast JudgmentTalmud contradicts Holy ScriptureEstimate of GentilesPrecepts for the Sons of NoahRiver SambationStories of RabbisProverbsIdeas of GodThe Messiah: His KingdomAllusions to the Lord Jesus Christ and his Disciples.
The Talmud teaches that evil spirits, devils, and goblins, are the offspring of Adam. They are said to fly about in all directions. They know from eavesdropping what is to come in the future. Like men, they eat, drink, and multiply. They are represented as playing men awkward tricks. One is stated to have broken a vessel of wine, and to have spilt it on the ground. The Rabbis, however, afterwards compelled him to pay for it. People are forbidden to ride oxen fresh from the stall, as Satan dances between their horns. Men are forbidden to salute their companions by night, lest they may turn out to be devils. It is also commanded to shake out, before drinking, some water from the vessel, to get rid of what is sipped by the evil spirits. It is, however, permitted to consult Satan on week-days. He is considered identical with the Angel of Death. But he is described as having no power over those engaged in reading the law. Many of his devices are related in the Talmud, whereby he made learned men leave off reading, and then he snatched away their souls. A story is told of the attempt of Rabbi Joshua, the son of Levi, and Satan to deceive each other about the Rabbi's place in paradise. Finally, however, Satan managed to take away his life, whereupon the voice of Elijah is heard shouting in heaven, "Make room for the son of Levi,""Make room for the son of Levi." The Angel of Death is represented as standing at the head of the dying man. He has a drawn sword
in his hand, on which is a drop of gall. When the dying man sees it, he shudders and opens his mouth. The Angel of Death then lets it fall into his mouth. The sick man dies, corrupts, and becomes pale. Three days the soul flies about the body, thinking to return to it, but after it sees the appearance of the face changed, it leaves it and goes away. Rabbi Isaac moreover asserts, that a worm in a dead body is as painful as a needle in a living one. The Talmud still further states that there are three voices continually heardthe voice of the sun as he rolls in his orbitthe voice of the multitudes of Romeand the voice of the soul as it leaves the body. The Rabbis, however, prayed for mercy on the soul, and this voice has ceased. Instances are also given of men overhearing the conversations of the dead, and receiving profit from them. A man is said to have heard one girl tell another in the grave, that those who sowed their crops at a particular time would find their harvests fail. So he took care to sow at another time, and he had an abundant yield. It is also said that every Friday evening a second soul enters into the bodies of men, and that it remains to the end of the Sabbath, when it departs. The evidence of this second soul is shown by an increased appetite for eating and drinking.
Good angels are stated to be daily created out of the stream of glory which flows from the throne of God, and they sing a new song, and vanish; as it is said, "They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness" (Lam. iii. 23). The Rabbis also say that angels are created out of every word which proceeds from the mouth of God; as it is said, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Ps. xxxiii. 6). The following story is also told:In the hour when Nimrod, the impious, cast Abraham into the midst of the fiery furnace, Gabriel said before the blessed God, "Lord of the world, I will go down and cool the flame, and deliver the righteous One from the furnace of fire." The blessed God said to Him, "I am the ONE in this world, and he is the one in his world. It becomes the ONE to deliver the
one." But as the blessed God deprives no one of His reward, He said, "Thou shalt be deemed worthy to deliver three of his posterity." Rabbi Simon, the Shilonite, taught, "In the hour that Nebuchadnezzar, the impious, cast Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the midst of the fiery furnace, Jorkemo, the prince of hail, stood up before the blessed God, and said, 'I will go down and cool the flame, and deliver the righteous ones from the furnace of fire.' To him said Gabriel, 'The power of the blessed One is not so, since thou art the prince of hail, and everyone knows that waters quench fire; but I, the prince of fire, will go down and cool inwardly, and heat outwardly, and I will make a wonder within a wonder.'" To him said the blessed God, "Go down." In the same hour Gabriel began and said, "And the truth of the Lord endureth for ever" (Ps. cxvii. 2). Israelites are forbidden to pray in the Syriac language, as the angels do not understand it, and consequently cannot carry their petitions to God. Gabriel, however, is acquainted with it, as he taught Joseph the seventy languages. The chief of all the angels is said to be the Metatron, who once received fiery blows from another angel called Ampiel. With regard to heaven, the Rabbis teach that Egypt is four hundred miles long and broad, the Morians land is sixty times larger than Egypt, and the world is sixty times larger than the Morians land; Heaven is sixty times larger than the world, and hell is sixty times larger than heaven. It follows that the "whole world is but a pot-lid to hell." Yet some say that hell is immeasurable, and some say heaven is immeasurable. It was a pearl amongst the sayings of a Rabbi, "Heaven is not like this world, for in it there is neither eating, nor drinking, nor marriage, nor increasing, nor trafficking, nor hate, nor envy, nor heart-burnings; but the just shall sit with their crowns on their heads, and enjoy the splendour of the Shekinah." Hell is said to have three doors,one in the wilderness, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem. In the wilderness, as it is written, "They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit" (Num. xvi. 33). In the sea, as it is written, "Out of
the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice" (Jonah ii. 3). In Jerusalem, as it is written, "Saith the Lord whose fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem" (Is. xxxi. 9). The school of Rabbi Ishmael teaches that the "fire in Zion" is hell, and "His furnace in Jerusalem" is the gate of hell. It is also taught that the fire of hell has no power over the sinners in Israel, and that the fire of hell has no power over the disciples of the wise. It is again, however, stated that the Israelites who sin with their bodies, and the Gentiles who sin with their bodies, go to hell, and are punished there twelve months. After their body is wasted, and their soul is burned, the wind scatters them beneath the soles of the righteous, as it is said, "And ye shall tread down the wicked: for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal. iv. 3). Heretics,deniers of the resurrection,Epicureans, and other sinners, shall be perpetually tormented "where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched."
The doctrine of the resurrection is clearly taught in the Talmud. As for the last judgment, the following story is told: "Said Antoninus to Rabbi, The body and soul can free themselves from judgment. How? The body can say, The soul sinned from the time it separated from me, while I lay as a stone in the grave. And the soul can say, The body sinned from the time it separated from me, while I flew in the air as a bird." He replied, "I will give you an example to which it is like. It is like a king of flesh and blood, who has a beautiful garden, and in which are pleasant fruits, and he placed two watchmen therein, of whom one was lame and the other was blind. Said the lame to the blind, 'I see pleasant fruits in the garden; come, and let me sit upon thee, and let us go and eat.'" The lame sat upon the blind, and they went and ate. After some days the Lord of the garden came, and said, "Where are my pleasant fruits?" The lame said, "I have no legs to go to them." The blind said, "I have no eyes to see them." What did he do? He set the lame upon the blind, and judged them as one. So the blessed God will return the soul into the body, and judge them as one, as it is said, "He shall call to
the heavens from above and to the earth, that he may judge his people" (Ps. iv. 4). He shall call to the heavens from above, that is the soul; and to the earth that he may judge his people, that is, the body. After the resurrection men will live without work or weariness of body, their houses shall be of precious stones, and their beds of silk, and the rivers shall run with wine and perfumed oil.
The Talmud often contradicts Holy Scripture. It says that they are in error who believe the Bible account of the sins of Reuben, of the sons of Eli, and of the sons of Samuel. It allows usury, and the passing of children through the fire to Molech. It permits deceit, and supports it with the text, "With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavoury" (2 Sam. xxii. 27). The Rabbis teach hatred of Christians and Gentiles. Instead of saying, "In the presence of the king," they are taught to say, "In the presence of the dog." A Jew, who bears witness against another Jew before a Gentile is publicly cursed. A Jew is also released from any oath he may swear to a Gentile. It is only permitted a Jewish physician to heal Gentiles for the sake of the fee, or for the practice of medicine, but it is not allowed to save their lives in seasons of danger. Their marriage is no marriage; and their butchers meat is only carrion. It is wrong to invite them into a Jewish house; and it is not needful to restore what they have lost. When the ox of a Jew gores the ox of a Gentile, the Jew is free; but if the ox of a Gentile gores the ox of a Jew, the Gentile must pay the full cost. A story is told of a Rabbi who sold a number of palm-trees to a Gentile, and afterwards ordered his servant to cut off some pieces from them. "For," he said, "the Gentile knows their number, but he does not know whether they be thick or thin."
The precepts binding on the sons of Noah are stated to be seven: to do justice; to bless the name of God; to avoid idolatry; to flee from fornication and adultery; to abstain from blood-shedding; not to rob; and not to eat a member of a living animal. An account is given of the river
[paragraph continues] Sambation, which flows with stones all the six days of the week, but rests on the Sabbath day. Examples are also furnished of gluttony and drunkenness. The paunches of some Rabbis grew so big, that, when put together, a pair of oxen might go between them. A story is also related .of one Rabbi killing another in a drunken fit, and then working a miracle which restored him to life. In the following year he again invited the Rabbi to drink with him, but he declined, on the ground that "miracles are not wrought every day." Instances are also given of the anguish of Rabbis in the prospect of death. They express themselves as being without hope of salvation, and as having the fear of hell before them. Proverbs everywhere abound in the Talmud, and they are generally replete with shrewd observation. "The world subsists through the breath of school children. Whosoever transgresses the words of the Scribes is guilty of death. Whosoever teaches a statute before his teachers ought to be bitten by a serpent. There is no likeness between him who has bread in his basket and him who has none. Rather be the head of foxes than the tail of lions." This, however again appears as "Rather be the tail of lions than the head of foxes." "The righteous in the city is its splendour, its profit, its glory: when he is departed, there is also departed the splendour, the profit, and the glory. Licentiousness in a house is as a worm in a pumpkin." This reappears as "Violence in a house is as a worm in a pumpkin." "Thy friend has an acquaintance, and the acquaintance of thy friend has also an acquaintance; be discreet" The unworthy child of a good father is called "vinegar, the son of wine." "If the opportunity fails the thief, he deems himself honest. The cock and owl await together the morning dawn. Says the cock to the owl, 'Light profits me, but how does it profit thee?' Youth is a crown of roses, old age a crown of thorns. Many preach well, but do not practise well. It is the punishment of liars, that men don't listen to them when they speak truth. Every man who is proud is an idolater. To slander is to murder. Whosoever humbles himself, God exalts him; whosoever exalts himself, God humbles him.
[paragraph continues] Men see every leprosy except their own. He who daily looks after his property finds a coin. The post does not honour the man; but the man the post. Every man is not so lucky as to have two tables. Not what thou sayest about thyself, but what thy companions say. The whole and broken tables of the Law lie in the ark. The salt of money is almsgiving. He who walks four cubits in the laud of Israel is sure of being a child of the world to come. The plague lasted seven years, and no man died before his time. Let the drunkard only go, he will fall of himself. Be rather the one cursed than the one cursing. This world is like an inn, but the world to come is the real home. The child loves its mother more than its father: it fears its father more than its mother. Repent one day before thy death. If your God is a friend of the poor, why does He not support them? A wise man answered, 'Their case is left in our hands, that we may thereby acquire merits and forgiveness of sin.' The house that does not open to the poor shall open to the physician. He who visits the sick takes away one sixtieth part of their pain. Descend a step in choosing a wife; mount a step in choosing a friend. An old woman in a house is a treasure. Whosoever does not persecute them that persecute him, whosoever takes an offence in silence, whosoever does good from love, whosoever is cheerful under his sufferings, they are friends of God, and of them says the Scripture 'they shall shine forth as the sun at noonday.'" R. Phineas, son of Jair, said "Industry brings puritypurity, cleannesscleanness, holinessholiness, humblenesshumbleness, fear of sinand fear of sin, partaking of the Holy Ghost."
Ideas of God are gathered from the occupations which the authors of the Talmud assign to him. "The day contains twelve hours. The first three hours the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and studies the Law. The second three hours He sits and judges the whole world. When He sees that the world deserves destruction, He stands up from the throne of judgment, and sits on the throne of mercy. The third three hours He sits and feeds all the world, from the
horns of the unicorns to the eggs of the vermin. In the fourth three hours He sits and plays with leviathan, for it is said "The leviathan, whom thou hast formed to play therein" (Ps. civ. 26). Rabbi Eliezer says "The night has three watches, and at every watch the Holy One, blessed, be He, sits and roars like a lion; for it is said, 'The Lord shall roar from on high and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He shall mightily roar upon His habitation'" (Jer. xxv. 30). Rabbi Isaac, the son of Samuel, says in the name of Rav, "The night has three watches, and at every watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, and says 'Woe is me, that I have laid desolate my house, and burned my sanctuary, and sent my children into captivity amongst the nations of the world!'" He is described as praying, and wearing phylacteries, and as having a special place for weeping. "Before the destruction of the Temple the Holy One played with leviathan, but since the destruction of the Temple, He plays with it no more. In the hour that the Holy One remembers His children who are dwelling with suffering amongst the nations, He lets two tears fall into the Great Ocean, the noise of which is heard from one end of the world to the other, and this is an earthquake." It is further said that He "braided the hair of Eve," and "shaved the head of Sennacherib." He is represented as keeping school, and teaching the sages. To this school the devils come, especially Aschmedai, the king of the devils. In the discussions that take place, God is said to be sometimes overcome by the wiser Rabbis.
The question of the Messiah is often brought forward. "The tradition of the school of Elijah is, that the world is to stand six thousand years, two thousand years confusion, two thousand years the Law, and two thousand years the days of the Messiah." It is further said that the time for the coming of the Messiah is expired. "Rav says the appointed times are long since past." The Jerusalem Talmud relates that "it happened once to a Jew, who was standing ploughing, that his ox lowed before him. An Arab was passing, and heard its voice. He said 'O Jew! O Jew!
unyoke thine ox, and loose thy ploughshare, for the Temple is desolate.' It lowed a second time, and he said, 'O Jew! O Jew! yoke thine ox and bind thy ploughshare, for King Messiah is born.' The Jew said, 'What is His name?' He answered Menachem.' He asked again, 'What is His father's name?' He said, 'Hezekiah.' He asked, 'From whence is He?' He replied, 'From the royal palace of Bethlehem Judah.' The Jew then went and saw him; but when he went again, the mother told him 'that the winds had borne the child away.'" The Babylon Talmud further states that "Rabbi Joshua, the son of Levi, found Elijah standing at the door of the cave of Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai, and said to him, 'Shall I reach the world to come?' He answered, 'If this Lord will.' Rabbi Joshua, the son of Levi, said, 'I see two, but I hear the voice of three.' He also asked, 'When will Messiah come?' Elijah answered 'Go and ask Himself.' Rabbi Joshua then said, 'Where does he sit?' 'At the gate of Rome.' 'And how is he known?' 'He is sitting amongst the poor and sick, and they, open their wounds, and bind them up again all at once: but he opens only one, and then he opens another, for he thinks, Perhaps I may be wanted, and then I must not be delayed.' Rabbi Joshua went to him, and said, 'Peace be upon thee, my Master, and my Lord.' He answered, 'Peace be upon thee, son of Levi.' The Rabbi then asked him, 'When will my Lord come?' He answered, 'To-day'" (Ps. xcv. 7). It is said that "the bones of those who reckon the appointed time of the Messiah must burst asunder." Again, however, it is said that "Elias told Rabbi Judah, the brother of the pious Rabbi Salah, that the world would not stand less than eighty-five years of Jubilee, and in the last year of Jubilee the son of David will come." It is further stated that there are first to be the wars of the Dragon, and of Gog and Magog; and that God will not renew the earth until seven thousand years are completed. The Rabbis also say that when the Messiah comes to fulfil the prophecy of riding upon an ass (Zech. ix. 9), the ass shall be one of "an hundred colours." As for the return of the ten tribes to their own land, the
[paragraph continues] Talmud in some places asserts it, and in some places denies it. But it is said that in the days of the Messiah all the Gentiles shall become proselytes to the Jewish faith. The Rabbis are divided as to the continuance of the Messiah; some say forty years, some seventy years, some three generations, and some say that He will continue as long as from the creation of the world or the time of Noah "up to the present time." Others say that the kingdom of the Messiah will endure for thousands of years, as "when there is a good government it is not quickly dissolved." It is also said that He shall die, and His kingdom descend to His son and grandson. In proof of this opinion Isaiah xlii. 4 is quoted: "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth." The lives of men will be prolonged for centuries: "He will swallow up death in victor" (Is. xxv. 8); and "the child shall die an hundred years old" (Is. lxv. 20). The Talmud applies the former verse to Israel, the latter verse to the Gentiles. The men of that time will be two hundred ells high. This is said to be proved by the word "upright" (Lev. xxvi. 13), "upright" being applied to the supposed height of man before the fall. "Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days" (Is. xxx. 26). The land of Israel will produce cakes and clothes of the finest wool. The wheat will grow on Lebanon as high as palm-trees; and a wind will be sent from God to reduce it to fine flour for the support of those who gather it; as it is said "with the fat of kidneys of wheat" (Deut. xxxii. 14). Each kidney will be as large as "the kidneys of the fattest oxen." To prove that this is nothing wonderful, an account is given of a rape seed, in which a fox once brought forth young. These young ones were weighed, and found to be as heavy as sixty pounds of Cyprus weight. Lest these statements should be thought a contradiction of the verse "There is no new thing under the sun" (Eccles. i. 9), the Rabbis say that it is just like the growth of mushrooms, toadstools, and the delicate mosses on the branches of trees. Grapes will also grow most luxuriantly; and in every cluster
there will be thirty jars of wine. Jerusalem will be built three miles high; as it is written, "It shall be lifted up" (Zech. xiv. 10). The gates of the city will be made of pearls and precious stones, thirty ells high and thirty ells broad. A disciple of the Rabbis once doubted whether precious stones could be found so large; and shortly afterwards, he saw an angel with similar stones, as he was out at sea. On his return to land he related what he had seen to Rabbi Jochanan. Whereupon the Rabbi said, "Thou fool, if thou hadst not seen, thou hadst not believed; thou mockest the words of the wise." He then "lifted up his eyes upon him, and he was made an heap of bones."
Said R. Samuel, the son of Nachman, R. Jochanan said "Three shall be called by the name of the Holy One; blessed be He." And these are the Righteous, the Messiah, and Jerusalem. The Righteous, as is said (Is. xliii. 7). The Messiah, as it is written (Jer. xxiii. 6): "And this is His name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jerusalem, as it is written (Ezek. xlviii. 35): "It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be The LORD is THERE."
In the later editions of the Talmud the allusions to Christ and Christianity are few and cautious, compared with the earlier or unexpurgated copies. The last of these was published at Amsterdam in 1645. In them our Lord and Saviour is "that one," "such an one," "a fool," "the leper," "the deceiver of Israel," etc. Efforts are made to prove that He is the son of Joseph Pandira before his marriage with Mary. His miracles are attributed to sorcery, the secret of which He brought in a slit in His flesh out of Egypt. His teacher is said to have been Joshua, the son of Perachiah. This Joshua is said to have afterwards excommunicated him to the blast of 400 rams horns, though he must have lived seventy years before His time. Forty days before the death of Jesus a witness was summoned by public proclamation to attest His innocence, but none appeared. He is said to have been first stoned, and then
hanged on the eve of the Passover. His disciples are called heretics, and opprobrious names. They are accused of immoral practices; and the New Testament is called a sinful book. The references to these subjects manifest the most bitter aversion and hatred.