Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera

Last updated
Tiberius Pantera's tombstone in Bad Kreuznach Romerhalle, Bad Kreuznach - Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera tombstone.JPG
Tiberius Pantera's tombstone in Bad Kreuznach

Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera ( /pænˈtɛrə/ ; c. 22 BC – AD 40) was a Roman-Phoenician soldier born in Sidon, whose tombstone was found in Bingerbrück, Germany, in 1859. A historical connection from this soldier to Jesus has long been hypothesized by numerous scholars, based on the claim of the ancient Greek philosopher Celsus, who, according to Christian writer Origen in his "Against Celsus" (Greek Κατὰ Κέλσου, Kata Kelsou; Latin Contra Celsum ), was the author of a work entitled The True Word (Greek Λόγος Ἀληθής, Logos Alēthēs).

Contents

Celsus' work was lost but, in Origen's account of it, Jesus was depicted as the result of an affair between his mother Mary and a Roman soldier. He said she was "convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera". [1] [2] Biblical scholar James Tabor claimed that Tiberius Pantera could have been serving in the region at the time of Jesus's conception, but more recent scholarship has shown this claim to be greatly doubtful. [1] Christopher Zeichmann goes so far as to say, "Where precisely Pantera's unit was located during the years leading up to Jesus' conception is uncertain, but it is beyond doubt that it was not Judaea or Galilee." [3]

Both the ancient Talmud and medieval Jewish writings and sayings reinforced this notion, referring to "Yeshu ben Pantera", which translates as "Jesus, son of Pantera". Tabor's hypothesis is considered highly unlikely by mainstream scholars given that there is little other evidence to support Pantera's paternity outside of the Greek and Jewish texts. [4] [5]

Historically, the name Pantera is not unusual and was in use among Roman soldiers. [4] [6]

Tombstone

Discovery

The Roman tombstones in Bingerbruck, Germany, as illustrated when published. Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera's is on the left Pantera Grabstein.jpg
The Roman tombstones in Bingerbrück, Germany, as illustrated when published. Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera's is on the left

In October 1859, during the construction of a railroad in Bingerbrück in Germany, tombstones for nine Roman soldiers were accidentally discovered. [4] One of the tombstones was that of Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera and is presently kept in the Römerhalle museum in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. [7]

The inscription (CIL XIII 7514) on the tombstone of Abdes Pantera reads: [4] [8] [9]

Tib(erius) Iul(ius) Abdes Pantera
Sidonia ann(orum) LXII
stipen(diorum) XXXX miles exs(ignifer?)
coh(orte) I sagittariorum
h(ic) s(itus) e(st)
Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera
from Sidon, aged 62 years
served 40 years, former standard bearer(?)
of the first cohort of archers
lies here

Analysis

The name Pantera is Greek, although it appears in Latin in the inscription. It was perhaps his last name, and means panther. [4] The names Tiberius Julius are acquired names and were probably given to him in recognition of serving in the Roman army as he obtained Roman citizenship on his honorable discharge from the Legion. [4]

The meaning of the name Abdes is up for speculation. Abd in Phoenician means "servant of", and es is perhaps short for Eshmoun/Eshmun, a Phoenician god of healing and the tutelary god of Sidon. However, it is also possible that Pantera was ethnically (and/or religiously) Jewish, given his birthplace. Zeichmann points out that the name Abdes is "commonly attested among Jews and others in the Levant" and has direct adaptations in Greek, Hebrew, and several other languages, many of which are Semitic. [3]

Pantera was from Sidonia, which is identified with Sidon in Phoenicia, and joined the Cohors I Sagittariorum (first cohort of archers). [4]

Portrayal of a Roman standard bearer with the fur of a predatory cat on his head. A ROMAN STANDARD BEARER..gif
Portrayal of a Roman standard bearer with the fur of a predatory cat on his head.

Pantera is not an unusual name, and its use goes back at least to the 2nd century. [6] Prior to the end of the 19th century, at various times in history scholars had hypothesized that the name Pantera was an uncommon or even a fabricated name, but in 1891 French archaeologist C. S. Clermont-Ganneau showed that it was a name that was in use in Iudaea by other people and Adolf Deissmann later showed with certainty that it was a common name at the time, and that it was especially common among Roman soldiers, [4] [8] [1] which would also fit the name Pantera, because the standard bearer of a Roman unit wore an animal fur on official occasions. In this case this would have been the fur of a predatory cat.

At that time, Roman army enlistments were for 25 years and Pantera served 40 years in the army until his death at 62. [4] Pantera was probably the standard bearer (signifer) of his cohort. [1]

Ethiopian ecclesiastical literature

A soldier by the name of Pantos/Pantera also appears twice in Ethiopian church documents. In the First Book of Ethiopian Maccabees he is listed as one of three brothers who resists the Seleucid invasion of Judea. [10] Within the text itself he is cited as receiving his name from the act of strangling panthers with his bare hands. This name and personage also appears in the text of the Ethiopian Synaxarion (Tahisas 25), where he is remembered along with his brothers in the canon of Ethiopian saints.

Hypothesis concerning a connection to Jesus

2nd-century usage by Celsus

In the 2nd century, Celsus, a Greek philosopher, wrote that Jesus's father was a Roman soldier named Panthera. The views of Celsus drew responses from Origen, who considered it a fabricated story. Celsus' claim is only known from Origen's reply. Origen writes:

Let us return, however, to the words put into the mouth of the Jew, where "the mother of Jesus" is described as having been "turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera". [11] [12]

Celsus' wide-ranging criticism of Christianity included the assertions that Christians had forsaken the laws of their fathers, that their minds had been held captive by Jesus and that the teachings of Jesus included nothing new and were simply a repetition of the sayings of the Greek philosophers. [13] [14] Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan state that given the antagonism of Celsus towards Christianity, his suggestion of the Roman parentage of Jesus might derive from the memory of Roman military operations suppressing a revolt at Sepphoris near Nazareth around the time of Jesus' birth. The "common legionary name" Panthera could have arisen from a satirical connection between the Greek words panthēr meaning "panther, various spotted Felidae" and parthenos meaning "virgin". [15] [16]

Jewish usage in the Middle Ages

The story that Jesus was the son of a man named Pantera is referred to in the Talmud, in which Jesus is widely understood to be the figure referred to as "Ben Stada":

It is taught that Rabbi Eliezer said to the Wise, "Did not Ben Stada bring spells from Egypt in a cut in his flesh?" They said to him, "He was a fool, and they do not bring evidence from a fool." Ben Stada is Ben Pantera. Rabbi Hisda said, "The husband was Stada, the lover was Pantera." The husband was "actually" Pappos ben Judah, the mother was Stada. The mother was Miriam "Mary" the dresser of women's hair. As we say in Pumbeditha, "She has been false to "satath da" her husband." (b. Shabbat 104b) [17]

Peter Schäfer explains this passage as a commentary designed to clarify the multiple names used to refer to Jesus, concluding with the explanation that he was the son of his mother's lover "Pantera", but was known as "son of Stada", because this name was given to his mother, being "an epithet which derives from the Hebrew/Aramaic root sat.ah/sete' ('to deviate from the right path, to go astray, to be unfaithful'). In other words, his mother Miriam was also called 'Stada' because she was a sotah, a woman suspected, or rather convicted, of adultery." [18] A few of the references explicitly name Jesus ("Yeshu") as the "son of Pandera": these explicit connections are found in the Tosefta, the Qohelet Rabbah, and the Jerusalem Talmud, but not in the Babylonian Talmud. [18]

The Toledot Yeshu dates to the Middle Ages and appeared in Aramaic as well as Hebrew as an anti-Christian satirical chronicle of Jesus, also refers to the name Pantera, or Pandera. [19] [20] [21] The book accuses Jesus of illegitimate birth as the son of Pandera, and of heretical and at times violent activities along with his followers during his ministry. [19] [21]

Scholarly assessment

Raymond E. Brown states that the story of Panthera is a fanciful explanation of the birth of Jesus which includes very little historical evidence. [22] [23] [24] James Tabor suggested that Celsus' information about Jesus' paternity was correct. Tabor argues without evidence that a soldier with this name was living at the right period and might have been Jesus' father. According to Tabor, Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera's career would place him in Judea as a young man around the time of Jesus' conception. [1] Such opinion has not gained consensus: biblical scholar Maurice Casey rejected Tabor's hypothesis and states that Tabor has presented no evidence for Pantera's presence in the region - a conclusion that is reaffirmed by Christopher Zeichmann. [5] [3]

Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans state that the Toledot Yeshu consists primarily of fictitious anti-Christian stories based on the ongoing attempt of the Jews to discredit Jesus as their long awaited Messiah, and that it offers no value to historical research on Jesus. [19] The Blackwell Companion to Jesus states that the Toledot Yeshu has no historical facts and was perhaps created as a tool for warding off conversions to Christianity. [25]

Throughout the centuries, both Christian and Jewish scholars have generally only paid minor attention to the Toledot Yeshu. Robert E. Van Voorst states that the literary origins of Toledot Yeshu cannot be traced with any certainty, and given that it is unlikely to have been written before the 4th century, it is far too late to include authentic remembrances of Jesus. [17] The nature of the Toledot Yeshu as a parody of the Christian gospels is manifested by the claim that the Apostle Peter pretended to be Christian so he could separate them from the Jews and its portrayal of Judas Iscariot as a hero who posed as a disciple of Jesus in order to stop the Christians. [26] [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

Yeshua or Y'shua was a common alternative form of the name Yehoshua in later books of the Hebrew Bible and among Jews of the Second Temple period. The name corresponds to the Greek spelling Iesous (Ἰησοῦς), from which, through the Latin IESVS/Iesus, comes the English spelling Jesus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bible conspiracy theory</span> Conspiracy theory that what is known about the Bible is a deception to suppress ancient truths

A Bible conspiracy theory is any conspiracy theory that posits that much of what is believed about the Bible is a deception created to suppress some secret, ancient truth. Some of these theories claim that Jesus really had a wife and children, or that a group such as the Priory of Sion has secret information about the true descendants of Jesus; some claim that there was a secret movement to censor books that truly belonged in the Bible, etc.

Yeshu is the name of an individual or individuals mentioned in rabbinic literature, which historically has been assumed to be a reference to Jesus when used in the Talmud. The name Yeshu is also used in other sources before and after the completion of the Babylonian Talmud. It is also the modern Israeli spelling of Jesus.

Onkelos, possibly identical to Aquila of Sinope, was a Roman national who converted to Judaism in Tannaic times. He is considered to be the author of the Targum Onkelos.

Jacob the heretic is the name given to a 2nd-century heretic whose doings were used as examples in a few passages of the Tosefta and Talmud to illustrate laws relating to dealing with heresy (minut).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celsus</span> 2nd-century Greek philosopher

Celsus was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and opponent of early Christianity. His literary work, The True Word, survives exclusively in quotations from it in Contra Celsum, a refutation written in 248 by Origen of Alexandria. The True Word is the earliest known comprehensive criticism of Christianity. Hanegraaff has argued that it was written shortly after the death of Justin Martyr, and was probably a response to his work. Origen stated that Celsus was from the first half of the 2nd century AD, although the majority of modern scholars have come to a general consensus that Celsus probably wrote around AD 170 to 180.

Pantera is an American heavy metal band.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Genealogy of Jesus</span> Ancestry of Jesus

The New Testament provides two accounts of the genealogy of Jesus, one in the Gospel of Matthew and another in the Gospel of Luke. Matthew starts with Abraham, while Luke begins with Adam. The lists are identical between Abraham and David, but differ radically from that point. Matthew has twenty-seven generations from David to Joseph, whereas Luke has forty-two, with almost no overlap between the names on the two lists.⁠ Notably, the two accounts also disagree on who Joseph's father was: Matthew says he was Jacob, while Luke says he was Heli.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cleansing of the Temple</span> Expulsion of commercial activity from the Temple

The cleansing of the Temple narrative tells of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, and is recounted in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament. The scene is a common motif in Christian art.

<i>Contra Celsum</i> Third-century Christian apologetics work by Origen of Alexandria

Against Celsus, preserved entirely in Greek, is a major apologetics work by the Church Father Origen of Alexandria, written in around 248 AD, countering the writings of Celsus, a pagan philosopher and controversialist who had written a scathing attack on Christianity in his treatise The TrueWord. Among a variety of other charges, Celsus had denounced many Christian doctrines as irrational and criticized Christians themselves as uneducated, deluded, unpatriotic, close-minded towards reason, and too accepting of sinners. He had accused Jesus of performing his miracles using black magic rather than actual divine powers and of plagiarizing his teachings from Plato. Celsus had warned that Christianity itself was drawing people away from traditional religion and claimed that its growth would lead to a collapse of traditional, conservative values.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Criticism of Jesus</span> Secular and theological arguments against the purported divinity of Jesus

Criticism of Jesus has existed since the first century. Jesus was criticised by the Pharisees and scribes for disobeying Mosaic Law. He was decried in Judaism as a failed Jewish messiah claimant and a false prophet by most Jewish denominations. Judaism also considers the worship of any person a form of idolatry, and rejects the claim that Jesus was divine. Some psychiatrists, religious scholars and writers explain that Jesus' family, followers and contemporaries seriously regarded him as delusional, possessed by demons, or insane.

Sefer Toledot Yeshu, often abbreviated as Toledot Yeshu, is an early Jewish text taken to be an alternative biography of Jesus of Nazareth. It exists in a number of different versions, none of which is considered either canonical or normative within Rabbinic literature, but which appear to have been widely circulated in Europe and the Middle East in the medieval period. A 15th-century Yemenite version of the text was titled Maaseh Yeshu, or the "Episode of Jesus", in which Jesus is described either as being the son of Joseph or the son of Pandera. The account portrays Jesus as an impostor.

Panthera may refer to:

<i>The Jesus Dynasty</i>

The Jesus Dynasty is a 2006 book written by James Tabor in which he develops the hypothesis that the original Jesus movement was a dynastic one, with the intention of overthrowing the rule of Herod Antipas; that Jesus of Nazareth was a royal messiah, while his cousin John the Baptist planned to be a priestly messiah.

The True Word is a lost treatise in which the ancient Greek philosopher Celsus addressed many principal points of Early Christianity and refuted or argued against their validity. In The True Word, Celsus attacked Christianity in three ways: by refuting its philosophical claims, by marking it as a phenomenon associated with the uneducated and lower class, and by cautioning his audience that it was a danger to the Roman Empire. All information concerning the work exists only in the extensive quotations from it in the Contra Celsum written some seventy years later by the Christian Origen. These are believed to be accurate as far as they go, but may not give a fully comprehensive picture of the original work.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nazarene (title)</span> People from the city of Nazareth

Nazarene is a title used to describe people from the city of Nazareth in the New Testament, and is a title applied to Jesus, who, according to the New Testament, grew up in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, now in northern Israel. The word is used to translate two related terms that appear in the Greek New Testament: Nazarēnos ('Nazarene') and Nazōraios ('Nazorean'). The phrases traditionally rendered as "Jesus of Nazareth" can also be translated as "Jesus the Nazarene" or "Jesus the Nazorean", and the title Nazarene may have a religious significance instead of denoting a place of origin. Both Nazarene and Nazorean are irregular in Greek and the additional vowel in Nazorean complicates any derivation from Nazareth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jesus in the Talmud</span> Possible references to Jesus in the Talmud

There are several passages in the Talmud which are believed by some scholars to be references to Jesus. The name used in the Talmud is "Yeshu", the Aramaic vocalization of the Hebrew name Yeshua.

Johann Maier was an Austrian scholar of Judaism, and was founder and, for thirty years, director of the Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Cologne. He retired in 1996, and was living in Mittenwald, in Upper Bavaria.

The Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus is a lost early Christian text in Greek describing the dialogue of a converted Jew, Jason, and an Alexandrian Jew, Papiscus. The text is first mentioned, critically, in the True Account of the anti-Christian writer Celsus, and therefore would have been contemporary with the surviving, and much more famous, Dialogue between the convert from paganism Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sources for the historicity of Jesus</span> Sources about Jesus as historical character

Christian sources, such as the New Testament books in the Christian Bible, include detailed stories about Jesus, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the biblical accounts of Jesus. The only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Tabor, James D. (2006). The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity . New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN   0-7432-8723-1.
  2. "Origen, Against Celsus 1.32".
  3. 1 2 3 Zeichmann, Christopher (2020). ""Jesus 'ben Pantera': An Epigraphic and Military-Historical Note". Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. 18 (2): 141–155. doi:10.1163/17455197-01802001. S2CID   219649698.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Whitehead, James; Burns, Michael (2008). The Panther: Posthumous Poems. Springfield, Mo.: Moon City Press. pp. 15–17. ISBN   978-0-913785-12-6.
  5. 1 2 Casey, Maurice (2011). Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching . London: T&T Clark. pp.  153-154. ISBN   978-0-567-64517-3.
  6. 1 2 Evans, Craig A. (2003). The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew-Luke. Vol. 1. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor Books. p. 146. ISBN   0-7814-3868-3.
  7. Rousseau, John J.; Arav, Rami (1995). Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p. 225. ISBN   978-0-8006-2903-8.
  8. 1 2 Deissmann, Adolf; Strachan, Lionel R.M. (2003). Light From the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco Roman World. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Pub. pp. 73–74. ISBN   0-7661-7406-9.
  9. Campbell, J.B. (1994). The Roman Army, 31 BC-AD 337: A Sourcebook. Routledge. p. 37. ISBN   0-415-07173-9.
  10. The First Book of Ethiopian Maccabees: With additional commentary. Translated by Curtin, D.P. Barnes & Noble Press. 2018. ISBN   9781987019636.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  11. Origen (1980). Chadwick, Henry (ed.). Contra Celsum . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.  32. ISBN   0-521-29576-9.
  12. Patrick, John The Apology of Origen in Reply to Celsus 2009 ISBN   1-110-13388-X, pages 22–24
  13. Roberts, Alexander (2007). The Ante-Nicene Fathers. p. 682. ISBN   978-1-60206-476-8.
  14. Tripolitis, Antonia (2007). Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. p. 100. ISBN   978-0-8028-4913-7.
  15. Borg, Marcus; Crossan, John Dominic (2007). The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Birth . New York: HarperOne. p.  104. ISBN   978-0-06-143070-1.
  16. πάνθηρ, παρθένος . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  17. 1 2 Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. ISBN   0-8028-4368-9.
  18. 1 2 Schafer, Peter (2009). Jesus in the Talmud. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. pp. 15–24. ISBN   9781400827619.
  19. 1 2 3 Chilton, Bruce; Evans, Craig A., eds. (1998). Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research. New Testament Tools and Studies. Leiden: Brill. p. 450. ISBN   90-04-11142-5.
  20. "Toledot Yeshu". Princeton Program in Judaic Studies. Retrieved 2020-05-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. 1 2 Horbury, William (2003). "The Depiction of Judeo-Christians in the Toledot Yeshu". In Tomson, Peter J. (ed.). The Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian literature. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. pp. 280–285. ISBN   3-16-148094-5.
  22. Brown, Raymond E.; Donfried, Karl P.; Fitzmyer, Joseph A.; Reumann, John, eds. (1978). Mary in the New Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. p. 262. ISBN   0800613457.
  23. Origen (2013). "Contra Celsum". In Stevenson, J.; Frend, W.H.C. (eds.). A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church to AD 337. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic. p. 133. ISBN   978-0-281-04268-5.
  24. Also cited and
  25. Cook, Michael J. (2011). "Jewish Perspectives on Jesus". In Burkett, Delbert Royce (ed.). The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN   978-1-4443-2794-6.
  26. Friedländer, Saul; et al. (1994). Beck, Wolfgang (ed.). The Jews in European History: Seven Lectures. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press. p. 31. ISBN   0-87820-212-9.
  27. Keener, Craig S. (2009). The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. p. 417. ISBN   978-0-8028-6292-1.