Monday, February 6, 2012

On the Trail of the Mythical Jesus

Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra lived in eleventh and twelfth century Spain.  He was an incredibly gifted man. Ibn Ezra excelled in philosophy, astronomy/astrology, mathematics, poetry, linguistics, and exegesis; he was called The Wise, The Great and The Admirable Doctor. His reputation as an intelligent and acute expounder of the Bible was founded on his commentary on the Pentateuch, of which the great popularity is evidenced by the numerous commentaries which were written upon it.

It is here near the end of his Commentary, in the book dealing with Deuteronomy, that Ibn Ezra makes a most incredible comment that has baffled scholars ever since:

But with him that standeth here with us this day (Deut 29:15) - the nun of yeshno (= that standeth here) is superfluous 

To understand what Ibn Ezra is saying often escapes those fluent in Hebrew but the English translators of his work.

Yeshno is the word yesh plus the third person pronominal suffix. That suffix is a vav. Thus we would expect yesho rather than yeshno. Hence Ibn Ezra's comment (Krinsky). 

You see yad is 'hand' in Hebrew, his hand = yadu. Why isn't yesh similarly transformed into yeshu. Ibn Ezra sees the nun as superfluous.  And no Hebrew scholar can explain the irregular form (other than to note that the same pattern is found with yesh's counterpart ayin (= nothing).

Yet I wonder could it be that this finally explains the origin of Jesus's name (ישו = yeshu)?  I certainly think so especially when you take a second look at the places where yesho (would at least theoretically) demonstrate this being to be the firstborn of God.  In the Sepher Yetzirah we read two versions of the same creation myth:

He formed from confusion substance (yasar mi-tohu mamash) and made it with fire and there was being (we-yeshno), and hewed out (hasab) great pillars with intangible air. This is a sign. (2:5)

Or the more familiar version has rather than "made it with fire".

He made non-being (eno) into being (yeshno) 

 If you substitute yeshu for yeshnu and you have:

And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

But people will never give up their belief in the historical Jesus.  This is the only way that 'mythicism' makes any sense.  But how many 'mythicists' are going to learn Hebrew ...

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.