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rakovsky
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« on: September 28, 2010, 03:29:20 AM »

Nicodemus the Pharisee Who Accepted Jesus

   Nicodemus was a famous pharisee who accepted Jesus, and who apocryphal sources consider a martyr. In Rabbinical traditions, he probably matches Nakdimon ben Gurion, also known as Buni, who provided water for Jerusalem's festivals. The Talmud (Tractate Taanith, Chapter 3) relates that Nakdimon once borrowed twelve wells of water for the pilgrims in a dry year, promising 297 kg of silver if the wells weren't refilled. On the day for repayment, he went to the Temple and prayed: "Creator of the Universe! It is known to Thee, that not for the sake of glory for me... but for the glory of Thy name, that the pilgrims in Jerusalem might have water, did I borrow those wells." Rain fell, the twelve wells refilled, but the sun had already set, and the master demanded payment. So Nakdimon returned and prayed in the Temple, and the sun reappeared. The Talmud concludes: "We have learned in a Boraitha: His name was not Nakdimon, but Boni, and he was called Nakdimon because on his account the sun hastened. The rabbis taught: 'For the sake of each of three men alone the sun shone, and they are Moses, Joshua, and Nakdimon ben Gurion.'"
   John 3:1-21 records Nicodemus coming to Jesus secretly by night and saying "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" and refers to him as "a master of Israel." At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus cried "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water", and the pharisees wanted to punish Him. (John 7:32-49). Nicodemus tells them "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" The pharisees rebuke him with "Art thou also of Galilee?" and leave. (John 7:50-53). In fact, Tractate Erub 3(4):17 says that the Gurion family's estates were in Ruma, Lower Galilee.



Nicodemus Threatened for Defending Jesus

   The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia dates to the 3rd century AD, describes Nicodemus telling Pilate that Jesus did miracles like previous prophets, and that "he is not worthy of death." Supposedly, the rest of the people raged against Nicodemus, saying "Mayest thou receive his truth and his portion", and Nicodemus replied: "Amen, Amen: may I receive it as ye have said."(Nico. V)
   John 19:39-40 records that after the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arithmea took Jesus' body and Nicodemus "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." The Gospel of Nicodemus claims that while the disciples scattered, "Nicodemus alone shewed himself," and the rest of the people asked: "how durst thou enter into the synagogue who wast a confederate with Christ? Let thy lot be along with him in the other world." Nicodemus answered, "Amen; so may it be, that I may have my lot with him in his kingdom."(Nico. IX)



The Execution of Buni

   Since Jesus' body vanished after Nicodemus buried it, the other pharisees might have enforced this threat. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 43) records that Jesus, or Yeshu, was "hanged on the eve of the Passover" because he "practised sorcery." It says that:
Quote
"he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].' ...Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah. When Matthai was brought [before the court] he said to them [the judges], Shall Matthai be executed? ...they retorted; Yes... When Nakai was brought in he said to them; Shall Nakai be executed? It is not written, Naki [the innocent] and the righteous slay thou not? Yes, was the answer, Nakai shall be executed, since it is written, in secret places does Naki [the innocent] slay ... When Buni was brought in, he said: Shall Buni be executed? Is it not written, Beni [my son], my first born? Yes, they said, Buni shall be executed, since it is written, Behold I will slay Bine-ka [thy son] thy first born."

   The only associate of Jesus in Christianity named Buni is the ruler Nicodemus, and the Talmud describes the trial after mentioning Jesus' connection with royalty. Further, the names "Nico-demus" and "Nak-dimon" have the same prefix as Nakai, or "innocent."

The Ruin of Nakdimon's Family

   While the Talmud had praised Nakdimon as Jerusalem's patron, it changes tone when describing his family's later poverty. In Kesubos 66-67, the Talmud says that Johanan ben Zakkai (30 - 90 AD) "saw a girl picking barley grains in the dung of Arab cattle. As soon as she saw him she wrapped herself with her hair and stood before him. 'Master', she said to him, 'feed me'. 'My daughter', he asked her, 'who are you?' 'I am', she replied, 'the daughter of Nakdimon b. Gorion'. 'My daughter', he said to her, 'what has become of the wealth of your father's house?' 'Master', she answered him, 'is there not a proverb current in Jerusalem: "The salt of money is diminution?'"    
             The Avot of Rabbi Nathan (Chapter 17 ; 8th-10th cent. AD) gives her words as: "Your wealth will keep if you don't keep it." So rather than citing a verse from the Tanakh, she gave a "proverb current in Jerusalem" that resembles Christian sayings. Jesus gave parables about sharing one's possessions to keep them, ending in the phrase "he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." (See: Matthew 13:12, 25:29 Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; John 15:2)
   The Talmud portrays her as both shameful, digging in dung, and as starved and strongly needing help. It seems like someone should help her at least enough so she wouldn't have to get grain from dung. Next, she seems to try to persuade Zakkai to help her, by saying "Do you remember, Master... when you signed my kethubah?" He weeps, but instead of offering her help, he uses her as a learning tool for his students, saying: "when they do not do the will of the Omnipresent he delivers them into the hands of a low people, and not only in the hands of a low people but into the power of the beasts of a low people." Zakkai portrays her fate as sad but just, so he doesn't seem that he will help her either.
   The Talmud asks: "Did not Nakdimon b. Gorion, however, practice charity? Surely it was taught: It was said of Nakdimon b. Gorion that, when he walked from his house to the house of study, woollen clothes were spread beneath his feet and the poor followed behind him and rolled them up!" Nicodemus' large gift of spices in John 19 for the burial of his friend Jesus matches his custom of targeted donations.
   The Talmud's explanation for this contradiction is that "He did it for his own glorification — And if you prefer I might reply: He did not act as he should have done, as people say, 'In accordance with the camel is the burden.'" The comparison of a rich man to a camel having trouble is like Jesus' words "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." However, the answer that "He did it for his own glorification" contradicts the Talmud's endorsement of Nakdimon's prayer that He borrowed water for God's glory instead of His own. It appears that Nakdimon or his family, widely considered to be generous, have done something far more socially unacceptable than failing to give enough. The story never answers how Nakdimon's family became so poor they had to search for grains in dung without anyone to help them in the least way. Her poverty can't just be from general lack of food following the siege of Jerusalem, since there was food for the cattle, Zakkai himself wasn't eating grains from dung, and Nakdimon's family should have at least something more than regular people.

SUMMARY OF FACTS

   Thus, the gospel's description of Nicodemus matches the Talmud's description of Nakdimon as a generous ruling patron of Jerusalem from Galilee. The Talmud says that Jesus was connected to influential rulers, and a pharisee from Galilee would be one of the most likely associates of Jesus in a Sanhedrin mostly run by Saducees. Jesus' burial is so central to the gospels that it would be one of their more certain statements. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Nicodemus fell under public censure because he buried Jesus' body and it disappeared.

CONTRASTING ENDPOINTS?

Photius, writing many centuries later in his Codices said that Nicodemus died from being beaten up by a crowd. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/photius_copyright/photius_04bibliotheca.htm). However, he says he read this from a book by Eustratios or Eustratius, and a researcher wrote in the footnotes that Photius' account of Eustratius' book is very wrong sometimes.

Another problem is that Jesus was crucified in 33 AD, so Nakdimon would seem to have been martyred within a few years. However, another part of the Talmud says that in 70 AD, four people still have the most wealth in the city. Two of the people are Ben Gorion and Ben Nakdimon. However, those are not their first names. Technically, though, they could just be the brother and son of Nakdimon ben Gorion.

After mentioning the four counselors' wealth, it describes the Zealots' destruction of their storehouses to prevent them from making peace with Rome. So it looks like Nakdimon's family's wealth lasted a long time after Jesus' crucifixion. However, if Nakdimon was associated with Jesus, it might explain why people might not want to help his family.


How did Saint Nicodemus die? Martyrdom by execution, beat up, or just old age?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 03:35:42 AM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2010, 01:03:04 PM »

I would like also to ask if you think the story about Nakdimon's daughter is related to her father's involvement in Christianity.

In Sifre Deuteronomy 305, Zakkai tells his students that seeing Nakdimon's daughter shows him the meaning of the phrase: "If thou know not, O fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock" ( from Song of Solomon 1:8 ) So despite her belief in a proverb from Jerusalem, Zakkai suggests that she lacks religious understanding.

The Sifre Deuteronomy is from the 3rd century, so the story appears to have a factual basis.

The book "Midrash and legend: historical anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim" by Joshua L. Moss, claims that in Ketubbott 5:9-10, the Sages awarded Nakdimon's daughter 500 gold denarii of spices, but she cursed them and said "So may you award for your own daughters." It's not clear why she would curse them for this. Maybe she wanted more? Or maybe she resented them for another reason? Such a silly curse from her would not explain why her family became outcasts later.



Automatic smiley corrected--without a space, "8 )" becomes "Cool".  -PtA
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 01:52:57 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
ialmisry
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 02:05:56 PM »

Interesting information on the early Christians can be found in the Talmud. An example is on the genealogy of Christ and His relatives, the Desposynoi, ex:
The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman culture, Volume 3 By Peter Schäfer, Catherine Hezser
http://books.google.com/books?id=_J5bdHyPprIC&pg=RA1-PA388&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=2#v=onepage&q&f=false

In the shadow of the temple: Jewish influences on early Christianity By Oskar Skarsaune
http://books.google.com/books?id=2q6qTb-A7GwC&pg=PA199&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=3#v=onepage&q=jude%20relatives%20of%20Jesus%20talmud&f=false

The image of the Judaeo-Christians in ancient Jewish and Christian literature By Peter J. Tomson, Doris Lambers-Petry
http://books.google.com/books?id=9bbWbMGekWoC&pg=PA27&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=6#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jews and Christians: the parting of the ways, A.D. 70 to 135 : the second ... By James D. G. Dunn
http://books.google.com/books?id=9zCh9SBb6Y8C&pg=PA16&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=7#

Jude and the relatives of Jesus in the early church By Richard Bauckham
http://books.google.com/books?id=c8h3HWPO8QYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=1#v=onepage&q=Talmud&f=false
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 03:06:08 PM »

Thanks for the sources!

By the way, Lamentations Rabbati 1.5 (circa 650 AD) is the source for the information that Jerusalem had 4 counselors, 2 of whom were named ben Gorion and ben Nakdimon.

Gittin 56 would suggest that Nakdimon was still around in 70 AD at the Siege of Jerusalem, but it lists his name as one of 3 counselors and the other 2 counselors are listed with their last names only (ben ------- ), suggesting that the correct form would be to just list ben-Gorion, and that the term Nakdimon ben Gorion could be a conflation of ben Gorion and ben Nakdimon.
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2010, 12:49:38 AM »

The image of the Judaeo-Christians in ancient Jewish and Christian literature By Peter J. Tomson, Doris Lambers-Petry
http://books.google.com/books?id=9bbWbMGekWoC&pg=PA27&dq=jude+relatives+of+Jesus+talmud&cd=6#v=onepage&q&f=false

Ialmisry,

The Image of the Judaeo-Christians book looks very interesting!

It is funny- almost every other chapter is in German! What kind of book is that?

All the best!
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 12:50:47 AM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2010, 08:27:32 PM »

How does the sun shining show that Nakdimon was "innocent of blood"?

Tractate Taanith, Chapter 3 (in my the first post on Nicodemus) says that Buni was called Nakdimon(Nicodemus) because the sun miraculously shone for him. But Nakdimon's name doesn't mean "the sun shone", it means "innocent of blood".

How does the sun shining on Nakdimon show that he was "innocent of blood?"

The resurrection story?

The story of the sun shining on Nicodemus is similar to the story of Christ's resurrection.

It specifically says that Nakdimon borrowed the twelve wells' worth of water from a Heathen "Master." Pontius Pilate would fit the image of a Heathen Master in Palestine, and Joseph of Arithmea did make a request to take something from him- Christ's body.

The Twelve wells are similar to the twelve disciples, since they were to be filled with something-the holy spirit.  In Acts 9:15 for example, God refers to Paul as a "chosen vessel."

By burying Jesus in a rich tomb, they fulfilled Isaiah 53's prophecy that they would make his grave with the rich.

Nicodemus was responsible for supplying water to pilgrims at festivals, and the story suggests that many pilgrims were needing alot of water at once (12 wells' worth), which in turn suggests that the story took place at Passover. Likewise, Jesus was crucified and resurrected at Passover.

Further, the miracle of the sun shining out resembles the behavior of the sun at Jesus' crucifixion. In the story about Nakdimon, the sun rose again, because if the rain fell after the day ended, Nakdimon would owe almost 300 kg of silver. Instead, the sky became dark, rain fail, but then the sun returned miraculously.

Likewise, the Crucifixion took place on Friday. While Jesus was on the cross, darkness covered the earth. Then the sun came out again and Jesus died. The Jews counted a complete-Day-cycle as starting at sunset and then running night to day. So if The earth stayed Dark, the darkness would have been Saturday beginning-night, and Jesus would have only risen on the second day of his death, Sunday. Instead, because the sun returned, Jesus rose on the third day, in fulfillment of a promise.

Likewise, since the sun shone on Nicodemus, his promise was fulfilled to the Heathen Master on the promised day.

Innocent of Whose Blood?

But the Taanith says that this story about the sun rising gave Nicodemus (innocent of the blood) his name. Assuming that the story of the sun shining out is a poetic image of the Crucifixion, the Taanith writer is saying that Nicodemus got his name because of the Crucifixion story.

What was Nicodemus' role in the Crucifixion? John's Gospel says that he required the Sanhedrin to at least hold a trial, and the Gospel of Nicodemus records him telling Pilate that Jesus was not worthy of death. Unlike much of the rest of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus was "innocent of Jesus' blood."

I admit that this sounds alittle convoluted.

But we know that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arithmea were special because unlike most or all the rest of the Sanhedrin, they were "innocdent of blood" (the gospels specifically say that Joseph did not consent to the Crucifixion) of Christ. Nicodemus could have picked this name to distinguish himself, or the Christians gave it to him.

The only explanation I can think of for his name "innocent of blood" is that he didn't consent to the verdict of the Sanhedrin. The explanation the Taanith gives doesn't make sense, except that it has some similarities to a poetic image of the crucifixion.

By the way, many of the prefigurements of the crucifixion in the Old Testament don't exactly make sense completely, like the snake(sin) being raised on a stick(cross). I mean, we can understand that they are prefigurements, but sometimes they sound like a stretch. Nicodemus' story about the sun shining on him, with some things it has in common with the crucifixion story, suggest that the xplanation is that the sun shining story is an allegory about the events of the crucifixion and resurrection.

What do you think?
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2010, 10:31:00 PM »

Additional information:
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A passage of the Talmud (Sanh. 43a) ascribes five disciples to Jesus: "Matthai" (Matthew), "Nakai" (Luke), "Nezer" (Nazarene, a general designation for Christian in antiquity), "Boni" (probably the Nicodemus mentioned by John), and "Thoda" (Thaddæus).

SOURCE: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=254&letter=J#ixzz11G7RZWdz

In other words, the Jewish Encyclopedia says that Nicodemus is probably one of the five disciples killed in the Talmud.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 10:31:57 PM by rakovsky » Logged
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