by Alfred Edersheim
Philologos Religious Online Books
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
HAGGADAH ABOUT SIMEON KEPHA (LEGEND OF SIMON PETER.)
()pyk Nw(m#d )tdg) -- Book III. ch. 37.)
THIS Haggadah exists in four different Recensions (comp. Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrash, Pt. V. and Pt. VI., pp. ix. x). The first of these, reproduce by Jellinek (u. s. Pt. V. p. xxvi. &c., and pp. 60-62) was first published by Wagenseil in his collection of Antichristian writings, the Tela Ignea SatanŠ, at the close that blasphemous production, the Sepher Toledoth Jeshu (pp. 19-24). The second Recension is that by Huldrich (Leyden 1705); the third has been printed, as is inferred, at Breslau in 1824; while the fourth exists only in MS. Dr. Jellinek has substantially reproduced (without the closing sentences) the text of Wagenseil's (u. s. Pt. V.), and also Recensions III. and IV. (u. s. Pt. VI.). He regards Recension IV. as the oldest; but we infer from its plea against the abduction of Jewish children by Christians and against forced baptisms, as well as from the use of certain expressions, that Recension IV. is younger than the text of Waggenseil, which seems to present the legend in its most primitive form. Even this, however, appears a mixture of several legends; or perhaps the original may afterwards have been interpolated. It were impossible to fix even approximately the age of this Christianity in Rome, and that of the Papacy, though it seems to contain older elements. It may be regarded as embodying certain ancient legends among the Jews about St. Peter, but adapted to later times, and cast in an apologetic form. A brief criticism of the document will best follow an abstract of the text, according to the first or earlier Recension.
The text begins by a notice that the strife between the Nazarenes and the Jews had grown to such proportions that they separated, since any Nazarene who saw a Jew would kill him. Such became the misery for thirty years, that the Nazarenes increased to thousands and myriads, and prevented the Jew from going up to the feast of Jerusalem. And distress was as great as at the time of the Golden Calf. And still the opposing faith increased, and twelve wicked men went out, who traversed the twelve kingdoms. And they prophesied false prophecies in the camp, and they misled Israel, and they were men of reputation, and strengthened the faith of Jesus, for they said that they were the Apostles of the Crucified. And they drew to themselves a large number from among the children of Israel. On this the text describes, how the sages in Israel were afflicted and humbled themselves, each confessing to his neighbour the sins which had brought this evil, and earnestly asking of God to give them direction how to arrest the advance of Nazarene doctrine and persecution. As they finished their prayer, up rose an elder from their midst, whose name was Simeon Kepha, who had formerly put into requisition the Bath Kol and said: 'Hearken to me, my brethren and my people! If my words are good in your sight, I will separate those sinners from the congregation of the children of Israel, and they shall have neither part nor inheritance in the midst of Israel, if only you take upon you the sin. And they all answered and said: We will take upon us the sin, if only thou wilt do what thou hast said.' Upon this, the narrative proceeds, Peter went into the Sanctuary, wrote the Ineffable Name, and inserted it in his flesh. Having learnt the Ineffable Name, he went to the metropolis ('metroplin') of the Nazarenes, and proclaimed that every believer in Christ should come to him, since he was an Apostle. The multitudes required that he should prove his claim by a sign ('oth') such as Jesus had done while He was alive, when Peter, through the power of the Ineffable Name, restored a leper, by laying on of hands, and raised the dead. When the Nazarenes saw this, they fell on their faces, and acknowledged his Apostolate. Then Peter delivered this as his message, first bidding them swear to do as he would command: 'know (said he) that the Crucified hated Israel and their law, as Isaiah prophesied: "Your new moons and your feasts my soul hateth;" know also, that he delighteth not in Israel, as Hosea prophesied, "You are not my people." And although it is in His power to extirpate them from the world in a moment, from out of every place, yet He does not purpose to destroy them, but intends to leave them, in order that they be in memory of His Crucifixion and lapidation to all generations. Besides, know that He bore all those great sufferings and afflictions to redeem you from Gehenna. And now He admonishes and commands you, that you should do no evil to the Jews: and if a Jews says to a Nazarene, "Go with me one parasang" (Persian mile about three English miles), let him go with him two parasangs. And if a Jew smites him on the left check, let him present to him also the right cheek, in order that they may have their reward in this world, while in the next they will be punished in Gehenna. And if you do thus, you will deserve to sit with Him in Feast of the Passover, but observe the day of His death. And instead of the Feast of Pentecost observe the forty days from the time that He was slain to when He went up into heaven. And instead of the Feast of Tabernacles observe the day of His birth, and on the eighth day after His birth observe that on which He was circumcised.'
To these commands all agreed, on condition that Peter should remain with them. This he consented to do, on the understanding that he would not eat anything except bread of misery and water of affliction - presumably not only to avoid forbidden food, but in expiatory suffering for his sin - and that they should build him a tower in the midst of the city, in which he would remain unto the day of his death, all which provisions were duly carried out. It is added, that in this tower he served the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is still stranger, it is added, that he wrote many Piutim, a certain class of liturgical poems which form apart of the Synagogue service - and that he sent these throughout all Israel to be in perpetual memory of him, and especially that he despatched them to the Rabbis. The remark is the more noteworthy, as other Jewish writers also describe the Apostle Peter as the author of several liturgical poems, of which one is still repeated in the Synagogue on Sabbaths and Feast-days (comp. Jellinek, Beth ha-Midr., part v., p. 61, note). But to return. Peter is said to have remained in that tower for six years, when he died, and by his direction was buried within the tower. But the Nazarenes raised there a great fabric, 'and this tower may be seen in Rome, and they call it Peter, which is the word for a stone, because he sat on a stone till the day of his death. But after his death another person named Elijah came, in the wickedness and cunning of his heart to mislead them. And he said to them Simon had deceived them, for that Jesus had commanded him to tell them: it had not come into His heart to despise the Law of Moses; that if any one wished to circumcise, he should circumcise; but if any one did not wish to be circumcised, let him be immersed in foul waters. And even if he were not immersed, he would not thereby be in danger in the world. And he commanded that they should not observe the seventh day, but only the first day, because on it were created the heavens and the earth. And he made to them many statutes which were not good. But the people asked him: Give us a true sign that Jesus hath sent thee. And he said to them: What is the sign that you seek? And the word had not been out of his own mouth when a great stone of immense weight fell and crushed his head. So perish all Thine enemies, O God, but let them that love Thee be as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength!'
Thus far what we regard as the oldest Recension. The chief variations between this and the others are, that in the third Recension the opponent of Peter is called Abba Shaul (St. John also is mentioned; Jellinek, u. s. part vi., p. 156), while in the fourth Recension (in MS.), which consists of nineteen chapters, this opponent is called Elijah. In the latter Recension there is mention of Antioch and Tiberias, and other places connected with the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the early history of the Church. But the occurrence of certain Romanic words, such as Papa, Vescova, &c., shows its later date. Again, we mark that, according to Recensions III. and IV., Peter sent his liturgical pieces to Babylon, which may either indicate that at the time of the document 'Babylon' was the centre of the Jewish population, or else be a legendary reminiscence of St. Peter's labours in 'the Church that is in Babylon' (1 Pet. v. 13). In view of modern controversies it is of special interest that, according to the Jewish legend, Peter, secretly a Jew, advised the Christians to throw off completely the law of Moses, while Paul, in opposition to him, stands up for Israel and the Law, and insists that either circumcision or baptism may be practised. It will be further noted, that the object of the document seems to be: 1st, to serve as an 'apology' for Judaism, by explaining how it came that so many Jews, under the leadership of Apostles, embraced the new faith. This seems to be traced to the continued observance of Jewish legal practices by the Christians. Simon Peter is supposed to have arrested the progress of Christianity by separating the Church from the Synagogue, which he did by proclaiming that Israel were rejected, and the Law of Moses abolished. On the other hand, St. Paul is represented as the friend of the Jews, and as proclaiming that the question of circumcision or baptism, of legal observances or Christian practices, was a matter of influences. This attempt to heal the breach between the Church and the Synagogue had been the cause of Divine judgment on him. 2ndly, The legend is intended as an apology for the Jews, with a view to ward off persecution. 3rdly, It is intended to show that the leaders of the Christians remained in heart Jews. It will perhaps not be difficult - at least, hypothetically - to separate the various legends mixed up, or perhaps interpolated in the tractate. From the mention of the Piutim and the ignorance as to their origin, we might be disposed to assign the composition of the legend in its present form to about the eighth century of our era.