Date: Fri Aug 15 1997 - 11:43:59 EDT

In answer to Trevor Peterson"s query about Panthera, the supposed (by
hostile Jewish tradition? - Bienert finds this perhaps questionable
[see below]) father of Jesus, I think the following
references might prove useful. They are to be found in W.
Schneemelcher (ed.) *New Testament Apocrypha* (Rev., trans. R. McL Wilson),
vol. 1 (Cambridge: James Clark, 1991):

1. Oscar Cullman, in his section on the *Infancy Gospels* (pp.
414ff.), notes the following:

"An answer had also to be given to Jewish attacks based on older
accounts of the virgin birth. The Jews had spread abroad the idea
that Jesus was the illegitimate child of a soldier called Panthera
(NTApoHdb, pp. 47ff.; H. Strack, *Jesus, die Haeretiker u. die
Christen nach den aeltest. jued. Angaben*, 1910; cf. also below, pp.
424f., 484, 501 f. [see below]. In the face of such slanders, at
which Matthew already seems to hint, the virgin birth through mary
had to be demonstrated more palpably by means of a special narrative.
The discreet allusions in matthew and Luke no longer sufficed" (p. 417)

2. Wolfgang A. Bienert, in his section on *The Relatives of Jesus*
(pp. 470ff.) notes the following:

"The peculiar marriage-like relationship between joseph and mary, as
it developed in the further tradition, gave rise to new problems. It
is probably also the reason for the story, attested by the pagan
anti-Christian author Celsus (about 178) and probbaly deriving from
Jewish polemic, of Joseph the deceived husband who puts away his
young wife - her name is not mentioned - because of her adultery
(Origen, *c. Cels.* I.32f.; 69) and his mother a poor working girl
who finally brought her child into the world in some obscure place."
(p. 484)

3. Bienert also talks of a compounding problem:

"A special problem is posed by the statement in Epiphanius (*Pan*
78.7.5) that Jacob, Jesus' grandfather, had the surname 'Panther'.
According to Eusebius (*Ecl. Proph.* III.10) this statement was made
with slanderous and defamatory intent (cf. also Cesus in origen, *c.
Cels. I.32f.; 69). How far Jewish traditions played a apart here, as
is often assumed, is a debated question." (p. 487)

4. Finally, Felix Scheidweiler, in his introduction to *The Gospel of
Nicodemus, acts of Pilate and Christ's descent into Hell* (pp.

[On the *Acts of Pilate*] "In chapter 2 it is asserted by the mass of
the Jews that Jesus was born of fornication. Some devout Jews seek to
refute this by referring to the fact that they had been present
(probably as witnesses to the marriage) when Mary was married to
Joseph. if this reference means anything at all, then the thought
behind it must be that if Mary before her marriage had entered into
relations with anyone else, then even if the consequences were not
yet visible in her bodily constitution there wuld at least have been
a rumour in circulation about it, and in that case Joseph would have
renounced the marriage. In this way, then, the mother of Jesus is
defended against the reproach of premarital intercourse. When Celsus
about 178 wrote his polemic agaianst the Christians, the charge the
Jews brought agianst mary had already become adultery. The more
extreme form of the Panthera story must, however, have been preceded
by the milder charge of premarital relationships. Possibly it was
already current when the list of Jesus' ancestors in the Gospel of
Matthew was compiled, for the original concluding sentence, preserved
in the Synaitic Syriac, seems directed against it: 'Joseph, to whom
mary was betrothed as a virgin, begat Jesus.' If this is not thecase,
and the slanderous gossip was derived perhaps from Mt 1:18, the
conclusion drawn by a Jew who did not believe in the overshadowing by
the Holy Spirit wuld be that Mary was guilty of premarital
relationships, not of adultery. Our Acts of Pilate thus presupposes
the earlier form of the Panthera story" (pp.501f.).

Hope this is of some use


Chris Montgomery
Provisional PhD
University of Queensland

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