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Birkat haMinim: Jews and Christians in Conflict in the Ancient World (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism

jan peczkis|Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The core of BIRKAT HAMINIM derives from the Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 28b-29a). (p. 2). It was written in the Yavneh period, after the Second Temple, and was presented as a BARAITA, which included the obligation to say it as a whole, and without any mistake. This, in turn, implied that it had a special status. (p. 3)

The Ancient Jewish Curse That Included Christians as Its Target. Jesus in the Talmud Affirmed (Some Censored Passages Restored), January 15, 2017


Teppler quotes this blessing/curse as follows: For the apostates let there be no hope and the NOTZRIM and the MINIM perish in an instant may they be blotted out of the Book of Life and not inscribed with the righteous Blessed are You, Lord [who] humbles the arrogant. (unquote). (p. 23).


Teppler introduces this subject as follows, (quote) From its text, we may surmise that when it was written, BIRKAT HAMINIM was a curse directed against some group…As already noted, there is wide agreement among scholars that BIRKAT HAMINIM relates to the stage when Christianity separated from Judaism. (unquote). (p. 4).

The author continues, (quote) Justin Martyr from Flavia Neapolis [Schechem], write a polemical work against Judaism in the middle of the second century CE, where he mentions several times that the Jews curse the Christians in their synagogues. This is the first evidence of its sort from the Christian side, and we may presume that it is a roundabout mention or allusion to BIRKAT HAMINIM. (unquote). (p. 5). He adds that, (quote) Even if Justin did not relate explicitly to BIRKAT HAMINIM, the blessing was in fact being said in his day. (unquote). (p. 163).

Clearly, then, the BIRKAT HAMINIM was not some kind of expression of Jewish pain and anger in the face of Christian persecution. It originated long before Christianity was even in a position to persecute Jews!


Teppler comments, (quote) The ruling opinion among scholars about the identity of the MINIM in the first centuries CE sees them above all as Jewish-Christian sects. (p. 29). However, he adds that, “…in general the relation of the rabbis to the MINIM was more to Christians, and less to an esoteric sectarian phenomenon like the Jewish-Christians.” (p. 280).

Teppler adds, (quote) Jerome, in the fourth century, is even closer to those of our conclusions which relate to his time. Jerome claims three times that the Jews curse the Christians under the name NOTZRIM. In contrast, in another source, Jerome says that in synagogues in the East there is a sect called MINIM among the Jews. This sect is rejected by the Pharisees, and is also called NOTZRIM by the Jews. Jerome’s different use of words in his different works does not necessarily mean that he was confusing terms or contradicting himself. In the situation in the fourth century, these two things could have existed side by side, as we have seen in the Jewish sources. (unquote). (p. 163).

Yaakov Y. Teppler concludes, (quote) There can be no doubt that Justin knew BIRKAT HAMINIM and saw it as a curse against Christianity in general. The tannaim constructed BIRKAT HAMINIM against the MINIM, and as we have seen, this included all the Christian manifestations, including Jewish Christianity, pagan Christianity and all the others. (unquote). (p. 357). Furthermore, (quote) The evidence of Epiphanius and Jerome, of a curse which is said three times a day against Christianity, under the title of “Nazarenes/NOTZRIM”, is an exact description of BIRKAT HAMINIM in the fourth century, when “MINIM” became a wide-ranging term, while “NOTZRIM” was used specifically to curse Christianity in BIRKAT HAMINIM for religious and political reasons. (unquote). (p. 359).

By about 1000 AD, with the Jewish-Christian sects having virtually died out, the term NOTZRIM was all the more unquestionably used by Jews to refer to Christianity in general. (p. 28).


Teppler remarks, in allusion to Berakhot 17b; Sanhedrin 43a; 150A; 107b, and in the context of a discussion about ben Pantira [ben Pandera], as follows, (quote) In the source under discussion in the Babylonian Talmud, we find the title Jesus of Nazareth [HaNotzri]. (p. 288). Elsewhere, Teppler elaborates, (quote) Berakhot 17b: “such as Jesus the NOTZRI”; Sanhedrin 43a: “On Passover eve they hanged him, Jesus the NOTZRI”; ib103a: “You should not have a child or pupil who misapplies his learning [lit: spoils his food] in public like Jesus the NOTZRI”; ibid.107b: “And not like Joshua ben Perahyah who went to Jesus the NOTZRI with outstretched arms.” (unquote). (p. 48).

In citing the foregoing, Teppler cites, and thereby implicitly endorses, the conclusions of Travers-Herford and His CHRISTIANITY IN TALMUD AND MIDRASH (London, 1903). (p. 48).


Teppler comments (quote) BIRKAT HAMINIM was still recognized as relating to Christianity by the Jewish rabbinical commentators of the Middle Ages such as Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, Rashi and the Rambam. Thus the foundation was laid which has guided most of the scholars who have dealt with the identity of the MINIM, in spite of the fact that Jewish apologetics of the later Middle Ages attempted from understandable motives to hide the anti-Christian polemic on both the Talmudic literature and the SIDDUR/prayer-book. (unquote). (p. 2; See also p. 231).


For further study of the BIRKAT HAMINIM, please click on [and read my detailed review] of Cursing the Christians?: A History of the Birkat HaMinim.
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