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A Summary of an article: Discussing the conclusion of James Tabor related to the relationship between Jesus Pantera and Abdes Pantera, and presenting a new model for this relationship (Jan 2023).
James Tabor has a conclusion in his informative book “The Jesus Dynasty”. He noticed a reference for a tombstone in Germany that was dedicated to a Roman soldier from Sidon with the name “Abdes Pantera”. This immediately grabbed the attention of Tabor and he started studying it. One of his conclusions in the book was that this soldier might be the true biological father of Jesus.
Although I totally don’t agree with this conclusion (metaphysically or historically), but still, all of his conclusions represented about 30% of the book, while the other 70% were high quality of information, which made the book valuable.
However, I am going to draw the attention to new information that could probably allow me to present an improved model.
We will start by clarifying the conclusion of James Tabor in section A#, then we will present the new model in section B#.
A1# A tombstone has been discovered in Germany for the memory of a Roman soldier. The inscription in this stone gives the following information about him:
# His name is: Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera.
# He was from Sidon.
# He was 62 years old when he died.
# He served in the army for 40 years.
# His unit was “Cohors I Sagittariorum”
Also, it seems that he died in the mid of the first century (about 50AD).
A2# Tabor used the following process to present his conclusion:
1# Many People knew that Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus (based on Mark 6:3 and John 8:41).
2# Jesus has been named Jesus ben Pantera in the Palestinian Talmud.
3# Jesus did make a private visit in Sidon (Mark 7:24) which does suggest that Jesus has close relatives there.
4# It is possible that Abdes was stationed near Nazareth at the time of Jesus birth.
5# Because the surname of Abdes and the surname of Jesus are similar, and because the possibility that Abdes was in the area at the time of Jesus birth, then the conclusion here is that Abdes might have been the biological father of Jesus.
A3# Let us discuss this subject point per point:
3.1# In Mark 6:3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? (ESV).
This line is actually the main key in the model I am going to present here. Let us discuss the social naming norms in the Palestinian villages today (which I can argue that it isn’t different from the social naming norms 2000 years ago): if the parents (and let us call them Ali and Mary) were from different villages, then the maternal relatives will socially refer to the son (and let his name be Hassan) by his mother name as Hassan eben Mary (eben is the Arabic dialect word for “son”). This is not a disrespectful gesture toward the father, but the maternal relatives know the mother much more than the father (because the father is from a different village), therefore it is easier for them to socially refer to the son as Hassan eben Mary. The paternal relatives will socially refer to the son as: Hassan eben Ali.
After 50 years from the death of Hassan, the relatives would probably refer to him formally with his first name and the surname.
So, the line in Mark 6:3 doesn’t really imply that the people didn’t know the father of Jesus, but simply it can imply that Joseph (or Joseph father) was originally from a different village, and then settled later in Nazareth.
A3.2# in John 8:39-41: “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” (NIV)
If we sever these words (“We are not illegitimate children”) from the context then it could imply an indirect attack toward Jesus, but the context doesn’t imply that. Jesus is actually attacking them: He is saying that they are not the sons of Abraham but they are the sons of someone else. They replied that they are not illegitimate children; to enforce that they belong to Abraham. I can add here that this might be a trap for Jesus, because if Jesus followed them in their statement and said that they are “illegitimates” then probably they would be able to sue Jesus for this accusation.
Nonetheless, the context here doesn’t support the idea that they were indirectly accusing Jesus of being an illegitimate son.
A3.3# Morality was one of the main subjects in Jesus missionary. If people thought that there was something abnormal in the birth of Jesus, then Jesus would face a constant and damaging reminder in every argument with his opponents. But this didn’t happen. Therefore, the birth of Jesus (according to the people at that time) was normal and similar to all other legitimate births.
Furthermore, if people thought that there was something abnormal in the birth of Jesus, then it would be a very serious scandal for “James the Just” who was the leader of the Christians for about 30 years.
Also, The Palestinian Talmud was compiled in Galilee about 100AD, and it has multiple accounts related to Jesus. In these accounts, Jesus has only been regarded as heretic, and there is no mention or mocking about his birth. The Babylonian Talmud is the book that mocked Jesus about his birth, but it was compiled much later after the Palestinian Talmud (credits to Tabor for highlighting these points).
Therefore, the people in Palestine (until about 100AD) regarded the birth of Jesus to be normal and legitimate. Therefore, the people at that time regarded Joseph to be the biological father of Jesus.
A4# As said before, Jesus has been mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud in multiple accounts. In one of these accounts, he was named Yeshu ben Pandera. This name wasn’t mentioned in defamation. Therefore, we can conclude that “ben Pandera” was Jesus known surname.
Pandera (or more accurately Pantera) is a Greek name which is now associated with the word “Panther”, but at that time, Pantera was a legendary creature that resembles a big cat with a multicolored hide.
Tabor has pointed out in his book (page 69) that an ossuary has been discovered near Jerusalem in 1891AD which has a name in Greek: “Joseph Pentheros”. This can provide a good support for the hypothesis that Pantera (Pandera, Pentheros) was an existing Jewish surname in Palestine.
A5# Abdes does seem to be a Semitic name.
A6# In Palestine today, the large village will have many small villages clustered around it. I can assume that the large Palestinian villages 2000 years ago have the same phenomenon. Yafia was the largest village in Galilee (according to Josephus). So, I can assume that there were many small villages clustered around it including Nazareth, which was about 3km from Yafia.
These large villages at the old times didn’t have the ability to expand geographically. Therefore, I expect that many of the new generations in this large village (i.e. Yafia) would settle down in one of the small villages around, or they even might start their own new small village.
A7# The general direction of immigration is from the villages to the cities and not the other way round.
B# With the above notes, we can present the following assumptions that represent a specific model:
B1# People in Nazareth referred to Jesus as “Jesus ben Mary” because Mary was from Nazareth, but Joseph was a stranger (A3.1#).
Therefore, we can assume that Joseph (or his father) was from a different village and then he settled later in Nazareth.
B3# Joseph can be from any village around, but taking note A6#, then we can say that the probability of Joseph to be from Yafia is more than the probability of the other villages.
B4# Mark have mentioned that Jesus made a private visit to some people in vicinity of Sidon (A2#.3), which could indicate that Jesus had close relatives there.
B5# From note A7#, the probability of Jesus large family to be from Galilee, and some of them settled later in Sidon is much higher than the probability that Jesus large family originated from Sidon.
Therefore, we can conclude that a member of Jesus large family settled in Sidon, and he helped other members to settle there as well.
B6# By notes B4# & B5#, we can conclude that an uncle or an aunt of Jesus did settle in Sidon and Jesus was obliged to visit them as he passed nearby.
B7# Jesus surname is Pantera (A4#) and Abdes surname is also Pantera. Jesus did have close relatives in the vicinity of Sidon, and Abdes is from Sidon. These similarities would also increase the probability that Abdes and Jesus were from the same paternal family.
Therefore, this soldier would probably be a paternal cousin to Jesus.
If we want to include the metaphysics, then Abdes would be a close of distant paternal cousin to Joseph.
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