I think there's a pretty popular conspiracy theory supposedly based on a censored Midrash that Paul was sent by the Sanhedrin to revolutionize Christianity in order to fully differentiate it from Judaism. Originally the early Christians were hard to distinguish from regular Jews, until Paul came on the scene.

Is this a Midrash? What's the earliest source to this legend.

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    Well it couldn't have been the Sanhedrin as they were out of business by then.
    – user6591
    Jul 14, 2017 at 17:52
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    I believe it was Simon Peter. geocities.ws/ffbrosends/simon2.JPG (page 2 of an article. Just go into the URL and change the number after "simon" to look at pages 1 and 3 to 9 )
    – rosends
    Jul 14, 2017 at 18:01
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    According to Paul himself, he was a staunch supporter of the Perushim (Chazal) and even a student of R Gamliel Hazaken. he was sent by the Perushim to persecute the Christian sect. On his way to Damascus he had a vision where Jesus supposedly asked him why he is persecuting him. From then on he converted to Christianity. So there is some truth to this claim.
    – Bach
    Jul 14, 2017 at 18:13
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    @user6591 It wasn't issuing death penalties perhaps as it left the Lishkat HaGazit, but it still existed.
    – Double AA
    Jul 16, 2017 at 2:21
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    I don't know about 3 different Jewish midrashes, but in Acts 9, 22, and 26 there are 3 versions of the story of Paul's "conversion experience"that differ in their details. In Acts 9, he sees a light and hears a voice, but the men with him only hear a voice. In Acts 22, the men with him saw a light but did not hear the voice. In Acts 26, only Paul hears the voice and sees the light. Three descriptions of the same event in the same book, differing in critical details-a sure sign of reliability :) Oh yeah, there's a 4th version in Galatians, that doesn't help clear anything up..
    – Gary
    Jul 17, 2017 at 4:13

2 Answers 2


This story can be found in the book תולדות ישו available also available here text here

As well as a fascinating Shiur from Professor Shneur Leiman available online on YUTorah.org here

In the lecture, Prof. Leiman shows that the story can be traced as far back to Rashi, as he points out from censored version of the Gemara that Rashi used the story in Toldot Yeshu to explain a passage in the Gemara.

The implication being that Rashi viewed the story to be authoritative.

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    Which is to say, it's pretty far from being a "real midrash" (whatever that means).
    – magicker72
    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:28
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    That is to say that it goes back as far as Rashi, which Prof. Leiman eminently points out in the Shiur Jul 16, 2017 at 6:29
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    The OP didn't ask for the provenance of the story, but whether it was a "real midrash", and if there's any validity to it. Stating that it appeared in a polemic storybook without providing any more details doesn't really answer the question.
    – magicker72
    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:32
  • @magicker72 how can one prove if it has "validity". I can st least point to sources that shown they rashi believed it to be valid. To the extent that he explained a Gemara according to it. Jul 16, 2017 at 6:33
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    The first question is a great one... to ask the OP! For your second statement: if you have such sources, perhaps you could add them to your answer.
    – magicker72
    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:34

Shoel U'meishiv has definitely been correct in identifying Rashi as one of the earliest main sources for this Jewish legend. But since he failed to cite Rashi in full I decided to do just that (and included a translation as well) so that it is readily available to everyone. The following censored text of Rashi has already been included in the notes of all new editions of the Talmud (vagshal, oz ve'hadar), maseches Avodah Zara 10a,

Rashi explains an ambiguous text of the Talmud about Edom/Rome,

בזוי אתה מאד: שאין להן לא כתב ולא לשון

‘You are a lowly nation’ (Obadiah 1:2): That they don’t have their own script or language.

Rashi goes on to explain the above text:

כתב ולשון: אחרים תיקנו להם כל ספרי טעותם, יוחנן, פאולוס, פיטרו'; והם יהודים היו. לשון: הוא גראמטיקא, הוא הלטין שמדברים בו הגלחים. הם שנו ועקמו (ש"נ עמקו) הלשון ועשן להם הבל לחשבם בפני עצמם ולסלקם מעל ישראל; ולא שכפרו, כי לטובתן של ישראל נתכוונו; אלא מפני שראו ישראל בצער ובדוחק מתרמיתי ישו, עשו עצמם כאלו הם עמו בקדישות, וצוו עליהם הכל כמפורש בספור תליית ישו.

Ketav ve’Lashon: Others have given them (Christians) all their books of folly: John, Paul, Peter; and they were all Jews. Lashon: That is the Latin language that the bishops are fluent with. They (the apostles mentioned before) changed their language and created folly for them so that would become a new nation and in order to separate them from the Jews; not because they abandoned their faith, only for the benefit of the Jewish people did they do it; because they saw that the Jews were in a dread and distress from the student of Jesus[1], so they made themselves look as if they were with him […] [2] and commanded them etc., as is recounted in the book teliyas Yeshu [3].

[1] Rashi uses a play on words and writes תרמיתי ישו (fraudsters of Jesus) instead of תלמידי ישו (students of Jesus) thereby making it clear that they were nothing more than fraudsters (תרמית).

[2] The Hebrew word here קדישות is ambiguous and unclear, so I did not incorporate into my translation.

[3] Lit. The Crucifixion of Jesus; however, it is widely accepted that this is a reference to the book Toledot Yeshu (Biography of Jesus).

It should be noted, however, that there are many reasons to doubt the authorship of this text, and I list them here:

  • This Rashi is not found in any of the earlier editions or manuscripts of the Talmud. It is found only in the first edition of Ain Yaakov (Dikdukei Sofrim's only source). This should be a good enough reason to raise some doubts about its authorship and whether Rashi actually wrote it, or it is an insertion by a student from a later generation.
  • It is extremely un-Rashi like to go out of his way to elaborate on the origins of Christianity; especially, in this case where it is completely unnecessary for the understanding of the Talmudic text.
  • From Tosfos' question (ibid) it is clear that they were unaware of this Rashi.

These problems should raise some red flags to the serious scholar who is interested in knowing the real authorship of this text.


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