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Thread: Quotation from the Mishnah

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    Default Quotation from the Mishnah

    I am working on a Bible study for Ephesians and I've noticed in numerous places that people allude to a statement from the Mishnah that Jews thought Gentiles' purpose was to be fuel for the fires of hell, but I have yet to see a source actually cite where that comes from. Anyone know about this?

    My intuition is that everyone is just grabbing it from Barclay's works. But I'd rather do my own work. So far though I haven't found any proper attribution.
    Michael Hanel
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    You might check Zohar in Gen. fol. 104. 3.
    Last edited by Lee; 11-13-2010 at 07:12 PM.
    καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι.

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    There is no such statement in the Mishnah and/or the entire Babylonian Talmud. I searched on all of the terms in the alleged quote: fire, fuel, Gentiles, etc. No such statement was returned. To me, this quote is spurious. The Talmud states that all of the wicked - from Israel as well as the Gentile nations - will suffer the torment of Hell. Hell is not for Gentiles only. Unfortunately, Barclay has numerous quotes, which he does not bother to document. To me, Barclay is vastly overrated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ISalzman View Post
    There is no such statement in the Mishnah and/or the entire Babylonian Talmud. I searched on all of the terms in the alleged quote: fire, fuel, Gentiles, etc. No such statement was returned. To me, this quote is spurious. The Talmud states that all of the wicked - from Israel as well as the Gentile nations - will suffer the torment of Hell. Hell is not for Gentiles only. Unfortunately, Barclay has numerous quotes, which he does not bother to document. To me, Barclay is vastly overrated.
    Irving, yes this was exactly my suspicion which is why I was asking. I know it's a lot harder to prove that something doesn't have a source than that it does, but the fact that I could not find an attribution to this anywhere made me almost certain of its non-existence. But just do a google search on the phrase sometime and see how many people quote it like it's a well-documented fact, and one especially finds it in sermons of all things!!
    Michael Hanel
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hanel View Post
    Irving, yes this was exactly my suspicion which is why I was asking. I know it's a lot harder to prove that something doesn't have a source than that it does, but the fact that I could not find an attribution to this anywhere made me almost certain of its non-existence. But just do a google search on the phrase sometime and see how many people quote it like it's a well-documented fact, and one especially finds it in sermons of all things!!
    Michael, I agree. I too did the Google search after having searched the Talmud and Mishnah first and after finding no results there. And I also observed how many people have perpetuated Barclay's quote, sadly oftentimes in sermons. I tend to be very wary of alleged quotes and citations without attribution and/or documented references. Of course, in this case, people could always cite Barclay and his volume where he made the statement. But the problem is that Barclay nowhere identifies a source. That, to me, is problematic. This statement, in particular, could actually provide the fuel for antisemitic sentiment. People could read Barclay, or audiences could hear their pastors quoting Barclay in sermons and think, "Wow, Jews believe that?"

    And then too, that brings up another issue. Suppose one could even locate an obscure similar quote like that one. Suppose in the two thousand years of often difficult church-synagogue relations, one Jewish figure made a statement similar to the one Barclay made. It would not be fair then to turn around and say "Jews believe that ..." That would be no more fair than to say that the pastor in Florida who threatened to have a Quran burning represents all Christians. What if, in the aftermath of the story of that Florida pastor, someone had made the following statement: "Christians believe the Quran should be burned." We would all agree that a statement like that would be absurd and a gross misrepresentation. Same here. And Barclay doesn't even have a source for his statement. But a Google search certainly reveals that Barclay has made a lot of believers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ISalzman View Post
    Michael, I agree. I too did the Google search after having searched the Talmud and Mishnah first and after finding no results there. And I also observed how many people have perpetuated Barclay's quote, sadly oftentimes in sermons. I tend to be very wary of alleged quotes and citations without attribution and/or documented references. Of course, in this case, people could always cite Barclay and his volume where he made the statement. But the problem is that Barclay nowhere identifies a source. That, to me, is problematic. This statement, in particular, could actually provide the fuel for antisemitic sentiment. People could read Barclay, or audiences could hear their pastors quoting Barclay in sermons and think, "Wow, Jews believe that?"

    And then too, that brings up another issue. Suppose one could even locate an obscure similar quote like that one. Suppose in the two thousand years of often difficult church-synagogue relations, one Jewish figure made a statement similar to the one Barclay made. It would not be fair then to turn around and say "Jews believe that ..." That would be no more fair than to say that the pastor in Florida who threatened to have a Quran burning represents all Christians. What if, in the aftermath of the story of that Florida pastor, someone had made the following statement: "Christians believe the Quran should be burned." We would all agree that a statement like that would be absurd and a gross misrepresentation. Same here. And Barclay doesn't even have a source for his statement. But a Google search certainly reveals that Barclay has made a lot of believers!
    You're completely preaching to the choir and that is precisely the point I would have made were I faced with evidence that this quotation truly exists. It is not helpful to caricature all people because of the viewpoint of one or even a few. I think it's fairly well understood that there were problems with Jewish and Gentile relations, but the testimony that the Gentiles have their own court in the Temple is proof not that Jews believed Gentiles were made for hell's fires but that Jews, even if they viewed them differently from themselves, were supposed to have a heart for Gentiles as well. Whether every Jew did this or not is a very different topic. To certain Jews, I'm a sure Gentiles were the "other." To other Jews, I'm sure that Samaritans were. To still other Jews, I'm sure that other sects of Judaism were to them the real enemies.

    Anyway note how quickly the subject of the thought is changed, it's stated in some places that "Jews" believed this, elsewhere that "some of the Jews" did, elsewhere that "Rabbis" taught this, etc. Even if Barclay *were* correct, people have collapsed all nuance of his statement into something that truly is false.


    For what it's worth. I believe I found Barclay's source. Page 308 "The Chaldee paraphrasts [by which they apparently mean any and all Targums, not necessarily Jonathan or Onkelos (see pg 283)] do often mention their expectation of being preserved for the merits or good works of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and their writers add, that 'hell fire hath no power over the sinners of Israel, because Abraham and Isaac descend thither to fetch them thence.... And, 3d, They taught that all Israelites had a portion in the world to come; and that notwithstanding their sins, yea, though they were condemned here for their wickedness: whereas, of all the Gentiles, without exception, they pronounce they are fuel for hell fire."

    I can't say for certain whether that is the source of Barclay, but it is an older book than Barclay's. I don't have the patience to scan through a digital copy of this to see if any kind of a source is stated. But even if it is, this still isn't saying what Barclay said, that Gentiles were created to be fuel for the fires of hell.
    Last edited by Michael Hanel; 11-14-2010 at 02:24 PM.
    Michael Hanel
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    You might check Zohar in Gen. fol. 104. 3.

    Lee, honestly I've ignored your answer because I don't know what it means. If someone tells me see Gen. 4:6 I know what that means, but I don't have a clue what Zohar is or where to find this.
    Michael Hanel
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hanel View Post
    Lee, honestly I've ignored your answer because I don't know what it means. If someone tells me see Gen. 4:6 I know what that means, but I don't have a clue what Zohar is or where to find this.
    I found the reference in Gill's commentary. From his comments on Matthew 8:12, he quotes, "The Jews say, he that studies not in the law in this world, but is defiled with the pollutions of the world, he is taken וישליכו אותו הברה, 'and cast without': this is hell itself, to which such are condemned, who do not study the law.'" The reference he gives is the same I gave.

    The condemnation here referenced does not seem to be limited to Gentiles, but I thought that may have been where Barclay got his idea.

    Here is a link to the Zohar. http://www.sup.org/zohar/
    καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    I found the reference in Gill's commentary. From his comments on Matthew 8:12, he quotes, "The Jews say, he that studies not in the law in this world, but is defiled with the pollutions of the world, he is taken וישליכו אותו הברה, 'and cast without': this is hell itself, to which such are condemned, who do not study the law.'" The reference he gives is the same I gave.

    The condemnation here referenced does not seem to be limited to Gentiles, but I thought that may have been where Barclay got his idea.

    Here is a link to the Zohar. http://www.sup.org/zohar/
    Lee, the quote is certainly not limited to Gentiles; Gentiles are not even, in fact, mentioned in the statement. And that some will be cast into outer darkness is something that Jesus himself stated numerous times in the Gospels. So the assertion that some will be cast into the pit should not, of itself, be offensive to us. But for Barclay - or Balfour before him - to extrapolate from that and claim that Jews believe that Gentiles will fuel the fires of hell is an egregious and gross misquote. It does a great disservice. And comments like Barclay's and/or Balfour's only provide the fuel for the fires of antisemitism. It is sad, to say the least.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hanel View Post
    ... I don't have a clue what Zohar is or where to find this.
    The Zohar is a collection of medieval rabbinic writings that are the core documents of Jewish mysticism. Kabbalah stuff has been big lately because a number of celebrities (eg, Madonna) have dabbled in it. HERE is a fairly concise and accurate description.
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