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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 08:12 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 03:24 PM.
    Michael Hanel
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    MA Classics Washington University
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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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    Thanks Michael. Unfortunately, it seems that Balfour doesn't identify an original (primary) source from which he gets this either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ISalzman View Post
    Thanks Michael. Unfortunately, it seems that Balfour doesn't identify an original (primary) source from which he gets this either.
    Correct, but if it were the source of Barclay it would explain why he doesn't give any source, because the place he grabbed it from also didn't have it.

    For the future I will simply tell others this quotation is false until someone can show me where it really is found. But even if it were found, it's too easily misused by modern-day folks.
    Michael Hanel
    PhD candidate Classics Univ. of Cincinnati
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    MA Classics Washington University
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    This conversation reminds me of this quotation from R. D. Wilson, who was fluent in 45 languages and dialects --

    "I remember that some years ago I was investigating the word 'Baca,' which you have in the English Bible -- "passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well." I found in the Hebrew dictionary that there was a traveller named Burkhart, who said that 'Baca' meant mulberry trees. That was not very englightening. I could not see how mulberries had anything to do with water. I looked up all the authority of the scholars in Germany and England since Burkhart's time and found they all quoted Burkhart! Just one scholar at the back of it! When I was travelling in the Orient, I found that we had delicious water here and there. The water sprang up apparently out of the ground in the midst of the desert. I asked my brother who was a missionary where this water came from. He said, 'They bring the water from the mountains. It is an underground aqueduct. They cover it to prevent it from evaporating.' Now the name of that underground aqueduct was Baca!" R. D. Wilson, What Is An Expert

    You can find more quotes and info on R. D. Wilson here --

    http://lamblion.net/Quotations/rd_wilson.htm
    http://lamblion.net/Articles/ScottJo..._testament.htm

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