Zutot 2003 pp 16-25 | Cite as

The Poetical Qualities of The Apostle Peter in Jewish Folktale

  • Wout van Bekkum
Part of the Zutot: Perspectives on Jewish Culture book series (ZUTO, volume 3)


Jewish Pope Prayer Book Episodic Work Unleavened Bread Christian Story 
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  1. 1.
    ’simon the apostle’ is mentioned in Judah ha-Levi’s Kuzari as the first law-giver of Christianity: D.H. Baneth, ed., Kitāb al-Radd wa-’l-Dalīl fī’ l-Dīn al-Dhalīl (Al-Kitāb al-Khazarī). The Book of Refutations and Proof on the Despised Faith (The Book of the Khazars) known as The Kuzari (Jerusalem 1977) 7.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Beth ha-Midrasch, Sammlung kleiner Midraschim und vermischter Abhandlungen aus der älteren jüdischen Literatur (Vienna 1873/Jerusalem 1938) V, 60ff., VI, 9ff., 155f. A possible fourth version with Elijah or Paul as the dominant character in the story (Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch VI, 11–14) has been omitted from the discussion here; cf. J.H. Greenstone, ‘Jewish Legends about Simon-Peter’, Historia Judaica 12 (1950) 89–104.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    New York 1928, no. 557.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This third version is re-edited in G. Schlichting, Einjüdisches Leben Jesu, Die verschollene Toledot Jeschu-Fassung Tam u-mu’ad (Tübingen 1982) 179–187, 225–228. NB: It is generally believed that each of these three versions appeared as a kind of appendix to Toldot Yeshu. Their origin is unclear. On the versions of the Simon-Peter legend and their editions, cf. Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch VI, xf, and S. Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach juedischen Quellen, Berlin 1902, 177–180.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    W. Horbury, A Critical Examination of the Toldoth Jeshu (Ph.D. Cambridge 1971); S. Krauss, The Jewish-Christian Controversy from the Earliest Times to 1789, =revised edition by W. Horbury, in Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 56 (1996) section iii (The Jewish Polemists of the Middle Ages) 201–261; idem, Jews and Christians in Contact and Controversy (Edinburgh 1998); idem, ‘Hebrew apologetic and polemical literature’, in N. de Lange, ed., Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World (Cambridge 2001) 189–209.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    In Hebrew, parsah — ‘parasang’, ‘mile’. In Toldot Yeshu these words are attributed to John: ‘If a Jew orders one of you to go for him on a message, say to him: “I am ready to go many miles!”’Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Literally in Hebrew: she-yokhlu skharam ba-’olam ha-zeh.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Matt. 5:39. This saying is also attributed to John in Toldot Yeshu: ‘If a Jew hits you on one cheek, turn to him the other cheek so that he will hit you again!’Google Scholar
  9. 13.
  10. 14.
    Note the peculiar combination of the names, a combination of Rabbi Abba Saul (late first century and third generation of Tannaites, a contemporary of Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel II) and the name of the apostle Paul who was formerly called Saul (Acts 13:9).Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Ezek. 20:25.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    In Hebrew: pitteram–‘he exempted them’; J.K. Elliott, ‘Kephas, Simon Petros, ho Petros, An Examination of New Testament Usage’, Novum Testamentum 14 (1972) 241–256.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    These are generic terms for the hymns inserted into the benedictions of the Shema and the Amidah. Kalir is Eleazar birabbi Qillir, the greatest composer within the classical Palestinian school of Piyyut, cf. L.J. Weinberger, Jewish Hymnography, A Literary History (London 1998) 42–49.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Lev. 16:21.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    S. Légasse, ‘La légende juive des Apôtres et les rapports judéo-chrétiens dans le haut Moyen Age’, Bulletin de Litterature Ecclesiastique 75 (1974) 99–132; Ram Ben-Shalom considers the figure of Peter as the first literary-mythic expression of the converted Jewish apostate and an instance of mitzvah ha-ba’ah ba-’averah (‘fulfilling a commandment through transgression’), in ‘The Converso as Subversive: Jewish Traditions or Christian Libel?’, JJS 50.2 (1999) 259–283. See also E. Yassif, The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning (Jerusalem 1994) 334ff. (Hebrew), (Bloomington and Indianapolis 1998) 306ff. (English translation).Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Livorno 1856, 7; E.D. Goldschmidt, On Jewish Liturgy, Essays on Prayer and Religious Poetry (Jerusalem 1980) 82, 110, 149.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    L. Zunz, Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie (Berlin 1865, reprint Hildesheim 1966) 5: ‘Im zwölften Jahrhundert ward Simon Kefa oder Petrus als Verfasser des alfabetischen Gebetes Etten Tehilla genannt.’ some traditions refer to Simon Cephas as the author of the Nishmat prayer, cf. D. Oppenheim, ‘Ueber den Verfasser des Nischmath und das Alter der Piutim‘, MGWJ (1861) 212–224; S.Z. Leiman, ‘The Scroll of Fasts-the Ninth of Tebeth’, JQR 74 (1983) 174–195.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Cf. A. Mirski, Yosse ben Yosse, Poems (Jerusalem 1977) 173–178, 178–203.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrasch V, 148, VI, 137ff. The historical ‘Jewish Pope’ was elected in 1130 as Anaclet II. His original name was Petrus Pierleoni. The Pierleoni family had converted from Judaism to Christianity almost a century before under Leo IX, and thereafter they used their fortune acquired in banking to support the reform popes, cf. M. Stroll, The Jewish Pope, Ideology and Politics in the Papal Schism of 1130 (Leiden 1987) xivf.; D.L. Lerner, ‘The Enduring Legend of the Jewish Pope‘, Judaism 40.1 (1991) 148–170. On the Messiah’s coming to Rome and his encounter with the pope, cf. M. Idel, Messianic Mystics (New Haven/London 1998) 97f.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Maisebuch, edition Basel 1602; Jakob Meitlis, Das Ma‘assebuch, seine Entstehung und Quellengeschichte zugleich ein Beitrag zur Einführung in die altjiddische agada (Berlin 1933) 121-126, 133; M. Gaster, Ma‘aseh Book, Book of Jewish Tales and Legends Translated from the Judeo-German (Philadelphia 1934) 410–418; I. Zinberg, Di Geshichte fun der Literatur bei Jiden VI (Vilna 1935) 221–225; Ben-Shalom, ‘The Converso as Subversive’, 277, n. 81.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    Compare H.G. Enelow, ‘Andreas’, J.E. I (New York/London 1901) 579; A.H. Habermann, The Liturgical Poems of Shim‘on bar Yitzhak (Berlin/Jerusalem 1938); G. Schlichting, Ein jüdisches Leben Jesu, no. 12, 12-14; E. Hollender,’ synagogale Hymnen, Qedushta’ot des Simon b. Isaak im Amsterdam Mahsor’, Judentum und Umwelt 55 (Frankfurt am Main 1994) 21f.; L. Raspe, ‘Payyetanim as Heroes of Medieval Folk Narrative: The Case of R. Shim‘on b. Yishaq of Mainz’, in: K. Hermann, et al., eds, Jewish Studies Between the Disciplines. Judaistik zwischen den Disziplinen, Papers in Honor of Peter Schaefer on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday (Leiden/Boston 2003) 354–369, esp. 359 n. 18.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wout van Bekkum
    • 1
  1. 1.Rijksuniversiteit GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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