“Jesus, son of Pantera”

About 177 AD the Greek philosopher Celsus, in his book ‘The True Word’, expressed what appears to have been the consensus Jewish opinion about Jesus, that his father was a Roman soldier called Pantera. ‘Pantera’ means Panther and was a fairly common name among Roman soldiers. The rumor is repeated in the Talmud and in medieval Jewish writings where Jesus is referred to as “Yeshu ben Pantera”.

Pantera's gravestone is the one on the left

In 1859 a gravestone surfaced in Germany for a Roman soldier called Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera, whose unit Cohors I Sagittariorum had served in Judea before Germany – romantic historians have hypothesized this to be Jesus’ father, especially as ‘Abdes’ (‘servant of God’) suggests a Jewish background.

Tib(erius) Iul(ius) Abdes Pantera
Sidonia ann(orum) LXII
stipen(diorum) XXXX miles exs(ignifer?)
coh(orte) I sagittariorum
h(ic) s(itus) e(st)
Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera
from Sidon, aged 62 years
served 40 years, former standard bearer (?)
of the First Cohort of Archers
lies here

The gravestone is now in the Römerhalle museum in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

It appears this First Cohort of Archers moved from Palestine to Dalmatia in 6 AD, and to the Rhine in 9 AD. Pantera came from Sidon, on the coast of Phoenicia just west of Galilee, presumably enlisted locally. He served in the army for 40 years until some time in the reign of Tiberius. On discharge he would have been granted citizenship by the Emperor (and been granted freedom if he had formerly been a slave), and added the Emperor’s name to his own. Tiberius ruled from 14 AD to 37 AD. Pantera’s 40 years of service would therefore have started between 27 BC and 4 BC.

As Pantera would probably have been about 18 when he enlisted, it means he was likely born between 45 BC and 22 BC. He could have been as old as 38 or as young as 15 at the time of Jesus’ conception in the summer of 7 BC.

In 6 AD when Jesus was 12, Judas of Galilee led a popular uprising that captured Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee. The uprising was crushed by the Romans some four miles north of Nazareth. It is possible (and appealing to lovers of historical irony) that Pantera and Joseph fought on opposite sides. As Joseph is never heard of again he may well have been killed in the battle, or have been among the 2,000 Jewish rebels crucified afterwards.

So Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera is indeed a possibility as Jesus’ father. The only thing we know for certain is that Mary’s husband Joseph wasn’t the father, and that Mary was already pregnant when they married. It could have been rape, or Mary may have been a wild young teen who fell for a handsome man in a uniform, even if he was part of an occupying army. It happens.

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13 comments on ““Jesus, son of Pantera”

  1. George LaCas says:

    I always had some doubts about that virgin-birth theory. Interesting historical angles here.

  2. Quote from Wikipedia, “Genealogy of Jesus”:
    “Controversy has surrounded the name Panther, mentioned above, because of a charge that Jesus’ father was a soldier named Pantera. Celsus mentions this in his writing, The True Word, where he is quoted by Origen in Book 1: 32. “But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that “when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera.”[57][58] Epiphanius, in refutation of Celsus, writes that Joseph and Cleopas were sons of “Jacob, surnamed Panther.”[59] Two Talmudic-era texts referring to Jesus as the son of Pantera (Pandera) are Tosefta Hullin 2:22f: “Jacob … came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pantera” and Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3): “Jacob … came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera” and some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud also specifically name Jesus as the son of Pandera:[60] Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/7: “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera”; Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/8: “someone … whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera”; Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/12: “Jacob … came to heal him. He said to him: we will speak to you in the name of Jesus son of Pandera”; Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/13: “Jacob … came in the name of Jesus Pandera to heal him”. Because some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud do not contain the name Jesus in these passages the association is disputed.”

  3. John the Baptist says:

    or Mary could have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus is the perfect sin offerring not born into sin, and able to save the world from sin and final death.

  4. Edmund Leigh says:

    John 3:16 – I am the way, the truth and the light ……….whoever believes in me will have eternal life.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If we are to believe that Jesus did exist during the 1st century then a Roman military man by the name of Pantera is the most probable answer for Jesus biological father. Just think about it, when Caesar Augustus appointed Herod king over Judea. Herod returned to Judea with a large Roman army and deposed Antigonus II Mattathias. After Herod’s death in 4 BCE, Sepphoris (where Mary was born) became the center of one of several Jewish rebellions against Roman rule. The Roman army moved in under the command of the Roman Governor Varus in Syria (this is where Abdes Pantera was born). So what do you think happens between the Roman troops and local women when they are stationed in Sepphoris? They had relationships (rather legitimate or in rape) that led to what is known as “war children”. Local women having children by a occupying foreign military would have been an embarrassment to a Jewish woman and can lead to being stoned to death. So under these kinds of circumstances what is a woman to do? She would have to marry a local man with the hopes that he would be willing to claim the child as his (Joseph) own. And just one side note: I agree with Julius Africanus and Tertullian that places Jesus birth around 2 BC. I don’t personally think that Jesus lived during the time when Herod was alive, while being fully aware of what the bible says about Herod’s “Massacre of the Innocents” which cannot be verified outside of the biblical source.

    Melvin Terrell

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with all your points, Melvin, and they are integral to the novel. They have a lot to say about the personality development of Jesus, and of his hostility to the Romans.

  6. Amy Fent Jr. says:

    I think people for year has been trying to disprove God and His Son. All I know for sure is God moves in my life and I have seen the hand of god. And for those in the grave, their bodies lay there and their spirit is the one that lives forever with God and His Son Jesus Christ. I will continue to pray for the lost souls and the non believers. This bull is just Satan trying to put doubt in the world and by the looks of it man is believing him. As in the words of MY LORD ” God forgive them they know not what they do.”

    • Amy, of course that is a standard Christian view of things. However, when you read the words and actions of Jesus within the context of the 200 years of Jewish fundamentalist uprisings against the Roman Occupation, it seems very likely that Jesus was simply another of the dozen would-be Messiahs who tried to restore God’s Kingdom in Jerusalem, and who were executed for it.

  7. Scott the Strategerist says:

    Jesus ben Pandera is interesting because it’s known to both Celsus and the Talmudic Jews. The problem with ben Pandera is that the rabbis have him as a contemporary of Alexander Jannaeus, who died circa 88 BCE. I think the answer is most likely that the Jews never heard of Jesus of Nazareth, but found some points of intersection with Jeshu ben Pandera and assumed it to be the same person. Centuries later, the Jews wrote an anti-Gospel based on elements of Talmudic lore involving ben Pandera, ben Stada, Balaam and others. This was an evolving story, but the earliest elements simply are too dissimilar to those of the Gospel Jesus to think we’re talking about the same person. If anyone is interested, the best book out there from a living author is Frank Zindler’s “The Jesus the Jews Never Knew,” which you can easily obtain at amazon (as I did). Full disclosure: I once believed that Jesus was a political revolutionary. I now have concluded that he was a mythical deity living in the spirit world, and only later generations of Christians imagined he had lived on earth after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, and as an explanation thereof.

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