“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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29 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.

    • likafi says:

      any book written by men concerning Jesus Christ the only begotten of God the creator of everything thing seen and unseen, known and unknown, revealed and unrevealed, is a mere imagination of the hearts and minds of men in their wise concerning the affairs of God and these are the things that defiler men because they came out from men in their wise. whatsoever God shall reveal to men which is not for men he sealed them in them, and whatsoever God shall reveal to men which is for men, he cause them to speak and write of them from them for them, which shall influence them because they wanted them.

      • I agree with your comment
        “any book written by men concerning Jesus Christ the only begotten of God the creator of everything thing seen and unseen, known and unknown, revealed and unrevealed, is a mere imagination of the hearts and minds of men”
        which of course includes the Bible. It is mere imagination.

  8. The Sacred Cowtipper says:

    Seems like the Talmud has a lot of problems. It seems like a bunch of men gave their entire lives and martyrdom [minus John] to propagate a lie. This theory doesn’t make any sense.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is also another alternative to the non Christian point of view. Mary was tempted or solicited by coin which was her price as any woman has a price so to speak.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Having dwelled on the whole matter and bringing science into the picture the whole story has contradictions which leads one to conclude that it is possibly not true leaving me as a agnostic ( one which doubts the authenticity but is not entirely convinced)

  11. […] The Gospel According to the Romans Now my own interest here, having just considered the role of the Panther in Mesopotamian symbolism and the Association of the Panther with the Constellation Perseus, because relating to this are associations of immaculate conception through Divine impregnation from the Perseid meteor stream, in Greek mythology giving birth to Perseus. Thus from a curious amalgam of Hellenistic and Mesopotamian lore Divine conception was of the Panther/Perseus, in the form of shooting stars, but also according to Mesopotmian tradition the winged Panther disgorged from it's mouth death and destruction in the sense of the Perseid meteors and comet under the auspices of Ninurta, who in some sources was the causer of the Great Flood representing Enlil his Father, this is the context of the Mesopotamian seals Ninurta as bringer of destruction, a good candidate for having caused the younger Dryas impacts, and there are accounts of Ninurta's Flood storm weapon causing great destruction. The mace snarled at the mountains, the club began to devour all the enemy. He fitted the evil wind and the sirocco on a pole), he placed the quiver on its hook An enormous hurricane, irresistible, went before the hero, stirred up the dust, caused the dust to settle, levelled high and low, filled the holes. It caused a rain of coals and flaming fires; the fire consumed men. It overturned tall trees by their trunks, reducing the forests to heaps, Earth put her hands on her heart and cried harrowingly; the Tigris was muddied, disturbed, cloudy, stirred up. The birds there tried to lift their heads to fly away, but their wings trailed on the ground. The storm flooded out the fish there in the subterranean waters, their mouths snapped at the air. It reduced the animals of the open country to firewood, roasting them like locusts. It was a deluge rising and disastrously ruining the mountains. Ninurta and the Cosmic Super Weapon […]

  12. Eric Breaux says:

    There is no evidence that Jesus was born of a Roman named Panthera. that was a common name for Roman soldiers, so doesn’t even pinpoint a specific individual. That rumor wasn’t even being claimed until after Christianity started, in an attempt to discredit it.
    If I knew as little as y’all do about the data showing the gospels historically accurate, I might have the same disposition you do.
    There’s plenty of well known ancient historians who wrote about Jesus, one of which being Luke who also wrote a gospel. There’s about 42 documents saying something about Jesus, a lot of which are either hostile or indifferent to Jesus and Christianity. Some historians also mentioned a few of the miracles recorded in the gospels or just mention Jesus as being famous for miracles that they dismiss as illusionist tricks, or otherwise sorcery. An example is a record from Thallus in the 50’s A.D. mentioning the darkness that occurred during Jesus crucifixion and attempting to explain it as a solar eclipse. Africanus, who quoted this record about 2 centuries later, mentioned that an eclipse wouldn’t be possible because it happened during the Jewish Passover, when the moon is full and diametrically opposite from the sun. both of these historians records only survive as quotes in other historical writings, like in the records of Eusebius, from what was still left of their respective work during the time. Tacitus references in 115 A.D. in his Annals that Christians were killed for saying Jesus was resurrected. He recorded “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular”. Suetonius recorded “After the great fire at Rome . . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief”. The only way that many people would believe that Jesus was resurrected was if they actually saw him. Even his first disciples doubted him until they saw him. The same culture that presented Jesus to be executed with the accusation of apostasy and sorcery is not going to suddenly change their minds about him and invent stories in agreement with his claims that they originally hated him for. And none of them could have hallucinated him because shared hallucinations don’t happen and in general can’t happen anyway when you aren’t expecting to see the person or have no care to. Simply knowing the culture of his time is enough to deduce that the converts were reporting a real encounter. And it’s recorded that one of the disciples touched Jesus after he appeared to them and Paul records having met about 500 witnesses. These new testament accounts are consistent with Josephus and the Roman historical records talking about the teaching of Jesus resurrection. Hardly any scholar, regardless of background, doubts Jesus was a real historical figure, it’s mostly the miracles that are controversial, but with no evidence against them, just skepticism that miracles can even happen.
    No one who ever wrote about Jesus was ever questioned by anyone about if he actually existed. People who knew anything about Jesus would be around to say how accurate these claims were that were being recorded. There were plenty of people who hated his teachings who would have loved to refute that he was real, if he was made up. The problem is he was seen by many people in person. There are over 5000 copies of the new testament in it’s original language, all of which are mostly consistent with each other and modern translations. The only differences are the story of Jesus and the prostitute not being in the oldest copies and textual variants.
    We know the new testament was completed before the second century because Clement of Rome quotes it in the late first century. The gospels would be some of the earliest of the new testament compilation. http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm#ch9 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2012/12/why-the-lost-gospels-did-not-make-the-canonical-cut/

    • Paul777 says:

      This is a typical apologists response. For starters, those who compiled the Bible didn’t have a clue who authored Luke so they titled it to him out of convenience.
      Josephus wasn’t even alive during the Rabbis life, so he’s hardly a reliable source.
      Tell me, where did the name Christ originate? And how does it pertain to this Rabbi fellow? (Hint; check out the Council of Constantinople)
      Having been raised by an apologist preacher, it never ceases to confound me why many Christians are more interested in defending lies, rather than putting their efforts towards searching for truth.
      It all boils down to ‘faith’, a concept designed by corrupt men (& backed up by the fictional ‘Doubting Thomas’ fairy-tale) to ensure obedience from superstitious, gullible & uneducated peasants, to Mother Church.
      As Pope Leo X himself chortled; “How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us.”
      How astounding that it still works in these more enlightened times.

  13. […] 1859, excavations on a railroad in Bingerbrck, Germany, unearthed the tombstone of a Roman soldier called Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera. Pantera was a standard […]

  14. Bruno says:

    I don’t believe in magic, like the immaculate conception, even when God does it. If Jesus really existed, then he must have had a father and mother. There are several interesting things about Jesus which are irrefutable.
    First of all, Mary was unwed when Jesus was conceived. This makes Jesus a bastard. It’s interesting to note that 2 billion people worship this bastard but curse all other bastards as products of “fornication”!
    Secondly, The story of Mary and Panthera has almost disappeared from Wikipedia, probably due to the transferrel of Gold bullion from the basement of the Vatican!
    Thirdly, Since Jesus died a bloody death, we should be able to get a sample of his blood, perhaps from the”shroud of Turin”. From this we can decode his DNA. Then we can clone Jesus! Maybe his “second coming” is waiting for his clone!

  15. David Haas says:

    The scholars and archeologists have said the fact that Panthera may have been Jesus Father does not change anything! Jesus was ordained by God, and is in fact the son of God!

  16. Let me weigh this with scales.

    On the one side, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Mormons who all agree that the thoughts of the creator of a billion galaxies are to be found in a book written by humans (though they disagree about what that book says); on the other side, scientists who every day discover more fundamental facts about the universe that contradict all those books.

    And you want me to choose the writers of religious books? Seriously?

  17. Bill says:

    It’s funny that Mary was only decreed a Virgin in 1852 by Pope Constance.
    It’s also convenient that if you have a place like Vatican City where you can change documents and then say they are the truth, and have billions of people believe it. The Church was born on a lie, lives on a lie and will one day pass away because of that lie. What people believe is irrelevent.. Heaven, hell and paradise are marketing tools. In fact They are the best that man has ever thought of. I wish that I had of thought of them. They work people, live of a con.

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