Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Legend of the Ten Martyers

PaleoJudaica has this version of the story of ten martyrs, from Hekhalot Rabbati:

 TheHekhalot Rabbati has a rather different and, in a macabre way, more cheerful account of the story. In this rendering, the evil Roman emperor who persecuted the sages is (the non-existent) Lupinus Caesar. When he set out on his program of persecution at the behest of Sammael, the evil angel of Rome, God inflicted various torments on the emperor and Rome. Undeterred, Lupinus Caesar persevered in his efforts to kill the ten sages, so God gave Lupinus' appearance to one of the sages, R. Hananiah ben Tardion, who then spent six months masquerading as the emperor and executing thousands of the leaders of the army.
Meanwhile, God altered Lupinus's appearance to be identical to another of the ten, whereupon he was tortured to death by his own Roman minions, then resurrected in the form of yet another of the ten, whom the Romans then killed, and so on until Lupinus had been slaughtered as each of the ten sages (who themselves were at home, safe and sound). Then he was sent off to his well-deserved eternal torment in the flames of Gehinnom.
You can read the story here, in a handout for my 2008 SBL paper which contains a draft translation of the relevant passage (§§107-120) from my forthcoming translation of the Hekhalot literature.

I'll admit to never having heard this version of events, which sounds like a much more interesting version then the one we are familiar with. I didn't post the translation itself, as I have some doubts as to whether it would infringe on his copyright.

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