An Almost Unknown Hanina ben Dosa Story and Jesus: Exemplars of First-century Galilean Hasidic Judaism

Articles 4 Comments

This story shows Hanina ben Dosa, one of the most important religious figures in Jewish history, exemplifying some of Jesus’ most profound and radical teachings.

Some time ago, I happened upon an amazing story about the miracle-worker Hanina ben Dosa that is almost unknown and sheds new light on the Jewish background of the Christian gospels. In the last 50 years or so, Gospel scholars, particularly Jewish scholars, have increasingly seen the importance of Jesus’ Jewish origins and his Galilean roots. Further, they have come to understand that Jesus was part of a Galilean branch of Judaism that was more rural and relaxed, and distinctively hasidic (pietistic).[1] Different from the Judean Jews who were urban and scholarly, these Galilean hasidim preferred prayer to Torah study. They were not scholars but charismatic healers and miracle-workers, itinerant preachers and storytellers.[2] Aside from Jesus himself, perhaps the most famous individual of that branch of Judaism was Hanina ben Dosa, a younger contemporary of Jesus.

Paid Content
Premium Members and Friends of JP must be logged in to access this content:

If you do not have a paid subscription, please consider registering as a Premium Member starting at $10/month (paid monthly) or only $5/month (paid annually): Register

One Time Purchase Rather Than Membership
Rather than purchasing a membership subscription, you may purchase access to this single page for $1.99 USD. To purchase access we strongly encourage users to first register for a free account with JP (
Register), which will make the process of accessing your purchase much simpler. Once you have registered you may login and purchase access to this page at this link:

Login & Purchase


Bin-Gorion, M. J. [Berdichevsky, Micah Joseph], 1865-1921. Der Born Judas: Legenden, Märchen und Erzählungen [The Well of Judah: Legends, Fairy Tales and Narratives]. 6 vols. Trans. by Rahel Bin-Gorion [Ramberg]. Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1916-1923. See Vol. 2, pp. 31-32.

בן-גריון [ברדיצ’בסקי, מיכה יוסף]. “מימים ראשונים; ספורי אגדה; ההגמון הפלאי.” התקופה; ספר שמיני ;תמוז-אלול תר”ף, העורך דוד פרישמן,Warszawa: Wydawnictwo-Sztybel, 1920, עמ’ 115–174. עמ’ 166.‏ [__________. “From Early Days; Fairy Tales; The Wonder Hegemon.” HaTekufahThe Period⟩; Eighth Book; Tammuz-Elul 1920, ed. by David Fryszman, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo-Sztybel, 1920, pp. 115-174. See p. 166 for longer elaborated version of the story.]

בן-גריון [ברדיצ′בסקי], מיכה יוסף. ממקור ישראל. כרך א-ו ,תרצ″ח-תש″ה. כרך ג, סעיף יח.‏
[__________. Mimekor YisraelFrom Israel⟩. Vol. 1-6, ⟨ed. by Emanuel Bin-Gorion, Tel Aviv, Dvir,⟩ 1937-1945. See Vol. 3, section 18.]

בן-גריון [ברדיצ’בסקי], מיכה יוסף. “ההגמון הפלאי; סיפור מספר 255.” ממקור ישראל, מס”ע, מרכז סיפורי-עם ופולקלור.‏ [__________. “The Wonder Hegemon; story number 255.” Mimekor YisraelFrom Israel⟩, C. F. F., The Center of Folktales and Folklore.]

__________; Mimekor Yisrael. Classical Jewish Folktales, Abridged and Annotated Edition, ed. by Emanuel Bin-Gorion. Trans. by L. M. Lask. Introduction and headnotes by Dan Ben-Amos. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Büchler, Adolf, 1867-1939. Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety, from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.: The Ancient Pious Men. London: Oxford University Press, 1922. See pp. 90-91.

Cook, John Granger, 1955-. “Matthew 5.39 and 26.67: Slapping Another’s Cheek in Ancient Mediterranean Culture,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 10, 2014: pp. 68-89.

Gaster, Moses, 1856-1939. Report for the Year 1894-1895: 1st Tammuz, 5654, to 30th Sivan, 5655; and, Report for the Year 1895-1896: 1st Tammuz, 5655, to 30th Sivan, 5656; Together with, The ancient Collections of Agadoth, The Sefer ha-Maasiyoth and two Facsimiles. Ramsgate: Judith Montefiore College (printed by W. Drugulin, Leipzig), 1896. See part 1, pp. 42-52 for comments about the manuscript; part 2, section CLXI [161], pp. 115-116 for Hebrew text.

__________. The Exempla of the Rabbis: Being a Collection of Exempla, Apologues And Tales Culled From Hebrew Manuscripts And Rare Hebrew Books. London and Leipzig: Asia Publishing Co., 1924. See part 1 (The Exempla), section 1, pp. 39-49 for comments about the manuscript; p. 93 for English summary of the story; part 2 (ספר המעשיות), section CLXI [161], pp. 115-116 for the Hebrew text.;

__________. The Exempla of the Rabbis: Being a Collection of Exempla, Apologues And Tales Culled From Hebrew Manuscripts And Rare Hebrew Books. New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1968. See prolegomenon by William G. Braude, pp. XIX-XXX.

Herford, R. Travers, 1860-1950. Pirke Aboth: The Ethics of the Talmud: Sayings of the Fathers. New York: Jewish Institute of Religion, 1945; reprint, New York: Schocken, 1962.

Safrai, Shmuel, 1919-2003. “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16, 1965, pp. 15-33.

__________. “Jesus and the Hasidim,” Jerusalem Perspective 42-44, 1994, pp. 3-22.

__________. “The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century,” The New Testament and Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Studies in Honor of David Flusser, Immanuel (series) 24/25, ed. by Malcolm F. Lowe. Jerusalem: Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, 1990, pp. 147-186.;

Vermes, Géza, 1924-2013. “Hanina ben Dosa: A controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era,” Journal of Jewish Studies 23, 1972, pp. 28-50.

__________ “Hanina ben Dosa: A controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era (II),” Journal of Jewish Studies 24, 1973, pp. 51-64.

__________. Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s reading of the Gospels. London: Collins, 1973.

I’d like to acknowledge the help I received in producing this article from Professor Brad Young and Ya’akov Love, each with his own contribution. And thanks to Shoshannah Brombacher for her fine artwork.


  • [1] See Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [2] Vermes puts material about Hanina into three categories: “Healer, Miracle-worker, Teacher” (see Vermes, “Hanina ben Dosa,” 28). Safrai notes that rabbinic literature mentions explicitly “the teaching of hasidim” משנת חסידים (see Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” 25).

Comments 4

  1. I am new here and a beginner at best, but doesn’t this contradict some of David Bivin’s statements about “Jesus’ View On Pacificism” in his book “New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus?”

    1. JP Staff Writer

      You’re right. David Bivin’s view on Jesus’ commitment to non-violence differs from Buxbaum’s. You’ll have to decide for yourself whose view fits best with the ancient sources. One of the strengths of Jerusalem Perspective (JP) is that it offers a variety of views on Jesus and the Gospels from many different perspectives (Jewish, Christian, non-confessional). What unites the authors of JP articles is a commitment to deal with the ancient sources as honestly and rigorously as possible. Reaching different conclusions regarding what the ancient evidence means is not only inevitable, but enormously fruitful. It stimulates everyone to deeper reflection, more intense study, and, ultimately, a richer understanding of who Jesus was and how his message resonates with people today.

  2. Was Hanina ben Dosa mentioned by Josephus? I couldn’t find a reference to him in my minimal search. If not, any idea why?


    Michael Graham

    1. JP Staff Writer

      Hanina ben Dosa is not mentioned in the works of Josephus, although Josephus does mention another famous Galilean Hasid, Honi the Circle-Maker, referring to him by the Grecized name Onias. Hanina ben Dosa is familiar from rabbinic literature including the Mishnah, Tosefta and the Talmud. For more on Hanina ben Dosa, we recommend Shmuel Safrai’s JP article “Jesus and the Hasidim.”

Leave a Reply

  • Yitzhak Buxbaum

    Yitzhak Buxbaum

    Yitzhak Buxbaum (d. Dec. 23, 2020 [Tevet 8, 5781]) was a maggid (inspirational speaker) and mystic, a well known teacher of Jewish spirituality. He was the author of eleven highly acclaimed books including Jewish Spiritual Practices (Jason Aronson, 1991), Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy (Jossey-Bass,…
    [Read more about author]

  • JP Content

  • Suggested Reading

  • Hospitality Heritage of the ChurchPetros Petra WordplayHistorical Jesus a Tanna FIDeliver Us From Evil6 Stone Water JarsEnemies of the HarvestWere Women Segregated?Luke 9-51-56—A Hebrew FragmentUnlocking the Synoptic ProblemNew Portrait of SalomeInsulting God's High PriestLoving BothMedieval JargonBeating the (Thorny) Bushes title 2Gergesa, Gerasa, or GadaraPG‘Everything Written…in the Psalms About Me’ (Luke 24-44)And OR In Order To RemarryAnti-Jewish TendenciesScribal ErrorsAllegro to ZeitlinTwena With All Due RespectTorah in the Sermon on the MountBethsaida 002Flusser Times of the GentilesIf Your Eye Be Single cover imageIntro to SynopticThe Names of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels and ActsStewards of God's KeysBy the Finger of GodPower of ParablesTrees of LifeBest Long-TermFlusser Parables of Ill ReputeNew International JesusReich Design and MaintenanceSafrai Synagogue CenturionNun GergesaThe Social Jesus-Beyond and Individualist ReadingSabbath BreakersNeot KedumimWealth of Herod the GreatGood Morning, ElijahMiraculous CatchSalted With FireJewish Laws of Purity in Jesus' DayMidrash in the New TestamentAesop's Fables and the Parables of the SagesJesus’ Temptation and Its Jewish BackgroundOstracon From Qumran FlusserOrigins of Jesus' Dominical TitleDid Jesus Make Food Clean?Evidence of Pro-Roman Leanings in the Gospel of MatthewA Body, Vultures & SoMBinding and Loosingספר פתרון תורהPilgrimage in the Time of Jesus coverThe Appearance of Jesus-Hairstyles and BeardsA Farewell to the Emmaus RoadDid Jesus Wear a KippahDid Jesus Save the Life of an Adultress?Tangled Up in TecheletThey Know Not What They DoCenturion and the SynagogueWhat Is the Leaven of the Pharisees