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). 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. Aside from Jesus himself, perhaps the most famous individual of that branch of Judaism was Hanina ben Dosa, a younger contemporary of Jesus.
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|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.|
-  See Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.” ↩
-  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). ↩