Other Jewish miracle-working Sons of God


Jesus was not the only one thought to be a miracle-working son of God, even within Judaism in his own day. His two most famous peers were probably Honi the “circle-drawer” and Hanina ben Dosa, both of whom are known through the writings of later Jewish rabbis.  Honi was a Galilean teacher who died about one hundred years before Jesus. He was given his nickname because of a tradition that he prayed to God for much-needed rain and drew a circle around himself on the ground, declaring that he would not leave it until God granted his request. Luckily for him, God complied. Later sources indicate that Honi was a revered teacher and a miracle worker who called himself the son of God. Like Jesus, he was martyred outside of the walls of Jerusalem around the time of Passover. To punish the Jews who had brought about his death, God sent a powerful wind storm that devastated their crops.

Hanina ben Dosa (= son of Dosa) was a rabbi in Galilee in the middle of the first century C.E. just after the time of Jesus. He was famous as a righteous and powerful worker of miracles, who (like Honi) could intervene with God to make the rain fall, who had the power to heal the sick, and who could confront demons and force them to do his bidding. Like Jesus, he was reputedly called the Son of God by a voice coming from the heavens. 

Both of these miracle-working sons of God are portrayed somewhat differently from Jesus, of course. Most of their miracles, for example, were achieved through prayer rather than through their own power. But they are also different in significant ways from each other: Jesus and Hanina, for example, are both portrayed as exorcists, whereas Honi is not. What is most interesting, however, is that anyone who called Jesus a miracle-working Jewish rabbi, the Son of God, would have been easily understood: other righteous Jews, both before Jesus and afterward, were portrayed similarly.   

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The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction by renowned biblical scholar and New York Times Bestselling author Dr Bart D. Ehrman, p. 248.



Categories: Bible, Christology, Dr Bart Ehrman, God, History, Jerusalem, Jesus, Judaism, New Testament scholarship, Palestine, Quotation, Recommended reading, Scholars

14 replies

  1. In my own opinion i think the most evil of the lot called jesus son of god as to slowly assassinate his character. They knew his birth was a miracle and calling him that would piss him off. Just my opinion

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  2. simon magus was another famous miracle worker. Even the church fathers knew he was famous miracle worker

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  3. Hony wasn’t killed outside of Jerusalem, the Talmud has an entire narrative about his death… I wonder what the source of this is. And he wasn’t called the son of god either, the sages said if him that god treats him as a son… not unlike the Bible calls all of israel sons of god…
    the Jesus comparisons are off…

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    • Shalom Mozer G.- nice to have you back..

      Liked by 1 person

    • I did a quick search and found a quite interesting article on Honi’s death by R. Zvi. The story is found in various versions in the rabbinic literature and in Josephus, which seem to be what Ehrman refers to. He quotes Marcus’ translation on p. 236:

      “The followers of Hyrcanus laid siege to the Temple, where Aristobulus had fled, and sought assistance from Honi: Now there was a certain Honi (called Onias in Josephus), who, being a righteous man and dear to God, had once in a rainless period prayed to God to end the drought and God heard his prayer and sent rain. This man hid himself when he saw that the civil war continued to rage, but he was taken to the camp of the Jews and was asked to place a curse on Aristobulus and his fellow rebels, just
      as he had by his prayers put an end to the rainless period. But when in spite of his refusals and excuses he was forced to speak by the mob, he stood up in their midst and said, O God, King of the Universe, since these men standing beside me are Thy people, and those who are besieged are Thy priests, I beseech Thee not to hearken to them against these men nor to bring to pass what these men ask Thee to do to those others.” And when he had prayed in this manner, the villains among the Jews who stood round him stoned him to death.”

      (Ralph Marcus, trans., Josephus, Antiquities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), vol. 14, pp. 13–15).

      Zvi argues that the story in the rabbinic literature is a reaction to the Josephus story.

      Interestingly, he also believes that reflexes of the sleeper motif of the legend of Epimenides, not found in Josephus, but found in the rabbinic Honi stories, later found its way into Christian and Islamic literature as well:

      The Honi stories are ultimately based on the legend of Epimenides, providing “evidence for knowledge of Greek classical traditions and their reuse in Jewish circles”. The Epimenides story provided the folkloric motif that the rabbis attached to Honi, which was used also in the story of Abimelech and from there made its way into the Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers and later to Islamic versions. Even some rabbinic writers recognized that the Honi story was not intended to be understood literally (p. 242).

      Zvi Ron, The Death of Honi the Circle Maker, Review of Rabbinic Judaism, 20, 2. 2017. pp. 235–250.

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      • The references to son of God might be to m. Taanit 3:8 but this seems to be more a comparison.

        A note of clarification. The entirety of the penultimate paragraph above is from Zvi, I unfortunately omitted quotation marks.

        “The Honi stories are ultimately based on the legend of Epimenides, providing “evidence for knowledge of Greek classical traditions and their reuse in Jewish circles”. The Epimenides story provided the folkloric motif that the rabbis attached to Honi, which was used also in the story of Abimelech and from there made its way into the Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers and later to Islamic versions. Even some rabbinic writers recognized that the Honi story was not intended to be understood literally” (p. 242).

        Zvi Ron, The Death of Honi the Circle Maker, Review of Rabbinic Judaism, 20, 2. 2017. pp. 235–250.

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      • Very interesting, I grew up on the Talmudic narrative, I’ll check this out… Thanks for the sources.

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  4. But case in point, a sage that made miracles was natural, and nothing to get too excited about. Although a man walking around and exclaiming that he’s the son of god, would be blasphemy. Because that would be implying that your the son of god in a unique way, which might’ve implied a virgin birth idea which is a whole other tjibg

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  5. Looks like Mohammed was wrong when he claimed that Allah did not have a consort.

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