Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Jewish Business News

The A-List

Rabbi Akiva and Shimon Bar Yohai of the Talmud and Mishnah are fictional Characters

Yigal Bin-Nun/ courtesy

Yigal Bin-Nun, a research associate at Tel Aviv University’s Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, argues that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, and Hillel and Shammai, who lived hundreds of years earlier, are all fictional characters that never existed.

In an interview with Jewish Business News, the historian Bin-Nun, who has a critical mindset toward well-established concepts, posited that the compilation of the Mishnah and Talmud only occurred in the 10th century CE. Consequently, he supposes that figures like Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and others are more likely fictional creations than authentic historical figures.

Yigal Bin-Nun has been engaged for many years in a passionate pursuit that challenges conventional beliefs. This distinguished scholar and historian entirely dedicated himself to exploring the intricacies of history, drawing deeply unsettling conclusions for the global intellectual community from each stage.

Please help us out :
Will you offer us a hand? Every gift, regardless of size, fuels our future.
Your critical contribution enables us to maintain our independence from shareholders or wealthy owners, allowing us to keep up reporting without bias. It means we can continue to make Jewish Business News available to everyone.
You can support us for as little as $1 via PayPal at
Thank you.

In his latest published book, he presents four striking claims: that the Oral Torah was only written down in the 10th century AD; that figures like Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi are products of imagination rather than historical realities; that the Gospels, with most of their characters, are entirely fictional, and they were written shortly after Jesus’ death; and that the Quran is not of Islamic creation.

While this list is not exhaustive, it remains sufficiently shocking to many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers. Bin-Nun is no stranger to crafting “provocative” texts touching on the realm of monotheism.

For example, his previous work, “A Brief History of Yahweh,” challenged the notion of a singular God in the Bible, suggesting that Israelites and Judeans worshiped multiple deities over millennia without significant distinction from their neighbors. His publications have sparked intense debates, yet he enjoys a broad audience for his accessible lectures on YouTube, even if the general public does not always universally understand his conclusions.

L-R Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai / The national library of Israel

Do your provocative claims provoke a response from believers?
“Some might think my publications are provocative because they challenge traditional beliefs. However, I believe it is vital to have open and honest discussions about these issues. I have found that many believers are actually interested in my research and want to learn more. I give lectures in Hebrew to a wide audience, and the recordings of my talks are distributed online. Knowledge should be accessible to everyone, and I am committed to democratizing understanding.

The most striking claims in his new work, “When Did We Become Jews, and How Were the Monotheistic Religions Created,” concern the fictional nature of the characters in the Mishnah and Talmud.

Bin-Nun asserts: “Before the advent of Christianity, there was not truly a religion, whether in the Bible or elsewhere. What reality existed then? Polytheistic customs rooted in ritual sacrifices.”

He adds that the religious concept in doctrine recorded in sacred texts, commandments to perform or prohibit, and disputes with other beliefs are all creations of Christianity.”

Yigal Bin-Nun explains that, according to his viewpoint, the Judeans lived in a polytheistic context, peacefully coexisting with their non-Judean neighbors and sharing their deities. Essentially, they practiced a form of paganism. This hypothesis is supported by around 120 mosaics dating from that time, prominently displaying Greek figures, symbols, and deities, along with numerous epigraphic inscriptions. Furthermore, the researcher argues that while historical events of the time remain uncertain, he firmly believes that the illustrious figures of the Talmud, such as Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, as well as Hillel and Shammai, are far from representing real individuals.

On what concept is this assertion based?
“It should be understood that individuals have difficulty accepting historical gaps and often tend to fill them with fabulous stories. These tales constitute malleable literary constructions, patterns adapted according to needs, or a basic archetype declined in various forms. The events these characters eventually experienced never occurred, but they are recounted differently to forge a coherent vision of the past.”

According to Bin-Nun, rabbinic Judaism as a religion would have emerged in reaction to Christianity:
“This is the foundation of my observations. The rich rabbinic literature, including the Mishnah and the Talmud, only existed in the 10th century AD.”

But then, what happened during the early centuries of the Common Era?
Bin-Nun admits that historical sources are practically nonexistent. However, he asserts that the Judeans undoubtedly adopted the surrounding polytheism and maintained harmonious relations with Greek deities.

Born in Casablanca, Bin-Nun emigrated from Morocco to Israel at 18, which explains his still lingering French accent. In his youth, he engaged in social and political actions and counted Israeli intellectuals like Yonatan Ratoch, Shlomo Ben Ami, and many others among his friends.

His two doctoral theses, focusing on secret relations between Israel and Morocco in the 1950s and on the historiography of biblical texts, were developed in Paris and received honorary distinctions. Since then, he has continued his research activities and teaches in France and Israel.

His in-depth research on Moroccan Jews and their migration to Israel, as well as on the secret relations between the Moroccan kingdom and Israel, intelligence services, and conflicts with Arab countries, have elevated him to the status of one of the most recognized experts in this field.

However, in recent years, this tireless researcher has turned his attention to controversial historical areas of antiquity, as evidenced by his works dealing with the figures of the birth of monotheism.

As an example, he persists in asserting that all the characters in the crucifixion scene of Jesus, except for James and Peter, belong to the realm of theater and are nothing but fictional creations intended to address the narrative needs of the final moments of Jesus’s life.

Bin-Nun claims that the Gospels were written very shortly after the death of Jesus, in contrast to the common belief that they were written about 150 years later. He bases this claim on the fact that the Temple, mentioned over 170 times in the New Testament, was not destroyed in the Gospels. He also points out that the stabbing to death of Jesus’ brother Jacob, which occurred 25 years after Jesus’ death, is not mentioned in the Gospels.

Bin-Nun: Rabbi Akiva & Shimon bar Yohai never existed, Quran ignores Muhammad, Jesus crucifixion characters sans James & Peter are fictional.
Jesus, James, and Peter

“Even the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus, which occurred about 25 years after his death, according to Flavius Josephus, finds no echo in the Gospels,” Bin-Nun points out.

Regarding Islam, his stance can be summarized as the idea of a significant discrepancy between the Quran and Islam, with the Quran actually being a heretical Christian work. Paradoxically, this sacred book of Islam ignores the character of Muhammad and does not recognize Mecca or the Arabian desert. There is no mention of his place of birth, family, friends, or collaborators.

“The Quran seems to have been written by Christians with opposing views to the councils that followed the Nicene Council. This largely explains why its main protagonists are Mary and Jesus, alongside famous biblical figures mentioned allusively.

At what moment do you believe Islam took shape?
“According to Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources, Muhammad lived in the 7th century and was an international merchant of goods and lands, not in Arabia but in Greater Syria. Although there is no mention of him in the Quran, we know that he had an army of which he was the commander, and he was feared by his surroundings as a king, conquering the famous Jerusalem after the conquest of Gaza.  

Despite their provocative nature, Bin-Nun’s criticisms have sparked debates in the academic community where he has rooted himself. For years, he has distanced himself from current events and daily newspaper readings, and he does not own a television, considering these elements as “harmful noises” that hinder his dedication to his research in historical and literary fields. He asserts that believers, religious individuals, and atheists are among his readers whose preconceived ideas are shaken by his discoveries.

“It turns out that secular individuals constantly question the existence of God and naively strive to overly zealously prove His absence, which would prove religious believers wrong,” he says.

How did all this begin? Who is responsible for the composition of the canonical texts of the three religions? When and why were they written?

“Before embarking on my research, I had no preconceived thesis about these subjects but a great curiosity: How did all this begin? Who is responsible for the composition of the canonical texts of the three religions? When and why were they written? In my previous book, I traced human beliefs from antiquity to the end of the Persian era. In the current book, I continue my exploration by immersing myself in the Greco-Roman world and its Hellenistic culture beyond the first millennium, up to the first crusade.”

The author, Yigal Bin-Nun published two books. The bestseller “A Brief History of Yahweh.” His new book, “When We Became Jews,” shatters some basic facts on which Judaism rests.



You May Also Like

World News

In the 15th Nov 2015 edition of Israel’s good news, the highlights include:   ·         A new Israeli treatment brings hope to relapsed leukemia...


The Movie The Professional is what made Natalie Portman a Lolita.


After two decades without a rating system in Israel, at the end of 2012 an international tender for hotel rating was published.  Invited to place bids...

VC, Investments

You may not become a millionaire, but there is a lot to learn from George Soros.