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The Legend of Hiram Abiff, the Lost Word of Masonry, and the Toledoth Jesu




Contradistinctions




To Seek out that which was Lost?




g and compass




Masonic Apron Strings

Calvary
Jubela, Jubelo, Jubelum?




'A Unique System of Morality, Veiled in Allegory, and Illustrated by Symbols'




MASTER MASON DEGREE - SECOND SECTION

Cast of Characters (in addition to officers):

WM King Solomon (Worshipful Master)

SW Senior Grand Warden (Senior Warden)

R #1 First Ruffian (Jubela)

R #2 Second Ruffian (Jubelo)

R #3 Third Ruffian (Jubelum)

FC #1 First Fellow Craft

FC #2 Second Fellow Craft

FC #3 Third Fellow Craft

S-F Sea-faring Man

W-F Way-faring Man

* Gavel Knocks

(When lodge reconvenes, the newly obligated Master Mason has been adorned with the jewel of the Junior Warden and placed in the Junior Wardenís station. He has been given a scant set of instructions on what to do when he is called upon by the Worshipful Master.)

WM: Brother Junior Warden, what is the hour? (The Cand is confused by the question, so he has no answer to give)

WM: Brother Junior Warden, what is the hour?

SW: (S) Worshipful Master, there appears to be a stranger in the South.

WM: What! A stranger in the South! Brother Senior Deacon, conduct the stranger to the East.

WM: My Brother, you have this evening been obligated by the various solemn and weighty ties of a Master Mason. Having voluntarily assumed this obligation, you were brought to Light and instructed. You have been taught to wear your apron as a Master Mason, and are so wearing it among us at this moment. Even our Working Tools, the implements of Masonry have been explained to you, and you have been exhorted to make a proper use of the Trowel, the principal Working Tool of this degree. All this would imply that you are a Master Mason and qualified to travel and work as one. Nay more, my Brother, I observe upon your person a badge of office, the jewel of the Junior Warden, one of the principal officers of the Lodge, which all doubtless confirms you in the belief that you are a Master Mason. Is it so?

Cand: (prompted, if necessary, answers in the affirmative).

WM: However natural that assumption may be to you, yet it is erroneous. You have not yet attained the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. You are not yet a Master Mason, so far as to enable you to prove yourself one, or to travel and work as one; nor do I know that you will ever become a Master Mason. You have a way to travel over that is extremely perilous. You will be beset with danger of many kinds, and may perhaps meet with death, as did once befall an eminent Brother of this degree. But your trust is in God and your faith is well founded. Before setting out, therefore, upon such a serious enterprise as this, you will repair to the Altar for the purpose of prayer. Heretofore you have had a Brother to pray for you; now you must pray for yourself. Go then, my Brother, and may the blessing of God accompany you.

SD: You are now at the Altar. You must be again hood-winked. Kneel and pray. Your prayer may be mental or audible, and when you have concluded it you will signify the same by saying Amen, and rising.

WM: * * *.

Cand: Amen.

(ALL) So mote it be.

WM: *.

SD: My Brother, heretofore you have represented a candidate in search of Light. Now you represent a character, none less a personage than our Grand Master Hiram Abif, who was the Grand Architect at the building of King Solomonís Temple. It was the usual custom of this great and good man, at high twelve, when the Craft was called from labor to refreshment, to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies, there to offer up his adorations to Deity and draw his designs on the Trestle-board. This you have done. He would then retire by the South gate, as you will now do.

R #1: Grand Master Hiram, I am glad to meet you thus alone; long have I sought this opportunity. You promised us that when the Temple was completed we should receive the secrets of a Master Mason, whereby we could travel in foreign countries and receive wages as such. Behold! The Temple is about completed, and we have not received what we strived for. At first I did not doubt your veracity, but now I do. I therefore demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: Craftsman, this is neither a proper time nor place; wait until the Temple is completed, then, if found worthy, you shall receive them; otherwise you can not.

R #1: Talk not to me of time nor place. Now is the time, and here is the place; none other will satisfy me. I therefore demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: Craftsman, I can not give them.

R #1: Grand Master Hiram, for the third and last time I demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason. SD: Craftsman, I can not, and will not, give them. SD: He then fled, and attempted to pass out at the west gate, as you will now do.

R #2: Grand Master Hiram, most of the Craft are weary, and many are exceedingly anxious to receive the secrets of a Master Mason, and we can see no good reason why we are put off so long; and some of us have determined to wait no longer. I therefore demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: Craftsman, why this violence? I can not give them, neither can they be given, except in the presence of Solomon, King of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre; and myself.

R #2: Grand Master Hiram, your life is in danger. All the avenues of the Temple are securely guarded; escape is impossible. I therefore demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: Craftsman, I shall not give them. Wait with patience for the proper time.

R #2: Grand Master Hiram, I again, and for the last time, demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason, or your life.

SD: My life you can have; my integrity, never!

SD: He then fled and attempted to make his exit out at the east gate, as you will now do.

Ruffian #3: Grand Master Hiram, I have heard your caviling with Jubela and Jubelo. From them you have escaped; but from me - never! My name is Jubelum. What I purpose, that I perform. I hold in my hand an instrument of death. If you refuse me now, you do so at your peril. I say, give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I will take your life.

SD: Craftsman, I have often refused you and shall always refuse you when accosted in this manner. Your demands are vain.

R #3: Grand Master Hiram, I for the second time demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: Craftsman, your demands are vain. I shall not give them.

R #3: Grand Master Hiram, I for the third and last time demand of you the secrets of a Master Mason.

SD: And I, for the third time, refuse you. (Jubelum then strikes the Cand across the forehead, he is caused to fall backward into a large canvas that he can be carried in.)

R #1: What have we done?

R #2: We have slain our Grand Master Hiram Abif. What shall we do with the body?

R #3: Let us carry it into a remote corner, and bury it in the rubbish of the Temple. (Having done so): Now let us retire until low twelve, when we will meet here again.

SOLILOQUY: R #3 (Jubelum):

At last, the awful deed is done; here, cold and mute, wrapped in the icy cloak of death, the Master sleeps. No more the pageantry of pomp and power. No more the Craftsmen hastening to perform his deep design. No more the Temple rising proudly on its hill and beckoning Heaven itself to smile upon its stately columns. No more shall he these high ambitions gratify.

Oh Death, untimely, yet Oh timely Death.

Wrested from earth while yet his honors clustered; before the breath of calumny had stained, or slander marred the worth of his achievements, he is fallen; yielding up his life ere he would betray his sacred trust; surrendering all - all that life holds dear - power, wealth, everything - yet holding fast to his Masonic faith.

Oh, daring loyalty; Oh, fortitude most grand. For him in coming time shall countless thousands sound his name and sing his praise, who death preferred, than faithless prove, than trust betray. Yet, kept so well, his secret stands revealed and in his death I read it thus: Truth - Honor - Fortitude.

But hark. The temple bell rings out the midnight hour. Come now, my comrades, let us haste away and bear with us, where-ere we go, the heavy burden of remorse.

R #1: This is the hour.

R #2: This is the place.

R #3: And here is the body. Assist me to carry it in a due west course from the Temple to the brow of a hill, where I have dug a grave six feet deep east and west and six feet perpendicular, in which we will bury it.

R #3: I will set this sprig of acacia at the head of the grave, that the place may be known should occasion every require it. Now, let us make our escape by way of Joppa, out of the country.

R #3: Yonder is a sea-faring man. Let us accost him.

R #3: Is that your ship there?

S-F: It is.

R #3: Where are you bound?

S-F: To Ethiopia.

R #3: When do you sail?

S-F: Immediately.

R #3: Do you take passengers?

S-F: I do.

R #3: Will you take us?

S-F: I will, if you have King Solomonís permit to leave the country.

R #3: We will pay your demands, but we have no permits.

S-F: Then you can not go, for I am strictly forbidden to take any of the workmen from the Temple out of the country without King Solomonís permit.

R #3: Then let us return back into the country.

KS: *. Brother Senior Grand Warden, what is the confusion in the Temple, and why are the Craftsmen not at their labors as usual?

SW: (S) Our Grand Master Hiram Abif is missing and there are no designs on the trestle-board.

KS: That is very strange. He has ever been punctual and faithful to his trust. He must be indisposed. Order strict search to be made for him throughout the several apartments of the Temple, and see if he can be found.

SW: Craftsmen; you will make strict search throughout the several apartments of the Temple and see if our Grand Master Hiram Abif can be found.

(Fellow Crafts go around the room, asking, "Have you see anything of our Grand Master Hiram Abif?", to which some of the Brethren respond with, "No, I have not seen him since high twelve yesterday.")

FC#1: Brother Senior Grand Warden, strict search has been made, but our Grand Master Hiram Abif can not be found. He has not been seen since high twelve yesterday.

SW: (S) Your orders have been obeyed, Most Excellent King Solomon. Strict search has been made throughout the several apartments of the Temple, but our Grand Master Hiram Abif can not be found. He has not been seen since high twelve yesterday.

WM: I fear some fateful act has befallen him.

FC#1: * * *. Twelve Fellow Crafts, clothed in white gloves and aprons, crave audience with Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Admit them.

FC#1: (S) Most Excellent King Solomon, we twelve who appear before you are clothed in white gloves and aprons in token of our innocence. We twelve, with three others, seeing the Temple about to be completed, and being desirous of obtaining the secrets of a Master Mason, whereby we could travel in foreign countries and receive wages as such, entered into the horrid conspiracy of extorting them from our Grand Master Hiram Abif, or taking his life; but, reflecting on the atrocity of our intentions, being stricken with horror, we twelve recanted, but we fear the other three have persisted in their murderous design. We twelve have come before you to confess our premeditated guilt, and implore your pardon.

WM: Brother Grand Secretary, call the roll of the workmen.

(The roll of the workmen is called) Secy: (S) Most Excellent King Solomon, the roll of the workmen has been called and Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum are found missing.

WM: Craftsmen, are they the three who were aligned with you in this horrid conspiracy?

FC#1: (S) They are the three, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: It is my order that you divide yourselves into parts of three, and three travel east, three west, three north, and three south in pursuit of the ruffians.

FC#1: Let us go east.

FC#2: We will go north.

FC#3: We will go south.

FC#1: And we, west.

FC#1: Yonder is a way-faring man. Let us accost him.

FC#1: Have you seen any strangers pass this way?

W-F: I saw some yesterday, three, who from their appearance were workmen from the Temple.

FC#1: Where were they going?

W-F: They were seeking a passage to Ethiopia.

FC#1: Did they obtain one?

W-F: They did not.

FC#1: Where did they go?

W-F: They returned back into the country.

FC#1: This is important. Let us return and report it to King Solomon.

FC#1: (S) Tidings from the west, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Report them.

FC#1: We three who pursued a due west course from the Temple, went until we met with a way-faring man, of whom we inquired if he had seen any strangers pass that way, who informed us that he had, three, who from their appearance were workmen from the Temple, seeking a passage to Ethiopia, but not having obtained one they returned back into the country. Deeming this of great importance, we have returned to bring this intelligence to you.

WM: Your intelligence proves but one thing to my mind, that the ruffians are still in the country and within our power. You will divide yourselves as before, and travel as before. I now give you positive injunction to find the criminals, and as positive assurance that if you do not, you will be deemed the murderers, and shall suffer for their enormous crime.

FC#2: I am weary and worn out and must sit down to rest and refresh myself.

FC#1: Donít stop here. Remember, that if we do not find the criminals, we will be deemed the murderers and shall suffer for their enormous crime.

FC#2: Alas, this is the reward of evil companionship. Had I but heeded the lessons taught me as a Fellow Craft, I would now be among the workmen of the Temple, honored and respected; as it is, I am an outcast. Hail, Brothers. This is singular, on rising up I accidentally caught hold of this sprig of acacia, and it easily gave way.

FC#1: That is singular.

R #1: O, that my throat had been cut across ---,

FC#1: Hark, what is that?

R #1: ---, my tongue torn out, and with my body buried in the sands of the sea at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twentyfour hours, ere I have been accessory to the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif.

FC#3: That is the voice of Jubela.

R #2: O, that my left breast had been torn open, my heart and vitals taken thence, and with my body given as a prey to the vultures of the air, ere I have been accessory to the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif.

FC#2: That is the voice of Jubelo.

R #3: It was I who gave the fatal blow; it was I who killed him. O, that my body had been severed in twain, my bowels taken thence, and with my body burned to ashes, and the ashes thereof scattered to the four winds of Heaven, ere I have been guilty of the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif.

FC #1 I know that voice; that is the voice of Jubelum.

FC#3: What shall we do? They are the murderers of whom we are in search.

FC#2: They are desperate men. It would be a serious undertaking to capture them.

FC#1: There are but three of them, and there are three of us. Our cause is just, and our trust is in God. Let us rush in, seize, bound, and take them before King Solomon.

FC#1: (S) Tidings from the west, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Report them.

FC#1: As we three who pursued a due west course from the Temple were returning, one of our number becoming more weary than the rest, sat down at the brow of a hill to rest and refresh himself, and on rising up he accidentally caught hold of a sprig of acacia, which easily gave way, exciting his curiosity; and while we were meditating over the singularity of the occasion, we heard three frightful exclamations from the clefts of the adjacent rocks. The first was the voice of Jubela, exclaiming, "O, that my throat had been cut across, my tongue torn out, and with my body buried in the sands of the sea, at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twentyfour hours, ere I have been accessory to the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif. "The second was the voice of Jubelo, exclaiming, "O, that my left breast had been torn open, my heart and vitals taken thence, and with my body given as a prey to the vultures of the air, ere I have been guilty of the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif. The third was the voice of Jubelum, exclaiming more horribly than the rest, "It was I who gave the fatal blow, it was I who killed him. O, that my body had been severed in twain, my bowels taken thence, and with my body burned to ashes, and the ashes thereof scattered to the four winds of Heaven, ere I have been guilty of the death of so great and good a man as our Grand Master Hiram Abif." Upon which we rushed in, seized, bound, and have brought them before you.

WM: Jubela, are you guilty of this horrid deed?

R #1: I am guilty, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Jubelo, are you also guilty?

R #2: I am more guilty, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Jubelum, are you likewise guilty?

R #3: I am most guilty, Most Excellent King Solomon; I am more guilty than the rest. It was I who gave the fatal blow, it was I who killed him.

WM: Then you shall die, impious wretches, to conspire against the life of so great and good a man as your Grand Master Hiram Abif. Take them without the gates of the city and execute them according to their several imprecations in the clefts of the rocks.

FC#1: (S) Most Excellent King Solomon, your orders have been obeyed. The murderers have been put to death according to their several imprecations in the clefts of the rocks.

WM: It is well. Go now, you Fellow Crafts, in search of the body of your Grand Master Hiram Abif, and if found, observe whether the Masterís Word, or a key to it, is on or about it.

FC#1: Here is the place where our worthy Brother sat down to rest and refresh himself. Here is the appearance of a newly made grave. Let us open it. Here is a body, but in such a mangled and putrid condition that it cannot be recognized. What a deathly effluvium arises from it. The Masterís Word, or a key to it, can not be found on or about it. Here is a Jewel. Let us remove it and carry it to King Solomon.

FC#1: (S) Tidings, Most Excellent King Solomon.

WM: Report them.

FC#1:We traveled a due west course from the Temple to the brow of the hill where our worthy Brother sat down to rest and refresh himself. We found the appearance of a newly made grave; we opened it and discovered a body, but in such a mangled and putrid condition that it could not be recognized; and we found our hands involuntarily placed in this position to guard against the deathly effluvium that arose from it. The Masterís Word, or a key to it, could not be found on or about it; however, we found this Jewel, which we have brought up for your inspection.

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, this is indeed the Jewel of our Grand Master Hiram Abif. No doubt can now remain as to his lamentable fate. Craftsmen, the pardon you sought I now grant you, in token of my appreciation of your efforts to detect the murderers and to deliver the body of your Grand Master Hiram Abif.

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, you will form the Craft in Grand Procession to go with me, to endeavor to raise the body of our Grand Master Hiram Abif for more decent interment; and as the Masterís Word is now lost, it is my order that the first sign given at the grave, and the first word spoken after the body is raised, shall be adopted for the regulation of all Masters Lodges, until future ages shall find out the right.

SW: * * *. Craftsmen, form in Grand Procession to repair with me to the grave, to endeavor to raise the body of our Grand Master Hiram Abif for more decent interment.

SD: Brethren; form in Grand Procession on the north side of the Lodge, double file, facing the East.

DIRGE:

(Sung by all, while in Grand Procession):

Solemn strikes the funeral chime,
Notes of our departing time;
As we journey here below,
Through a pilgrimage of woe.
Mortals now indulge a tear,
For mortality is here.
See how wide her trophies wave
Oíer the slumbers of the grave.
Here another guest we bring.
Seraphs of celestial wing,
To our funeral altar come:
Waft this friend and brother home.
There, enlarged, thy soul shall see
What was veiled in mystery;
Heavenly glories of the place
Show his Maker, face to face.
Lord of all, below - above
Fill our hearts with truth and love.
When dissolves our earthly tie,
Take us to thy Lodge on High.

WM: Here then lie the remains of your Grand Master Hiram Abif. Stricken down in the performance of duty, a martyr to his faith. He was bourne to this lonely spot by unhallowed hands at a midnight hour, upon the hope that the eye of man would never more behold him, or the hand of justice be laid upon his guilty murderers. Vain hope. Here lies the body of your Grand Master Hiram Abif. His work was not done, yet his column is broken. His death was untimely and his Brethren mourn. The honors so justly his due have not been paid him. His body shall be raised; shall be honored; shall be borne back to the Temple for more decent interment; and a monument shall be erected to commemorate his labors, his fidelity and his untimely death.

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, apply to the body the grip of an Entered Apprentice, and endeavor to raise it.

SW: Most Excellent King Solomon, owing to the high state of putrefaction, the body having been dead fifteen days, the skin slips from the flesh and it can not be so raised.

(All raise their arms toward Heaven, their arms forming a square, and lowering them by three movements, to their sides.): Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the Widowís Son?

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, you have a stronger grip; that of a Fellow Craft. Apply that to the body and endeavor to raise it.

SW: Most Excellent King Solomon, owing to the reason before given, the flesh cleaves from the bones, and the body can not be so raised.

(All, in unison, as above, only this time, it is done twice): Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the Widowís Son? (Again, with arms raised): Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the Widowís Son?

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, our attempts are vain. What shall we do?

SW: Let us pray.

Chap: Thou, O God. Knowest our down sitting and our uprising, and understandest our thoughts afar off. Shield and defend us from the evil intentions of our enemies, and support us under the trials and afflictions we are destined to endure while traveling through this vale of tears. Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee: Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. Turn from him that he may rest till he shall accomplish his day. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not till the Heavens be no more. Yet, O Lord, have compassion on the children of Thy creation; administer them comfort in time of trouble, and save them with an everlasting salvation. AMEN.

(ALL): So mote it be.

WM: Brother Senior Grand Warden, your counsel was timely and good. Masons should ever remember that when the strength and wisdom of man fails, there is an inexhaustible supply above, yielded to us through the power of prayer. My mind is now clear, and the body shall be raised. Craftsmen, you have labored upon the Temple more than six years, honestly toiling, encouraged and buoyed up by the promise that when the Temple was completed, those of you who were found worthy should receive the secrets of a Master Mason. The Masterís Word is lost in the death of your Grand Master Hiram Abif, but I will substitute a word which shall be adopted for the regulation of all Masterís Lodges, until future ages shall find out the right; and the first word I utter after the body is raised shall be such substitute word. Yea, my Brethren, I have a Word; and though the skin may slip from the flesh, and the flesh cleaves from the bones, there is strength in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he shall prevail. (The Worshipful Master now reaches down and grasps the candidateís right hand with the real grip of a Master Mason, and as he raises the candidate up, it is done on the Five Points of Fellowship. The WM then whispers the substitute Word into the candidateís ear):

WM: Ma - Ha - Bone.

WM: My Brother, the word you have just received is a Hebrew word, and signifies, "What! The Builder?", and alludes to a particular tie in your Obligation wherein you swore that you would never give the substitute for the Masterís Word in any other way or manner than that in which you would receive it, which would be on the Five Points of Fellowship and at low breath. The Five Points of Fellowship are: foot to foot; knee to knee; breast to breast; hand to back; and cheek to cheek or mouth to ear, and teach us these important lessons: Foot to foot, that we should be ever ready to go on foot, even barefoot, on a worthy Master Masonís errand, should his necessities require it, and we be no better provided. Knee to knee, that we should ever remember our Brethren in our devotions to Deity. Breast to breast, that the secrets of a worthy Brother Master Mason, when communicated to us as such, should be as secure and inviolate in our breasts as they were in his before communication. Hand to back, that we should be ever ready to stretch forth a hand to support a falling Brother, and aid him on all lawful occasions.

Cheek to cheek, or mouth to ear, that we should be ever ready to whisper wise counsel in the ear of an erring Brother, and warn him of approaching danger.

My Brother, I will now instruct you as to the manner of arriving at the real grip and word of a Master Mason. As you are uninstructed, he who has hitherto answered for you will do so at this time. Give me the pass-grip of a Master Mason.

WM: Brother Senior Deacon.

SD: Worshipful Master.

WM: Will be you be off or from?

SD: From.

WM: From what and to what?

SD: From the pass-grip of a Master Mason to the real grip of the same.

WM: Pass. What is that?

SD: The real grip of a Master Mason, or lionís paw.

WM: Has it a name?

SD: It has.

WM: Will you give it to me?

SD: Place yourself in the proper position to receive it and I will.

WM: Mark the difference, my Brother, Heretofore your answer has been; I did not so receive it, neither will I so impart it. Now it is: Place yourself in the proper position to receive it and I will.

WM: What is the proper position to receive it?

SD: On the Five Points of Fellowship.

WM: What are the Five Points of Fellowship?

SD: Foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and cheek to cheek or mouth to ear. (Cand and WM are placing themselves on the Five Points of Fellowship as the SD names them.)

WM: Ma.

Cand: Ha.

WM: Bone.

(WM may have the cand begin, while still in position, ie.,

Cand: Ma.

WM: Ha.

Cand: Bone being sure the candidate fully understands the word.)

WM: My Brother, the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress of a Master Mason is given in this manner: raising the hands toward Heaven, your arms forming a square, and lowering them by three distinct motions to the sides, and alludes to a particular tie in your Obligation, wherein you swore that you would not give the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress of a Master Mason, except for the benefit of the Craft while at work or for the instruction of a Brother, unless you were in real distress. Should you be in a place where the Sign could not be seen, the words, "O Lord, my God, is there no help for the Widowís son?", are to be substituted, but the sign and words are never to be given together. Should you see the Sign or hear the Words, you will hasten to the relief of the person so giving them, for you may rest assured that they come from one who has traveled the same road and received the same Light in Masonry that you have.

WM: My Brother, you will now return to the East, and receive an historical account of this degree. (A summary of above proceedings known as the Master Mason Lecture commences where 'The Weeping Virgin' standing over the grave of 'Hiram Abiff' legend is introduced.)



g and compass




The Toledoth Yeshu

Prepared by Alan Humm

This is a derogatory version of the life of Jesus, growing out of the response of the Jewish community to Christianity. The tradition presented here is most commonly dated to approximately the 6th century CE. The text it self is closer to the 14th c. There is no scholarly consensus on to what extent the text might be a direct parody of a now lost gospel. H.J. Schonfield argued that it was so closely connected to the Gospel of the Hebrews that he attempted to reconstruct that lost work from the Toledoth.

Text from Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, pp. 148-154. Most of the notes are mine, but they are clearly marked ([G] = Goldstein, [AH] = me)


"In the year 3671[1] in the days of King Jannaeus, a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Joseph Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah.

Near his house dwelt a widow and her lovely and chaste daughter named Miriam. Miriam was betrothed to Yohanan, of the royal house of David, a man learned in the Torah and God-fearing.

At the close of a certain Sabbath, Joseph Pandera, attractive and like a warrior in appearance, having gazed lustfully upon Miriam, knocked upon the door of her room and betrayed her by pretending that he was her betrothed husband, Yohanan. Even so, she was amazed at this improper conduct and submitted only against her will.

Thereafter, when Yohanan came to her, Miriam expressed astonishment at behavior so foreign to his character. It was thus that they both came to know the crime of Joseph Pandera and the terrible mistake on the part of Miriam. Whereupon Yohanan went to Rabban Shimeon ben Shetah and related to him the tragic seduction. Lacking witnesses required for the punishment of Joseph Pandera, and Miriam being with child, Yohanan left for Babylonia.[2]

Miriam gave birth to a son and named him Yehoshua, after her brother. This name later deteriorated to Yeshu. On the eighth day he was circumcised. When he was old enough the lad was taken by Miriam to the house of study to be instructed in the Jewish tradition.

One day Yeshu walked in front of the Sages with his head uncovered, showing shameful disrespect. At this, the discussion arose as to whether this behavior did not truly indicate that Yeshu was an illegitimate child and the son of a niddah[3]. Moreover, the story tells that while the rabbis were discussing the Tractate Nezikin, he gave his own impudent interpretation of the law and in an ensuing debate he held that Moses could not be the greatest of the prophets if he had to receive counsel from Jethro. This led to further inquiry as to the antecedents of Yeshu, and it was discovered through Rabban Shimeon ben Shetah that he was the illegitimate son of Joseph Pandera. Miriam admitted it.[4] After this became known, it was necessary for Yeshu to flee to Upper Galilee.

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene[5] ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraven the letters of God's Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished. Therefore, the Sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.

Yeshu came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.[6]

He gathered about himself three hundred and ten young men of Israel and accused those who spoke ill of his birth of being people who desired greatness and power for themselves. Yeshu proclaimed, "I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.'" He quoted other messianic texts, insisting, "David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: 'The Lord said to me, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.'"

The insurgents with him replied that if Yeshu was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked. Yeshu spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the leper was healed. Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest.

When word of these happenings came to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin decided to bring about the capture of Yeshu. They sent messengers, Annanui and Ahaziah, who, pretending to be his disciples, said that they brought him an invitation from the leaders of Jerusalem to visit them. Yeshu consented on condition the members of the Sanhedrin receive him as a lord. He started out toward Jerusalem and, arriving at Knob, acquired an ass on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah.

The Sages bound him and led him before Queen Helene, with the accusation: "This man is a sorcerer and entices everyone." Yeshu replied, "The prophets long ago prophesied my coming: 'And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,' and I am he; but as for them, Scripture says 'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.'"

Queen Helene asked the Sages: "What he says, is it in your Torah?" They replied: "It is in our Torah, but it is not applicable to him, for it is in Scripture: 'And that prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.' He has not fulfilled the signs and conditions of the Messiah."

Yeshu spoke up: "Madam, I am the Messiah and I revive the dead." A dead body was brought in; he pronounced the letters of the Ineffable Name and the corpse came to life. The Queen was greatly moved and said: "This is a true sign." She reprimanded the Sages and sent them humiliated from her presence. Yeshu's dissident followers increased and there was controversy in Israel.

Yeshu went to Upper Galilee. the Sages came before the Queen, complaining that Yeshu practiced sorcery and was leading everyone astray. Therefore she sent Annanui and Ahaziah to fetch him.

The found him in Upper Galilee, proclaiming himself the Son of God. When they tried to take him there was a struggle, but Yeshu said to the men of Upper Galilee: "Wage no battle." He would prove himself by the power which came to him from his Father in heaven. He spoke the Ineffable Name over the birds of clay and they flew into the air. He spoke the same letters over a millstone that had been placed upon the waters. He sat in it and it floated like a boat. When they saw this the people marveled. At the behest of Yeshu, the emissaries departed and reported these wonders to the Queen. She trembled with astonishment.

Then the Sages selected a man named Judah Iskarioto and brought him to the Sanctuary where he learned the letters of the Ineffable Name as Yeshu had done.

When Yeshu was summoned before the queen, this time there were present also the Sages and Judah Iskarioto. Yeshu said: "It is spoken of me, 'I will ascend into heaven.'" He lifted his arms like the wings of an eagle and he flew between heaven and earth, to the amazement of everyone.

The elders asked Iskarioto to do likewise. He did, and flew toward heaven. Iskarioto attempted to force Yeshu down to earth but neither one of the two could prevail against the other for both had the use of the Ineffable Name. However, Iskarioto defiled Yeshu, so that they both lost their power and fell down to the earth, and in their condition of defilement the letters of the Ineffable Name escaped from them. Because of this deed of Judah they weep on the eve of the birth of Yeshu.

Yeshu was seized. His head was covered with a garment and he was smitten with pomegranate staves; but he could do nothing, for he no longer had the Ineffable Name.

Yeshu was taken prisoner to the synagogue of Tiberias, and they bound him to a pillar. To allay his thirst they gave him vinegar to drink. On his head they set a crown of thorns. There was strife and wrangling between the elders and the unrestrained followers of Yeshu, as a result of which the followers escaped with Yeshu to the region of Antioch[7]; there Yeshu remained until the eve of the Passover.

[8] Yeshu then resolved to go the Temple to acquire again the secret of the Name. That year the Passover came on a Sabbath day. On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu, accompanied by his disciples, came to Jerusalem riding upon an ass. Many bowed down before him. He entered the Temple with his three hundred and ten followers. One of them, Judah Iskarioto[9] apprised the Sages that Yeshu was to be found in the Temple, that the disciples had taken a vow by the Ten Commandments not to reveal his identity but that he would point him out by bowing to him. So it was done and Yeshu was seized. Asked his name, he replied to the question by several times giving the names Mattai, Nakki, Buni, Netzer, each time with a verse quoted by him and a counter-verse by the Sages.

Yeshu was put to death on the sixth hour on the eve of the Passover and of the Sabbath. When they tried to hang him on a tree it broke, for when he had possessed the power he had pronounced by the Ineffable Name that no tree should hold him. He had failed to pronounce the prohibition over the carob-stalk[10], for it was a plant more than a tree, and on it he was hanged until the hour for afternoon prayer, for it is written in Scripture, "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree." They buried him outside the city.

On the first day of the week his bold followers came to Queen Helene with the report that he who was slain was truly the Messiah and that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he prophesied. Diligent search was made and he was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.

Queen Helene demanded, on threat of a severe penalty, that the body of Yeshu be shown to her within a period of three days. There was a great distress. When the keeper of the garden saw Rabbi Tanhuma walking in the field and lamenting over the ultimatum of the Queen, the gardener related what he had done, in order that Yeshu's followers should not steal the body and then claim that he had ascended into heaven. The Sages removed the body, tied it to the tail of a horse and transported it to the Queen, with the words, "This is Yeshu who is said to have ascended to heaven." Realizing that Yeshu was a false prophet who enticed the people and led them astray, she mocked the followers but praised the Sages.

The disciples went out among the nations--three went to the mountains of Ararat, three to Armenia, three to Rome and three to the kingdoms buy the sea, They deluded the people, but ultimately they were slain.

The erring followers amongst Israel said: "You have slain the Messiah of the Lord." The Israelites answered: "You have believed in a false prophet." There was endless strife and discord for thirty years.

The Sages desired to separate from Israel those who continued to claim Yeshu as the Messiah, and they called upon a greatly learned man, Simeon Kepha, for help. Simeon went to Antioch, main city of the Nazarenes and proclaimed toe them: "I am the disciple of Yeshu. He has sent me to show you the way. I will give you a sign as Yeshu has done."

Simeon, having gained the secret of the Ineffable Name, healed a leper and a lame man by means of it and thus found acceptance as a true disciple. He told them that Yeshu was in heaven, at the right hand of his Father, in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1. He added that Yeshu desired that they separate themselves from the Jews and no longer follow their practices, as Isaiah had said, "Your new moons and your feasts my soul abhorreth." They were now to observe the first day of the week instead of the seventh, the Resurrection instead of the Passover, the Ascension into Heaven instead of the Feast of Weeks, the finding of the Cross instead of the New Year, the Feast of the Circumcision instead of the Day of Atonement, the New Year instead of Chanukah; they were to be indifferent with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws. Also they were to follow the teaching of turning the right if smitten on the left and the meek acceptance of suffering. All these new ordinances which Simeon Kepha (or Paul, as he was known to the Nazarenes) taught them were really meant to separate these Nazarenes from the people of Israel and to bring the internal strife to an end. "


Notes:

[1] About 90, BC. [G]

[2] Some traditions say 'Egypt'. [AH]

[3] Sexual impurity (incest, adultery, prostitution, etc.). [AH]

[4] In one version of this admission, she confesses that not only is Yeshu the product of an illicit union, but she was ritually unclean from menstruation at the time as well (Sexual contact even with a woman's husband is not lawful during, or, in Rabbinic law, for some time after, menstruation). [AH]

[5] Salome Alexandra. [G]

[6] Consistent, apparently, with the general tenor of Jewish criticism of Jesus' miracles going at least as far back as Celsus (2nd c.) this tradition does not deny Jesus' ability to perform miracles, accusing him instead of practicing magic. This version even accepts the divine origin of the miracles, attributing them to his misuse of the divine name, with its inherent powers. In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith is accused of the same crime, using the power of the name to escape from the Garden of Eden. [AH]

[7] Some traditions say 'Egypt'. [G]

[8] In a variation on the story, Judah is able to out-miracle Yeshu in the sign contest without defiling him. Yeshu is discredited and arrested, and, as in this story, his followers are able to break him free, but he still remembers the Ineffable Name. He escapes to Egypt in hopes of learning Egyptian magic as well (regarded as the best magic in the world). Judah comes to Egypt and infiltrates the disciples, posing as one himself. It is from this vantage point that he is able to cause Yeshu to forget the magical Name, resulting in the later's desire to return to Jerusalem and relearn it. Judah sends warning to the Sages, along with his plan to arrest him. [AH]

[9] Aramaic: Ga'isa. [G]

[10] Or cabbage stalk. [AH]


Resource: Ancient Jewish Accounts of Jesus





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