There are scholars who claim that Hillel was young Jesus’ teacher. Other scholars scoff at the idea since a positive proof does not exist. I have no doubt in my mind that it is true, and while indeed no physical proof exists, I have strong faith in oral and written traditions, so The Golden Rule itself is my proof. In Hillel’s words: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” In Jesus’ words: “Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This is entirely the same concept – reciprocity – and while it exists in a certain form in every ethical religion, no other statement is as similar as these two are to each other. It is almost the same sentence, except that one is presented in the negative (do not do unto others) and the other in the positive (do ye even so to them). It can be argued that it explains the fact that Judaism does not encourage missionary work, and Christianity does encourage it, but the intent of love and respect for your neighbor is the same.
Hillel’s date of death is not certain. Traditionally, he died around 10 C.E., but it is entirely possible that he died a few years later, perhaps 15 C.E. or so. Judea was a small country, and people knew each other. Everyone, of course, knew Hillel. Jesus, as the son of a respected craftsman, would be starting his formal education around age seven, and perhaps his parents tried to give him advanced studies at the Academy, but we don't know anything about it. However, there is much more about Jesus' state of learning in the well known story from Luke 2:42 – 2:51. The "feast" Luke speaks about is, of course, Passover.
“42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not [of it].
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among [their] kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why
hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”
Another fact which is mentioned often is that Hillel was in Jerusalem every Passover. I suspect he might have been present among those scholars that have marveled at the wisdom and scholarship of the young man, and wished to contribute to his education. Hillel was a born teacher, and such talent as was shown by Jesus would have surely attracted him to the task.
I know many readers would not necessarily agree with my conclusions, but I invite everyone to compare the sayings of Jesus and Hillel in a systematic manner before dismissing the idea. Happily, as mentioned above, I am not alone in my views. Many scholars see that Jesus’ teachings are grounded in the Jewish world of his time, particularly the Pharisaic Jewish teachings, as they appear in the rabbinic literature. Three great scholars in particular, Albert Schweitzer in Germany, George Foot Moore in America, and R. Travers Herford in England decided several decades ago, after much study and comparisons between the teachings, that Jesus was a Hillelite Pharisee. They had no doubt that he was a follower of Hillel, and most likely, a disciple.
I rest my case. Much more on this subject will follow later in the book, of course, but for the moment, Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends, Happy Holidays to everyone else, and a wonderful newyear to all of us.