Saturday, 21 November 2009

Jesus in the Talmud

This reference to Jesus is from a Jewish text called the Talmud. The Talmud is broken into two parts, the earlier part – the Mishnah was written around 200 A.D. and is broken into 6 parts. The fourth part is called the Nezikin has 10 parts. We are interested in the 4th part called the Sanhedrin. If that sounds all very systematic then you have a taste of the whole book. The Talmud is a collection of sayings by Rabbis dealing with issues ranging from women who have their period (the Niddah) to rules and procedures of the court and execution of the death penalty (the Sanhedrin – what we are interested in).

The following reference has caused me some grief as it really doesn't align very well with other Jesus accounts. But in the interest of looking at what external historical evidence we have of Jesus, it would be wrong to pass over this one.

When talking about procedures on how to execute someone we have the rule set forth by Mishnah and then Gemara replying (who is quoting other Rabbis) saying in Beraitha Sanhederin 43a:

This implies, only immediately before [the execution], but not previous thereto. [In contradict ion to this rule about stoning] it was taught: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!— Ulla retorted: 'Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].'

Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah.

This account is a bit different to the Gospels. We will look as that in the next post.


  1. And exactly why do you think that Yashu refers to Jesus? Do you suppose that Jesus was the only person the rabbis were concerned with in the hundreds of years during which the Talmud (Mishan and Gemara) was redacted in Northern Judea and Babylon? Are Christians so insecure about their inadequacy when campared to Judaism that they have to invent 'Jewish discrimination' and backdate it 1,500 years? And if Yeshu is not Jesus, does that mean that Jes just missed Jesus as a news item whiel trying to evade Roman persecution when their country was taken over, Jerusalem destoryed, The Temple raised to the ground and pillaged, and many of its leading citizens sold as slaves? Christians have this gigantic sense of entitelment to think that the religious Jewish (Hebrew/Aramaic speaking) population at the time noticed a small band of men (a dozen) espousing some half-baked ideas about resisting Roman taxes etc. that was only made into a sectarian movement among the Hellinized (Greek speaking) Jews outside of Judea some years later.

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for posting.

    I have two more posts about this reference coming up in the next few days. In the last post on this text I will go on to say something like:

    "There is a chance that the phrase "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged" was inserted at a latter date as the Florentine manuscript of the 12th century (1177) is the first to have this phrase, where as older ones don't."

    And I will briefly mention Rabbi Nachmanides in the Disputation of Barcelona but more link to a paper on that.

    My conclusions about this passage is that I am unsure if this text is knock down evidence for Jesus in the Talmud. I am still undecided if I will also post on Baraitha Shabbat 104b for the same reasons.

    Am I on the right track? What do you think?