The Babylonian Talmud

The Talmuds were Rabbinic commentaries on the Jewish scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.[i] The Babylonian Talmud was probably completed around the 6th century.  The Talmuds are long and complicated, and it is difficult to make sense of some of what they say.  Of course, the Jews were not overly sympathetic to the heretical new religion that Jesus founded. The Babylonian Talmud says:

On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu* [= Jesus]. And an announcer went out in front of him for forty days, saying: 'He is going to be stoned, because he practised sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.

* One version of this text actually says 'Yeshu the Nazarene.'

There are of course, some differences here from what the Gospels describe. (Note: When this kind of discrepancy arises, scholars have a remarkable tendency to believe that it is the other document that is right, and the Gospels that are wrong, rather than vice versa - even though the documentary evidence for the Gospel account may be much stronger.) 

Notice that:

  • 'Yeshu the Nazarene' is described as someone who engaged in sorcery. This is a typical way that Jewish writers accounted for the miracles of Jesus.
  • He was put to death
  • His death took place at the time of the Passover
  • His death was by 'hanging' - which was often used by Jews to describe crucifixion - see Luke's Gospel chapter 23 verse 39 and Galatians chapter 3 verse 13.

There are various other passages in the Talmuds that may also refer to Jesus. For details see pages 123-125 of: 'The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict', by Josh McDowell.

Back to 'Written sources outside the Bible'

[i] For more about the Talmuds, see the article on 'Rabbinic Traditions and Writings, in the 'Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels', edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I Howard Marshall, InterVarsity Press 1992.

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