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The Babylonian Talmud on the Execution of Jesus

  • Raymond E. Brown (a1)

Extract

In my The Death of the Messiah, preparatory to examining the Gospel accounts of the trial/interrogation of Jesus by the chief priest(s) and San-hedrin, I surveyed the extra-Gospel evidence for authoritative Jewish involvement in the death of Jesus, derived from Jewish, Christian, and pagan sources. From the Jewish evidence I discussed two items: the witness of Josephus (Ant. 18.3.3; #63–t) and a baraita from TalBab Sanhedrin 43a which I quoted from the London Soncino translation (Nezikin volume 3.281):

On the eve of 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. Anyone 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 Passover.

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1 (New York: Doubleday, 1994) 1.372–81, esp. 376–8.

2 He cites J. Z. Lauterbach's dating of it to the 5th or 6th century, and comments ‘I am not sure that this late date need be maintained.’

3 Indeed, in the next paragraph (1.377) I began a quest to see if there was any other evidence (reflected by Celsus or Justin) that would be earlier than ‘that approximate date’.

4 Nor, may I add parenthetically, did I neglect the question of whether Yeshu was Jesus of Nazareth (rather than Joshua b. Perahiah), for I pointed to the defence of the Jesus identification by O. Betz.

5 Silberman seems to question this because in the Gospel narratives there is no announcement of execution made forty days before the event. But in John (11.45–53) a Sanhedrin decided to put Jesus to death weeks before he died on Passover eve.

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