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It is not surprising that there are very little writings about Jesus outside of the Christian circles during the period soon after the resurrection.  The witnesses to Jesus' teachings, crucifixion and his resurrection were essentially jewish disciples of Jesus.  Rabbis were many and people who claimed to be mesias were dime a dozen.  Crucifixion was a common form execution under the Romans for rebels and criminals.  It was a common feature in the life of the semitic people.  Public executions were common in the middle east until very recently.  So it is not surprising that no one cared about these to take an effort to write about it at a time writing was an expensive hobby of the rich.  Resurrection was serious affair but it was evident and the post resurrection appearances were limited to the disciples.  So until the Christians became powerful enough socially and politically we cannot really expect secular reference to them. Hence if we find a reference it would be in a hostile mode. 

The references can be found in the writings of

·         Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian who was hostile to the Christian movement

·         Josephus, a Jewish historian,

·         Mara bar Serapion, a Syrian prisoner. 


Each of these references confirms three central facts:

·         that there was a leader of a movement called Jesus (or Christ),

·         that Jesus was executed, and

·         that the movement that Jesus was part of survived his death. 


Jesus, however, is variously portrayed in these writings as

·         a troublemaker (Tacitus),

·         a teacher (Josephus),

·         a wise king (Serapion).

 Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117)  
The Annals, XV: 44


Little is known for certain about the origins of Tacitus, although he is believed to have been born, around A.D. 56, into a provincial aristocratic family in Gaul (modern France) or nearby, in the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. We don't even know if his name was "Publius" or "Gaius Cornelius" Tacitus. He had a successful political carrier, becoming senator, consul, and eventually governor of the Roman province of Asia. He probably lived and wrote into Hadrian's reign (117-38) and may have died in A.D. 120.

"Tacitus" means silent, ironically he was known for his oratory and we remember him for his writings.  We have five surviving works by Tacitus,  some parts of them still missing.    His writings are:

·         De vita Iulii Agricolae (The Life of Julius Agricola) [98 CE];

·         De origine et situ Germanorum (The Germania) [98 CE];

·         Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory) [102 CE];

·         Historiae (Histories) [105 CE]; of which we have the first four books and part of the fifth book.  These cover the events of the years 69-70 CE. The last fragmentary book of Histories (5:2) has a description of the Jews just prior to the Great Jewish Revolt and subsequent Diaspora

·         Ab excessu divi Augusti (Annals) [117 CE].

Histories,. Annals, his final work, comprised 16 books originally, but a large portion of it was lost. It begins at the death of Augustus Caesar, and runs from the ascension of Tiberius up to Nero. The Annals include a notable passage which begins with Nero 'fiddling' while Rome burned (15:39), and then one of the earliest historical records of Christians (15:44), scape goated by Nero for the catastrophic fire

Germany is an ethnographic account of the ancient Germans.

Agricola and Germania (in De origine et situ Germanorum is a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who governed Britain, with interesting bits of information on first century England

Oratory is a short discourse on rhetoric.



The front page of Justus Lipsius's 1598 edition of the complete works of Tacitus, bearing the stamps of the Bibliotheca Comunale in Empoli, Italy.

The Annals
Publius Cornelius Tacitus

The Church and Brodribb translations of Tacitus were published by Macmillan in London in a series of editions between 1864 and 1877.  These translations are in the public domain.

Internet ASCII text source: gopher://gopher.vt.edu:10010/10/33
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

Tacitus: Annals Book 15 [44]

(In the following we get an idea of what the Romans knew and thought about the Jews and Judaism.  The reference to Christians refers to the massacre of Christians in AD 64)


44. Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

Tacitus: History Book 5

Titus was sent to subjugate Judaea

1. EARLY in this year Titus Caesar, who had been selected by his father to complete the subjugation of Judaea, and who had gained distinction as a soldier while both were still subjects, began to rise in power and reputation, as armies and provinces emulated each other in their attachment to him. The young man himself, anxious to be thought superior to his station, was ever displaying his gracefulness and his energy in war. By his courtesy and affability he called forth a willing obedience, and he often mixed with the common soldiers, while working or marching, without impairing his dignity as general. He found in Judaea three legions, the 5th, the 10th, and the 15th, all old troops of Vespasian's. To these he added the 12th from Syria, and some men belonging to the 18th and 3rd, whom he had withdrawn from Alexandria. This force was accompanied by twenty cohorts of allied troops and eight squadrons of cavalry, by the two kings Agrippa and Sohemus, by the auxiliary forces of king Antiochus, by a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews with the usual hatred of neighbours, and, lastly, by many persons brought from the capital and from Italy by private hopes of securing the yet unengaged affections of the Prince. With this force Titus entered the enemy's territory, preserving strict order on his march, reconnoitring every spot, and always ready to give battle. At last he encamped near Jerusalem.

Roman understanding of the history of the Jews

2. As I am about to relate the last days of a famous city, it seems appropriate to throw some light on its origin. Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.

Leadership of Moses

3. Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.

Jewish religion, concept of God and worship

4. Moyses, wishing to secure for the future his authority over the nation, gave them a novel form of worship, opposed to all that is practised by other men. Things sacred with us, with them have no sanctity, while they allow what with us is forbidden. In their holy place they have consecrated an image of the animal by whose guidance they found deliverance from their long and thirsty wanderings. They slay the ram, seemingly in derision of Hammon, and they sacrifice the ox, because the Egyptians worship it as Apis. They abstain from swine's flesh, in consideration of what they suffered when they were infected by the leprosy to which this animal is liable. By their frequent fasts they still bear witness to the long hunger of former days, and the Jewish bread, made without leaven, is retained as a memorial of their hurried seizure of corn. We are told that the rest of the seventh day was adopted, because this day brought with it a termination of their toils; after a while the charm of indolence beguilded them into giving up the seventh year also to inaction. But others say that it is an observance in honour of Saturn, either from the primitive elements of their faith having been transmitted from the Idaei, who are said to have shared the flight of that God, and to have founded the race, or from the circumstance that of the seven stars which rule the destinies of men Saturn moves in the highest orbit and with the mightiest power, and that many of the heavenly bodies complete their revolutions and courses in multiples of seven.


5. This worship, however introduced, is upheld by its antiquity; all their other customs, which are at once perverse and disgusting, owe their strength to their very badness. The most degraded out of other races, scorning their national beliefs, brought to them their contributions and presents. This augmented the wealth of the Jews, as also did the fact, that among themselves they are inflexibly honest and ever ready to shew compassion, though they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies. They sit apart at meals, they sleep apart, and though, as a nation, they are singularly prone to lust, they abstain from intercourse with foreign women; among themselves nothing is unlawful. Circumcision was adopted by them as a mark of difference from other men. Those who come over to their religion adopt the practice, and have this lesson first instilled into them, to despise all gods, to disown their country, and set at nought parents, children, and brethren. Still they provide for the increase of their numbers. It is a crime among them to kill any newly-born infant. They hold that the souls of all who perish in battle or by the hands of the executioner are immortal. Hence a passion for propagating their race and a contempt for death. They are wont to bury rather than to burn their dead, following in this the Egyptian custom; they bestow the same care on the dead, and they hold the same belief about the lower world. Quite different is their faith about things divine. The Egyptians worship many animals and images of monstrous form; the Jews have purely mental conceptions of Deity, as one in essence. They call those profane who make representations of God in human shape out of perishable materials. They believe that Being to be supreme and eternal, neither capable of representation, nor of decay. They therefore do not allow any images to stand in their cities, much less in their temples. This flattery is not paid to their kings, nor this honour to our Emperors. From the fact, however, that their priests used to chant to the music of flutes and cymbals, and to wear garlands of ivy, and that a golden vine was found in the temple, some have thought that they worshipped father Liber, the conqueror of the East, though their institutions do not by any means harmonize with the theory; for Liber established a festive and cheerful worship, while the Jewish religion is tasteless and mean.

8. A great part of Judaea consists of scattered villages. They have also towns. Jersualem is the capital. There stood a temple of immense wealth. First came the city with its fortifications, then the royal palace, then, within the innermost defences, the temple itself. Only the Jew might approach the gates; all but priests were forbidden to pass the threshold. While the East was under the sway of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, Jews were the most contemptible of the subject tribes. When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations; for at this time the revolt of Arsaces had taken place. The Macedonian power was now weak, while the Parthian had not yet reached its full strength, and, as the Romans were still far off, the Jews chose kings for themselves. Expelled by the fickle populace, and regaining their throne by force of arms, these princes, while they ventured on the wholesale banishment of their subjects, on the destruction of cities, on the murder of brothers, wives, and parents, and the other usual atrocities of despots, fostered the national superstition by appropriating the dignity of the priesthood as the support of their political power.


9. Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, the temple was left standing. After these provinces had fallen, in the course of our civil wars, into the hands of Marcus Antonius, Pacorus, king of the Parthians, seized Judaea. He was slain by Publius Ventidius, and the Parthians were driven back over the Euphrates. Caius Sosius reduced the Jews to subjection. The royal power, which had been bestowed by Antony on Herod, was augmented by the victorious Augustus. On Herod's death, one Simon, without waiting for the approbation of the Emperor, usurped the title of king. He was punished by Quintilius Varus then governor of Syria, and the nation, with its liberties curtailed, was divided into three provinces under the sons of Herod. Under Tiberius all was quiet. But when the Jews were ordered by Caligula to set up his statue in the temple, they preferred the alternative of war. The death of the Emperor put an end to the disturbance. The kings were either dead, or reduced to insignificance, when Claudius entrusted the province of Judaea to the Roman Knights or to his own freedmen, one of whom, Antonius Felix, indulging in every kind of barbarity and lust, exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave. He had married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, and so was the grandson-in-law, as Claudius was the grandson, of Antony.


10. Yet the endurance of the Jews lasted till Gessius Florus was procurator. In his time the war broke out. Cestius Gallus, legate of Syria, who attempted to crush it, had to fight several battles, generally with ill-success. Cestius dying, either in the course of nature, or from vexation, Vespasian was sent by Nero, and by help of his good fortune, his high reputation, and his excellent subordinates, succeeded within the space of two summers in occupying with his victorious army the whole of the level country and all the cities, except Jerusalem. The following year had been wholly taken up with civil strife, and had passed, as far as the Jews were concerned, in inaction. Peace having been established in Italy, foreign affairs were once more remembered. Our indignation was heightened by the circumstance that the Jews alone had not submitted. At the same time it was held to be more expedient, in reference to the possible results and contingencies of the new reign, that Titus should remain with the army.


11. The Jews formed their line close under their walls, whence, if successful, they might venture to advance, and where, if repulsed, they had a refuge at hand. The cavalry with some light infantry was sent to attack them, and fought without any decisive result. Shortly afterwards the enemy retreated. During the following days they fought a series of engagements in front of the gates, till they were driven within the walls by continual defeats. The Romans then began to prepare for an assault. It seemed beneath them to await the result of famine. The army demanded the more perilous alternative, some prompted by courage, many by sheer ferocity and greed of gain. Titus himself had Rome with all its wealth and pleasures before his eyes. Jerusalem must fall at once, or it would delay his enjoyment of them. But the commanding situation of the city had been strengthened by enormous works which would have been a thorough defence even for level ground. Two hills of great height were fenced in by walls which had been skilfully obliqued or bent inwards, in such a manner that the flank of an assailant was exposed to missiles. The rock terminated in a precipice; the towers were raised to a height of sixty feet, where the hill lent its aid to the fortifications, where the ground fell, to a height of one hundred and twenty. They had a marvellous appearance, and to a distant spectator seemed to be of uniform elevation. Within were other walls surrounding the palace, and, rising to a conspicuous height, the tower Antonia, so called by Herod, in honour of Marcus Antonius.


12. The temple resembled a citadel, and had its own walls, which were more laboriously constructed than the others. Even the colonnades with which it was surrounded formed an admirable outwork. It contained an inexhaustible spring; there were subterranean excavations in the hill, and tanks and cisterns for holding rain water. The founders of the state had foreseen that frequent wars would result from the singularity of its customs, and so had made every provision against the most protracted siege. After the capture of their city by Pompey, experience and apprehension taught them much. Availing themselves of the sordid policy of the Claudian era to purchase the right of fortification, they raised in time of peace such walls as were suited for war. Their numbers were increased by a vast rabble collected from the overthrow of the other cities. All the most obstinate rebels had escaped into the place, and perpetual seditions were the consequence. There were three generals, and as many armies. Simon held the outer and larger circuit of walls. John, also called Bargioras, occupied the middle city. Eleazar had fortified the temple. John and Simon were strong in numbers and equipment, Eleazar in position. There were continual skirmishes, surprises, and incendiary fires, and a vast quantity of corn was burnt. Before long John sent some emissaries, who, under pretence of sacrificing, slaughtered Eleazar and his partisans, and gained possession of the temple. The city was thus divided between two factions, till, as the Romans approached, war with the foreigner brought about a reconciliation.


13. Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth. I have heard that the total number of the besieged, of every age and both sexes, amounted to six hundred thousand. All who were able bore arms, and a number, more than proportionate to the population, had the courage to do so. Men and women showed equal resolution, and life seemed more terrible than death, if they were to be forced to leave their country. Such was this city and nation; and Titus Caesar, seeing that the position forbad an assault or any of the more rapid operations of war, determined to proceed by earthworks and covered approaches. The legions had their respective duties assigned to them, and there was a cessation from fighting, till all the inventions, used in ancient warfare, or devised by modern ingenuity for the reduction of cities, were constructed.

[15.44] Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.



As we can see from the above Tacitus detested both Christians and Jews which makes his reference to Jesus and to Christians more reliable as a source.

No original copies of the Annals exist and the surviving copies of Tacitus' works derive from two principal manuscripts, known as the Medicean manuscripts, written in Latin, which are held in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy.  It is the second Medicean manuscript, 11th century and from the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino, which is the oldest surviving copy of the passage describing Christians.  Scholars generally agree that these copies were written at Monte Cassino and the end of the document refers to Abbas Raynaldus cu... who was most probably one of the two abbots of that name at the abbey during that period.

Annals 15.44, in the second Medicean manuscript

 Some critics have been questioning the authenticity of the portion referring to Christians.

Christians and Chrestians

If we look at the page that contains the passage in the second Medicean manuscript reproduced above, the passage states:

". Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate..."

Christianos, from the Enrico Rostagno copy of folio 38 r of M.II (Leiden 1902), line 21.5

In this detail of the 11th century copy of Annals, we can see the gap between the 'i' and 's'   in the word 'Christianos'. But instead of correcting this the scribe or Tacitus (we do not know who) added this in the margin.  

The marginal gloss Christiani next to the line in which the Christianos sentence is found.

 In 1902 Georg Andresen commented on the appearance of the first 'i' and subsequent gap in the earliest extant, 11th century, copy of the Annals in Florence, suggesting that the text had been altered, and an 'e' had originally been in the text, rather than this 'i'.  "With ultra-violet examination" of the Second Medicean manuscript "the alteration was conclusively shown", even though it wasn't possible to say "who altered the letter e into an i".  The examination was made by Dr. Ida Giovanna Rao of the Laurentian library in Florence, in 2008. The alteration is also visible in an ultra-violet photograph.

  Since the alteration became known it has given rise to debates among scholars as to whether Tacitus deliberately used the term Chrestians, or if a scribe made an error during the Middle Ages and susequently corrected it in the margin.

 It could well be an addendum by Tacitus. 

We should remember that this is not an original of Tacitus' draft.  It is a copy several times removed from the original.  If this copy was a draft of the scribe and was proof read, this is exactly how it will appear.  I come from a family who practiced printing and publishing and this is exactly how we mark the correction in a proof.  It appears that this practice of writing suggested corrections in the margin is an ancient scribal practice.  We can see it in the Talmud also.  Thus according to the well established proofing technique this is a correction on the margin by the scribe.  In either case it really does not make any difference.  It certainly was not an attempt of a forgerer even in the long shot.  If it was, why should he leave the correction at the margin instead of correcting it there itself or even rewriting the whole page?  In fact we can see several marginal scripts as corrections or explanations to the original text in the page. It was just the normal scribal practice of the period in order make sense of the manuscript to the readers.


In fact both the terms Christians and Chrestians had at times been used by the general population in Rome to refer to early Christians.  Many sources indicate that the term Chrestians was also used among the early followers of Jesus by the 2nd century.   The term Christians appears only three times in the New Testament, the first usage (Acts 11:26) giving the origin of the term.  In all three cases the uncorrected Codex Sinaiticus in Greek reads Chrestianoi.  In Phrygia a number of funerary stone inscriptions use the term Chrestians, with one stone inscription using both terms together, reading: "Chrestians for Christians". But the term Chrestianoi went out of use and the predominant term used in the middle ages was Christians.  Hence the need for a corrected version. 

Adolf von Harnack argued that Chrestians was the original wording, and that Tacitus deliberately used Christus immediately after it to show his own superior knowledge compared to the population at large. 

Robert Renehan has stated that it was natural for a Roman to mix the two words that sounded the same, that Chrestianos was the original word in the Annals and not an error by a scribe. 

Robert Van Voorst has stated that it was unlikely for Tacitus himself to refer to Christians as Chrestianos i.e. "useful ones" given that he also referred to them as "hated for their shameful acts". 

Paul Eddy sees no major impact on the authenticity of the passage or its meaning regardless of the use of either term by Tacitus.

Even if this was a correction made by the scribe while copying as a scribe making the copy  it does not in anyway affect the meaning or the authority of the statements.

The Rank of Pilate

Tacitus gives the rank of Pilate as procurator  while he was the Prefect of Iudaea province at the time of crucifixion of Jesus.  Josephus refers to him with the generic Greek term ηγεμων, or governor.

It should be noted that Pilate's position in Judea was called "Prefect " during 26-41 A.D. (Josephus, Antiquities 18.32f, 35, 89), but "procurator" in the years 44-66. After Herod Agrippa's death in 44 A.D., when Judea reverted to direct Roman rule, Emperor Claudius gave procurators control over Judea.  The office of Prefect was abolished around 46 AD. Under Claudius, the title "Prefect" was changed to a civilian title, "Procurator" (procurator/epitropos).  In 115 AD, Tacitus made the error of referring to Pilate as "a Procurator", instead of "a Prefect", probably because by that time the distinction had disappeared (Wroe, 1999, p. 65).  Gospels refer to Pilate as  "Procurator" since they were written after 46 AD. It is probable that Tacitus got the story from Christians.

Pilot inscription 26–37 CE

Roman historian and senator Tacitus refer positively to:

·         Christ,

·          his execution by Pontius Pilate and

·          the existence of early Christians in Rome as early as 64 AD which is within 35 years of crucifixion of Jesus.

This passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origin of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome. Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source.

Flavius Josephus (37 – 100 AD)
Antiquities 17.3.3. (81-96 C.E.)


A 1640 edition of the Works of Josephus



A page from 1466 copy of Antiquities of the Jews


A 1631 Testimonium page with commentary


Josephus introduces himself in Greek as Iōsēpos (Ιώσηπος), son of Matthias, an ethnic Jew, a priest from Jerusalem" in his first book.  His mother was an aristocratic woman who descended from royalty and of the former ruling Hasmonean Dynasty.    Josephus descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the 24 orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Through his father, Josephus was a descendant of the High Priest Jonathon probably referring to Alexander Jannaeus, the High Priest and Hasmonean ruler who governed Judea from 103 BC-76 BC.

He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of AD 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces.  After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat fell under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands and the survivors committed suicide. According to Josephus, he was trapped in a cave with forty of his companions in July 67. The Romans (commanded by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors) asked the group to surrender, but they refused. Josephus suggested a method of collective suicide: they drew lots and killed each other, one by one, counting to every third person. The sole survivor of this process was Josephus (this method as a mathematical problem is referred to as the Josephus problem, or Roman Roulette) who surrendered to the Roman forces and became a prisoner. In 69 Josephus was released. According to his account, he acted as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70, in which his parents and first wife died.

It was while being confined at Yodfat that Josephus claimed to have experienced a divine revelation, that later led to his speech predicting Vespasian would become emperor. After the prediction became true he was released by Vespasian who considered his gift of prophecy to be divine. Josephus wrote that his revelation had taught him three things: that God, the creator of the Jewish people, had decided to "punish" them, that "fortune" had been given to the Romans, and that God had chosen him "to announce the things that are to come".

In 71, he went to Rome in the entourage of Titus, becoming a Roman citizen and client of the ruling Flavian dynasty (hence he is often referred to as Flavius Josephus — see below). In addition to Roman citizenship, he was granted accommodation in conquered Judaea, and a decent, if not extravagant, pension. While in Rome and under Flavian patronage, Josephus wrote all of his known works. Although he uses "Josephus", he appears to have taken the Roman praenomen Titus and nomen Flavius from his patrons.   This was standard practice for "new" Roman citizens.

The Works of Flavius Josephus  are:

·         Antiquities of the Jews tells the story from creation to the Roman period.

·         War of the Jews tells the story from  the Taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes to  the Sedition of the Jews at Cyrene

·         The Life of Flavius Josephus - Autobiography

·         Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades

·         Flavius Josephus Against Apion

By Josephus' account, the Antiquities were completed in the thirteenth year of the Emperor Domitian, 93 or 94 C.E.

Extant manuscripts

Josephus wrote all of his surviving works after his establishment in Rome (c. AD 71) under the patronage of the Flavian Emperor Vespasian. As is common with ancient texts, however, there are no surviving extant manuscripts of Josephus' works that can be dated before the 11th century, and the oldest of these are all Greek minuscules, copied by Christian monks.  (Jews did not preserve the writings of Josephus because they considered him to be a traitor.)

There are about 120 extant Greek manuscripts of Josephus, of which 33 predate the 14th century, with two thirds from the Comnenoi Empire period 1081 to c.1185. The earliest surviving Greek manuscript that contains the Testimonium is the 11th century Ambrosianus 370 (F 128), preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, which includes almost all of the second half of the Antiquities.  There are about 170 extant Latin translations of Josephus, some of which go back to the sixth century. 

Thus the only manuscripts available today are from Christian sources. One of the reasons the works of Josephus were copied and maintained by Christians was that his writings provided a good deal of information about a number of figures mentioned in the New Testamant, and the background to events such as the death of James during a gap in Roman governing authority.  This itself should suffice to proclaim the truthfulness of the testimony. Because manuscript transmission was done by hand-copying, typically by monastic scribes, almost all ancient texts have been subject to both accidental and deliberate alterations, emendations and elisions.  If the references to Jesus and New Testament events and persons were not there originally they had no reason to maintain the tedious reproduction processes.   To assume that some early Christian Father with the conspiracy of the monastic scribes decided to copy Josephus an anti-Christian's book and inserted words in it intentionally as a forgery to making Jesus historical is asking too much of an imagination and is certainly opposite to the declared and practiced moral and ethical principles of Christian communities of the early period.

 As a pharisee of priestly descent, Josephus wrote critically of the Zealots, who he blamed for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  This is what he wrote:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him is not extinct at this day."

Now, many skeptics are suspicious of this passage. The usual claim is that it is not authentic but was added later by some Christian interpolater.   However, the majority of scholars hold to a “partial authenticity” view of this passage; that is, they believe even the original text contained a reference to Christ, albeit much less spectacular. They agree on something similar to the following reconstruction:

see http://www.josephus.org/testimonium.htm

"At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) had not died out."

Even in this tamer version of the Testimonium Flavianum is remarkable. It attests not only the person of Jesus but also that He was a great teacher of truth, popular among both Jews and Gentiles, and that He was crucified by Pilate yet continued to be loved by His followers who called themselves “Christians” for His namesake."

Another passage from the Antiquities of the Jews also mentions Jesus and is not disputed:

"But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned."

We see in this passage, James, the half-brother of Jesus and the author of the Epistle which bears his name. Josephus states clearly that Jesus is commonly identified as the “Christ” (the Annointed One).

We have another passage that does not mention Jesus but does discuss   John the Baptist. 

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God as a just punishment of what Herod had done against John, who was called the Baptist. For Herod had killed this good man, who had commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, righteousness towards one another and piety towards God. For only thus, in John's opinion, would the baptism he administered be acceptable to God, namely, if they used it to obtain not pardon for some sins but rather the cleansing of their bodies, inasmuch as it was taken for granted that their souls had already been purified by justice."

The extant copies of this work, which all derive from Christian sources (even the recently-recovered Arabic version), contain the two disputed passages about Jesus. The "Testimonium" is found in every copy of Josephus in existence and there is no proof that any insertions into the text were ever made in an attempt to forge

 The Arabic version was copied from a Greek version.  What is not known is which one.  But if you notice the comparison below, if the Arabic version was a direct translation of the Greek, then why the differences?  Nevertheless, what is important in the Arabic Version is that the resurrection of Christ is maintained. (http://carm.org/regarding-quotes-historian-josephus-about-jesus)

Greek Version

Arabic Version

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to call him a man.]

"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus.

For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly.

And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous.

He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Christ.]

And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples.

When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.

Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.

[On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

The earliest complete Greek manuscript of the Antiquities dates from the eleventh century, the Ambrosianus 370 (F 128); preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Origen Adamantius (184/185 – 253/254),  was one of the early Church Fathers of Alexandrian school of the late second centuy.  Oriegen has written about these passages in his writings within a century of the writings of Flavius.  Here is what he says:  

    "And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the "Antiquities of the Jews" in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James."  Origen - Matthew X, XVII

    "For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth - that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ) - the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice.  Origen," - Against Celsus I, XLVII

Evidently the phrase,  'James, brother of Jesus called Christ' certainly existed in Josephus even at the time of Origen.   Notice how he repeats this phrase 'called Christ'.

"It cannot be a Christian interpolation as they called James either 'James the Just' or 'James the Brother of the Lord'. The reference to 'James, brother of Jesus called Christ' is still found in Antiquities 20 and this by itself torpedoes the idea that Jesus never existed. The fact idea that Christians were going around doctoring copies of Josephus while they were still a persecuted minority is just laughable." http://www.bede.org.uk/jesusmyth.htm  

Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus in Syria (c. 390-457) wrote about the year 433 a Commentary on the prophet Daniel.  In this he writes:

“Now, to the fact that the Jews of old used to call blessed Daniel the greatest prophet the Hebrew Josephus is a notable witness, who, while not accepting the Christian message, could not bring himself to conceal the truth.” (Theodoret, Commentary on Daniel 12:14)

The Testimonium from Eusebius’ Theophania  is preserved in only a Syriac translation, where the oldest surviving manuscript is as early as from the year 411 CE in 5.43b-44 states as follows:

There is nevertheless nothing to prohibit our availing ourselves even the more abundantly of the Hebrew witness Josephus, who in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities of the Jews, writing the things that belonged to the times of Pilate, commemorates our savior in these words: At that time there was a wise man named Jesus, if it be fitting to call him a man; for he was the worker of wonderful deeds and a teacher of men, of those who in truth accept grace, and he brought together many of the Jews and many of the pagans; and he was the messiah. And when, according to the example of the chief principal men among ourselves, Pilate put a cross on his head, those who formerly loved him were not silent; for he appeared to them on the third day alive, the divine prophets having said this and many other things concerning him. From then until now the sect of the Christians has not been wanting.” (Eusebius, Theophania 5.43b–44; from Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, The Testimonium Flavianum)

The importance is that, if this was a later Christian interpolation it was done  255 AD while the Christians were a persecuted hunted minority in Rome which does not make sense.


http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08375a.htm summarises the arguments as follows:

"Those who regard the passage as spurious

First, there are those who consider the whole passage as spurious. The principal reasons for this view appear to be the following:

           Josephus could not represent Jesus Christ as a simple moralist, and on the other hand he could not emphasize the Messianic prophecies and expectations without offending the Roman susceptibilities;

           the above cited passage from Josephus is said to be unknown to Origen and the earlier patristic writers;

           its very place in the Josephan text is uncertain, since Eusebius (Church History II.6) must have found it before the notices concerning Pilate, while it now stands after them.

But the spuriousness of the disputed Josephan passage does not imply the historian's ignorance of the facts connected with Jesus Christ. Josephus's report of his own juvenile precocity before the Jewish teachers (Vit., 2) reminds one of the story of Christ's stay in the Temple at the age of twelve; the description of his shipwreck on his journey to Rome (Vit., 3) recalls St. Paul's shipwreck as told in the Acts; finally his arbitrary introduction of a deceit practised by the priests of Isis on a Roman lady, after the chapter containing his supposed allusion to Jesus, shows a disposition to explain away the virgin birth of Jesus and to prepare the falsehoods embodied in the later Jewish writings.

Those who regard the passage as authentic, with some spurious additions

A second class of critics does not regard the whole of Josephus's testimony concerning Christ as spurious but they maintain the interpolation of parts included above in parenthesis. The reasons assigned for this opinion may be reduced to the following two:

           Josephus must have mentioned Jesus, but he cannot have recognized Him as the Christ; hence part of our present Josephan text must be genuine, part must be interpolated.

           Again, the same conclusion follows from the fact that Origen knew a Josephan text about Jesus, but was not acquainted with our present reading; for, according to the great Alexandrian doctor, Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Messias ("In Matth.", xiii, 55; Against Celsus I.47).

Whatever force these two arguments have is lost by the fact that Josephus did not write for the Jews but for the Romans; consequently, when he says, "This was the Christ", he does not necessarily imply that Jesus was the Christ considered by the Romans as the founder of the Christian religion.

Those who consider it to be completely genuine

The third class of scholars believes that the whole passage concerning Jesus, as it is found today in Josephus, is genuine. The main arguments for the genuineness of the Josephan passage are the following:

           First, all codices or manuscripts of Josephus's work contain the text in question; to maintain the spuriousness of the text, we must suppose that all the copies of Josephus were in the hands of Christians, and were changed in the same way.

           Second, it is true that neither Tertullian nor St. Justin makes use of Josephus's passage concerning Jesus; but this silence is probably due to the contempt with which the contemporary Jews regarded Josephus, and to the relatively little authority he had among the Roman readers. Writers of the age of Tertullian and Justin could appeal to living witnesses of the Apostolic tradition.

           Third, Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl"., I, xi; cf. "Dem. Ev.", III, v) Sozomen (Church History I.1), Niceph. (Hist. Eccl., I, 39), Isidore of Pelusium (Ep. IV, 225), St. Jerome (catal.script. eccles. xiii), Ambrose, Cassiodorus, etc., appeal to the testimony of Josephus; there must have been no doubt as to its authenticity at the time of these illustrious writers.

           Fourth, the complete silence of Josephus as to Jesus would have been a more eloquent testimony than we possess in his present text; this latter contains no statement incompatible with its Josephan authorship: the Roman reader needed the information that Jesus was the Christ, or the founder of the Christian religion; the wonderful works of Jesus and His Resurrection from the dead were so incessantly urged by the Christians that without these attributes the Josephan Jesus would hardly have been acknowledged as the founder of Christianity.

All this does not necessarily imply that Josephus regarded Jesus as the Jewish Messias; but, even if he had been convinced of His Messiahship, it does not follow that he would have become a Christian. A number of possible subterfuges might have supplied the Jewish historian with apparently sufficient reasons for not embracing Christianity." 


In his work Feldman describes the chief arguments for and against the Testimonium authenticity. 

Arguments for authenticity

Arguments against authenticity 

Found in all surviving manuscripts 

Christian content unlikely from a Jewish writer (esp., "He was the Messiah.").

Quoted in full by Eusebius, c. 324 CE

Writers earlier than Eusebius do not cite the passage; Origen states that Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.

A more accepted reference to Jesus in Book 20 indicates that he must have been described earlier in the Antiquities, logically at the discussion of Pilate.

The passage breaks the continuity of the narrative concerning Pilate. 

Vocabulary and style are generally consistent with that of Josephus

There are stylistic peculiarities that are not found in Josephus, such as the use of the first person in "the principal men among us".

No other passage in the Antiquities has been seriously questioned, so the burden of proof is on the skeptics.

Interpolations have been found in isolated manuscripts of Josephus, such as accounts of Jesus in the Slavonic version.

At any rate Josephus do declare that

·         There was a historical person called Jesus

·         He performed surprising feats

·         He was crucified

·         He had a large following that were still in existence at the time of Josephus.

Thallus, The Samaritan-Born Historian

Thallus demythifying darkness at noon

Thallus was an early historian who wrote in Koine Greek.   Scholars believe that his work was the earliest reference to the historical Jesus, written within two decades soon after the Crucifixion. He wrote a three-volume history of the Mediterranean world from before the Trojan War to the 167th Olympiad, c. 112-109 BC. Most of his work, like the vast majority of ancient literature, perished, but not before parts of his writings were repeated by Sextus Julius Africanus in his History of the World.  (Sextus Julius Africanus (c.160 - c.240) was a Christian traveler and historian of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers. His name indicates that he was an African. Suidas calls him "a Libyan philosopher", while Gelzer considers him of Roman descent. Julius called himself a native of Jerusalem which some scholars consider his birthplace and lived at the neighbouring Emmaus. His chronicle indicates his familiarity with the topography of Israel. )

Here is the passage from Africanus reproduced by Syncellus:

"On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending of rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer."

He is one of the first Gentile writers who mention Christ. Whether we accept these explanations for the darkness or not, the event directly refers to the crucifixion of Jesus within decades of the event.  



Talmud (200-500 C.E.)


Orthodox Jews believe God taught the Oral Torah to Moses, and he taught it to others, down to the present day. This tradition was maintained only in oral form until about the 2d century AD, when the oral law was compiled and written down in a document called the Mishnah. The Jewish community of Palestine suffered great losses during the Great Revolt and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion. Millions of Jews were killed in which most of the Jewish scholars perished along with them.  As a result the oral teachings which were handed down through rabbinic disciples almost came to an end. Around 200 AD Prince Rabbi Judah   decided to write them down against the century old tradition.     Teaching the law orally, the rabbis knew, compelled students to maintain close relationships with teachers, and they considered teachers, not books, to be the best conveyors of the Jewish tradition. But with the deaths of so many teachers in Rabbi Judah   feared that the Oral Law would be forgotten unless it were written down. Mishna has sixty ­three tractates dealing with all sorts of details of the law.

Over the next few centuries, additional commentaries elaborating on the Mishnah were written down in Jerusalem and Babylon. These additional commentaries are known as the Gemara. The Gemara and the Mishnah together are known as the Talmud. This was completed in the 5th century AD.

The Talmud, which literally means “learning,” is actually a vast library, consisting of sixty-three individual works, or “tractates.”  This enormous collection of literature covers a range of subjects as diverse as biblical law, medicine, agriculture, and philosophy.  It is the embodiment of what is called the “oral law” – a compilation of Jewish religious traditions developed over the centuries and handed down orally from generation to generation.  The Talmud consists of two main parts – the Mishna, written in Hebrew around A.D. 200, and the Gemara, written in Aramaic, around A.D. 400 in Palestine and around A.D. 500 In Babylonia.  The Gemara is related to the earlier Mishna in the same way as a Bible commentary is related to the biblical text.  The mastery of this enormous collection of literature, sometimes referred to as the “sea of the Talmud” (yam hatalmud), requires a lifetime of diligent study. Various attempts over the years have been made to summarize Talmudic teachings into accessible “topics,” since the style and reasoning of the rabbis quoted in its pages is rather difficult to comprehend

The Talmud is written in the following format making it a detailed commentary even including marginal glosses which may be additional thoughts or corrections by the scribe and rabbi.



"The Talmud consists of two specific collections of texts—the Mishnah and the Gemara.

As the Mishnah is written in such precise and terse verse, the rabbis needed to discuss and analyse it. The Gemara is the collection of the rabbinic discussions about the Mishnah and other teachings of the Tannaim (scholars from 400 BCE - 200 CE), which took place for three hundred years after the Mishnah was written down (200-500 CE).

The Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah, and the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds contain two different commentaries on the Mishnah, each originating from a certain place (Babylon and Israel, not actually Jerusalem). Sometimes, the Gemara alone is called the Talmud, although strictly speaking this is not true as the Talmud also contains the Mishnah.

Talmud literally means ‘study’. The Talmud embodies the labours, opinions, and teachings of the ancient Jewish scholars in expounding and developing the religious and civil laws of the Bible during a period of some eight centuries (from 300 BCE to 500 CE). There are two different versions of the Talmud—the Talmud Bavli (lit. Babylonian Talmud), and the Talmud Yerushalmi (lit. Jerusalem Talmud). Each of these is very long—the Babylonian Talmud is usually printed as twenty large volumes and the much smaller Jerusalem Talmud—as three large volumes. The two versions of the Talmud contain the same Mishnah (i.e., there is one Mishnah, common to both) but different Gemara. The Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) is the authoritative collection, and is usually what people refer to when they mention the Talmud. Not every Masechet (Tractate) of the Mishnah has a corresponding Gemara in both, or even either version of the Talmud. In general, the Talmud Bavli doesn’t contain a Gemara on Seder Zeraim (Seeds) as this is about agriculture in the Land of Israel which was not discussed in detail in Babylon. Seder Teharot (Purity) also has no extensive Gemara as laws concerning purity were so important in everyday life that it didn’t need to be written down.

Although the Talmud, strictly speaking, consists simply of the Mishnah and Gemara, if you look at a standard edition of the Talmud there are a lot of other commentaries and discussions printed in the book. Again, this is similar to some editions of a play by Shakespeare that may be printed with all sorts of explanations in the margins. The standard Vilna Edition of the Talmud is a little over a hundred years old 

If the Torah is the foundation of Jewish life, then the Talmud is the central pillar of Jewish study and thought."



  Babylonian Talmud 

In the first few centuries CE, there were many sects of Judaism (such as Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees) each claiming to be the correct faith.  Early Christianity was simply one of many sects of Judaism where Jesus of Nazaareth was the long awaited Mesiah. Some sects wrote polemics advocating their position, and occasionally disparaging rival sects.  It is therefore quite possible that the depictions of Jesus in the Talmud is presented as such by rival groups   Even though some Christian scholars consider that these references are such depictions, even a basic analysis will show that none of these refer to the Christian Jesus.    

Talmud and Tosefta

The earliest undisputed occurrences of the term Yeshu are found in five anecdotes in the Tosefta (c 200 CE) and Babylonian Talmud (c 500 CE). The anecdotes appear in the Babylonian Talmud during the course of broader discussions on various religious or legal topics.

The Venice edition of the Jerusalem Talmud contains the name Yeshu, but the Leiden manuscript has a name deleted, and "Yeshu" added in a marginal gloss. Schäfer (2007) writes that due to this, Neusner treats the name as a gloss and omitted it from his translation of the Jerusalem Talmud.

Klausner views the accounts as finally understood to be at most spurious legends combining Jesus with other individuals.

Here are some titbits which give some insight into the problem


The following analysis is taken from The Jesus Narrative In The Talmud Written by Gil Student as given in  http://www.angelfire.com/mt/talmud/jesusnarr.html

Here is how Gil Student explains the Jesus passages away:

"Passage #1: Ben Stada
 Talmud Shabbat 104b, Sanhedrin 67a 

It is taught: R. Eliezer told the sages: Did not Ben Stada bring witchcraft with him from Egypt in a cut that was on his skin?  They said to him: He was a fool and you cannot bring proof from a fool. 

Ben Stada is Ben Pandira. 
R. Chisda said: The husband was Stada and the lover was Pandira. 
[No,] the husband was Pappos Ben Yehudah and the mother was Stada. 
[No,] the mother was Miriam the women's hairdresser [and was called Stada].  As we say in Pumbedita: She has turned away [Stat Da] from her husband.

What we see from here is that there was a man named Ben Stada who was considered to be a practicer of black magic.  His mother was named Miriam and also called Stada.  His father was named Pappos Ben Yehudah.  Miriam (Stada) had an affair   from which Ben Stada was born.



Passage #2: Yeshu


Talmud Sanhedrin 107b, Sotah 47a 

What of R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah? 

When John [Hyrcanus] the king killed the rabbis, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah [and Yeshu] went to Alexandria of Egypt.  When there was peace, Shimon Ben Shetach sent to him "From me [Jerusalem] the holy city to you Alexandria of Egypt.  My husband remains in your midst and I sit forsaken." 

[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] left and arrived at a particular inn and they showed him great respect.  He said: How beautiful is this inn [Achsania, which also means innkeeper]. 
[Yeshu] said: Rabbi, she has narrow eyes. 
[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] said to him: Wicked one, this is how you engage yourself? 
[R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] sent out four hundred trumpets and excommunicated him. 
[Yeshu] came before [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] many times and said: Accept me.  But [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] paid him no attention. 

One day [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] was reciting Shema [during which one may not be interrupted].  [Yeshu] came before him.  He was going to accept [Yeshu] and signalled to [Yeshu] with his hand.  [Yeshu]  thought that [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah] was repelling him.  He went, hung a brick, and bowed down to it. 

[Yeshu] said to [R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah]: You taught me that anyone who sins and causes others to sin is not given the opportunity to repent. 
And the master said: Yeshu {the Notzri} practiced magic and deceive and led Israel astray.

Background and Summary
Note that historians differ on the exact years of these events.  For simplicity, we will assume the latest possible dates as suggested by Gershon Tannenbaum [Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia, p. 87].

John Hyrcanus was a successful king and soldier.  During a banquet celebrating his victories in 93 BCE, some Pharisee rabbis offended him and he was convinced by Sadducee leaders to try to kill every Pharisee rabbi [Hyman, vol. II pp. 691-692, 766].  Some rabbis, such as R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah and his student Yeshu, fled to Alexandria outside of John Hyrcanus's reach [Hyman vol. II pp. 647, 692].  Shimon Ben Shetach, however, was hidden in Jerusalem by his sister, Salome Alexandra, who was John Hyrcanus's daughter-in-law [Hyman, vol. II pp. 647, 692, 766, vol. III pp. 1212-1213].  The extremely diverse religious population of Palestine, full of sects such as the Essenes, Kumrans, and numerous other groups, was temporarily devoid of any public Pharisee leaders.

By the year 91 BCE, John Hyrcanus and his sons Antigonus and Aristobulos had died and his third son Alexander Janneus became king.  Even though Alexander Janneus was an ardent Sadducee, his wife convinced him to appoint his Pharisaic brother-in-law, Shimon Ben Shetach, to the Sanhedrin, then dominated by Sadducees.  Slowly, over the course of a number of years, Shimon Ben Shetach outshone his Sadducee opponents in the Sanhedrin and appointed his Pharisaic students as members [Hyman, vol. II pp. 766-767, vol. III pp. 1213-1214].

By the year 80 BCE it was finally safe for the Pharisee rabbis to quietly return and Shimon Ben Shetach sent a cryptic note to his mentor, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah, encouraging him to return [Hyman, vol. II pp. 647-648, vol. III pp. 1213-1214].

Some 50 to 60 years after the great Pharisaic victory of the Hasmoneans, in which Pharisees rebelled against the Greek-Syrians and gained the monarchy, these Pharisee rabbis returned to a country full of heretical sects that had either integrated aspects of Hellenist paganism into their religion or had, in an attempt to repel all unproven influence, rejected the traditions of the rabbis.  The Pharisees who remembered the prominence in which they had so recently been held were now witnesses to the disintegration of their religious society.

While returning, Yeshu misunderstood one of his teacher's remarks and said something that demonstrated that he was interested in and looking at married women.  As sexual promiscuity was a sign of many of the Hellenist sects, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah suspected his student of being yet another leader influenced by Hellenism and had him excommunicated [this hasty conclusion was condemned by the Talmud a few lines before our passage].  After many attempts by Yeshu to reconcile with his mentor, R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah was finally ready.  However, Yeshu approached him while he was reciting Shema, the most important part of the morning prayer during which he could not stop to speak.  He motioned to Yeshu with his hand which was misinterpreted as a signal to go away.  Yeshu finally gave up and fulfilled his teacher's suspicion.  He adopted a pagan religion and went on to create his own sect of Judaism and lead many Jews astray.

Some historians note some similarities here between Yeshu and Jesus.  Most notably, in one manuscript of the Talmud he is called Yeshu the Notzri which could be rendered (with only a little difficulty) Jesus the Nazarene.

1. Yeshu lived about a century before Jesus.
2. Only one of the approximately four distinct manuscripts available have the title HaNotzri (possibly, the Nazarene).  None of the other manuscripts contain that title which make it suspect as a later interpolation, as medieval commentators suggest [cf. Menachem HaMeiri, Beit Habechirah, Sotah ad. loc.].
3. Notzri does not necessarily mean Nazarene.  It is actually a biblical term (Jeremiah 4:16).  While centuries later it was undoubtedly used to refer to Christians in the form of Notzrim or Netzarim, it could have been a term used to refer to many strong communities.  The name "Ben Netzar" was used by the Talmud to refer to the famous chief of robbers Odenathus of Palmyra [see Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary p. 930]
4. The name Yeshu alone could have been common.  We know that the name Jesus was common [see Collossians 4:11 and above].
5. Other than the name, nothing in the story fits anything we know about Jesus.


Passage #3: Trial


Talmud Sanhedrin 67a 

It is taught: For all others liable for the death penalty [except for the enticer to idolatry] we do not hide witnesses.  How do they deal with [the enticer]?  They light a lamp for him in the inner chamber and place witnesses in the outer chamber so that they can see and hear him while he cannot see or hear them.  One says to him "Tell me again what you said to me in private" and he tells him.  He says "How can we forsake our G-d in heaven and worship idolatry?"  If he repents, good.  If he says "This is our obligation and what we must do" the witnesses who hear him from outside bring him to the court and stone him.  And so they did to Ben Stada in Lud and hung him on the eve of Passover.

This passage discusses how an enticer to idolatry, one of the worst religious criminals (see Deuteronomy 13:7-12), was caught.  The Talmud then continues and says that this was the method used to catch the notorious Ben Stada.

Again we see Ben Stada.  Above we were told that he performed witchcraft and we are now told that he was an idolater as well.  The connection to Jesus is that Ben Stada is connected to Jesus in the passage above and that he was executed on the eve of Passover.  The Gospel of John (19:14) has Jesus being executed on the eve of Passover.

1. The same problems above connecting Ben Stada to Jesus apply here as well, including his living almost a century after Jesus.
2. Ben Stada was stoned by a Jewish court and not crucified by the Roman government like Jesus.
3. The Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus was executed on Passover itself (Matthew 26:18-20; Mark 14:16-18; Luke 22:13-15) and not the eve of Passover.
4. Jesus was not crucified in Lud.



Passage #4: Execution

 Talmud Sanhedrin 43a 

It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that "[Yeshu] is going to be stoned for practicing witchcraft, for enticing and leading Israel astray.  Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him."  But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover. 

Ulla said: Would one think that we should look for exonerating evidence for him?  He was an enticer and G-d said (Deuteronomy 13:9) "Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him." 

Yeshu was different because he was close to the government.

Here we have the story of the execution of Yeshu.  Like Ben Stada, he was also executed on the eve of Passover.  Before executing him, the court searched for any witnesses who could clear his name, as was normally done before any execution.  Ulla, however, questioned this practice.  An enticer, due to the biblical mandate not to be merciful, should not be afforded this normal consideration.  The Talmud answers that Yeshu was different.  Because of his government connections, the court tried to search for any reason not to execute him and upset the government.

Again we see Yeshu.  All of the proofs from above connecting Yeshu to Jesus apply here as well.  Additionally, the execution on the eve of Passover is another connection to Jesus as above with Ben Stada.

1. As mentioned above with Ben Stada, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus being executed on Passover itself and not the eve of Passover.
2. As above, Yeshu lived a century before Jesus.
3. Yeshu was executed by a Jewish court and not by the Romans.  During Yeshu's time, the reign of Alexander Janneus, the Jewish courts had the power to execute but had to be careful because the courts were ruled by the Pharisees while the king was a Sadducee.  It seems clear why the courts would not want to unneccesarily upset the monarch by executing a friend of his.  During the Roman occupation of Jesus' time, there is no indication that the Jewish courts had the right to execute criminals.
3. There is no indication from the New Testament that Jesus had friends in the government.





Passage #5: Disciples


Talmud Sanhedrin 43a 

It is taught: Yeshu had five disciples - Matai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah. 

They brought Matai [before the judges].  He said to them: Will Matai be killed?  It is written (Psalm 42:2) "When [=Matai] shall (I) come and appear before G-d." 
They said to him: Yes, Matai will be killed as it is written (Psalm 41:5) "When [=Matai] shall (he) die and his name perish." 

They brought Nekai.  He said to them: Will Nekai be killed?  It is written (Exodus 23:7) "The innocent [=Naki] and the righteous you shall not slay." 
They said to him: Yes, Nekai will be killed as it is written (Psalm 10:8) "In secret places he slay the innocent [=Naki]." 

They brought Netzer.  He said to them: Will Netzer be killed?  It is written (Isaiah 11:1) "A branch [=Netzer] shall spring up from his roots." 
They said to him:  Yes, Netzer will be killed as  it is written (Isaiah 14:19) "You are cast forth out of your grave like an abominable branch [=Netzer]." 

They brought Buni.  He said to them: Will Buni be killed?  It is written (Exodus 4:22) "My son [=Beni], my firstborn, Israel." 
They said to him:  Yes, Buni will be killed as it is written (Exodus 4:23) "Behold, I slay your son [=Bincha] your firstborn." 

They brought Todah.  He said to them: Will Todah be killed?  It is written (Psalm 100:1) "A Psalm for thanksgiving [=Todah]." 
They said to him:  Yes, Todah will be killed as it is written (Psalm 50:23) "Whoever sacrifices thanksgiving [=Todah] honors me." 

Five of Yeshu's disciples were brought before a court, tried for the crime against G-d and society of idolatry, and executed according to biblical law.  This passages presents each disciple cleverly bringing a biblical verse in an attempt to exonerate himself and the court responding likewise.

The name Yeshu is used as above.  The additional proof this passage provides is that Matai is the Hebrew equivalent of Matthew, one of Jesus' disciples.

1. The same problems above connecting Yeshu to Jesus apply here.
2. Of the five disciples, only one is recognized.  What of the other four?
3. The name Matai seems like a nickname or Aramaic equivalent of Matityahu, which was a known Jewish name in that time period.  It was probably a common name, considering the high esteem in which the patriarch of the Hasmonean dynasty, Matityahu, was held by the common people.  Some manuscripts have the name of R. Yehoshua Ben Perachiah's famous colleague as Matai from Arbel [cf. R. Shimon Ben Tzemach Duran, Magen Avot, ed. Zeini (Jerusalem:2000) p. 31].


Passage #6: The Student

Tosefta Chullin 2:23 

It once happened that R. Elazar ben Damah was bitten by a snake and Ya'akov of the village Sechania came to heal him in the name of Yeshu ben Pandira, but R. Yishmael did not allow him.

Here we see the only place in which the names Yeshu and Ben Pandira are connected.

As is easily seen the whole Jesus stories are in a mess mixing up events.  In spite of that there is the essence of the Christian Jesus in the Talmud.  But why did they make this mess?  For this we need to look at the history of Jewish literature and the Christian reaction in time.


Taken as it is it would mean that the Jesus Christ, the Nazarene son of Princess Mirium and Prince Joseph of the dynasty of David is nowhere explicitly found in the Talmud in the discussion of the Rabbis.  

In 1240 Nicholas Donin, with the support of Pope Gregory IX, referred to Yeshu narratives to support his accusation that the Jewish community had attacked the Virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus. In the Disputation of Paris, Yechiel of Paris conceded that one of the Yeshu stories in the Talmud referred to Jesus of Nazareth, but that the other passages referred to other people.

In 1372, John of Valladolid, with the support of the Archbishop of Toldeo, made a similar accusation against the Jewish community; Moses ha-Kohen de Tordesillas argued that the Yeshu narratives referred to different people and could not have referred to Jesus of Nazareth Asher ben Jehiel also asserted that the Yeshu of the Talmud is unrelated to the Christian Jesus.

Knowing that the Talmud with its commentaries were written down only in the second century and underwent large redactions in the subsequent centuries this is to be expected.  In the second century A.D., Rabbi Judah Ha Nasi (A.D. 135-200) purged the Mishnah, part of the Talmud, of many references to Christianity and those who adhered to it. But not everything was edited out.

In his classic work, The History of the Talmud, Jewish Talmudic scholar Michael L. Rodkinson wrote: "There were passages in the Mishnayoth concerning Jesus and his teaching...the Messianists... (were) many and considerable persons and in close alliance with their colleagues the Pharisees during the (first) two centuries."
 While most people consider the reference Ben Pandira as son of Pandira.  Herford noted the Talmudic text referred to Jesus as "Ben Pandira," roughly translated as "son of a virgin," which was considered an epithet.  The Pandira theory took a sharp turn when some where in the Roman empire there was found a monument for a soldier called Pandira.  How could Mirium of Palestine came across such a soldier who never even was in Palestine is no concern for them.


Gustav Dalman was probably the greatest Aramaic scholar of his day. His "Jesus Christ in the Talmud, Midrash, and the Zohar" was first published in 1894.

Extract: Jesus is commonly referred to in the Talmud and in Talmudic literature by the expressions "Son of Stada (Satda)", and "Son of Pandera" These are so accepted that they appear constantly in the Babylonian Talmud (cp. the Targum Sheni on Esther VII 9) even without the name Jesus. It might seem to be a question as to who it is that is to be understood by these. But in the Jerusalem Talmud (Avodah Zarah II. 40d), the full name is given as Yeshu ben Pandera (for which Shabbath XIV 14d has more briefly, Yeshu Pandera); and in the Tosephta on Hullin II, the full name is given as Yeshu ben Pantera and Yeshu ben Pantere. So then Ben Pandera or ben Pantere also bears the name Yeshu. Further, the Jesus the Nazarene who is "hanged on the evening before Passover" (Sanhedrin 43a) is on the other hand (Sanhedrin 67a) also called the "son of Stada (Satda)". It is evident that in both these places the same person is spoken of. Here these two passages may be considered conclusive, since they repeat each other using the similar language, and in a section of the text which is chiefly concerned about Jesus; and so we see that Jesus was also referred to as Ben Stada.

Sefer Toledot Yeshu


The Toledot Jeshu (Book of the Life of Jesus), is a devastating Hebrew book to belittle the person of Jesus by ascribing to Him illegitimate birth, magic, witchcraft, and a shameful death. The main point of the Toledot is that Jesus is a deceiver and a heretic who was crucified by the Jews and his disciples stole his body and deceived others by proclaiming his resurrection. All the Toledot Jeshu editions declared Jesus Christ to be a bastard.     The book which appears in different versions,  appear to have been widely circulated in Europe and the Middle East in the medieval period

    Virgin Mary is portrayed in the Toledot as a woman who conceived Jesus as a result of rape by a Roman soldier, Joseph Pandera.

    "Jeshu" means "may his name be blotted out!".  Most Jewish sources avoid the Greek name "Jesus", meaning "savior", and in Hebrew abbreviate Jeschua to Jeshu: "Jeschua" means "Savior", "Jeshu" means "may his name be blotted out!"

Here is the summary of the story as presented in Toledot:

"Mary, who had been betrothed to a man named John, was seduced by her neighbor, Joseph ben Pantera.  When she discovered she was pregnant, John left her and went to Babylon.  When Jesus was born, she tried to pretend He was the son of John and even attempted to give Him a Jewish religious education.  Jesus, however, began to reveal the evil that would later mark Him and was extremely rude to His rabbi teacher.  The rabbi eventually uncovered the truth about Jesus’ father, but declared that Mary was not worthy of death because she committed the act unwillingly.  Jesus, about thirty years old and now declared to be a bastard, fled to Jerusalem.  There he secretly “stole” the letters of the Divine Name which had been written on the Foundation Stone of the Holy of Holies in the Temple – by sewing them under his skin!  With the power of the Divine Name, He began to heal the sick and eventually gathered 310 young men as His followers.  He also performed such “magic tricks” as enabling a millstone to float on the Sea of Galilee and causing clay birds to fly, and even occasionally flying Himself.  At one point He was chained to an ark of the law in a synagogue in Tiberias, but His followers, called “insurgents,” rescued Him and He fled to Antioch.

Eventually, Yeshu arrived in Jerusalem on the eve of Passover, riding on a donkey.  There He was arrested and examined by the “wise men.”  During this time He claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah, and cited many of the traditional messianic prophecies as being fulfilled in the events of His life.  Condemned as a blasphemer by the “wise Men” (the Romans are not mentioned), He was put to death by hanging on a tree and was buried by the time of the evening prayer.  On the third day, His “insurgents” declared to Helena (queen at the time!?) that they could not find Him in the tomb.  At that point, the gardener revealed that he had removed the body and cast it in a nearby pool.  Whereupon the “wise men” recovered the corpse, tied cords around His ankles, and dragged Him through the streets of Jerusalem."

    The most prominent edition was published by Johann C. Wagenseil in 1681, with the title Tela Ignea Satanae. Altdorf: Noricum, 1681.  Other titles of the book are: Deeds of Jesus (Ma'ase Yeshu), Deeds of the One Who Was Hanged (Ma'ased Talui), Deeds of the One and His Son (Ma'asth do'otho v'eth b'no), Genealogy of Jesus... or Tolodoth Ieschu or Sepher Toldoth Jehoshua....\

During the Middle Ages a series of debates on Judaism were staged by the Christian church – including the Disputation of Paris, the Disputation of Barcelona, and Disputation of Tortosa – and during those disputations, Jewish converts to Christianity, such as Pablo Christiani and Nicholas Donin claimed the Talmud contained insulting references to Jesus.

Woodcut carved by Johann von Armssheim (1483). Portrays a disputation between Christian and Jewish scholars


 When the Jewish teachings regarding Jesus Christ were discovered in the early 1600's, a cover-up ensued. In 1631, a Jewish synod in Poland ordered the offending passages to be expunged, and that these teaching were to be passed on orally to young Jews by Rabbis and parents. This is documented by P.L.B Drach:

    "Drach, op.cit. I.168, 169. The text of this encyclical is given in Hebrew and also in translation, thus: "This is why we enjoin you, under the pain of excommunication major, to print nothing in future editions, whether of Mischna or of the Gemara, which relates whether for good or evil to the acts of Jesus the Nazarene, and to substitute instead a circle like this O, which will warn the Rabbis and schoolmasters to teach the young these passages only viva voce. By means of this precaution the savants amongst the Nazarenes will have no further pretext to attack us on this subject." Cf, Abbe'Chiarini, Le Talmud de Babylone, p. 45 (1831)." 13.



The Shem-Tob Manuscripts, the Talmud and the Toldoth Yeshu


Summary of Reference to Yeshua

" Yeshua (Jesus) is also referred to as Peloni , which is translated as “A Certain One.” In Chagigah, 4b, we read:
“Mary…the mother of a certain one, of whom it is related in Schabbath…” (104b)

Jesus is also referred to as Naggar bar naggar – “the carpenter son of a carpenter”, also Ben charsch etaim – “the son of a wood worker.”

He is also called Talui – “The one who was hanged.” and him who was hanged, as well as “the one who was hanged on his banner.”

Below are some Talmudic passages that denigrate Christ:

Sanhedrin, 67a ~ Jesus is referred to as the illegitimate son of Pandira, a Roman soldier.

Sanhedrin 106a . Says Jesus’ mother was a whore

Sanhedrin 106 ~ Revels in the early age at which Jesus died

Sanhedrin 43a ~ Says Jesus (”Yeshu” / Yeshu “the Nazarene”) was executed because he practiced sorcery.

Gittin 57a ~ States that Jesus is being boiled in “hot excrement.”

Sanhedrin 43a . Jesus deserved execution: “On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged…Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a Mesith (enticer)?”

Abhodah Zarah II ~ Also referred to as the son of Pandira, a Roman soldier.

Schabbath XIV~ Again referred to as the son of Pandira, the Roman.

Schabbath, 104b ~ Called a fool and no one pays attention to fools.

Sanhedrin, 103a. ~ Suggested corrupts his morals and dishonors self.

Sanhedrin, 107b. ~ Seduced, corrupted and destroyed Israel.

Abhodah Zarah, 21a — Reference to worship of Jesus in homes unwanted.

Orach Chaiim, 113 — Avoid appearance of paying respect to Jesus.

Iore dea, 150,2 — Do not appear to pay respect to Jesus by accident.

Abhodah Zarah (78c) — Festivals of followers of Jesus regarded as idolatry.

Kallah, 1b. (18b) ~ Illegitimate son and conceived during menstruation.

Sanhedrin, 67a ~ Hanged on the eve of Passover.

Sanhedrin, 43a ~ On the eve of Passover they hanged Jesus.

Sanhedrin 90a ~Those who read the New Testament  will have no portion in the world to come.

Shabbath 116a (p. 569) ~Jews must destroy the books of the Christians, i.e. the New Testament.

Rosh Hashanah 17a ~ Christians (”minim”) and others who reject the Talmud will go to hell and be punished there for all generations.

Sanhedrin 105ab ~ “Jesus fornicated with his jackass.

Gittin 57a ~ Jesus is in hell and is being punished by being boiled in semen. Christians are boiled in dung.

Talmudic passages are also used as the basis for the writing titled Toledot Yeshu, which translated means The Geneaology of Yeshu. This writing reports a distorted view of who Jesus was, with many blasphemous statements directed towards Him, claiming that he was the rebellious illegitimate son of a Roman soldier (Pantera) born of unclean conception or niddah, who practiced witchcraft by speaking the sacred or ineffefable name of God who tried to lead Israel astray. In this writing, it is also stated that he set up a brick and worshipped it, and that he was hung, which denies the blood atonement, and His finished work on the cross."

Why is the name given as Yeshu and not Yeshua?

" The actual Biblical name for Jesus in Hebrew is spelled Yod-Shin-Vav-Ayin which is Yeshua (H3442~H3443), a shortened form of Yehoshua (H3091)."

 Yeshua means He is salvation or He saves.

"By shortening the name to Yeshu, they effectively deny His work of redemption.

 In order to get the name Yeshu, the ayin is dropped from His Biblical Hebrew name.

All Hebrew letters represent something in Judaism. As an example, the lettter represents the hand. The letter ayin in the Hebrew language, is  known to be representative of the eyes. Here is an excerpt from the Toldoth Yeshu:

Miriam gave birth to a son and named him Yehoshua, after her brother. This name later deteriorated to Yeshu.

The above quote from the Toldoth Yeshu tells us that His name deteriorated to Yeshu. Deteriorated is a term that obviously does not have a positive connotation. It should be noted that informed believers object to the name Yeshu, because they understand it as a rabbinically modified form of the name Yeshua.

 In some versions of the Toledot Yeshu, the name “YeSHU” is used as an acronym for “Yemach Shemo U’zikhro” which translated means “May his name and memory be blotted out”.

Yemach comes from the root word Machah (H4229) meaning to blot, Shemo from the root word shem (H8034) which means name or reputation, and zikhro from the root word zayker (H2143), which means a memorial or remembrance. This statement is spoken in the form of a curse, because to erase the name and memory of a person is to erase all knowledge of their being. It should also be noted, that this phrase, or a shortened version is often used in Jewish writings when the name of a despised individual (Hitler, Amalek, Hayman, etc) has been mentioned.

This could be a possible allusion to Psalms 109:13-15, where king David curses the enemies of Israel:

13 let his posterity be cut off; let their name be blotted out (yimach shemam) in the following generation;
14 let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered to YHWH; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out;
15 let them be always before YHWH, so that He may cut off the memory of them from the earth; (v’yak’rat ma’erets zikram)

It could also be fashioned after the Biblical curses found in the Torah, that were placed on the enemies of Israel, such as Exodus 17:14 and Deuteronomy 25:19.

In Exodus we find “machoh emche et zeykher Amaleq mitachat hashamayim” translated as “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven”. Amalek is also cursed in Deuteronomy 25:19 as well. "

Shem Tov rewrites Matthew

"In the Shem Tov Matthew, in many places the name of Jesus is also written in the Hebrew as Yeshu. The Shem Tov Matthew is a theologically altered middle ages manuscript (1390 ce), which was copied from a Latin text that originated from the Greek making it a third generation altered copy at best. This anti-Catholic version of the book of Matthew was included in the writing titled “Even Bohan” which translates as “The Touchstone.”

The Shem Tov Matthew has modified passages in some chapters that use Talmudic references, as well as some references from the Toldoth Yeshu.

This document was authored by Shem Tov, who resided in Spain during the fourteenth century.  He was an anti-Catholic Jewish writer, who wrote this in an attempt to stop the Jewish people from accepting Catholiscism as their faith. The Shem Tov Matthew has anti-Catholic polemical commentary written by him throughout the document. There are a handfull of Shem Tov manuscripts available, but many of them are not in agreement with each other.  Before his death, Shem Tov attempted to also translate to a theologically altered version of the book of Mark, as he had done with Matthew, but the work was never completed.....

 Recently, some in Judaism have tried to state that the Talmud is speaking of another person(s) named Yeshua(Jesus), and not Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), but conervative rabbi’s such as Daniel Lapin have clearly stated that the Talmud does in fact denigrate “Jesus”.

In the Talmud, great measures are taken so that Yeshua (Jesus) is never referred to by His actual Hebrew name of Yeshua, because His name itself means He is Salvation, and is a description of His finished work. Yeshua (Jesus) is referred by many other names and titles such as Otho Iysh, which is translated in the English version as “that man”. 

 In Abhodah Zarah, 6a, it is stated that “He is called a Christian who follows the false teachings of that man, who taught them to celebrate the feast on the first day of the Sabbath, that is, to worship on the first day after the Sabbath”. "






Letter from Mara bar Serapion to his son (73-180 C.E.)



Mara bar ("son of ") Serapion, sometimes spelled Mara bar Sarapion was a Stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria. He is noted for a letter he wrote in Syriac to his son, who was also named Serapion. The letter was composed sometime between 73 AD and the 3rd century, and may be early non-Christian references to the crucifixion of Jesus.

The letter refers to the unjust treatment of "three wise men": the murder of Socrates, the burning of Pythagoras, and the execution of "the wise king" of the Jews. The author explains that in all three cases the wrongdoing resulted in the future punishment of those responsible by God and that when the wise are oppressed, not only does their wisdom triumph in the end, but God punishes their oppressors.

Mara Bar-Serapion's letter is preserved in a 6th or 7th century manuscript (BL Add. 14658) held by the British Library, and was composed sometime between 73 AD and the 3rd century. The beginning of the letter makes it clear that it is written to the author's son: "Mara, son of Serapion, to my son Serapion, greetings."  The key passage is as follows:

"What else can we say, when the wise are forcibly dragged off by tyrants, their wisdom is captured by insults, and their minds are oppressed and without defense? What advantage did the Athenians gain from murdering Socrates? Famine and plague came upon them as a punishment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the "new law" he laid down."

 He didn't identify the "wise king" by name, as he did in the case of both Socrates and Pythagoras.  Is this referring to Jesus? 

How do we know that the Serapion letter does not refer to one of those pretenders? The letter sets out seven distinct criteria describing this Wise King, and none of those pretenders filled all seven descriptions of a person who:

·         Was executed;

·         Was possessed of wisdom;

·         Was executed just before the Jews' kingdom was abolished.

·         Was executed before the Jews were dispersed;

·         Was executed by the actions of the Jews;

·         Lived on in the teaching that he had given;

·         Was referred to as a "king."

An analysis of the genealogy of Jesus clearly indicates that Jesus was the legitimate heir to the throne of David by legal descent and also by flesh. (See my book on Genealogy of Jesus.)  In his trial he claimed to be so.  This is echoed in Pilate's declaration on the inscription over the cross. "The King of the Jews."



Pliny the Younger
Governor of Bithynia

Pliny the Younger was a Roman statesman who held moderately important posts, but he is known primarily because of his letters. He was a contemporary of Domitian and Trajan, and a personal friend of Tacitus the historian. As a man of letters, his circle of friends and associates included some of the better writers of the Silver Age including Suetonius, Martial, Juvenal, and Quintilian. His career included the standard series of public offices, the cursus honorum, and he was also known as an orator and advocate (or lawyer). He ended his career as the governor of Bithynia, appointed by Trajan to help administer a province then in need of reform. Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. We have a whole set of exchanges of his letters with the emperor Trajan on a variety of administrative political matters. These two letters are the most famous, in which P. encounters Christianity for the first time.    Pliny wrote ten books.  The tenth around AD 112.

By the second century AD, Christianity had migrated began to spread out into the rest of the world.  These included modern-day Turkey, the Greek islands and Rome. It was still considered as Jewish cult, but was spreading fast and attracting others.  They were poorly understood in terms of theology and their rites.  "The superstition has spread like the plague."


The Eastern Roman Empire and the province of Bithynia, 112 AD

Pliny the Younger asks for the advice of his Emperor, 112 AD:



Pliny's Epistle To Trajan About 112 CE


It is my constant method to apply myself to you for the resolution of all my doubts; for who can better govern my dilatory way of proceeding or instruct my ignorance?

 I have never been present at the examination of the Christians [by others], on which account I am unacquainted with what uses to be inquired into, and what, and how far they used to be punished; nor are my doubts small, whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages [of the accused]? and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men? Whether there be not room for pardon upon repentance?" or whether it may not be an advantage to one that had been a Christian, that he has forsaken Christianity?   Whether the bare name, without any crimes besides, or the crimes adhering to that name, is to be punished?   In the meantime, I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not?  If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished. There has been some of this mad sect whom I took notices of in particular as Roman citizens, that they might be sent to that city. After some time, as is usual in such examinations, the crime spread itself and many more cases came before me. A libel was sent to me, though without an author, containing many names [of persons accused]. These denied that they were Christians now, or ever had been. They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do; so I thought fit to let them go. Others of them that were named in the libel, said they were Christians, but presently denied it again; that indeed they had been Christians, but had ceased to be so, some three years, some many more; and one there was that said he had not been so these twenty years. All these worshipped your image, and the images of our gods; these also cursed Christ. However, they assured me that the main of their fault, or of their mistake was this:-That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles.

These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition. Hereupon I have put off any further examinations, and have recourse to you, for the affair seems to be well worth consultation, especially on account of the number of those that are in danger; for there are many of every age, of every rank, and of both sexes, who are now and hereafter likely to be called to account, and to be in danger; for this superstition is spread like a contagion, not only into cities and towns, but into country villages also, which yet there is reason to hope may be stopped and corrected. To be sure, the temples, which were almost forsaken, begin already to be frequented; and the holy solemnities, which were long intermitted, begin to be revived. The sacrifices begin to sell well everywhere, of which very few purchasers had of late appeared; whereby it is easy to suppose how great a multitude of men may be amended, if place for repentance be admitted.


My Pliny,

You have taken the method which you ought in examining the causes of those that had been accused as Christians, for indeed no certain and general form of judging can be ordained in this case. These people are not to be sought for; but if they be accused and convicted, they are to be punished; but with this caution, that he who denies himself to be a Christian, and makes it plain that he is not so by supplicating to our gods, although he had been so formerly, may be allowed pardon, upon his repentance. As for libels sent without an author, they ought to have no place in any accusation whatsoever, for that would be a thing of very ill example, and not agreeable to my reign.

Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X:96 as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.


Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 120-180)


Lucian of Samosata (Ancient Greek: Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς, Latin: Lucianus Samosatensis; c. AD 125 – after AD 180) was a rhetorician  and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature. Although he wrote solely in Greek, he was ethnically Assyrian.  He was a satirist who was scornful of Christians. 

 Over 80 works are attributed to him.  Lucian was a professional rhetorician who toured the Mediterranean giving improvised lectures on the art of legal persuasion, the good life, human psychology, and so on. Somehow, he became affluent and well-known.

H is second-best known work is a proto-novel call “A True Story,” which was not true and has some fantastical elements like interplanetary warfare. It may be the first science fiction story ever.

Lucian was not a Christian, nor was he known to be particularly religious.  But he did live in the earliest centuries of the small and growing cult of Christ. His observations in “The Passing of Peregrinus” are among the earliest non-Christian impressions of the cult that exist, written within a century of Paul’s lifetime.  .

Reference To Jesus Christ

The Christians. . . worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced this new cult, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains their contempt for death and self devotion . . . their lawgiver [taught] they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take on faith . . . - The Passing Peregrinus

This reference reveals several key things:  

·         Christians worshipped Jesus.

·         Jesus was crucified for what he taught.

"He was second only to that one whom they still worship today, the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation into the world."

·         Jesus started Christianity

·         Jesus' disciples believed Jesus' teachings.

·         Early Christians taught that when one was converted he or she had eternal life.

"Having convinced themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, the poor wretches despise death and most willingly give themselves to it. Moreover, that first lawgiver of theirs persuaded them that they are all brothers the moment they transgress and deny the Greek gods and begin worshiping that crucified sophist and living by his laws."

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day,–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

·         They lived by faith - they believed Jesus.

·         They were too naive that cunning people creep in and deceive them.

They scorn all possessions without distinction and treat them as community property. They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time.

see http://www.textexcavation.com/luciantestimonium.html




Peregrinus Proteus (c. 95-165 AD) was a  Cynic philosopher, from Parium in Mysia. The name ‘Peregrinus’ means ‘wanderer,’ and it is possible that it was not his given name, but rather a name he chose for himself when he began his self-imposed wandering style of life. Leaving home at a young age, he first lived with the Christians in Palestine, and becoming a Christian attained a position of authority among them, becoming their “prophet, cult-leader, and head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many…” (The Death of Peregrinus 11) .  During this period he was arrested by the Romans and jailed.    Christian community showed their love to him by waiting on him as families, with men even sleeping with him in the cell and serving him.  He was later released.   However he was eventually expelled from that community for exploiting the believing community. Adopting the life of a Cynic philosopher he eventually settled in Greece. He is most remembered for committing suicide by giving his own funeral oration and publicly burning himself at the Olympic Games in 165. By 180 CE, a statue of Peregrinus had been erected in his home city of Parium; it was reputed to have oracular powers .The only detailed account of the life of Peregrinus was recorded by Lucian in his satire, The Death of Peregrinus (Latin: De Morte Peregrini). Although this account is hostile to Peregrinus, the bare facts of his life can be extracted. This story is an account of the life and death of a Cynic philosopher Proteus.  After murdering his own father for living too long, he sets out and roams various foreign lands, and it is during his wanderings that he learns of Christianity.  For a time in his early life he became a Christian, practicing it to the point of imprisonment under a very tolerant administration, and after returning to Cynicism became in his old age so enamoured of Indic ideas and precedents that he cremated himself at Olympia, just after the games of A.D. 165.

Here is the translation of the passage

"… the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult to the world … Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers ... after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping the crucified sophist himself and live under his laws."

Although, Jesus isn't mentioned by name, there is no doubt that he is referring to Jesus. No one else was ever worshipped by the Christians.

Passing of Peregrinus 11-13 

The first portion gives a short description of the cult known a Christians and their origins:

"It was then that he learned the marvelous wisdom of the Christians, associating with their priests and scribes around Palestine. And how else could it be? In a trice he made them all appear like children, for he was prophet, cult leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself, and he exegeted and clarified some of their books and even composed many himself, and they regarded him as a god and made use of him as a lawgiver and wrote him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he brought this new cult to life."

The following passage shows how the community comforted each other even in extreme situations:

"Then at length Proteus was apprehended for this and fell into prison, which itself made up for him no little worthiness as an asset for his future life and the charlatanism and glory-seeking of which he was enamoured. Well, when he had been imprisoned, the Christians, making the matter out to be a misfortune, did everything they could in the effort to rescue him. Then, since this was impossible, every other form of attention was shown him, not in any casual way, but rather with assiduity, and straightway from the break of day aged widows and orphan children were seen waiting near the prison, while those in command over them even slept inside with him after having bribed the prison guards. Then elaborate suppers were brought in, and sacred words of theirs were read, and excellent Peregrinus, for he was still called this, was named by them the new Socrates."

The following passage refers to crucifixion of Jesus and the early communes of the believers:

 "And indeed, certain ones came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians from their common expense, to help and defend and encourage the man. And they show incredible speed whenever any such public action is taken; for in a trice they lavish their all. And also for Peregrinus much money came from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he made not a little revenue from it. For the poor wretches have convinced themselves, all in all, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into imprisonment, most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once [for all], by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living according to his laws. They despise, therefore, all things alike and regard them as common [property], receiving such things without any accurate evidence.*(Literally, without any accurate faith.) So, if any imposter and trickster, able to use such situations come along to them, in a trice he suddenly becomes very rich by imposing upon simple men."

"The ruler of Syria, however, deigns to free Peregrinus at this point, and he returns home to find that many are pressing for charges against him for the murder of his father. To escape judgment, he dons the garb of a cynic in chapter 15: * and relinquishes his paternal estate, at which gesture the people praise him as the only true philosopher.

  Peregrinus 16a:

"He left home, therefore, for the second time to roam about, possessing an ample source of funds in the Christians, through whose ministrations he lived in unalloyed prosperity. For a time he battened himself thus; then, after he had broken some law even against them, for he was seen, I think, eating of something forbidden to them, (For the notion of forbidden foods amongst Christians, refer to Acts 15.29.) they no longer accepted him, and so, being at a loss, he thought he must sing a palinode and ask his possessions back from his city."

From Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet 25 has a simple reference to Christians again as part of the Philosophy.

"When at last many sensible men, recovering as it were from profound intoxication, combined against him, especially all the followers of Epicurus, and when in the cities they began gradually to detect all the trickery and buncombe of the show, he issued a promulgation designed to scare them, saying that Pontus was full of atheists and Christians who had the hardihood to utter the vilest abuse of him; these he bade them drive away with stones if they wanted to have the god gracious."

In Alexander the False Prophet 38: There is ring of the Christian celebration of the Holy Communion in the early period when all those who are not confirmed were asked to leave before the celebration.  Thus the worship consisted of two parts.  The first part was open to every one and the second only to the initiates.

"He made these preparations to meet the situation in Italy, and also made notable preparations at home. He established a celebration of mysteries, with torchlight ceremonies and priestly offices, which was to be held annually, for three days in succession, in perpetuity. On the first day, as at Athens, there was a proclamation, worded as follows: If any atheist or Christian or Epicurean has come to spy upon the rites, let him be off, and let those who believe in the god perform the mysteries, under the blessing of heaven. Then, at the very outset, there was an expulsion in which he took the lead, saying: Out with the Christians! And the whole multitude chanted in response: Out with the Epicureans! Then there was the child-bed of Leto, the birth of Apollo, his marriage to Coronis, and the birth of Asclepius. On the second day came the manifestation of Glycon, including the birth of the god."

Lucian satirized the Christians in his Passing of Peregrinus, a story of a philosopher sage who at one point becomes a leader of the Christians to take advantage of their gullibility. Here is a quote:

"These deluded creatures, you see, have persuaded themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, which explains the contempt of death and willing self-sacrifice so common among them. It was impressed on them too by their lawgiver that from the moment they are converted, deny the gods of Greece, worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws, they are all brothers. They take his instructions completely on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods and hold them in common ownership. So any adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who knows the world, has only to get among these simple souls and his fortune is quickly made; he plays with them."

We can certainly conclude that

·         Lucian sneered at Christ and the Christians, as he scoffed at the pagan gods.

·         He alludes to Christ's death on the Cross, to His miracles,

·          to the mutual love prevailing among the Christians ("Philopseudes", nn. 13, 16; "De Morte Pereg").


Is the letter to Tiberius Caesar from Pontius Pilate authentic?

It's kept in the Congressional Library in Washington D.C.

Information on Acts of Pilate

J. Quasten writes (Patrology, v. 1, pp. 115-116):

The tendency to minimize the guilt of Pilate which is found in the Gospel According to Peter shows the keen interest with which ancient Christianity regarded his person. The prominent position occupied by Pontius Pilate in early Christian thought is further evidenced by the Gospel of Nicodemus. Into this narrative have been incorporated the so-called Acts of Pilate, a supposed official report of the procurator concerning Jesus. Some Acts of Pilate, it seems, were known as early as the second century. Justin Martyr remarks in his first Apology (35) after he has mentioned the passion and crucifixion of Jesus: 'And that these things happened you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.' A similar statement occurs in chapter 48. Tertullian refers twice to a report made by Pilate to Tiberius. According to him, Pontius Pilate informed the Emperor of the unjust sentence of death which he had pronounced against an innocent and divine person; the Emperor was so moved by his report of the miracles of Christ and his resurrection, that he proposed the reception of Christ among the gods of Rome. But the Senate refused (Apologeticum 5). In another place Tertullian says that the 'whole story of Christ was reported to Caesar—at that time it was Tiberius—by Pilate, himself in his secret heart already a Christian' (Apol. 21, 24). We see here the tendency at work to use the Roman procurator as a witness for the history of the death and resurrection of Christa and the truth of Christianity.

The Gospel of Nicodemus preserves a document known as the Acta Pilati in chapters 1 to 11, with an addition in chapters 12 to 16, while chapters 17 to 27 are called the "Decensus Christi ad Inferos." Quasten writes, "The whole work, which in a later Latin manuscript is called the Evangelium Nicodemi, must have been composed at the beginning of the fifth century, but it seems to be more or less a compilation of older material." (Patrology, vol. 1, p. 116) It is possible that the material in the Gospel of Nicodemus was written to refute pagan Acts of Pilate created in 311, mentioned by Eusebius:

Having forged, to be sure, Memoirs of Pilate and Our Saviour, full of every kind of blasphemy against Christ, with the approval of their chief they sent them round to every part of his dominions, with edicts that they should be exhibited openly for everyone to see in every place, both town and country, and that the primary teachers should give them to the children, instead of lessons, for study and committal to memory. (H. E. 9.5.1)

F. F. Bruce writes (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?):

We should especially like to know if Pilate sent home to Rome any report of the trial and execution of Jesus, and, if so, what it contained. But it is not certain that he must have done so; and if he did, it has disappeared beyond trace.

Certainly some ancient writers believed that Pilate did send in such a report, but there is no evidence that any of them had any real knowledge of it. About AD 150 Justin Martyr, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninius Pius, referred him to Pilate's report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. 'But the words, "They pierced my hands and my feet," ' he says, 'are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the "Acts" which were recorded under Pontius Pilate." Later he says: 'That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the "Acts" of Pontius Pilate."

Then Tertullian, the great jurist-theologian of Carthage, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the man authorities in the province of Africa about AD 197, says: 'Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the Senate tidings from Syria Palestina which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with. The Senate rejected it because it had not itself given its approval. Caesar held to his own opinion and threatened danger to the accusers of the Christians."

It would no doubt be pleasant if we could believe this story of Tertullian, which he manifestly believed to be true but a story so inherently improbable and inconsistent with what we know of Tiberius, related nearly 170 years after the event, does not commend itself to a historian's judgment.

When the influence of Christianity was increasing rapidly in the Empire, one of the last pagan emperors, Maximin II, two years before the Edict of Milan, attempted to bring Christianity into disrepute by publishing what he alleged to be the true 'Acts of Pilate', representing the origins of Christianity in an unsavoury guise. These 'Acts', which were full of outrageous assertions about Jesus, had to be read and memorized by schoolchildren. They were manifestly forged, as Eusebius historian pointed out at the time;' among other things, their dating was quite wrong, as they placed the death of Jesus in the seventh year of Tiberius (AD 20), whereas the testimony of Josephus' is plain that Pilate not become procurator of Judaea till Tiberius' Twelfth year (not to mention the evidence of Luke iii. 1, according to which John the Baptist began to preach in fifteenth year of Tiberius). We do not know in detail these alleged 'Acts' contained, as they were naturally suppressed on Constantine's accession to power; but we may surmise that they had some affinity with Toledoth Yeshu, an anti-Christian compilation popular in some Jewish circles in mediaeval time.'

Later in the fourth century another forged set of 'Acts of Pilate' appeared, this time from the Christian side, and as devoid of genuineness as Maximin's, to which they were perhaps intended as a counterblast. They are still extant, and consist of alleged memorials the trial, passion, and resurrection of Christ, recorded by Nicodemus and deposited with Pilate. (They are also own as the 'Gospel of Nicodemus'.) A translation of them is given in M. R. James' Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 94 ff., and they have a literary interest of their own, which does not concern us here.

J. Quasten writes: "The oldest piece of Christian Pilate literature seems to be 'The Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius', which is inserted in Greek into the late Acts of Peter and Paul and is given in Latin translation as an appendix of the Evangelium Nicodemi. It is probable that this report is identical with that mentioned by Tertullian. If that is true, it must have been composed before the year 197 A.D., the time of Tertullian's Apologeticum." (Patrology, vol. 1, p. 116)


Here is the letter:


A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews -- not the poor but the rich and powerful.

Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.

Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree -- truly this is the Son of God.

Your most obedient servant,
Pontius Pilate

The Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius

This is found in the Greek Acts of Peter and Paul and as an appendix to the Gospel of Nicodemus in Latin. The translation is from M. R. James as given in Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 117.


From "The Apocryphal New Testament"
M.R. James-Translation and Notes
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924



And Pilate, when he heard these words of Annas and Caiaphas, laid them all up amongst the acts of the Lord and Saviour in the public books of his judgement hall, and wrote a letter unto Claudius the king of the city of Rome, saying:

[The following Epistle or Report of Pilate is inserted in Greek into the late Acts of Peter and Paul (40) and the Pseudo-Marcellus Passion of Peter and Paul (19). We thus have it in Greek and Latin, and the Greek is used here as the basis of the version.]

Pontius Pilate unto Claudius, greeting.

There befell of late a matter which I myself brought to light (or made trial of): for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their fathers had promises (al. had announced unto them) that their God would send them out of heaven his holy one who should of right be called their king, and did promise that he would send him upon earth by a virgin; he, then (or this God of the Hebrews, then), came when I was governor of Judaea, and they beheld him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea dry-shod, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God: the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and did things contrary to their law.

But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him unto their will: and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day: yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee (lat. lest any lie otherwise) and thou shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews.



 from http://noapologiesallowed.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/skeptic-mantra-14/