title of any pericope numbered in red to access the original language text.
about this time
there happened to be
Jesus, a wise man,
if indeed it is right to call him a man.
For he was a doer of amazing deeds
and a teacher of men
who were pleased to receive the truth.
He attracted many Jews
and many Hellenists.
He was the Messiah [Christos].
|And at this time
a wise man named Jesus.
He did good deeds
and was known to be virtuous.
And many from among the Jews
and other nations became his disciples.
to the cross
on an accusation
from prominent men among us,
those who were first drawn to him
did not quit.
he appeared to them
on the third day
as again having life.
and a thousand others
were told about him
by God's prophets.
And up till now the clan of "Christians,"
so-named after him,
still did not give up.
to be crucified and die.
Those who became his disciples
did not abandon their discipleship.
They reported that
he appeared to them
three days after his crucifixion
and that he was alive.
So--perhaps--he was the Messiah
the prophets told wonders.
This passage follows two Jewish protests (involving imperial
images & temple
funds) that Josephus
reports under Pontius Pilate. It was quoted by the Christian
historian Eusebius of Caesarea
ca. 340 CE. But for the past 400 years its authenticity has
been questioned for two reasons: (a) the wording of the Greek
version, which is unabashedly Christian (proclaiming Jesus as
a super-human Messiah), does not sound like Josephus, who
elsewhere identified himself as a Pharisee; and (b) this
pericope is not parallel to the passages to which it is linked
(since there is no hint of a Jewish disturbance crushed by
Pilate). On the other hand, Josephus did probably introduce
Jesus here since (a) unlike Christian writers, he identifies
Jesus as a sage & assigns
responsibility for his crucifixion to the Roman governor
and (b) he later presupposes that his non-Christian readers are
already familiar with Jesus by claiming Pharisees protested
of James "the
brother of Jesus the reputed Messiah." Since 1971
reconstruct the original wording of Josephus' text have been
aided by Shlomo Pines' discovery of an Arabic version of this
passage that lacks the overt Christian proclamations (italics
in the Greek version). The Arabic was probably translated from
a Greek ms. that lacked the Christian interpolations
(italics). Whether the original text also associated Jesus'
execution with some sort of Jewish disturbance (as R. Eisler
proposed in 1931) is harder to
prove, since any hint of social unrest would have to have been
expurgated from the Greek text before the transcription of the
ms. from which the Arabic translation was made.]
||Since the Jews were in constant
turmoil due to the influence of one "Chrestus,"
(the emperor) Claudius
expelled them from Rome (ca. 52 CE).
||--- Suetonius, Lives
of the Caesars 5.25
||[NOTE: The imperial biographer
apparently had no detailed information about the cause of the
Jewish community's agitation other than that it concerned the
name of a person. "Chrestus" is probably a
Roman misunderstanding of a debate about the Messiah [= Christos
for Greek-speaking Jews], since the emperor took unprecedented
action against the whole community rather than a single agitator.
This incident probably preceded the founding of a distinct
Christian church in Rome such as that presupposed by Paul's
letter to the Romans.]
Nero persecutes Christians in
||Neither human effort nor
princely largesse nor divine appeasement was able to dispel
the scandal that the fire (which burned much
of Rome in 64 CE) was believed to have been commanded (by the
So, to do away with the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits
those who were commonly called "Christians,"
who were hated because of their absurdities. And he inflicted
them with the most extraordinary punishments.
"Christus," the source of this
name, was executed during the reign of
Tiberius by the
sentence of the procurator, Pontius Pilate. And the
destructive superstition was suppressed, only to break out in
the present, not only in
Judea---the source of this evil---but
also in the city (of Rome), where all hateful and shameful
things flow and find a following.
Thus, first those who confessed (to being Christians) were
seized; then, on their testimony a huge crowd as
convicted---not so much on the charge of arson as for hatred
of the human race. And while they perished there was
additional ridicule. Having been covered with the skins of
beasts, they were torn apart by dogs. Or they were fixed to a cross
or were set aflame. And when the daylight faded they were used
as lamps by night.
||--- Tacitus, Annals
||A Rabbinic view
of Jesus' Execution
||It is taught:
They hanged Jesus [Yeshu] on the eve
Now a crier went forth for forty days before
--"He goes forth to be stoned because he practiced magic
and stirred up Israel to apostasy.
Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come
and speak up for him!"
But they found nothing in his favor
and they hanged him on the eve of Passover.
--"Do you suppose a revolutionary had
anything in his favor!"
He was an instigator [mesith] (to apostasy)
and the Merciful has said:
--'You shall not spare or conceal him!' (Deut
But it was different with (Jesus), for he was near to
||[NOTE: this account was probably
formulated to contradict Christian claims that Jews engineered
Jesus' execution without giving him a fair hearing. It agrees
with the Fourth Gospel in dating Jesus' death prior to the
Passover meal. Otherwise its details are based on Jewish
procedures for stoning rather than on information in the
||A heretic [min] said to
cHanina (bar Hama):
--"Have you heard how old Balaam*
was (when he died)?"
(Hanina) said to him:
--"The record does not record (it).
But (I would say) he was 33 or 34 years old from the text:
--'Men of blood and frauds shall not live out half their
days' (Ps 55:23)."
(The heretic) said to him:
--"What you say is right!
I myself have examine the account of Balaam and it is written:**
--"Balaam the lame was 33 years old,
when he was killed by Phineas the Robber."***
false prophet; a frequent epithet for Jesus by later rabbis to
avoid Christian censorship.
||The calculation of Jesus' age as
33 at the crucifixion is based on Luke 3:23 plus the Fourth
Gospel's account of a public career spanning three Passovers.
Robber" is probably a code name for Pontius Pilate, who confiscated
Eliezer (ben Hyrcanus)
the great says:
--"From the day the Temple was burned
the sages started to be like scribes,
and the scribes like superintendents
and the superintendents like peasants [ama dar'a].
And the peasantry grew weak and died.
And there is none who seeks.
On whom can we rely?
On our Father in heaven!
With the footsteps of the Messiah arrogance
and prices will rise;
the vine will give its fruit, but the wine will cost more.
Those who serve idols will turn to heresy [minuth]*
and there will be no reproof.
The council house will be for prostitution.
will be laid waste and Golan
The men of the frontier will wander from city to city
and there will be no favors.
The wisdom of the scribes will decay.
Those who fear sin will be loathed and truth will be rejected.
The young shall shame the elders
and the elders will stand up before inferiors:
'The son dishonors the father,
the daughter rise against her mother
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man's enemies (will be) men of his own house' (Micah
This generation's face is like a dog's face:
the son is not ashamed before his father.
And on whom can we rely?
On our Father in heaven!
probably a reference to Jewish Christianity with its mission
to Gentile pagans [cf. 1 Thess 2:14-16].
||[NOTE: This lament presents a
1st century rabbi's assessment of the social turmoil among
Palestinian Jews after 70 CE,
about the same time the gospels
were being written. Urgent Messianic expectations are
particularly evident in the gospel of Mark (8:38-9:1,
13:21-26), while scorn for scribes & disrespect for elders
were prominent in Jesus sayings in the Q source (Matt 23:13-36
//Luke 11:43-54, Matt 10:34-37//Luke 12:49-53, 14:25-26)].
A Rabbi Arrested for Heresy
||Our rabbis taught:
Eliezer (ben Hyrcanus)
was arrested for heresy [minuth]*
they brought him up to the platform**
The (Roman) governor said to him:
--"Is an elder like you interested in such empty
He said to him:
--"The Judge is faithful concerning me!"
The governor thought he was referring to him,
but he was speaking of none but his Father in heaven.
(The governor ) said to him:
--"Since you trust me, so I will be to you.
When (Rabbi Eliezer) came to his house,
his disciples gathered round to comfort him.
But he would not take comfort.
Aqiba said to him:
--"Rabbi, let me tell you one word of what you taught
(Rabbi Eliezer) said to him:
(Aqiba) said to him:
--"Perhaps some heresy came to you and pleased you;
and you were arrested for that."
(Rabbi Eliezer) said to him:
--"Aqiba, you have reminded me!
Once I was walking in the upper market at Sepphoris
and I encountered one of the disciples of Jesus
Jacob of Kephar Sichnin by name.
He said to me:
--'It is written in your Torah:
--'You shall not bring the harlot's pay
(to God)...' (Deut 23:19),
but may it be used to build a latrine for the high priest?'
I said nothing at all to him.
He said to me:
--'Thus is is taught by Jesus the Nazarene:***
'For a harlot's pay she gathered them
and to a harlot's way they shall return' (Micah 1:7).
They came from a polluted place,
let them return to a polluted place,'
His saying pleased me.
So for this I was (now) arrested for heresy!"
||The suspected "heresy"
[minuth] was probably being a "Nazarene"
(i.e., Christian). The Galilean Eliezer was arrested by the
Roman civil authority, not by his fellow rabbis.
"gallows" [garedum] is
probably a corrupt reading. An earlier shorter version of this
story found in Tosefta cHullin
2.24 has "tribunal" [bema].
||"Jesus the Nazarene"
appears only in manuscript M, but was probably deleted by
Christian censors from other Talmud mss. Tosefta cHullin
2.24 has "Jesus ben Pantiri." The words of Jacob are
not given in the Tosefta version of this story.
Healing in Jesus'
||The case of Rabbi
Eleazar ben Dama, whom
a serpent bit:
Jacob of Kephar Sama came in to cure him
in the name of Jesus [Yeshu]
But Rabbi Ishmael did not allow it.
--"Ben Dama, you are not permitted!"
(Ben Dama) said:
--"I will bring you a proof (text) that he may heal
But he had not finished furnishing the proof when he died.
Ishmael (ben Elisha)
--"Happy are you, ben Dama!
For you have departed in peace
and have not violated the commandments of the sages!"
||For lasting punishment comes on
who breaks through a fence of the sages, as it is
--"A serpent shall bite him who breaks through a
fence" (Eccles 10:8).
||Yeshu(a) ben Pandira
of Pantera]: reference to a Talmudic tradition that Jesus
was fathered by a Roman soldier named Pantera or
Pandira. This name is spelled differently in various mss. & is
omitted from some editions of the Tosefta