Yenhu: The Historical Jesus

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Today, there is a great debate amongst many scholars as to whether the man referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” was a real person from history.

Before He was known as “Jesus,” the leaders of Israel called Him “Yeshu.” (ישו in Hebrew and Aramaic). It is from this oldest reference to Jesus, which was recorded in the Talmud that we find some of the most compelling evidence for the historical reality of Jesus’ existence in Jerusalem, during the period set forth by the four gospels.

When we arrive at the New Testament and discover that both the Bible and Secular history corroborate that Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to death under the authority of Pontius Pilate, we have great confidence that His identity is certain.

Today, the world’s leading scholars agree that the crucifixion of Jesus is an established fact of history that is indisputable. In truth, the events of the scourging and crucifixion are described as ranking so high in certainty that they are considered by experts as irrefutable and the very basis for a conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose from the dead, as the New Testament records.

There can be no greater evidence of genuine testimony than that which originates from a hostile witness. Those who are not sympathetic to the passions or cause of a person or movement, prove by their hatred—the validity of the persons they malign.

The Talmud was not written for Christianity. It is purely Jewish in origin and contains commentary for the Hebrew scriptures. However, the Talmud does contain verifying evidence that the person described as Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament narrative, was in fact, a real person from that period of history.

In the text of Sanhedrin 103a, there is a reference to Psalm 91:10, in context with the poor behavior of a son, “like Jesus the Nazarene,” that is a direct reference to the supposed wrongful actions of Jesus in the gospels, which led to Jesus death. This particular Rabbi is referring to Luke 2:46 where Jesus is found absent from the company of His parents, sitting in the temple, teaching the Rabbi’s there.

A third interesting text from the Hebrew Torah commentary is in reference to Jesus as a teacher of the law. In Luke 19:47, Jesus is depicted as teaching in the Temple everyday—while the chief leaders of Israel were indignant over his teaching, seeking to find a way to put Him to death.

In the Bavi Sanhedrin text of the Talmud, one of the men who had come to listen to Jesus, R. Eliezar, is chided by the Jewish leadership of Israel in Bavi Avodah Zarah 16b-17a. When Eliezar returned to his home, one of his servants said to him: “Master, will you permit me to say one thing of what you have taught me?” “Master, perhaps you encountered heresy and you enjoyed it and because of that you were arrested.”

Eliezar answered his servant: “Aqiva, you have reminded me! Once I was walking in the upper market of Sepphoris when I came across one of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene, and Jacob of was his name.” “Jacob said to me: “Thus was I taught by Jesus the Nazarene: For from the hire of a harlot was it gathered and to the hire of a harlot shall it return (Micah 1: 7).

Seemingly insignificant passages such as these, found in the Talmud, may appear to the reader as minor mentions of Jesus. The facts are, these tiny references of Jesus, validate that He was in Jerusalem at the time described by the four gospels. That during this time, Jesus was arrested by the Sanhedrin and turned over to Pilate to be crucified. The arrest and crucifixion is also validated in the records of the Roman government, as attested to by Tacitus (See Tacitus as a credible witness).

Since these records of the Jews and the Romans, both hostile and indignant to the cause of Jesus—confirm that He was arrested and crucified, it is certain that the testimony given to us by the New Testament, that Jesus was also risen from the dead on the third day, is also credible.

Take a Look Inside: “Yeshu, The Historical Jesus.”