Jesus Of Nazareth’s Trial In The Uncensored Talmud -- By: David Instone-Brewer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 62:2 (NA 2011)
Article: Jesus Of Nazareth’s Trial In The Uncensored Talmud
Author: David Instone-Brewer

Jesus Of Nazareth’s Trial In The Uncensored Talmud

David Instone-Brewer


The Munich Talmud manuscript of b.San.43a preserves passages censored out of the printed editions, including the controversial trial of ‘Yeshu Notzri’. Chronological analysis of the layers in this tradition suggests that the oldest words are: ‘On the Eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth for sorcery and leading Israel astray.’ This paper argues that other words were added to this tradition in order to overcome three difficulties: a trial date during a festival; the unbiblical method of execution; and the charge of ‘sorcery’.

1. The Origin Of Censorship

The Munich Talmud is the earliest full manuscript Talmud, penned in 1343.1 A few manuscripts of the Talmud have survived from before the invention of printing as well as many fragments, and these are particularly important because they contain material censored out of the printed editions, most of which concerned Jesus.

Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice in the early 1500s, spent most of his professional life and family fortune printing 230 major Jewish works, including the Jerusalem Talmud and the massive editions of the Babylonian Talmud and the Mikraot Gedolot (the Rabbinic Bible) with their surrounding commentaries. He worked mainly with Felice da Prato, an Augustinian friar who had converted from Judaism. They followed the page layout invented by the Soncino family for printing the tractate Berakhot in 1483, which has a central

Talmud passage with commentaries arranged around the edge of the page. They applied this system to all the tractates and completed the first full printed Talmud in 1520.2 This page layout was so useful that it became standard, and exactly the same layout is still reproduced today for printing the Talmud.

Bomberg’s printing of the Talmud ensured its survival because a few years later, in 1553, Pope Julius III ordered the burning of all Talmuds,3 but multiple printed copies had already spread everywhere. One was sold in London in 1628 for £26, then went missing, and was rediscovered in 1991 in Sion College’s basement.4 Without Bomberg’s printed edition, the Munich Talmud might be the only full copy of the Talmud which survived. His printing is essentially identical to the normal nineteenth-century edition usually known as ‘Vilna’ though some of these tractates were printed in up to four separ...

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