I’m am reading your book,"Reasons for Belief" and I had a question on
Can we be sure about Babylonia Sandhedrin 43a in the Talmud is refering to
Jesus of Nazareth? Do we have any Jewish sources confirming that it is Jesus
of Nazareth? The Talmud certainly fits very well with what we know from the
gospels. But of course the name Yeshua would have been common for the
I did not want to become to hasty and jump to an innacurate conclusion if I
was not sure. Hope to hear from you. Thank You for your time.
Good question. Almost by definition one cannot "prove" or "be sure" of anything about the past. With historical documents we must ask what is the most reasonable conclusion using questions such as:
How sure are we of the source? When was it written?
Is there reason to think that someone may have altered the original?
What are some other possible explanations? How reasonable are the alternative explanations?
What is the related evidence?
I believe that the conclusion that the Babylonia Sanhedrin 43a is about Jesus of Nazareth holds up really well to such reasonable analysis. I have looked at sources which tried to undermine the conclusion that this is about Jesus. Typically, they mention that Jesus was a very common name at the time (absolutely true). However, given the parallels between this passage and what we know about Jesus from other sources, these critiques of the conclusion seem quite hollow to me. They have the appearance of people being skeptical, not because the evidence warrants it, but because they do not like the conclusion.
Have Christians ever been guilty of such poor reasoning? ABSOLUTELY!!!
So, my suggestion is to use the information correctly. When we say that Tacitus or Suetonius or Josephus are talking about the same Jesus we can justify saying that it is virtually certain that they are talking about Jesus of Nazareth. When we talk about Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a, we should be more cautious, saying something like, "most scholars believe it is about Jesus," or "It seems rather obvious that this is about Jesus." As an apologist, I normally prefer to say things in a way that I do not have to back off on later. However, to be honest, I fall short of this ideal rather often, but that is what I try to do.
You ask if we have any other Jewish sources which confirm that Sanhedrin 43a is about Jesus of Nazareth. I am not sure what kind of evidence this could be. Are you asking if we have another Jewish writing which says, in effect, "Sanhedrin 43a is about Jesus?" I do not see how we could expect to have such evidence. What we can say is that Sanhedrin 43a is almost certainly about Jesus of Nazareth, and that the information is more or less consistent with a number of Jewish, Christian and Roman sources–that they support the conclusion.