Evidence of Innocence Sought in Vain
This is one of the (few early) passages that Goldstein judges to be a possibly authentic reference to Jesus. He identifies two difficulties: the details do not fit well with the gospel accounts, and Yeshu / Yeshua / Yeshoshua (all forms of the same name) was an extremely common name. In its favor, the fact that this Yeshu is executed around Passover, as was Jesus, makes it less likely that it intends some other Yeshu/a. Differences in detail probably simply reflect a tradition widely divergent from the Christian gospels. There is, as with many of these stories, the strong possibility that stories about other Yeshu/as or accused magicians have mingled with authentic Jesus traditions to create a new story. The story is hard to date with any confidence, but it cannot be later than about 220, CE (Goldstein:29). The italicized section is Amoraic, 4th c. at the earliest. [AH]
There is a tradition (in a Barraitha): They hanged Yeshu on the
Sabbath of the Passover. But for forty days
before that a herald went in front of him (crying), "Yeshu is to
be stoned because he practiced sorcery and seduced Israel and
lead them away from God. Anyone who can
provide evidence on his behalf should come forward to defend
him." When, however, nothing favorable about him was found, he
was hanged on the Sabbath of the Passover.
Ulla commented: "Do you think that he belongs among those for whom redeeming evidence is sought? Rather, he was a seducer [of whom] the All-merciful has said: 'Show them no pity... and do not shield them.' (Deut 13.8b NRSV) In Yeshu's case, however, an exception was made because he was close to those who held [political/religious] authority."
This is in the same larger context. Who, exactly, these disciples are is not clear. Mattai is likely to be Matthew. For the others scholarship has resorted to what is, at best, educated speculation. The fact that there are five rather than twelve suggests that we look elsewhere than Christian tradition to solve the problem. It may not be coincidence that both Yohanan b. Zakkai and Akiba each have five students (Goldstein:32). The italicized section is Amoraic, and, incidentally, contains several bad etymologies (Mattai/mathai, Nakki/naki, bunnibeni). [AH]
There is a tradition (in a Barraitha): Yeshu had five students: Mattai, Nakkai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah.
 See the same charge in Sanhedrin 107b and Sota 47a.
 Ulla. Late 3rd / early 4th c. CE (Goldstein:109).
 Deuteronomy 13.6-9 command that those who lead Israel to worship other gods are to be executed:
If anyone secretly entices you... saying, "Let us worship other gods",... you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. [NRSV].
 'Students': or 'disciples'. Heb: talmidim. See the discussion in the introduction above..
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