The Historicity of Jesus from the Talmud and Josephus


At the time that Jesus lived as a child in Nazareth, the Romans had already conquered Israel and had placed the nation under their dominion beginning in 63 B.C. In this 18th Old Testament Prophecy from the Book of Genesis, the Lord promised Israel that they would not lose their right to be self-governed until the Messiah arrived in Jerusalem.

Genesis 49:10 “…the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people.”

The Messiah’s entrance into human history was intended by God as a sign that all of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah were about to be fulfilled. The prophets who made these predictions in the Old Testament, often themselves did not understand the events to which they were writing about. They looked at these events from afar, as they wrote about the one who would come and die for the sins of the world.

Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

This amazing and detailed prophecy of Genesis 49:10 by Jacob reveals an incredible proof for the power of prophecy in the Word of God. Jacob speaks of the Scepter (Hebrew: Shebet), translated as tribe or tribes 140 times, and 34 times as rod or staff. Jacob predicts that The Scepter (rulership) shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes… The word Shiloh in the Hebrew language is a code word for Messiah.

This prophecy by Jacob states that the right to self-rule and the ruler Himself shall always be from the tribe of Judah. When Rome captured Israel, they took away their right of self-government, meaning that the scepter was no longer in Judah’s hands. The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, records that at about 7 A.D., after Israel had lost their right to self-government, the high priest of Israel went throughout the streets of Jerusalem, wearing sackcloth and ashes, crying woe unto us, the scepter has been taken from us, and shiloh has not come.[1]

Israel’s right to enforce their own law was closely linked to their identity as a nation. The Torah gave the Jews the authority to put to death a person who was found guilty according to the laws of God. The prophecy of Genesis 49:10 predicts that the The scepter (rulership, the Torah, the law) shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes.

According to the word of God, the Messiah would arrive in Israel before they would lose the right to enforce the laws of God. The question would be: “Did Judah ever lose this right at any other time in history previous to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem?”

When Nebuchadnezzar took captive the people of Judah during the 70 years predicted by Jeremiah, they lost their sovereignty as a nation but maintained their judicial rule through the tribe of Judah.[2] This is confirmed in the book of Ezra as the Jews maintained their own lawgivers or judges during the 70 years of captivity.[3] Despite being sieged by Nebuchadnezzar, Judah did not lose their authority over their own people during the entire 70-year period.

We find that even in the subsequent conquering of Judah by the Persians under Cyrus, the Greeks under Alexander, and finally the Romans, Judah was allowed the ability to judge their own people.

This suddenly changed when Archelaus, who had been the ruler in Judea, was banished to Gaul. His replacement was not a Jew which was the normal policy under the Romans. Caesar Agustus was weary of the Jews and determined that he would take from the them their right of judicial authority when Caponius became the new ruler in Judea. This event is a matter of secular history recorded by Flavius Josephus.[4]

“And now Archelaus’ part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Caponius, one of the equestrian order of the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar”[5]

It was at this point that the leadership in Israel believed they had lost the Scepter of Judah, and the word of God had failed.

The leaders of Israel were well acquainted with the fact that this event could happen. In the Babylonian Talmud, the Sanhedrin 98b, Rabbi Johanan wrote:

“The world was created for the sake of the Messiah, what is this Messiah’s name? The school of Rabbi Shila said ‘his name is Shiloh, for it is written; until Shiloh come.’ ”

The Rabbis of this era wrote extensively on the prophecy of Genesis 49:10. They believed that it was speaking of the coming Messiah in relation to a loss of rulership that would occur.

Targum Onkelos:

“The transmission of domain shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children, forever, until Messiah comes.”[6]

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan:

“King and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah…until King Messiah comes.”[7]

Targum Yerushalmi:

“Kings shall not cease from the house of Judah… until the time of the coming of the King Messiah… to whom all the dominions of the earth shall become subservient.”[8]

This is a confirmation of Genesis 49:10 that the religious leaders in Israel believed that Shiloh and the Messiah were the same person.

When Archelaus was banished as ruler of Judea, the transfer of power away from the Jews is mentioned in the Talmud:

“A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.”[9]

The Jewish historian Josephus confirms this in his writings from The Wars of the Jews, Antiquities 20:9:

“After the death of the procurator Festus, when Albinus was about to succeed him, the high priest Ananias considered it a favorable opportunity to assembly the Sanhedrin. He therefore caused James the Brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, and several others, to appear before this hastily assembled council, and pronounced upon them the sentence of death by stoning. All the wise men and strict observers of the law who were at Jerusalem expressed their disapprobation of this act… Some even went to Albinus himself, who had departed to Alexandria, to bring this breach of the law under his observation, and to inform him that Ananius had acted illegally in assembling the Sanhedrin without the Roman authority.”[10]

For those who claim that there are no extra-biblical texts that speak of Jesus other than the Bible, this is one of many proof texts that controvert this claim.

We notice that the right to put Jesus to death by stoning was refused by the Roman authority, a confirmation that the judicial law in Israel was at an end, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 49:10. What the Jews did not know is that the one whom they were seeking to kill by stoning would be put to death according to the other prophecies of the Old Testament Book of Psalms, Isaiah, and many others that predicted the Messiah would be crucified. There are 56 Prophecies of the Messiah’s death included in this book. See the chapter The Death of the Messiah for the complete list.

When Josephus records in 7 A.D. that the high priest of Israel went throughout the streets of Jerusalem wearing sackcloth and ashes, crying, “woe unto us, the scepter has been taken from us, and shiloh has not come…”[11], it was because they believed that because their right to self-rule had been taken away and Shiloh had not arrived, the word of God had been breached. The leaders of Israel believed that the prophecy of the Messiah’s arrival before they lost their rulership had failed.

What the Jewish leadership did not realize was that—perhaps, at that very moment when the high priest was lamenting that Shiloh had not come, a young boy of about 7 years of age was amongst them who was Shiloh, their promised Messiah. Just five years later, Jesus is seen in their Temple in Jerusalem—a boy of about 12 years old, teaching the scriptures to the leaders of Israel. This young boy is Shiloh, and He had come in fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus the Messiah had arrived at the moment that Judah had lost their right to self-rule, and they did not know it. The Word of God had not failed; it had been kept just as He said it would.

Luke 2:40-50 “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”

The importance of Bible prophecy is understood by the reaction of the High Priest who went through the streets of Jerusalem in sackcloth and ashes. If in fact the word of God had failed, this would have been a profound event in the history of Israel. They would no longer be able to trust what God said. If the word of God, as spoken in these 365 prophecies, was ever proven to be unfulfilled, then the entire Bible would be invalidated. In this, we see why this book and our understanding of all Bible prophecy is so important. Prophecy and its fulfillment is our only method of confirming that the entire Bible is the word of God and reliable. Thankfully, over the thousands of years that the Bible has been scrutinized and judged in the area of predictive and fulfilled prophecy, not a single prophecy has ever been found to have failed. When we find that there seems to be a failure, or a supposed inconsistency, these are certainly due to a misunderstanding. Much in the same way that the High Priest in Israel misunderstood the fulfillment of this 18th prophecy of Genesis 49:10, when he went through the streets of Jerusalem crying out that God’s word had failed. Jesus, the Messiah, was already there when Israel lost their right to self-rule, just as God had spoken.

This is a subtle principle that should not be overlooked: the importance of God always keeping His word. We must understand that Israel was accustomed to the word of God always coming to pass exactly as He had said. Not one promise that the Lord had stated had ever failed, up to that point. When their nation was taken from them and rulership was given to the Roman government, they looked around and noticed that the Messiah was not there. Their assumption was that God’s word was no longer reliable.

When we consider that all of the prophecies of the Messiah have been fulfilled by Jesus Christ, we understand what this should mean to every Jew. In fact, out of the thousands of prophecies made in the Bible, not one word that God has spoken has ever failed to be fulfilled exactly as He had said. It is truly amazing today that every Jew has not already received Jesus as Messiah and King. The evidence for His claim to be the Messiah is overwhelming, by the testimony of fulfilled prophecy that history has verified.

Israel was chosen by God to be His own unique people. He set the Jews apart and carefully formed them into a nation of Holy people through which He could bring His own dear Son. The biggest obstacle to the Jews today in receiving Jesus as the Messiah is the fact that He claimed to be The Son of God. This remains a stumbling block despite the fact that the Messiah is described as the Son of God in several Old Testament Passages.

The Messiah will have God as His Father

2 Samuel 7:14 “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.”

The Jews had within their reach every blessing that they could imagine. As their lives began to prosper and they were settled in their own land and dwelt in peace, they began to fall away from their God.

The Lord commanded Israel that for every six years they plowed, planted, and harvested the land, they should allow it to lay fallow on the seventh year. God promised that He would give three years of harvest on the sixth year so that there would be sufficient supply to last through the seventh year of rest.

Exodus 23:10-11 Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow.

Leviticus 25:21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.

For 490 years, Israel failed to let the land rest. Because the land had not been allowed its Sabbath for 490 years, Israel owed God a land rest debt of 70 years.

God warned Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that if they would not honor Him and listen to Him, they would be destroyed by a foreign nation. Nebuchadnezzar was permitted by God to take Israel captive and remove the best and brightest young men from their land and carry them back to Babylon for 70 years. This is the exact period of time that was owed to God for the land rest debt that Israel had failed to observe. God put the entire nation into captivity to serve another nation just because they had failed to give one year, in seven, to rest.

If we should ever think that the commandments of the Lord are optional, we might think again, considering what God did to Israel for their disobedience.

When God says something, it is going to happen.

Jeremiah 25:4,7 And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. “Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the LORD, “that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.”

Jeremiah 25:8-9 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: “Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,” says the LORD, “and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.”

Jeremiah 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

After the land had laid fallow for 70 years, God, again, performed His promise and allowed Israel to go back to their own land. Even though God’s people were unfaithful, the Lord remained faithful.

At the time that Jesus came to the earth at Bethlehem, Israel had again reached a sad and desperate time in their existence. Having lost the right to rule over their own affairs, God permitted the Romans to take them captive once again. The Jews could put a lamb to death on the altar, but they could not put a man to death in a capital crime as called for in their law.

Genesis 49:10 states that before Israel would lose the scepter of rulership, Shiloh would come.

The right to self-rule by God’s people was one of the most cherished possessions that they had. When the Romans took away Israel’s right to judge and execute the law of God, the Leadership of Israel thought that the word of God had become void. In reality, the Lord had kept His word and Shiloh had come.

Why is it that when God warns man what He will do if he doesn’t listen, and then when His judgment does come, God is blamed? Just as surely as the Lord will keep all of His promises for blessing, He will also keep all His word in judgment.

Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever…”

Joshua 23:14 “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.”

The fulfillment of this Old Testament Prophecy from Genesis 49:10, is found in John Chapter 11. Here, we see the Scribes and Pharisees with no right to govern themselves under the Roman government. Fear over losing the remaining remnant of their power, they feared Jesus and what His presence might mean to their authority.

John 11:47-52 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

Even though the Scribes and Pharisees saw, with their own eyes, Jesus’ miraculous works that gave testimony to His authority as their Messiah, they would not recognize Him. The leaders in Israel were more concerned about losing their positions of authority than they were in recognizing their sin of disobedience that had led the whole nation to be captured by the Roman nation in the first place, just as Genesis 49:10 predicts.

Today, the Jews and the nation of Israel continue their blindness in failing to recognize and accept that Shiloh has come. It is my hope that by seeing these 365 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ, as documented in the New Testament, that many thousands of Jews will be led to Jesus and receive Him as their Messiah.

See Also:
Tacitus as a Credible Witness
Josephus as a Credible Witness

The preceding is from the book: “The Prophecies of the Messiah,” by Robert Clifton Robinson, a 3,000 page treatise on the 365 Old Testament Prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in the narrative of the New Testament scriptures.

$7.77 at Amazon

The Prophecies of the Messiah Cover

[1] Flavius Josephus, Antiquités 17:13
[2] “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”, Josh McDowell. Here’s Life Publishers, p 168
[3] See Ezra 1:5,8 the priests and prince of Judah, were still in existence after seventy years away from Israel.
[4] 1. Flavius Josephus, “The Wars of the Jews”, Book 2, chapter 8 2. The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation: The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum”, Samson H Levy (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Jewish institute of Religion, 1974), p. 2
[5] The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation: The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum”, Samson H Levy (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Jewish institute of Religion, 1974), p. 2
[6] ibid.,p.7
[7] ibid.,p.8
[8] ibid.,p.8
[9] Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24. [10] Josephus confirms this in his writings from “The Wars of the Jews”, Antiquities 20:9: [11] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 17:13

Categories: Secular Sources for Jesus, The Historicity of Jesus

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3 replies

  1. Hello, where can I see in Antiquities that the high priests wore sack clothes and ashes? I’ve tried searching for chapter 17:13 and what I could find didn’t say that.


  2. Hello, where can I see in Antiquities that the high priests wore sack clothes and ashes? I’ve tried searching for chapter 17:3 and what I could find didn’t say that.


  3. Hey, how’s it going?

    I want to pass along some very important news that everyone needs to hear!

    In December of 2017, Donald Trump made history by recognizing Jerusalem as the captial of Israel. Why is this big news? Because by this the Jewish people of Israel are now able to press forward in bringing about the Third Temple prophesied in the Bible.

    Jewish Rabbis have publicly announced that their Messiah will be revealed in the coming years who will be a leader and spiritual guide to all nations, gathering all religions under the worship of one God. They deny Jesus as their Messiah, and the Bible tells us this Jewish Messiah will be the counterfiet that will bring about a false peace, and ultimatley the great tribulation.

    They even printed a coin to raise money for the Temple with Donald Trumps face on the front and with king Cyrus'(who built the second Temple) behind him. On the back of the coin is an image of the third Temple.

    More importantly, the power that runs the world wants to put a RFID microchip in our body making us total slaves to them. This chip matches perfectly with the Mark of the Beast in the Bible, more specifically in Revelation 13:16-18:

    “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

    Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

    Referring to the last days, this could only be speaking of a cashless society, which we have yet to see, but are heading towards. Otherwise, we could still buy or sell without the mark amongst others if physical money was still currency. This Mark couldn’t be spiritual because the word references two different physical locations. If it was spiritual it would just say in the forehead. RFID microchip implant technology will be the future of a one world cashless society containing digital currency. It will be implanted in the right-hand or the forehead, and we cannot buy or sell without it! We must grow strong in Jesus. AT ALL COSTS, DO NOT TAKE IT!

    “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).

    People have been saying the end is coming for many years, but we needed two key things. One, the Third Temple, and two, the technology for a cashless society to fulfill the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast.

    If you haven’t already, it is time to seek God with all your heart. Jesus loves you more than you could imagine. He wants to have a relationship with you and redeem you from your sins. Turn to Him and repent while there is still hope! God bless!


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