by Bill Nugent
The Talmud is a large book of ancient writings of the Jewish people. It has enormous authority in traditional Orthodox Judaism. It’s an extensive collection of the teachings of the ancient Jewish Rabbis.
The Talmud consists of the Mishnah (the oral law) and the Gemara (commentary on the oral law). The Talmud is not an inspired writing like the Bible but it does contain important eyewitness accounts of things that occurred during the first century AD and the centuries before and after that time.
The Talmud does not affirm that Jesus is the Messiah – far from it – but it does give many bits of information that unintentionally support the messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth. You must realize that the Talmud was written centuries before sophisticated arguments were formulated against Christianity. (The word “Christ” means the same as “Messiah.”)
For instance, the Old Testament in Zechariah 12:10 says “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Christians consider this to be a messianic prophecy that refers to Jesus. Today’s traditional Jewish apologists will strenuously argue that this does not refer to the crucifixion of Jesus in which His hands and feet were pierced. Jewish apologists would argue that this verse is not a messianic prophecy. Most present day Jewish Bibles also give a different rendering of the wording of Zechariah 12:10 that renders its messianic ramifications less clear.
The Talmud, however, is very direct in affirming that the ancient rabbis considered Zechariah 12:10 to be a messianic prophecy. In the section of the Talmud called Sukkah 52a the verse in Zechariah 12:10 is paraphrased: “They will look upon me, the Messiah, who they have pierced.” The ancient rabbis went so far as to actually insert the words “the Messiah” into the text! This ancient custom of inserting words into a Bible passage to explain – not replace – the passage is called a midrash.
The Talmud in Sukkah 52a does not directly state that Jesus is the Messiah but does show that the ancient Jewish rabbis believed that the Messiah would be pierced. In fact the Talmud goes to great lengths to affirm that the Old Testament prophecies of a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53, etc.) are indeed messianic prophecies.
The Talmud in Sanhedrin 97b and 98b affirms that the prophetic passage in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah refers to the Messiah. Isaiah 53, predictively prophesies that the Messiah would die for the sins of the people. Jesus fulfilled this and over 300 other predictive prophecies contained in the Old Testament. No other figure in all of world history can make anything like this claim!
In the 8th century, BC, Isaiah wrote of the Messiah:
“He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NASB).
This is called substitutionary atonement. Jesus fulfilled the above words of Isaiah. After He paid the penalty for our sins, Christ was raised from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who call upon Him in faith and repentance.
The Talmud dealt honestly with the prophecies of the sufferings of the Messiah but also had to explain the prophecies of the glorification of the Messiah. Some of the ancient rabbis taught that there would be two Messiahs, one a suffering Messiah who would die and the other a glorious Messiah who would be king. They didn’t see a first and second coming of one Messiah. Importantly however, the rabbis did see, as Christians do today, that the predictions of both the suffering Messiah and the glorious Messiah are messianic. This is powerful ammunition for Christian apologists.
When quoting a messianic prophecy to a Jewish apologist, the Jewish apologist will often say “If you knew the Hebrew you’d know that the passage in question is not messianic.” The ancient talmudists did know the Hebrew and they affirmed that the prophecies of the suffering Messiah are messianic.
The Talmud also contains eyewitness accounts of some miraculous events that occurred in the first century. In the Talmud, in tractate Yoma 39b, four distinct unusual phenomena are recorded. These events occurred during the 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple. The second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 AD so we’re talking about the years 30 AD to 70 AD.
The year 30 AD is the approximate time that Jesus the Messiah died for the sins of the people. When He died and rose again the Temple sacrificial system of animal sacrifices was superseded and became obsolete. God no longer honored the animal sacrifices.
Yoma 39b has to do with the Day of Atonement which is called Yom Kippur. In this tractate it is stated that the lot for the Lord’s goat always came up in the left hand of the High Priest during those 40 years. That was a bad sign because of what the left hand means in Judaism. On Yom Kippur two goats were selected. One was to be sacrificed on the Lord’s altar and one was to be the scapegoat. The lot for the Lord’s goat always came up in the left hand during those 40 years!
Another phenomenon recorded in Yoma 39b has to do with the scarlet cord. On Yom Kippur they hung a scarlet cord. This cord, in the years before 30 AD, often miraculously turned white which was reminiscent of Isaiah 1:18 which says “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” In the 40 years before 70 AD on Yom Kippur the cord always remained scarlet; it did not turn white.
Yoma 39b also records that the Temple doors opened by themselves during those 40 years. This also was a bad sign. The rabbis connected it with Zechariah 11:1 which is a Bible verse that implied that one day the Temple would be burned as indeed it was in 70 AD.
Yoma 39b also records the fact that the westernmost light of the menorah in the Temple would not stay lit. This was yet another bad sign. The westernmost light was the light used to light all of the other lights.
The several bad signs mentioned above are likely subtle ways in which God spoke to the Jewish people that the animal blood sacrifices offered in the temple were no longer acceptable. The sins of the people were not forgiven through animal sacrifices after Jesus died and rose again around 30 AD. The rabbis had rejected the Messiah who had truly fulfilled the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. There was no forgiveness by animal sacrifices.
Jesus, the Messiah, had died for their sins and fulfilled the sacrificial system. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. They must repent and turn to Messiah to receive forgiveness of sins. Many Jews did turn to Jesus and these formed the early church. In our own day many Jewish people who believe in Jesus as Messiah have formed Messianic Jewish synagogues.
There was a 40 year transition at the beginning of the Age of Law when the Jewish people spent 40 years in the wilderness under Moses. (Age of Law: circa 1500 BC – 30 AD; Church Age: 30 AD – present.) There was also a 40 year transition from 30 AD to 70 AD which was at the end of the Age of Law and at the beginning of the Church Age. God was warning His precious Jewish people during this time. God gave them signs that showed that the animal sacrifices were superseded and final atonement was made by Jesus the Messiah. The new Church Age had begun.
The Talmud contains much in the way of law, interpretation, argument, folklore, narrative and biography. It does contain some blasphemous sayings against the Christian faith. But like a lawyer arguing a case we can appeal to the witness of the opposition. When your opponent makes statements that support your case, those statements carry special weight. The Talmud makes many statements that have the unintended consequence of proving that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah of Israel. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.
Source for much material in above article is Jesus in the Talmud by Jacob Prasch of Moriel Ministries.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!