sifra denissayunáyin dišúa‘ nebiya
ha-séifer ha-nisayonáyey y’shúa‘ ha-n’vi
(THE BOOK OF THE TWO TRIALS OF THE PROPHET YESHUA`)
1. 1These words recount the two trials of the prophet Yeshua`, in the days before he was put to death at the hands of the Roman authorities, according to the traditions which have been passed down to us.
2In his final days, Yeshua` had come to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice, and to deliver God’s message to the people there, even as he knew that his own life was at great risk. 3And it was during the week before the Passover sacrifice that these events came to pass.
4Now Pontius Pilatus was still the governor of Judea in those days, and Yosef Qayafas was the High Priest. Together they sought to oppose the will of God by putting his messenger to death. 5But they did not know this: that they could end the life of the messenger, but the Message of the Living God lives forever.
2. 1While Pilatus sojourned in Jerusalem, his residence was the Antonia fortress, on the north side of the Temple Mount. 2And it came to pass one day, that the High Priest Yosef Qayafas went over to Pilatus in order to deliver up his report of Yeshua`, and to receive further instructions from him.
3For the Sadducees had despised Yeshua`, ever since he had overturned the tables of the money-changers and dove-sellers in the Temple in the previous year. 4He had accused them of robbing from the poor to fill the pouches of the chief priests and the wealthy businessmen of Jerusalem, and thereby turning God’s House from a house of prayer into a den of thieves. 5From that time on, the chief priests had been looking for an excuse to hand him over to the Roman authorities for execution.
6Pilatus, for his part, could not endure to wait for Yeshua`’s death either, as his spies were now sending him daily reports that the Zealots had been hailing him a son of David – a rebel leader against the authority of Rome. 7However, he feared the will of Caesar if he acted recklessly, thereby causing a rebellion in the province himself. 8So he spoke to Qayafas and said, “I cannot wait any longer; when my men arrest this troublesome Galilean, I want you to put him on trial before a session of your Great Sanhedrin.”
9Qayafas maintained his composure in the face of Pilatus’s desperate orders, and responded to him, saying, “We are making plans to do so. 10We have heard him speak his false and lying words many times in our Temple, and I am certain that we can try him as a false prophet, and for corrupting our Law. 11And if even just one of his followers claims he is a messiah, then we can hand him over to you for trial and execution.”
12Thereupon Pilatus said, “The Zealots are already claiming this about him daily – that is what makes him so dangerous, and why I want him dead before he causes any more trouble. When will you move against this agitator?”
13So Qayafas answered and said, “It will have to be before the day of our Passover sacrifice – even now, if possible, while there are still not too many people here in Jerusalem. 14The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread are almost upon us, and if we delay until later, we risk the fury of Galilean pilgrims who are here for the Passover. 15To that end, you’ll be pleased to hear that we have gained the services of one of his closest followers, who we are sure will deliver him into our hands.”
16Pilatus seized on this news with murderous delight. So he gave orders to Qayafas, saying, 17“Then go and do as I have given you to do. I want to have this man dead before the day of your Passover rites. Fail me, Qayafas, and I will have you removed as High Priest!”
3. 1It was six days before the Passover sacrifice when Yeshua` came to Bethany. He was welcomed by one of the women there, a former prostitute accused by the Zealots of being a collaborator. 2When he reclined to eat on the first evening, this woman came with a jar of costly ointment, and anointed him to cool his head.
3But one of his emissaries, a Zealot called Yudah son of Shim`on, spoke out against her and said, “Why was this ointment wasted like this? It could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And thus he scolded her.
4But Yeshua` said, “Leave her alone! Why have a go at her, when she has done a very beautiful thing to me. 5You can give money to the poor at any time, but I won’t always be here.”
6And turning to the woman, he closed the jar and said, “Keep this for the day of my burial.”
4. 1The chief priests of the Sadducees needed a legitimate reason to arrest Yeshua`, and had long been seeking a way to entrap him. 2Meanwhile the Zealots had also been actively working to bring about Yeshua`’s death, and in the Romans, they saw their opportunity. As Zealots, they could not go directly to the Romans themselves.
3However, they had heard that the chief priests were looking for a way to arrest Yeshua`, so they sent one of their own number, this same Yudah surnamed ‘the Dagger’, to offer his services for payment. 4Thereafter, he sought an opportune reason to fall out with Yeshua`, and thereby justify to himself a reasonable excuse for betraying him.
5Now, Yeshua` had sent two of his emissaries to prepare a place for them to stay while they were in Jerusalem. For in four days’ time, the Festival of Unleavened Bread would begin, when the Passover lambs are sacrificed in the Temple. 6Now Yeshua` had already made arrangements with the owner of a large house in the Lower City, where he and his emissaries could stay in the upper room, and where they could all eat their Passover lamb together in one house.
7That night as they were sitting down on the floor for their evening meal, Yudah called to mind the instructions of the chief priests, and sought an opportune moment to confront Yeshua` in front of his emissaries. 8Therefore Yudah approached Yeshua` and said to him, “Now, we know that you have called the House of Israel back to the righteousness of Torah, but when do we overthrow the Romans?”
9At these words, Yeshua` was amazed and angry, so he said to him, “Still you ask me this? Do you still not see? Do you still not understand? I have taught you and walked with you for two years, yet you still don’t understand?”
10But Yudah was persistent. “These are the duties of the Messiah!”
11So Yeshua` replied, “Then let your ‘messiah’ fulfil his duty, but I tell you this, there is no messiah here!”
12With that, Yeshua` left the house, and it was dark outside. He hurried to pray in solitude in the Garden of Gath-Shmanim on the Mount of Olives – a place where he was accustomed to pray while he was in Jerusalem.
5. 1Now as I have already said, the Zealots had long sought a way of killing Yeshua`, but feared what the ordinary people might do, for they honoured him as a prophet of God. 2So the idea came to their leaders to let the Roman authorities do it for them. The Romans, as you know, would execute anyone who claimed to be a messiah; to proclaim someone as a messiah therefore, was to pronounce a death sentence upon that man.
3So when Yeshua` came up to Jerusalem four months before in the month of Kislev, to celebrate the Festival of Lights, some Zealots had devised a plot to proclaim him messiah as he entered Jerusalem with his followers from Bethany. 4They planned to do this as pilgrims entered the holy city on foot, waving palm branches, as is our custom on the first day of the festival.
5But Yeshua` had come to hear of their wicked designs against him. So he devised a way of thwarting their plot, 6by entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, to show the Romans he was coming in peace, alluding to a passage in the Book of the Prophet Zekharyah.
7Therefore he told his followers to proclaim him a herald of peace, over the voices of the Zealots, who wished to proclaim him a herald of war. 8The Zealots called out, ‘Oh Son of David, please deliver us! Welcome in the name of Adonai!’ and they spread out their mantles in his path. 9But his followers waved their palm branches and called out all the louder, ‘Behold, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!’ 10If anyone asked who he was, he had instructed his followers to tell them, ‘This is the prophet Yeshua` from Nazareth in Galilee.’
11However, for the next four months, the Zealots took every opportunity to plant the seed in the minds of the Romans that Yeshua` was a claimant to the throne of Israel, and therefore a rebel leader against the power of Rome. 12He had not a day’s peace, and he realised that one day he was going to be executed for sedition, and that that day was fast approaching.
6. 1Now in those days, Yeshua` bar Rabban was the leader of the Nazorayyan division of the Zealots. 2And while Yeshua` was hurrying amongst the tents of pilgrims on the Mount of Olives to get to the Garden of Gath-Shmanim, bar Rabban saw him and called out to those around him with evil purpose, saying, 3“Look! It’s Yeshua` the Nazarene! Hail, Yeshua` son of David! Hail our King!”
4Yeshua` turned round having heard this, and was exceedingly angry indeed. He said to him, “Do you wish to see us all arrested and killed? I’m not who you say I am! I’m not your king, and I’m not the Messiah! 5Believe me I tell you, you have no king but God! Do your ears not hear, nor your eyes see? I have no king but God!”
6Now, as he was saying this, there was a Roman spy among the pilgrims, and he heard Yeshua`’s words; at once he reported them to Pilatus.
7. 1As Yeshua` and his emissaries were sitting down to their meal on the evening of the third day of the week, Yeshua` had a vision. 2And a voice spoke to him saying, “Behold, there sits at this table with you, one who will deliver you up to the Romans, even one who dips their bread with you this evening.”
3So Yeshua` said to his emissaries, “I will not live to eat the Passover sacrifice with you.”
4At once his emissaries questioned him, saying, “Master, what do you mean?”
5So Yeshua` said, “One of you will betray me before the evening of the Passover sacrifice.”
6All of his emissaries said, “Who is it, Master? Surely not me!”
7But Yeshua` replied, “All I can say to you, is that one of you who shares bread with me here – someone at this very meal – will betray me.”
8Furthermore, Yeshua` said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Believe me I tell you, those who follow the way of the sword are already dead. 9But to the Dead I say this: the kingdom of God is within you; it comes upon you by the way of life, not by the way of death, so choose life and live.”
10At these words, Yudah the Dagger became angry and rose to leave the room. He knew that Yeshua` was somehow aware of his betrayal, but he had found his opportune moment, and his excuse to betray his Master; 11he was now convinced that the kingdom which Yeshua` taught was not the same as the one he believed in. He believed in the coming kingdom of our father David, but Yeshua` taught the present kingdom of our Father in heaven.
8. 1After Yeshua` and his emissaries had finished their meal and sung psalms together, they left the house to go to the Kidron valley, as was their custom whenever they were in Jerusalem. 2They would go to the Mount of Olives to pray each evening, that God would act to forgive and save Jerusalem, and that all suffering be avoided.
3As they were passing alongside the brook of Kidron, Yeshua` said to his emissaries, “If the Romans or the High Priest’s police come to arrest me, I want you all to leave me and save yourselves. You should go when they come for me.”
4But Shim`on Keyfa said to him, “Master, all of the others can go, but I will never leave you. I would follow you to prison, even to death.”
5So Yeshua` said to him, “Shim`on, let me tell you this: I know you well enough to say that before morning cock crow, you will have denied ever having known me.”
6But Shim`on Keyfa was insistent, and said, “Even if I had to die with you, I would never deny you.”
7Outside the city walls, they wended their way among the tents of pilgrims who had arrived early for the Passover sacrifice. 8Shortly they arrived in a small, walled orchard of olive trees. It was called Gath-Shmanim, for it contained an olive press. It was secluded and away from the other pilgrims. 9Most of his emissaries remained outside the garden, but Yeshua` instructed Keyfa, as well as Ya`qob and Yo`anan, the ‘Sons of Thunder’, to sit and watch while he prayed – just in case anyone should enter.
10He suddenly became very troubled. So, going forward a little more into the garden, he fell upon the ground, and prayed that his fears would not come to pass, and for strength to endure to the last.
11But he had never told even his closest emissaries the real reason why he went there every evening. He came each night to pray that God’s Kingdom would be fulfilled soon, in that very hour. 12He recalled the promises written in the Book of the Prophet Zekharyah, that our Heavenly Father would come in glory on the Mount of Olives, to defend and save His people. He remembered the promises that our God would come, and His holy ones with Him. 13He remembered also the promises in the Book of the Prophet Daniel, that the holy ones of the Most High would receive the Kingdom, that the righteous would ascend on the clouds of heaven, and sit at the right hand of God.
14Each night he prayed that this moment would come soon. His fear urged him to leave, to flee from the clutches of the Romans or the Temple police should they come, and so escape certain death, 15but he desperately wanted to stay and be present to see the coming glory of God on the Mount of Olives, to witness the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom, and the ascent of all the righteous on the clouds of heaven. 16He prayed for that hour, that it would be now, and not in the distant generations after he was gone.
9. 1Now Pilatus called for one of his centurions and said to him, “Everyone tells me that if we go in and arrest the Galilean, this Yeshua` of Nazareth, we’ll have a riot on our hands. 2For you have seen how many Jews are already camped outside Jerusalem, and only Jupiter knows what it is going to be like on the very night of their festival! I am told that they all have to be within the city boundaries on that night!”
3At this the centurion replied, “Yes Prefect, but it is as you say – it will be worse then. We have to arrest him now, before it is too late. 4Give me a cohort of men; if the Jews try anything, I’ll be able to crush them before they even know what it is that has struck them.”
5So Pilatus nodded his assent. “Very well, but do not let the Jews see that Romans are taking their precious Christ. Tell me, where are the priests of the Jews and their Temple police?”
6The centurion replied scornfully, “They are outside. They do not want to ‘defile’ themselves, nor contract ‘impurity’ before their festival.”
7So Pilatus made his way to the steps of the Antonia fortress, where the Sadducean chief priests were waiting. 8Then Pilatus told them, “We are going to take the Nazarene tonight, but I want your people to see that their own authorities are arresting him. If there is any trouble, there will be a whole cohort to protect you.”
9With that, the chief priests and the Temple police set off across the Kidron Valley, followed by about six hundred Roman soldiers, which was the entire Antonia garrison.
10. 1Meanwhile Yeshua`, who had been praying in the garden of Gath-Shmanim, turned and saw Keyfa, Yo`anan and Ya`qob asleep, for the meal and the wine had made them tired. He had set them there to watch for him, but they were not able to do so. 2Suddenly a deathly sorrow came over his face. The truth of the moment fell upon his soul like a shroud. 3Our Heavenly Father would one day come in all His glory, and all His righteous ones would sit at His right hand, but not at this hour, and not in this generation. 4During the time of his service to God, he knew the day would come when the enemies of God would triumph over him, and succeed in taking his life, just as they had taken the life of the Immerser.
5His attention was caught by sudden movement in the shadows. Yeshua` took a deeper look into the darkness of the night through flickering torches, and caught the glint of steel, and heard the thud of foreign boot leather. He sighed under his breath, saying, “Romans!” His heart sank. “The Romans!”
6At that moment Yudah, the one who betrayed Yeshua`, stopped outside the enclosure of the garden of Gath-Shmanim. And the captain of the Temple police asked him, 7“How shall we know whom to arrest? We don’t want to get the wrong one – there are thousands camped out here.”
8So Yudah said to him, “He’s in this garden, where we go every evening. I’ll go in, and the one I greet, arrest him.”
9So Yudah entered the garden and approached Yeshua`. “Peace be with you master,” said Yudah, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
10Yeshua` said to him, “So, you betray me with a greeting of loyalty – a kiss of friendship?”
11His emissaries were by now awake. Realising what was going on, Keyfa ran up to Yudah and said, “What have you done? Why have you done this?”
12And there was shame on the face of Yudah, a Zealot who had now sunk to the depths of collaborating with the Romans. He avoided Keyfa’s gaze and hid his feelings with defiance. “He’s a false prophet! He failed us, and he failed our people!”
13As the Romans came forward to seize Yeshua`, a bystander from the wakening crowd outside the garden drew his sword, and he struck the slave of the High Priest, cutting off his ear.
14Also a young man approached the garden, covered only in the white linen mantle he slept in. Some of the soldiers there tried to grab hold of him, but they caught only the mantle, and he managed to run away naked into the dark.
15Within moments there threatened to be a riot, so Yeshua` said, ‘No! Put away your swords! I’m no revolutionary or criminal for you to come out like this, with your swords and your clubs! Lead the way, and I’ll go with you!”
16So the Romans took Yeshua`. Then the soldiers went for Keyfa, Yo`anan and Ya`qob, 17so Yeshua` said to the soldiers, “Let them go – they’ve done nothing wrong! I’m their master – just take me!”
18With that, all the emissaries left him and fled.
11. 1Now, it had been decided to take Yeshua` to the Upper City, where there stand all the homes of the rich and powerful. 2It had been arranged beforehand that Yeshua` should be kept until morning in the house of Qayafas the High Priest, since his was the most secure of the non-Roman buildings in collaborators’ hands. 3The chief priests questioned him late into the night, but they could find no solid charge to lay against him, for Yeshua` remained silent and would not speak.
4Yudah the betrayer had walked behind the soldiers to the house of Qayafas. Now Keyfa had also followed them at a distance, and he came up and grabbed his arm, saying, “Yudah, you traitor! What are those dogs going to do with our Master?”
5Yudah pulled himself free from Keyfa and said, “Wait here and I’ll see if I can get you into the courtyard; you might be able to find out something.”
6While Keyfa was waiting at the gate, a maidservant of the High Priest – who had heard the two emissaries arguing – approached Keyfa and said, “You’re a Galilean! You’re one of that man’s followers, aren’t you?”
7“No!” exclaimed Keyfa. “Just because I have a Galilean accent doesn’t mean that I’m one of his followers! There are thousands of Galileans here – it’s the Passover, isn’t it?”
8At that moment, Yudah came out and let Keyfa into the courtyard. 9Some of the servants had made themselves a charcoal fire in the courtyard, as it was very cold that night, and they were warming themselves. So Keyfa joined them. 10He discovered one was the High Priest’s chief steward, so he asked him, “Do you know what they’re going to do with Yeshua` of Nazareth?”
11The chief steward replied, “Heaven only knows! Wait – didn’t you used to go round with that man?”
12But Keyfa denied it, saying, “No man, I didn’t! Who do you think I am?” He moved away, closer to the house, and stood on the porch.
13But after a while, the maidservant who had earlier been standing at the main gate said, “Hey! This man was with that Nazarene! I’ve seen him any number of times in the Temple, when he used to preach there!”
14At this Keyfa shouted, “Look, woman! I don’t know the man, and I don’t know what you’re talking about! May Heaven strike me dead if I’m not telling the truth!”
15With that, Keyfa ran out of the courtyard into the street, and rested by the main gate.
16At that very moment, the horn was blown for morning cockcrow. Keyfa remembered Yeshua`’s words, and wept bitterly.
12. 1It was the afternoon of the fourth day of the week, when Yeshua` was taken from Qayafas’s house to stand trial before the Great Sanhedrin. 2Before Yeshua` was brought in, some Pharisees of the school of Hillel, who admired Yeshua` said, “Why are we trying this man? He has done nothing wrong!”
3Yosef Qayafas the High Priest replied, “He is being tried as a false prophet. Besides, Pilatus wants to see someone punished for the recent disturbances – would you rather see a mass slaughter of our people? 4It is better for one man to die, than see many die needlessly.”
5Nevertheless the Pharisees continued to protest. “But what evidence do you have against him? Promise us that he will be given a fair trial, according to the Law of Moses.” And Qayafas reluctantly agreed.
13. 1As the High Priest entered the chamber of Hewn Stone below the Temple, the entire court of seventy-one members stood up. Then, as Qayafas sat down at the centre of the semi-circle of Council members, the order was given for the court to sit.
2Now, no daylight entered this chamber; only the quiet flames of flickering torches illuminated the solemn gathering.
3Then in accordance with the Law, all the witnesses were brought in and put on oath. However, one Pharisee objected to one of the witnesses. “I know this man – I recall he was a trader in Sabbatical growth, and therefore cannot stand as a witness.”
4Now, the procedure for the proper conduct of a trial is contained in the Traditions of the Elders, whose authority the Sadducees do not normally accept. But in such circumstances as this – the conduct of a trial before the Great Sanhedrin – the Sadducees have to bow to the greater knowledge of the Pharisees.
5So the court turned to the High Priest, who seemed hesitant. Then he eventually said, “The witness is dismissed from this court. Go and divide the profits of your transgressions among the poor.” Many Pharisees were secretly pleased with this small victory.
6Finally, when the oath-taking was completed, the remaining witnesses were taken out. Then Yeshua` was brought in, his hands tied in front of him. Qayafas asked the prefect of the priests to read out the charge. 7“Yeshua` of Nazareth in Galilee, son of Yosef, of the house of Pandeyra, is accused of prophesying falsely, and of leading the people astray by corrupting the Law of Moses.”
8So Qayafas said, “Let the first witness come in and speak.”
9A witness was brought in, who began his testimony and said, “I heard him say, ‘I’ll tear down God’s Temple, and in three days build it up again.’ ”
10But a Pharisee called Yosef of Arimathea stood up and questioned him, challenging him with each question to say exactly when and where this was said. But the witness answered several times, “I don’t know; I can’t remember.”
11Yosef of Arimathea then turned to the court and said, “No, he cannot remember, because he probably was not there. I was there, and I heard what he said about God’s House: 12‘Every stone will be cast down’, he said, ‘not one stone will be left standing upon another’; he never stated an agent. What the witness says, and what I heard Yeshua` son of Yosef say, are not the same.”
13Qayafas objected. “But the Temple still stands! Where is this man’s success in prophecy?”
14“With respect,” replied Yosef, “he never stated when the Temple would be pulled down either.”
15Qayafas grit his teeth. “The witness is discredited. You may go.”
16Then a Sadducean priest came in and said, “I heard him speak constantly in the Temple about the coming kingdom of the Holy One, Blessed be He. He was therefore claiming to be the Messiah.”
17Another Pharisee called Naqdimon stood up. “Ah hah, no! May I remind this court, that the conclusions of a witness are not admissible in this court as evidence.”
18Realising the charge of false prophecy was not going to stand, Qayafas sought a charge on which he could hand Yeshua` over to Pilatus. So the High Priest leaned forward and said, “Tell me, are you the Messiah, our Deliverer?”
19And Yeshua` replied, “If I were to say ‘No’, you would say I am lying; but then if I were to say ‘Yes’, you wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
20So Qayafas demanded, “Will the Accused give an answer! Are you the Messiah?”
21“If you say so,” said Yeshua` sarcastically. “Everyone else has.”
22At this Qayafas whispered to his assistant, “Is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?” His assistant looked blank, so Qayafas said, “This line of questioning is pointless. Are there any more witnesses?”
23And other witnesses were brought in, but none of their testimonies were consistent; each one of them was discredited by the persistent questioning of the Hillelite members of the Great Sanhedrin, until there were none left.
24Qayafas was angry, but he contained the ire within him. Then Naqdimon stood up and said, “There are no credible witnesses to these charges. I suggest that these charges have no foundation, and I move that this case be dismissed.”
25Qayafas grit his teeth once more. No doubt in his heart he wondered what was he going to say to Pilatus! Then reluctantly he said, “I declare that this case is dismissed from the court.” Again, the Hillelite members of the Great Sanhedrin breathed a collective sigh of relief.
26Then, just as Yeshua` was being taken from the court to be released, a captain of the Temple police came in and said, “There has just been a disturbance outside the Temple by the Chuldah Gates, and some Romans have been killed. The ringleaders were caught. 27They were Nazorayyans, and apparently as the others were fleeing they cried out, “Long live Yeshua` our King! Long live Yeshua` the Nazarene!’”
28Yosef of Arimathea fell back into his seat. He was shocked by this news. The irresponsible actions and words of these men had now turned this into a matter for the Romans, and no justice could save Yeshua` now.
29The captain concluded his report, catching his breath, and said, “And Pilatus wants Yeshua` of Nazareth arrested for treason, and for instigating an uprising!”
14. 1Yeshua` was led to the Antonia fortress by the Temple police, escorted by some of the chief priests of the Sadducees. 2When they arrived at the fortress, Roman soldiers took him, and the chief priests left with their men. Inside, Pilatus was waiting for him. “Are you the King of the Jews?”
3Yeshua` was by now fed up of the titles being given to him. “Are you saying that of your own accord, or have others said that about me already?”
4Pilatus flung his arms wide open. “Am I a Jew? I would not have said it if your own people had not claimed that you were a king - 5a king against the Emperor of Rome!”
6Then several Romans in civilian clothing came in. Pilatus said, “Let this tribunal begin. What are your accusations?”
7One of the accusers said, “I heard this man say that he did not accept the authority of Rome - ‘I have no king!’ he said, before many witnesses.” 8Another said, “During the riots I heard this man’s followers hail him as their king.”
9Pilatus stood up from his judge’s seat and stared at Yeshua`. “Well, you have heard your accusers. What have you to say in your defence?”
10Yeshua` was silent and made no answer. There was nothing he could say. 11Pilatus turned his back. The soldier guarding Yeshua` took this as a signal, and hit Yeshua` full in the stomach. Pilatus turned round again to see Yeshua` staggering to his feet.
12“I can have you executed for treason, just like all those other Christs who appear and disappear like bile. Treason – is that what you have been preaching, Jew?” Pilatus underlined the last word with particular venom in his voice.
13Yeshua` was still gasping for breath as he clutched his stomach. “I’ve spoken openly to the people; I’ve always taught in our synagogues and in our Temple, where my people meet for prayer and worship; I’ve said nothing in secret. 14Call anyone who heard me, and ask them what I said – they’ll tell you what I said to them.”
15On completing his sentence, another soldier struck him in the face with the back of his hand. “Do not speak to the Governor like that, Jew!”
16Yeshua` recovered from the blow and said, “If I’ve said anything wrong, then point it out to me; but if I’ve said nothing wrong, then why do you strike me?”
17Another of the accusers spoke. “I heard him speaking of a kingdom many times – that this kingdom will come upon all the nations of the earth. 18Perhaps he has pretensions against Rome herself! He must be claiming kingship over all Rome’s possessions! And all the while his murderers ambush Roman soldiers, and assassinate them in the streets. 19Crucify him and you cut down the leader of these Nazorayyan assassins!” At this, the Roman soldiers began to curse him and hurl abuse at him.
20After a few moments, Pilatus calmly held up his hand for silence, and then ordered another prisoner to be brought in. “What is this prisoner’s name?”
21“Yeshua` bar Rabban,” answered the centurion holding the prisoner, who had obviously been a victim of recent torture. He was one of those caught in the riot.
22Pilatus asked, “What information have you got out of him?”
23The centurion replied, “He says he is a Nazorayyan, and his leader is the Nazarene.”
24Pilatus returned to his first prisoner. “Are you, or have you ever been, a Nazorayyan?”
25Yeshua` looked up and stared at Pilatus. Why did he ask if he had ever been a Nazorayyan – that is, a follower of the Immerser? 26He had certainly once been a follower of Yochanan the Immerser, but that was long before certain Nazorayyans began involving themselves in the assassination of Romans. This jackal must have had spies everywhere!
27“Have you ever been a Nazorayyan?” repeated Pilatus.
Yeshua` tried to explain. “Yes, but – ”
28“There!” proclaimed Pilatus triumphantly. “What need have we of further questioning? Jew, you have condemned yourself out of your own mouth! 29You will see how we deal with vermin like you who set themselves up as kings against Rome. Take him away!”
30With that, bar Rabban and Yeshua` were led separately away.
15. 1Yudah, the one who had betrayed Yeshua`, eventually discovered what was to be his former master’s fate. He felt remorse and horror that Yeshua` was now in the hands of the very oppressors he despised, 2so he took the thirty silver denarii he had been paid, and returned the money to the chief priests in the Temple. He told them, “I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.”
3The chief priests said, “What is that to us? That is your problem.” So Yudah threw down the silver coins and left the Temple; then he went and hanged himself.
4When he had gone, the chief priests said to themselves, “This is money which has been paid for a man’s blood; it would be against the Law of Moses to put it into the Temple treasury.” 5So after coming to a decision, they later used the money to buy a field as a cemetery for foreigners.
16. 1Yeshua` was taken to the Praetorium, Pilatus having ordered that he be flogged and kept overnight without food or water. 2He did this in the hope that Yeshua` would be too weak to object to anything said against him. 3That evening the Roman soldiers took him to be flogged.
4They decided to mock him first. They made a rough crown of thorns, and pressed it down on his head; its thorns pierced his scalp and his forehead, and the blood ran down his face. 5They put a scarlet military cloak on his shoulders, as if it were a royal mantle of purple, and gave him a stiff, thick reed to hold in his hand, as if it were a sceptre.
6Then one of them struck him with such force that he cut his eye. He recoiled and sat against the flogging pillar. The soldiers spat upon him and kicked him. 7They knelt and bowed before him, and mocked him saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!”
8One of them said, “Never again will you give orders for soldiers or citizens of Rome to be killed!” And he struck him full across the jaw. 9Yeshua` held his jaw and said, “I have never given orders for anyone to be killed. Where is the justice in this?”
10The soldier who had struck him laughed and replied, “Justice? We don’t give justice to Jews! Come, let us show him how we deal with the leaders of assassins!”
11So they stripped him down and tied his hands to the flogging pillar. They flogged him with such vicious ferocity, that his skin tore and his back bled. 12After this, they put his own clothes back on him and took him away to jail.
13And Yeshua` remained in his cell until morning.
17. 1It was the afternoon of the fifth day of the week. Pilatus summoned the chief priests and the High Priest and said to them, “You brought me the man Yeshua` of Nazareth, and told me that he was perverting the people, and that he was setting himself up as a king. 2I want you to know that I find nothing wrong with him.”
3Now, Pilatus hated the Jewish people. He would do anything and everything to annoy our people and arouse our anger, as he had done many times in the past for his own simple amusement. 4Pilatus had every intention of crucifying Yeshua`, but who can understand the obscene pleasure he got out of making the Sadducean priesthood believe that he was not going to do anything at all.
5“But he is stirring up the crowds,” objected Qayafas. “There is bound to be another riot soon!”
6Pilatus grinned. “Very well then. Tomorrow morning, assemble at the Stone Pavement, since you Jew-priests won’t enter any Roman dwelling. I’ll give you my verdict then.”
7Then aside to one of his centurions he said, “Let us have some entertainment with these Jewish dogs; let us tease them with dead men’s bones to see if they bark!”
18. 1On the morning of the sixth day of the week, in accordance with Pilatus’s childish game, the chief priests and Qayafas assembled privately at the Stone Pavement.
2A soldier brought out the judge’s seat, and Pilatus sat down.
3Two other soldiers went to fetch Yeshua`. When they found that he had taken the thorns off his head, they indignantly put it back again. It cut into him, and he began to bleed again. 4Eventually Yeshua` was brought out, guarded by a number of Roman soldiers.
5“Behold,” said Pilatus with malicious glee, “the king of the Jews.” 6At this, the Sadducees said nothing. They were genuinely shocked to see for the first time the horrific results of Roman torture. Until now they had been only rumours.
7Pilatus went on. “There’s another man I want you to see.” He turned to the soldiers. “Bring out bar Rabban!”
8After Yeshua` bar Rabban had been brought out, Pilatus said, “I’m going to inaugurate a new custom. 9Because this is such a great festival for you Jews, I’ve decided to be gracious and release a prisoner for you. Who shall it be? Yeshua` bar Rabban, or Yeshua` called the Christ?”
10The Roman soldiers were alarmed at the suggestion that any prisoner should be set free, especially two men who had supposedly assassinated their fellow countrymen, but they said nothing. 11Pilatus, on the other hand, was enjoying every moment of this game, for he knew that the priests would not be able to choose. “What shall I do with the king of the Jews?” he said.
12One Roman soldier could no longer suppress his anger. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And the other Roman soldiers joined him in chorus. “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
13Pilatus turned to the Sadducean priests. “Well? Which one is it to be?”
14“Bar Rabban,” Qayafas replied, thoroughly humiliated by this spectacle. “We will have bar Rabban.”
15Pilatus smiled with false approval. “Very well, you may go now.” And with that, they all left.
16“Bar Rabban,” said Pilatus with a sneer, “your people want you. See how popular you are! Such a pity.” 17Then he stood up and faced his baying soldiers. “Take them away and crucify them both!”
19. 1So the soldiers took Yeshua` away and prepared him to be crucified. They hung a sign around his neck, with his ‘crime’ written on it. Then they tied a cross-beam to him, laying it across his shoulders. 2His skin, already cut and lacerated from flogging, and his body, weakened from hunger and thirst, bruised easily with the weight of the beam.
3He was taken from the fortress by a contingent of Roman soldiers; bar Rabban and another Nazorayyan they had caught in the riot were also taken with him, following on behind.
4This sorry journey took them northwards along the Tyropoean valley through the markets, where a large crowd gathered to see what was happening. 5Many Galilean pilgrims in the crowd recognised Yeshua`, and were horrified by his appearance; his left eye was badly bruised, his face was lined with cuts, and his hair and beard were matted with dried blood. 6The busy crowd fell silent as they parted to make way. There were gasps of horror and whispers of anger – their Roman oppressors had once again tortured their own people, and now they were taking them to be executed.
7As Yeshua` stumbled along, some women pushed their way to the front. They began to weep bitterly, for they had known him and ministered to him in the Galilee, and had been counted among his most fervent followers. 8They were women whose sons Yeshua` had rescued from the way of the dagger. 9He tried to speak to them, but he was so weak and parched, nothing came from his mouth.
10Then he stumbled and fell. People tried to help, but the Romans were rough with them and pushed them back. A soldier kicked Yeshua` and told him to get up. 11Each kick and each beating pained the people in the crowd who witnessed the unfolding tragedy.
12In pain and agony, Yeshua` got to his feet, and continued along the way. They proceeded at a sorrowfully slow pace, 13and when Yeshua` fell again, the centurion in charge feared that he would die before he was crucified, 14so he ordered his soldiers to pull a man from the crowd, a pilgrim from Cyrene in Libya, and made him carry the cross-beam the rest of the way behind Yeshua`.
20. 1Yeshua` was taken out through the Shekhem Gate on the north side of the city, turning right to the hill outside the city wall. It is called ‘the Skull’ in Aramaic. 2There the soldiers took the sign from around Yeshua`’s neck, and stripped him of his garments. 3Dried blood had caused his clothes to cling to his skin, and as they pulled off his clothes, they reopened his wounds. They gave him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused to drink it.
4The soldiers then threw dice to see who would get the fine scarlet cloak they had given him – the cloak that had hidden his blood and most of his wounds from the crowds; it was about the third hour of the day.
5Then they took out a mallet and three very long iron nails. A soldier placed one nail in each wrist, and hammered them in. Yeshua`’s face cried out in agonising pain, but he was so weak, no sound came out but a screaming whisper. 6And when they nailed his feet together, the ordinary people turned their eyes away.
7The whole structure of the Roman cross, the bitterest symbol of Roman cruelty and oppression, was lifted into position. 8The two Nazorayyan revolutionaries were there too, one on his right, and the other on his left. 9Above Yeshua`’s head, they nailed the sign he had been forced to carry, which read, “Yeshua` the Nazorayyan, King of the Jews.” It was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek, so that people who read it would be deterred from any claim to be the Messiah. 10But Yeshua` was innocent of both crimes – he was neither a Nazorayyan Zealot, nor had he ever claimed to be a king; such was the cruel injustice of the Romans.
21. 1After a while, some of the soldiers left, and people could approach. A small number of Galileans who had known him during his ministry now sobbed and wept below him. 2Shlomah, who had followed him since his earliest days in the Galilee, approached Yeshua`’s cross, along with Miryam the Magdalene, Miryam the mother of Ya`qob and Yose, and Miryam his own grieving mother, who was supported by his emissary Yo`anan son of Zavdi.
3His mother’s cries of anguish pierced the hearts of those who had gathered there. Who can possibly imagine a mother’s pain, when she sees the child of her own womb, bleeding and dying, abused and mistreated as if he were a criminal? Yet another Jewish mother weeping over the pain of her children.
4There were also sympathisers of the Zealots passing by, who showed no sensitivity to her feelings. They called out insults and mocked her son, revelling in their triumph. Miryam said nothing, but leaned against the cross and wept.
5The Roman soldiers also mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews! Where is your army now, your pack of murderers? Let them come and save you now!”
6Yeshua` opened his eyes and looked down at his mother. Now that he was close to death, he realised there would be no one to look after her once he was gone. 7With his failing eyesight he saw Yo`anan and called to him. “Yo`anan!”
“Yes?” said Yo`anan.
“Behold your mother,” he managed to say faintly. Then he said, “Mother?”
She replied, “Yes, my son?”
Yeshua` said to her, “This is your son.”
8Miryam wiped the tears from her eyes, and with that, Yo`anan led her and the other women away.
9They and many other followers returned to the Galilee once the Festival of Unleavened Bread was over.
22. 1At about the sixth hour of the day, the sky became overcast. There was a roll of thunder, and the clouds blotted out the light of the sun. 2Yeshua` shifted his weight from one side to another, his body a strip of bleeding flesh. As the hours passed, his breathing became more laboured and more pronounced. He would cry out as he pushed himself up on the nails, so that he could breathe more easily.
3Around the ninth hour of the day, one of the Roman soldiers stood in front of him and said, “Tell me Jew, where is your God now? Where is he to save you?” 4As the soldier turned, Yeshua` cried out in answer, “Elo-i, elo-i, lema seba`tani?”
5Yeshua`’s failing strength had caused him to revert to the guttural accent of his youth, and the soldier nearest to him could not understand him. 6So he went to ask another soldier. “Is he calling out to their prophet Elijah?”
7“No,” the other soldier replied. “Elo-i means ‘my God’. He’s saying, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ Hah! – his God most certainly has abandoned him!”
8The soldier understood Aramaic, but he had not understood what Yeshua` was trying to say. Yeshua` was not admitting that God had abandoned him; 9rather he was answering the soldier’s question with a psalm of faith in God; a psalm that tells of a man despised, but who still remains faithful to God, and while in the depths of his anguish, can still trust in God.
23. 1Finally Yeshua` said, “Thirsty.”
2With that, mischief seized some of the soldiers, and they went and dipped a sponge in wine-vinegar that had not been mixed with water, and held it up to Yeshua` on a stiff, thick reed. 3As the vinegar dripped over his face and into the open wounds of his body, it stung him. He cried out as the vinegar burned him. 4Eventually he could stand no more, and he breathed his last. It was the tenth hour of the day.
5When the centurion nearby saw how Yeshua` had died, he looked up to the heavens and said, “God of the Jews, if you have ears to hear the voice of a Gentile, hear me now: 6forgive me, for I have presided over the death of an innocent man.”
24. 1Now, we have a commandment, which says that if a man has been hung on a gibbet, he is not to be left there overnight, for to do so would defile the sacred land which our God has given us. 2Therefore Yosef of Arimathea, who had supported Yeshua` on the Great Sanhedrin, being a man of high standing, and a good man, went boldly to Pilatus and asked him for Yeshua`’s corpse, explaining the words of the Torah. 3It was also the Day of Preparation – Sixth-Day – and as the Sabbath was fast approaching, the matter was urgent.
4Now, he knew that Pilatus had no respect for the Jewish law, so he reminded Pilatus of the time when he provoked Jewish riots by setting up votive shields in his residence in Jerusalem, and ended up being rebuked by the Emperor of Rome. 5Did Pilatus wish to have yet another rebuke from the Emperor? Perhaps the Emperor would not be so lenient this time.
6Pilatus was surprised that the prisoners were already dead, and suspected something in this. So therefore, he reluctantly agreed to the removal of the bodies – if they were dead. So he sent a centurion to break the legs of the three crucified men, to hasten their deaths.
7One of the soldiers swung a heavy mallet and smashed the thigh-bones of the first, and then of the second Nazorayyan. 8But when they came to Yeshua`, they knew he was already dead, for they themselves had hastened his death. 9So the centurion took a lance, and pierced his right side. At once blood and water came out, and by this the centurion knew for certain that Yeshua` was dead.
10Bringing a ladder, one of the soldiers wrapped a cloth around Yeshua` so that he would not fall forward. Then he pulled out the nails from his wrists with large iron pliers – first from the right, then from the left, and then from his ankles. Then they wrapped the body in a linen shroud.
11Yosef then took charge of the corpse and instructed his servants to carry it to his own tomb a little further north of the city, which had been cut out of the rock – a tomb where no one had ever been lain before. It was but a short distance away.
12Miryam the Magdalene and the other women stood at a distance, and tearfully observed them.
13Once the servants were in the tomb, they unwrapped the corpse and laid it on the shroud. 14Yosef took myrrh and aloes from the servants, and packed them around the corpse to preserve it until after the Sabbath, when they could return and complete the proper preparation and burial of the body. Then they folded the shroud back over the body.
15Finally, Yosef’s servants rolled a heavy guard-stone across the entrance of the tomb. Having done all this, they all went home, as the Sabbath was almost upon them, 16leaving two Roman soldiers to guard the tomb.
17These were two of the very soldiers who had flogged and tortured Yeshua`.
25. 1On the first day of the week, as the Sabbath was over, as soon as the sun had risen, some of the women who used to minister to Yeshua` went to the tomb. They were Shlomah, Miryam the Magdalene, and Miryam the mother of Ya`qob and Yose.
2They went out of the city to visit the tomb where the corpse of Yeshua` had been kept. They had bought oil and spices that very morning, and went to finish the preparation of the body. 3They wondered among themselves who would roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb. 4But when they got there, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back, and there were no soldiers to be seen. Gazing into the tomb, they found it completely empty.
5They asked one another who might have taken the body, and where else they might have put it. 6They began to tremble in fear and anxiety, and they fled from the tomb. They never told anyone of what they had seen, not even the emissaries. 7They were afraid, for they did not know what had happened.
26. 1That night, Keyfa slept and had a vision. He found himself at the tomb where Yeshua` had been laid. He entered the tomb, and it was empty. All that remained were the shroud and linen cloths that Yeshua` had been wrapped in, all neatly folded in a corner.
2Then he went out of the tomb, and standing beside the tomb he saw an angel, who said to him, “He is not here.”
3Keyfa came away from the tomb, and the angel’s voice went with him. “Why are you looking for him? He is not here. He is gone.”
4Keyfa found himself walking along a long, dusty road. The voice continued. “Who are you looking for?”
“What?” replied Keyfa.
“What are you looking for?” continued the voice.
5Keyfa shook his head. “I don’t understand – what am I looking for? I don’t know.”
The voice said, “What you are looking for is not here.”
6Keyfa became more and more confused. “I’m looking for the Master.”
“What you are looking for is not here,” explained the voice. “The kingdom of God is not here.”
7Keyfa then turned to face a bank of cloud. “What?”
“What are you looking for?” came a voice from the cloud.
8Keyfa said, “I’m looking for . . . . the kingdom of God.”
“The kingdom of God is within you,” explained the voice from the cloud. “It always was, and always will be.”
9Then another voice said to him, “Do you understand now? Do you see now?” It was Yeshua`’s voice.
Keyfa started to run. “Master!”
10Then the angel’s voice returned. “He is not here. He is in heaven. He has gone to his rest; he is at peace. Now do you understand the kingdom of God?”
11At that moment, Yeshua` appeared to Keyfa in his dream. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness. Do this, and everything will be opened to you. The kingdom of God is within you, it isn’t here. 12Leave me Keyfa, and follow the Way. Be a light to Israel and to the Nations, and love one another. Leave me, and follow the Way.”
13As the days, months and years passed, other followers also had dreams and visions of Yeshua` as if he were still alive, just as Keyfa had had. 14And their dreams, which were a merciful gift from God to those who mourn, gave them all consolation and comfort in their grief.
© Shmu’eil ben Naftali
(International Talmidi Version,
Original Edition March 1988
This edition March 2004
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Table of Sources of the main common gospel narrative elements
(linking midrashic passages not included)