Because of the questionable nature and dates of these latter Talmudic references, we will utilize only the two earlier passages from the Tannaitic period in our study. While the latter references are interesting and may reflect older traditions, we cannot be sure. Toledoth Jesu
This anti-Christian document not only refers to Jesus, but gives an interesting account of what happened to Jesus’ body after his death. It relates that his disciples planned to steal his body. However, a gardener named Juda discovered their plans and dug a new grave in his garden. Then he removed Jesus’ body from Joseph’s tomb and placed it in his own newly dug grave. The disciples came to the original tomb, found Jesus’ body gone and proclaimed him risen. The Jewish leaders also proceeded to Joseph’s tomb and found it empty. Juda then took them to his grave and dug up the body of Jesus. The Jewish leaders were greatly relieved and wanted to take the body. Juda replied that he would sell them the body of Jesus and did so
41 Sanhedrin 43a.
42 Ibid., where this reference is apparently a third century addition to the earlier material in this section of the Talmud.
43 Sanhedrin 106b.
44 For instance, Yeb.IV:3, 49a.
45 Hagigah 4b; Sanhedrin 106a.
for thirty pieces of silver. The Jewish priests then dragged Jesus’ body through the streets of Jerusalem.^46
It is true that the Toledoth Jesuwas not compiled until the fifth century AD, although it does reflect early Jewish tradition. Even though Jewish scholars scorn the reliability of this source,^47 the teaching that the disciples were the ones who removed the dead body of Jesus persisted in the early centuries after Jesus’ death. As reported in Matthew 28:11–15, this saying was still popular when the Gospel was written, probably between AD 70–85. Additionally, Justin Martyr, writing about AD 150, states that the Jewish leaders had even sent specially trained men around the Mediterranean, even to Rome, to further this teaching,^48 which is confirmed by Tertullian about AD 200.^49 In other words, even if the Toledoth Jesuitself is too late or untrustworthy a source, in spite of its early material, the idea that the tomb was empty because the body was moved or stolen was common in early church history, as witnessed by other sources. Other Gentile Sources Lucian
A second century Greek satirist, Lucian spoke rather derisively of Jesus and early Christians. His point was to criticize Christians for being such gullible people that, with very little warrant, they would approve charlatans who pose as teachers, thereby supporting these persons even to the point of making them wealthy. In the process of his critique he relates some important facts concerning Jesus and Christians: The Christians, you know, worship a manto this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.^50 From the material supplied by Lucian we may derive the following data concerning Jesus and early Christians. (1)We are told that Jesus was worshiped by Christians.