Hadrian explains that, if Christians are found guilty, after an examination, they should be judged “according to the heinousness of the crime.” Yet, if the accusers were only slandering the believers, then those who inaccurately made the charges were to be punished.^37
From Hadrian’s letter we again ascertain: (1)that Christians were frequently reported as lawbreakers in Asia and were punished in various ways. (2)Like Trajan, Hadrian also encouraged a certain amount of temperance, and ordered that Christians not be harassed. (3)If Christians were indeed guilty, as indicated by careful examination, punishments could well be in order. (4)However, no undocumented charges were to be brought against believers and those engaged in such were to be punished themselves.
36 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, IV:IX. 37 _Ibid.
Other Jewish Sources
The Jews handed down a large amount of oral tradition from generation to generation. This material was organized according to subject matter by Rabbi Akiba before his death in AD 135. His work was then revised by his student, Rabbi Meir. The project was completed about AD 200 by Rabbi Judah and is known as the Mishnah. Ancient commentary on the Mishnah was called the Gemaras. The combination of the Mishnah and the Gemaras form the Talmud.^38
It would be expected that the most reliable information about Jesus from the Talmud would come from the earliest period of compilation—AD 70 to 200, known as the Tannaitic period. A very significant quotation is found in Sanhedrin43a, dating from just this early period: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!^39 Here we have another brief account of the death of Jesus. These two references to Jesus being “hanged” certainly provide an interesting term to describe his death. But it should be noted that the New Testament speaks of crucifixion in the same way.