17.02.03 Mt. 27:62-66 Thursday Night Or Early Friday Morning; Soldiers Guard Tomb.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 19, 2015  -  Comments Off on 17.02.03 SOLDIERS GUARD TOMB

17.02.03 Mt. 27:62-66 Thursday night or early Friday morning.




62 The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come, steal Him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ Then the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” 66 Then they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting the guard.

“The chief priests and the Pharisees.” While the Sadducees were before Pilate demanding the death of Jesus, the leading Pharisees disappeared and were not involved in the demand of His death.  They believed they would be innocent of His death if they would not be actively involved in the eviction and execution. However, now that Jesus was dead, they emerged and joined the Sadducees (chief priests) before Pilate with a concern that He might rise on the third day.

“Deceiver.” In the Jewish tradition, whenever someone was scorned, his name would not be repeated. Rather, degrading words were used to refer to Him and, in this case, the Sadducees used the term “deceiver” to refer to Jesus.  It was and continues to be the cultural way to blot out His name forever.

The gospel writers said that the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of leading the people astray (Jn. 7:12, 47), that He used the power of Beelzebul (Mk. 3:22), and that He had a demon (Jn. 10:19-21).  Centuries later, when the Babylonian Talmud was written, the same accusations continued.  The Jews never question whether He performed miracles, only the source of His power to do them. In Sanhedrin 43a, the Jewish writer first created a historical account to “prove” a legitimate court trial, which is followed by the reason of the trial – the accusation of sorcery and apostasy.

It was taught: On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu [ms. M: the Nazarene] 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. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.”

            Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


In the following account, the Talmudic writer not only describes Jesus as an idol worshipper, (i.e. the brick) but then also accuses Him of magic – an admission that Jesus had incredible powers.

One day he [Rabbi Joshua] was reciting the Shema when Jesus came before him.  He intended to receive him and made a sign to him.  He [Jesus] thinking it was to repel him, put up a brick and worshipped it.

“Repent,” said he [rabbi Joshua] to him. He replied, “I have thus learned from you: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance.” And a Master [another major rabbi] has said, Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led Israel astray.”

            Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 107b[1]


On an interesting side note: the irony is that in today’s post-modern world, there are a number of critics who claim that Jesus never existed.  If there is any group of people who wished that were true, it is the Jews who have been struggling against Jesus for two thousand years. Their admission that Jesus existed flies in the face of modern critics.

“Three days.” For an explanation on the term “three days and three nights,” see 09.01.05.Q2.

“Made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting the guard.”  A stone was always rolled in front of the tomb to keep dogs and other animals from desecrating the body.  However, in this case a seal was placed on the stone to keep the disciples out.  To place a seal, the guards placed a rope, known as a golal, across the front of the stone.[2]  At the ends, they placed a wax seal with a Roman impression.  If the seal was broken, the culprit and the guards were executed.[3] Obviously, they were faithful to their superior commander, especially in the case of guarding the tomb of a popular dead Jew. This explains the extraordinary measures taken by the Pharisees and Roman officials to insure that Jesus would not rise from the tomb.[4]  Yet history records that the resurrected Jesus became a matter of great concern, even for the Romans.

In 1878 an ordinance issued by Emperor Claudius was discovered in Nazareth and brought to Paris. The “decree of Caesar,” written in Koine (common) Greek, was inscribed on a 15 by 24 inch marble tablet in A.D. 50. It sets forth a most unusual proclamation, in that those who violate a grave would receive capital punishment.[5]  However, the discovery was not made public until 1925, when there was public and academic response to it.  Its authenticity has rarely been questioned and its similarity to Matthew 28:11-15 is stunning.  The significance of the ordinance is that it would be highly improbable that the body of Jesus was stolen by His disciples.[6]

 17.02.03.A. THE NAZARETH INSCRIPTION, also known as the ORDINANCE OF CAESAR (2)

17.02.03.A. THE NAZARETH INSCRIPTION, also known as the ORDINANCE OF CAESAR. The Imperial inscription, bearing the title Diatagma Kaisaros found near Nazareth is dated to A.D. 50. Amazingly, the marble stone declares that it is illegal to steal a body from a tomb.  The Jewish leaders were highly angered at the spread of the new faith in Jesus as the Messiah. It is strongly believed this ordinance was enacted to squelch the rumors of a resurrected Christ.


The decree reads as follows:

  2. It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs – whoever has made
  3. them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household
  4. members – that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally
  5. charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted
  6. those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who
  7. have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has
  8. moved Sepulchre-sealing stones, against such a person I order that a
  9. judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in
  10. human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat
  11. with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to
  12. allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if
  13. [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under
  14. The title of tomb-breaker.

Edict (Ordinance) of Caesar[7]


Amazingly, to pronounce a death sentence upon someone who “violated” a tomb was an extremely harsh sentence, even in Roman days. This edict is a testimony that news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus had spread throughout the Roman Empire, even to the highest levels of Rome itself, within two decades. The inscription is one of the most powerful pieces of extra-biblical evidence that the resurrection of Jesus was taught and influential in the first century, the beginning of Christianity.[8] Furthermore, the lives and martyrdoms of the apostles is clear evidence of a risen Christ.[9]


17.02.03.Q1 What significant extra-biblical comments on the life and death of Jesus survived the centuries?  


One of the most notable was Flavius Josephus.  He gave this brief observation concerning Jesus:

Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3 (63-64)


Critics have said that this paragraph is not original, but claim it is a Christian interpolation of a later edition.  They stated a loyal Jew would not have made such a statement. However, two significant church fathers, Jerome and Ambrosius[10] accepted it as original. Eusebius not only quoted Josephus, but then said the following,

When such testimony as this was transmitted to us by an historian who sprung from the Hebrews themselves, both respecting John the Baptist and our Savior, what subterfuge can be left to prevent those from being convicted destitute of all shame, who have forged the acts against them?  This, however, may suffice on this subject.

Eusebius, Church History 1.11.9


Those scholars who considered it an original work point to an early Arabic translation, because it included the same comment.[11]  On the other hand, the Jewish account of the death of Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud is one of the travesties of historical records.  Jewish historians are known for their accuracy and reliability, but in dealing with Jesus, their credibility fails miserably.  This reflects how problematic Jesus was and continued to be for them.   In the fourth century, the following account was prepared to give some resemblance of correct legal procedure in the trial and execution of Jesus. There is no mention of the house of Annas that is elsewhere described with contempt, nor is there any mention of the Romans, who performed the execution.  Consequently, the Jews justified His death based on Deuteronomy 13.

On the eve of the Passover, they hanged Yeshu (Jesus). For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried: Yeshu of Nazareth is going forth to be stoned, in that he practiced sorcery and led Israel astray. Let anyone knowing anything in his defense come and plead for him. But they found nothing in his defense, and hanged him on the eve of the Passover.

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


In the same section of the Babylonian Talmud is this comment.

Rabbi Ulla said, “Would you believe that any defense would have been so zealously sought for him?  He was a deceiver, and the All-merciful says: ‘You shall not spare him, neither shall you conceal him.’  It was different with Jesus for he was near to the kingship.”

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


Those who were against Jesus before the crucifixion were also against Him afterwards. As previously stated, they accused Him of being a magician, a deceiver, and an artist of magic art.  In the second century, before the Babylonian Talmud was written, Justin Martyr made a statement that affirms the accusations of the later Talmud authors.  Martyr said,

They said it was a display of magic art, for they even dared to say that he was a magician and a deceiver of the people.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 97:7[12]


Jesus was not the only one privileged to be accused of doing magical works of demons. The Roman satirist Juvenal, in the century after Jesus, said that everywhere throughout the Roman Empire, Jewish magicians, dream expounders, and fortune tellers were found.[13]  Evidently, His disciples were given the same honors by disgruntled Jews, as recorded by Origen in the second century.  Their concern was not that the miracles were performed, but their debate was focused on His source of power:

Since these men do these wonders, ought we to think them sons of God?  Or ought we to say that they are the practices of wicked men possessed by an evil demon?

Origen, Against Celsus 1:68


Amazingly, while the Pharisees accused Jesus of performing exorcisms by using demonic powers, they also believed that the ability to perform exorcisms was a gift of God – a direct violation of their accusations against Jesus. The accusations that began during the life of Christ continued for centuries.

The phrase “near to the kingship,” in the Babylonian Talmud’s Sanhedrin 43a is a reference to the messianic prophecy that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David,[14]  which makes this a rather interesting comment.  A third comment about Jesus in the same section of the Talmud is this:

The rabbis taught: “Jesus had five disciples: Matthias, Naquin, Never, Buna, and Torah.”

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


Obviously, this passage is of no historical value other than it adds insight to how negatively Jesus was seen by Jewish leaders centuries later.  This rabbinic writing does, however, give evidence for the life of Jesus, which they so desperately tried to destroy. The commentary of Sanhedrin 43a reveals the following,

  1. It recognizes Jesus as an extremely influential person, or there would have been no mention of Him five centuries after His life.
  1. Since Jesus performed many miracles, this activity was attributed to Him as sorcery.
  1. He is associated with the Passover at the time of His death, which was by hanging, a derogatory and condemning word with reference to the crucifixion.
  1. Jesus was accused of apostasy since many Jews decided to leave the corrupt Jewish system and follow the teachings of Christ.


Possibly the most interesting aspect is that this paragraph makes no mention of Roman trials or execution. It does, however, explain that Jesus was put to death by the Jews themselves. This is clearly a confession that national Israel was responsible for the death of Jesus, an awesome statement from a non-biblical text.

The life of Jesus was also confirmed by pagans, although in a negative manner.  The fact that pagan authors were uncharacteristically strong in their comments suggests the influence Jesus had.  As dynamic as Jesus was throughout His life, the concept that He permitted Himself to be crucified and the idea that He could be God was beyond comprehension for many.  For many Jews it was a difficult challenge to accept, given their preconceived ideas of who the Messiah would be.  Yet for the Greeks and Romans the idea was even more difficult to accept.  Christians soon became persecuted targets throughout the Roman Empire.  While many accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, others despised Him and said that Jews and Christians worshiped a god in the form of a donkey.  The donkey, being rather docile and low in intelligence, became a symbol of Jews and Christians for those who hated them and were quick to spit out their vulgar blasphemies.

While the New Testament writers recorded antagonism between Jews and the apostles, the Jewish-inspired violence appears to have dissipated by the second century. Jewish writings, nevertheless, defended the accusatory positions of the leading rabbis, as is found in two accounts of the Babylonian Talmud.

One day he [Rabbi Joshua] was reciting the Shema when Jesus came before him.  He intended to receive him and made a sign to him.  He [Jesus] thinking it was to repel him, put up a brick and worshipped it.

“Repent,” said he [rabbi Joshua] to him. He replied, “I have thus learned from you: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance.” And a Master [another major rabbi] has said, Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led Israel astray.”

            Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 107b[15]


It was taught: On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu [ms. M: the Nazarene] 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. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.”

            Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a


Obviously, there are numerous conflicts with the passage above and the biblical account. But the question the rabbis and other critics cannot answer is, if Jesus did worship a brick, if he practiced sorcery, if he was a fraud, then why were all of his disciples willing to die a martyr’s death? They must respond to the concept that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God. If a dozen men, living with Him every day for more than three years determined that He was neither a liar nor a lunatic, there is then only one other option.  If Jesus was the Son of God, then did He fulfill the Old Testament requirements and prophecies? Did He perform miracles?  Did hundreds of people speak to Him after His death and resurrection?[16]  If so, then, obviously, He was/is the Son of God.

Rabbinic literature says little of Jesus, and when it does, the commentary is negative. A notable exception is a comment in the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 56b-57a) that is dated to the early second century.   It implies a degree of harmony between the traditional Jewish people and Nazarene believers.  While a number of false doctrines of prevalent heresies are mentioned, there is no specific accusation against Christianized Jewish people or a denial of the miracles performed by Jesus.

However, the Gittin comment is the exception rather than the rule. It is interesting that the Jews never denied that He performed miracles, but they attributed His power to demonic sources. Hence, rabbinic literature describes Jesus as One who led souls into apostasy and accused Him of being a sorcerer (cf. Mt. 12:24).[17] While negative in nature, there was no doubt among Jews that Jesus performed miracles.

In the meantime, the disciples and thousands of followers of Jesus had their world shattered at the unexpected crucifixion. How could anyone who performed so many incredible miracles allow Himself to be crucified?  And why? Their depression and sadness must have been as dark as the sky in the afternoon of Passover.  But that was about to change.


17.02.03.B  THE POPULARITY – TIME CHART OF THE MINISTRY OF JESUS. The ministry of Jesus grew slowly at first, but quickly gained popularity and then to exponential growth. The enormous excitement was crushed by His crucifixion, but that emotional crash was replaced with the explosive excitement of His resurrection. Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.


[1]. See also Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 47a and Jerusalem Talmud, Hagiga 2.2.


[2]. Because the stone was “rolled,” it has always been assumed that it was round. However, archaeologists have uncovered only four round disc-shaped tomb blocking stones, but more than a hundred square ones which were also rolled due to their size and weight. See Kloner, “Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?” 28.


[3]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 454-55; Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 25, page 20.

[4]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 457.

[5]. Avi-Yonah and Kraeling, Our Living Bible. 299-300.


[6]. Smith, “Nazareth Decree.” 3:501.

[7]. Translation by Clyde E. Billington; Billington, “The Nazareth Inscription.” 17; Tenney, ed., “Nazareth Decree.” 11:1355.

[8]. Compton. “Is the Resurrection Historically Reliable?” 106;  Billington. “The Nazareth Inscription: Proof of the Resurrection of Christ?” 17.


[9]. See Appendix 27 concerning the lives of the apostles.

[10]. St. Jerome (c. 347-420) was the son of church father and historian Eusebius and Ambrosius (c. 340-397), a/k/a St. Ambrose (Aurelianus Ambrosius) was the bishop of Milan.


[11]. Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament. 28-29.

[12]. See also First Apology 30 and Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew 108.


[13]. Juvenal, Satire 6:543-548. See http://archive.org/stream/juvenalpersiuswi00juveuoft/juvenalpersiuswi00juveuoft_djvu.txt. Retrieved June 11, 2014.


[14]. House, Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament. 77.

[15]. See also Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 47a and Jerusalem Talmud, Hagiga 2.2.


[16]. For further study on the significance of the physical resurrection of Jesus, see Geisler, Norman L. “The Significance of Christ’s Physical Resurrection.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 146:582 (Apr-June, 1989) 148-70.


[17]. Fluesser, “The Jewish-Christian Schism” (Part II). 30-31.


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