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Did Jesus Exist?


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You do not appear to have any intentions whatsoever to learn from us or become one of the group.

 

I'm sure CC has learned something - like why so many ExChristians show so much anger and hatred towards the fantasy religion and its followers. CC has been slippery and dodged a few questions (as Christians do) and he seems to have attracted the ire of Dave.

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Hey RubySera.

 

When you say non-religious references to Jesus, do you mean evidence that is extra-biblical or evidence that is from strictly secular sources?

 

There is plenty of evidence which points to christians in the second century. There is considerable debate as to what exactly the word "christian' meant at that time.

 

And, by the time someone wrote about christ or christians (say, by 150 C.E. or later) they would have had absolutely no idea whether the gospel events actually happened.

 

All you have to do is read Irenaeus "Against Heresies" , which dates to approximately 180 CE, to see the diverse ideas that existed amongst the early followers of christ.

 

As far as the second century secular references to christians, there is the much-touted Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, Tacitus, Josephus.

 

The two passages in Josephus' Antiquities are the subject of much discussion. Whether they are partial or total interpolations or authentic.

 

If you want to talk about the early apologists, we have Ignatius (although many think these epistles are spurious), we have Clement, Papias, Justin Martyr, Origen, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Marcion etc. All are second century or later.

 

If you discount Josephus as questionable, there are no extra-biblical references to Jesus from the first century. Not one.

 

And, first century sources that should have known about Jesus, like Justus of Tiberias or Philo of Alexandria, or possibly Seneca or Pliny the Elder are silent on the subject of Jesus.

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The New World Translation (Jehovah's Witnesses) asserts that there was an earthquake

 

I guess this means you are a JW?

 

That's okay. I was taught not to talk to JWs because they were so slippery and could lead me astray without me realizing what was happening. When I grew up and knew the Bible very well I decided to try talking with them. In the few cases where they really talked to me they eventually left because they couldn't answer my questions. You can rest assured my questions weren't the type that are addressed in the Bible. Since no one has yet answered those questions I did eventually deconvert.

 

What changed when Jesus died? That's the basic question. Remember, the answer is not in the Bible. Thus, the answer cannot be any atonement theory or the likes that all the christians always tell me whenever I ask the question.

 

The question of this thread: Did Jesus exist? is just another approach to the same question. If Jesus' very existence is in question, he probably did not accomplish all that much with God the Father. Of course, if God the Father does not exist, either, we are left with a sacred myth that has had a tremendous amount of influence on human destiny for a couple thousand years.

 

As a religion, it's probably the most successful and influential that has ever existed. And if it can be argued that the Roman Empire took refuge in this religion and as such exists to this day, then the Roman Empire is also the most successful and influential political entity that ever existed. Since many of the Roman laws exist to this very day in the form of days of the week, holidays, right and wrong, and legal parlance, the argument is pretty strong that it continues to exist in an altered but recognizable form. It is normally referred to as Western culture, or just the West.

 

In this thread there are some pretty strong arguments for the non-existence of a historical Jesus. Why, then, would scholars insist that there was a historical Jesus? Okay, I've got a book right here on my desk and I wrote a ten-page review on it, that tells us HOW modern historians see "The Man from Galilee." But this does not prove WHY they assume he existed in the first place. I'm not sure I dare ask my prof but perhaps somebody here knows the answer.

 

Hmmm. Maybe I can answer that question myself. It seems they choose to put more weight into the "evidence" than I consider decent. The author lists a whole batch of sources with which Jesus scholars work. I went over those and basically couldn't believe my eyes. I had thought all, or most, of those sources have been discounted by scholars.

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There are plenty of scholars and historians who dispute the very existence of Jesus as a historical person. But, they aren't what people would term "mainstream".

 

It's too radical an idea. If it could be proven beyond all doubt that Jesus had never existed, it would tip the world on it's ear.

 

So, historians or academics that talk about it are sidelined and dismissed as quacks.

 

But they aren't. Not at all.

 

Internet Infidels has tons of articles. Here

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Put simply, the Bible is a collection of myths and fables written by men. Jesus never existed. His story is just one version of the ancient myth of the dying and resurrecting Sun god. The entire Bible should rightly be considered Astro Theology.

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Hey RubySera.

 

When you say non-religious references to Jesus, do you mean evidence that is extra-biblical or evidence that is from strictly secular sources?

 

Strictly secular sources. I've seen all the arguments and sources you mention in this post so I've probably seen all that exists. I am fairly familiar with the Greco-Roman religions of the centuries before and after the alleged birth of Christ. This includes many forms of Christianity and Gnosticism. But I always feel as though I've barely scratched the surface.

 

There is plenty of evidence which points to christians in the second century. There is considerable debate as to what exactly the word "christian' meant at that time.

 

There is no question that Christians existed. The question is: Did the object of their devotion i.e. Jesus of Nazareth ever exist or is he a mythical figure? I'll probably never know.

 

 

It looks like we have been posting around each other. I reply to one post and by the time I post it, another has been posted by someone else. By the time I reply to it, another has been posted. Thus, it probably appears like I don't accept what you write and that is not the case. I figured I should clarify in case this is not clear.

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Strictly secular sources. I've seen all the arguments and sources you mention in this post so I've probably seen all that exists.

 

It doesn't take very long before you run out of early secular references. There just aren't very many.

 

And, every single one leads us only to the fact that there were followers of christ (whether valentinian gnostics or docetae or orthodox or montanist ..) in the second century.

 

It certainly leaves the whole subject of a historical jesus up to debate.

 

And, you're right. We'll never know for sure.

 

Unless some more hidden clay jars full of papyrus emerge. Any sources that would have disproved jesus were destroyed a very long time ago if they weren't buried. (as we found with Nag Hammadi)

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Personally, I think that jesus of the bible is purely myth.

 

What really bothers me is when people say "Jesus lived" people take that to mean "The Bible version is true!" which are so far apart it's sad.

 

When scholars say there was a historical jesus they strip away all that supernatural fluff and focus solely on a person. So did some person we can call jesus walk around in the 1st century AD and was he responsible in some fashion for a religious movement either directly or indirectly by inspiring others maybe even after the fact? This is who scholars would call jesus and would say, based on all the evidence (which would include the biblical texts and weighing accordingly), did exist. They may not even agree that all the events even occurred (ie. did he get killed in his thirties or did he live to a ripe old age?). To me this is perfectly reasonable even though I'm not in that camp.

 

Then we have those who take the above and use it, as I said, to make that magic leap to "Jesus is god and scholars say so." They say nothing of the kind. The mainstream scholarship doesn't want to enter the theological debate and stay far, far away from this area. Those that do are marginalized.

 

The ultimate find would be an indisputable reference to "Jesus Christ" and his death PRIOR to his ministry even beginning (better yet would be before Pilate came to town or even Jesus' birth for that matter). It doesn't have to be "Jesus Christ" of course but simply the proto-story for all of this but something that is close enough to the actual events and Jewish so that no one can claim xians stole it from the pagans and we end up deadlocked like we do now (so the name being the same or darn close would be great).

 

I find myself rambling again so I guess I'll get going. :)

 

mwc

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I apologize to you, RubySera, and ask that you please ignore my posts in this thread.

 

Apology accepted, CC. I had forgotten about that pledge. I had not taken it very seriously to begin with. I did skip most of your posts here as I do elsewhere. I forget what our earlier exchange had been about but I was probably being a bit immature. Also, there is the ever-present temptation to take out one's wrath on any Christian as representative of the ones who caused so much harm.

 

That being said, I don't trust you in the least. You can respond to my posts if you like but you better be prepared for whatever you get in return. As I am sure you are aware, on this site you are in the minority whereas in real life (in the US, at least) Christians are in the majority.

 

Your reason for being here is pretty obvious. You meet all the standard criteria for evangelists. You do not appear to have any intentions whatsoever to learn from us or become one of the group. There are one or two Christians among us who do not seem like Christians, just like normal respectful thinking human beings.

 

Had that person not told another Christian that he/she was a Christian I would never have guessed it. That tells me that it is possible for a person to be a normal conversationalist without wearing religion on the shirt-sleeve.

 

I am glad this thread was reopened. It is a topic on which I would appreciate more discussion. It made sense that a new member would reopen an old thread because all of us do that when digging around in old stuff that was posted before we were here. No offense taken on that account.

 

 

Thank you, RubySera, for extending to me an acceptance of my apology. I know you don't trust me in the least (I do trust you a bit more than that!); you think I'm an evangelist (I'm not; I'm not even a member of any church, nor do I attend any church or religious service more than a few times every decade or so); you think I might be a Jehovah's Witness (I'm not! But I did study with them one summer, along with the Mormons that summer, too. Very interesting summer...never had any intention of joining either, just wanted to learn more); and you don't think I want to learn anything from you and others on this forum, but I do, I do!

 

At least I know where I stand with you, and that's a start. I hope that we'll grow with each other and learn to respect each other's views, even when we don't share them.

 

With your permission, I would like to post to this thread from time to time. If at any point you want to excommunicate me, say the word and I'll go into exile ... again! :grin:

 

-CC in MA

 

The New World Translation (Jehovah's Witnesses) asserts that there was an earthquake, many graves were disturbed, bodies were thrown about, and it was living witnesses who entered the city to tell of the aftermath of the quake: "And the memorial tombs were opened and many bodies of the holy ones that had fallen asleep were thrown up and person coming out from among the memorial tombs after his being raised up entered into the holy city."

This is about the worst translation you can get your hands on. You might as well just make stuff up instead of quoting from here and you'd probably do a lot better.

 

Many say so about the NWT, mwc. My use of it was not in any way to endorse it or to declare my acceptance of the translation of that particular scripture, just to throw out how one translation has dealt with that strange reference in Matthew.

 

-CC in MA

 

 

You do not appear to have any intentions whatsoever to learn from us or become one of the group.

 

I'm sure CC has learned something - like why so many ExChristians show so much anger and hatred towards the fantasy religion and its followers. CC has been slippery and dodged a few questions (as Christians do) and he seems to have attracted the ire of Dave.

 

I sure have, Jun. I've learned much and hope to continue to do so. Among my addictions (pistachio ice cream, chocolate, etc.) is an addiction to learning, and I love to learn from those who have opposite views. It's important to spread one's wings and fly far from one's flock. Who wants to sit in the choir all day and hear the same old sermon over and over and over!

 

-CC in MA

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It's important to spread one's wings and fly far from one's flock. Who wants to sit in the choir all day and hear the same old sermon over and over and over!

 

Hear hear, very healthy outlook. :D

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I guess this means you are a JW?

 

. . . .

 

The question of this thread: Did Jesus exist? is just another approach to the same question. If Jesus' very existence is in question, he probably did not accomplish all that much with God the Father. Of course, if God the Father does not exist, either, we are left with a sacred myth that has had a tremendous amount of influence on human destiny for a couple thousand years.

 

 

Not a JW. Never was, never will be. But I have studied with them for the purpose of learning first-hand what they think/feel/believe.

 

Now to the issue at hand: Did Jesus exist?

 

As we all know, there are dozens and dozens (hundreds and hundreds, likely) of references to Jesus from the 1st century. However, very few (if any) of these references are contained in writings that are not part of the canon of what we call scripture or the writings of the Gnostics and other groups with a variation on the teachings of Jesus. While it is my view that these textual witnesses should be allowed at least a modicum of credence for establishing the existence of someone in the early part of the 1st century who did something (however distorted or embellished), each person must of course allow whatever weight to the evidence they deem wise and prudent. Some would say, "The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it." (I very much dislike that expression!) But equally troublesome, to me, is what others would say, "The Bible says it. I don't believe it. That settles it."

 

That being said, we are looking for references to Jesus outside of religious texts (the canon, the writings of the Gnostics and other variations of the Jesus story of the 1st century).

 

With this in mind, I do think one important point to remember is that the absence of a record of a person does not mean the absence of that person.

 

For example, this morning I pulled from my shelf a copy of the 1960 edition of "Who's Who." Published by Adam and Charles Black of London, it was the 112th edition of Who's Who and contained (as declared in the preface) "nearly 40,000 up-to-date biographies on persons of distinction--in all fields--in all parts of the world."

 

Thumbing through it, I find no references to, for example, James Earl Carter, Gerald Ford, or Ronald Reagan. Of course, we are a much better documented age than the 1st century and there are millions of references to these three men from 20th century texts that I hope survive for 2000 years, but it is interesting to note that if one's only source for the first six decades of the 20th century were this book, these three names would be lost to history. Two thousand years hence, someone could say, "There was no Ford, no Carter, and no Reagan leading the United States from 1974 until 1989. Surely they would have been mentioned, at least briefly, just 14 years before as a trio they commenced their terms of office. Surely they had done something worth noting prior to being president. And Ford and Reagan would have been 49 years old in 1960, and yet there is no reference to them in a publication of the 40,000 most distinguished people of 1960. Come on these men are fictitious!"

 

Lack of non-religious textual reference to Jesus in the non-literate, pre-Gutenberg world of the 1st century does not surprise me. Others may disagree, some strongly (but I trust politely and kindly :grin: ), but lack of references to Jesus (in non-religious texts of the 1st century) does not indicate, at all, non-existence of Jesus.

 

-CC in MA

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...Ford and Reagan would have been 49 years old in 1960 ...

 

Ford would have been 47 in 1960. CC in MA regrets the error.

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the absence of a record of a person does not mean the absence of that person.

 

mmmm, no it doesn't but........a god-man who was supposed to be able to resurrect the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, feed a thousand with a few fishes and bread, heal the blind and sick..........

 

One would think with those kind of abilities SOMEONE outside of the followers and believers would have mentioned him! Unless of course none of those things ever happened. :)

 

I'm sure word would have spread like wild fire the day "Jesus" walked on water, the story would have been on everyone's lips and spread from town to town before you could say "Jesus Christ."

 

And how many people supposedly saw him after his own "resurrection?" And yet not a word from anyone other than his followers. Not a peep!

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Regarding the graves popping open and, as Antlerman put it in a later post, zombies walking around, that passage always caused me to wonder, too. What the heck?

 

Matthew 27.51-53 reads as follows (NRSV): "...the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many."

 

 

The New World Translation (Jehovah's Witnesses) asserts that there was an earthquake, many graves were disturbed, bodies were thrown about, and it was living witnesses who entered the city to tell of the aftermath of the quake: "And the memorial tombs were opened and many bodies of the holy ones that had fallen asleep were thrown up and person coming out from among the memorial tombs after his being raised up entered into the holy city."

 

Interesting to think about.

 

-CC in MA

 

 

WOW! Talk about 'spinning a story', that takes the cake!

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the absence of a record of a person does not mean the absence of that person.

 

mmmm, no it doesn't but........a god-man who was supposed to be able to resurrect the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, feed a thousand with a few fishes and bread, heal the blind and sick..........

 

One would think with those kind of abilities SOMEONE outside of the followers and believers would have mentioned him! Unless of course none of those things ever happened. :)

 

I'm sure word would have spread like wild fire the day "Jesus" walked on water, the story would have been on everyone's lips and spread from town to town before you could say "Jesus Christ."

 

And how many people supposedly saw him after his own "resurrection?" And yet not a word from anyone other than his followers. Not a peep!

 

I see your point, Jun. But we must bear in mind that these were days long ago. We know everything today as soon as it happens (thanks to CNN and the Internet). These were very different times. I definitely see it plausible that few outside the geographic vicinity of the Galilee and Jerusalem areas had heard of Jesus, no matter what he did. Stories that did float out were, I'm sure, dismissed by anyone who "didn't see it with their own eye." This cynicism is quite natural and to be expected. One could argue that in fact these events did happen and in fact they made such a stir that within years of his life, there are thousands of words and scores of people telling the tale -- but these documents are preserved by those who believed in him. Who else would tell the tale? Why would someone who thought it was nonsense tell about it? It also might be relevant to note that Jesus seems, at least from the portrayal in the canonical gospels, to hush people in regard to telling what he had done. Tell no one, he often says. Perhaps the stories traveled only short distances after all?? Until they were written down and until Jesus commissioned those who saw and believed to tell the good news "unto the ends of the earth"? Just throwing out ideas.

 

-CC in MA

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WOW! Talk about 'spinning a story', that takes the cake!

 

No, Scientology surely takes the cake.

 

Perhaps I should join them so I can go and rehabilitate my Thetan. It's been a while since I could remember my 875th life as a Zegrubdergant on the planet Zoras III. Ah those were the days, as a member of The Galactic Confederacy and a pilot under the Great Xenu......Now where is the nearest Scientology Church?

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I can go either way on the subject of the historicity of Jesus. I think there are compelling reasons to see there being a non-historical person behind the evolution of the Christ story (see www.jesuspuzzle.com ), but at the same time I see reasons to believe someone existed that was the basis of the later stories built around this individual.

 

Philo Judaen has been mentioned here and there. This morning (before work, and MUST more enjoyable than work) I looked up some references on Philo. For everyone's consideration:

 

PHILO JUDAEUS

 

“Around fifty works by Jesus’s contemporary Philo Judaeus (20BC-50AD) survive, containing much interesting material about history, philosophy and religion, but nowhere in his writings does he mention Jesus, despite reporting extensively on Pilate.”

 

Source: The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity, Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten, 1995, p. 4. Link to book here.

 

More links to information about Philo Judaeus:

 

Catholic Encyclopedia

Lifetime: b. 25 B.C., but no death date.

 

Jewish Encyclopedia

Lifespan: 20 B.C. – after 40 A.D.

 

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Lifespan: 20 B.C.E. – 50 C.E.

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica Lifespan: 15-10 BC – 45-50 AD

 

Ancient History Sourcebook: Philo Judaeus

Lifespan: 20 B.C. – 40 A.D.

 

Wikipedia

Lifespan: 20 BC – 40

 

Merriam-Webster Online

Lifespan: circa 13 B.C. – A.D. 45-50

 

Does anyone have any information that would contradict a lifespan of roughly 15-20 B.C.E. to roughly 40-50 C.E.?

 

Does anyone have any information that would indicate that the surviving works of Philo mention a “Jesus”?

 

It would seem unlikely to me, even if we had the entire corpus of Philo’s work (which, unfortunately, we don’t) that he, an Alexandrian Jew, would have had any knowledge of an itinerant preacher from Nazareth. Philo died within less than a decade of Jesus' life or a little longer. His silence means nothing in terms of the existence of Jesus, as I see it.

 

What do others think? Can we dismiss Philo Judaeus from our consideration of the historical Jesus as providing no evidence in favor of the existence and arguably no evidence against the existence of a historical Jesus? Opinions?

 

-CC in MA

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Did Jesus exist? And if so, what is the non-religious historical evidence?

 

ACTS OF PILATE - NO HELP!

 

Found this in F. F. Bruce's book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Here's a link to that book. F.F. Bruce (Wikipedia link here) was a Christian apologist, and a highly educated and scholarly man, as the Wikipedia entry confirms.

 

The next six paragraphs are the words of F.F. Bruce:

 

We should especially like to know if Pilate sent home to Rome any report of the trial and execution of Jesus, and, if so, what it contained. But it is not certain that he must have done so; and if he did, it has disappeared beyond trace.

 

Certainly some ancient writers believed that Pilate did send in such a report, but there is no evidence that any of them had any real knowledge of it. About AD 150 Justin Martyr, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninius Pius, referred him to Pilate's report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. "But the words, 'They pierced my hands and my feet,' he says, "are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the Acts which were recorded under Pontius Pilate." Later he says: "That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the Acts of Pontius Pilate."

 

Then Tertullian, the great jurist-theologian of Carthage, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the main authorities in the province of Africa about AD 197, says: "Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the Senate tidings from Syria Palestina which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with. The Senate rejected it because it had not itself given its approval. Caesar held to his own opinion and threatened danger to the accusers of the Christians."

 

It would no doubt be pleasant if we could believe this story of Tertullian, which he manifestly believed to be true but a story so inherently improbable and inconsistent with what we know of Tiberius, related nearly 170 years after the event, does not commend itself to a historian's judgment.

 

When the influence of Christianity was increasing rapidly in the Empire, one of the last pagan emperors, Maximin II, two years before the Edict of Milan, attempted to bring Christianity into disrepute by publishing what he alleged to be the true "Acts of Pilate," representing the origins of Christianity in an unsavoury guise. These "Acts," which were full of outrageous assertions about Jesus, had to be read and memorized by schoolchildren. They were manifestly forged, as Eusebius historian pointed out at the time; among other things, their dating was quite wrong, as they placed the death of Jesus in the seventh year of Tiberius (AD 20), whereas the testimony of Josephus is plain that Pilate had not become procurator of Judaea till Tiberius' Twelfth year (not to mention the evidence of Luke iii. 1, according to which John the Baptist began to preach in fifteenth year of Tiberius). We do not know in detail these alleged "Acts" contained, as they were naturally suppressed on Constantine's accession to power; but we may surmise that they had some affinity with Toledoth Yeshu, an anti-Christian compilation popular in some Jewish circles in mediaeval time.

 

Later in the fourth century another forged set of "Acts of Pilate" appeared, this time from the Christian side, and as devoid of genuineness as Maximin's, to which they were perhaps intended as a counterblast. They are still extant, and consist of alleged memorials the trial, passion, and resurrection of Christ, recorded by Nicodemus and deposited with Pilate. (They are also known as the "Gospel of Nicodemus.") A translation of them is given in M. R. James' Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 94 ff., and they have a literary interest of their own, which does not concern us here.

 

 

Bruce seems (to me) a reasonable scholar and I love how he dismisses Tertullian's story about Tiberius as one that "does not commend itself to a historian's judgment." I wonder what does exist of record regarding the time of Pontius Pilate. Did the Roman Empire have a central archive? Does anything remain? Anyone know?

 

-CC in MA

 

 

No time (for me) right now to look this over carefully, but I pass it on for others who might be interested:

 

Link to an online version of F.F. Bruce's book mentioned in the previous post.

 

-CC in MA

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Did Jesus exist? And if so, what is the non-religious historical evidence?

 

TACITUS

 

These three paragraphs are from F. F. Bruce here:

 

The greatest Roman historian in the days of the Empire was Cornelius Tacitus, who was born between AD 52 and 54 and wrote the history of Rome under the emperors. About the age of sixty, when writing the story of the reign of Nero (AD 54-68), he described the great fire which ravaged Rome in AD 64 and told how was widely rumoured that Nero had instigated the fire, in order to gain greater glory for himself by rebuilding the city. He goes on:

 

'Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class of men, loathes for their vice', whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor; and the pernicious superstition was checked for a short time, only to break out afresh, not only in Judaea, the home of the plague, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home."

 

This account does not strike one as having been derived from Christian sources nor yet from Jewish informants for the latter would not have referred to Jesus as Christus. For the pagan Tacitus, Christus was simply a proper name; for the Jews, as for the first Christians, it was not a name but a title, the Greek equivalent of the Semitic Messiah ('Anointed'). The Christians called Him Christus, because they believed He was the promised Messiah; the Jews, who did not believe so, would not have given Him that honoured title. Tacitus was in a position to have access to such official information as was available; he was the son-in-law of Julius Agricola, who was governor of Britain in AD 80 to 84. If Pilate did send a report to Rome Tacitus was more likely to know of it than most writers, his language is too summary to make any such inference certain. One point is worth noting, however apart from Jewish and Christian writers, Tacitus is the one and only ancient author to mention Pilate. It may surely be accounted one of the ironies of history that the only mention Pilate receives from a Roman historian is in connection with the part he played in the execution Jesus.

 

 

This book was written some years ago, so perhaps recent scholarship has changed some of the points made? I know some suggest this is an interpolation...but that seems to easy of an "aha, but..."? Does anyone know?

 

-CC in MA

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CC, to speak to Philo living in Alexandria: He did write about Jewish life and sects in and about Jerusalem and mentions other religious cults of the day. Not that an arguement from silence proves anything in itself, I think it is worthy to look at this:

 

The non-Christian witness to Jesus is anything but supportive of his existence. Until almost the end of the first century, there is not a murmur of him in the Jewish or pagan record. The Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived until about 50 CE and wrote of unusual sects like the Therapeutae and the Essenes, has nothing to say about Jesus or Christians. Justus of Tiberias, a Jewish historian who wrote in Galilee in the 80s (his works are now lost), is reported later to have made no mention whatever of Jesus. Pliny the Elder (died 79 CE) collected data on all manner of natural and astronomical phenomena, even those which were legendary and which he himself did not necessarily regard as factual, but he records no prodigies associated with the beliefs of Christians, such as an earthquake or darkening of the skies at a crucifixion, or any star of Bethlehem. The first Roman satirist to scorn a sect which believed in a crucified Judean founder who had been a god was not Martial at the end of the first century, nor Juvenal in the first half of the second century, but Lucian in the 160s. Reports of Epictetus, the great Stoic philosopher of the early second century who preached universal brotherhood to the poor and humble masses, record no knowledge on his part of a Jewish precursor. Nor does Seneca, the empire's leading ethicist during the reign of Nero, make reference to such a figure. Other historians of the time, like Plutarch and Quintilian, are equally silent.

 

<snip>

 

The Roman historian Tacitus, in his Annals written around 115, makes the first pagan reference to Jesus as a man executed in the reign of Tiberius. This is not likely to have been the result of a search of some archive, for the Romans hardly kept records of the countless crucifixions around the empire going back almost a century. We have no evidence of such extensive record-keeping. Besides, Tacitus is not known as a thorough researcher, which is illustrated by the fact that he gets Pilate's title wrong, something that might have been corrected had he consulted an official record. Scholars such as Norman Perrin (The New Testament: An Introduction, p.407) acknowledge that Tacitus' "information" probably came from local Christian hearsay and police interrogation; this would have been at a time when the idea of an historical founder had recently taken hold in Rome. There is even some reason to doubt the authenticity of this passage, despite its vilifying description of Christians. The association of a persecution of Christians with the great fire in Nero's Rome (the context of Tacitus' reference) is nowhere mentioned by Christian commentators for the next several centuries.

 

Pliny the Younger's well-known letter to Trajan, written from Asia Minor around 112 and asking the emperor for advice on the prosecution of Christians, says nothing about a recent historical man, let alone biographical elements. "Christ," perhaps a reference to the Jewish Messiah idea, is simply identified as a god in Christian worship. And the historian Suetonius' reference (around 120) to "Chrestus" as someone, or some idea, that has produced agitation among Jews in Rome, is so flimsy and uncertain, no secure meaning can be drawn from it, much less a connection to Christianity and an historical Jesus. It could be referring to Jewish messianic expectation or to an early belief in a divine Christ.

 

There are those who appeal to obscure references in the historians Thallus and Phlegon about eclipses of the sun allegedly associated with the crucifixion, but such pagan writers, their works now lost, come to us only through Christian commentators. The latter could well have put their own spin on reports which originally had nothing to do with a Jesus, but simply referred to an eclipse of the sun which astronomers date in the year 29. Certainly, there are no other reports at the time among either Mediterranean writers or others around the world about a universal darkness at midday.

 

As for the references to Jesus in the Jewish Talmud: even though some remarks are attributed to rabbis who flourished around the end of the first century (none earlier), they were not written down before the third century and later. Such records cannot be relied upon to preserve authentic traditions of a few centuries earlier, ones that may have been influenced by, or created in response to, Christian claims of the second century and later. In any case, such references are often so cryptic and off the mark they can scarcely be identified with the Gospel figure. Some have him dying by stoning or hanging, rather than by crucifixion. One places Jesus in the time of the Maccabean king Alexander Jannaeus around 100 BCE; another identifies the husband of Jesus' mother as someone who is said to have been a contemporary of rabbi Akiba in the second century CE. All of them allot responsibility for the death of this figure solely to the Jews, a strange situation in Jewish rabbinic tradition if the Gospel story were history and widely known. As a witness to an historical Jesus, the Talmudic references are worthless.

 

 

My argument is that if there was a real Jesus person who lived, none of the external references to this miracle worker are worth spit, and that the real evidence would be in dissecting the roots of oral tradition to find a simple common story. It seems very improbable that darkened skies would have been overlooked by someone like Pliny the Elder, but even so in the texts of the Gospels themselves, these "elaborations" show a clear ear-mark of being just that, in that they are not consistent historical accounts (both internally and externally), but show a much more "literary vehicle" of miracles as aides to elevate the status of their character who is the "Bringer" of the message of the Christian community in the local villages and cities they lived and interacted in.

 

If you want to prove Jesus existed, you shouldn't go into literal readings of the Gospels, nor try to make flimsy citations of obscure or questionable writings outside the faith. The only real evidence points to "something", but certainly not the water-walking, flying messiah-man of Galilee in the later hero's-tale narrative of the Gospels.

 

BTW, don't you find it odd that Paul never once mentioned "Jesus of Nazareth", or Nazareth, or his mother Mary, of Joseph, or Bethlehem, etc? He's always Christ, or Christ Jesus and is always a heavenly being.

 

P.S. I hope you're going to give more feedback than just "excellent points" and leave it at that? :grin:

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With this in mind, I do think one important point to remember is that the absence of a record of a person does not mean the absence of that person.

 

But bearing in mind what the new testament tells us about Jesus. The miracles, the huge crowds, healings and the bit somewhere where it says, "That the whole world couldn,t contain the books about things he did" (or something like that). The silence is very surprising. I think it leads credence to the story being mythological (especially when you include the gnostic scriptures.....and lets not forget, they were not called gnostics at the time, they called themselves christians. In fact one of their complaints was that the people who took the story literally did not know who Christ was)

However, I do not think mythological means untrue.....to the ancients a myth encoded a deeper order of truth: spiritual truths.

 

It could just be that by taking the story literally most christians miss the whole point of the story. Which, I feel, is an allegory of spiritual awakening: what the ancients called "Gnosis"

 

Maybe the story was a myth that later (for mainly political reasons) became historicized. That is why it was necessary for the roman church to interpolate Josephus.

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I see your point, Jun. But we must bear in mind that these were days long ago. We know everything today as soon as it happens (thanks to CNN and the Internet). These were very different times. I definitely see it plausible that few outside the geographic vicinity of the Galilee and Jerusalem areas had heard of Jesus, no matter what he did.

 

Ugh. Depending on the argument, people of the past were either extremely brilliant or extremely ignorant depending on the argument someone wants to make.

 

CC, you manage to do BOTH within your post. In this section, everyone is ignorant of everything going on around them....despite one of the main contributions the Roman Empire made damn near everywhere they went were maintained road systems (these were allowed to crumble in the dark ages....just like the plumbing). And if news did not travel with some expediency....no other missives could have either and the Empire would have fallen apart. News travelled. And while the news is taken for granted somewhat now due to modern life making it easily accessible, do you really think news was not anticipated in the past? Perhaps eagerly as it gave everyone something to chew over aside from the everyday humdrum tedium of whether or not one of the plow horses shared by a village would live or die from a recent leg infection?

Stories that did float out were, I'm sure, dismissed by anyone who "didn't see it with their own eye." This cynicism is quite natural and to be expected.

Aaaand FLIP! Now the majority of historical people's according to you, are a seasoned bunch of skeptics and critical thinkers. Come on. It's hard to have it both ways! Either the majority were a bunch of ill informed goobers who knew nothing of happenings beyond their own village, or the majority is a bunch of tailored scholars walking around with a stack of books and a perpetual knowing expression.

Both of these extremes are insulting the the truth, which is naturally going to fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

One could argue that in fact these events did happen and in fact they made such a stir that within years of his life, there are thousands of words and scores of people telling the tale -- but these documents are preserved by those who believed in him. Who else would tell the tale?

Um...any secular historian who had heard about it? We know about various types of rumors that floated about the Roman Empire. Someone bothered to write those down. Does their documentation make them true? Do you really think Nero sang and played a fiddle when Rome burned?

Tell no one, he often says. Perhaps the stories traveled only short distances after all?? Until they were written down and until Jesus commissioned those who saw and believed to tell the good news "unto the ends of the earth"? Just throwing out ideas.

 

-CC in MA

 

Do you really think ancient peoples were better at keeping a secret than modern people are today? Get real. Not to mention this section of your post relies on the bible for accuracy. I believe this thread is about non-biblical sources....is it not? :Doh:

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Tacitus, the historian of the Roman Empire, lived c. 55/56 to c. 117. While we know little about his personal biography (e.g., birth, place of birth and first name are unknown/uncertain), we know much about Roman life in his time and the history of the Roman emperors from about 14 to 96 C.E. While we do not have all volumes of his Annals, most are available and are deemed good history.

 

Everyone here is aware of his reference to “Christians” and “Christus,” from

Annals 15.44, written in the first decade of the second century:

 

But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

 

From this excerpt we glean these facts:

 

1. There were Christians in Rome by the time of the great fire in 64 C.E.

2. These Christians believed in a “pernicious superstition.”

3. The group’s name comes from a “founder” named Christus, who was put to death by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius (reigned 14-37 C.E.)

 

From what I have read regarding this text, this account seems reliable in that Tacitus took it to be true that someone called “Christus” by his followers was put to death, but that the superstition around him grew and spread to Rome, and that these followers were called Christians and were by 64 C.E. sufficient in number to be known by the emperor and small enough in number to be persecuted. (This doesn’t mean this happened, but that Tacitus believed that it had happened and he does seem to be a reliable historian.)

 

One must be on guard about information obtained from Wikepedia, but this entry, “Tacitus on Jesus,” seems fairly well balanced in presenting various views on the excerpt above:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Jesus

 

What do others feel about this writing of Tacitus and what, if anything, it offers in our search for a non-religious verification of Jesus?

 

-CC in MA

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What do others feel about this writing of Tacitus and what, if anything, it offers in our search for a non-religious verification of Jesus?

 

-CC in MA

OOH, OOH, Me!! I posted a response to this already about 3 posts before this one ( http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?s=&a...t&p=236407), but I'll put the quote here again:

The Roman historian Tacitus, in his Annals written around 115, makes the first pagan reference to Jesus as a man executed in the reign of Tiberius. This is not likely to have been the result of a search of some archive, for the Romans hardly kept records of the countless crucifixions around the empire going back almost a century. We have no evidence of such extensive record-keeping. Besides, Tacitus is not known as a thorough researcher, which is illustrated by the fact that he gets Pilate's title wrong, something that might have been corrected had he consulted an official record. Scholars such as Norman Perrin (The New Testament: An Introduction, p.407) acknowledge that Tacitus' "information" probably came from local Christian hearsay and police interrogation; this would have been at a time when the idea of an historical founder had recently taken hold in Rome. There is even some reason to doubt the authenticity of this passage, despite its vilifying description of Christians. The association of a persecution of Christians with the great fire in Nero's Rome (the context of Tacitus' reference) is nowhere mentioned by Christian commentators for the next several centuries.

 

Personally, I think the context to the persecution of the Christians under Nero makes it seem like it could have come from a later time, but even so this doesn't say anything other than there may have been some Christians who went around with a belief in some crucified savior. Let's not forget there were other Christians who didn't believe Jesus was a flesh and blood human messiah too? So, at very best we have shown there were people who believed something like this.

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Cornelius Tacitus. There are a couple of hurdles to get past in order for Tacitus to become a credible voice for a historical Jesus.

 

1. IF THE QUOTE IS GENUINE, where did Tacitus get his information? Christians are famous about touting that crucifixions were a dime-a-dozen, and there would not be any roman records about the trial or crucifixion of Jesus. And, indeed, there is absolutely no evidence to think that Tacitus could have obtained this information from roman records. So, where did he get the information? Highly likely that he obtained it from what was being said. By christians of the day. Roughly 75 years after the time when jesus was supposed to have died.

 

2. There is suspicion that this passage Tacitus' Annals is an interpolation. When did the quote first surface? Fifteenth Century. And, at the time it was first cited by an external source, there was ONE copy of Annals in the world. A copy that dated to the eighth century.

 

Another difficulty is that this passage mirrors almost word-for-word a passage from the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus, which dates to the late fourth century. It really appears that this passage was lifted from Sulpicius Severus - sometime during the Dark Ages and inserted into Tacitus.

 

Christian history is rife with dishonest soldiers for christ.

 

 

I see I repeated some of what Antlerman said. Two or more witnesses. Obviously the truth.

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