Q & A about the Historical Jesus

Question 1: Is it not true that we don't even know in what century Jesus lived? How come we only have a lot of references in the New Testament and no where else from that general time?

Answer 1: You will have to work pretty hard to find scholars who argue the thesis that Jesus never lived. Even most "liberals" dismiss these views as baseless. It has been refuted time and time again. Why? Because there are first century references to Jesus, several of which critical scholars date to within months to a couple of years after Jesus' death. I'm speaking here chiefly of the early creeds in the New Testament, like 1 Corinthians 15:3ff. Besides all of the New Testament writings, we have a few extra-biblical writings that date from the mid-first century to about 110 AD. Altogether, there are even about a dozen and a half non-Christian sources that mention Jesus within the first 150 years after his death. For all these sources plus a critique of views like those who question or deny Jesus' historical existence, see my book The Historical Jesus (College Press, 1996).

Question 2: Is it true that Josephus' statements about Jesus are in fact not his and were added later in history by those seeking to prove that Jesus was a historical figure?

Answer 2: The vast majority of scholars who address this issue think that although Josephus' longer statement about Jesus in Antiquities 18:3 has been altered a bit, the bulk of it was written by Josephus. This view means that Josephus supplies some very important material about Jesus. An even larger percentage of scholars accepts Josephus' second statement concerning Jesus being the brother of James (Antiquities 20:9). Further, we have to make sense of ancient non-Christian historians like Thallus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Lucian, who reported all sorts of facts about Jesus. In The Historical Jesus, pages 243-250, I provide a long list of well over 100 items that are reported about Jesus, many by non- Christians. So, to argue that Jesus never existed totally ignores a large body of historical data. That's why, of over a thousands recent publications on the subject of the historical Jesus, I am aware of less than five who doubt or question his existence.

Question 3: Why do you suppose Josephus does not discuss Jesus in even more detail? Assuming from his two passages that he was in fact aware of Jesus and the corresponding movement, isn't it a bit odd that he includes no other discussion on Christianity? There is plenty about John the Baptist, Pilate, Caiaphas, etc., but very little about Jesus.

Answer 3: I don't suppose anyone knows exactly why Josephus doesn't say more about Jesus than he does, or why, more generally, any writer doesn't say more about someone, especially in ancient times. One possibility could be that Josephus catered to his Roman patrons, and of course, they crucified Jesus. For instance, neither Tacitus, nor Suetonius, nor Pliny the Younger speak well of Christianity. All of them, by the way, along with Josephus, clearly place Jesus in the traditional time slot. But given this general reluctance not to laud Jesus (Pliny states that early Christians sang hymns to Jesus as to a god and even says that he killed Christians who failed to worship the gods), it's not terribly surprising that Josephus doesn't say more.

A Powerful Apologetic Method: ABDUCTIVE Reasoning!

"What in the world is 'Abductive Reasoing'?" Well, abductive reasoning is employed by crime scene detectives, car mechanics, and your medical doctor.  Abductive reasoning is when you look at all the known facts, and seek to form the best explanation to explain the data.  Abductive reasoning seeks to find the "inference to the best explanation" for the known facts.   

This is a vital way of thinking and investigating that all serious Christians should be engaged in....

 - Pastor J. 

Ancient Convict and Greek Writer Mention Jesus of Nazareth!

Can we can learn historical facts about Jesus from an incarcerated father writing to his son?

Can an ancient Greek writer inform us regarding the historical life of Jesus?

In this video, we continue our series "Ancient Non-Christian Historical Sources for Jesus of Nazareth", and we will briefly investigate two interesting secular sources, Lucian and Mara Bar Serapion. The former source, Lucian, is an ancient Greek Satirist writing of Christ, and from whom we can glean no less that 16 interesting and helpful historical facts concerning the person of Jesus.

The latter reference, Mara Bar Serapion, is an imprisoned Greek man writing a personal letter to his son in the first to third century AD.  In this letter he encourages his son to look to the wise and prominent men of the past as an example for good living.  Here he mentions Jesus of Nazareth as a great Jewish leader.

Finally, if you haven't already, please go to www.garyhabermas.com and download Dr. Gary Habermas' dissertation paper entitled"17 Non-christian Historical Sources for Jesus of Nazareth", which is what we're reading through in this series.

Enjoy the teaching, and remember.......have an Intelligent Faith!

- Pastor J. 

Series - "Ancient Historical Evidence for Jesus of Nazareth" (pt.7)

This will conclude our look at the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. We will be looking at Other Lost works.

Acts of Pontius Pilate
The contents of this purportedly lost document are reported by both Justin  Martyr (ca. 150 A.D.) and Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.). Both agree that it was an  official document of Rome. Two types of archives were kept in ancient Rome. ?The  Acta senatus were composed of minutes of the senatorial meetings. These  contained no discussions of Christ or Christianity as far as is known. The  Commentarii principis were composed of the correspondence sent to the emperors  from various parts of the empire. Any report from Pilate to Tiberius would  belong to this second group.

Justin Martyr reported around 150 A.D. in his First Apology that the details of  Jesus’ crucifixion could be validated from Pilate’s report”

And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference  to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after he  was crucified, they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that crucified Him  parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain the  “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.

Later in the same work Justin lists several healing miracles and asserts, “And  that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”

Justin Martyr relates several facts, believing them to be contained in Pilate’s  report. The chief concern is apparently Jesus’ crucifixion, with details such as  (1) his hands and feet being nailed to the cross and (2) the soldiers gambling  for his garments. But it is also asserted (3) that several of Jesus’ miracles  were also included in Pilate’s report.

Tertullian even reports that Tiberius  acted on the report:

Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the  world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had  clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the  senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had  not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his  opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.

Tertullian’s account claims (4) that Tiberius actually brought details of  Christ’s life before the Roman Senate, apparently for a vote of approval. The  Senate then reportedly spurned Tiberius’ own vote of approval, which engendered  a warning from the emperor not to attempt actions against Christians. As noted  by Bruce, this incident, which Tertullian apparently accepts as accurate, is  quite an improbable occurrence. It is difficult to accept such an account when  the work reporting it is about 170 years later than the event, with seemingly no  good intervening sources for such acceptance.

It should be noted that the Acts of Pilate referred to here should not be  confused with later fabrications by the same name, which may certainly have been  written to take the place of these records which were believed to exist.

The last reference to be discussed in this chapter is that of Phlegon, whom  Anderson describes as “a freedmen of the Emperor Hadrian who was born about A.D.  80.” Phlegon's work is no longer in existence and we depend on others for  our information.

Origen records the following:
Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles,  not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events (although falling into  confusion about some things which refer to Peter, as if they referred to Jesus),  but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions.

Origen adds another comment about Phlegon:
And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign  Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took  place, Phlegon too, I think, has written in the thirteenth or fourteenth book of  his Chronicles.

Julius Africanus agrees on the last reference to Phlegon, adding a bit more  information: "Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full  moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth to the ninth hour."

From Phlegon we therefore learn the following items: (1) Jesus accurately  predicted the future. (2) There was an eclipse at the crucifixion from the sixth  to the ninth hours, (3) followed by earthquakes, (4) all during the reign of  Tiberius Caesar. (4) After his resurrection, Jesus appeared and showed his  wounds, especially the nail marks from his crucifixion.

This concludes our look at the Historical Evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. With so much evidence out there, it is almost impossible to not believe that there was a man named Jesus that he did miraculous works, died on the cross and was seen by his followers.

Have Intelligent Faith!!

- Nelis