Monday, December 30, 2013

WAS JESUS A HISTORICAL FIGURE AND WAS HE CRUCIFIED?

There are some skeptics among those who comment on this blog. They keep saying that there is no evidence that Jesus really lived or that there are Roman documents that indicate his crucifixion.

If they had open minds and really cared they might read some or all of the following works. They could read them all the way through, but if they are lazy (or just don't care about whether they are really right), they can just read the pages listed.

In the 1940s and 50s it was fashionable to cast aspersions on the authenticity of Jesus. By the 60s documents were discovered and scholars began to realize that they had been wrong. Those who have an ax to grind about Jesus choose not to study the more recent investigations, preferring to languish in the inaccuracies of the older ones.

In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (a secular agnostic) wrote: "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285

Michael Grant (a classicist) states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." in Jesus by Michael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200

Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould (Apr 1, 2004) ISBN 0802809774 page 34

Jesus Remembered by James D. G. Dunn 2003 ISBN 0-8028-3931-2 page 339 states of baptism and crucifixion that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent".

Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus by William R. Herzog (4 Jul 2005) ISBN 0664225284 pages 1-6

Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. p. 145. ISBN 0-06-061662-8. "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus...agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."

Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16 states: "biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted"

James D. G. Dunn "Paul's understanding of the death of Jesus" in Sacrifice and Redemption edited by S. W. Sykes (Dec 3, 2007) Cambridge University Press ISBN 052104460X pages 35-36 states that the theories of non-existence of Jesus are "a thoroughly dead thesis"

The Gospels and Jesus by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, page 145 states : "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed".

Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN 9004111425 pages 460-470

The Cambridge companion to Jesus by Markus N. A. Bockmuehl 2001 Cambridge Univ Press ISBN 978-0-521-79678-1 pages 123-124. Page 124 state that the "farfetched theories that Jesus' existence was a Christian invention are highly implausible."

Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence ISBN 0-8028-4368-9. page 83

Flavius Josephus; Maier, Paul L. (December 1995). Josephus, the essential works: a condensation of Jewish antiquities and The Jewish war ISBN 978-0-8254-3260-6 pages 284-285

27 comments:

Dave Miller said...

All good sources Joe... As I was reading I was thinking if Ehrmann... He's a very good historian...

Of course none if this "proves" the deity of Christ, but is should at least refute the mythicists...

Dave Miller said...

PS... We now get numbers on the verification... That's tons easier...

sue hanes said...

Joe - I don't have to read these articles. I know that Jesus is real and that he exists. He lives just as sure as I am living now.

Let those who want to doubt Him go ahead and doubt. I know He lives and I've never doubted it.

Duckys here said...

Jesus was born and like many, many others in the Roman empire, e was crucified.

What happened in between is in considerable murkiness.

Joe said...

Ducky: What happened in between was that He infuriated the Pharisees by claiming to be God. Every time He made the claim they became angrier. Once they tried to kill Him without a trial, but were unsuccessful. They tried Him illegally (by Jewish law) and could not get Him completely convicted, so they turned to the Roman government and insisted that they put Him to death, which they finally did…even after finding Him innocent of any wrongdoing. That’s what happened. Why it happened is what ultimately led to there being Christians.

Xavier Onassis said...

Joe - I'm well aware that a lot of people have written about Jesus...after the fact.

The most often cited first mention of Jesus in historical literature was from Josephus Flavius, a famous Jewish historian. His "The Antiquities of the Jews," gave a history of his race from the earliest ages down to his own time.

His history is exhaustive. It spans some 20 volumes. There are 40 chapters dedicated to the life of a single king.

In all of this great work, there are a scant 12 lines that mention Jesus. But the real problem isn't the brevity, it the fact that those 12 lines were a forgery inserted into Josephus' work 300 years later during Constantine's reign, probably by or under the order of Bishop Eusebius, who was known for saying that it was permissible for Christians to lie in order to further the Kingdom of God.

And once again I point out that the Romans themselves, who kept very detailed records of all sorts of mundane legal proceedings, make absolutely no mention of Jesus.

One would think that Jesus Christ, the self-proclaimed Jewish Messiah, born of a virgin, who wandered the area preaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water, turning water into wine and proclaiming the Kingdom of God in opposition to the Roman Emperor would merit some mention. If not during his life, then certainly after he was crucified, was resurrected and seen by people walking the earth and speaking. Seems like someone somewhere in the Roman Empire would have written that down somewhere.

But, nope! Not. One. Word. Anywhere.

Mighty suspicious if you ask me.



Joe said...

XO: Thank you for your great commentary! Why none of us had ever, ever considered the issues you have brought up. We have never heard them before. We have studied all of our lives and somehow missed your infinite wisdom. I cannot begin to tell you what we think of your keen analysis. You should go down in the deep thinker's Hall of Fame. Well, you should go down, at least. And you will.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The first-century Roman Tacitus is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world. He gives the account of the great fire of Rome, for which some blamed the Emperor Nero:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures of a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. [Annals 15.44]

This passage contains references to Christians, named after Christus (Latin for Christ), who suffered the “extreme penalty” under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. The “superstition” which started in Judea and had made its way to Rome was most likely the resurrection of Jesus.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Suetonius was chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian (reign, 117–138). Two references are important:

Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city. [Claudius, 25]

After the great fire at Rome. . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief. [Nero, 16]

These brief references establish a few things. There was a man named Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century. Certain Jews caused disturbances relating to this man. Suetonius, writing many years later, was not in a position to know whether the disturbances were instigated by Chrestus or by Jews against his followers. At any rate Claudius became annoyed enough to throw every Jew out of the city (including Paul’s associates Aquila and Priscilla) in 49. Also, Christians were persecuted after the Rome fire, and they had professed a new religious belief.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Thallus wrote around a.d. 52. None of his works are extant, though a few fragmented citations are preserved by other writers. One such writer is Julius Africanus in about 221, who quotes Thallus in a discussion of the darkness which followed the crucifixion of Christ:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. [Extant Writings, 18 in the Ante-Nicene Fathers]

Africanus identifies the darkness which Thallus explained as a solar eclipse with the darkness at the crucifixion described in Luke 23:44–45.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Pliny the Younger was a Roman author and administrator. In a letter to the Emperor Trajan in about 112, Pliny describes the early Christian worship practices:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. [Letters 10:96]

This passage confirms several New Testament references. The most notable is that early Christians worshiped Jesus as God. Their practices also betray a strong ethic, probably that of Jesus. There is also a reference to the love feast and Lord’s Supper. Later in the same letter, Pliny calls the teaching of Jesus and his followers “excessive superstition” and “contagious superstition,” which may refer to Christian belief and proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

In reply to Pliny’s letter, Emperor Trajan gives the following guidelines for punishing Christians:

No search should be made for these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion. [ibid., 10:97]

This sheds some light on how the early Roman government viewed Christianity. They were to be punished for not worshiping the Roman gods, but the persecution was not without restrictions.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The Christian historian Eusebius (ca. 265–339) records a letter from Emperor Hadrian to Mincius Fundanus, the Asian proconsul. Not unlike Trajan’s letter to Pliny, Hadrian gives some instruction on handling Christians:

I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if anyone would bring an accusation, that you should examine it. [Ecclesiastical History, 4:9]

The passage confirms that Christians were often accused of breaking laws and were punished, but that temperance was encouraged.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Talmudic writings of most value concerning the historical Jesus are those compiled between 70 and 200 during the so-called Tannaitic Period. The most significant text is Sanhedrin 43a:

On the eve of 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! [Babylonian Talmud]

This passage confirms the crucifixion, the timing of the event on the eve of Passover, and the accusation of sorcery and apostasy. This text also informs us of the herald who went out preceding the death of Jesus (cf. John 8:58–59; 10:31–33, 39). Another reference in this section mentions five disciples of Jesus. Most of the other references to Jesus and Christianity in the Talmud are much later and of questionable historical value

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

One rather later witness is Toledoth Jesu, an anti-Christian document compiled in the fifth century. This document explains that the body of Jesus was secretly moved to a second grave because the disciples were planning to steal the body. When the disciples came to the tomb, Jesus’ body was gone, so they concluded that he was resurrected. Meanwhile the Jewish authorities were being informed of the true location of Jesus’ body. Though quite late, this document probably reflects common early opinion (cf. Matt. 18:11–15).

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer whose works contain sarcastic critiques of Christianity:

The Christians, you know, worship a man to 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. [Death of Pelegrine, 11–13]

Following Habermas, several things can be ascertained from this text. Jesus was worshiped by Christians. He had introduced new teachings and had been crucified for his teachings. His teachings included the brotherhood of believers, the importance of conversion, and the importance of denying other gods. Christians lived according to Jesus’ laws. Further, the followers of Jesus believed themselves immortal and were characterized by contempt for death, voluntary self-devotion, and renunciation of material goods. Despite being one of the church’s most vocal critics, Lucian gives one of the most informative accounts of Jesus and early Christianity outside the New Testament.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

A Syrian, Mara Bar-Serapion wrote to his son Serapion sometime between the late first and early third centuries. The letter contains an apparent reference to Jesus:

What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samon gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given. [British Museum, Syriac ms, add. 14, 658; cited in Habermas, 200]

This passage confirms four specific teachings of the New Testament: (1) Jesus was thought to be a wise and virtuous man. (2) Jesus was considered by many to be the king of Israel. (3) The Jews put Jesus to death. (4) Jesus lived on in the teachings of his followers.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Gnostic Sources. Immediately after the time of Christ, several non-Christian groups flourished in loose connection with the church. One of the more successful was the gnostics.

The Gospel of Truth. This second-century book was perhaps written by Valentinus (135–160). It confirms that Jesus was a historical person in several passages:

For when they had seen him and heard him, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father. . . . For he came by means of fleshly appearance. [30:27–33; 31:4–6]

In another passage we read that
Jesus was patient in accepting sufferings . . . since he knows that his death is life for many . . . he was nailed to a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross. . . . He draws himself down to death through life. . . . Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away from him. [20:11–14, 25–34]

These quotations affirm that Jesus was the Son of God and the Word, who became a man and took on a fleshly body. He taught his followers about his Father. Jesus suffered and was crucified. His death brings life for many. Jesus was raised from the dead in an imperishable body.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The above collection from mostly secular sources demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus was indeed an historical person who was crucified by Rome.

Of course, it is only beyond a reasonable doubt only to those who aren't Holocaust deniers.

Xavier Onassis said...

G.E.C. - You demonstrate my point exactly. All of the sources you cited came hundreds of years after the events would have taken place and were 2nd or 3rd hand information at best.

There are no first hand Roman records of the events that the Bible claims took place. It is all heresay, legend and conjecture passed along by people with their own agenda years after the fact.

You know, a lot of people have written books about Superman and his impact on society. He had some pretty hard to believe powers too. Flying, super strength, x-ray vision and such.

You and I both know that Superman is a fictional creation. But I can see how someone 2000 years from now might not be so clear about that.

Not to mention all the sightings and stories floating around about how Elvis is still alive.

People believe what they want to believe. That doesn't make it real.

And your comparison to the holocaust deniers is ridiculous.

We have documentation that it occurred. We have films and photos and the FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS of people who survived.

No such compelling evidence exists for Jesus and his miracles.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

X.O.
All of the sources you cited came hundreds of years after the events would have taken place and were 2nd or 3rd hand information at best.

Shows lack of reading comprehension.

Tacitus is 1st Century - you know, the same Century Jesus lived in.

Suetonius is early 2nd century.

Thallus wrote around a.d. 52. and is cited in an early 3rd century document.

Pliny and Trajan are 112 AD.

The Talmudic writings of concern are between 70 and 200.

Lucian of Samosata was 2nd century.

Mara Bar-Serapion wrote between the late first and early third centuries.

The Gnostic writing was mid 2nd Century.

NOW, show me the "hundreds of years after the events"!

Tacitus was there - 1st hand. Most others are first hand experiences written to others.

You are obviously a Holocaust denier. There are NO reputable historians who deny the actual existence of Jesus.

Joe said...

XO: Let me help. The use of the term "holocaust denier" does not necessarily mean you deny the holocaust. It refers to a mind set that you exhibit which is to pretend that things that happened didn't happen, in spite of the evidence th it did. That fits you to a "T"

Xavier Onassis said...

G.E.C. - Again,you think you are arguing against me but all you are doing is proving my point.

Tacitus was NOT there "first person". He wasn't even born until 56 a.d., almost 25 years after Jesus would have died.

His "Annals", from which you quote, weren't written until 116 a.d., fully 80-100 years after the events described in the Bible. That is second or third hand information at best.

I ask again...where are the official Roman government documents or records that would have been created while Jesus was still alive, fomenting this rebellion, performing these miracles, being tried, convicted and put to death?

There are NONE.

While I think you comparison to holocaust deniers is ridiculous beyond belief, I will give you this.

If the only record we had of the holocaust came from second and third hand accounts decades or even hundreds of years after it was said to occur, and if there were no official records to be found in the U.S., Germany, Russia, Italy, England or France that a war even took place...then yeah, would have to call shenanigans and seriously doubt those claims.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

X.O.

Your problem is that you don't give the same credence to these manuscripts as you would give to any other manuscript of that age. Even the Bible isn't one text. The four gospels were written by four different people, three of whom were first-hand eyewitnesses, while the 3rd (Luke) was a careful researcher, still completed before AD70. Paul's many letters are first-hand information, and he cites numerous witnesses. Peter and John also have letters, as well as James and Jude, all of which are first hand witnesses. Just because someone later collected these into one grouping, that doesn't discount them as witness.

Again, no serious historian doubts the existence of Jesus. But you want to remain in your ignorance, so have at it.

Xavier Onassis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Chowdhury said...

Is Jesus a Muslim Prophet? http://www.scribd.com/doc/193487618/IS-PROPHET-JESUS-AS-A-MUSLIM-PROPHET

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Here's something for X.O. to try to refute:

http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/a-unique-way-to-approach-defending-the-christian-faith/