A Historical Jesus
Still Would Not
Prove Gospel Claim
A Christian contacted me and tried to convert me by telling me about early non-Christian references to Jesus. He said, (and I quote):
Thallus ad 52 wrote Chrinicle and recorded the eclipse at the crucifixion of christ in the Gospels; Josephus ad 93 Antiquities References John the Baptist, James, and Jesus Pliny the younger ad 112 Letter to trajon Information about early Christianity cornelius ad 116 annals information on the origin and sperd of Christianity Serenius ad 117-38 letter to hadrian discussed the charges brought against Christians Suetonius Ad 120 writes teh life of nero and reports punismnt inflicted on Christians Phlegon ad 140 writes olympiads and records the solar eclipse at the crucifixion; Plus there are multiple records of jews who despised christ calling him a sorceror this tells us two things; Jews of the time knew christ and they called him a sorcerer which means he must have performed some type of miricles; many other secular writers efer to christ and Christianity; these include epictetus, aristides, galenus, lampridius, Dio Cassius, Hinnerius libanius, ammianus, Marcellinus, Eunapius, and Zosimus. Numerous references from Jewish rabbis also discuss the life of Jesus. Not even on of these early references ever questions wheter or no Jesus actually exisited, nor do any present-day historians deny the historicity of christ.
I know most early references to Christ were just references to what the Christians told them about Christ, but some of these puzzle me. Could you give me a hand, if you have some time?
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Veronica Greene"
Subject: Re: Would you mind if I borrowed your expertise?
Date: Sunday, July 29, 2001 10:07 PM
The only alleged references to Christ before the first New Testament Gospel accounts were published is Josephus, which is so clearly a fourth-century pious fraud that most Christian scholars won't use this as evidence of anything except that the Church was not below lying in order to convince people that the Gospel story was true. Many express dismay that people would still point to these hoaxes as evidence that a Jesus existed. All the others came about after the New Testament Gospel accounts had been circulated and thus prove nothing. My write-up on Josephus and Tacitus live in the letter to Rebecca Phaeton.
G. A. Wells is the most prolific writer on the subject of the Josephus argument, and I have condensed his arguments and others in the Rebecca Phaeton letter. Basically, the Josephus argument is an act of desperation, and if someone were to tell me that they believed the Josephus account were genuine, I would immediately suspect anything else they had to say unless what they said was commonly accepted as true. In other words, I would never trust information that comes only from a source that uses the Josephus argument.
If you can find any references to Jesus that are (1) independent of the New Testament canon and pseudepigrapha and (2) written before the New Testament Gospel accounts were published and (3) demonstrably genuine, there are several of us who would like to know about them. We know only of the ones that are taken seriously by serious biblical scholars. Methinks somebody either got their facts mixed up (i.e., is citing sources that date after the publication of the Gospels) or is making things up as they go along (they have been known to do this, it being a common practice among Christian apologists dating back to the days of Josephus).
But most Bible scholars have a sense of integrity, and will not use arguments that don't have at least some sense of credibility. Only the Evangelical quacks tend to use these off-beat and very faulty arguments, and they do this because they know that most who read their books (naïve, uneducated Christians) are too unsophisticated to know the difference. They seek converts, not credibility; they are more interested in selling books than making an impact in the high-stakes Historical Jesus discussions.
Most importantly, though, even if they were to establish the existence of a historical Jesus, they still have a long way to go before they establish that the Gospel accounts are historically accurate -- that is, that Jesus was the Son of God, born of a Virgin, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Just because a “Jesus” exited does not mean he was who they now say he was.
The best book along these lines is Deconstructing Jesus by Robert M. Price, who shows that there was no consensus as to who Jesus was until the councils started meeting in the third century to decide who Jesus was. After that, anybody who taught a "different Jesus" was put to death and his writings burned. This is how the Dead Sea Scrolls came to be so carefully "archived" in a cave: the people did not want the Roman Catholic authorities to confiscate and burn their precious history and replace it with a Christian contrivance. Until then, though, who Jesus was depended entirely upon which sect was speaking or writing at the moment.
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