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Old 03-08-2001, 12:09 AM   #1
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Question Non-Christian references to Jesus

Other than the highly contested Josephus passage, what is the earliest non-Christian reference to Jesus?
 
Old 03-08-2001, 03:46 AM   #2
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by CND:
Other than the highly contested Josephus passage, what is the earliest non-Christian reference to Jesus?</font>
I don't think that there are ANY references of Christ during the time he was suppose to have lived. All are long after he was suppose to have died on the cross.

[This message has been edited by Orpheous99 (edited March 08, 2001).]
 
Old 03-08-2001, 04:59 AM   #3
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Orpheous99:
I don't think that there are ANY references of Christ during the time he was suppose to have lived. All are long after he was suppose to have died on the cross.
</font>
As is the case with most ancient historical figures.

Polycarp

 
Old 03-08-2001, 05:18 AM   #4
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by CND:
Other than the highly contested Josephus passage, what is the earliest non-Christian reference to Jesus?</font>
There are two separate issues here. First, in regards to Josephus there are actually two passages in Josephus which refer to Jesus. Only one of them is highly disputed, while the second is accepted by virtually all scholars. Even the disputed passage is generally accepted as having originally contained some reference to Jesus. However, it looks like the disputed passage as we now have it has been altered by Christian scribes.

As far as other non-Christian references are concerned, there are several within the first 100 years after Jesus died.

1. Tacitus (112 C.E.)
2. Suetonius (120 C.E.
3. Pliny (112 C.E.)
4. Thallus (52 C.E.) This one is cited second-hand by a later historian named, Julius Africanus.
5. Talmud. This was a compilation of Jewish oral rabbinical teaching which was composed in the late 2nd or 3rd century, but most scholars believe it contains at least some information from much earlier traditions. So its impossible to know exactly when the numerous references to Jesus were in circulation, but its quite likely that some went to the late first or early second century.

Peace,

Polycarp

 
Old 03-08-2001, 06:24 AM   #5
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
As is the case with most ancient historical figures.

Polycarp
</font>
Some ancient figures are known only second or third hand. Scores, however, are known from documents written at the time of their lives. Try Chinese history, for example. Even in western history, which is nowhere near as copius as Chinese, there are plenty of figures we know from works from their own hand (Caesar, Xenophon, Tacitus, many Emperors), archaeological evidence, and other sources. Christians often exaggerate the lack of evidence from antiquity as a cover for the embarrassing lack of outside evidence for their savior.

There are no clear references to Jesus in the Talmud, and Thallus, as Richard Carrier's article demonstrates, did not say anything about Jesus either. None of the other information is about Jesus; they are merely a historian's remark that there are such things as Christians who believe such and such, but nobody disputes that. In short, there are no clear references outside Biblical sources (and maybe Josephus).

Michael


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited March 08, 2001).]
 
Old 03-08-2001, 09:13 AM   #6
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
Some ancient figures are known only second or third hand. Scores, however, are known from documents written at the time of their lives. Try Chinese history, for example. Even in western history, which is nowhere near as copius as Chinese, there are plenty of figures we know from works from their own hand (Caesar, Xenophon, Tacitus, many Emperors), archaeological evidence, and other sources. Christians often exaggerate the lack of evidence from antiquity as a cover for the embarrassing lack of outside evidence for their savior.</font>
We’re in basic agreement here. As I said originally, MOST ancient people. “MOST” meaning more than half. Unless you have a different definition, then I’m with you on this one.


There are no clear references to Jesus in the Talmud, and Thallus, as Richard Carrier's article demonstrates, did not say anything about Jesus either.

OK, now we're not in agreement. The Talmud does contain references that almost certainly refer to Jesus. There are several, but I'll just give one example:

"...Rabbi Joshua was reciting the Shema when Jesus came before him. He intended to receive him and made a sign to him. He [Jesus] thing that it was to repel him, when, put up a brick and worshipped it. 'Repent', said Rabbi Joshua to Jesus.
Jesus replied, 'I have learned this from you: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance'.
And a Rabbi has said, 'Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led Israel astray.'"
- Babylonian Sanhedrin 107b

Again, its obvious this passage is talking about the same Jesus as that espoused by Christians. This entire section of the Talmud discusses false prophets - which is exactly how the majority of non-Christian Jews viewed Jesus in the first few centuries.

As far as Thallus goes, I said we have SECOND-HAND info that he records info about Jesus. Julius Africanus thought Thallus was making reference to Jesus. You can claim Julius was lying, but we could do that with anything we disagree with. It's bad history to do such a thing, but its certainly your right to do bad history.

None of the other information is about Jesus; they are merely a historian's remark that there are such things as Christians who believe such and such, but nobody disputes that. In short, there are no clear references outside Biblical sources (and maybe Josephus).


Now, you're in the realm of being completely wrong. Read the Tacitus passage:

"Therefore to squelch the rumor that 'Nero had started the Great Fire of Rome', Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called 'Christians', [a group] hated for their abominable crimes. Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Suppressed for the moment, the deadly superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the land which originated this evil, but also in the city of Rome, where all sorts of horrendous and shameful practices from every part of the world converge and are fervently cultivated."
- Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (written in 112 C.E.)

He says that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Where does he get this info? The first possibility is that its from some sort of official Roman record. He seems to get a lot of his other information in this way. The second possibility is that he is dependent on the gospels. This is highly doubtful considering the fact that Tacitus has such a low opinion of Christians. He wouldn't have relied on their writings. But even if we concede that he did such a thing, then it says that Tacitus considered the gospels to contain accurate history. Either way, its clear that Tacitus believes Jesus (Christ) existed. He's in a far better position to know such a thing than you are. He had connections to Roman government officials.

There's plenty more on this topic, but this should keep us busy for now.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 03-08-2001, 09:33 AM   #7
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
As is the case with most ancient historical figures.

Polycarp

</font>
Most weren't seen as being god. Socrates' trial was recorded.
 
Old 03-08-2001, 09:57 AM   #8
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"Some ancient figures are known only second or third hand. Scores, however, are known from documents written at the time of their lives. Try Chinese history, for example. Even in western history, which is nowhere near as copius as Chinese, there are plenty of figures we know from works from their own hand (Caesar, Xenophon, Tacitus, many Emperors), archaeological evidence, and other sources. Christians often exaggerate the lack of evidence from antiquity as a cover for the embarrassing lack of outside evidence for their savior."

The mistake most Christians make is thinking that the alleged (and overstated) lack of "outside" evidence is a significant point. The New Testament is not a monolithic document prepared in a controlled environment by one person, or even one group of Christians. It contains many independent traditions of Jesus from at least Paul, Hebrews, Mark, Q, M, L, John, and James. All from the first century no less. Ignoring this variety of Christian sources would be somewhat akin to trying to find the "true" historical Ceasar by ignoring all Roman references to him.

As for comparisons to Ceasear to show that we do have strong historical evidence for other ancient figures is ridiculous. Of course Emperors and Governors who had temples and monuments built are going to leave behind more archeological evidence than a peasant religious leader in backwater Palestine.

For example, let's look at nonChristian references to the Apostle Paul. Although I have heard of skeptics who deny that Paul ever existed, I have never actually met one. By all accounts, Paul travelled widely throughout the Roman empire. From Palestine, to Asia Minor, to Greece, to Rome. In short, he was far more travelled than Jesus.

Paul interacted with a number of Roman authorities, from governors to local authorities to, perhaps, Ceasar himself. Paul also interacted with Jewish authorities in Palestine, as well as various other Jewish synagouges in the diaspora. In short, he interacted with many more religious and governmental leaders than did Jesus.

Writings? Paul wrote frequently and his letters were circulated across the Roman Empire. The only reference to Jesus writing anything is in the dirt.

Paul's Christian ministry probably lasted about 26-30 years. Jesus' ministry lasted, at the most, 3 years.

But despite Paul's travels, interaction, and writings, all of which surpassed Jesus' comparable ministry, I'm not aware of a single pagan or Jewish reference to Paul (I truly am open to correction on this point). Not Josephus, Tacitus, Philo, etc.

The moral of these stories:

1. The early Christian writings about Jesus provide independent and multiple attestations regarding his existence, life, and teachings.

2. Comparisons to the evidence regarding other historical figures such as Ceasar are ridiculously inapposite.

3. The fact that Paul, although having a longer and more geogrphically diverse ministry that saw many more interactions with Roman and Jewish officials than Jesus', escaped mention by Pagan and Jewish sources demonstrates the ease with which even succesful and influential religious leaders can escape such references.

4. I have no idea why the Chinese thing was mentioned. I have never heard it suggested that Jesus taught in China. In fact, nothing could be more irrelevent.

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited March 08, 2001).]
 
Old 03-08-2001, 10:02 AM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Orpheous99:
Socrates' trial was recorded.</font>
Umm. So was Jesus'.
 
Old 03-08-2001, 10:33 AM   #10
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Layman:
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Umm. So was Jesus'.</font>
Where can I find a copy? Did the Romans keep it, or Pilate himself?

Thanks.
 
 

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