In the last article I introduced the new problem of defending the historicity of Jesus the man. And spent time “setting the goalposts” in such a way that there will be no room for wiggling away from what the evidence shows.
When last we left out heroes I suggested that the case should be so fragile when robbed of it’s precious ambiguity that it would almost fall on it’s own weight, and I proposed in this article to blow it out of the park.
Since evidence abounds, I won’t bore you by defending all of it, only some of my favorite early, non-christian extra-biblical sources. But just to give us all a sense of the mountain I’m mining from, let’s briefly list off what sources I won’t be using:
The 13 Cannonical Pauline Epistles (Romans, Ephesians…) the Non-Canonical Pauline Epistles (0 Corinthians, the Harsh Letter…) The Cannonical Non-Pauline Epistles (1,2,3 John, 1,2 Peter…) The 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke…) The Apocryphal Gospels (Thomas, Judas, Mary) The Q Document, The Acts of The Apostles, The Ancient Christian Creeds, Early Church Fathers (Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome…) And everything midevil, no matter how reluctant the source (Toletoth Jesu…)
For our purposes, we will assume that all of these documents, or more accurately, all of these groups of documents are inadmissible. We’ll assume that they are either a part of, or a result of, the most elaborate and ridiculously unnecessary prank in the history of pranks that every early christian was in on, and willing to be martyred to protect.
What else have we got?
Well for starters, There’s Mara Bar Serapion:
For what benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death, seeing that they received as retribution for it famine and pestilence? Or the people of Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, seeing that in one hour the whole of their country was covered with sand? Or the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them? For with justice did God grant a recompense to the wisdom of all three of them. For the Athenians died by famine; and the people of Samos were covered by the sea without remedy; and the Jews, brought to desolation and expelled from their kingdom, are driven away into every land. Nay, Socrates did “not” die, because of Plato; nor yet Pythagoras, because of the statue of Hera; nor yet the Wise King, because of the new laws which he enacted.
This was written before the year 200 and possibly as early as 73, predating even some biblical books. To my knowledge no scholar anywhere denies the authenticity of the text, but some claim that it does not nessicarily refer to Jesus and might refer to some other wise Jewish king murdered just before the decline of Judea…
Well there were of course no kings during that time considering the Romans were occupying them. but just to be super safe let’s do another one. How about Tacitus, the roman historian who between AD 56 and 117 wrote the following:
Nero fastened the guilt of starting the blaze and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [Chrestians] 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, Pontious Pilatious, 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 centre and become popular.
Even Bart Ehrman, counts this passage as confirmation that Jesus existed, and suffered under Pilate. (Ehrman, is probably the worlds leading scholar on the new testament, and disagrees strongly with the claims of Christianity)
Here’s what’s even more interesting. Do you see that little typo up there? The original text had the word Chrestions instead of Christians, as the name of the followers of Christus (the Latin version of the Greek word “Christ”) it appears to have been corrected on the page but the original “e” is visible under ultraviolet light
Now consider this passage from The Twelve Caesars:
“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome”
Worthless without Tacitus, This now provides valuable corroboration to the claim that Christ existed, and his followers interacted with Rome in the first century. Both major roman historians of the period confirm it!
Is that all?
No, That’s not all, but that’s enough.
During this time in history, experts predict that there were probably hundreds of claims to messiahship in Jerusalem, among the people who didn’t believe Jesus was the real deal, he would hardly have been considered notable, and yet he apparently is…
It’s almost like something was going on here…
Wouldn’t you like to learn what?