WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW OF CHRIST FROMTHE BIBLE?

Some of the contemporary writers of Christ include;
Apollonius Juvenal Pliny the Younger
Appian Lucanus Plutarch
Appion of Alexandria Lucian Pompon Mela
Arrian Lysias Ptolemy
Aulus Gellius Martial Quintius Curtius
Columella Paterculus Quintellian
Damis Pausanias Seneca
Dio Christosom Persius Silius Italicus
Dion Pruseus Petronius Statius
Epictetus Phaedrus Suetonius
Hermogones Philo-Judaeus Tacitus
Josephus Phlegon Theon of Smyrna
Justus of Tiberius Pliny the Elder Valerius Flaccus
Valerius maximus

THE SECULAR CONTEMPORARY WRITINGS OF CHRIST
by David Anderson, June 2003


Either Immanuel Kant or Pascal had a proof of the existence of God that said that, in man there is incompleteness, "a hole." When man believes in God and lives a life with God in it, that hole is filled. So, there must be a God who created this hole in man. For others, this hole is due to the basic insecurities of life; the fear of death, the fears of life (loosing one's job, your love, your children, etc), the need to be important to society and individuals outside of yourself, the fact that life is not perfect, and being told that "there is a God hole in you." A "chicken and the egg" conundrum arises. Did God create the hole in man, or did man create God to fill the hole?

People used many different methods to answer this question, one of them is archeology and the examination of ancient writings.

This question and many others would be answered, if we could prove the Bible is true. We would know that God exists, what God is like and wants, and how to live a fulfilled life. One of the problems with this idea is that the Bible can neither be proven true or false. If you can prove that one thing happened, it does not prove it ALL happened, and vice versa. Conversely, many things happen without leaving historical evidence, or if it did, it disappears after a century (millennia) or two. There is also the possibility we have not found it yet, or if we have, do not understand it.

As far as examples of specific incidents from the Bible (turning the water into wine, Christ healing the blind, his trial, putting the ear back on the soldier, etc.) there are none. When I read the following quotations from the "contemporaries of Christ," one fact seems evident to me. The fact is this, even if we assume them to be valid, the only historian that comes close to "significantly" talking about the person of Christ is Josephus, and his most important mention of Christ is probably a forgery. Tacitus says that "Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in
the reign of Tiberius." This immediately follows his defining who the Christians were.

It does not say that this was Jesus, or that he performed miracles, etc. It also obviously does not describe anything abnormal about the events, or that he was resurrected later.

Pliny the younger says nothing of the man Christ, but talks about Christians, and their spiritual king and Savior Christ. Christians would sing a hymn to him, as to a God, and that they would NOT curse him.

Suetonius said "He (Claudius) drove the Jews, who at the instigation of Chrestus were constantly rioting out of Rome." Chrestus is a significantly different name than Christ, which was not a name but a title, his name was Yeshua (Jesus). It is also difficult to imagine Christ with enough followers to "riot out of Rome," or that he would have "instigated" such an act to begin with.

There has never been any question whether Christians existed in the early days, or that their founder, leader and savior was Christ. There also has never been a question if anyone had that name, MANY people back then were named Yeshua. What some have questioned is, "Are there records of people who have experienced, or at least seen Jesus first hand, or some of his miraculous works, as that mentioned in the Bible?" If someone said, he heard something from someone else, (ie. A friend of a friend), just as we should not give much credit to hearsay today, we should not give credit to the hearsay of centuries past.

Moving on to the last "contemporary." One of the eyewitnesses of the events of the first century Jerusalem was a Jewish Pharasee and rebel-turned-writer named Joseph ben Matthias. After fighting the Romans during a Jewish revolt, he decided to join the Romans and adopt a new name, Flavius Josephus. Being educated, the Romans saw a value in him and kept him in royal circles. This was an example of the value of a "liberal education." Josephus does say he was "a wise man," and "a doer of wonderful works." However, neither of these statements necessarily imply miraculous events.

Josephus's second mention of Christ, the part about "James, the brother of the so-called Christ," is for the most part accepted. But, there are many questions about, and problems with his first testimony of Christ (Testimonium Flavianium). In the first, he says Christ "drew over many of the Jews and Gentiles." In the gospels, Christ made no specific actions to accept Gentiles, this was a change brought about largely due to Paul.

It is also very unlikely many of the Jews were swayed. If this had happened, more contemporaries of the times would have written about it, particularly the Jews themselves. There is only one specific miracle mentioned that this Christ did, that was to come to life again after being crucified, his resurrection.

Other problems with Josephus's comments of Christ are as follows.
*He does call Jesus "Christ" but he never claimed to have become a Christian. Which is also odd because Josephus not only claims that he was resurrected, but that the divine prophets foretold "ten thousand wonderful things about him." This would have essentially been the same thing as admitting he had become a Christian, except he would not have been able to deny it later if need be. Josephus also never explained the difference between the Jewish and Christian definitions of "Messiah."

*Josephus also made numerous mistakes in his writings. For one, Salome the daughter of Herod, who supposedly wanted John the Baptist's head on a platter got her wish after Christ was crucified (33 or 34 AD).

*In Antiquities alone, nearly 40 chapter are devoted to a single king. Entire pages are devoted to thieves and robbers. But the Messiah as he calls him, this King of Kings, he devotes just a few lines, and never again mentions him in his 20 books contained in his "Antiquities" or his other books.

*The continuity of the narration is interrupted. A series of calamities is striking the Jews, and then in the middle of it is found the soliloquy, his wondrous awe of the Christ, and then back to the bloodshed. In literature, this technique may be used, but this was a historical work. Some think he would have been more concerned about technical accuracy that spinning a good yarn.

*Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom, Photius, all quoted Josephus (but not this first passage). Many of them quote the second passage concerning James the brother of the so-called Christ. Not one of them quotes the first. Then the director of the Vatican Library (Eusebius) where the document was held (its depository) first mentions the passage, four centuries later.

The following are some other historical opinions on this question.
At the end of the essay are copies in context of what they said "in total."

"The Jewish historian Josephus seems to refer to him, although at least
one of the passages mentioning Jesus is a later addition, possibly even a Christian forgery."
Encyclopedia Britannica
Vol 12, pp1016 "Jesus Christ"

"Josephus mentioned Christ twice; Once as the "so-called Christ," and once in a passage which in its present form has certainly been interpolated or altered, perhaps by a Christian editor, and may indeed be spurious altogether. It cannot be by Josephus for it implies the divinity of Christ.
Eusebius at the beginning of the 4th century knew this text in its present form.

Josephus was much used by the church fathers.
His History formed the bases of the medieval work known as Josippon,
a collection of stories about Jewish history."
Encyclopedia Britannica
Vol 13, pp90 "Josephus Flavius"

"Attempts have been made to refute the objections brought against this passage both for internal and external reasons, but the difficulty has not been definitively settled. This passage seems to suffer from repeated interpolations."
Catholic Encyclopedia
Vol. 8, pp523 "Josephus"

***Note: The Cath. Enc. has no discussion on ancient writings in "Jesus Christ"

"Most scholars have regarded the so-called Testimonium Flavianum – Josephus's reference to Jesus Christ – as interpolated at least in part."
Anchor Bible Dictionary
Vol. 3, pp990

Interpolate: To change (as a text) as in inserting new or foreign matter.
To insert (as words) into a text, or into a conversation.
Merriam-Webster

"But what has actually come down to us is a passage which describes Jesus as a wise man, a lover of truth, much beloved by his followers; it accepts his miracles and resurrection and hints strongly at his divinity. The passage is plainly a non-too-ingenious Christian invention and what Josephus actually wrote has gone. Attempts to reconstruct it have not so far won general acceptance…

When we turn to the earliest Christian sources, we enter a terrifying jungle of scholarly contradictions. All were writing evangelism or theology rather than history, even when, like Luke in his gospel, they assume the literary manners of a historian and seek to anchor the events of Jesus's life in secular chronology."
A History of Christianity
By Paul Johnson pp.21-22

In my view it is likely a forgery; not the entire document just the 1st part about Christ. For nearly a thousand years the Catholic church had absolute control over all religious (and most historical) documents of the west. During this time it forged and changed hundreds and possibly thousands of them. Sometime the motive was nothing more than to clarify something, other times the motive is not clear.

In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon said the following;
First paragraph of Chapter #15 (volume #1) illustrates an admiration of Christianity.
"A candid but rational inquiry into the progress and establishment of Christianity may be considered as a very essential part of the history of the Roman empire. While that great body was invaded by open violence or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigor from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capitol.

Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman Empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of humankind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa, and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili in a world unknown to the ancients."

The meaning of his final paragraph in Chapter #15 (and of volume #1)
I leave to the reader.
"But how shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world, to those evidences which were represented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, daemons were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle,
and pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.

Under the reign of Tiberius, the whole earth, or at least a celebrated province of the Roman empire, was involved in a preternatural darkness of three hours. Even this miraculous event, which ought to have excited the wonder, the curiosity, and the devotion of mankind, passed without notice in an age of science and history.

It happened during the lifetime of Seneca and the elder Pliny, who must have experienced the immediate effects, or received the earliest intelligence, of the prodigy. Each of these philosophers, in a laborious work, has recorded all the great phenomena of Nature, earthquakes, meteors comets, and eclipses, which his indefatigable curiosity could collect. Both the one and the other have omitted to mention the greatest phenomenon to which the mortal eye has been witness since the creation of the globe.

A distinct chapter of Pliny is designed for eclipses of an extraordinary nature and unusual duration; but he contents himself with describing the singular defect of light which followed the murder of Caesar, when, during the greatest part of a year, the orb of the sun appeared pale and without splendor. The season of obscurity, which cannot surely be compared with the preternatural darkness of the Passion, had been already celebrated by most of the poets and historians of that memorable age."

Some of the contemporary writers of Christ include;
Apollonius Juvenal Pliny the Younger
Appian Lucanus Plutarch
Appion of Alexandria Lucian Pompon Mela
Arrian Lysias Ptolemy
Aulus Gellius Martial Quintius Curtius
Columella Paterculus Quintellian
Damis Pausanias Seneca
Dio Christosom Persius Silius Italicus
Dion Pruseus Petronius Statius
Epictetus Phaedrus Suetonius
Hermogones Philo-Judaeus Tacitus
Josephus Phlegon Theon of Smyrna
Justus of Tiberius Pliny the Elder Valerius Flaccus
Valerius maximus

According to the Bible,
How are we expected to come to know God and the truth of Christ?
It is thru faith (Jn. 14:6, Jn. 3:18, Jn. 3:36, 1 Jn. 5:12, Acts 16:30-31, Jn. 8:24, Mk. 16:16 1 Cor. 3:11, Jn. 3:16, Jn. 6:28-29, Jn. 6:47, Acts 4:12, Acts 13:39, Rom. 5:1 Gal. 3:11, 2 Tim. 3:15, Heb. 11:6, Eph. 2:8-9, etc.).
If there was evidence of Christ, what need would we have of faith?
Does this prove that Christ never lived, or that if he did, then his message is not true? …or does it just prove the need for faith?

THE WRITINGS
JOSEPHUS: (37-100? AD)

*Antiquities 18.3.3 (93 AD)
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day."

*Antiquities 20.9:1 (93 AD)
"But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood,
was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned."


TACITUS (55-117 AD)

*Annals XV, 44 (115-117 AD)
"But neither the aid of man, nor the liberality of the prince, nor the propitiations of the gods succeeded in destroying the belief that the fire had been purposely lit. In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters. First, therefore, those were arrested who openly confessed; then, on their information, a great number, who were not so much convicted of the fire as of hatred of the human race. Ridicule was passed on them as they died; so that, clothed in skins of beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or committed to the flames, and when the sun had gone down they were burned to light up the night. Nero had lent his garden for this spectacle, and gave games in the Circus, mixing with the people in the dress of a charioteer or standing in the chariot. Hence there was a strong sympathy for them, though they might have been guilty enough to deserve the severest punishment, on the ground that they were sacrificed,
not to the general good, but to the cruelty of one man."


PLINY THE YOUNGER

*In a letter to the Roman Emporer Trajan (112 AD)
"Sir, It is my constant method to apply myself to you for the resolution of all my doubts; for who can better govern my dilatory way of proceeding or instruct my ignorance? I have never been present at the examination of the Christians [by others], on which account I am unacquainted with what uses to be inquired into, and what, and how far they used to be punished; nor are my doubts small, whether there be not a distinction to be made between the ages [of the accused]? and whether tender youth ought to have the same punishment with strong men? Whether there be not room for pardon upon repentance?" or whether it may not be an advantage to one that had been a Christian, that he has forsaken Christianity? Whether the bare name, without any crimes besides, or the crimes adhering to that name, be to be punished? In the meantime, I have taken this course about those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians or not? If they confessed that they were Christians, I asked them again, and a third time, intermixing threatenings with the questions. If they persevered in their confession, I ordered them to be executed; for I did not doubt but, let their confession be of any sort whatsoever, this positiveness and inflexible obstinacy deserved to be punished. There have been some of this mad sect whom I took notice of in particular as Roman citizens, that they might be sent to that city. After some time, as is usual in such examinations, the crime spread itself and many more cases came before me. A libel was sent to me, though without an author, containing many names [of persons accused]. These denied that they were Christians now, or ever had been. They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do; so I thought fit to let them go. Others of them that were named in the libel, said they were Christians, but presently denied it again; that indeed they had been Christians, but had ceased to be so, some three years, some many more; and one there was that said he had not been so these twenty years. All these worshipped your image, and the images of our gods; these also cursed Christ. However, they assured me that the main of their fault, or of their mistake was this: -That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles. These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition. Hereupon I have put off any further examinations, and have recourse to you, for the affair seems to be well worth consultation, especially on account of the number of those that are in danger; for there are many of every age, of every rank, and of both sexes, who are now and hereafter likely to be called to account, and to be in danger; for this superstition is spread like a contagion, not only into cities and towns, but into country villages also, which yet there is reason to hope may be stopped and corrected. To be sure, the temples, which were almost forsaken, begin already to be frequented; and the holy solemnities, which were long intermitted, begin to be revived. The sacrifices begin to sell well everywhere, of which very few purchasers had of late appeared; whereby it is easy to suppose how great a multitude of men may be amended, if place for repentance be admitted. Pliny"

SUETONIUS (70-160 AD)

Lives of the Ceasars (Claudius) (120 AD)
"He (Claudius) drove the Jews, who at the instigation of Chrestus
were constantly rioting out of Rome."

David Anderson