I don't think so... What about you?
I don't think so... What about you?
Absolutely. There's as much documentation about His life outside the Bible as there is inside.
I recommend the book "He Walked Among Us" to anyone interested in reading about non-Biblical documentation on the life of Jesus.
Pete, you troll. ;0
This turns out not to be the case, actually, unless something has come to light quite recently that I'm unaware of (and, hey, I'm no expert, just an interested party who checks it out occasionally).Originally Posted by Murph
The book "He Walked Among Us" takes the four gospels and discusses how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John experienced Jesus. It is all strictly from the Bible and a discussion of those works, if I remember correctly. It has been a number of years since I read it.
In fact, one of the problems with establishing whether Jesus actually lived, as a historical fact, is that there seems to be no record of his life other than the four Gospels, themselves generally considered to have been written from 170 to 180 years after the fact. Contemporary Roman records don't mention him, and the Romans were inveterate recordkeepers; it seems strange that Roman historians, of which there were many, would not mention someone crucified or who led a rebellion against Roman rule, as that was the Roman punishment for rebels and Palestine was a hot spot during this period.
During the period of 0 CE to the mid-30s CE, which would take in the bulk of Jesus' life, there seems to be no independant documentaton that mentions him (at least, to my knowledge). The one exception I know of is Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian born in 37 CE, four years after Jesus' crucifixtion. Most scholars think the two passages in which he mentions Jesus, as a wise man crucified by Pilate, to be forgeries added later by an unknown Christian source, as it appears completely out of context with the rest of the narrative.
Of all mentions of Jesus by name within two centuries of his death, there are a total of 4, and each is consider by scholars, both Christian and non, to be interpolations of his existence due to the existence of the Christian sect.
So, for many academics, the jury is still out on whether Christ was an actual historical figure or not. That doesn't mean he didn't live; only that there is no reliable documentation that I'm aware of to independantly confirm this as fact. Who knows? It may just be waiting to be found. We shouldn't forget the lesson of the 'myth' of the Trojan War.
Good post, Jessica. Is there no end to your knowledge? :) I've done some reading on this, including the textbook-like The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, which like the above cited He Walked Among Us, is more of a study of the Gospels rather than any true historical evidence.
Josepheus' entries could very well be forgeries, but the passages referring to Jesus are rather bland and matter-of-fact. I believe if they were forgeries, they might have been written with a bit more verve or at least detail. Nor did Josepheus record any of the "miracles," which certainly would have helped bolster the case of the early Christians -- if, in fact, his entries are forgeries.
I'm not debating with you, though. Just discussing. :) I realize neither of us are qualified experts.
Ultimately I think it doesn't matter. The lesson(s) is/are more important than the man.
He was definitely white, though....right? :wink:
It's interesting that the references to Jesus in Tacitus and Josephus are largely taken to be forgeries or interpolations and their references to Tacfarinas and Herod aren't.
From the Roman point of view, Jesus would have been little more than a minor local disturbance so I wouldn't expect reams of documents anyway, but even assuming that the Romans were inveterate record keepers, these records would be 2000 years old. For example, almost all of our knowledge of the late Republic comes from the writings of Cicero and (more importantly) commentaries on his writing. Plutarch refers to sources lost in the barbarian invasions, of course, but we have nothing now that confirms his accounts.
The Gospels are no worse as historical records of a man existing than Sallust's account of the Jugurthine War - the only contemporaneuos account we have of Marius - a key figure in Roman history. Mark was written in the first century, and would likely not have been much good for evangelizing if people in living memory could have said "I was in Jerusalem, and that never happened", or "I worked for the prefect around that time and remember no such incident". I'm not saying that they are perfect accounts - they aren't, but they are as reliable as ancient source materials as stuff we cite all the time.
The thing to remember with Tacitus is that he wrote the passage in question in 120 AD, when it was a widely accepted oral tradition among Christians that Pilate ordered Jesus' execution. That's where the interpolation comes from; it is thought that Tacitus was simply interpolating from common wisdom, not reciting history (those that don't dispute the authenticity of that Tacitus document itself; opinions seem to run aboiut 50/50). Your mileage may vary.Originally Posted by TSG
Good points. One could make the case that the Christians and Jews (actually more like one religion at the time, and treated as such by the Romans) were such a sore spot at the time and rebellions treated so harshly by the Roman overlords, that this would not be considered a small local problem. Perpetrators were made examples of, and it seems unlikely that a foiled insurrection would go without some official notice throughout the land, and that such notice would be recorded somewhere by contemporary sources.Originally Posted by TSG
Good points again. Let me just state that that that doesn't make those other ancient source materials particularly reliable, either.Originally Posted by TSG
I should also state I am NOT an expert, just an interested layperson with a tendency to argue, <g>.
It is amazing you haven't yet been hung by some group or other. :DOriginally Posted by Tyjenks
Perhaps I'm a bit rusty... where/when did Jesus lead anything resembling insurrection against the Romans?Originally Posted by Jessica
I used to try to convince my Baptist friends in high school that Jesus did not quite look like the pictures they had seen. I gave up as my head cracked before the brick wall I was dashing it against did.Originally Posted by Jessica
The power of blissful ignorance is astounding. :)
Another thing to keep in mind is that Rome's occupation of Jerusalem had the Jews looking for the messiah under every stone. Jesus wasn't the only messiah to come along. Zoroaster, anyone? Yet another messiah among the Jews probably wouldn't make much of a historical rippled among the Romans.
"The Gospels are no worse as historical records of a man existing than Sallust's account of the Jugurthine War...."
Sure they are if you want to use them to establish a historical basis for Jesus. The authors of the Gospels promote the words of Jesus. It's in their interest to claim he existed.
"It's in their interest?" What interest? These guys just got together and decided to invent a Messiah figure so they could form a persecuted religion and get executed for their troubles? It's not like there was any money in it, like Scientology. And no single revelation to one person only, like Joseph Smith and Mohammed. I'm not arguing in favor of Christianity, but it's pretty hard to imagine inventing a real life God who gets humiliated and executed by officials and public leaders everyone had heard of and respected - Caiaphas, for example - from not too distant memory. Maybe that's why I'm not an apostle.Originally Posted by Mark Asher
Luke and John are late Gospels and clearly full of symbology and Hellenism - maybe they could be written off as a cult trying to justify itself. But Mark - the least mystical of the Gospels - is 85-110 AD. The Romans were a superstitious lot, but quite careful about their official history.
Jessica, I take your point about Tacitus and the interpolations. It would be unusual, though, for Tacitus to rely on Christian oral tradition regarding an imperial execution, especially since he refers to them as "anti-social", "degraded and shameful" and "guilty" as Christians but not as arsonists (the discussion of Christians occurs in the context of the burning of Rome). Tertullian trusted these statements enough to condemn Tacitus for them, though this was a couple of hundred years after The Annals was written.
Oh, and a correction to my earlier post - Caesar makes passing references to Marius in his histories, but not enough to gauge his character by. So my comments on Sallust and Marius, though not factually correct, still kind of fit.
um, Zoroaster, or Zardusht and/or Zartusht in the Persian, aka Zarathustra, had absolutely nothing to do with the Jews and scholars are currently debating whether such an individual ever existed (it's a tenet of the religion that he did; however, the only references are in scripture and don't even really refer to him as a prophet. Some are saying he was a spiritual/mythological figure). Even if he did exist, we're talking way before Jesus - the religion was practiced by the Achaemenids - 550-330 BC.Another thing to keep in mind is that Rome's occupation of Jerusalem had the Jews looking for the messiah under every stone. Jesus wasn't the only messiah to come along. Zoroaster, anyone? Yet another messiah among the Jews probably wouldn't make much of a historical rippled among the Romans.
ok i know this is pretty generic as far as specific information, but i seem to remember reading these texts in college and there being some pretty specific information about non-biblical sources mentioning/dealing with/confirming the validity of at least Jesus existing. unfortunately, i don't remember the exact sources...look i just needed the "A."
Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Harris, Stephen. The New Testament: A Student's Introduction.. Fourth Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
of course i sold these texts when the class was done too...sorry.
Zoroaster had a very similar mythology. He claimed that he would someday return from the dead -- and his presence did have an effect on Jewish belief. It's believed by some scholars that the "wise men" in Matthew were followers of Zoroaster. But then, it's easy enough to find a scholar for every argument -- like the Bible being used to support nearly any political movement. :)
""It's in their interest?" What interest? These guys just got together and decided to invent a Messiah figure so they could form a persecuted religion and get executed for their troubles?"
I didn't say or imply that they invented Jesus, just that they are naturally biased towards promoting their beliefs, which makes them unreliable witnesses.
Let me put it another way. If you want to accept their writings as proof of the existence of Jesus, don't you also have to accept their recounting of the miracles? So the historical Jesus did walk on the water, did feed the masses, did raise Lazurus from the dead, and did himself return after death? The Apostles are either good witnesses or not, it seems to me, and I'm not making a judgement one way or the other. You can't accept just part of what they wrote if you want to use their writings as proof, can you?
I don't know... it's easier for me to imagine someone exaggerating or even inventing dramatic, convincing incidents than it is for me to imagine the same person making the entire existence up. I don't really see being required to accept all of it at face value due to accepting any of it as supportive. Not proof, sure. But supportive evidence.
Ah, from your original post, I thought you were saying Zoroaster was a contemporary of Jesus. Many Zoroastrian beliefs certainly influenced Judaism and Christianity, although I think the extent to which this is true is over-emphasized by proponents of the religion. None of this, of course, proves Zoroaster ever existed - that's what this thread is about, right? Because really the argument among Western scholars boils down to this: the Gathas are so beautiful and full of personality that they must have been composed by a single individual. I'm being only slightly facetious. And when I say "scholars" disagree with the historical Zoroaster, I'm not talking about the fringe.Zoroaster had a very similar mythology. He claimed that he would someday return from the dead -- and his presence did have an effect on Jewish belief. It's believed by some scholars that the "wise men" in Matthew were followers of Zoroaster.
That's not even remotely true. Jesus is mentioned in Roman history within a couple of generations of his death. Tacitus is the most important source. He refers to a "Christus" in the Annals, 15.44, which was written any time from the 90s through 130 or so (some critical opinions vary widely). Here's the relevant section, taken from an awful translation I found on the web just now:Originally Posted by Jessica
"But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."
Of course, there are skeptics who believe that this reference was inserted at a later date, but that seems ridiculous considering the nature of the work itself, and the negative impression of Christianity given by Tacitus. Also, there were not "many" Roman historians in this time period. Tactius is the only Roman historian whose work on this time period is relatively extant (and there are of course huge sections missing in both the Annals and the Histories). We've got Suetonius, who mentions Christianity briefly in the same context as Tacitus, but he wrote imperial biography, not history, and Christianity simply wasn't important or scandalous enough to warrant much effort. There's also a famous reference in the letters of Pliny to Trajan around the same time, but there is no specific mention of Christ. Others who wrote on the period considerably later have only survived in epitome, like Cassius Dio, and a few others wrote (Eutropius, etc.) in such brief passages that there is no room for digressions on a minor/hated/derided figure in the pagan world.
Nobody was much interested in the religion in the first century, really, as it was a minor cult at best. Only Nero's apparent use of Christians as scapegoats for the fire in Rome gets them any notice in Tacitus and Suetonius, as it served to outline the hideous nature of the emperor for the former and make the latter's work more salacious (as was the nature of imperial biography).
Most of all, though, Christ wouldn't have been a big deal to Romans. Nobody outside of Judaea would have heard of him. He was just another Jewish radical who had to be executed, and unlike some of his "followers" like Bar Kochba in the 120s and 130s, he accomplished virtually nothing in terms of revolt. He only became prominent during the reign of Nero, when the new cult had spread to Rome. So it's not logical to cite the absence of on-the-scene historical reports as evidence that Christ wasn't a real person. I personally think that there is enough in the early sources to state with fairly good certainty that there was a person named Jesus Christ.
Forgive my ignorance, but did any of Pilate's records survive? Or Herod's? Meaning anyone writing for Herod?
Oh, one more thing. It's nowhere near 50/50 on the reliability of Tacitus' reference; it's more like 90/10 in favor of it being accurate. Virtually everyone today sides with Syme--or they did seven years ago when I was still doing classical grad work. The passage only makes sense if you consider it as Tacitus' own work. A Christian surely wouldn't have been so nasty. If you're going to insert something, why not put something in that was positive, or at least somewhat neutral? Also, the section reads like Tacitus. And how would a monk copyist from the 11th century know that Pontius Pilate was in charge of Judaea at this time? That's been proven by epigraphical evidence, I believe.
And it seems equally tenuous that Tacitus was simply wrong. Yes, he could have been mistaken. But this was one of most tenacious historians in the ancient world, and it seems unlikely that he would have included the specific reference to Christus if he wasn't nearly certain that such a person existed. Anyways, it'll always remain an interesting subject for debate.
There was no serious Roman civil service in the first and second centuries. I mean, records were kept, but things were incredibly slip-shod in comparison with what developed in the third and fourth centuries--when things became so regimented and autocratic that the feudal system was essentially born (it's actually quite remarkable--the Roman world went from one without an organized legal system to one where you were bound by law to your parent's occupation in just two centuries). What papyrus records were kept have not survived, except in parts of Egypt and in bizarre circumstances like that cache in Britain and the burned family records from late antiquity found in Petra (which involves an incredible story of restoration; I got to see them working on the carbonized fragments in Amman in 1997). There is epigraphical evidence, of course, but there would never have been a reason to erect a monument or plaque to an executed criminal. I'm pretty sure there is epigraphical proof that Pilate was running Judaea for Tiberius, but that's as close to Christ as we're probably ever going to get.
I was about to post some things that Brett has already posted. From my readings, even most atheists who are historians of the era agree that Jesus existed. Whether he is who he said he was, or who many today say he is, can be questioned, but when I was studying this stuff in college (and in later readings) I don't think anyone without an agenda argues that Jesus didn't exist. In fact, I'm in the middle of a Roman history binge, and at least a couple mention other historical references to Jesus, and all of them speak of Jesus the man as a historical fact. The one here on the end table (Colin Well's The Roman Empire, Harvard Press) discusses the New Testament as a very good historical document for many of the details of the time. There's also some independent writings that relate to the martyrdom of some of the apostles.
Even my atheist ancient history prof in undergrad, who had a wonderful time trying to convince me of the folly of Christianity, did state that Jesus as a man who lived and was executed and was the source of what evolved into Christianity was something most historians accepted as fact.
What Jessica said - it's incredibly hard to find any scientific fact about Jesus' life (or not). The best most people can find is scientific fact about his legend, typically written (as she said) around 80-100 years after his death or more.
Bear in mind, at this point in history people lived pretty short lives, married young, and had children at a young age. 80 years would see four generations come, and at least two of them go. Most people didn't live past 40.
Even the Catholic Church acknowledges that the four gospels were written by other hands - the earliest documents were untitled and not signed in any way, and most of the apostles were illiterate (as most of the general populace was at the time).
Certainly there was enough "talk" about this Jesus fella 2000 years ago that it was written about in by many people in both religous and secular documents. But then again, in 2000 years such "proof" would lead our descendants to believe there was a Santa Claus. ;)
The point, of course, is moot. If you're just looking to learn from Jesus' teachings, well you can do that whether he was real or not -- the teachings are still there. And if you're a Christian and it is therefore important for your salvation that he DID exist (so he could die for your sins), then you don't need proof. That's what faith is for, and indeed the very reason they call it "faith" and not "fact." If it could be proven, you wouldn't need to believe.
If Jesus was fact, then Bush would have him arrested.
Think about it.
LMAO!!!!Originally Posted by Met_K
Its just amazing how many scholars we have here. Especially Jessica, who never ceases to amaze.
At any rate, while I believe that Jesus exists, I believe it with the same notion that with all the crap I've gone through, it had to take divine intervention to sort out. :D
Anyway, all I know is that, a thousand years from now - after the great apocalypse - nobody will be debating my existence. I intend to make sure of that. :D
I can't believe in todays technological age that people still believe that Jesus was this supernatural being.. and I can't believe that people still believe in a God. Stop kidding yourselves! They don't exist. Evolution is the only answer as any body with half a brain will tell you.
Look at it this way.. Poor people believed in Jesus because they wanted to believe that a better life was waiting for them when they died. And how about when lighting striked the ground or they had a massive flood. The people of that time thought God was punishing them. Now we know better... It's not God, but acts of nature that caused the massive flooding.
As I stated earlier... I can't believe that the people of this forum are debating whether or not Jesus existed. If Jesus did exist he was a con man who fooled a lot of people in his time. He was probably a drunk also...
So... Let's clear this up. God doesn't exist and Jesus was an average human being like us today. That's it...
There is no afterlife.. So stop fooling yourselves and anyone who is educated will also come to this conclusion. Live life to the fullest today because when you die that's it!