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Historians at Jesus' Time

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by thedeterminator, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. thedeterminator

    thedeterminator Newbie

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    Hi, historians at Jesus' time strangely enough do not mention anything about Jesus. The only things we have are later, like Josephus etc. Atheists back me into a corner over this. How in bible it says he was known far and wide, but no historians of the time said anything about him.
    Is it true that the early historians didn't say anything about the Jews or christians either? If that is true, that could be a major point that historians just weren't interested in Jesus and the movement in early christianity.
    Was it because Jesus was condemned to die as slaves did, and was probably little interest to roman historians? I need alot of info on this if anyone knows anything.
    Thanks,
    Erik
     
  2. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    History is rarely written up until after it happens, and is always written up by people with an interest in it. By the standards of first century Palestine what we have on Jesus is quite extraordinary - four gospels, a whole heap of letters and other documents, and some marginal notes in other writers. That's way more documentation than you get on Tiberius Caesar, emperor of the known world at the time of Jesus' death.

    The problem isn't lack of documentation, the problem is a lack of understanding of the realities of 1st century history.
     
  3. Martinius

    Martinius disciple of Jesus

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    Historians study the past; Jesus, when alive, was "current events". There were no newspapers, reporters, blogs, no other media during that time. News spread by word of mouth.

    Historians gather information from official documents, letters, writings, first person accounts, etc. Jesus wrote nothing, and his disciples likely wrote nothing during his lifetime. The only document would have been a record of a death sentence and crucifixion, one of many that occurred. No news there.

    No one interviewed Jesus or followed him around taking notes of what he said and did with the idea of writing a book, or reporting it. And as he was only one of many itinerant preachers and miracle workers in the area, who would have noticed? And anyone from Rome or the Greek world traveling in Palestine, hearing a story about a miracle working preacher who was the son of God, they would have not been surprised or impressed. They would have heard it all before.

    Jesus and his disciples only became "parties of interest" after he died, when trouble developed and Christianity was seen as opposition to Roman rule and Roman gods. That's when things started to be recorded and reported.

    Also, who were the historians? You mention one, and there were likely few others. And their interests were limited to their own world, be it Roman, Jewish or Greek. Even if there had been a "historian" around at the time of Jesus to record what was happening, why would they if they were Christians? They would have believed that the Kingdom of God was imminent, so why bother.

    Jesus was known "far and wide" but that term is misunderstood. His fame or notoriety during his lifetime was limited to the very small area of Israel and Judea.

    A good place to start is with a book detailing the early history of Christianity and the environment in which Jesus operated. You can find them in book stores and libraries.
     
  4. AlexBP

    AlexBP Newbie

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    Ask them whether they know any historians who were actually alive and writing history during the years when Jesus was alive and doing ministry. (30-33 A.D., as best we can tell.) I'm not aware that there was any Jewish historian actually producing history during those years, nor any significant attempt to record what took place in Judea prior to Josephus. There may have been active Roman historians, but I don't think there was any paying attention to the events in that part of the world.

    The Gospels do say that his fame spread after he performed miracles. However, fame is a relative concept. In a culture like that of the first century, someone might have been well known in one area without becoming famous worldwide. Galilee at the time was a poor, backwater region; you can think of it as the Arkansas of the Roman Empire. So it's reasonable that most literate and urban people would not have paid much attention to events there.

    Another tack is to compare it to other ancient historians. The most famous is the Greek Herodotus, whose book The Histories covers the war between Greece and Persia, including well-known events such as the Battle of Marathon and the last stand at Thermopylae. Herodotus wrote his work 40 years after the fact, which is, according to the best estimates, about the same length of time as between the ministry of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels.
     
  5. Bro_Sam

    Bro_Sam New Member

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    That's because historians deal with things in the past and not contemporary things.

    First of all, what about the Bible? There are numerous historical accounts of both the Jews and early Christianity.

    Second, you've got to remember that while every one knows about Jesus now and we see how significant those events were, when Jesus was crucified, He was, in the eyes of the Romans, a nobody. It wouldn't have made the front page in the Rome Inquirer. It would most likely have been filed on page 6 under a story about the dangers of chiseling tablets and while driving your chariot.
     
  6. Yekcidmij

    Yekcidmij Economist

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    In addition to the other good posts thus far, don't forget that we do have first century accounts of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, (Q, so many think), John, Paul, and James. Dismissing those is extremely bias, not to mention bad history.

    I'm a little attached to a thesis Richard Bauckham has too. His idea is that the stories in the gospel accounts often come attached with the name of the stories originator (in other words, an eyewitness). For example, in Luke 8 there are several stories that Jesus tells around Galilee. Bauckham believes that here, as in many other places, Luke specifically names the source(s) of the stories:

    8:2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities: Mary (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out, 8:3 and Joanna the wife of Cuza (Herod’s household manager), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.

    (see, Bauckham, Richard. "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses")

    What historians? There were about 3 other than the New Testament. Tacitus, Josephus, and Suetonius are really the only major historians of the period. Two of those are concerned with Roman history, not a backwoods Roman outpost in Judea, much less the even more remote Galilean Jews. It's not as if there were hundreds or thousands of historians writing as there are today. However, those historians do give a passing reference.

    And it would be correct to say that the earliest Christian movment wasn't of real interest to most Romans. But that changed rather quickly, especially with Nero blaming a fire in Rome on Christians (and I would include the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius to be due to Christians).
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
  7. Notamonkey

    Notamonkey Member

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    Pete wrote: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories, but that we were eyewitnesses to His Majesty."
    The sudden explosion of Christianity:plynee the Younger, Roman Governor of Bythania and Asia Minor 112A.D. " The Christians were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light when the sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ as to a God. He also refered to Christianity as "an eccesive and contagious superstition". It was acknowledged that it was spreading.

    Cornelius Tacideus 55-120A.D. He was not a Christian and was concidered the greatest historian of the time. " Nero fastened the guilt and afflicted the most exquist torture
    on a class hated for their abomination called Christians by the populus. Christus,(talking about Christ) from whom the name had it's origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tyberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus check for the moment, again broke out, not only in Judea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome."

    Julieus Africanus 221A.D. found a reference in the writings of Thalus who wrote a history of the Eastern Mediteranian around 52A.D. Who was trying to explain the darkness that covered the land during Jesus' crucifixtion as solar eclipse that wouldn't make sense when it was know that a solar eclipse couldn't take places during a full moon that was during the pass-over season.

    Flaveus Josepheus 37-97A.D. a Jewish and Roman historian said this:
    " At this time, there was a wise man who was known called, Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and die and those who had become his deciples did not abandon his dicipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixtion and that he was alive. Accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah concerning who the Prophets have recounted wonders."

    How could Christianity spread when Jesus predicted He would rise from the dead if he didn't? He would have been exposed as a fraud and no one would have followed Him on pain of death or tortue for a known lie as the diciples did. WHAT DID THEY HAVE TO GAIN IF IT WAS A HOAX?
     
  8. Yekcidmij

    Yekcidmij Economist

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    Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome. (Suetonius, Claudius 25.1-5)

    What is interesting about this is that (1) "Chrestus" appears to be a variant spealling of "Christus" or "Chrestos", or it's possible that considering the insignificance of the early Christian movement, Suetonius didn't really understand who "Chrestus" was and so he just didn't spell it correctly. (2) This is further enhanced by a mention of this same event in Acts:

    18:1 After this Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 18:2 There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to depart from Rome.

    It certainly appears to me that two of the earliest and most influential Christians were a part of the same group that had been expelled from Rome by Claudius. Given this, it certainly seems that the "Chrestus" who was instigating the disturbances in Rome were probably Jews who were doing things in the name of Christ. This would also be an indication of a christian church in Rome by AD 41.
     
  9. marktheblake

    marktheblake Member

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    There is no reason why they should. There was no CNN in these days, and Jesus public life did not last very long. It would seem that the biggest impact of his ministry occurred after the resurecton.

    In any case one would exempt his contemporaries to write about him, and they did. Four independent accounts of his life and then remainder of the NT as built on that.
     
  10. AlexBP

    AlexBP Newbie

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    marktheblake, I just wan't to say that I love your signature line.
     
  11. Notamonkey

    Notamonkey Member

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    Note that these historical writings are not from the time that Jesus lived but are well within the life-times of the eyewitnesses.
     
  12. texastig

    texastig The diablo is in the phone booth dialing 911

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    The Apostle Paul was not an eyewitness when Christ resurrected because he was still a Pharisee and was hostile to Christ. But he was a post resurrection eyewitness.


    30 A.D.: Jesus is crucified. (+0)
    31 A.D.: The early creed originates around this time.
    32 A.D.: Saul of Tarsus seen the post resurrected Christ and is converted.
    35 A.D.: Paul receives the early creed from Peter, John and James in Jerusalem.
    55 A.D.: 1 Corinthians is written. (+25)
    70 A.D.: Mark is written.(+40)
    80 A.D.: Matthew is written. (+50)
    85 A.D.: Luke is written. (+55)
    95 A.D.: John is written. (+65)



    Scholars unanimously accept seven of the thirteen Pauline books as being authored by the Apostle Paul and authentic.
    The seven authentic epistles of the Apostle Paul are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philipians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians and Philemon.


    Paul the Apostle had seen the post resurrected Christ.

    From Dr. Gary Habermas
    (1) Contemporary critical scholars agree that the Apostle Paul is the primary witness to the early resurrection experiences. A former opponent (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:4-7), Paul states that the risen Jesus appeared personally to him (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; Gal. 1:16). The scholarly consensus here is attested by atheist Michael Martin, who avers: “However, we have only one contemporary eyewitness account of a postresurrection appearance of Jesus, namely Paul’s.”[3]
    [3] Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1991), 81.
    (2) In addition to Paul’s own experience, few conclusions are more widely recognized than that, in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff., Paul records an ancient oral tradition(s). This pre-Pauline report summarizes the early Gospel content, that Christ died for human sin, was buried, rose from the dead, and then appeared to many witnesses, both individuals and groups.
    Paul is clear that this material was not his own but that he had passed on to others what he had received earlier, as the center of his message (15:3). There are many textual indications that the material pre-dates Paul. Most directly, the apostle employs paredoka and parelabon, the equivalent Greek terms for delivering and receiving rabbinic tradition (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23). Indirect indications of a traditional text(s) include the sentence structure and verbal parallelism, diction, and the triple sequence of kai hoti Further, several non-Pauline words, the proper names of Cephas (cf. Lk. 24:34) and James, and the possibility of an Aramaic original are all significant. Fuller attests to the unanimity of scholarship here: “It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition.”[4] Critical scholars agree that Paul received the material well before this book was written.[5]
    [4] Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1980), 10.
    [5] Of the vast number of scholars who agree, some examples include John Kloppenborg, “An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Formula in 1 Cor 15:3b-5 in Light of Some Recent Literature,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 40 (1978), especially 351, 360; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor 15:3-7,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 43 (1981), 582-589; John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 2001), Vol. 2:139; Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 277; Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsberg, 1983), 97-99.
     
  13. thedeterminator

    thedeterminator Newbie

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    thanks guys, alot of great input here. Are there any books you all could point me to in relation to this matter? I have/will study all these great responses.
    erik
     
  14. marktheblake

    marktheblake Member

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    :thumbsup: What signature? I cant see any signatures.
     
  15. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Writer of pictures.

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    First century historians had a living to make. They could not sell masses of books, because there were none. Their works were hand written on very, very expensive scrolls, and only the very rich could afford to buy them.

    Therefore, they wrote about the very rich, and extolled the virtues of their families as much as they could. Which is why Roman histories are full of detail about Patrician families, and do not bother to mention the poor, dispossessed and humble.

    In essence, God came in under the radar.

    I believe Tacitus does mention the Christians, in passing, pretty well as Josephus does. The very best evidence for Christians is the Christian church, however. It is like looking at a tree in your garden. Just because you cannot see the roots, do you assume that they are not there? Or do you rather assume that a tree without roots would not be able to survive, and so the roots can be accepted, without being seen?

    It is the same with the church.
     
  16. AlexBP

    AlexBP Newbie

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    Lee Strobel's has written two excellent books that introduce readers to the issues surrounding what we know about the life of Jesus, The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus. Craig Blomberg's book The Historical Reliability of the Gospels is more thorough and academic. The author is a professor at Denver Seminary in Colorado. I've also heared many people recommend The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, though I haven't read it myself.
     
  17. marktheblake

    marktheblake Member

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    +1
    Blomberg is interviewed by Strobel in both those books from memory, and covers this exact topic in detail. So if you were going to buy just one book, grab a Strobel
     
  18. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    What is it that you seek?

    There is no 'history' of Jesus so you will never find one. As has been pointed out historians where not really needed back in those days.

    The gospels may or may not be reliable sources and there is scan other evidence.

    So, what is it that you seek?
     
  19. tomarnold

    tomarnold Newbie

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    Essentially every historian of his time made at least some mention of Christ or his church. In addition to letters between believers in the first 3 centuries, in at least 6 languages, which can recontruct 98% of the New Covanant Scriptures. This attests to the accuracy of the Word, and how widespread it was so soon. It would be impossible to alter- add or change- anything in the Word of God because it spread so quick and was so widely published any fraudulant stories would have immidiately been noticed and dealt with.
     
  20. tomarnold

    tomarnold Newbie

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    By the way, the Gospel was initially spread among eye witnesses of Christ- in Israel. Yet there is not ONE SINGLE historical work documenting anyone disputing the claims of the Gospels from that era. If they were not historically accurate, miracles and all, someone would have spoken up immidiately.