This first page is limited in scope:
1. To prove that a man named Jesus did exist and at the time reported.
2. To show that he was a religious leader and that a movement was started at that time also.
3. That the NT scriptures were written within a generation of the death of Jesus.
(Note: we are still not, at this time, dealing with claims of miracles.)
Evidence of early Christianity and historical accuracy of the New Testament (NT):
In Jesus' day, the Jews buried the dead either in the ground, or, more commonly in a rock tomb. The family would return several years after death, clean the bones of the skeleton, and then re-bury the bones in a stone ossuary, usually 40 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 25 inches high.
Greek or Hebrew inscriptions containing the name and identification of the deceased were often painted or engraved with an iron pointer on the sides or the lids of the ossuaries . . .
Many ossuaries were discovered that date to the 1st century in a cave near Bethany. Inscribed in Greek and Hebrew with names of many Christians listed in the New testament (NT). Some had inscribed crosses, some not.
Listed names in Hebrew include: Salome, wife of Judah (with a cross); Judah (with a cross); Simeon the Priest; Martha, daughter of Pasach; Eleazar, son of Nathalu; and Salamston, daughter of Simeon the Priest.
In Greek: Jesus (twice repeated with a cross); Nathaniel (with a cross).
Three found with name Eleazar (Hebrew form of Greek name Lazarus) along with the names Martha and Mary. - (John 11:1)= "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, from the town of Mary and her sister Martha."
Another catacomb holding 100 ossuaries found on the western side of the Mount of Olives. The practice of placing newly minted coins and the fact that coins discovered within were minted by the Roman Governor Varius Gratus (A.D. 15-16) indicate the tombs were used before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70.
- The Official Guide to Israel, which is produced by Israel's Dept. of Tourism, states the following:
"About seven hundred metres behind
Talpiot a tomb was excavated in 1945 and several ossuaries containing
human bodies were found. Inscriptions and coins proved that the
burial in the tomb took place in the years 41-42. Two ossuaries
were found marked with the word "Jesus," and some others
have so far been undeciphered. It has therefore been assumed that
followers of Jesus had been buried in this tomb. If this assumption
proves correct, this tomb would show the earliest historical evidence
known about the followers of Jesus." [Official Guide To
Israel (Tel-Aviv: 1950) 247.]
One ossuary contained a Greek inscription "Iota, Chi and Beta" translates as "Jesus Christ, the Redeemer".
Another found several years ago: Inscribed with "Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene," as well as a cross. (Mark 15:21)= "Now they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear his cross."
In 1945, many more found with crosses, 2 inscribed with name of Jesus, and one had a coin minted in A.D. 41 for King Herod Agrippa I, indicating it was sealed by A.D. 42.
Another found with inscribed crosses and the name "Shappira". This unusual female name hasn't been found in Jewish literature of that era, except for the book of Acts. (Acts 5:1, 5-10)= "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession...".
Another one from the first century, described in
the "American Journal of Archaeology" The text reads:
"After the name 'Jesus,' the exclamation or dedication read
"y'ho," meaning "Jehova" or "the Lord".
The full inscription on the ossuary reads, "[To] Jesus, "the
Lord," In light of the A.D.42 date for the sealing of this
tomb, the presence of this dedication to "Jesus, the Lord"
attests to the Christians' acceptance of Jesus Christ as God within
ten years of the death and resurrection of Jesus in A.D."
This inscription was made at least two decades before any part of the NT was written.
Discovered in 1992, the tomb of the High Priest Caiaphas of the Second temple period and his family was discovered. Caiaphas played a key role in the critical Sanhedrin trial of Jesus that ultimately led to the crucifixion of Christ. One ossuary contained a coin minted by King Herod Agrippa (A.D. 41-42) within the mouth of one of the women of Caiaphas' family. The ossuary of Caiaphas can be examined at the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem together with the Pontious Pilate inscription.
Here too. (off site)
Ditto. (off site)
Guess what? (off site too)
An inscription has been found on an ancient bone box, called an ossuary, that reads "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."
Click here to learn more - (off site)
Other Archaeological confirmations:
In a dig headed by the Hebrew University archaeologists, Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld and Oren Gutfeld, a cache of very rare coins were uncovered. Numbering some eighty-two (82) in all, fifty-eight (58) of the coins bore the image of Jesus. See a pic (off site/will have to scroll down some at the site!)
There is a fascinating inscription from Nazareth. It is an Imperial Edict, and it calls down the death penalty on anyone who steals from tombs. The inscription belongs to the time of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) or Claudius (A.D. 41-54).
Bearing in mind its early date, and its extreme penalty (grave robbers were not normally so harshly dealt with! ), and its location in Jesus' home town, it seems highly probable that this edict represents government reaction to the resurrection of Jesus.
It was once believed that Luke was a forgery because there was no evidence of a census, that Quirinus was governor of Syria at that time or that everyone had to return to his ancestral home.
First: Archaeology has proven that Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and also held census every 14 years. This was begun under Augustus and first took place in either 23-22 BC, or in 9-8 BC. The latter would be the one in which Luke refers.
Second: Evidence shows Quirinius was governor of Syria around 7 BC. This assumption is based on an inscription found in Antioch ascribing to Quirinius this post. As a result of this finding, it is now supposed that he was governor twice. Once in 7 BC and the other time in 6 AD (the date ascribed by Josephus).
Lastly: As for enrollment, a papyrus found in Egypt gives directions for the conduct of the census. It reads: "Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them."
In his epistle to the Romans written from Corinth, Paul makes mention of the city treasurer, Erastus (Romans 16:23). In 1929 a pavement was found inscribed :ERASTVS PRO:AED:S:P:STRAVIT ("Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense").
Archaeology has discovered most of the ancient cities mentioned in Acts.
The existence of Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene, who is mentioned in the 3rd chapter of Luke, has been historically confirmed by the discovery of 2 archaeological inscriptions bearing his name and office.
An ossuary found at Giv'at ha-Mivtar, near Jerusalem, contained the skeleton of a man who had been crucified. The 2 heel bones were transfixed by a single spike 6 1/2 inches long. The heel bones contained particles of olive wood. The leg bones were crushed by a violent blow that would have made it impossible for him to continue raising himself up to enable his diaphragm to take in air. This was done to quicken the death.
This proves that the Gospel of John didn't add this little detail of breaking legs to show that Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy. See a pic (off site/will have to scroll down some at the site!)
BONUS This is not directly related to the NT, but it is very fascinating!
Here are seven Chinese Characters that show that the ancient Chinese knew the Gospel message found in the book of Genesis. See pics (off site).
Babylonian Talmuds - written early in the 1st century to 200 A.D. contain many references to Christ. Sanhedrin in 43 A.D. writes:
"On the eve of the Passover Yeshu (Jesus) was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf. But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of Passover!". [Sanhedrin 43a; cf. t. Sanh. 10:11; y. Sanh. 7:12; Tg. Esther 7:9]
(Another version of this text says, "Yeshu [Jesus] the Nazarene." this alternate version makes the link to Jesus Christ even stronger)
Cornelius Tacitus - Roman Historian wrote in AD 112 about Nero's persecution of Christians, justified by Nero's false accusation that the Christians had burned the city of Rome. This lie was intended to cover up the fact that he, Nero, had set the fires to develop a large area in the center of the city as his palatial residence. Tacitus verified the explosive growth of Christianity within 32 years of Jesus' crucifixion, despite the fact that its founder [Jesus] was put to death as a criminal.
In the "Annals of Imperial Rome",
"To suppress therefore the common rumor, Nero procured others to be accused, and inflicted exquisite punishments upon those people, who were in abhorrence for their crimes, and were commonly known as Christians. They had their denomination from Christus [Christ], who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious superstition, though checked for a while, broke out again, and spread not only over Judea, the source of this evil, but reached the city [Rome] also." - (Annals 15.44)
Cornelius Tacitus referred to them again in a lost book of his, "Histories," of which an exerpt has been preserved by a later writer. In it Tacitus recognizes that Christianity began as a sect within Judaism, though by his time it was quite separate, and he tells us that the Roman general Titus hoped, by destroying the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, to put an end to both Judaism and Christianity, on the theory that if you cut the root, the plant will soon wither!
Caius Seutonius (AD 120) - Another Roman historian, court official under Hadrian, annalist of the Imperial House, says:
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (another spelling of Christus), he expelled them from Rome. - (Life of Claudius 25.4). - This statement proves that a significant number of Christians lived in Rome before AD 54, only 2 decades after Jesus. This is also consistent with Luke's account in Acts 18:2.
He also writes: "Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischevious superstition." - (Lives of the Caesars, 26.2). - This affirms that Christianity was a "NEW" religion that had recently appeared. It also confirms that Christians were known to perform miracles and healings.
Pliny the Younger (Caius Plinius Secundus) - A Roman Historian, served as a consul during the reign of Emporer Trajan and was later appointed governor of the Roman provinces of Pontus and Bithyna (Turkey) in the period AD 101-110. He was a rather pathetic, bureaucratic figure who was always writing letters to the Emperor. He also wrote that the Christians would not worship Emporer Trajan or curse Jesus Christ, even under extreme torture.
Pliny wrote that the Christians were: "in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god...".
He wrote that they (Christians) were spreading like wildfire in his province. Christianity was becoming a social and economic problem: "The pagan temples were closing down for lack of customers, the sacred festivals were becoming deserted, and the demand for sacrificial animals had ceased." Pliny executed those who admitted their Christian allegiance.
But he had qualms about it. That is why he wrote the Emperor. He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was discovered to be a christian, or if he should only kill certain ones.
He had discovered that nothing untoward was practiced in these meetings of Christians. Their whole guilt lay in refusing to worship the imperial statue and images of the gods, and in their habit of meeting on a fixed day (Sunday) to sing hyms to Christ as God (quasi deo).
"Their lives," he wrote, "were exemplary. You would not find fraud, adultery, theft, or dishonesty among them. And at their common meal they ate food of an ordinary and innocent kind." - (Pliny, "Letters," 10.96). - That is, no doubt, an allusion to the fact that Christians spoke of "feeding on Christ" in the Holy Communion; to the uninitiated it could sound like cannibalism.
Go to this site to see the complete letters between Pliny & Trajan (off site).
Lucian of Samosata - in Syria during the reign of Emporer Adrian in the century following Christ. Later he served as a government official in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote a book entitled "The passing Perefrinus" of a well known Greek traveler named Proteus, who was forced to flee his country after committing several crimes. Travelling the world under the name Peregrinus, he met some followers of Jesus in the early church.
Lucian wrote: "At which time he learned the wonderful doctrine of the Christians, by conversing with their priests and scribes near Palestine . . . they spoke of him as a god, and took him for a lawgiver, and honored him with the title of master . . . They still worship that great man who was crucified in Palestine, because he introduced into the world this new religion . . . Moreover their first lawgiver has taught them, that they are all brethren, when once they turned, and renounced the gods of the Greeks, and worship that master of theirs who was crucified, and engage to live according to his laws."
Letter from mara Bar-Serapion: - From a Syrian to his son, Serapion, to encourage him to follow the example of various esteemed teachers of past ages. This letter is listed as Syriac Manuscript number 14,658 in the british Museum.
It writes: " . . . What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? it was just after that their kingdom was abolished . . . the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion . . . Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."
This letter provides strong independent pagan corroboration that Jesus was considered to be "King" of the Jews.
Thallus - Pagan historian who wrote his "Third History", an account from the middle of the first century which may have been written close to the time when the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were being composed (50-75 AD). It is one of the earliest historical records of an event connected with the crucifixion - the supernatural darkness (Matt 27:45; mark 15:33; and Luke 23:45).
In this book, written in AD 52, only 20
years after the resurrection of Christ, he wrote:
"As to [Jesus'] works severally, and His cures affected upon body and soul, and the mysteries of His doctrine, and the resurrection from the dead, these have been most authoritatively set forth by his disciples and apostles before us. On the whole there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down."
Our account of this is from Julius Africanus, a North African Christian teacher writing in AD 215. I can only assume Thallus' work has since been lost.
Phlegon - Pagan historian from Lydia. Wrote in AD 138 he noted that this "great and extraordinary eclipse of the sun distinguished among all that happened" occurred "in the fourth year of the 202nd olympiad," which was the 19th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar as Emporer of Rome. He also indicated that the darkness that covered the earth began at the sixth hour, which is equivalent to our noon hour - precisely the same hour recorded in Matthew 27:45.
Our account of this from Eusebius, a Christian historian, in his "Chronicle" (AD 300) who quoted from Phlegon's 16-volume "Collection of Olympiad and Chronicles". I guess Phlegon's work has since been lost too.
Emporer Nero - An inscription has been found in the ruins of Morquofiae in the Roman province of Lusitania (ancient Portugal) that is clearly dated to the reign of Emporer Nero who died in AD 68.
The inscription reads: "NERONI. CL. CAIS AUG. PONT. MAX. OB PROVINC. LATRONIB ET. HIS. QUI. NOVAM GENERI. HUM SUPER STITION. INCULCAB PURGATUM."
Translated: "TO NERO CLAUDIUS CAESAR, AUGUSTUS, HIGH PRIEST, FOR CLEARING THE PROVINCE OF ROBBERS, AND TO THOSE WHO TAUGHT MANKIND A NEW SUPERSTITION."
Christianity was the only popular new religion that appeared throughout the Roman empire during the reign of Nero. It's also the only one to be needing of "Clearing out". The "Superstition" refers to the Gospel claim that Jesus had risen from the dead and was the son of God.
Flavius Josephus - Jewish Historian . . .
He was a Pharisee and priest who lived in Jerusalem and, later,
in Rome. He witnessed the dramatic events leading up to the destruction
of Jerusalem and the temple. He was captured by the Romans and
became friends with the Roman general Vespasian as correctly prophesying
that the general would become the Emporer of Rome.
As an historian with access to both Roman and Jewish government records, Josephus described the events in Israel during the turbulent decades of the first century of the Christian era. In AD 93, he published "Antiquities of the Jews", a history of the Jewish people. This contains passages about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, John the baptist, and James, the brother of Jesus.
Some liberal scholars believe these references are forgeries by Christian editors in later centuries. However, this would require PROOF! If scholars had found dozens of ancient copies of Josephus' book that failed to contain these passages, that would be evidence toward forgery. Yet not one single ancient copy has been shown to not contain these passages. All ancient copies of his book, including the early Slavonic [Russian] and Arabic language versions, contain the disputed passages.
Also, it has never been explained how a Christian editor could have altered each of these widely distributed versions during centuries following their publication. How could someone introduce a new paragraph in the middle of a COMPLETE TEXT???
If these Biblical events actually occurred, it is only natural that Josephus would mention them at the appropriate place in his narrative of that century, which they are.
Some want to argue that the style of this
passage is different than the rest or of his other writings, but
there are multitudes of others who say the style is authentic.
If you believe the style to be different, it still begs the question
of how they could have been inserted to all the copies that exist!?!
A virtual contemporary of Jesus, Josephus lived and wrote in Galilee and Jerusalem, where he would have naturally encountered many individuals (including Temple priests) who were personal eyewitnesses to the significant events in the life of Jesus. Had Josephus had any doubts about the existence of Jesus Christ, he would have never included details of His life in a historical record that would be read widely by both his contemporary pagan Romans and the religious Jews of his native land of Israel. (As we can still get eyewitness accounts of WW2).
The other passages are never contested
about their authenticity, only those that contain references to
NT events (And for good reason! Read below.).
The Jesus passage: "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 18.3.3.).
The James passage: "As therefore
Ananus (the High Priest) was of such a disposition, he thought
he had now a good opportunity, as Festus (the Roman Procurator)
was now dead, and Albinus (the new Procurator) was still on the
road; so he assembles 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." - (Antiquities
The John the Baptist passage: "Now, some
of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came
from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did
against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him,
who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue,
both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards
God, and so to come to Baptism; for that the washing [with water]
would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order
to the putting away, [or the remission] of some sins [only] but
for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul
was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. now, when
[many] there came to crowd about him, for they were greatly moved
[or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the
great influence John had over the people might put it into his
power and inclination to raise rebellion [for they seemed ready
to do anything he should advise], thought it best, by putting
him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not
bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make
him repent of it when it should be too late. accordingly he was
sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to macherus
(Massada), the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to
Wow! No wonder some would want discredit these passages known to be published in A.D. 94.!
If you have any more questions about theses passages by Josephus (or have more arguments against them), I suggest you go here (off-site).
Early Church Sources:
Historians have recovered almost one hundred thousand manuscripts and letters from the first few centuries of this era that contain an astonishing 99 percent of the almost 8,000 verses in the NT. Even if the Romans had succeeded in destroying the NT, we could still reliably reconstruct over 99 percent of its text from the surviving quotations.
There were some 32,000 citations of the NT prior to the time of the Council of Nicea (AD 325). And just by adding the number of references used by one other writer, Eusebius, who flourished prior to and contemporary with the Council at Nicea will bring the total citations of the NT to over 36,000.
Clement, the Bishop of Rome (A.D. 95) - also quoted extensively from the NT within 40 years of Christ's resurrection.
He quotes from: Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Galatians, Colossians, James, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, and I Peter.
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (A.D. 70-110) - In AD 70, only 4 decades after Jesus died on the cross, quoted extensively from the NT in his writings.
He quotes from: Matthew, Mark, Like, Acts, I Corinthians, I Peter, Hebrews, Titus.
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-212) - 2,400 of his quotes are from all but 3 books of the NT.
Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) - Quotes the NT more than 7,000 times, of which 3,800 are from the Gospels.
Hippolytus (A.D. 170-235) - Has more than 1,300 references.
Origien (A.D. 185-253/4) - Compiled more than 6,000 works. He lists more than 18,000 NT quotes.
Cyprian (died A.D. 258) - Used approximately 740 O.T. citations and 1,030 from the NT.
The NT Manuscripts:
The fact is is that we have over 20,000 ancient copies of various portions of the NT texts. Some manuscripts date back within 100 years of the originals, and many more within 300 to 400 years.
There are over 5,000 in Greek. There are over an additional 15,000 manuscripts in in other languages such as Latin, and Syriac that have survived from the first few centuries of the Christian era.
Also, ancient literature was rarely translated into other languages. But evidence shows that Greek originals were widely copied, distributed, and translated immediately into Hebrew, Syriac (Christian Aramaic), Latin, Coptic (Egyptian), Armenian and other languages.
Of all these copies that we have, they reveal minute differences of spelling and other minor variations. These minor discrepancies, mostly caused by some careless copying over the centuries, never bring into question a single important fact or doctrine of the bible.
Dead Sea Scrolls (100 BC -100 AD) - Nine NT fragments, if validated, would prove that the Gospel of Mark was written only a few years after the death of Jesus. The fragments include portions of the following: Mark 4:28, Mark 6:48, Mark 12:17, Acts 27:38, Romans 5:11-12), 1 Timothy 3:16, and James 1:23-24. See a pic (off site)
John Ryland manuscript (130 AD) - At the John Ryland Library of Manchester, England. Was found in Egypt. Because of the date and distance from Egypt and Asia Minor (place of composition), it is believed to show the original gospel of John was composed by the end of the 1st century.
The Beatty papyri:
p45: (150-250 AD); contains some (or all) of Mt 20, 21, 25, 26; Mr 4-9, 11-12; Lk 6-7, 9-14; Jn 10-11; Acts 4-17.
p46: (90-175 AD); contains some (or all) of Rom 5-6, 8-16; all of I & II Cor, Gal, Eph., Philp., Col, I Thess 1,2,5; all of Hebrews.
p47: (third century), contains Revelation 9:10-17.2
Chester Beatty Papyri (200 AD) - At the C. Beatty Museum in Dublin. Includes major portions of the NT.
II (150-200 AD) - At the Bodmer
Library of World Literature. Contains most of John:
p66: 150-200 AD, contains almost all of the Gospel of John!
p72: 200's, containing all of I & II Peter, Jude
p75: 175-200 AD, contains most of Luke 3-18, 22-24; John 1-15.
Diatessaron [meaning "a harmony of four parts"], (about 160 AD) - This was a harmony of the gospels done by Tatian.
Codex Sinaiticus (350 AD) - At the British Museum. Has almost all of the NT. Discovered in a waste basket in the Mount Sanai Monastery in1844.
Codex Vaticanus (325-350 AD) - At the Vatican Library. Contains nearly all of the Bible.
Codex Alexandrius (400 AD) - At the British Museum. Contains almost the entire Bible.
Codex Ephraemi (400's AD) - At the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
Codex Bezae (450 AD plus) - At Cambridge Library. Contains the Gospels and Acts in Greek and Latin.
And there are many more!
Does 100-400 years seem like a long time from the originals?
Consider other copies of other world texts.
They don't even come close to what we have for the New Testament:
|Author/Historian||When Written||Earliest Copy||Time Span from Original||No.
|Caesar||100-44 BC||900 AD||1,000 yrs||10|
|Plato (Tetralogies)||427-347 BC||900 AD||1,200||7|
|Tacitus (Annals)||100 AD||1100 AD||1,000 yrs||10|
|Pliny (History)||61-113 AD||850 AD||750 yrs||7|
|Thucydides (History)||460-400B BC||900 AD||1,300 yrs||8|
|Suetonius||75-160 AD||950 AD||800 yrs||8|
|Herodotus (History)||480-425 BC||900 AD||1,300 yrs||8|
|Sophocles||496-406 BC||1000 AD||1,400 yrs||100|
|Catullus||54 BC||1550 AD||1,600 yrs||3|
|Euripedes||480-406 BC||1100 AD||1,500 yrs||9|
|Demosthenes||383-322 BC||1100 AD||1,300 yrs||200|
|Aristotle||384-322 BC||1100 AD||1,400 yrs||5|
|Aristophanes||450-385 BC||900AD||1,200 yrs||10|
|New Testament||64-85 AD||120-150 AD||56 - 65 yrs||20,000+*|
*Manuscript copies range from fragments to whole texts.
What is the general
concensus for the dating of the writing of the Gospels?
They were written between A.D. 64 and 85. (30 to 40 years after the events)
Including other reasons, here are a couple:
Luke was written before Acts. And since Acts was written prior to the death of Paul, Luke must have an early date which speaks of its authenticity.
Mark, Matt, Luke were written BEFORE 66ad...Paul quotes Luke in his epistle of II Timothy as being 'scripture'...Paul died under Nero in 66ad...hence Luke had been written and accepted by the church much earlier than this...Luke SEEMS to be dependent on Mark/Matthew (according to most scholars today), which pushes them back even FARTHER.
Amazing internal evidence of early authorship - If the Gospels were written after AD 66, when the Roman legions invaded Galilee, or after AD 70, when the Romans burned the city and the Temple, the Gospel writers naturally would have referred to the fact that these events fulfilled Jesus' earlier prophecies made in AD 32 regarding the impending destruction of the Jewish Temple!
However, the synoptic Gospels are totally silent about the catastrophic events of Jerusalem's destruction, a disaster that affected every Jewish citizen throughout the land of Judea.
What this means is that the gospel writings were well in circulation BEFORE the fall of Jerusalem in 70ad...during this time Christianity was simply a 'sect' of Judaism, like the Pharisees or Essenes...they met in private discussion groups (open to anyone), yet came together at temple and synagogue...and given that many priests (with copyist skills and functions) became Jewish Christians (Acts 6.7), there is a high likelihood that the earliest writing DID circulate widely (at least the Sayings of Jesus...), after the model of Rabbinical 'students' who used note-sheets of their favorite teachers...
So, there WOULD have been ample exposure to the writings for rebuttal if desired.
Objection: If Jesus existed and was so famous, we should have heard a lot more about him in historical sources outside the New Testament and the Church Fathers. The fact that so little was written about Jesus indicates that he was the creation of the church.
On the contrary, the fact that we have as much information as we do about Jesus from non-Christian sources is amazing in itself. There are several reasons why Jesus remained a "marginal Jew" about whom we have so little information:
1. As far as the historians of the day were concerned, he was just a "blip" on the screen.
Jesus was not considered to be historically significant by historians of his time. He did not address the Roman Senate, or write extensive Greek philosophical treatises; He never travelled outside of the regions of Palestine, and was not a member of any known political party.
It is only because Christians later made Jesus a "celebrity" that He became known.
Comparing Jesus to Alexander notes that Alexander "so greatly altered the political situation in a large part of the world that the main outline of his public life is very well known indeed.
Jesus did not change the social, political and economic circumstances in Palestine (Note: It was left for His followers to do that!).
Roman writers could hardly be expected to have foreseen the subsequent influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire and therefore to have carefully documented" Christian origins. How were they to know that this minor Nazarene prophet would cause such a fuss?
2. Jesus was executed as a criminal, providing him with the ultimate marginality.
This was one reason why historians would have ignored Jesus. He suffered the ultimate humiliation, both in the eyes of Jews (Deut. 21:23 - Anyone hung on a tree is cursed!) and the Romans (He died the death of slaves and rebels.).
On the other hand, Jesus was a minimal threat compared to other proclaimed "Messiahs" of the time. Rome had to call out troops to quell the disturbances caused by the unnamed Egyptian referenced in the Book of Acts .
In contrast, no troops were required to suppress Jesus' followers. To the Romans, the primary gatekeepers of written history at the time, Jesus during His own life would have been no different than thousands of other everyday criminals that were crucified.
3. Jesus marginalized himself by being occupied as an itinerant preacher.
Of course, there was no Palestine News Network, and even if there had been one, there were no televisions to broadcast it. Jesus never used the established "news organizations" of the day to spread His message. He travelled about the countryside, avoiding for the most part (and with the exception of Jerusalem) the major urban centers of the day.
4. Jesus' teachings did not always jibe with, and were sometimes offensive to, the established religious order of the day.
It has been said that if Jesus appeared on the news today, it would be as a troublemaker. He certainly did not make many friends as a preacher.
5. Jesus lived an offensive lifestyle and alienated many people.
He associated with the despised and rejected: Tax collectors, prostitutes, and the band of fishermen He had as disciples.
6. Jesus was a poor, rural person in a land run by wealthy urbanites.
Yes, class discrimination was alive and well in the first century also!
What about all those OTHER writers of the time who didn't write about Jesus?
We have very little information from first-century sources to begin with. Not much has survived the test of time from A.D. 1 to today.
Here is a list of the non-Christian writings of the Roman Empire (other than those of Philo) which have survived from the first century and do not mention Jesus:
An amateurish history of Rome by Vellius Paterculus, a retired army officer of Tiberius. It was published in 30 A.D., just when Jesus was getting started in His ministry.
An inscription that mentions Pilate.
Fables written by Phaedrus, a Macedonian freedman, in the 40s A.D.
From the 50s and 60s A.D.,-Bookends set a foot apart on a desk could enclose the works from these significant years. Included are:
-> philosophical works and letters by Seneca;
-> a poem by his nephew Lucan;
-> a book on agriculture by Columella, a retired soldier;
-> fragments of the novel Satyricon by Gaius Petronius;
-> a few lines from a Roman satirist, Persius;
-> Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis;
-> fragments of a commentary on Cicero by Asconius Pedianus,
-> and finally, a history of Alexander the Great by Quinus Curtius.
Of all these writers, only Seneca may have conceivably had reason to refer to Jesus. But considering his personal troubles with Nero, it is doubtful that he would have had the interest or the time to do any work on the subject.
From the 70s and 80s A.D., we have some poems and epigrams by Martial, and works by Tacitus (a minor work on oratory) and Josephus (Against Apion, Wars of the Jews). None of these would have offered occasion to mention Jesus.
From the 90s, we have a poetic work by Statius; twelve books by Quintillian on oratory; Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law Agricola, and his work on Germany.
Why weren't books written
(1) The early Christians were so busy preaching their good news all over the world that they would have been slow to think about writing it down. They were precipitating a religious movement that spread at an astononishing speed. Their priority was not writing books but making disciples.
(2) Ancient people preferred the spoken word to the written. Books were for those who had poor memories. And the ancient world prided itself on its memory.
(3) Book production was very laborious and expensive before the days of printing. It was not something to tangle with unless you had to.
By the sixties of the first century the Christians felt they had to. The generation of eyewitnesses was beginning to die off.
SUMMARY: All the evidence points to the scriptures as being historically reliable . Absolutely nothing turned up has ever shown the New Testament to be in error. In fact, archaeology is constantly validating it. The New Testament has proven itself to be a credible witness to the events surrounding Jesus.
If you have refutations of this historical evidence, I suggest that you proceed to this web-site. It should answer any questions you may have. (Off site).
Now that we've viewed the evidence for Jesus the person, we need to go to: The claims of Jesus' divinity.
11A. He meant it literally
11111. It is True------------------------------------------He is Lord
11112. It is False
111111a. He knew it was false-------------------------He was a Liar
111111b. He didn't know it was false------------------He was a Lunatic
11B. He meant it non-literally, mystically-------------He was a Guru
II. Jesus never claimed divinity--------------------------He is a Myth
11A. Jesus rose-------------------------------------------He is Lord
11B. Jesus didn't rise
11111. The apostles were deceived--------------------He was an Hallucination
11112. The gospel writers were myth-makers-------He is a Myth
11113. The apostles were deceivers-------------------He is a Conspiracy
IV. Jesus didn't die----------------------------------------It was a case of Swoon
Here is a list of the gazillions of OT prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.
Do you still need more evidence?
Here is a quick note on "miracles".
Are you still not sure?
A broad overview of the world's major religions.
My favorite sites .
Here's my version of the crucifixion .
Contact me via e-mail.