The Righter Report

Jesus and first century historians

May 24, 2019

Skeptics of the historical Jesus often question why we don’t see more first century references to Jesus from early historians.

“New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, who served as an editor and contributor to a large scholarly work on the Gospels (‘Gospel Perspectives’), provides four reasons why more was not written on Jesus in his time: “the humble beginnings of Christianity; the remote location of Palestine on the eastern frontiers of the Roman empire; the small percentage of the works of ancient Greco-Roman historians which have survived, and the lack of attention paid by those who are extant to Jewish figures in general.” We know that about half of what the Roman historian Tacticus wrote is no longer available. Only a fragment of what Thallus wrote in the first century about ancient Mediterranean history has survived. Seutonius was aware of the writings of Asclepiades of Mendes, yet his writings are no longer available. Herod the Great’s secretary, Nicholas of Damascus, wrote a Universal History in 144 books, none of which have survived. Livy, the great Roman historian, has suffered a similar fate. Only his early books and excerpts of the rest survived.” 1

“We also know of several early Christian writings that are no longer available. For example, an influential church leader of the early part of the second century named Papias wrote five books that are quoted by several early church fathers. However, none of these books survived. Only a few citations and slight summary information remain. Quadratus was a Christian leader who wrote a defense of the Christian faith to the Roman Emperor Hadrian around 125. However, if Eusebius had not quoted a paragraph and mentioned his work, we would be totally unaware of its composition. The five books of ‘Recollections,’ written by Hegesippus in the second century, have likewise been lost.” 2

One other thing, it’s entirely likely that numerous other historical works were lost when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans in 70 AD. But we do know of at least forty-two authors, nine of whom were secular, who mentioned Jesus within 150 years of his death. Scholar Gary Habermas, in his Book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” (p.233), listed the following: 9 authors from the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude. 21 early Christian writers outside the NT – Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabus, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophious of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum. 4 heretical writings – Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, Treatise on Resurrection. And 9 secular non-Christian sources, including Josephus, Tacticus, Pliny the Younger, Phlegon, Lucian, Celcus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Seutonius, and Thallus.

References:

1. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, page 127
2. Ditto

Recommended reading on the historical Jesus:

“The Historical Jesus,” by scholar Dr. Gary Habermas;
“New Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” by former skeptic Josh McDowell;
“Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics,” by Dr. Norman Geisler;
“The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel,” and
“The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” by Dr. Gary Habermas.

God bless!

– The Righter Report

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May 24, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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