Tuesday, June 2, 2009

historical references to Jesus

I was recently reading through a special edition of US News and World Report. The issue was about the Da Vinci Code--it was released the same time the movie first showed. There were a spattering of"experts" from all sorts of backgrounds. Perhaps most objectionable was the interview with Timothy Freke (a rather unfortunate name...). He was asked, "In your opinion, is there any evidence that Jesus lived?" He replied, "None at all. The only evidence we have is fake. There is no evidence at all for the historical Jesus...." If he were to say that he did not believe in the Jesus portrayed in the NT, that would be one thing. He is denying the existence of any historical Jesus whatsoever. One does not have to believe the NT account of Jesus in order to believe in the historical Jesus. Here are some external sources that attest to the historical person of Jesus.

These quotes also affirm a number of details from the Gospel accounts:

"the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James..."
Josephus Antiquities XX 9:1

"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus…Pilate condemned him to be condemned and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship, They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders"
Josephus Antquities XVIII 33

“Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called 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.”
Tacitus (A.D. 55), Annals XV .44

“…the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.”
Lucian (2nd cent.), On the Death of Peregrine Suetonius (A.D. 120), Life of Claudius 24.5

“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigations of Christus.”
Thallus (A.D. 52), according to Africanus (A.D. 221)

“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably,as it seems to me.”

"On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu [Jesus] and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.”
The Talmud (A.D.500), Sanhedrin 43a

"What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished... But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."
Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion (after AD 73), British Museum.

Not only do these references show that a person by the name of Jesus,of Jewish origin, living in 1cent AD, in Israel actually existed, but these references also confirm these details from the gospel accounts(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and early church history.
1. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate at Passover
2. He was believed by his disciples to have risen from the dead three days later
3. Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery (cf. Mark 3:22; John 8:41)
4. The Christians could not be contained in Judea but spread to Rome
5. Nero persecuted early Christians
6. These Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings

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