EVIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANITY
THE BIG QUESTION?
DEAD SEA SCROLLS
SHROUD OF TURIN
OTHERS WHO WROTE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST
The gospels and the book of Acts along with the epistles and the book of Revelation were all written by individual authors. Each author used his own writing style and was moved by the Holy Spirit to write this new covenant of Jesus Christ. (“…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV®) These written manuscripts of the new covenant became known as the canon of the New Testament.
Jesus Christ became very famous throughout the intellectual world. Many men started to write about Him. Some agreed with Jesus, some did not. Some believed He was the long awaited Messiah the Christ, while others believed he was just a common religious zealot. Some even claimed he was a great prophet but not the Messiah or Son of God.
The resurrection of Christ took place in the early A.D. 30s. The original autograph writings of the gospels more than likely took place before A.D. 70. The date A.D. 70 marks the event of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The Jewish temple was destroyed. This event Jesus mentions as a future prophecy in the gospels. If the gospels were written after A.D. 70 the authors would have mentioned the burning of the Jewish temple as fulfilled prophecy.
Below I have written about many writers who wrote about Jesus Christ or Christians. Obviously I did not include everyone. I picked a few that caught my interest and I hope you will find these writers interesting. Let me mention once again not all of these writers had something favorable to say about Jesus or Christians.
Thallus (historian) A.D. 52
So far the earliest non-biblical author that we know of who wrote about Jesus would be Thallus. Thallus wrote about the darkness during the crucifixion of Jesus. Some scholars believe his words were written about 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion. This darkness that Thallus wrote about he confirms as a solar eclipse and not a miracle.
Thallus did not know you can’t have a solar eclipse on Passover which would have been the time of crucifixion. During Passover and Easter the moon is full. To have a solar eclipse the moon has to be in the phase of New Moon. Because during a solar eclipse it is the moon that is blocking the view of our sun, the moon would be in silhouette.
The original writings from Thallus are not available. We have quoted fragments from various writers. One of Thallus’ most quoted fragments is about the crucifixion of Christ from Sextus Julius Africanus who quoted Thallus extensively in his book History of the World. Here is the Thallus quote from Africanus about the crucifixion of Christ.
"On the whole world 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. This darkness Thallus, in the 263 third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior fails on the day before the passover but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun?"
—Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1
Lucius Annaeus Seneca 3 B.C. – A.D. 65
Seneca was born in Cordoba, Spain. For his education he went to Rome to study Stoic philosophy which was quite popular at the time. He was trained in the art of rhetoric and wrote and spoke to promote Stoicism. He also wrote philosophical essays, letters of moral issues, and nine tragedies [plays].
Stoicism taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment. A person of moral and intellectual perfection would not suffer such emotions. The stoics were not interested in what someone said they were going to do, they thought it was more important about how someone behaved or acted.
What interests many Christians about Seneca is that he wrote about all the cruel deeds that the Roman emperor Nero did to the Christians. Seneca was an advisor to Nero. There was an attempt to assassinate emperor Nero, Seneca was suspected of participating in this unsuccessful attempt. For punishment for his alleged participation in the assassination attempt Seneca was forced to commit suicide by slashing his veins.
Below is a quote from one of Seneca’s letters. Here is what he wrote about Nero.
“The other kind of evil comes, so to speak, in the form of a huge parade. Surrounding it is a retinue of swords and fire and chains and a mob of beasts to be let loose upon the disemboweled entrails of men. Picture to yourself under his head the prison, the cross, the rack, the hook, and the stake which they drive straight through a man until it protrudes from this throat. Think of human limbs torn apart by chariots driven in opposite directions, of the terrible shirt smeared and interwoven with inflammable materials, and of all the other contrivances devised by cruelty, in addition to those which I have mentioned!”
Epistulae Morales, Epistle 14, “On the Reasons for Withdrawing from the World.” —Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Flavius Josephus A.D. 37- 100
Josephus is probably the most well known Jewish historian of the first century A.D. I like many Christians have a volume of the complete written works of Josephus. Although he was not a Christian he did mention Jesus Christ. Here I have a quote taken from the 18th book of The Antiquities of the Jews.“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 amongst 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.”
—Flavius Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3
Josephus was known as a Jewish priest, soldier, and scholar. He helped his fellow Jews fight against the Romans. The Roman General Vespasian captured Josephus. Josephus won favor with the General by convincing him he was a prophet. Josephus told General Vespasian that Vespasian would replace Emperor Nero as the next emperor. When this prophecy came true Vespasian freed Josephus and adopted him. Josephus also witnessed the demolishing of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple. His famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews was published in A.D. 78.
,Ignatius of Antioch A.D. 50 – 110
Ignatius was a pupil of the apostle John. He was the bishop of Antioch. Ignatius quoted from the scriptures. He quoted Matthew, John, Acts, James, 1 Peter, and Paul’s epistles. Ignatius also wrote letters to the church and one to Polycarp who was one of his friends.
Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and had Ignatius arrested. Trajan sentenced Ignatius to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena at Rome. Two lions immediately ate him. Authors do not agree on the date of his birth or death. Ignatius was very enthusiastic to die for the name of Jesus Christ. He wrote, “May the wild beasts be eager to rush upon me. If they be unwilling I will compel them. Come, crowds of wild beasts; come tearings and manglings, wracking of bones and hacking of limbs; come, cruel tortures of the devil; only let me attain unto Christ.”
Here is another sampling of writings from Ignatius.
For I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the resurrection; and when He came to Peter and his company, He said to them, “Lay hold and handle me, and see that I am not a demon without body.” And straightway they touched Him, and they believed, being joined unto His flesh and His blood. Wherefore also they despised death, nay they were found superior to death. And after His resurrection He ate with them and drank with them as one in the flesh, though spiritually He was united with the Father.
Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) A.D. 61-112
Look at the correspondence here from a letter written by Plinius Secundus who is known as Pliny the Younger. Secundus was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. He wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan. I only quoted a few sentences from the long letters. Obviously Secundus was no lover of Christians and either was Emperor Trajan.
“…I interrogated them [Christians] whether they were in fact Christians; if they confessed it, I repeated the question twice, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed…”
“…Those who denied they were, or had ever been, Christians, and who repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered formal worship with libation and frankincense, before your statue, [Emperor Trajan] which I had ordered to be brought into Court for that purpose, together with those of the gods, and who finally cursed Christ—none of which acts, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing—these I thought it proper to discharge…”
Marcus Ulpius Trajan A.D. 52-117
Trajan was born at Italica, Spain on September 18, A.D. 52. What is confusing is his father shares the exact same name. His father was a senator and became governor of Syria. Emperor Trajan who is the son of the governor of Syria started his career serving in the Syrian military while his father was governor.
Through Emperor Trajan Rome reached its height of success. Trajan was noted for his many public building programs and his social welfare policies. He hated Christianity like most rulers who saw this new religion as a threat to Rome.
Below is a letter that the Emperor wrote back to Pliny the Younger. (Plinius Secundus) This letter is a reply to the letter above. I have only quoted a small part of the letter.
“My dear Secundus”: [Pliny the Younger] “You have acted with perfect correctness in deciding the cases of those who have been charged before you with being Christians… “
“[I]f they are charged and convicted, they must be punished, provided that anyone who denies that he is a Christian and gives practical proof of that by invoking our gods is to be pardoned on the strength of this repudiation…”,
Cornelius Tacitus A.D. 55-117
It has been said that Cornelius Tacitus was the greatest historian of ancient Rome. The date of his birth is somewhat debatable. Some authors have given him a birth date as early as A.D. 52. In his later years he was governor of Asia. Pliny the Younger knew him well as a friend. In one of his writings in his annals he writes about Emperor Nero. In A.D. 64 there was a great fire in Rome. Rumors were circulating that Nero instigated the fire. Nero wanted that rumor removed. Tacitus wrote about Nero’s idea to blame the Christians for the fire. Here is a sampling of the writing of Tacitus.
“…Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vises, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, [Χριστóς] the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus…”
“…the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night.”
Lucian of Samosata A.D. 125-180
Lucian was a second century Greek writer by profession. He was born in Samosata of Commagene which became part of the Roman Empire. The province he lived in was Syria, he called himself a Syrian.
He was a novelist and satirist. More than 80 works of literature has been credited to his name. What has interested me about his writings is that he wrote a novel that today we would probably label as science fiction. It was a story about a voyage to the moon and the planet Venus. The name of the novel was “A True Story.” This was two thousand years before authors Jules Verne and H. G. Wells would be known as the pioneers of modern day science fiction.
Lucian was no lover of Christians. He would mock and poke fun of them in his writings. One of his most famous satires where Pereginus Proteus is the protagonist is titled “The Passing of Peregrinus.” Lucian pokes fun here of the generosity and gullibility of Christians in this story.
One of his writings which many Christian apologists quote is below.
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
—Lucian of Samosata
Note: The dates above of these ancient writers are not absolute. Some theologians disagree in a few years over or under then what I wrote here.
MORE WRITINGS WILL FOLLOW. I HAVE MUCH MORE TO ADD ON THIS PAGE.
OTHER WRITINGS: END NOTES
5. Josh McDowell. He Walked Among Us; Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.; San Bernardino, CA 92402 (1988) p 35.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
2. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; p 37.
3. Flavius Josephus; Josephus, The Complete Works; Translated by William Whiston, A. M.; Thomas Nelson Publishers; Nashville, TN (1998) The Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3 p 576.
Ignatius of Antioch
2. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; pp 79-80.
3. Henry H. Halley. Halley’s Bible Handbook; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, MI (86th printing: 1997) p 763.
Pliny The Younger
3. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; pp 46-47 [quoted letter].
3. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; pp 47-48 [quoted letter].
2. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; pp 48-49.
Lucian of Samosata (Roman Empire: Modern Day Turkey
3. Ibid. He Walked Among Us; pp 53-54.