Friday, July 5, 2013

ANCIENT DOCUMENTS (BESIDES THE NEW TESTAMENT) THAT MENTION JESUS

The 26 books of the New Testament are among the most reliable ancient documents that we have and have been confirmed in multiple ways. They were written by eyewitnesses (apostles) or by those who were companions of eyewitnesses (apostles). So they are by far our best source for understanding who Jesus is. These 26 documents represent the testimony of no less than seven different eyewitnesses.

Nevertheless, most skeptics will not accept biblical sources when it comes to the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. They usually want extrabiblical sources (sources outside of the Bible) with the thought that there will not be any or perhaps very few sources that make mention of Jesus. In order to show that this does nothing to support their case or their claims, below is a list of non-Biblical historical sources dating between 30-180 years after Jesus lived. 

(Note: This list was orignally compiled by my friend Shawn White (see links below). I gave him a little input at the time and have adapted it and added to it since then.)



SOURCES WRITTEN DURING THE PERIOD OF LIVING EYEWITNESSES

Sources behind the Gospels (and thus earlier)
*M (Sayings in Matthew only but not in other Gospels)
*L (Sayings in Luke only but not in other Gospels)
*Q (Sayings in both Matthew and Luke but not in other Gospels)
*The Pre-Markan Passion Narrative: "Rudolf Pesch, a German expert on Mark, says the Passion source must go back to at least AD 37...." (which according to the latest and best chronological work is about 4 years after the crucifixion).

**NOTE: These are hypothetical documents that many scholars believe represent sources used by the writers of the Gospels. I am personally skeptical that the nature of these sources resembles that which is generally proposed. Nevertheless, there certainly were written eyewitness accounts before Luke--as he is very explicit that he is aware of "many" written accounts of Jesus before he wrote his Gospel (one of which was almost certainly the Gospel of Mark). See Luke 1:1-4.

RESOURCES
An excellent article by James Smiley Bishop that looks at the value of the Gospel sources, the creed, and the hymn of Philippians 2.


Sources Quoted in the letters of the Apostle Paul (and thus earlier)
*The Creed in 1 Corinthians 15. Scholars are agreed that this creed was composed before 1 Corinthians and it is generally agreed that it was composed between 6 months and 3 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. For example:
Michael Goulder (Atheist NT Prof. at Birmingham) “…it goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” [“The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in Gavin D’Costa, editor, Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, 1996), 48.]
Gerd Lüdemann (Atheist Prof of NT at Göttingen): “…the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” [The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. by Bowden (Fortress, 1994), 171-72.]
*The above quotes are as cited by Nick Peters of Deeper Waters
*The Hymn in Philippians 2. Even liberal scholars typically agree that the hymn in Philippians 2 was composed by someone besides Paul (and therefore before Paul wrote Philippians).

*Many other creeds and Christological hymns are believed to be embedded in Paul's letters. All of them would therefore pre-date Paul's letters. I hope to document more of them later.
Here is a list given in The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ by Gary Habermas (p.29): "The chief examples [of passages explicitly stated as coming from an earlier source] include 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 15:3; 1 Thes. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8; Heb. 1:2-3." "Major examples [of passages thought to come from earlier sources but not stated explicitly] include those in Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 5:8; 10:9; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:6-11, and Heb. 1:3. Cf. many others such as Eph. 1:20; Col. 1:15-20; 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; 3:16; Heb. 1:1; 1:13; 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:21; 2:21; 3:18; 3:22."


RESOURCES
An excellent article by James Smiley Bishop that looks at the value of the Gospel sources, the creed, and the hymn of Philippians 2.


Sources for Sermons Used by Luke in the book of Acts
Here is a list given in The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ by Gary Habermas (p.29):
"The most-commonly mentioned candidates for these sermon segments are in Acts 1:21-22; 2:22-36; 3:13-16; 4:8-10; 5:29-32; 10:39-43; 13:28-31; 17:1-3; 17:30-31. Those speaking of Jesus’ deity include Acts 2:33, 36; 5:31."


Anonymous Works of the First Century
*Didache (c. 50-120 A.D., but generally thought to belong to the First Century)
*The Epistle of Barnabas (c. 70-100 A.D.)

Ancient Historians of the First Century
*Flavius Josephus (c. 93 A.D.) See this excellent article by Dr. Greg HerrickArticle by Shawn White
*Thallus (c. 52 A.D.) See these excellent articles by Glenn Miller Jason Engwer and

 Shawn Whitealso seeThe Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 4, Chapter 13.



SOURCES WRITTEN BY THOSE WHO KNEW EYEWITNESSES

The Apostolic Fathers (Disciples of the Apostles)
*Clement of Rome (mid to late 1st Century: knew the apostles Paul and John)
*Papias (c. 60-130 A.D. He was a friend of Polycarp (below). He not only knew at least two firsthand eyewitnesses to Jesus (the apostle John and another disciple named Aristion), he also interviewed many others who knew other apostles and disciples of Jesus. From these, he gathered enough eyewitness testimony to fill five volumes! This 5-volume work was entitled The Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord (Fragment 3, Eusebius' Church History 3.39.1).Furthermore, he provides historical confirmation of Jesus' miracles: "As for those who were raised from the dead by Christ, he states that they survived until the time of Hadrian" (Fragment 5, Philip of Side's 5th Century Church History). See my blog article.)
*Polycarp (c. 69-156 A.D.: disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius and Papias)
*Ignatius (d. 107 A.D.: a friend of Polycarp and probably a disciple of the apostle John and possibly another apostle)
*"The Traditions of the Elders" is a collection of 17 fragments preserving the testimony of anonymous apostolic fathers. This collection follows the "Fragments of Papias" in Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers and a smaller collection of 5 fragments is available in the edition of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes.


An Early 2nd Century Apologist
*Quadratus (c.125 AD): Knew people whom Jesus had healed



SOURCES WHO PROBABLY KNEW EYEWITNESSES OR HAD ACCESS TO THEM

Ancient Historians of the Early Second Century
*Cornelius Tacitus (c. 115 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Suetonius (c. 115 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Phlegon of Tralles (80-140 A.D.). Article at Never Thirstyalso see: Origen in Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 14 and Chapter 59; also seeThe Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 4, Chapter 13.

**Summary of Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, and Thallus by Shawn White.


Fathers of the Early 2nd Century
*Aristides (early 2nd Century)
*Hermas (1st or 2nd Century: Origen believed him to be the Hermas of Romans 16:14)



SOURCES WHO HAD ACCESS TO OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS THAT SPOKE OF JESUS
*Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 A.D.): Knew of official documents that spoke of Jesus

*Tertullian (late 2nd Century): Knew official church documents that told which elders were placed by apostles


SOURCES WHO KNEW THOSE WHO KNEW EYEWITNESSES 
*Irenaeus (d. 200 A.D.): Born in Smyrna and was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
*Tatian (mid to late 2nd Century)



SOURCES WHO PROBABLY KNEW THOSE WHO KNEW EYEWITNESSES
*Hegesippus (c. 110-180 A.D.)
*Melito (d. c. 190 A.D.)
*Apollonarius (2nd Century)
*Dionysius of Corinth (2nd Century)
*Theophilus (2nd Century)
*Athenagoras (late 2nd Century)
*Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd Century)



~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~
TESTIMONY FROM THE ENEMIES OF CHRISTIANITY....
*The Criterion of Enemy Attestation (also known as the Criterion of a "Hostile Witness"): 
Gary Habermas notes: "The criterion of enemy attestation is satisfied when an antagonistic source expresses agreement regarding a person or event when it is contrary to their best interests to do so. Maier holds that “such positive evidence within a hostile source is the strongest kind of evidence . . . if Cicero, who despised Catiline, admitted that the fellow had one good quality--courage--among a host of bad ones then the historian correctly concludes that Catiline was at least courageous.” ("Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels" by Gary Habermas)



NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES WHO HAD ACCESS TO EYEWITNESSES & OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTSGovernment Officials Who Prosecuted Christians
*Pontius Pilate (1 B.C. - c.37 A.D. ) Article at Never Thirsty
*Pliny the Younger (c. 111-112 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Emperor Trajan (early 2nd century) Article by Shawn White
*Emperor Hadrian (early 2nd century) Article by Shawn White
**Summary of Pliny, Trajan and Hadrian by Shawn White.


NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES WHO HAD ACCESS TO THOSE WHO KNEW EYEWITNESSES

Critics of Christianity
*Celsus (Critic of Christianity in his work True Discourse written c. 178 A.D.)
*Marcion (d. c. 160 A.D.)

Gnostic Writings
*The Gospel of Truth (c. 140-180 A.D.)
*The Apocryphon of John (c. 120-180 A.D.)
*The Gospel of Thomas (mid 2nd Century)
*The Treatise on the Resurrection (c. 170-200 A.D.)
**NOTE; The very existence of hagiography, Gnostic writings and other heresies in the late 1st to mid 2nd Century is strong evidence for Jesus' historicity. No one invents such stories and ideas about people who do not exist. Furthermore, the heretical writings generally say very little about Jesus and his apostles but merely present them as talking heads that speak in favor of heretical ideas. In other words, these writings presuppose the well known existence of Jesus, the basic events of his life, his apostles and other persons from the four New Testament Gospels.

Other Jewish Sources
*The Talmud (c. 135 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Toledoth Jesu (Compiled in the 5th Century A.D., these were a collection of writings dating from mid 1st century to mid 2nd century A.D.) Article by Shawn White
**Summary of Ancient Jewish Sources by Shawn White.

Other Gentiles
*Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirical playwright (c. 165-175 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Mara Bar-Serapion (c. 73-200 A.D.) Article by Shawn White
*Greek Magical Paypyri. Article at Never Thirsty
**Summary of Lucian and Mara bar-Serapion by Shawn White.


RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Videos
*"Is There Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?" by Peter Williams (6 minutes)

Articles (& Book Chapters) Online
*"Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible" by Lawrence Mykytiuk. This is the January/February 2015 feature article for BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review). Excellent!
*"Early Historical Documents on Jesus Christ." A nice article at New Advent.
*"Ancient Non-Christian Sources" This is the ninth chapter from The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ  by Gary Habermas and is available for FREE.

*Series of articles by my friend Shawn White.  (Links to individual articles are included in the list above.)
*"Historical Jesus - Two Centuries Worth of Citations" at True Free Thinker. Lists more than 200 ancient documents within the first 2 centuries or so that mention Christ.

Books
*Jesus Outside the New Testament by Robert  Van Voorst
*The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary Habermas
*Second-Century Christianity: A Collection of Fragments (Revised and Expanded) by Robert M. Grant. Brief intros and excerpts from 39 different documents from the 2nd Century.
*Testimonies of Heathen and Christian Writers of the First Two Centuries to the Truth and Power of the Gospel (1837) by Thomas Browne. FREE!

STILL LOOKING?....
*See RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION INTO THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR JESUS: Videos, Articles & Books
...OR "Historical Quotations About Jesus" at Never Thirsty




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