Pliny the Historian

Dr. Michael Gleghorn examines evidence from ancient non-Christian sources for the life of Jesus, demonstrating that such sources help confirm the historical reliability of the Gospels.

Evidence from Tacitus

Although there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document, many people are still reluctant to believe what it says unless there is also some independent, non-biblical testimony that corroborates its statements. In the introduction to one of his books, F.F. Bruce tells about a Christian correspondent who was told by an agnostic friend that “apart from obscure references in Josephus and the like,” there was no historical evidence for the life of Jesus outside the Bible.{1} This, he wrote to Bruce, had caused him “great concern and some little upset in [his] spiritual life.”{2} He concludes his letter by asking, “Is such collateral proof available, and if not, are there reasons for the lack of it?”{3} The answer to this question is, “Yes, such collateral proof is available,” and we will be looking at some of it in this article.

Let’s begin our inquiry with a passage that historian Edwin Yamauchi calls “probably the most important reference to Jesus outside the New Testament.”{4} Reporting on Emperor Nero’s decision to blame the Christians for the fire that had destroyed Rome in A.D. 64, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote:

Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . . .{5}

What all can we learn from this ancient (and rather unsympathetic) reference to Jesus and the early Christians? Notice, first, that Tacitus reports Christians derived their name from a historical person called Christus (from the Latin), or Christ. He is said to have “suffered the extreme penalty,” obviously alluding to the Roman method of execution known as crucifixion. This is said to have occurred during the reign of Tiberius and by the sentence of Pontius Pilatus. This confirms much of what the Gospels tell us about the death of Jesus.

But what are we to make of Tacitus’ rather enigmatic statement that Christ’s death briefly checked “a most mischievous superstition,” which subsequently arose not only in Judaea, but also in Rome? One historian suggests that Tacitus is here “bearing indirect . . . testimony to the conviction of the early church that the Christ who had been crucified had risen from the grave.”{6} While this interpretation is admittedly speculative, it does help explain the otherwise bizarre occurrence of a rapidly growing religion based on the worship of a man who had been crucified as a criminal.{7} How else might one explain that?

Evidence from Pliny the Younger

Another important source of evidence about Jesus and early Christianity can be found in the letters of Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan. Pliny was the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. In one of his letters, dated around A.D. 112, he asks Trajan’s advice about the appropriate way to conduct legal proceedings against those accused of being Christians.{8} Pliny says that he needed to consult the emperor about this issue because a great multitude of every age, class, and sex stood accused of Christianity.{9}

At one point in his letter, Pliny relates some of the information he has learned about these Christians:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.{10}

This passage provides us with a number of interesting insights into the beliefs and practices of early Christians. First, we see that Christians regularly met on a certain fixed day for worship. Second, their worship was directed to Christ, demonstrating that they firmly believed in His divinity. Furthermore, one scholar interprets Pliny’s statement that hymns were sung to Christ, as to a god, as a reference to the rather distinctive fact that, “unlike other gods who were worshipped, Christ was a person who had lived on earth.”{11} If this interpretation is correct, Pliny understood that Christians were worshipping an actual historical person as God! Of course, this agrees perfectly with the New Testament doctrine that Jesus was both God and man.

Not only does Pliny’s letter help us understand what early Christians believed about Jesus’ person, it also reveals the high esteem to which they held His teachings. For instance, Pliny notes that Christians bound themselves by a solemn oath not to violate various moral standards, which find their source in the ethical teachings of Jesus. In addition, Pliny’s reference to the Christian custom of sharing a common meal likely alludes to their observance of communion and the “love feast.”{12} This interpretation helps explain the Christian claim that the meal was merely food of an ordinary and innocent kind. They were attempting to counter the charge, sometimes made by non-Christians, of practicing “ritual cannibalism.”{13} The Christians of that day humbly repudiated such slanderous attacks on Jesus’ teachings. We must sometimes do the same today.

Evidence from Josephus

Perhaps the most remarkable reference to Jesus outside the Bible can be found in the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. On two occasions, in his Jewish Antiquities, he mentions Jesus. The second, less revealing, reference describes the condemnation of one “James” by the Jewish Sanhedrin. This James, says Josephus, was “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.”{14} F.F. Bruce points out how this agrees with Paul’s description of James in Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.”{15} And Edwin Yamauchi informs us that “few scholars have questioned” that Josephus actually penned this passage.{16}

As interesting as this brief reference is, there is an earlier one, which is truly astonishing. Called the “Testimonium Flavianum,” the relevant portion declares:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.{17}

Did Josephus really write this? Most scholars think the core of the passage originated with Josephus, but that it was later altered by a Christian editor, possibly between the third and fourth century A.D.{18} But why do they think it was altered? Josephus was not a Christian, and it is difficult to believe that anyone but a Christian would have made some of these statements.{19}

For instance, the claim that Jesus was a wise man seems authentic, but the qualifying phrase,
if indeed one ought to call him a man,” is suspect. It implies that Jesus was more than human, and it is quite unlikely that Josephus would have said that! It is also difficult to believe he would have flatly asserted that Jesus was the Christ, especially when he later refers to Jesus as “the so-called” Christ. Finally, the claim that on the third day Jesus appeared to His disciples restored to life, inasmuch as it affirms Jesus’ resurrection, is quite unlikely to come from a non-Christian!

But even if we disregard the questionable parts of this passage, we are still left with a good deal of corroborating information about the biblical Jesus. We read that he was a wise man who performed surprising feats. And although He was crucified under Pilate, His followers continued their discipleship and became known as Christians. When we combine these statements with Josephus’ later reference to Jesus as “the so-called Christ,” a rather detailed picture emerges which harmonizes quite well with the biblical record. It increasingly appears that the “biblical Jesus” and the “historical Jesus” are one and the same!

Evidence from the Babylonian Talmud

There are only a few clear references to Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings compiled between approximately A.D. 70-500. Given this time frame, it is naturally supposed that earlier references to Jesus are more likely to be historically reliable than later ones. In the case of the Talmud, the earliest period of compilation occurred between A.D. 70-200.{20} The most significant reference to Jesus from this period states:

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald . . . cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”{21}

Let’s examine this passage. You may have noticed that it refers to someone named “Yeshu.” So why do we think this is Jesus? Actually, “Yeshu” (or “Yeshua”) is how Jesus’ name is pronounced in Hebrew. But what does the passage mean by saying that Jesus “was hanged”? Doesn’t the New Testament say he was crucified? Indeed it does. But the term “hanged” can function as a synonym for “crucified.” For instance, Galatians 3:13 declares that Christ was “hanged”, and Luke 23:39 applies this term to the criminals who were crucified with Jesus.{22} So the Talmud declares that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover. But what of the cry of the herald that Jesus was to be stoned? This may simply indicate what the Jewish leaders were planning to do.{23} If so, Roman involvement changed their plans!{24}

The passage also tells us why Jesus was crucified. It claims He practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy! Since this accusation comes from a rather hostile source, we should not be too surprised if Jesus is described somewhat differently than in the New Testament. But if we make allowances for this, what might such charges imply about Jesus?

Interestingly, both accusations have close parallels in the canonical gospels. For instance, the charge of sorcery is similar to the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus cast out demons “by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”{25} But notice this: such a charge actually tends to confirm the New Testament claim that Jesus performed miraculous feats. Apparently Jesus’ miracles were too well attested to deny. The only alternative was to ascribe them to sorcery! Likewise, the charge of enticing Israel to apostasy parallels Luke’s account of the Jewish leaders who accused Jesus of misleading the nation with his teaching.{26} Such a charge tends to corroborate the New Testament record of Jesus’ powerful teaching ministry. Thus, if read carefully, this passage from the Talmud confirms much of our knowledge about Jesus from the New Testament.

Evidence from Lucian

Lucian of Samosata was a second century Greek satirist. In one of his works, he wrote of the early Christians as follows:

The Christians . . . worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . [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.{27}

Although Lucian is jesting here at the early Christians, he does make some significant comments about their founder. For instance, he says the Christians worshipped a man, “who introduced their novel rites.” And though this man’s followers clearly thought quite highly of Him, He so angered many of His contemporaries with His teaching that He “was crucified on that account.”

Although Lucian does not mention his name, he is clearly referring to Jesus. But what did Jesus teach to arouse such wrath? According to Lucian, he taught that all men are brothers from the moment of their conversion. That’s harmless enough. But what did this conversion involve? It involved denying the Greek gods, worshipping Jesus, and living according to His teachings. It’s not too difficult to imagine someone being killed for teaching that. Though Lucian doesn’t say so explicitly, the Christian denial of other gods combined with their worship of Jesus implies the belief that Jesus was more than human. Since they denied other gods in order to worship Him, they apparently thought Jesus a greater God than any that Greece had to offer!

Let’s summarize what we’ve learned about Jesus from this examination of ancient non-Christian sources. First, both Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise. Second, Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher. Third, both Josephus and the Talmud indicate He performed miraculous feats. Fourth, Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And the Talmud declares it happened on the eve of Passover. Fifth, there are possible references to the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection in both Tacitus and Josephus. Sixth, Josephus records that Jesus’ followers believed He was the Christ, or Messiah. And finally, both Pliny and Lucian indicate that Christians worshipped Jesus as God!

I hope you see how this small selection of ancient non-Christian sources helps corroborate our knowledge of Jesus from the gospels. Of course, there are many ancient Christian sources of information about Jesus as well. But since the historical reliability of the canonical gospels is so well established, I invite you to read those for an authoritative “life of Jesus!”


1. F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 13.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Edwin Yamauchi, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 82.

5. Tacitus, Annals 15.44, cited in Strobel, The Case for Christ, 82.

6. N.D. Anderson, Christianity: The Witness of History (London: Tyndale, 1969), 19, cited in Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 1996), 189-190.

7. Edwin Yamauchi, cited in Strobel, The Case for Christ, 82.

8. Pliny, Epistles x. 96, cited in Bruce, Christian Origins, 25; Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 198.

9. Ibid., 27.

10. Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X:96, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 199.

11. M. Harris, “References to Jesus in Early Classical Authors,” in Gospel Perspectives V, 354-55, cited in E. Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament: What is the Evidence?”, in Jesus Under Fire, ed. by Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 227, note 66.

12. Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 199.

13. Bruce, Christian Origins, 28.

14. Josephus, Antiquities xx. 200, cited in Bruce, Christian Origins, 36.

15. Ibid.

16. Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 212.

17. Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 212.

18. Ibid.

19. Although time would not permit me to mention it on the radio, another version of Josephus’ “Testimonium Flavianum” survives in a tenth-century Arabic version (Bruce, Christian Origins, 41). In 1971, Professor Schlomo Pines published a study on this passage. The passage is interesting because it lacks most of the questionable elements that many scholars believe to be Christian interpolations. Indeed, “as Schlomo Pines and David Flusser…stated, it is quite plausible that none of the arguments against Josephus writing the original words even applies to the Arabic text, especially since the latter would have had less chance of being censored by the church” (Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 194). The passage reads as follows: “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But 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.” (Quoted in James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1988), 95, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 194).

20. Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 202-03.

21. The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I. Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, 281, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 203.

22. Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 203.

23. See John 8:58-59 and 10:31-33.

24. Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 204. See also John 18:31-32.

25. Matt. 12:24. I gleaned this observation from Bruce, Christian Origins, 56.

26. Luke 23:2, 5.

27. Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4., cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 206.

©2001 Probe Ministries

Dr. Michael Gleghorn is both a research associate with Probe Ministries and an instructor in Christian Worldview at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University, a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Theological Studies (also from Dallas Theological Seminary). Before coming on staff with Probe, Michael taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his wife Hannah have two children: Arianna and Josiah. His personal website is

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  1. Harper 9 years ago

    re footnote 19:

    Indeed, “as
    Schlomo Pines and David Flusser…stated, it is quite plausible that none of the arguments against
    Josephus writing the original words even applies to the Arabic text, especially since the latter
    would have had less chance of being censored by the church” (Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 194).

    If it was a 10th Century version, Would that mean a higher, not less chance of alteration?
    Good article. thanks!!!!

    • Author
      Michael Gleghorn 9 years ago

      Hello Harper,

      Thanks for your question. As a general rule, the greater the “time gap” between the original writing and a particular copy, the more potential there is for something to go wrong. But this is merely a “general rule” – and one always has to take into account the specific details and historical circumstances surrounding a particular manuscript copy. In this case, I am not aware of what date (if any) may have been assigned to the version of the “Testimonium” that appears in Agapius’s “Universal History”, a tenth-century work, written by a Christian in Arabic. See, for example, the discussion in Robert Van Voorst, “Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence,” (Eerdmans, 2000, pp. 97-8).

      Hence, without in any way attempting to settle the issue of the authenticity of the version of the “Testimonium” that appears in Agapius (which is not something that I am personally competent to pass judgment on), I would simply note (as Pines and Flusser stated) that it is at least possible that this version was not subject to the interpolations that many scholars think infected the better-known passage (probably because of Christian copyists). Indeed, as cited by Agapius, the passage appears to be missing most of the questionable material that scholars typically worry about.

      Of course, like virtually all historical judgments, this is somewhat conjectural. But I wanted to include the information in the footnote because it struck me as a plausible conjecture. But having said this, I want to make clear that I am simply relying on the information at my disposal. So if this conjecture is incorrect, I’m completely okay with that. It just appears to me that the 10th century version has some reasons to accept it as possibly authentic. Nevertheless, I must leave it to others to argue back and forth about the various merits (or lack thereof) of this version. But this is why I included it in the footnote.

      Thanks again for writing!

  2. Paul 9 years ago

    Michael, I am an atheist, but I hope you answer my question seriously, as I will promise the same toward your answer.

    Tacitus wrote the Annals approximately 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Do we have any way to hypothesize on what he based that excerpt about Jesus? Do we think he spoke to eyewitnesses, do we think he consulted some other text, do we think he relied on secondary sources, or perhaps we don’t know what his sources were and we trust his statement because he is a trustworthy historian otherwise?

    Thank you.

    • Michael Gleghorn 9 years ago

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for your question. Tacitus’ Annals were published around 115 A.D. They thus date to approximately 85 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. There is much scholarly discussion about the issue of Tacitus’ source(s) in Annals 15:44.

      J. J. Lowder has written, “The bottom line is this: given that Tacitus did not identify his source(s), we simply don’t know how Tacitus obtained his information.” You can read his full discussion of this issue here:

      Lowder’s article does a good job interacting with the available scholarly discussion of this issue from a skeptical perspective.

      Another good discussion about this issue can be found here:

      The author of this second article concludes his discussion of the evidence with the following statement: “The present writer believes that the most persuasive case is made by those who maintain that Tacitus made use of a first century Roman document concerning the nature and status of the Christian religion. As to the reliability of that source, following normal historical practice, it is prudently assumed to be accurate until demonstrated otherwise. The reference from Tacitus constitutes prima facie evidence for the historicity of Jesus.”

      I’m personally comfortable with both of these statements. But like Lowder, I must honestly confess that I simply don’t know for sure what sources Tacitus may have relied on in relating this information about Christ and the early Christians.

      Tacitus was certainly in a position to possess (as the second writer notes) “a first century Roman document concerning the nature and status of the Christian religion.” But even if he received this information from Christians (which is debatable), that would not, of course, mean that it was untrustworthy or historically unreliable.

      So ultimately I do not know what sources Tacitus may have relied on in this passage. But it seems to me that a good case can be made for believing the passage to be at least generally trustworthy historically. And that’s primarily what I would be personally concerned about.

  3. Brad Rice 9 years ago

    This is a useful summary of apologetic scholarship about the historic Jesus that is pretty much in line with Bart Ehrman’s findings about the existence of Jesus as a secular scholar. The article indicates that SOME of the information in the New Testament is likely corroborated by non Christian sources. The article, however, does NOT come even close to proving the author’s broad assertion in the opening sentence that “the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document.” The NT is a religious document with varying levels of history, oral tradition, later additions, and myth. Showing that Jesus most likely existed and that ancient followers believed certain thing about him doesn’t even come close to proving that the things that they believed about him were true.

    • Michael Gleghorn 9 years ago

      Hello Brad,

      Thanks for writing – and for your kind comments at the beginning of your letter. As the title of my article indicates, I was only intending to provide a bit of “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” I was not intending to write an article dealing in detail with the historical reliability of the New Testament. Indeed, these articles begin as radio programs – and hence, we are extremely limited in what we can say by very strict time parameters.

      It’s true, of course, that the New Testament is a collection of “religious” documents. But how does this impugn the historical reliability of these documents? It seems to me that the documents can be both historically reliable and religiously truthful.

      I freely grant that there are some issues regarding the historicity of particular claims in these texts, which may not have been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. But personally, I think that the New Testament documents should be judged innocent until proven guilty – especially in light of their track record to date. And I’m not persuaded that anyone has proven any insuperable difficulties with affirming the historical reliability of these documents when properly interpreted.

  4. Rick 9 years ago

    You assert “there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document.” What is that evidence?

  5. Michael Gleghorn 9 years ago

    Hello Rick,

    Thanks for your question. This is a huge issue, but let me recommend a few resources which will lay out some of the reasons for making such a claim.

    1. F. F. Bruce’s little book is a classic:

    2. Craig Blomberg’s books provide good scholarly discussion about the historical reliability of the Gospels:

    3. And of John’s Gospel, in particular:

    4. Colin Hemer’s book on Acts has garnered significant scholarly praise:

    5. Finally, Donald Guthrie’s New Testament Introduction provides a wealth of scholarly discussion regarding the historicity of the New Testament:

  6. gary 9 years ago

    All this evidence proves is that these non-Christian sources believed that Jesus had existed. They do not provide any claim or mention of a resurrection! Josephus gives massive amounts of information about first century Palestine but never ONCE mentions an alleged resurrection of a messiah pretender.


    Have you ever noticed that anytime you request the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus from a Christian blogger or pastor, the first thing they do is refer you to some apologist’s book. Dear Christian friend, if it takes an entire book to prove that your first century miracle happened, it most probably didn’t.

    Open your eyes, friends. You wouldn’t read a Mormon apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe Joseph Smith’s supernatural claims. You wouldn’t read a Muslim apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe Mohammad’s supernatural claims. And you wouldn’t read a Hindu apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe the supernatural claims of the Hindu gods.

    Nope. You would expect the person making the supernatural claim to give you sufficient evidence within a five minute conversation…unless that supernatural claim is YOUR supernatural claim…then you expect us all to read your apologist’s book to believe it.

    Something’s fishy, folks.

    • Gordon 8 years ago

      It is an Experience of grace. That’s the prize,these things are spiritual. My only desire for you.

      • Carlos Navarrete 6 years ago

        Sadducees and and Pharisees came to Jesus and ask for sign from heaven and He refused to give that they asked for, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.Matthew 16:4”, does it sound familiar this to you ?

  7. Author
    Michael Gleghorn 9 years ago

    Although it was not the purpose of my article to address, either specifically or in detail, the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, it is certainly possible to summarize the case for the historicity of this event.

    The majority of New Testament historians (not just evangelicals) would agree on the following historical facts:

    1. Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion.

    2. He was buried in a tomb (most likely by someone named Joseph of Arimathea).

    3. The tomb was discovered empty early Sunday morning, probably by some of His women followers.

    4. Afterward, Jesus’ disciples (and others, such as James and Paul) experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

    5. The original disciples (along with James and Paul) were so convinced that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to suffer persecution and martyrdom for this belief.

    I take these five facts from the work of William Lane Craig, in his book Reasonable Faith, although they can be found in other writers as well.

    So here’s the question. What is the best explanation of these facts? Craig and others argue that these facts are best explained by the New Testament declaration that God did, in fact, raise Jesus from the dead! Personally, I think they are correct in claiming that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of these facts.

    Of course, if people doubt that these facts are as well-attested as I’ve claimed, and they want to look into the evidence for themselves, then I’m afraid that I must recommend a book. The fact is that when there’s a lot of evidence to discuss, and various alternative theories to weigh (as is the case with the resurrection of Jesus), one really cannot dispense with a book-length treatment of the topic. Granted, the author of the post above may not be happy about this, but I’m guessing that some of our other readers may like some recommendations.

    So I would recommend the following books:

    1. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, by William lane Craig – –

    2. The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N. T. Wright – –

    But for those, like our commentator above, who just can’t stomach the thought of reading a whole book on this subject, I would recommend William Lane Craig’s chapter on “The Resurrection of Jesus” in Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition (pp. 333 – 404) – –

  8. Michael Beaty 9 years ago

    “I believe those witnesses who get their throats cut ” (Blaise Pascal ) me too Blaise me too . Paul gives a list of over 500 people who saw the resurrected Christ . That list of eyewitnesses would eventually become a hit list of people who died for the faith

  9. Kenny Strawn 9 years ago

    The Talmud source you cited that talks about the failed attempt at stoning does seem to support the claims made in John 8:59, I must add. In that passage, the very writers of the Talmud ― the Jewish religious leaders ― react to “Before Abraham was, I AM” as a highly blasphemous claim and, as a result, attempt to stone Jesus, only for Jesus to escape before they even have a chance. The accusations of “leading Israel to apostasy” definitely are suggestive of claims like that one.

  10. John Stewart 8 years ago

    Does it make any sense that a man who supposedly healed lepers, turned water into wine, fed thousands with a few fishes, cured the sick, and raised the dead wouldn’t rate a mention of his accomplishments not just that he suffered an extreme penalty ( cruxifiction ) which was a very common Roman punishment? Obviously the Jesus myths are creations of the church a hundred years later trying to make him worship worthy.

  11. Michael Gleghorn 8 years ago

    Hello John,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s a serious mistake not to regard the canonical gospels as (at the very least) generally reliable historical sources of information about the life and ministry of Jesus. Although we now have the four gospels in our New Testament canon, we must remember that these originally existed as separate sources for the life and ministry of Jesus. They were only combined (with the other New Testament documents) into our present New Testament canon much later.

    The New Testament gospels, along with all the other New Testament writings, were not written 100 years after the ministry of Jesus, as you allege. Anyone who thinks this is relying on shoddy scholarship. All of the New Testament documents (including the four gospels) are products of the first century church. Although conservative scholars typically differ from their more moderate to liberal counterparts in the dates assigned to these documents, virtually everyone would regard the New Testament gospels as first century documents. Anyone desiring a careful, level-headed approach to all the issues concerning authorship, dating, and so forth of the New Testament documents should consult Donald Guthrie’s excellent, New Testament Introduction (Revised Edition).

    Once one sees (and understands) the four canonical gospels (not to mention the other New Testament documents) for what they are, it is immediately evident that we have a great deal of evidence for Jesus from the first century (some of it dating to within just a few years of Jesus’ ministry). The non-Christian sources serve merely to add to (and confirm) the information we already had in the twenty-seven sources now comprising our New Testament.

  12. Dan 8 years ago


    Excellent written article. I came across it looking for any non biblical writings about the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Nothing drives me more mad than when someone points to another passage in the bible to offer proof that the passage being questioned is true.

    Even if the entire bible was written one year after Christ ascended, without any proof outside of the bible, all of the resurrection, miracles, and supernatural stories are very hard to believe.

    With all the evidence and the fact that scholars agree on, it is not hard to believe that a group of people invented all of the supernatural divine stories, to gain power, and they were very good at convincing people that their story was true.

    To me with current available facts about Jesus, both narratives could be true.

  13. gary 8 years ago

    Many Christian apologists believe that Gary Habermas’ research found that 75% of scholars believe that the Empty Tomb is an historical fact. This is a false claim.

    If you read Habermas’ research the truth is that his 75% claim is based on a literature search of articles in which scholars state an opinion on the historicity of the Empty Tomb. That’s it.

    Let me ask you this:
    Which group of scholars is going to be more motivated to write articles
    on the Empty Tomb? I would bet good money that the answer is: evangelical
    scholars. Why? Because without the Empty Tomb, the evidence
    for a BODILY resurrection of Jesus is significantly weakened. Appearance claims by a small group of mostly uneducated, superstitious Galilean peasants is NOT strong evidence upon which to base your claims of the veracity of the foundational belief of the conservative/traditional Christian faith: that a three-day-dead corpse walked out of his sealed grave, spent forty days with his friends, and then levitated into outer space.

    Check out this critical review of Habermas’ research:

    • Kostas 8 years ago

      Dear friend Gary.

      You re so desperate to be intelligent but your effort is undermined by the mere fact you are an atheist.

      Sir Anthony Flew an atheist hero of the 20th & 21th century realized there is A GOD after 50 years of atheistic lectures and many many books.

      It only takes one rule. Follow the evidence where it leads. The more you understand science the more the possibility increases for A GOD.

  14. Jerry Johnson 7 years ago

    Sir, I was just reading your research on the evidence for a historical Jesus. I was starting my research on the person of Jesus to develop a sermon message. Apparently you have already been there and done that. Perhaps I should seek an area that needs additional research. During your research did you find z such areas. I was especially interested in extra biblical data about Jesus in Egypt, his return and his life before his a first miracle. Can/would you mind suggesting some possible sources. I was considering the library of congress and SWBTts.

    Thank you for any help you can provide.n

    Yours in Christ,

    Jerry Johnson

    • Michael Gleghorn 7 years ago

      Hello Jerry,

      Thanks for writing. There is a lot more ancient evidence for Jesus than what was covered in this article. A great place to begin your research is with Gary Habermas’, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ –

      I am not aware of any historically reliable sources of information regarding Jesus’ childhood (other than the little recorded in the NT Gospels, of course). Beginning in the second-century, various “infancy gospels” arose, attempting to tell about this period of Jesus’ life (e.g. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas). But I am not aware of anyone who believes that these sources supply genuine historical information about the childhood of Jesus.

      Best wishes in your research!

      Michael Gleghorn

  15. Rodney Wagner 7 years ago

    Caesar’s Messiah, The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus

    • Byron Barlowe 7 years ago

      Sorry for the delay. Care to comment or ask questions, Rodney?

      I hesitate to approve your post since you did not do so, but to show that we have nothing to hide or fear from alternative scholarship, I will.

      What leads you to trust this source? Do you agree with it–in what ways?

  16. gary 7 years ago

    No one asks you to have faith to believe the fact claims of history or science. They ask you to believe these claims based on the evidence. So why should we treat Christianity any differently? Asking you to believe the central claims of Christianity “by faith” is simply an appeal to emotions and superstition.

  17. Michael Gleghorn 7 years ago

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your comment. Although I would question your claim that no amount of faith is required to believe the claims of history and science, and would also question your assumption that Christianity should not be treated any differently than purely secular history and science, nevertheless, on the Probe website (at any rate), we really aren’t treating Christianity much differently. Indeed, the whole purpose of the Probe website is to offer arguments and evidence for the truth claims of Christianity. We are not appealing to emotions or superstition, we are appealing to good philosophical arguments and sound scientific and historical evidence.

    All that to say, I fear that your comment is not really relevant to the very purpose of this website, nor do I see its relevance to my article (which appeals to recognizable historical sources that anyone can investigate for themselves).

  18. gary 7 years ago

    How are the group appearances of Jesus to the first Christians any different from the group appearances of the angel Moroni to the first Mormons?

    • Author
      [email protected] 7 years ago

      Ron Rhodes, who has written several books on Mormonism, mentions only several alleged appearances of “Moroni” to Joseph Smith. He does not mention any group appearances (See The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions, 54).

      He does mention a group appearance of an “unnamed angel” to Smith, Whitmer, Harris and Cowdery. The angel allegedly showed them the golden plates. But Harris later said he saw the plates only with the “eye of faith” – and not with his physical eyes. Rhodes writes, “Conflicting reports state that he and the other witnesses never saw the actual engraved plates, only something covered with a cloth.” He also states, “Whitmer, Harris, and Cowdery all ended up leaving the (Mormon) church.” He notes that Harris did return much later, but “in the interim he had said that several other churches were true” (See Rhodes, 55).

      If this account is accurate, then there may have been no group appearances of Moroni. But suppose that Moroni was the one who appeared to Whitmer, Harris and Cowdery. Their later reports do not inspire much confidence in what they actually saw. Nor do any of them appear to have been intensely committed to Mormonism. Two left the church never to return; the third left and returned much later (but he inspires little to no confidence in his actual commitment to Mormonism). Finally, given that Mormonism preaches a very different Christ than the Jesus of the N.T., its teachings regarding Jesus and the gospel would appear to fall under the anathema of the Apostle Paul recorded in Galatians 1:8-9.

      On the other hand, the evidence for the historicity of the resurrection appearances of Jesus is quite good. Consider, for example, that Paul claims (in 1 Cor. 15:3-8) that Jesus appeared to Peter, the twelve, over 500 brethren, James, all the apostles, and finally Paul himself. The appearances to James and Paul are particularly interesting because neither man believed that Jesus was anyone special until actually witnessing an appearance of Jesus alive from the dead. Paul was a persecutor of the church; James was one of Jesus’ brothers. W. L. Craig asks, “What would it take to convince you that your brother was the Lord, so that you would be willing to die for that belief?” But this is precisely what happened to James! Paul also, though once a persecutor of the church, eventually died for his faith in Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah and risen Lord. Unlike the commitment of Whitmer, Harris and Cowdery to Mormonism, both Paul and James were willing to seal their testimony to the truth and lordship of Jesus Christ with their blood.

      Concerning group appearances, let’s consider two. First, the appearance to over 500 brethren at one time. Although not recorded elsewhere in the N.T., there is good reason to regard this appearance as historical. Think about it. Paul tells the Corinthians that most of the witnesses to this event are still alive (1 Cor. 15:6). But he could hardly have done this if it were not true, for this would have easily exposed him to the Corinthians as a liar. As the Cambridge N.T. scholar, C. H. Dodd observed, Paul’s remark that most of the witnesses to this appearance are still alive, is essentially telling the Corinthians that they are still available for questioning. So this provides good reason to think that this appearance really took place.

      Second, consider the appearance(s) to all the apostles. Such appearances are multiply and independently attested in Luke and John. This lends credibility to their historicity. Additionally, Paul had contact with at least some of these people and would have heard of their experiences first-hand. Also, since many of them were still alive, the witnesses were (once again) still available for questioning. Finally, according to church tradition, most of these witnesses ended up dying for their faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Once again, this shows the utter sincerity of their commitment to Jesus, a sincerity and commitment best explained (as the earliest records indicate) by the fact that they were witnesses to appearances of the resurrected Christ.

      Although some people will die for a lie that they sincerely believe (or at least suspect) is true, they will not die for a lie that they know to be a lie. But the apostles were willing to die for their faith in Jesus—and no one else on the planet was in a better position than themselves to know if Jesus had really appeared to them alive after his crucifixion and death.

      In light of the foregoing arguments and evidence, then, it seems to me that we have good reasons for regarding the resurrection appearances of Jesus as historically genuine. On the other hand, we do not appear to have comparably good reasons for so regarding the appearances of the angel Moroni. But if an angel did appear to Smith (and I am genuinely open to that possibility), then in light of Paul’s declared anathema on any angels preaching another gospel than the one he initially preached to the Galatians, I would be inclined to regard such an angel as a demonic imposter.

  19. Charles Spearman 7 years ago

    Gary …your replies are being put to sleep! LOL Excellent work Gleghorn!

  20. JRook 7 years ago

    With all do respect the writings of Josephus have been shown to be fraudulent at best. And the majority of the other “evidence” you site are individuals reflecting on what they have been told be practicing christians. So virtually none of the “evidence” you provide are historical evidence regarding the existence of an actual person. I leave you with two interesting questions, both derived from the same promoted religious truth. First, if in fact Jesus was the son of god, a member of the christian trinity and thus he and the father are one, then why would christians feel a need to change his date of birth? Seriously, if they truly believed he was god wouldn’t his true birth date be rather special and important? Second, if indeed he was the son of god and he and the father were one… there would be a rather large historical record of huge gatherings to hear him speak and no doubt numerous writers of the time who would want to interview him. We have extended written records from Egypt that predate Jesus by over a thousand years, including the book of the dead that contain among other things the 10 commandments… and the book of the dead predates Mosses by 1,500 years. Please explains these obvious shortcomings in the historical and religious record without bailing out to the “except it on faith” argument. Thanks

    • Author
      Michael Gleghorn 7 years ago

      It is not true that the writings of Josephus have been shown to be fraudulent. This is (at best) a rather egregious overstatement. You probably intend to refer to the “Testimonium Flavianum” which I deal with (and take account of) in my article and notes. How do you know that the evidence from Tacitus, Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud comes from practicing Christians? And even if it does, how would that show the evidence to be historically unreliable or untrustworthy? Can practicing Christians not tell the truth? Or can they not record history reliably? I would want to see a really strong argument for an assertion like that!

      Concerning your questions: 1. When, precisely, was Jesus born? Wouldn’t we have to first know the date of his birth in order to change it? As the church historian, Philip Schaff observes, “the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined.” The New Testament has not left us precise information regarding the date of Jesus’ birth. Hence, we cannot be certain about when (precisely) this event occurred. But this does nothing to prove that Christianity is false, or that Jesus was never born, or that he wasn’t the promised Messiah, etc. Indeed, anyone who denies that there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth is far outside the scholarly consensus on Jesus. For regardless of one’s theological position, scarcely any reputable scholar at all denies the historicity of Jesus. Finally, I am a committed Christian and (presumably like the Gospel writers themselves) it matters not a bit to me that I do not know the precise date of Jesus’ birth. Indeed, I could not tell you the precise birthday of most of the people (through history and in the present) that (for one reason or another) I love, admire and/or respect (including most of my relatives). The fact that I do not know the precise date of their birth hardly means that I do not love and admire them. What I love and admire about them only requires that they were born; it does not require me to know precisely when.

      2. The New Testament documents (including the four Gospels) are our earliest and best historical sources of information about Jesus. The Gospels, in fact, have weathered more critical scrutiny than probably any other historical sources whatever. And the fact remains that, whatever one’s theological beliefs, they are generally regarded by scholars as relatively reliable historical sources of information about Jesus. Indeed, if anything, scholarly appreciation for the Gospels as historically reliable sources of information about Jesus has increased in recent years. These days, if someone wants to challenge the historicity of something in the Gospels, they need to present some reasons (i.e. arguments and evidence) as to why a particular saying, person, or event recorded should be rejected as historically untrustworthy. The burden of proof is on the person who wants to challenge the historicity of a gospel narrative, for the fact of the matter is that the Gospels are considered to be (at least) generally reliable historical sources for the life and ministry of Jesus.

  21. Moussa Tamer 7 years ago

    I am sorry to say but these references are after the gospel was written.
    there is no evidence of jesus christ before the Gospel was written. There were 126 roman and jewish writers that wrote about everything in the daily life of that era and no one mentioned jesus chrisst who destroyed the temple, who was crucified the day before the passover..
    check even the the bibile, there are paragraphs copied verbatum from the original Mark.
    how did mark know what jesus said when he was by himself on the mountain praying to God?
    This is a fiction story, based on 5% reality, like a Cinderella story. Yes, Jesus was born from a virgin and had exactly 12 apostoles like the the sign of the zodiac and other deities before him.
    Lastly, studies have shown that prayers do not get answered no matter what, please check Templeton study in the US. If, your son gets meningitis, please pray to God and take him to church so God’s will be done and he can die.

    • Author
      Michael Gleghorn 7 years ago

      Although I do believe that there are prophecies of the Messiah, given hundreds of years before his birth (e.g. Isaiah 53, etc.), nevertheless I am quite willing to grant that our earliest and best written historical sources concerning the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus are to be found in the New Testament documents. It is, however, probably false to claim that there was no (written) evidence of Christ before the Gospels, for the writings of Paul (which mention Jesus) are likely earlier than the Gospels (the Thessalonian epistles, for example, probably date to around 51 A.D.). Although it is possible that Mark is earlier than Paul’s earliest epistles, most scholars would not date Mark so early.

      Concerning passages in Mark which also appear in Matthew and Luke, this is well-known. If Mark is the earliest Gospel (as most NT scholars believe), then Matthew and Luke probably made use of Mark in composing their own Gospels. Indeed, Luke speaks to this issue directly in the first few verses of his Gospel: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us . . . it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:1, 3). Luke explicitly tells us that many others before him had composed written accounts of the events of Jesus’ life. But this does nothing whatever to cast doubt on the credibility of Mark’s account. And if Mark’s account is accurate, then so are Matthew and Luke (insofar as they rely on him).

      How did Mark know what Jesus said when he was by himself praying on the mountain? Clearly, Jesus told his disciples what he was doing.

      Your assertion that the Gospels are fictional accounts cannot stand up under scrutiny – and indeed, it reveals a gross level of ignorance concerning historical scholarship on the Gospels. The fact is, all Jesus scholars recognize the Gospels as our earliest and best historical sources of information about Jesus. And most Jesus scholars, speaking strictly as historians (without any regard for whether the Gospels are divinely inspired or not) believe that the Gospels contain significant historical information regarding the life, ministry and death of Jesus. This has nothing to do with any sort of faith commitment either. They believe the Gospels are generally reliable historical sources of information about Jesus in precisely the same way that scholars think that Tacitus or Josephus are relatively reliable historical sources (and for the same sorts of reasons).

      Concerning prayer, I will make only two comments. First, I have seen dramatic answers to prayer in my own life (and also heard of dramatic answers to prayer from others). Second, sociological studies of prayer typically have major flaws. Any time one sets out to test prayer in the ways such studies do, the participants are generally no longer “praying” (in any genuine sense). As C. S. Lewis observed, such persons are not sincerely going before God with their heartfelt concerns and pleading with Him for help and resolution. Rather, they are putting God to the test, attempting merely to find out what might happen – – and this the true God will certainly not stand for. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16).

  22. ron 7 years ago

    Does space, without the universe of stars, planet, comets, etc., go on forever?

    • Sue Bohlin 7 years ago

      Hi Ron,

      I asked my husband, Dr. Ray Bohlin, who says that space is finite, and the universe has a boundary. At the Big Bang, it’s not just matter that was flung out into an ever-expanding set of dimensions, but the limits of space itself continue to expand.

      I asked him, “So what’s on the other side of the edges of the universe?”

      He said, “Nothing nothing. We can’t know.”

      Sue Bohlin

      • Jocie 7 years ago

        Dear Sue, I so “get that,” what your husband said. It is like a cup of coffee that spills. The spill is defined with a border, so it is finite; yet, that spill keeps flowing/growing, still finite because it has a border, but expanding!

    • Thistle 7 years ago

      It’s not clear whether this is a scientific question or a theological one. My understanding is that the Hebrews didn’t have a word for empty space, as the idea exists in the English language. What gets translated “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 means everything you see when you look up in the sky, day or night. With this in mind, then what we think of as creation in a modern since, all happened in the first verse of the bible. The days of creation then would be perfecting the broad pallet. Both Dr. John Lennox and Dr. Hugh Ross have a lot to say about this point.

  23. Jocie 7 years ago

    There might be open-minded interest to know of another source of information about Jesus/Yehoshua, he being a non-named fourth-density incarnate on Earth, known as a Wanderer, who incarnated into an entity on Earth that was named Jesus/Yehoshua, his sole desire to incarnate on Earth to become a martyr, as he was teaching, after doing much learning of Yahudism and other “religions,” the true concept of love of which he know is the entire source of creation, that creation coming from the One, the Source, the Infinite Creator, not the god of the bible which is known as “The Lord” by Christians or, if paying attention to the Hebrew, the YHWH aka Yahowah, a war god coming from a group of entities of a “negative” realm, that of service to self and, thus, promotion of slavery based on commands aka orders.
    There are two sources which can be much helpful in learning more about the role of Jesus, who his father is — who is all of creations father — that being the One aka Infinite Source, the One who created the finite universe, such as described by Sue up ^ above. We are “ALL ONE WITH SOURCE,” such as what Jesus said, that he is One with his father. We all come from Source. Source is the “light” and we all are the colors of the prism from the One Source. This is what Jesus was teaching. Unfortunately man created a religion out of his teachings based on using the Torah which is based on slavery/bloody sin-sacrificing ideology and mass killings of creation who do not know or accept this negative entity known as Yah aka YHWH who used his “godly” power to usurp the loving aspect of One/Source.

    This link will show excerpts of the sessions regarding Jesus in the Law of One material. The whole Law of One material will help make much sense of the universe and who we as humans are and who we are to be — that of service to others and love — and our purpose to gain densities/dimensions through incarnating, like Jesus did, or reincarnating for purposes of continued learning to how to lose self so as to become lights of love and serve others based on love. Thank you for reading this and for accepting some material that might sound weird or controversial but still is in line with the topic of this main article: Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.

  24. gary 7 years ago

    I believe that traditional Christianity can be proven false in just five minutes by knocking out the three pillars of the Christian Faith (belief system):

    1. The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
    2. The Accuracy of Old Testament Prophecy
    3. The Witness of the Holy Spirit

    And here is the evidence that destroys these three superstition-based claims:

    1. Based on cumulative human experience, it is much more probable that the early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus was due to one disciple’s bereavement hallucination (probably Simon Peter’s) than a once in history reanimation of a three-day-brain-dead corpse. Persons who experience hallucinations believe them to be real life experiences. If Paul was able to convince first century Jews in Asia Minor that he had seen a resurrected Jesus based on a “heavenly vision”, then Simon Peter was surely capable of convincing first century Jews (including the other disciples) in Palestine that he had seen the resurrected Jesus, even though his experience had really been an hallucination. The remainder of the “appearances” of Jesus listed in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15 could simply have been static images (illusions) something we see today with alleged group sightings of the Virgin Mary. The Early Creed gives no details whatsoever of these appearances. The detailed appearances in the four Gospels may well be literary embellishments, very common in Greco-Roman biographies, the genre of literature in which most New Testament scholars, including many conservative Christian scholars, believe the authors of the Gospels were writing.

    2. The Book of Daniel is a blatant fraud. The book very accurately portrays the events in the Greek Empire down to abstract minutia but makes major errors regarding the Babylonian and Persian empires, the empires during which the book’s author infers the book was written. Jesus quotes from this fraudulent book. Jesus, who was not a scholar, was fooled by the author. Modern scholars are not fooled.

    3. The “witness of the Holy Spirit” is a joke. Christians can no more prove that the voice that allegedly speaks to them is their god than can the Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Jews, and others prove that the voice that speaks to them is their god. Watch this powerful video for proof:

  25. fitsum 7 years ago

    Michael Gleghorn keep it up , may god bless you more, you are doing a good job in providing the truth to the darkest part of the dare are they to ask the existence of their creator? but to believe about the theory of universe which no one has reached or seen its edge ?

  26. gary 7 years ago

    The veracity of the Christian religion rises or falls on the veracity of the Resurrection and the veracity of the Resurrection rises or falls on the historicity of the alleged post-death appearances of Jesus to his followers. Christians believe that the appearance stories in the Gospels and in the Early Creed are historical facts based primarily on the following:

    1. There were so many alleged eyewitnesses to these appearances, sometimes in large groups.
    2. These alleged appearances had a dramatic effect on the character of those who witnessed them.
    3. These alleged appearances were the impetus for many early Christians to be willing to be tortured and painfully executed for their belief in the veracity of these appearances.
    4. These Resurrection appearances were the primary reason for the rapid growth of Christianity.

    Question: Are these facts sufficient evidence to believe that a three-day-brain-dead first century corpse really did come back to life possessing supernatural powers; supernatural powers which allowed him to teleport between cities, walk through locked doors, and levitate into space? Before you answer that question I ask you to watch this Youtube video:

    In this video, HUNDREDS of very devout, sincere people of faith believe that a woman who has been dead for 20 centuries is appearing to them. I have no doubt that at least some of these “eyewitnesses” would be willing to suffer great persecution and even death defending their belief that this event really happened.

    Based on the very large number of eyewitnesses to this event and upon their very intense, sincere belief that this very extra-ordinary event really occurred…should we believe them?

    Answer: Absolutely not!

    Why? These people are very obviously experiencing an illusion. There is no dead woman to be seen anywhere in the video. Collective human experience would suggest that this is very likely what happened in the first century with the early Christians. The appearance stories in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15, the earliest description we have of these alleged events, make no mention of a talking, walking, broiled-fish-eating Jesus. If the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are literary embellishments, perfectly acceptable in a Greco-Roman biography as evangelical Christian New Testament scholar Michael Licona has demonstrated in his recent book, Why are There Differences in the Gospels?, it is quite possible that the actual early Christian appearance claims were based on illusions, similar to the one seen in the Youtube video above.

  27. Jim McCrea 7 years ago

    Interesting, I find it strange the two largest cults in the world, acknowledge Jesus in some form or another. It appears to me a lot of people are looking for a excuse to excuse their life style. Is there any way to get the documentation from Roman history containing the minutes of the trial under Pontius Palate?

  28. gary 6 years ago

    “One can no longer speak of a consensus against Johannine dependence on the Synoptics or, at least, on Mark. The reasons for the revival of interest in favor of John’s dependence are varied.”

    —New Testament scholar, Raymond Brown, in his book, The Death of the Messiah (1994), p. 76

    Gary: How many times have you heard conservative Christian apologists say that even if the authors of Luke and Matthew were dependent on Mark, the author of John was not. “Scholarship demonstrates that the Gospel of John is not dependent on the Synoptics, therefore we have at least two independent sources (Mark and John) for the Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection stories found in the Gospels.”

    Not so fast, Christians!

    Scholars are currently divided on this issue. No one can claim either side of this argument as fact. We might have two independent sources for these stories, but it is also possible that the core story came from just one source: the author of the Gospel of Mark. If the core details of the Jesus’ Passion Story came solely from the anonymous author of the Gospel of Mark, whom the majority of scholars do not believe was an eyewitness or the associate of an eyewitness (ie., not John Mark), it is then possible that much or all of the Arrest scene, Trial scene, Crucifixion scene, and Resurrection scene are literary inventions, perfectly acceptable in Greco-Roman biographies!

    As long as the core story remained intact…that Jesus of Nazareth had been arrested by the Romans; tried and convicted of treason against Caesar; executed by crucifixion; buried in some manner; and shortly thereafter, his disciples believed that he appeared to them, in some fashion…the other details found in the Passion Narrative may be literary invention (fiction)!
    Think of that! It would certainly answer a lot of questions. Why does (the original) Resurrection Story in Mark have zero appearance stories? Why does the Gospel of Matthew, written a decade or so later, have appearances to the male disciples in Galilee, while the Gospel of Luke, also written a decade or so after Mark (whose author most scholars believe was not aware of Matthew’s gospel), has appearances only in Jerusalem and Judea? And why does the last Gospel written, John, have appearances in Jerusalem and Galilee as if the author had combined Matthew and Luke’s stories??? My, my, my. The evidence for a fantastical, never-heard-of-before-or-since Resurrection is much, much weaker than the average Christian layperson sitting in the pew on Sunday realizes!

  29. Keith 6 years ago

    An excellent article and commentary following. One item I would like to mention about absolute proof seemingly demanded by unbelievers. There is absolute proof available, but it takes just a mustard seed sized bit of faith for it to be revealed. God does not force Himself on anyone, so it is that faith which opens a door, opens eyes and ears to allow the blind to see and deaf to hear. God has a plan, specifically “timed”, to create His family and it will become abundantly clear to even those unbelievers, when Jesus returns, that He is real.

    Thanks for your ministry.

  30. Hubert Luns 6 years ago

    In the quote of the Babylonian Talmud the name Yeshu is used. Why is that Jesus, our beloved Saviour. The early Jews have changed the adorable Name Jeshua, as He was originally called in Hebrew, in Yeshu. And under that name he is known up to now by most Jews, which is an acronym for “Yimmach Shemo Ve-zikro”, which means “May his name and memory be blotted out”. (Jer. 11:18)

  31. Commonitus Sensus 6 years ago

    Excellent article! Keep up the research and search for truth! Thanks for sharing.

  32. Edward C Reyes 6 years ago

    No eye witnesses in the Bible. “All four Gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid 2nd century, and later, and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.” ~Prof. Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36.

    “The Gospels are not eye witness accounts.” ~Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School.

    Jesus did not die on the cross, hence, no Resurrection as written by Saint Irenaeus, “Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, everyone will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, as the Gospel and all the elders testify. Those elders who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, affirming that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan [98 C.E.]” ~Bishop Irenaeus, Early Church Father, Against Heresies, 180 C.E.

  33. Author
    Dr. Michael Gleghorn 5 years ago

    Edward has given us three quotations to consider. The first two concern the New Testament Gospels, claiming that they are 1) Anonymous documents, and 2) Not written by eyewitnesses.

    Let’s consider that first quotation. It’s true, of course, that all four Gospels are technically anonymous. No one disputes this. The quotation continues, however, by noting that the earliest external testimony to the authorship of the documents dates to the mid-second century (note: some would put this as early as 125 A.D.) and claims that “we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.” But surely we have at least some historical basis for accepting these attributions. So far as I know, no other names have ever been associated with these documents than those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. That this unanimous testimony dates from the early second century must also be regarded to have at least some historical significance.

    Furthermore, consider just a few points in favor of these authors. Let’s first consider Matthew. According to Donald Guthrie, in his magisterial New Testament Introduction: “The earliest description of this gospel of which we have any evidence attributes it to Matthew. This is testified by strong tradition. It was indisputably acknowledged before the close of the second century and there is no positive evidence that the book ever circulated without this title. Indeed it may reasonably be claimed that the title was affixed at least as early as AD 125” (43).

    Internal evidence also plausibly points to Matthean authorship. As Paul Weaver notes, “Several internal details point to Matthew. (1) Not all the accounts of the twelve disciples are recorded in this gospel, only those of Peter, James, John, and Matthew. (2) The calling of Matthew is an abrupt parenthesis in the midst of a series of miracles, and is its own independent account. (3) Only this gospel refers to Matthew as a tax collector (9: 9; 10: 3), which was not a positive profession to hold, but rather a profession which would cause Jews to regard him as a traitor and to be hated by His own people. (4) The gospel of Matthew includes nine different words for money, more than any other gospel, and three of these terms are found in no other canonical book. (5) It is the only gospel which references the temple tax (17: 24-27). This internal evidence points to Matthean authorship” (Paul Weaver, Introducing the New Testament Books).

    Finally, consider Merrill Tenney’s remarks in his New Testament Survey, “Since Matthew was a comparatively obscure member of the apostolic band, there seems to be no good reason for making him the author of a spurious work. Any forger who sought fame for his production would have chosen to publish it under the name of a more renowned apostle” (142).

    Needless to say, what is true of Matthew’s authorship (in this regard) would be equally true of those books attributed to Mark and Luke (neither of whom were even apostles). There doesn’t seem to be much reason to attribute these books to such authors – – unless these were the men who actually wrote them.

    Notice, also, that if Matthew really was the author of the Gospel attributed to him, then it is simply false to assert that these documents are not based on eyewitness testimony. For Matthew would have been an eyewitness of many of these events. And if the apostle John authored the gospel attributed to him, then he also was an eyewitness.

    What, then, might we say about the fourth gospel? The author appears to claim to have been an eyewitness of Jesus’ words and works: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Notice that the author claims, “we beheld his glory” (apparently identifying himself as an eyewitness).

    Paul Weaver writes, “Many other clues point to Johannine authorship. A disciple is mentioned without name as, “the one whom Jesus loved” (13: 23; 19: 26; 21: 7)” (Introducing the New Testament Books). Carson and Moo claim that this “beloved disciple” is the apostle John: “the beloved disciple is none other than John, and he deliberately avoids using his personal name. This becomes more likely when we remember that the beloved disciple is constantly in the company of Peter, while the Synoptics (Mark 5: 37; 9: 2; 14: 33; par.) and Acts (3: 1– 4: 23; 8: 15– 25), not to mention Paul (Gal. 2: 9), link Peter and John in friendship and shared experience. It has also been noted that in this gospel most of the important characters are designated with rather full expressions: Simon Peter; Thomas Didymus; Judas son of Simon Iscariot; Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Strangely, however, John the Baptist is simply called John, even when he is first introduced (1: 6; cf. Mark 1: 4 par.). The simplest explanation is that John the son of Zebedee is the one person who would not feel it necessary to distinguish the other John from himself” (Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 237).

    Much more could be said in defense of the traditional authorship of the four New Testament Gospels. It is clear, however, that the matter is not so patently obvious as the scholars cited by Edward imply. There is vigorous debate and discussion about these issues and no one has succeeded in proving that the four traditional ascriptions are false. Moreover, there is the historical weight of church tradition in their favor, along with internal evidence as well. At the very least, the matter cannot be dismissed with a couple scholarly citations and a wave of the hand (as Edward seems content to do).

    What, then, might be said about Edward’s third and final quotation, from the Church Father, Irenaeus? It must be said from the outset that he has taken this citation out of context, not properly understood it, and drawn a false conclusion from it.

    The citation he give us comes from Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.22.5. In the section immediately prior to this one (i.e. 2.22.4), we see that Irenaeus’ theology of recapitulation is in view here. That is, Irenaeus viewed Christ as recapitulating in his life and ministry all the stages of human life (in order to redeem human beings at whatever life stage they were/are at).

    Here is what Irenaeus says in Against Heresies 2.22.4: “Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master, He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged by all as a Master. For He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself— all, I say, who through Him are born again to God— infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be “the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence,” the Prince of life, existing before all, and going before all.”

    One can see from this quotation that Irenaeus is concerned to stress that Jesus recapitulated every stage of human life in order to redeem human beings at any (and every) stage of life. Although I don’t share Irenaeus’ view of how old Jesus was when he was crucified (i.e. apparently around 50), it will shortly become clear that Irenaeus certainly believed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus! Indeed, one can see evidence for Irenaeus’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection at the end of the previous quotation.

    Let me conclude, then, with a few citations from Irenaeus, which will easily dispel what Edward has alleged in his comment:

    1. “It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate” (Against Heresies 2:32.4). Clearly Irenaeus affirmed (consistent with the New Testament) that Jesus “was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”

    2. “Thus the apostles did not preach another God, or another Fulness; nor, that the Christ who suffered and rose again was one, while he who flew off on high was another, and remained impassible; but that there was one and the same God the Father, and Christ Jesus who rose from the dead; and they preached faith in Him, to those who did not believe on the Son of God, and exhorted them out of the prophets, that the Christ whom God promised to send, He sent in Jesus, whom they crucified and God raised up” (Against Heresies 3.12.2). What could be clearer? Here Irenaeus affirms both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

    3. “Thus the apostles did not change God, but preached to the people that Christ was Jesus the crucified One, whom the same God that had sent the prophets, being God Himself, raised up, and gave in Him salvation to men” (Against Heresies 3.12.4).

    These citations from Irenaeus are sufficient, I think, to show that Edward has erred in claiming that Irenaeus rejected the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, he embraced both, just as the New Testament teaches.

  34. John Urban 5 years ago

    Based on cumulative human experience, it is much more probable that the early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus was due to one disciple’s bereavement hallucination (probably Simon Peter’s) than a once in history reanimation of a three-day-brain-dead corpse. Persons who experience hallucinations believe them to be real life experiences. If Paul was able to convince first century Jews in Asia Minor that he had seen a resurrected Jesus based on a “heavenly vision”, then Simon Peter was surely capable of convincing first century Jews (including the other disciples) in Palestine that he had seen the resurrected Jesus, even though his experience had really been an hallucination. The remainder of the “appearances” of Jesus listed in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15 could simply have been static images (illusions) something we see today with alleged group sightings of the Virgin Mary. The Early Creed gives no details whatsoever of these appearances. The detailed appearances in the four Gospels may well be literary embellishments, very common in Greco-Roman biographies, the genre of literature in which most New Testament scholars, including many conservative Christian scholars, believe the authors of the Gospels were writing.

    So Gary, I guess we should just not believe in the apparitions of saints, ignore medical miracles that
    are backed up by medical doctors and disbelieve the accounts of people who were clinically dead just
    because you want to pass them off as illusions? There are doctors who basically put there reputations
    on the line in these accounts. Believe what you want, but I can see there’s no getting through to you.

  35. Aaron 5 years ago

    Dear atheists, all the Jewish leaders had to do to destroy the credibility of Jesus was produce the dead corpse of Jesus. That would not have been hard to do (unless there wasn’t one). As Christians, we have evidence to point to the historicity and Divinity of Jesus. It convinced notable atheists like William Greenleaf and Lee Strobel to abandon their atheism and become Christians. All I’ve seen on these comments is “you Christians can’t prove……..” So here’s my challenge to you, prove atheism.

  36. Chris Wohlwend 5 years ago

    Very few today consider the great difficulty in finding and maintaining manuscript evidence for almost 2000 years. It is not as if there was pencil and paper everywhere or in every home. Most of us think there should have been plenty of parchment available with notes saying things like, “Going shopping and afterwards will try to locate Jesus since he is in Capernaum today.” Circumcision records held in the Temple libraries in Jerusalem for the purpose of maintaining genealogy were likely destroyed when Jerusalem was destroyed many times over. Census records for various locations in Rome were likely held for a certain number of years once taxes were collected. Those who had the means (the parchment and ink) had to maintain that in safe ways. Notice the records that were maintained, through all the difficulties of time are only 22 or more documents of substantial length; and they were maintained by people who actually cared. Should we not have hundreds of thousands of manuscripts from First century Rome’s Caesars and governors? The same goes for the Jews and the Greeks. But we don’t. Further It’s not as if Rome or the Jewish Sanhedrin had to write extensively about a so-called Messiah doing lots of miracles. Remember after all that upon the existence of an empty tomb they tried to cover it up. Who among the Jews or Romans are going to write about an empty tomb which would by any interpretation have a nefarious effect on the political purposes of Rome and the Jewish leadership. To write with accolades that someone honored or wondered about the miraculous life that Jesus led with Twelve disciples would have already cast you into the role of a believer, a cast you may not want to write about particularly if you were of the Jewish nobility or a Roman leader of influence.

  37. fajar yehuda 5 years ago

    Hi, Dr. Michael

    I am a Jesus’ follower from Indonesia, the biggest Moslem country, my question is do the atheists in Western have their evidence from primary resources to prove that Jesus never exists historically? The fact is non-Christians historians and writers in the 1-2 century had written about Jesus and Christians during the Roman Empire era. So far, I haven’t found any evidence from 1-2 century who denied the existence of Jesus Christ historically. Atheists just want to say what they want to say. They have faith to not believe in Jesus Christ as I have faith to believe in Him completely, Historically and wholeheartedly.

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