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Old June 29th, 2017, 11:10 PM   #1

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Independent witnesses to the historicity of Early Christians


What classical (pagan) literary sources attest to the existence of Christians? Literary sources that are supposedly independent of Eusebius and the Early Christian church, and prior to the Christian revolution of the 4th century. Pagan or Jewish literary sources, but not Christian sources. Such sources as these - because of their supposed independence - are generally used to corroborate the claims of the church.


Below are listed 20 odd such literary references and, unless anyone can think of any others, this appears to be reasonably comprehensive.






1st Century BCE
0.0 BCE Erythraean Sibyl's acrostic
0.1 106-043 Cicero translates Sibyl’s acrostic predicting Jesus
0.2 040 BCE Virgil: advent of Christ predicted

These first three were claims made by Constantine and others 325-337 CE, and in a letter of Constantine to Arius, the emperor is moving the evidence of the Sybil's prediction to be on display in Alexandria in order to dampen the enthusiasm of the skeptics.



1st Century
1.1 030-033 King Agbar of Edessa - the letter to Jesus
1.2 093-094 Josephus Flavius - TF, Antiquity of the Jews
1.3 050-065 Seneca - the wonderful correspondence with "Dear Paul"


These three are generally seen as likely to have been forged.




1.4 054-305 Nero to Diocletian: Persecution of Christians
The persecution of Christians is discussed in another thread.




2nd Century
2.1 101-112 Pliny the Younger - Plinius, Ep 10:97; letter to Emperor Trajan
2.2 101-112 Emperor Trajan - Dear Pliny (a rescript)
2.3 115-116 Tacitus - Annals 15:44
2.4 118-119 Suetonius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero, 16.


These first four references to Christians have been suspected by some investigators to be inauthentic.




2.5 125-135 Epictetus (via Arrian) - the Galilaeans
2.6 170-180 Marcus Aurelius - The "christian" reference at Meditations 11:3
2.6 170-180 Lucian of Samosata - Life of Peregrine, Alexander the Prophet
2.8 177-177 Celsus: known only via Origen as preserved by Eusebius
2.9 180-200 Galen




3rd Century
3.0 200-300 Mishna?
3.1 230-235 Cassius Dio
3.2 220-240 Julius Africanus Thallus mentions Christians?
3.3 240-270 Mani - Various writings (dated from the end of the 4th century)
3.4 260-270 Plotinus
3.5 280-300 Porphyry - Platonist academic preserved writings of Plotinus.


How many of these 20 odd references are known forgeries?

How many, if any, are guaranteed to be authentic?

It seems undeniable that the church has fabricated many of these references which are supposedly independent of the church. What does that tell us about the modus operandi of the church? Did they murder their Popes? Did they exterminate their heretics? Did they run an Index of Prohibited Books? Could they have added a few words here and there to a manuscript? Could all of these references have been inserted by the church sometime between the 4th century and the Middle Ages?

Is this question amenable to probability analysis? How many forgeries or interpolations need to be identified before a similar pattern of facts start to strongly suggest a biased source.


SURVEY: To what extent was the demand for corroborating evidence from independent sources supplied by church forgery?

Last edited by Kookaburra Jack; June 29th, 2017 at 11:36 PM.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 08:33 AM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
1st Century
1.1 030-033 King Agbar of Edessa - the letter to Jesus
1.2 093-094 Josephus Flavius - TF, Antiquity of the Jews
1.3 050-065 Seneca - the wonderful correspondence with "Dear Paul"


These three are generally seen as likely to have been forged.
With regard to TF, not forged but just "christianized."

Quote:
It seems undeniable that the church has fabricated many of these references which are supposedly independent of the church. What does that tell us about the modus operandi of the church? Did they murder their Popes? Did they exterminate their heretics? Did they run an Index of Prohibited Books? Could they have added a few words here and there to a manuscript? Could all of these references have been inserted by the church sometime between the 4th century and the Middle Ages?
Some but not all.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 09:21 AM   #3

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Josephus has two passages - chapters 18 and 22 if I recall correctly, and it's believed that they were elongated in the 13th century and the original statements were maybe only one or two sentences long.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 04:19 PM   #4

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Originally Posted by starman View Post
With regard to TF, not forged but just "christianized."
I am aware that some treat the TF as a "partial interpolation" while others have classed it as a "rank forgery and a very stupid one too".


Quote:
Some but not all.

I would like to go through this list in order to determine those references that are unimpeachable.

For example the Cassius Dio references does not occur in the books directly attributed to Dio, but only an epitome written by the 11th century epitomator.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 04:28 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by Flavius Aetius View Post
Josephus has two passages - chapters 18 and 22 if I recall correctly, and it's believed that they were elongated in the 13th century and the original statements were maybe only one or two sentences long.
Prior to the Feldman review of the TF there were the following assessments that pronounced the TF as a forgery ...


1762: Bishop Warburton of Gloucester -""a rank forgery, and a very stupid one, too",
1767: Dr. Nathaniel Lardner quotes Bishop Warburtonof Gloucester.
1788: Edward Gibbon - "may furnish an example of no vulgar forgery". D&F V2,Ch16,Pt2,FN [36]

18??: Ittigius (CMU, 47),
18??: Blondel (CMU, 47)
18??: Le Clerc (CMU, 47)
18??: Vandale (CMU, 47)
18??: Tanaquil Faber.'" (CMU, 47)

1830: Dr. Alexander Campbell
1833: Dr. Thomas Chalmers
1842: Mitchell Logan, Christian Mythology Unveiled (CMU)
1873: Theodor Keim - cited by Acharya S
1874: Cannon Farrar - 'The single passage in which he [Josephus] alludes to him is interpolated, if not wholly spurious'
1877: The Rev. Dr. Giles (Church of England) - "Hebrew and Christian records; an historical enquiry" - p. 30
1888: Rev. S. Baring-Gould - "Lost and Hostile Gospels," says: "first quoted by Eusebius - Hist. Eccl., lib. i, c. xi ; Demonst. Evang., lib. iii);
1889: Rev. Dr. Hooykaas - "certainly spurious, inserted by a later Christian hand." (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, p. 27)
1890: Emil Schürer - A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ - REF
1894: Edwin Johnson, "Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins" - REF
1897: Jakob Burckhardt "Eusebius was the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity"

1900: Harnack - www.ccel.org/h/harnack
1909: John Remsburg; "The Christ" ("We must get rid of that Christ" - Emerson) - REF
1910: NY Times Article on Arthur Drews: "Jesus never lived" - REF
1912: Arthur Drews - The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus - REF
1922: Marshall J. Gauvin - "Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage." - REF
1928: Solomn Zeitlin, [1928]
1939: Charles Guignebert "Jesus" -- "a pure Christian forgery"
19??: Joseph McCabe - translator of Arthur Drews - REF


No doubt many would like to, and have indeed defended the notion that there is something authentic in the passages in question.

But the fact remains many investigators perceive a common forgery by the church - often aimed at Eusebius.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 04:36 PM   #6

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Modern analysis of the language itself has shown Chapter 22 matches Josephus' own writing, while Chapter 18 (the long passage that's often said to be a forgery) was very clearly edited or forged in the 13th century.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 08:02 PM   #7

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Can we not get stuck on the Josephus references? The fact remains that it has been assailed as a fraudulent interpolation by the church. And yes there are still some who argue for its genuineness in entirety. There is no expectation to obtain definitive answers either way on some of these items listed. The spread - range - or spectrum - of opinion on any one item should be noted. However because the list provided in the OP has been complied after some research and is claimed to be comprehensive, an analysis of the big picture is sought.

The big picture being the integrity of the (entire list of) historical literary evidence underpinning these supposedly independent witnesses - drawn from sources of classical or Jewish literature outside the "Church Tradition" - which would have us infer the existence of Early Christians prior to 325 CE.

For another example, the reference in Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" has been classed as an interpolation by a group of reasonably qualified classical Greek to English translators and scholars. In recent times particularly P.A. Brunt.



Marcus Aurelius Antoninus' reference to "christian obstinacy" (circa 167 CE) is located at Meditations, 11:3.
Here is George Long's English translation:
  • "What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man's own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show."
Gregory Hays' 2003 translation of Meditations

Hays' endnote for 11.3 says:
  • "This ungrammatical phrase [like the Christians]
    is almost certainly a marginal comment by a later reader;
    there is no reason to think Marcus
    had the Christians in mind here."
Maxwell Staniforth's 1964 translation of Meditations

The translation is as follows:
  • Happy the soul which, at whatever moment the call comes for release from the body, is equally ready to face extinction, dispersion, or survival. Such preparedness, however, must be the outcome of its own decision; a decision not prompted by mere contumacy, as with the Christians, * but formed with deliberation and gravity and, if it is to be convincing to others, with an absence of heroics.
The corresponding footnote reads as follows:
  • * If these words are authentic and not a later insertion,
    they are the only reference which Marcus makes to the Christians.
    C.R. Haines, however, in the Loeb edition of the Meditations,
    points out that the clause is
    'outside the construction, and in fact ungrammatical.
    It is in the very form of a marginal note,
    and has every appearance of being a gloss
    foisted into the text.'

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Old July 1st, 2017, 12:19 AM   #8
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Can someone tell me of the Roman text that mentions a follower(s) of "Christa" or "Christus" or some similar wording. I think the writing specifically deals with a group of supposed followers in Rome itself. Though this interpretation is still open to doubt.
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Old July 1st, 2017, 01:10 AM   #9

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Can someone tell me of the Roman text that mentions a follower(s) of "Christa" or "Christus" or some similar wording. I think the writing specifically deals with a group of supposed followers in Rome itself. Though this interpretation is still open to doubt.
That may be the following .....

Suetonius, Divus Claudius 25
  • "From Rome he (Claudius) expelled the perpetually tumultuating Jews prompted by Chrestus." [Boman (2012)]

    "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus,[74] he expelled them from Rome." [J. C. Rolfe]

    [74] Another form of Christus; see Tert. Apol. 3 (at the end). It is uncertain whether Suetonius is guilty of an error in chronology or is referring to some Jew of that name. The former seems probable because of the absence of quodam. Tac. Ann. 15.44, uses the correct form, Christus, and states that He was executed in the reign of Tiberius.
Otherwise another of the "Big Four" listed in the OP:


2nd Century


2.1 101-112 Pliny the Younger - Plinius, Ep 10:97; letter to Emperor Trajan
2.2 101-112 Emperor Trajan - Dear Pliny (a rescript)
2.3 115-116 Tacitus - Annals 15:44
2.4 118-119 Suetonius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero, 16.


These first four references to Christians have been suspected by some investigators to be inauthentic.
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Old July 1st, 2017, 03:10 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
That may be the following .....

Suetonius, Divus Claudius 25
  • "From Rome he (Claudius) expelled the perpetually tumultuating Jews prompted by Chrestus." [Boman (2012)]

    "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus,[74] he expelled them from Rome." [J. C. Rolfe]

    [74] Another form of Christus; see Tert. Apol. 3 (at the end). It is uncertain whether Suetonius is guilty of an error in chronology or is referring to some Jew of that name. The former seems probable because of the absence of quodam. Tac. Ann. 15.44, uses the correct form, Christus, and states that He was executed in the reign of Tiberius.
Otherwise another of the "Big Four" listed in the OP:


2nd Century


2.1 101-112 Pliny the Younger - Plinius, Ep 10:97; letter to Emperor Trajan
2.2 101-112 Emperor Trajan - Dear Pliny (a rescript)
2.3 115-116 Tacitus - Annals 15:44
2.4 118-119 Suetonius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero, 16.


These first four references to Christians have been suspected by some investigators to be inauthentic.
Yes, thats the one. Thanks.
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