Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Testament External Written Sources part 1


Regarding James brother of Jesus

"And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought them a man called James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. Those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair minded and who were strict in observance of the law were offended at this. "

Regarding John the Baptist

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, but he is not real, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him. (Whiston Translation)

Regarding Jesus

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3

Regarding Theudas, and Judas the Galilean
As in Acts:
Acts 5:33-39 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill him. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he wa killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them -- in that case you may even be found fighting against God."
In Josephus:
Antiquities 20.5.1 97-99
During the time when Fadus was procurator of Judea a certain enchanter named Theudas persuaded a great number of the people to take their belongings with them and follow him to the Jordan River. He told them he was a prophet and that he would, by his own command, divide the river and afford them an easy passage through it. And many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to gain the result of this wildness, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them captive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus's government.

Antiquities 20.5.2 102
And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain. This was the Judas who caused the people to revolt against the Romans when Quirinius came to take an account of Judea, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, who were crucified by order of Alexander.
Regarding The Egyptian
Acts 21:37-38
Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "may I say something to you?" The tribune replied, "Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led four thousand of the sicarii out into the wilderness?"

Antiquities 20.8.5 169-172 (War 2.13.5 261)
These deeds of the robbers filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now conjurers and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would show them manifest wonders and signs that would be performed by the providence of God. And many that were persuaded suffered the pain of their folly, for Felix brought them back and punished them. At this time there came out of Egypt to Jerusalem a man who said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives, which lay a distance of five furlongs from the city. He said that he would show them that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, through which he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city. Now when Felix was informed of this he ordered his soldiers to take up their weapons, and with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem he attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He slew four hundred of them and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped from the fight and did not appear any more. And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans.
The Letter of Mara Bar Serapion

What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given (quoted by F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Eerdmans Publishing Co., Fifth Revised Edition, p. 114).

What F.F. Bruce says about the letter:

There is, indeed, in the British Museum an interesting manuscript preserving the text of a letter written some time later than AD 73, but how much later we cannot be sure. This letter was sent by a Syrian named Mara BarSerapion to his son Serapion. Mara Bar-Serapion was in prison at the time, but he wrote to encourage his son in the pursuit of wisdom, and pointed out that those who persecuted wise men were overtaken by misfortune. He instances the deaths of Socrates, 'Pythagoras and Christ:
This writer can scarcely have been a Christian, or he would have said that Christ lived on by being raised from the dead. He was more probably a Gentile philosopher, who led the way in what later became a commonplace-the placing of Christ on a comparable footing with the great sages of antiquity.

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