In our previous article in this series (found here), we began by articulating the popular argument that Christianity stole its central themes from antecedent Pagan deities. There, we argued that even skeptics and critical scholars reject such a view. However, we didn’t explain why they do so. In the subsequent articles, we will outline the reasons scholars reject this specious claim. [Read more…]
Many skeptics claim that the resurrection of Jesus originated from pagan myths about “dying and rising” gods—commonly called the “copycat theory” of Christianity. James G. Frazer popularized this view in his book The Golden Bough (1914), though more recently, others have followed in his footsteps.
It’s remarkable that many thinking people today deny the historical existence of Jesus. In this series of articles, we have been exploring the evidence for the existence of Jesus purely from extrabiblical sources, rather than by appealing to the NT documents (see Evidence Unseen “Part Four,” 2013). In earlier articles in this series, we have considered the works of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Josephus, Lucian, and Thallus. In this installment, we will consider the works of the Syrian Mara Bar-Serapion and finally the Jewish Talmud.
Mara Bar-Serapion (Syrian)
Mara Bar-Serapion was a Syrian philosopher, who wrote a letter to his son sometime after AD 73. William Cureton dates the letter to the end of the first century, though most scholars date this letter to the second century, because he refers to the Jews as desolate and scattered, which fits better after the Bar Kokhba Revolt (AD 135). There is only one manuscript of his letter in existence, dating to the 7th century and preserved in the British Museum.
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 statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.
Did Jesus exist? While a robust case can be made by appealing to the NT documents (see Evidence Unseen “Part Four,” 2013), we have chosen instead to appeal to hostile non-Christian sources. In earlier articles in this series, we have considered the works of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Josephus. In this edition, we will consider the works of Lucian and Thallus. [Read more…]
Did Jesus exist? While a robust case can be made by appealing to the New Testament (NT) documents (see Evidence Unseen “Part Four,” 2013), in this series, we will only appeal to the hostile witnesses of history from outside of the NT. In previous articles, we considered the works of Cornelius Tacitus, as well as Pliny the Younger and Suetonius. In this article, we will consider the controversial work of Flavius Josephus. [Read more…]