Sep 3, 2014

About Christians before 70 AD

Documents About Christianity Before 70 CE.
Why there aren't any. 

Secular documents on Christianity are non-existent before 70 CE.
There are none from Judea, Galilee, Egypt, nor anywhere else.  

Modern authors (such as Josepeh Atwill, Caesar's Messiah) have maintained that Christianity, as we know it today, was a post-70 CE invention. 
Be that argument as it may, the first Christian documentations outside of the New Testament come from the 90s CE.

For example, The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (a.k.a. I Clement). It gives the Corinthians the advice that leaders of a church shouldn't be deposed without reasonable grounds. The letter was occasioned by an act of a group of Christians who had banded together against the leaders to depose them from office. Though the letter fails to mention the cause of the bad harmony, it provides a curious instance in which church members clash with one another, not with the evil world. 

Another example comes from after the 90s CE.
The Roman historian Tacitus says a few things about Christians, but wrote in the second century CE. He claims that Christians in Rome angered Emperor Nero. (He ruled from 54 CE to 68 CE.)
It indicates the spread of the religion to Rome by the 50s CE.
(Nero blamed Christians when a fire broke out in a large section of the city.) 

The same Tacitus presents a summary of the Christian tradition, namely that "Christus" was their founder and put to death by Pontius Pilate (Tacitus, Annals 15.44).
It's an irony that early Christian intellectuals fail to mention Tacitus' report when they discuss Nero's persecution of Christians.
 Christian intellectuals Tertullian around 200 CE, Lactantius and Eusebius around 300 CE, and Sulpicius Severus and Augustine of Hippo around 400 CE fail to mention Tacitus.
The collective silence suggests that the passage didn't exist in early manuscripts of Tacitus. Skeptics suspect a Christian editor inserted the passage. (The earliest surviving manuscript of Annals is an eleventh-century Christian scribal copy.)

The Roman historian Suetonius supposedly writes that Christians were in
Rome earlier than Nero's time. (That would be 65 CE.)
Suetonius wrote around 119 CE. He notes that the Jews in Rome were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus; so that they were expelled from the city (Seutonius, Life of Claudius 25.4).

The edict against Jews was made in 49 CE. The New Testament might have echoed it in the book of Acts. It states that Emperor Claudius (he ruled from 41 CE to 54 CE) acted to forbid Jews in Rome.
Acts (chapter 18), although written in the 80s CE, is set in 49 CE, the year of the edict--
Acts 18:1 "Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Riscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome."

The catch is, Jesus wasn't likely the aforementioned Chrestus (the word is a title, "messiah," for a righteous Jewish leader).
A number of militant messiahs rose and fell in the 1st century CE. One of them could've been that Chrestus.
Seutonius' report is about Jews in 49 CE, anyway. There's nothing about Christians in it.  

The Jewish Talmud almost seems to say something about Jesus Christ.
The period of Talmud compilation was between 70 CE and 200 CE. It reports stoning a Jesus and then hanging him (Hebrew Yeshu)--
Tractate Sanhedrin 43a.281 “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. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”
The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 43a.281

It says something the New Testament doesn't: a herald cries “He is going forth to be stoned.”
Intriguing though it may be, the conventional date of the document is around 120 CE, nearly an entire a century after the supposed execution of Jesus of the Gospels.
 Moreover, the Talmud segment says Yeshu knew royalty personally--
“Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a mesith [enticer], concerning whom scripture says, Neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or with royalty, i.e., the influential].”

The New Testament doesn't state that Jesus was personally close to government officials or influential royalty. 

Other Talmud tractates report that a certain Yeshu sorcerer was executed on the eve of Passover around 90 BCE.
All the tractates seem to talk about the same man. But they depict a Yashu that fails to match up with the one of the canonical Gospels.
Thus the Talmud Yashu isn't the Jesus executed in the 30s CE.
In fact, one scholar states that the tractates are about a Yeshu who had a serious falling out with his rabbi teacher, so that Yeshu went away and started his own pagan-like cult around 90 BCE. 

Lastly, there's Thallus, a pagan historian who published around 52 CE. He reports that the sun was darkened at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
 His book has disappeared, and so Thallus is now known only from fragments sited by Christian intellectuals of a later date.
For example, Julius Africanus, around 221 CE--
"Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun--unreasonably, as it seems to me." 

An eclipse of the sun occurred all right, but in November 29 CE, according to modern astronomy.
The month alone fails to match up with the spring season, the time of the crucifixion.
Furthermore, the "darkening of the sun" by a solar eclipse utterly fails to equate with the way the sun is darkened in the Gospel. The crucifixion was at Passover time when the moon was full. A full moon can't cause a solar eclipse.  

Whenever an ancient document comes close to a report on Christianity before 70 CE, an anomaly gets in the way.
It's how it is.

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