Non Christian References to Christ|
Q. Are there credible non-Christian references to Christ? A nonbelieving friend of mine pointed-out to me that we shouldn't use the Bible to "prove" the bible because it's circular reasoning.
Ph.Ds of the Ancient Near East
It's amazing how skeptics accept or believe almost anything outside the Bible - like the spurious Gnostic writings - but they refuse to look at archaeological and historical proofs for the writings contained in the bible itself.
Yet, it is the top ancient, historical scholars who set aside the best books to be included in the early canons of scripture. They were the equivalent of Ph.D scholars from Princton, Harvard, Yale and Cambridge from the ancient Near East.
Scholars reject Tabloid News
When you think about it, it isn't very good "logic" to reject the best historical references from the Bible but to accept those writings deemed "poor quality" by the scholars of the time. It would be the equivalent of accepting a tabloid report about an archaeological find while rejecting Harvard's article about the same thing. Where is the logic in that?
Various Esteemed Authors
Nevertheless, a number of people outside the Bible mention Christ in their writings. Some were historians. Others were government officials. Several were extra biblical religious authors. And others wrote official records.
For example, here is a brief summary of some in this list.
Josephus was a famous Jewish historian, for example. He identified James as Jesus' brother and mentioned pertinent facts about Jesus' life, death by crucifixion, some of Jesus' claims to be the looked-for Messiah, and His effect upon those who followed Him.
In 115 A.D. the historian Tacitus recorded that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He accused followers of Jesus as furthering a "superstition" which was spreading throughout the Roman Empire.
Suetonius was the Emperor Hadrian's secretary. He claimed that the Christians who followed "Chrestus" were disturbing the peace.
Pliny the Younger
A Roman Governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger, complained that Christians sang hymns to a "god."
The Emperor Trajan wrote back to Pliny the Younger and told him how to deal with those who were guilty of this mischief.
The Christian historian Eusebius recorded that Hadrian wrote something similar to his letter to Pliny the Younger, to an Asian official.
Nag Hammadi Library
From the writings of Gnostics found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, we have several references to Jesus. Many modern historical books contain references from Gnostic literature. But, most of the writings are from the second century and were clearly cult-like in nature.
Supposed "scholars" pull out books from this library year after year to "prove" the existence of "lost books" of early Christianity which give doubt to Jesus as the Messiah. They are equivalent to New Age writings, Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science literature, and other books promoting mind-sciences. Nevertheless, the Nag Hammadi library supports the existence of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The Talmud states that Jesus was crucified because of his "sorcery," magical practices and unorthodox practices.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Only recently from the mid 1990s have we learned that the Dead Sea Scrolls possibly contain fragments from the books of Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy and James. There is also a scroll called the "Son of God Scroll" which has exact wording from the Gospel of Luke! These fragments demonstrate that most of the New Testament was written before 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.
The Crucified Messiah Scroll
"A Dead Sea scroll released in 1991 spoke of a Messiah who 'suffered crucifixion for the sins of men.' Also included were references to Isaiah 53, tying this Messiah to the suffering servant Isaiah foretold centuries before. Ironically, some Jewish sects have actually removed Isaiah 53 from Scripture - its reference is 'too' descriptive of Jesus. This find, however, indicates the people of Jesus' day were well aware of, and accepted, the parallel" (Muncaster 2000, 29).
The Koran mentions the prophet Jesus, Mary, the disciples, and the ascension of Jesus.
We have overlapping writings from the early church fathers starting around 50 A.D. through 300 A.D. (and onward). These are extremely valuable because we can almost completely recreate the New Testament and early church history from their writings alone.
These included the writings of the apostles, the Apostle John, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius among others.
Finally, remember there are at least 39 sources outside the bible which verify the existence of Jesus and his historicity. That is an outstanding number when compared to the documentation of other ancient figures.
Campbell, Charlie H. 2005. One minute answers to skeptics' top forty questions. USA: Aquintas Publishing. www.AlwaysBeReady.com.
Cornish, Rick. 2005. 5 Minute apologist. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
Muncaster, Ralph. 2000. Can you trust the Bible? Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
—- One-minute answers: the evidence for Christianity. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Wilson, Bill. 1993. The best of Josh McDowell: a ready defense Nashville, TN: Nelson.
Authors: Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA. Ken has his BS from CSULB and an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They both teach classes and write articles for the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where Ken serves as Director.