Archive for the ‘The earliest testimony’ Category

April 2010

April 10th, 2010 No comments

The Triumph of Titus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Oil on canvas, 1885

What’s Happening, April, 2010

I haven’t made many posts lately, for I am in the process of rewriting the How to Live Forever manuscript in a fashion that removes copyrighted materials. I have already identified each of the citations in question; and when they have been replaced, either by public domain translations or through having the passage in question re-translated specifically for this project, I intend to self-publish and advertise online. I would like to have this completed by end of summer, publishing the book by year’s end.

In the meantime, here is an interesting passage implying Roman hostility towards Christianity under the Flavian Emperors. Sulpicius Severus relates that Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in order to eliminate both the Jewish and Christian religions:

Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish.

- Chronica II.30.6. (translated by Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.) [c. 401 AD]

Severus drew heavily from non-Christian historians (Chron. I.1.4), including Josephus and Tacitus (comp. Chron. II.28.2 to Annals xv.37.). Since Josephus’ account portrayed Titus as sympathetic to Judaism and opposed to the destruction of the Jewish Temple (Bell. Iud. vi.4.3), a case has been made that Severus’ divergence indicates that he was quoting a passage from the lost books of Tacitus’ Histories. My copy of the Loeb edition of Tacitus (ed. C.H. Moore, vol. III, pp. 220-221) includes both Chron. II.30.3 and II.30.6 as fragments of  Tacitus’ Histories, Book V with no disclaimer, treating the matter as if settled. Whether this is actually the case, it does seem unlikely that Severus would contradict Josephus (whose account he appeared to be following, comp. II.30.5 to Bell. Iud. vi.9.3) on this point unless he had an alternative source. As an interesting aside, Titus might be expected to know more of the origins of Christianity than the average Roman through his mistress Berenice, who had personally heard the Christian message from the apostle Paul in the late 50’s AD (Acts 25:13 – 26:32). For complete discussion on the merits of Tacitean authorship for this passage, see H. W. Montefiore, ‘Sulpicius Severus and Titus’ Council of War’, Historia 11 (1962), pp. 156ff.

Jesus Raises a Close Friend

December 13th, 2009 1 comment

The Resurrection of Lazarus

John records a third resurrection which was performed by Jesus, shortly before the crucifixion. This is the story of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus’ from Bethany. Unlike the widow’s son at Nain or Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days prior to Jesus’ arrival. Commanding the removal of a stone which had blocked the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb for over half of the Jewish week of mourning was the most inexplicable of actions. The only possible justification for such a request would have been the resurrection of the occupant. This account demonstrates more clearly than any other the foreknowledge; the prophetic insight that Christ held concerning these miracles.

Vincent Van Gogh: La Résurrection de Lazare (d’après Rembrandt)

Vincent Van Gogh: La Résurrection de Lazare (d’après Rembrandt)

Before we examine the passage from John’s Gospel, a little background is in order. Some have questioned why John alone would chronicle this most remarkable of pre-crucifixion revivifications. One might reason that such an amazing incident should have been a keynote feature in the Synoptic Gospels as well. The answer to this seeming paradox, once again, depends on when each account was written. All four Gospel accounts record that Jesus’ life had been threatened by the Jewish authorities prior to the events at Lazarus’ tomb[1]. In Chapter IV we examined the reasons for this conflict between Christ and the Jewish rulers. John’s account preserves considerable detail of how this underlying premise affected the decisions and actions of the participants. Read more…

The Scientific Treatment of Prophecy

October 31st, 2009 No comments

The Curious Case of Joseph ben Matthias

In 67 AD, during the Jewish revolt against Rome, Roman legions under Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian) conquered the Galilean city of Jotapata, the center of resistance for the Jewish armies in Galilee. Taken alive was Joseph ben Matthias, the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee, a young man of aristocratic lineage and personal friend of Poppea, wife of the reigning Emperor Nero. It was unusual to capture such a leader. Most

Giulio Romano, The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian

Giulio Romano, The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian

Jewish commanders would suicide rather than face the pain and humiliation which Romans were wont to mete out to rebels. In consequence, Vespasian prepared to send this prestigious prisoner to Nero, an Emperor renowned for his merciless pursuit of self-interest[a].

Joseph was in something of a cleft stick. Whether he went to Nero or stayed with the legions, his outlook was torture and execution. Could he have appealed to Poppea for succor? Could he have made ‘a deal’ with the legions? At best he would be a turncoat, traitor to his people and his cause, never to be trusted by either side.

Joseph tells us in his own writings how these events transpired:

However, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept with great caution, as though he would in a very little time send him to Nero.

When Josephus heard him give those orders, he said that he had somewhat in his mind that he would willingly say to himself alone. When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said, “Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero’s successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God.” When he had said this, Vespasian at present did not believe him, but supposed that Josephus said this as a cunning trick, in order to his own preservation; but in a little time he was convinced, and believed what he said to be true, God himself erecting his expectations, so as to think of obtaining the empire, and by other signs fore-showing his advancement. He also found Josephus to have spoken truth on other occasions; for one of those friends that were present at that secret conference said to Josephus, “I cannot but wonder how thou couldst not foretell to the people of Jotapata that they should be taken, nor couldst foretell this captivity which hath happened to thyself, unless what thou now sayest be a vain thing, in order to avoid the rage that is risen against thyself.” To which Josephus replied, “I did foretell to the people of Jotapata that they would be taken on the forty-seventh day, and that I should be caught alive by the Romans.” Now when Vespasian had inquired of the captives privately about these predictions, he found them to be true, and then he began to believe those that concerned himself. Yet did he not set Josephus at liberty from his hands, but bestowed on him suits of clothes, and other precious gifts; he treated him also in a very obliging manner, and continued so to do, Titus still joining his interest in the honors that were done him. – Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter viii, § 398 – 408

Read more…

The Higher Criticism

August 15th, 2009 No comments

The Higher Critical Method – A Study of Inherent Logical Fallacy

For nearly two-hundred years, since Eichhorn coined the term, higher critical methods have been the accepted means for determination of the authenticity of ancient documents. These techniques as performed by academia today constitute the ONLY procedures for evaluating such documents which are based upon scientific principles. Notwithstanding the pedigree of the work, or ancient testimony to the contrary, the true nature of all ancient literature may be determined ONLY through adherence to this modern approach. So we are told.

But is the higher criticism, as currently practiced, truly the unbiased application of the scientific method to the field of historical literature?  Based upon the examples of higher critical analyses that I have studied, and I have by no means read them all, I have observed a curious systematic acceptance of the sophistic notion that science has somehow disproven the supernatural – that phenomena either unexamined or unproven by modern science have somehow been disproved by the lack of formal treatment. This premise, coupled with the modern prejudice that the ancients were a rather naïve and superstitious lot, incapable of discriminating truth from fable and certainly incapable of teaching anything to a modern man of science, has been invoked to discredit an entire corpus of literature – specifically that literature which claims to be a record of the intervention of the Divine in the affairs of men. “Oh, give me a break,” some might say, “all that buildup to defend a dying faith against the encroachment of science? When will you religious nuts stop being threatened by progress?”

But I submit for your consideration the defense that science does not hold a monopoly on truth. Indeed, the long and chequered annals of science include many embarrassing incidents of entrenched hostility towards new theories by adherents of previous doctrines; and conversely, the acceptance of rather dubious conclusions based upon the prestige of their proponents[a]. Even well supported theories come and go with the passage of time. The Newtonian mechanics that you learned in school were already known to be incomplete, having been augmented by Einstein’s Relativity, long before you were taught Newton.

So to say that something is the ‘accepted’ scientific theory of the day is really no endorsement at all. True science can be built only upon hard data by sound logical arguments. Many things science has yet to measure, so the requisite evidence needed for development of a theory has not even been gathered. As a physicist, one of the ‘hard’ scientists, I am well aware that each of my working theories rests upon data and underlying assumptions. This being said, I may only apply a theory to a problem INSOFAR as that problem does not violate one of the theory’s underlying premises.

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Reconciling the Eyewitness accounts

May 9th, 2009 2 comments

Chronology for the Passion of the Christ

1. The Jewish Calendar

The festivals of Judaism at the time of Christ were celebrated in accordance with the Jewish lunar calendar. This lunar calendar consisted of twelve lunar months, each containing twenty-nine or thirty days[a], and each commencing and ending with the phase of “new” moon. Our modern calendar, based upon the Roman model, requires that twelve months contain 365 days. A year based upon the Jewish calendar averaged 354 days. In order to account for the time difference between twelve lunar cycles and a year containing 365 days, an additional month was added to the Jewish calendar roughly seven times every nineteen years. This way each month and festival would continue to occur in the appropriate season, (i.e. spring, summer, harvest, planting, etc). Any attempt to reconcile a chronology of events dating to the time of Christ must account for differences between the various calendars.Alexander in the Temple

2. The Jewish Day

The Jewish day begins at sunset rather than midnight, in accordance with the principle:

5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day. - Genesis 1:5

So, to a Jew of Jesus’ day, Saturday would begin at roughly 7:00 P.M. (sunset) on what we call Friday night. All that evening and night would be the early part of Saturday, and the daylight portion of Saturday would continue until sunset on Saturday night. As soon as the sun sets on Saturday night, Sunday would begin. Read more…

A Difference of Perspective

April 24th, 2009 No comments

An Excerpt From Chapter VII of How to Live Forever

…Based on this analysis, Tacitus provides an independent Roman witness to the death of Christ. So, in addition to the four written narratives depicting the crucifixion which were drawn from witnesses sympathetic to Christ, Josephus strongly infers concurrence among the Jewish opposition, and Tacitus confirms the official Roman agreement. Three separate societies with conflicting objectives, yet all three substantiate the fact of Christ’s death by order of the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Having established this material fact, let us examine the four Gospel narratives, each based upon eyewitness testimony, for the details.

Raphael, Christ's Charge to St. Peter

Raphael, Christ's Charge to St. Peter

2. A Difference of Perspective

Ancient testimony agrees that Matthew wrote the first Gospel account in the Hebrew language[1]. This premise strongly infers that Matthew’s Gospel was written when the church was still primarily comprised of converted Jews, before the first major missionary works were begun among the gentiles. So Matthew was written by an Hebrew to a Jewish audience. The same testimony indicates that Mark was written by Peter’s interpreter[2] to an audience that Peter could not address directly. The most likely scenario is that Mark translated Peter’s oral message into Latin during Peter’s stay in Rome, but wrote the Gospel of Mark in Greek with the idea that most literate Romans were also fluent in Greek. Mark, then, was written by an Hebrew for a Roman audience. Paul’s companion Luke was a gentile physician, considered a part of Greek culture before his conversion. Since he accompanied Paul[3] on missionary journeys through Greece and proconsular Asia, we must assume that Luke wrote his works to the Greek world at large. Read more…

What’s New

January 25th, 2009 No comments

What’s New for March, 2009

First, I am adding the epistles of the younger Pliny to this site, as a resource for others.  I have benefited so much from the ancient authors who have already been published online, that it seems only right that I give something back. I believe that the Hardy and Melmoth translations are both public domain, and they are both currently available as Google books in a ‘pdf’ format.  But it might be worthwhile to have these translations available as searchable text,  thus providing a more usable resource for research. If anyone has thoughts on this, I would appreciate the feedback. These epistles may be found under the tab ‘Lagniappe’. Just use the dropdown to go to ‘Pliny II’.

Also, I have collected most of the research material for the new essay treating the use of written materials by the early church.  The research is not yet complete, but I am working on it as I may.  As we discussed in January, we are trying a different approach with this essay:

Read more…

The Witnesses to the Witnesses

January 2nd, 2009 8 comments

(Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)

…It turns out that Christians were still being tortured to deny Christ through the first decade of the fourth century[1]. Then in 313 AD, Constantinus Augustus (Constantine) and his brother-in-law, Licinius Augustus, issued

Henryk Siemiradzki. Leading Light of Christianity. Nero's Torches. 1876. Oil on canvas.National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

Henryk Siemiradzki. Leading Light of Christianity. Nero's Torches. 1876. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Krakow, Poland.

the Edict of Milan. With this decree, for the first time in its nearly three-hundred year existence, Christianity was formally recognized as a legal religion within the Roman Empire.

We have previously shown that cessation of testimony was sufficient to save a Christian from the Jewish persecution. Now it appears that simple repentance granted immunity from Roman capital punishment as well. It is logical to conclude that the many Christians slaughtered during the church’s first three-hundred years believed their message was worth dying for.

2. The Witnesses to the Witnesses

In reference to the stated goals of this book, we are very fortunate to possess the written transcripts of these earliest Christians’ message today. The pages of these documents contain the most graphic eyewitness accounts of resurrection ever recorded. All of these writers risked their personal safety, and many sacrificed their lives rather than renounce their beliefs, thus providing compelling evidence of their sincerity. Read more…

Clement of Rome

December 25th, 2008 2 comments

The Use of Material Deriving from the Synoptic Gospels

In the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians

(Also known as I Clement)

A.) The Apostolic Fathers


There remain extant today a relatively few documents authored by those who were personally acquainted with Jesus’ disciples. These works fill a vital role in demonstrating the transition from a faith based upon the personal experience of the believer into a faith based upon documents written and endorsed by eyewitnesses. The disciples of Jesus’ disciples are commonly known as “The Apostolic Fathers”. Pre-eminent among their writings are:

1.) A letter by Clement of Rome (a disciple of Peter and Paul) to the church

at Corinth (Achaia).

2.) Seven letters by Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of Peter, Paul, and possibly John). Six letters are addressed to the churches of various cities throughout the Roman Empire; the seventh to an individual, Polycarp of Smyrna.

3.) A letter by Polycarp of Smyrna (a close disciple of John) to the church at Philippi (Macedonia).

4.) Excerpts from a work in five books authored by Papias of Hierapolis, (a “hearer” of Jesus’ disciple John). These excerpts were preserved as citations by later writers, who found Papias’ subject matter useful for their own discussions. It is difficult to form generalizations concerning the writing style of Papias due to the fragmentary nature of material thus preserved. Read more…