Wednesday, September 8, 2010

External Quotes #1

I was asked last week, "Ok, so what if a person looks at the manuscript evidence of the Bible and agrees that what was originally written by the authors of the Gospels was successfully copied and passed on to us to today, why can they trust it to be historically accurate and true, and not just successfully copied?  After all, it's just one source about Jesus, right?"

This is an excellent question.  Just because a book has been handed down through time accurately from how it was originally written, this doesn't make the preserved writing true!  It could be fiction!

A way for us to have certainty that the Bible's claims about Jesus are true is to have sources outside of Christianity from the same time period which confirm the Biblical accounts.  Often times, names of certain external writers are thrown around, but sometimes the exact quotes from these authors are not listed or referenced.  I'll try to help by finding, listing, citing, and, or quoting such authors and what they said which confirms, not denies, the Biblical accounts concerning Jesus.

First, I'll start with Josephus, who was a Jewish historian.  From Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 3, Josephus writes concerning Jesus:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

Note: Josephus was not a Christian, but he wrote this concerning Jesus, and Josephus was a historian!  What he wrote is an excellent summary of Christ's life which fits with the Biblical account of Christ's life found from outside the Bible from a non-Christian historian.  Antiquities from which this quote is taken was completed by before the end of the first century!

For more quotes from Josephus:


  1. The text you are quoting is debated over in secular circles among historians. It is believed by many secular historians, for various reasons, the text was redacted some years later... Why I am not sure but there is a wealth of knowledge on the subject online.

  2. CARM explains the problem that some historians have with this Josephus quote as follows:

    "The problem with the copies of Antiquities is that they appear to have been rewritten in favor of Jesus and some say too favorable to have been written by a Jew. Add to this that the Christians were the ones who kept and made the copies of the Josephus documents throughout history and you have a shadow of doubt cast upon the quotes."

    However, CARM claims that every copy of Josephus' work contains the disputed quote and that Josephus mentions other New Testament related events. For example, Josephus records that the high priest Ananus brought James, "the brother of Jesus who was called Christ", up before the Sanhedrin accusing him and other Christians of having transgressed against the law and delivered them to be stoned.

    CARM also illustrates what the probable insertions are in the Josephus quote and in my opinion if those insertions are removed, a good, historical summary of the life of Jesus still remains.