“If Jesus performed all the miracles that are claimed, especially his resurrection from the dead, why isn’t he mentioned in the first century beyond a few Christian sources? A risen Jesus would have made more of a impact on his culture. [so say skeptics] In the first century, people did not have access to all of our convenient ways to record and preserve the facts about events. Further, we know that much of what was recorded in the past has been lost. New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, who served as an editor for and contributor to a large scholarly work on the Gospels, provides four reasons why more was not written on Jesus in his time:
- The humble beginnings of Christianity.
- The remote location of Palestine on the eastern frontiers of the Roman empire.
- The small percentage of the works of ancient Greco-Roman historians which have survived.
- The lack of attention paid by those which are extant to Jewish figures in general.
Gary: Now, I certainly agree that these are very valid reasons for why there is no mention of Jesus among Jesus’ contemporaries…if Jesus was the obscure, apocalyptic Galilean preacher that I and many skeptics believe is the true picture of the real historical Jesus of Nazareth. But I find it very hard to believe that such would be the case for the Jesus of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament! Let me briefly review what occurred in the last week of the life of the Jesus of the Christian Gospels:
- Thousands of Jews greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, hailing him as the “King of the Jews”; the hero who would deliver them from the hated Romans. If the Gospels are correct, at least some of Jesus’ disciples were armed with swords. Certainly this would have triggered alarm in the Empire. All eyes would have been on this man.
- Jesus’ arrest and trial brought the capital city of Judea to the boiling point. The normally bold and decisive Pilate is shaken with indecision due to the pressure brought to bear by the Jewish mob. He is forced to release Jesus to the Jews against his will.
- At the moment of Jesus death, the following events occur:
- an earthquake
- dead people are shaken out of their graves to roam the streets of the city
- the veil of the Holy of Holies is torn down the middle
- a never heard of before or since THREE HOUR ECLIPSE of the sun occurs
- Three days later his guarded tomb is found empty with supernatural beings announcing his resurrection.
- Over the next forty days, over five hundred devout Jews claim to have seen this professed “Son of God” alive again with a heavenly body and supernatural powers.
And yet dear folks, not ONE contemporary of Jesus says one word about him or any of these spectacular events. Not one word.
Now, it is certainly possible that they did, and all these writings have been lost, but we do have the writings of one of the contemporaries of Jesus: Philo of Alexandria. And Philo writes a great deal about Pilate…but never says one single word about Pilate’s most famous citizen living who raised the dead and upon whose death the sun was blotted out for three whole hours!
Likewise the writings of Josephus. Although Josephus was not a contemporary of Jesus and does mention him, his references to Jesus are very, very brief and benign. Oddly enough, however, he never mentions the three hour eclipse, or the dead people walking the streets, or the resurrection details! In fact if you read Josephus, John the Baptist seems to have been a much bigger “deal” than Jesus.
To me, all this suggests that Jesus was NOT the big deal that the Gospels try to make him out to be. It is much more probable, therefore, that the Gospel authors were non-eyewitnesses, writing evangelistic propaganda in an effort to save souls and indoctrinate “the brethren”.
Adding a few non-historical details wasn’t going to hurt anyone if it made for a good story!