Was Thallus the Samaritan a First Century Non-Christian Witness to the Gospel Accounts?

Image result for image of julius africanus

Evangelical Christian apologist, J. Warner Wallace: 

Thallus (ca. AD 5 – 60) was a Samaritan historian who wrote an expansive three-volume account of the history of the Mediterranean area in the middle of the first century, only twenty years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  Like the writings of many ancient historians, much of his work is now lost to us.  Another historian, Sextus Julius Africanus, wrote a text entitled History of the World in AD 221, however, and Africanus quoted an important passage from Thallus’ original account.  Thallus chronicled the alleged crucifixion of Jesus and offered an explanation for the darkness that was observed at the time of Jesus’ death:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other places were thrown down.  This darkness, Thallus in the third book of his History, calls, as it appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.

…in offering an explanation for the darkness, Thallus “reluctantly admitted” important details that corroborated portions of the Gospels.

Cold-Case Christianity, p. 197

Gary:  Why are so many conservative Christian apologists so dishonest?  Why not admit that this alleged statement by Thallus is very much contested among historians?  Why attempt to present this information as accepted historical fact when it is not?  Answer:  Their entire worldview depends on the veracity of the supernatural claims in the four Gospels!  Conservative Christians will grasp at any straw that helps prop up their case.

Here is a link to a detailed review of this ancient claim:  Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

33 thoughts on “Was Thallus the Samaritan a First Century Non-Christian Witness to the Gospel Accounts?

    1. I expected that the mention of Richard Carrier would send Christians howling, so here is another source on this issue (By the way, Carrier’s article was in a peer-reviewed journal, not just something he wrote on a blog):

      “Thallus, like Phlegon, is a lost historian who only survives in later quotations and whose date is largely uncertain, but he probably wrote during the 2nd century CE. None of the later quotations of his works that include his own words mention Jesus. Instead another quote of Africanus, who does not record Thallus’ own words, claims that Thallus also wrote about the great darkness at Jesus’ execution, but once more this is only preserved by the 9th century author Syncellus. Given Africanus’ previous error, where he claimed that Phlegon wrote about Jesus, when his actual words did not, it is highly likely that Africanus misrepresented Thallus as well (there is also the possibility that Eusebius anonymously quotes Thallus in his Chronicle where no reference to Jesus is made in regard to the Tiberian eclipse). Lacking Thallus’ works or even a quotation of his own words that mentions Jesus, he cannot accurately be regarded as “an account that now exists concerning Jesus,” like Habermas and Licona claim, and thus including his name on the list is misleading.”

      Source: https://celsus.blog/2012/10/14/ten-reasons-to-reject-the-apologetic-1042-source-slogan/comment-page-1/

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  1. Gary –

    re: “Why are so many conservative Christian apologists so dishonest?… Their entire worldview depends on the veracity of the supernatural claims in the four Gospels!”

    I’m truly curious — What is your “deal”, in terms of, specifically, “conservative Christians”? You make countless references to conservative Christians and Christianity, but there are a lot of Christians that believe in, essentially, only one “supernatural claim” – that, being the resurrection. For such Christians, all other claims may or may not be as written, rumored, or reported, and as such, are merely seen as “acceptable, possibly true, but not necessary”.

    So, what is behind your “bent” against “*conservative* Christianity”? Like, were your Mom and Dad conservative Christians that never allowed you to think for yourself, and now, you need to “hit back”?

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    1. I believe that the world would be better off without ANY supernatural belief. However, I can live with a world that includes belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus the loving Savior who wouldn’t harm a fly and will take everyone to heaven when they die (liberal Christianity).

      However, I strongly oppose and work hard to expose and debunk supernatural beliefs based on fear: which is the basis of belief for conservative Christianity—eternal damnation for the thought crime of rejecting Jesus as one’s Lord and Master. That is why my “beef” is with conservative Christianity and not “Christianity” as a whole.

      I believe that I am involved in one of the greatest movements in human history: the debunking of religious superstitions. I believe it is best to start with the worst ones (those based on fear) first.

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      1. That is somewhat interesting. I would interpret your deconversion experience by saying that conservative Christianity isn’t what made you disillusioned with religion (since you seem to regard Lutheranism as a mild form of Christianity since it does not impose many daily restrictions and it lacks an emphasis on hell and “moral conduct” outside popular social custom). You were disillusioned when you uncovered that there is a lack of empirical substance behind foundational Christian doctrinal beliefs, including the lack of archeological evidence for key events in “salvation history” such as the slavery in Egypt, Exodus of the Jews and the forty years in the desert. The Resurrection seems to be a tenuous history position, to say the least.

        I really don’t see your blog as a “debunking” site with a particular mission, but rather as a personal hobby of yours that honestly seeks to explore New Testament history and Biblical scholarship.

        I think David Hume does a better job at critiquing “vulgar superstition” (popular religion) than you (since you are primarily focused with the historicity and plausibility of the Gospel narratives as opposed to religion as a sociological phenomenon). There isn’t that much new now, and Hume’s writing has a “timeless” quality to it. He does it better than the New Atheists.

        We must further consider, that philosophers, who cultivate reason and reflection, stand less in need of such motives to keep them under the restraint of morals; and that the vulgar, who alone may need them, are utterly incapable of so pure a religion as represents the Deity to be pleased with nothing but virtue in human behaviour. The recommendations to the Divinity are generally supposed to be either frivolous observances, or rapturous ecstasies, or a bigoted credulity. We need not run back into antiquity, or wander into remote regions, to find instances of this degeneracy. Amongst ourselves, some have been guilty of that atrociousness, unknown to the Egyptian and Grecian superstitions, of declaiming in express terms, against morality; and representing it as a sure forfeiture of the Divine favour, if the least trust or reliance be laid upon it.

        From Chapter 12 of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. So what’s new now? Popular manifestations of religion are just frivolous observances and bigoted credulity along with some rapturous ecstasies in some sects (such as charismatics).

        Few religious systems can evade Hume’s observation that religious practice is often not conducive to virtue or philosophical enlightenment, but it can be a source of moral perversion that cultivates hypocrisy and bigotry as opposed to earnest reflection and introspection. His criticism has to be addressed in some way, at least among the religiously pious who want to maintain their natural benevolence and amity among other humans.

        Most religious people are philosophically unsophisticated and generally do not have a developed moral consciousness. Maybe I am just frustrated (by saying that) since I do not know that many Muslims who are philosophically inclined.

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  2. Gary –

    re: “the basis of belief for conservative Christianity—eternal damnation for the thought crime of rejecting Jesus as one’s Lord and Master. That is why my “beef” is with conservative Christianity and not “Christianity” as a whole.”

    Roger that. I was really curious about that. Thanks for taking a moment to answer.

    Now – about Thallus. As you know, Africanus refers to Thallus, and also to Phlegon, but, mainly (if not only) for the purpose of saying Thallus’ idea of a solar eclipse – at the time of a full moon – was a non-starter. Africanus *acknowledges* what Thallus and Phlegon say, but clearly thinks Thallus’ “natural explanation” (eclipse) is wrong. Thallus’ conclusion is that “…it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer” — thus, showing his “Christian bent” on the issue.

    And, it must be noted: Neither Thallus or Phlegon specifically say that this “eclipse” actually happened *at the time* of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is Africanus who makes that connection. And, Africanus is saying “it wasn’t an eclipse – it was a darkness brought on supernaturally”.

    As such, Thallus’ reference to the “eclipse” (as he figure it) really has no significance, except and unless it was written when most historians think it was written – somewhere around 50 AD.

    The reason for that, I suppose, is obvious: It *appears*, from the context we have, that Thallus may be responding to a Christian interpretation of an event, and part of the reason I say that is that Thallus is attempting to offer a “non-Christian” (ie, non-supernatural) explanation for the event, and, coming up with an explanation that is impossible. It is as if Thallus is trying very hard to “explain away” something, and that “something” was an already-existent Christian narrative of events.

    If this is true, and if it is true that Thallus wrote around 50 AD, then it attests to a known (ie, circulated) pre-Markan narrative regarding the “particulars” of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    If we tend to reject the “conventional” dating of the Gospels (as do I), then it just puts Thallus contemporary with the Gospels. If we accept the conventional dating, then it becomes a tad more remarkable that that the earlier reference to Jesus’ crucifixion comes not from one of the Christian writers, but from a non-Christian historian.

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    1. Notice that I never said that Thallus’ comment was not genuine. I simply said that it is “contested”.

      The point of the post is not to say that skeptics can prove that there are no non-Christian contemporaneous accounts about Jesus in existence, only that the few claims of such accounts are disputed. I wish conservative Christian apologists would be equally as honest. I encourage my readers to always read the skeptic and the Christian positions on these controversial claims. Be informed, not indoctrinated…by either side.

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  3. Gary – a brief addendum… (sorry about that)

    I myself am real inclined to think that if there was a “darkness”, it would have had to do with some really heavy clouds or something. And, as far as I know, there’s no extra-biblical support for anything like an earthquake. Even Origen pointed out that an eclipse was impossible and suggested other explanations, such as heavy clouds, noting that neither Matthew or Mark make any mention of the sun.

    I guess I’d agree more with Vermes, that the account is “part of the Jewish eschatological imagery of the day of the Lord. It is to be treated as a literary rather than historical phenomenon notwithstanding naive scientists and over-eager television documentary makers, tempted to interpret the account as a datable eclipse of the sun. They would be barking up the wrong tree”

    And, if I’m wrong, then I suppose God can correct me when I see Him. But if I’m wrong, it certainly won’t have any bearing on whether I see God or not…

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    1. One of the articles I reference above states that it was very common in ancient literature to claim that “darkness descended” when a great king died. We don’t believe the literalness of these accounts so I don’t see why we should believe the literalness of the evangelists’ accounts. They were writing religious propaganda, not history texts.

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  4. Gary –

    re: “…I don’t see why we should believe the literalness of the evangelists’ accounts. They were writing religious propaganda, not history texts.”

    Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what they were writing. Some of the information – such as Jesus’ crucifixion at the Passover – we know as historic fact.

    We know from Talmudic sources that the Jews considered Jesus a “magician” (or, perhaps, sorcerer?), which might be the way that some regarded certain, actual acts that others regarded as “miracles”.

    And clearly, all the mention of things, places, and other persons — ie, the hills, the fig trees, the numerous cities named, and of course, people like Pilate, Caiaphas, etc, are all to be taken quite literally.

    To me, the Gospels are sort of written as one might write an historic novel or movie: Like the film “Lincoln”. There’s no way to know what Lincoln told his wife when they were having private discussions in the bedroom. But, there is a way to know what Lincoln said in public, and a way to know he was assassinated. But, there is an additional element, that of the unavoidable theological implications that each writer saw differently.

    I don’t see the Gospels as “inerrant” by any means. In fact, I don’t view them as “The Word of God”. I view them as four documents that were decided upon by church leaders of the time to be best representative of an “orthodoxy of the faith”. They chose those four, and, rejected documents like the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Judas, in part because there was a well-known, long and oft-repeated story that had been told, and the four Gospels were the best, and most clear written representations of that story. Once somebody decided to pronounce them as “The Inerrant Word of God”, that set things in a direction that I don’t feel they should ever have gone. But, that’s me.

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    1. Propaganda must include some truth or it would not be believable.

      I personally do not believe that the Gospel authors invented details to the Jesus Story for the purpose of deceiving anyone. They were writing in a genre of literature that allowed and encouraged embellishments to the facts. Vivid embellishments make for more interesting reading. They were simply being good writers.

      Compare the bare bones account of the Resurrection Story in the Early Creed quoted by Paul in First Corinthians fifteen to any one of the Appearance Stories in Matthew, Luke, and John. No comparison which is a better read!

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  5. A Preface: This post is NOT intended as “argumentative”

    I sort of balk at the use of the word “propaganda”, unless perhaps you mean it in the most “technically correct” sense. (which you might). The reason I balk at it is this: If the Gospels were all written by 100 AD (for example), and – “hand written”, for that matter – then how much “propagandizing” could they really accomplish, and to what audience? It’s not as if these were like little “flyers” or posters or even a Union Newsletter sent out each week to thousands of homes. These documents, in every case, were each “one of a handful”, at best. They were the story – the narrative – of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, preserved in writing. None of the individual Gospels had any particular “merit” to them, as if (for example) each one had been written by the Pope or something, then published “en masse” to millions of believers.

    Mark, as you know, begins with the words “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is practically a “subject line”, maybe even more like the title of an article: the BEGINNING of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ…” And, as you know, Mark ends abruptly with the women running away from the tomb. What Mark appears to be writing, to me, is an answer to somebody’s question: “How did all this get started”? So, Mark starts with Jesus baptism, ends with the empty tomb. He doesn’t bother with what happened either before or after those points. It very much looks to me as if he’s just writing to answer that question.

    But, if that’s the case, that means it’s written for an audience that is *asking* the question. In other words, other *believers*, that just want the account of “how all this came about”. So, in that respect, it’s not much “propagandizing”. It’s not trying to “sway the multitudes”. It’s an “internal account”, a written-down version of a story that was already known – one that was written down just for the sake of having a written record.

    Granted, Matthew is written more like a writer. Luke? He’s obviously got other materials he’s able to draw from, probably considerable more sources than Mark or Matthew. Both those Gospels are written more as if they’d been written by good writers.

    But, in any case, going back to that time in which they were written, I just don’t see that there would have been much use in “written propaganda”, per se, because it took way, WAY too long to make copies of documents, and was way too expensive. I think Mark and Matthew were each documents written for the sake of a particular community of believers, and Luke was probably actually written as an account to an individual.

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    1. Many scholars, including mainstream scholar Raymond Brown, believes that the original purpose of the Gospels was to address particular issues and challenges facing Christians in each of the authors’ own church, city, or region. For instance, Brown believes that Mark was most likely written in Rome after the persecution of Nero. Many Christians during that persecution denied Jesus to escape torture and death. They were failed disciples. The author of Mark, a member of the Roman church, writes a book which presents the original disciples as failures: They too abandoned Jesus in time of persecution. They too denied him. But the resurrection conquered not only death but their human weakness. Jesus did not reject his faithless disciples upon his resurrection. He left word that he would meet with them again in Galilee (in the parousia??).

      Many scholars argue that the Gospel of John was written after Jews had kicked Christians out of the synagogues in the late first century. The author of John attempts to comfort these Jewish Christians by pointing out that the Jews of Jesus day treated him no better. That is why John has been described by some critics (including Jews) as the most anti-Semitic of all the Gospels.

      And to cap it off, the author of John tells his readers, “These things are written so that you might believe”.

      So I believe the Gospels are clearly propaganda, just not in the negative sense that people often take that term (to deceive). Maybe a better term would be: a pep talk in literary form.

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      1. Thing is, I don’t think “scholarship” has shown, by ANY means, WHEN any of the Gospels were actually written.

        Most scholars, as you know, date all of the Gospels after 70 AD. Why? The overriding reason is because Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, and scholars conclude “Jesus couldn’t have possibly predicted that – therefore – the gospels must all have been written after that event”. In other words, Jesus’ prediction, as recorded in the Gospels, is a fabrication, written after the event, because a real-life prediction is impossible.

        But, here’s the real problem with that: Churchill had no bones about repeatedly predicting that England would end up in war with the Nazis, and was quite correct. Nouriel Roubini correctly predicted the housing crash of 2009. Nikola Tesla predicted hand-held wireless communications devices in 1909. In 1840, Alexis de Tocqueville predicted the Cold War (specifically between the US and Russia). And, these predictions weren’t due to clairvoyance, nor to “omniscience”. These were due to the “predictors” having a very intimate knowledge of “how things work”, be it politics, or electronics, or economics. They could “see” what was coming.

        From a purely scholastic view, one has many options rather than claiming “Jesus could not possibly have predicted the destruction of the Temple, therefore, that pericope, and indeed, the whole of the Gospels, must have been written after the allegedly predicted event”. One could simply stipulate that Jesus made a good guess. Or, maybe he was extremely sharp in his understanding of the Jewish and Roman tensions and political stresses that were bound to turn to violence. Or, perhaps he had foreknowledge from God (but, surely, that is the option the scholars want to avoid).

        In any case, Jesus himself said “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” Jesus may have simply been a very perceptive person who knew, like some others, how to read “the signs of times” – and one who understood the “times” very, very well.

        But scholars won’t even allow for that. Why not? Because if Jesus actually made an accurate prediction, then, you open the door for not only the possibility that Jesus’ prediction was not unlike that of Churchill or Tesla, but, you also open the door to the possibility that Jesus may have had a “divine foreknowledge”, and that simply cannot and must not be allowed. Therefore, all possibilities are thrown out, and it is simply claimed that “Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the Temple” – and that is the single most important reason why the Gospels are all dated after 70 AD.

        It shows you how far our so-called “scholars” will go in order to protect and maintain their bias: Scholars will find means to deny even the remote possibility that something “supernatural” might have taken place (such as a bonafide prophecy), (a) even if it means denying the possibility of a simple “good guess” having been made, and (b) even if it means getting the whole “Gospel Dating Structure” wrong.

        For the so-called Scholar, then, we see that actually discovering the composition date of the Gospels – whether it fits with their world-view or not – is secondary to maintaining that world-view. Knowledge of the real and factual dates of composition of the Gospels is not as important as being able to maintain bias. For such scholars, knowledge – in the very thing they claim scholarship in – is subject to being sacrificed on the altar of bias.

        I myself think it’s far more likely that all of the Gospels were written *before* 70 AD.

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        1. I completely disagree. Bart Ehrman dates the authorship of the Gospel of Mark between 65-75 CE, as do most scholars. Ehrman thinks it is perfectly possible that Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple for the reasons you mention. (In addition, if the author of Mark was writing his Gospel in the late 60’s, what was going on? Answer: The Jewish-Roman War! If you are a betting man or woman, who would you have bet on to win that war? Answer: the Romans! And what would be the worst outcome for the Jews if they lost a war to the Romans? Answer: the destruction of the Temple?

          If Jesus had predicted the year, month, and day of the destruction of the Temple, I would be impressed. He didn’t. It was a vague prediction (typical of all “prophecies”).

          Not a big deal.

          There are many reasons why scholars believe that Mark was written between 65-75 and most have to due with writing analysis not a bias against the supernatural.

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        2. I myself think it’s far more likely that all of the Gospels were written *before* 70 AD.

          You are welcome to your opinion, as am I. However, I believe that unless one is an expert in the field in question, it is a better bet to always Go with the majority expert opinion. That is what most educated people in advanced societies do every day in regards to their plumbing, electrical issues, transportation, health recommendations, vaccinations, etc.. If everyone in society believes that he or she is an expert on everything, life would be chaos.

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      2. He left word that he would meet with them again in Galilee (in the parousia??).

        One other explanation was that the original ending of Mark included an account of a resurrection appearance in Galilee, but the Gospel was truncated because the ending was lost. Mark (14:28) does say that Jesus would appear to the disciples in Galilee again (and I understand that as an appearance not a reference to the parousia).

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        1. Here is what the “young man” says in Mark chapter 16:

          But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

          A post-resurrection appearance before going to be with the Father or his return in the parousia???

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  6. “…there you will see him, just as he told you”.

    I guess we gotta look and see what Jesus told the disciples and Peter…

    Just curious – why didn’t you look that up already, rather than just posting the question?

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    1. There are three (that I know of) predictions by Jesus of his death and resurrection in the Gospel of Mark, but I am not aware of a prediction that he would appear to the disciples in Galilee after his death and resurrection. I could be wrong. Please provide the passage.

      Maybe he had “told” them that he would return in the Parousia to Galilee??? I’m just speculating. We can’t be sure what Mark was thinking.

      Some scholars believe that Mark’s comment about Galilee is an indication that the earliest appearance stories began in Galilee.

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  7. Ehrmans comments:

    “Scholars debate the point, but the majority (outside of fundamentalists and very very conservative evangelicals) think the answer is “afterward,” in part because they see the comments of Mark 13 about the Temple (that it will be destroyed) as indicating that Mark was living after the fact. ”

    “Matthew and Luke were dependent on Mark for many of their stories, and so they must have been written later. How much later? Well, it is relatively clear that Matthew and Luke were written after 70 – at least in the judgment of most experts who deal with this question. The reason: they both appear to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem (see for example Matthew 22:7, “burned their city”!; and Luke 21:24). ”

    In both cases, Ehrmans stated reason has to do with Jesus’ prediction of the Temple destruction.

    I myself am unconcerned with Ehrmans own view. But, this is what he says the “majority” of scholars reason.

    I think it’s lame reasoning, and clearly shows bias.

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  8. Gary –

    re: “Maybe he had “told” them that he would return in the Parousia to Galilee??? I’m just speculating. We can’t be sure what Mark was thinking. ”

    Why does it seem so unclear to you?

    Mark 14:28 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee”

    Doesn’t this look amazingly like what the angel was referring to? Or… what?

    Do I have to do your research for you? Buy your books, send you to school, show you what to do and show you how to do it?

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    1. Many scholars believe that this statement was an invention of the author decades after the life of Jesus, even if written in the 60’s. But of course you will say they are biased.

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  9. “Many scholars believe that this statement was an invention of the author decades after the life of Jesus”

    Of course they’ll say that. And yes, I’d claim “bias”. You see, i’m like a lot of people: I really don’t care what somebody *believes*. I want to see *evidence*. Especially when we’re talking about something for which evidence could indeed be found.

    At any given moment, some archaeologist could find some fragment of Mark – one that proves undeniably to be from May 22, 41 AD, at 3:03pm. (hey, they’re improving their dating methods all the time). And, if that were to happen, well, then, guess what? It would totally blow the whole “Gospels written before 70 AD” thing out of the water entirely. And, at that point, even YOU would say “so much for New Testament Scholarship”.

    If we’re going to be talking in any kind of intellectually honest sense, then unlike Erhman, we need to be approaching studies with a bit of humility, and not the typical Ehrman arrogance.

    The *fact* is this: *NOBODY* knows when the Gospels were written. But, trying to say “it *must* have been post 70 AD because Jesus couldn’t have predicted the destruction” is totally lame. There have been countless predictions made – by people “in the know” – that all happened as advertised. That what ordinary Insurance Actuarials are about. Heck, there were countless predictions by politicians, even 20 years in advance, of the Civil War. I feel certain that even *you* have stood back from some situation and “seen” how it was all going to play out.

    So, yeh – and heck yeh – when scholars – having no evidence whatsoever – postulate that a given line of writing *must* have been an “invention” put in the Gospels *decades* after the life of Jesus, I do regard that as Scholastic BS. Nothing more than an assertion.

    BTW – my earlier post – I just meant to be “poking you in the ribs with my elbow”, so to speak.

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    1. I will do a post in the future on the issue of why the majority of scholars believe that the Gospels were written between circa 65-75 CE and circa. 90-100 CE. If all they have is the mention of the destruction of the Temple then I will agree with you that their is evidence is weak…but rational.

      However, consider this:

      An anonymous book is found in 1979. In the book, the story takes place in 1919. The main character makes the prediction that 20 years in the future a German chancellor will order the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, after reaching a secret agreement with Russia to divide that country. Some people claim that this accurate prediction was a prophesy; the book definitely was written prior to 1939. Most people consider this claim a fraud as it is obvious that the book was written after the fact.

      Is it rational and reasonable to conclude without performing any further investigation that the prediction of Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 was made after the fact and was not a prophesy? In other words: It is safe to assume that this book was written and published sometime after Sept. 1, 1939.

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      1. It is not “safe to assume that this book was written and published sometime after Sept. 1, 1939.”
        You added in the description of the book ” Some people claim that this accurate prediction was a prophesy; the book definitely was written prior to 1939.”

        Someone could reasonably at the end of WWI, eg. 1919, have predicted that in 20 years’ time, (a round number), that Germany could invade its weaker neighbor Poland in agreement with Russia, Poland’s other giant neighbor.

        One need not assume that since a prediction lines up that the prediction was not made.

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  10. “Is it rational and reasonable to conclude without performing any further investigation that the prediction of Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 was made after the fact and was not a prophesy?”

    No, it is neither rational nor reasonable to conclude as such. The rational and reasonable conclusion – given the info you’ve give me – is “we don’t know”.

    “In other words: It is safe to assume that this book was written and published sometime after Sept. 1, 1939.”

    Again – given the limited info as stated – the answer would be “no, it is not at all safe to assume such. In fact, assumptions are never safe”.

    The *real* answer in either case is “we’d have to have more info before determining the books date of authorship. After all, the single extant copy may have been printed decades after it was written”.

    However, once can certainly ASSERT that the book was written after 1939. They can, though, equally ASSERT that it was written before that date.

    Either way, one must be careful as to what one claims as “truth” – especially when, sometime in the future, another copy of the book (with a publishing date printed in it) might be found.

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    1. The point I am trying to make is this: If one has agreed to engage in a discussion regarding the reality of prophecies, then one is obligated to investigate this claim further. If however, one who is not engaged in such a discussion were to simply hand-wave away the claim as fraudulent due to its prima fascia improbability, few rational people would criticize that decision.

      It is considered rational in our culture to reject supernatural claims outright without any investigation whatsoever…unless you have agreed in advance to debate evidence for the reality of such events.

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      1. “If however, one who is not engaged in such a discussion were to simply hand-wave away the claim as fraudulent due to its prima fascia improbability, few rational people would criticize that decision.”

        I don’t think so. There are tons of “rational” people who believe in supernatural claims. There are plenty of very rational skeptics who would themselves disagree with rejecting a claim “outright” on the basis simply with it being supernatural, the reason being that there could be a natural explanation for the claimed fact.

        Someone could reasonably predict Germany’s invasion of Poland because it happened so many times in the past, and they could reasonably predict that Germany would rebuild itself in 20 years. The prediction itself should not be rejected outright even if people think it was supernatural.

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  11. And, I would say that if you read my posts very carefully, you could quickly deduce that “prophecy” may have had nothing to do with it (if, by “prophecy”, we mean some kind of special revelation given to someone by God).

    Hence, I pointed out that Jesus’ “prediction” (not “prophecy”) of the destruction of the Temple could have been nothing more than a good guess, or, an intuition as those of Churchill, Tesla, Roubini and others, based on their intimate and grounded knowledge of “how things work”, whether in politics,
    economics, or electronics.

    The very painfully obvious fear of the skeptic is that IF we allow Jesus to have made a good guess, or even an informed, intuitive “prediction” (as did Churchill, et al), then – OMG – it leave the door open for someone to entertain the notion that it might actually have been a bonafide “prophecy”. And, of course, for the skeptic, that won’t do,

    So, what happens? Throw out the baby with the bath water. Say “it *can’t* be that Jesus merely made a good guess or an intuitive prediction, because if we say that, we leave that dreaded door open”, and, set aside ALL good and objective scholarship in favor of the bias.

    But, I guess you didn’t read my posts too well. Your post, however, highlights precisely what I was saying. You can’t entertain the idea that Jesus might have made an intuitive prediction (as did Churchill) because it would then require you to consider that the Gospels might have indeed been written before 70 AD. And yet, the objection has nothing to do with “prophecy” at all.

    You have single-handedly proved my point.

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  12. Gary – with apologies beforehand. I don’t mean to “flood” you, but, it’s quite late, and you haven’t yet responded to my earlier post. So, sorry about this, but I wanted to go ahead and write this while it was on my mind.

    Elsewhere in your blog, you said this: “Even if Jesus of Nazareth did predict the destruction of the Temple, he wasn’t the only one to do so! In the early 60’s CE another Jewish Jesus, Jesus the son of Ananias, infuriated the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem (who asked the Romans to have him killed) when he walked around the city preaching that the city and the Temple would be destroyed! This event was recorded by Josephus.

    So even if Jesus of Nazareth predicted the destruction of the Temple, he was not alone. Jesus’ prediction may have been nothing more than a lucky guess. Kind of like an American today predicting that one day the United States will be involved in a nuclear war.”

    This is my point, precisely. Jesus *could* have simply made a lucky guess. And, if it turned out true, then so be it. One *cannot* simply say “Jesus’ couldn’t have prophesied the destruction of the Temple, and therefore, the Gospels must have been written after that destruction”. Not if Jesus could have simply made a lucky guess (that was seen as some as being a “prophecy”).

    You yourself completely admit that Jesus could indeed have made a lucky guess. And, as long as that’s a possibiity, then it *MUST BE* possible that the Gospels were written before that time.

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    1. If the prediction in Mark of the destruction of the Temple is the only determining factor, yes, the Gospels could have been written earlier. I will study the issue of the evidence for the authorship of the Gospels and publish a post on that topic soon.

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  13. One problem with Thallus is that he theoretically could have written any time between 109 BC (when a corrupted Armenian text says that his 3rd book ended) and 180 AD (when Thallus is first mentioned by others). I guess that he wrote before Phlegon’s writing about the darkness (c. 137 AD), because his writing is discussed before Phlegon’s in Africanus.

    Other reasons suggest that he did write about the darkness in c. 32 AD. One of Thallus’ own themes was to demythologize supernatural events and figures, like Greek gods. He called Saturn a man who lived in history. So it would have been perfectly in his vein of writing to demythologize the Passion darkness. The early Christian writer Africanus complained that Thallus said that this darkness was from an eclipse, and Africanus disputed this by pointing out that eclipses were impossible astronomically during Passover.

    Besides that, Phlegon in c. 137 AD specified that the darkness had occurred in c. 32 AD. And Carrier explains why Phlegon was writing about the same darkness as Thallus was. For example, Thallus is probably the other Greek writer on the darkness whom Eusebius cites in connection with Phlegon on the topic.
    SEE: http://www.jgrchj.net/volume8/JGRChJ8-8_Carrier.pdf

    So it does look like the 1st to 2nd century pagan writers Thallus and Phlegon really were recording the darkness in c. 32-33 AD. But since we don’t have Thallus’ date or Thallus’ quote in its surrounding passages, it’s hard to be sure. Beyond that, one could imagine that there was an eclipse and earthquakes in Bithynia and Nicea as Phlegon and likely Thallus recorded, and yet be open to the idea that they were at different times and places and unconnected. Maybe Thallus in circa 70 AD heard the Christian claim that there was darkness in Judea at the Passion, and he addressed it by saying that it could have been a natural phenomenon, yet he himself did not know as someone living in Judea in the spring of 33 AD whether that in fact occurred.

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