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Atheist Guidebook

Guest Writer: Kapyong

How likely was a mention of Jesus?

The issue is really HOW LIKELY they would be to mention Jesus.

Factors which increase the expectation that Jesus would be mentioned in a work include :

  • a large work (i.e. one which has large index of names)
  • a work on an issue somehow related to Jesus or the Gospel events,
  • a work whose genre tends to frequently mention or allude to many subjects and people,

I have thus classified these writers into broad categories -

  • writers who surely SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (5),
  • writers who PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (4,3),
  • writers who COULD have mentioned Jesus (2,1, or even 0.5),
  • writers who WOULDN'T have mentioned Jesus (0)

I have given each writer a WEIGHT out of 5 as indicated.

As well as -

  • writers CLAIMED to mention Jesus.

Of course, one writer who didn't mention Jesus means nothing.
But,
when DOZENS of writers from the period in question fail to mention anything about Jesus (or the the Gospel events or actors), this argues against historicity.

The argument is sometimes made that these writers could not possibly have mentioned Jesus - because he was a minor figure and unrelated to the issues at hand.

This assumes that no such writer ever mentions a minor figure in passing, that they never make an aside about other events or figures who are not specially related to the subject.

Of course, this is not true, as the evidence below shows that many of the writers mentioned make many references to many other minor figures and often make excurses about other subjects and events and people.

I have also included astronomers on the list who might have mentioned the Star of Bethlehem and/or the darkness at the crucifixion - if they had heard of them.


Summary of Results

The results of my current classifications is:

1 writer who surely SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (Philo.)

3 writers who PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (Seneca, Plutarch, Justus.)

31 writers who COULD have mentioned Jesus.

(20 writers who could not be expected to.
6 writers claimed to mention Jesus, but disputed or suspect.)

You can see the results presented chronologically with colour and font size here: http://members.iinet.net.au/~desmodeu/Christianity/EarlyWriters.html


Writers Who Should Have Mentioned Jesus

PHILO

Philo Judaeus wrote very many books about Jewish religion and history, in the 30s and 40s, living in Alexandria, and visiting Jerusalem.

Philo was contemporary with Jesus and Paul,
Philo visited Jerusalem and had family there,
he developed the concept of the Logos and the holy spirit,
he was considered a Christian by some later Christians,
he wrote a great deal about related times and peoples and issues.

If Jesus had existed, Philo would almost certainly have written about him and his teachings.

Rating: SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 5


Writers Who Probably Should Have Mentioned Jesus

SENECA

Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote many philosophic (Stoic) and satirical books and letters (and Tragedies) in Rome.

Seneca wrote a great deal on many subjects and mentioned many people. He was a Stoic, a school of thought considered sympathetic to Christian teachings.

In fact, early Christians seemed to have expected him to discuss Christianity - they FORGED letters between him and Paul.

How else to explain these forgeries, except as Christian responses to a surprising VOID in Seneca's writings?

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 4


PLUTARCH

Plutarch of Chaeronea wrote many works on history and philosophy in Rome and Boetia in about 90-120 CE.

Plutarch wrote about influential Roman figures, including some contemporary to Jesus,
Plutarch wrote on Oracles (prophesies),
Plutarch wrote on moral issues,
Plutarch wrote on spiritual and religious issues.

Plutarch's writings also include a fascinating piece known as the "Vision of Aridaeus", a spiritual journey, or out of body experience, or religious fantasy -
http://members.iinet.net.au/~quentinj/Christianity/PlutarchVision.html

If Plutarch knew of Jesus or the Gospel events, it is highly likely he would have mentioned them.

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 4


JUSTUS

Justus of Tiberias wrote a History of Jewish Kings in Galilee in late 1st century.

Photius read Justus in the 8th century and noted that he did not mention anything: "He (Justus of Tiberias) makes not one mention of Jesus, of what happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did."

It is surprising that a contemporary writer from the very region of Jesus' alleged acts did not mention him.

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 3


Writers Who Could Have Mentioned Jesus

DAMIS

Damis wrote most of what we know about Apollonius of Tyana. He was a philospher and mystic exactly contemporary with Jesus and who was rather similar to Jesus - enough for some authors to argue they were one and the same person.

If Damis/Apollonius had known of Jesus, he could have easily have been mentioned as a competitor. A story in which Apollonius bested Jesus in debate would not be un-expected.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


APOLLONIUS

See Damis.


PLINY THE ELDER

Gaius Plinius Secundus wrote a large Natural History in Rome c.80CE

Pliny wrote a great deal - his Natural History mentions HUNDREDS of people, major & minor - writers, leaders, poets, artists - often with as much reason as mentioning Jesus. (Of course like many other writers he talks about astronomy too, but never mentions the Star of Bethlehem or the darkness.)

It is not at all un-reasoble for this prolific writer to have mentioned Jesus or the Gospels events.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


JUVENAL

Decimus Junius Juvenalis wrote sixteen satires in Rome in early 2nd century.

Lucian the Roman satirist DID ridicule Christians (as gullible, easily lead fools) in mid 2nd century. By the later time of Lucian, Christianity obviously was known to the wider Roman community. Whereas Juvenal wrote at a time when Christianity had only just started to rate a few tiny mentions (Pliny the Younger, Tacitus.)

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


MARTIAL

Marcus Valerius Martialus wrote satires in Rome in late 1st century.

Martial wrote a large body of poems about all sorts of things. He mentions many people, places, stories and issues - major and minor, within and without Rome, such as :

  • Stoic suffering of discomfort and death,
  • virgin's blood,
  • Roman funerary practices,
  • the way accused men look in court,
  • Roman soldiers mocking their leaders,
  • anointing the body with oil,
  • Molorchus the good shepherd,
  • Tutilius a minor rhetorician, Nestor the wise,
  • the (ugly) Temple of Jupiter,

This shows Martial mentions or alludes to many and varied people and issues.

He could easily have mentioned Jesus (or the Gospel events).

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


PETRONIUS

Petronius Arbiter wrote a large novel (a bawdy drama) the "Satyricon" c.60CE.

Petronius mentions all sorts of people and events in this large work, including :

  • * a CRUCIFIXION !
  • * a scene where guards are posted to stop a corpse being stolen,
  • * a tomb scene of someone mistaking a person for a supernatural vision,
  • gods such as Bacchus and Ceres,
  • writers such as Sophocles and Euripides and Epicurus,
  • books such as the Iliad,
  • Romans such as Cato and Pompey,
  • people such as Hannibal, and the Governor of Ephesus,
  • female charioteers, slaves, merchants, Arabs, lawyers
  • baths, shipwrecks, meals...

This large work, cover MANY topics, including a CRUCIFIXION, and it was written just as Peter and Paul had come to Rome, allegedly. It could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


PAUSANIAS

Pausanias wrote the massive Guide to Greece in mid 2nd century.

Pausanias' work is vast and the index covers over 70 pages of small print, I estimate a couple of THOUSAND names are mentioned. He mentions a large number of minor figues from within and without Greece.

He even mentions a Jewish prophetess - a figure so minor she is essentially unknown: "Then later than Demo there was a prophetic woman reared among the Jews beyond Palestine; her name was Sabbe." Phokis, Book X, 12, [5]

Pausanias also mentions the Jewish rebellion under Hadrian.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


EPICTETUS

Epictetus is known for several books of Stoic religious and philosophic discourses in the early 2nd century. One of his disciples was Arrian, and thanks to him much of Epictetus' works are extant.

Epictetus DID apparently mention "the Galileans", which could be a reference to :

  • the early Christians, or
  • the revolt under Judas the Galilean in early 1st century.

Either way, this shows quite clearly that Epictetus could refer to a figure such as Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


AELIUS ARISTIDES

Aelius Aristides the Greek Orator spoke and wrote a History of Rome and other subjects - he seems to refer to the Christians as "impious men from Palestine" (Orations 46.2)

If he could mention people from Palestine, he could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


FRONTO

Marcus Cornelius Fronto of Rome wrote several letters in mid 2nd century.

According to Minucius Felix, he scandalised rites practiced by Roman Christians - so he could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2


PERSIUS

Aulus Persius Flaccus wrote six fairly long satires in Rome in the mid 1st century, of a rather philosophic nature.

The argument that no Roman satirist could be expected to mention Jesus, is proven wrong by the case of a Roman satirist who DID mention Jesus (but only as echoes of later Christian beliefs.)

Persius wrote a reasonably large body of work that mentions many people and issues.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


DIO CHRYSOSTOM

Dio Chrysostom (Cocceianus Dio) wrote many works and gave many speeches in various Roman and Greek centres in late 1st century, of which 80 survive e.g. the Euboicus.

Dio wrote a large number of works in the late 1st century - he certainly could have mentioned Jesus, if he knew of him.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


AULUS GELLIUS

Aulus Gellius wrote Attic Nights (Nights in Athens), a large compendium of many topics and which mentioned many people.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


LUCIUS APULEIUS

Lucius Apuleius wrote the Metamorphoses (the Golden Ass or Transformations of Lucius) and many other spiritual, historical, and philosophic works - several survive.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


MARCUS AURELIUS

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus wrote the Stoic Meditations in mid 2nd century - he (apparently) refers once to the Christians in XI, 3.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


MUSONIUS RUFUS

C. Musonius Rufus wrote on Stoic philosophy in Rome in mid 1st century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


HIEROCLES

Hierocles of Alexandria wrote on Stoic philosophy in late 1st century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


MAXIMUS of TYRE

Cassius Maximus Tyrius, a Greek NeoPlatonic philosopher, wrote many works in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1


ARRIAN

Arrian wrote a History of Alexander c.120CE.

The subject is not related, but Arrian wrote a very large work which mentioned HUNDREDS of people, some not from Alexander's time.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


APPIAN

Appian wrote a large Roman History (from the Gracchi to Caesar) in mid 2nd century.

It's not particularly likely that this specific writer would mention Jesus.
But,
he wrote a LARGE work which mentions HUNDREDS of people.
Appian does mention some issues of HIS day (mid 2nd century), e.g. a decision by Hadrian.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


THEON of SMYRNA

Theon of Smyrna wrote on astronomy/philosophy in early 2nd century.

Theon wrote about philosophy. If Jesus and his teachings were known, it is entirely plausible for to mention them.

Theon also wrote about astronomy.
If he had heard about the Star of Bethlehem or the Darkness (as an event, or from the Gospels) he could easily have mentioned it.

Apologists frequently cite Phlegon and Thallus, astronomers who mentioned eclipses (but NOT Jesus or the Gospel events, that is merely later Christian wishful thinking) as evidence for Jesus.

An astronomer could easily be expected to mention those incidents, especially when apologists claim other astronomers of the period did exactly that.

The silence of early astronomers about the Star of Bethlehem or the crucifixion darkness argues these "events" were unknown until later.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


QUINTILIAN

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, wrote the "Education of an Orator" in Rome in late 1st century.

One of the things Jesus was allegedly noted for was his PUBLIC SPEECHES - e.g. the Sermon on the Mount, which supposedly drew and influenced large crowds.

If Quintilian had heard of Jesus or the Gospels events, he could have mentioned the allegedly famous speeches of Jesus.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


LUCIUS ANNAEUS FLORUS

Lucius Annaeus Florus wrote an Epitome of Roman History.

Although not directly on subject, Florus wrote a large work which mentions many names. He could have mentioned Jesus if he had known of him.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


LUCAN

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus wrote the Pharsalia (Civil War) in Rome in mid 1st century.

In his large poem, the Pharsalia, he mentions some events from later times, and he covers many different issues and people in passing.
He:

  • mentions an event from 56CE,
  • refers to places as far afield as Sicily and Kent,
  • refered to Stoic religious beliefs about the end of the world,
  • refers to many books and myths and persons and events not part of the main story.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


STATIUS

Publius Papinius Statius wrote numerous minor and epic poems (e.g. Ode to Sleep and the Thebaid) in Rome in late 1st century.

Statius wrote many works on several subjects, he could have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


HERO of ALEXANDRIA

Hero(n) of Alexandria wrote many technical works, including astronomy.

If he had known of the Gospel stories about Jesus, he could have mentioned them.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


GEMINUS

Geminus wrote on mathematics astronomy in Greece.

If he had known of the Gospel stories about Jesus, he could have mentioned them.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


ALBINUS

Albinus taught on (neo-)Platonism in early 2nd century, a little survives.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


ARISTOCLES

Aristocles of Messene wrote On Philosophy, early 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


APOLLODORUS

Apollodorus compiled a large Mythology in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


HEPHAESTION

Hephaestion of Alexandria wrote many works in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


SEXTUS EMPIRICUS

Sextus Empiricus wrote Outlines of Scepticism in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5


Writers Claimed To Mention Jesus

JOSEPHUS

Much has been said about Josephus, but not here.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but may not have.


TACITUS

Cornelius Tacitus wrote a celebrated passage about Jesus roughly 80 years or so after the alleged events - but he seems to be reporting Christian beliefs of his later times, not using earlier documents: he uses the incorrect title 'procurator' - the term used in Tacitus' time, not Pilate's; he fails to name the executed man (Roman records could not possibly have called him 'Christ '); and he accepts the recent advent of the Christians, when Rome was known to allow only ancient cults and religions.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but probably late hearsay.


NUMENIUS

In the 3rd century, Origen claimed Numenius "quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus--without, however, mentioning His name"

Numenius does not mention Jesus, just a story that was later attributed to him.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but probably late hearsay.


SUETONIUS

Gaius SUETONIUS Tranquillus wrote a histories/biographies of Roman Caesars c.120CE.

He mentions a "Chrestus" (a common slave name meaning "Useful") who caused disturbance in Rome in 49CE.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.


PHLEGON

Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus (as quoted by much later George Syncellus) refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse. There is no evidence Phlegon said anything about Gospel events - just evidence for later Christians believing his statements about an eclipse (there WAS an eclipse in this period) was really about the Gospel darkness.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.


THALLUS

Thallus perhaps wrote in early 2nd century or somewhat earlier (his works are lost, there is no evidence he wrote in the 1st century, in fact there is some evidence he wrote around 109 BCE, and some authors refer to him for events before the Trojan War!) - 9th century George Syncellus quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, speaking of the darkness at the crucifixion: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse". There is no evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events, as there was an eclipse in 29, the subject in question. Furthermore the supposed reference to Thallus in Eusebius is likely a mis-reading.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.


Writers Who Could Not Be Expected To Have Mentioned Jesus

Dion Prusaeus
Paterculus
Ptolemy
Valerius Maximus
Pomponius Mela
Quintus Curtus Rufus
Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella
Favorinus
Phaedrus
Babrius
Silius Italicus
Marcus Manilius
Cleomedes
Dioscorides
Sextus Julius Frontinus
Nicomachus of Gerasa
Menelaus of Alexandria
Menodotus of Nicomedia
Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus
Valerius Flaccus

Use this list as you will, but kindly keep the name
"Kapyong" or "Iasion" attached :-)

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