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November 13, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Non-Biblical Sources which Document the Historical Jesus

The historical Jesus stands in the center of history as the single most perplexing and meaningful question in existence. The following is an update to my answer on this question:

Here is an interesting quote by James Kennedy which sheds direct light on this question:

“The evidence is all on Christianity’s side. Let’s take a tally: twenty seven books of the New Testament, nineteen pagan writers, and three Jewish writers testify to Jesus Christ’s historical reality. Christians, indeed, did not follow a cunningly devised fable, but a real person. There were, as the Bible proclaims, eyewitnesses to His majesty. That historical fact is at the very foundation of the faith we hold” (p. 77)

–D. James Kennedy, doctorate in comparative religions from New York University, Skeptics Answered: Handling Tough Questions About the
Christian Faith, 1997

I would also suggest reading Gary Habermas, who you can both read and listen to here, and is respected as one of the top 10 scholars on the historical Jesus.

Update: I’ve included two articles as references for citations, which actually go far beyond the claims that Kennedy makes above:
Ancient Non-Christian Sources
The Historicity of Jesus Christ: Did He Really Exist?
• Specifically the Jewish sources he’s pointed out are likely Flavius Josephus, Toledoth Jesu, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and The Babylonian Talmud. These sources pointed to Jesus along with Plenty (the Roman governor) who persecuted Christians. Other secular sources include Thallus and Phlegon.
If you read the first article Ancient Non-Christian Sources–specifically the synopsis portion of the article, he goes event by event and mentions citations of each event by historian. However, the article itself, which is a larger part of Habermas’ book
• The second text goes fairly in depth on the arguments and counter-arguments (especially compared to other documents, which may be one-sided).

Hopefully this will answer all the questions you might have about sources, but feel free to ask relevant questions about non-Biblical sources or the historical Jesus in the comments section.


Leave a Comment
  1. Nathan Ketsdever / Nov 13 2011 6:20 am

    Here are some quotes worth checking out:
    Sir William Ramsay wrote of Luke: “Luke is a historian of the first rank … this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

    For the New Testament of Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.
    A. N. Sherwin-White
    Classical Roman Historian

    If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.
    F. F. Bruce
    Manchester University

    In addition Josh McDowells work may prove helpful (although I think he provides summaries of academic work):

  2. Nathan Ketsdever / Nov 13 2011 6:30 am

    Here are a number of quotes from Josh McDowell which are quite impressive (they are available from the above mentioned links, I found them in the notes section):

    A professor in my country, Dr. Paul Maier, is the professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University in the state of Michigan. He is a man I greatly respect, because he is an intellectual giant, but he can take intricate things and make them simple. He has done a number of historic novels about Pilot, about Jesus, the resurrection, the first Christmas. Dr. Paul Maier, as a professor of ancient history, made this observation, “If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable according to the canons of historical research to conclude that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the third day.”

    The Englishman, John Singleton Copley, is probably better known historically as Lord Lyndhurst. He was recognized as one of the greatest legal minds in the history of Great Britain. He held almost all the highest offices that a legal expert could hold in England. He was the Attorney General of England; three times he was the High Chancellor and elected the High Steward of the University of Cambridge. This is what Dr. Copley wrote, but it was not revealed until after his death. When John Singleton Copley died, they were removing papers from his office and his desk and they came across a notepad in his own handwriting about why he believed in the resurrection. And this is what he wrote, “No intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”

    Dr. Frank Morison was a journalist and he was trained in examining the evidence to report the truth about stories. He thought the life of Jesus Christ was the most beautiful lifestyle ever lived. But when he got to the resurrection, he truly thought somebody had come along and tacked a myth on to the beautiful life of Christ and destroyed it or had added tales or a myth to it. This so bothered Dr. Frank Morison, he decided to write a book to refute the myth of the resurrection. He took his own money and went to Palestine to do part of his research. While he was there, he became a believer. And he went on to write a book called Who Moved the Stone? And the first chapter is significantly titled, “The Book that Refused to be Written.”

    Dr.SimonGreenleaf,inmycountry,isprobablyoneofthegreatestlegalmindsinthehistoryofAmerica. Hewas the professor, the famous royal professor of law at Harvard University Law School. He wrote the three great volumes on the Laws of Legal Evidence, which were used to evaluate evidence in the court of law to see if it is credible. He was a skeptic, not a believer and he used to mock and put down the Christians in his law classes at Harvard. Well one year, some Christians in the law class got tired of it so they challenged Greenleaf to take his three volumes on the Laws of Legal Evidence and apply his expertise and these principles to the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Now that wasn’t a bad challenge. After much persuasion, he had to accept it or lose all of his integrity. He started to apply his principles of evaluating evidence to the resurrection. In the process, he became a believer. He went on to write a very large book on testimony – The Four Evangelists, According to the Laws of Legal Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. And this great legal mind concluded, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best established facts of history, now listen – according to the laws of legal evidence administered in the courts of justice.

    Later he continues:

    Now let us look briefly at some of the circumstantial evidence surrounding the resurrection of Christ. Will Durant, the historian, a very well respected historian all over the world, made this statement, “A few simple men, the apostles, should in one generation having been a so powerful and appealing personality, so lofty and ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the gospel.” What he is saying is what happened almost immediately around the death and resurrection of Christ and the lives of the apostles in the early New Testament church is a miracle in itself – and a greater miracle if Christ was never raised from the dead.

  3. Rich Griese / Nov 13 2011 10:42 am

    I am not interested in the supernaturalism of Christianity, but am very interested in the study of the early history of the group. I am always happy to talk to others that are also interested in this topic. My interest specifically is up till perhaps a generation or two after Irenaeus. But I would say I am interested in anything from the Maccabean revolt up till about 384CE when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  4. Lawrence D Shields (@larrylove1948) / Nov 13 2011 11:19 pm

    Because Jesus is in the Quran does that make it historical?


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