Did Ancient Non-Christians Write about Jesus? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In parts one, two, and three of this series of posts, we discussed the writings of Josephus and Tacitus, who are both non-Christians.  They each provide historical confirmation of key components of the history recorded in the New Testament.  Before ending this series, I want to look at one more writer from the ancient world who gave us a window into what Roman officials thought of Christianity.

Pliny the Younger was a Roman author and administrator.   He wrote a letter, as governor of Bithynia in northwestern Turkey, to the Roman Emperor Trajan in about A.D. 112 where he describes early Christian worship practices:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. [Letters 10:96]

Pliny’s letter to Emperor Trajan identifies several historical facts about early Christianity:

  1. Christians were meeting on a fixed day of the week.
  2. They worshiped Christ as God (this one sentence destroys the claim that the deity of Jesus was a late fourth century addition to Christianity).
  3. They maintained high ethical standards.
  4. They gathered to eat meals together.

Pliny’s letter also provides further evidence that Christianity had spread far and wide around the Roman Empire, and that government administrators were having to deal with them.

There are certainly other ancient non-Christian sources which speak of Jesus and early Christianity.  If you would like to do more research, there are several excellent introductory works to this topic.  Two that I used for this series of blog posts are The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas.

If we circle back around to the skeptic that I introduced in the first post of the series, we can see that his view that the existence of Jesus is not supported by early non-Christian writers is simply mistaken.  There are certainly a small number of historians who cast doubt on the authenticity and interpretation of the writings we’ve analyzed, but I must stress that they are in a tiny minority, as far as I can tell.  The overwhelming consensus of history is that Jesus did indeed exist.

  • The blog author referred to a book about “Historical J….” by Gary Habermas.
    “Historical Jesus“!?!

    The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

    While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
    Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and (“spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

    There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: http://www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with “30-99 C.E.”).
    Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

    Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

    What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period… in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

    To all Christians: The question is, now that you’ve been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

  • Boz

    Pliny isn’t writing about jesus, as your title suggests.

  • Bill Pratt

    Pliny mentions “Christ,” which is a title given to Jesus. Christians often use the words “Jesus” and “Christ” interchangeably. I’m sure you know that, so I’m not sure why you’re nitpicking this point….

  • Boz

    Sorry, I should have been clearer.

    Pliny is talking about how he deals with the crime of being christian – a depraved and excessive superstition. He also discusses the behaviour of christians before and after his edict banning political associations.

    He doesn’t say anything about jesus the person.