Today I got into a theological debate with a Christian on Facebook who is the friend of a friend regarding whether or not an historical Jesus existed which I myself seriously doubt, and even if Jesus did exist it's highly doubtful he was divine.

The person who I was debating brought up the letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar and suggested I Google it, which I did and found that there was indeed such a letter.

My question is, is the letter authentic? Was it really written by and for the people it claimed to be? Or is this another Christian scam like the Shroud of Turin and the Josephus fraud?

Does anyone have more information on this or know of any websites or anything that gives accurate unbiased information about this?

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The letter is from the New Testament Apocrypha, as far as my hurried research goes the "book" (acts and/or epistles of Pilot, also apparently known as the Gospel of Nicodemus) date 150-255 C.E.

Here's a google books link to the version of this Apocrypha: http://books.google.com/books?id=CfWvq4gU1eMC

The Catholic encyclopedia doubt the authenticity of this book as expressed here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01111b.htm note this passage:

"The "Acta" consist of three sections, which reveal inequalities of style. The first (i-xi) contains the trial of Jesus based upon Luke 23. The second part comprises 12-16; it regards the Resurrection. An appendix, detailing the Descensus ad Infernos, forms the third section, This does not exist in the Greek text and is a later addition."

Here's some more info: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/actspilate.html

Apparently this whole book was thrown out due to a rather "poor" light it cast on the early formation of Christianity and dubiousness of its origins. Of course apologists will pick and choose what passages best back up their pet ideas.
Ha!

I'm not a believer, but seriously. There's more than enough concrete, and, biased-against-Jesus, evidence no more than 70 years after his death as to the fact that the MAN existed. There's no doubt about it. Roman historians wrote about him by NAME, that he existed, that he caused trouble, and that the emperor hated him and punished him. You think credible Roman figures of that time are going to make things up just after it happened? As if they can fool anyone that soon after the fact... The historians also didn't write on their own account, but accessed records of their time detailing the transcripts and activities of the events (i.e. something towards a modern library and/or city hall). Not to mention there was probably a few people surviving who lived it first hand and at minimum were children of those survivors, Romans, Jews, and future Christians alike.

If that's not evidence enough that the man actually existed then NO ONE in the old and new testament existed (Moses, Solomon, etc), and neither did Buddha, and Mohammed, and etc.

Why do we believe that political and military leaders of thousands of years ago existed on virtually no evidence or less evidence than about Jesus, but can't bring ourselves to believe that Jesus actually existed on much more evidence?

I think your argument with your friend shouldn't be about something credible like the MAN existed, but it's a matter of faith and religion, and you should stop arguing credible things, and start debating if there's any proof for a spiritual being, that's what the real issue is.
Did Roman historians write about him by name? The only other one I could find was Josephus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus) who was born after Jesus died and is generally considered a poor source.

Also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#Greco-Roman_sources has some excellent text on it.

I know wikipedia isn't a great source, but the cited sources on these pages seem to be pretty valid. I believe there's more source material to prove that Robin Hood was based on a real person. Of course this isn't to say that someone didn't exist that these stories are based on, but I find it more likely that he was based on many people instead of just one.
Mike sidebar
Why would Wikipedia not be a good source.
Acording to Prof. Dawkins, and Prof. Krauss, it a very good source. Its counter intuitive i know but an excellent source.
Jonathon
I would appreciate some reference material on the roman writer thing. While i will with hold judgement at the moment im leaning toward the fact that ROME couldnt have cared less about another proclaimed messiah, in the back water of judea
Personally I'm on the fence on this topic. However, many of the sources are at least suspect.


I've not found any concrete evidence myself in my own studies and without sources I can't really take you on your word here. I still don't believe Jesus was any more than a fictional character... but possibly one that was based on someone like Apollonius of Tyana or some other historical figure.
"Roman historians wrote about him by NAME, "

Who? PLEASE don't say Josephus. Who else? Name ONE contemporary Roman writer who mentions Jesus by name

Apart from living a century after Jesus' alleged life ,and being forged,often, Josephus was a notoriously unreliable Roman apologist. His writings are not generally accepted as prime source.

Br fascinated to learn about these recently discovered and published concrete evidence as,there wasn't any this time last year,none.

The term;"Roman Historian" conjures up names such as Tacitus,Livy, Dio, Suetonius and Julius Caesar. The discipline we call "History" did not exist before Edward Gibbon in the C18thCE.. Roman writers did not write objective records of places,events or people. It was understood that accounts were,for the most part,what we would call propaganda,either positive or negative. Two examples: Suetonius' "Life of Caligula" is largely scurrillous nonsense,with many factual errors. Julius Caesar wrote exaggerated, self aggrandising accounts of his exploits,for political advantage;EG he single handedly invented "The Germans" as a major entity.

One of the telling things about existence of Jesus is not the odd writer who allegedly mentioned him,but the deafening silence from those who did not.
"One of the telling things about existence of Jesus is not the odd writer who allegedly mentioned him,but the deafening silence from those who did not."

Wow, I really like the way you phrased this. Thank you for being so succinct!
I agree with Marty on that point.
Agreed
Does not Tacitus' 1st Century writings remarking on someone named "Christus" who founded the movment whose constiuents he calls "Christians" and who was executed by Pontius Pilate in Judea provide just such an unbiased (if not rather pointedly anti-Christian bias) historical reference that lends credible evidence for the historicity of "Jesus"? After all, Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian and most certainly not a Christian.

Here's the relevant passage:

"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular." -- Tacitus, Annals 15.44




As for why so little was written in the 1st Century about "Jesus" by other-than Christians, I personally do not find this that surprising for three reasons: 1. As Marty recognizes, there wasn't that much effort placed on journalism or historical chronicling at the time; 2. Judea was just as much a third-world backwater location within the Roman Empire as might some little Central American country be considered by us today (how much do we know about or would care about some, say, Costa Rican religious figure?), thus as little notice was given "Jesus" at the time by Rome as was given to any of the other "Messiah"-wannabes that preceded Jesus, of which at least three are known; and, 3. within four decades of his execution, Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple destroyed, and countless thousands killed during the Jewish uprising (occasioned by yet another "Messiah" wannabe), thus further decimating witnesses and destroying possible records regarding who or what this "Jesus" (Yeshua) person might have been.

Additionally, as Tacitus seems to strongly imply, it was only the spread of Christianity as the "...most mischievous superstition" Tacitus' considered it that brought it, and thus "Christus" to his attention enough to comment on it. Only after this "superstition" had "...again broke out..." was he apparently motivated enough to wish to thus chronicle and educate other Romans regarding it. Had not Christanity thus "again broke(n) out" and come to the attention of Rome, itself, no mention at all would have ever been made of "Christus" by someone of Tacitus' political stature... just as all the previous Jewish "Messiahs" hadn't.

Thus, it is thanks to Tacitus' disparaging reference to the movement and the briefest of retelling of its founder's execution under Pontius Pilate that we do seem to have a strong third-party and, more tellingly, rather anti-Christian bias from a Roman Senator that provides for me, at least, strong historical validation for the historicity of "Jesus."

Anyway... just my $0.02 worth.
I also would like to know, who this elusive Roman historian is that mentions Jesus by name.

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