My friend says:  Josephus and Tacitus are not reliable sources of Jesus’ Crucifixion. They presented vague references based on rumours. NT authors had no ability to know what the truth was. What should be Christian reply?


I think you had better find a more reliable source than this “friend” who says this rather obviously wrong thing.  Did this friend actually show you the text of Josephus or of Tacitus?  Does this seem vague to you (the quotes are below)?  These statements are not vague at all. They are actually quite specific as to the crucifixion.  You should not simply accept what people say unless they give you evidence.  This is mere rhetoric.  Here are what Josephus and Tacitus say.  It is not a vague reference!!!
1. Tacitus, Roman historian  (AD 56-118)(about AD 115 concerning Nero in AD 64);

Not all the relief that could come from the man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome.  Therefore, to squelch the rumor, Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called ‘Christians,’ [a group] hated for their abominable crimes.  Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.  Suppressed for the moment, the deadly superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the land which originated this evil, but also in the city of Rome, where all sorts of horrendous and shameful practices, from every part of the world converge and are fervently cultivated.       Annals 15.44

2.  Flavius Josephus (AD 38-100) Writing about AD 94 under Domitian.  Concerning events he had indirect knowledge of.  Josephus was a Pharisee.  Jewish historian who was a turncoat, switching from the Jewish rebel side to Rome to serve under Nero and Vespasian.  Josephus is a relatively reliable historian.   The “Testimonium Flavium” (Antiquities 18:3.3)

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly.  He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.  He was the Messiah.  When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.  On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.  And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

Agapius, an Arab Christian in 9th century probably quotes the original, leaving out the parts in parenthesis.  Note the passage reads grammatically well without the parts in parenthesis.

These are not vague references.  These are historical reports, contained among other historical reports.

Besides, the final statement is so blatantly wrong it is almost humorous.  Your “friend” says that “NT authors had no ability to know what the truth was.”  This is utter nonsense!!!  John was an eyewitness of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, as was Matthew.  Mark was a very close associate of the apostle Peter.  Luke was a careful historian, interviewing a number of eye-witnesses.  These guys did not depend on Josephus or Tacitus, who wrote after they died!!!!   What is this person talking about???  This is really nonsense to say that the writers of the New Testament had no ability to know what the truth was.  What does this claim even mean?  Why would any responsible person say this?  The people who lived with, served with suffered with and died for Jesus ought to know the truth about what he said and did.  Matthew, Mark and Luke were written about thirty years after the death of Jesus.  My memory of what happened thirty years ago is pretty reliable.  Yes?  Please do yourself a favor and either stop listening to this “friend” or ask him/her to provide evidence, not to just make baseless statements.

John Oakes

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