Speaking with a Jewish acquaintance about Jesus and this was his response…..not sure how to respond just yet but will research it more.  Would love your thoughts. 

Note: Answers are interspersed with the claims of this person.  Criticism/claims are in black italics, responses are in blue.  

"Romans. They recorded all kinds of insignificant details about Judah and Jerusalem but never mentioned Jesus. None of the historians of the era mention him. . . Josephus (a Jewish historian 37 CE to 100 CE) wrote the history of the Jews and never mentioned any of the "miracles" or things attributed to the man you think was the messiah. Josephus lived after Jesus supposedly died (so he isn’t an eye witness), and yet the only mentions of Jesus in his works are all suspected as forgeries by later xtian scribes who maintained his histories — yet even these forgeries are insignificant for one who was supposedly "the" messiah.

Response:  What is this person’s point?  Is he saying that Jesus may not even have lived?  No responsible person would make such a claim.  As for Josephus, the scholars do not doubt that he spoke about Jesus.  There is some question about the possibility that there was an interpolation into the original.  In fact, more likely than not, there was an interpolation, but there is virtually no doubt that he mentioned Jesus.  In the quote from Josephus below, you will find the original, with the probable interpolation separated out.  Also, there are a number of eye-witness accounts, including from Matthew, Mark, John, Peter and Paul.  Is this author implying that all these people were liars and completely fabricated the story that Jesus lived?   Given the character of these men, Is this even a believable proposition?  It is amazing to me that these critics take the words of Josephus as reliable, but discount those who lived much closer to the events.  Again, what is the point of this person?   That Jesus lived and worked signs and wonders is about as well established as any fact of ancient history.  I am including a few of the non-Christian mentions of Jesus.  No one in ancient times questioned the reality of this man.  To me, these comments are a smoke screen. III.  What do we know about Jesus from extra-Biblical sources?

Extra-Biblical references to Jesus:

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 “Testamonium 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.


Note:  Josephus also reports the martyrdom of “James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ”   (Antiquities 20:20)


3.  Babylonian Talmud  (late first or second century AD)  Babylonian Sanhedrin43a-b   


On the eve of the Passover they hanged Yeshu and the herald went before him for forty days saying [Yeshu] is going forth to be stoned in that he hate practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel


It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that "[Yeshu] is going to be stoned for practicing witchcraft, for enticing and leading Israel astray. Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him." But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover. Ulla said: Would one think that we should look for exonerating evidence for him? He was an enticer and G-d said (Deuteronomy 13:9) "Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him." Yeshu was different because he was close to the government


4. Suetonius about AD 120  Very reliable historian wrote concerning the times of Claudius about AD 50  


"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he Claudius) expelled them from Rome”


5.  Lucian of Samosata  Social commentator and critic of Christianity


6.  Pliny the Younger  AD 112  Writing to Emperor Trajan.


Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ — none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do — these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ


7.  Celsus 

8.  Mara bar Sarapion

9.  Thallus  We know of Thallus only from a third century Christian historian named Julius Africanus who wrote a three-volume treatise of world history in the 50s AD.  In discussion the darkness at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, Julius Africanus mentions that in the 3rd book of Thallus’ history, he mentions the darkness and calls it an eclipse of the sun.  Africanus believes that Thallus is wrong.  Whether or not this source proves the darkness at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion is dubious, but it does seem to support the idea that even non-Christians were aware of the resurrection as early as the 50s AD—at about the time the first book of the NT was written.  It also supports the claim, not necessarily of the darkness having occurred, but of the darkness having been claimed and believed by the Christians.  Because we do not have Thallus’ history and because we have a Christian interpreting rather than quoting it, this is rather dubious support to Christian claims. 

The number of Pagan sources for Jesus Christ among contemporaries or within 100 years:  9


The number of Pagan sources for Tiberius among contemporaries or within 100 years:  9 (or 10 if you count Luke)

   We can, however, prove the Exodus. We can do so through an unbroken chain of transmission from Moses to today – you see unlike Christians Jews have a genetic link to our forefathers at Sinai. This link has been proven by DNA — but we also have "family trees" that date back to Aaron, Moses’ brother. Jewish priests are all descended from Aaron. I will agree that the Exodus did, indeed happen.  I believe it did.   However, genetics cannot prove that a certain historical event happened.   Genetics proves that there was a Jewish people in Palestine many hundreds of years BC, which is an important thing.   However, I believe the Exodus happened, not because of genetics, but because the evidence is that the writers of the Old Testament are reliable.   But then again, the writers of the New Testament are reliable as well.   If you want to compare, the archaeological evidence for the Exodus is really rather weak, although there is at least some evidence for it, whereas the historical evidence for Jesus, his resurrection and his miraculous ministry is very strong.

There are 1500 years separating the Exodus from the story of Jesus. 3500 years ago there is little recorded history — and yet there IS history of Israel (the Merneptah Stele dates to 1200 BCE — 3200 years ago — and it mentions Israel). True!  I completely agree.  

In contrast:
According to the narrative in the Gospel of Luke, Mary, in an advanced stage of
pregnancy, traveled 70 miles over a rough terrain, during the winter, on the back of a donkey, in order to reach Bethlehem of Judea for the census of Quirinius
At least the following two significant problems plague this account. First, with the census of Quirinius having been accurately dated to 6 C.E.,16 it would mean that Jesus was born in that year. Second, the journey to Bethlehem of Judea is unlikely, given the alternative of Bethlehem of Galilee being located only 4 miles away over a relatively constant terrain. These difficulties give rise to the likelihood that the Nativity account in the Gospel of Luke is inaccurate at best, if
not fictitious altogether.

According to the narrative in the Gospel of Matthew, Herod slaughtered all infants and toddlers in Bethlehem of Judea who were under the age of two There are two major problems with this account. First, the date of Herod’s death is  ccurately known to be 4 B.C.E. This would mean that Jesus had to be born during the 4 – 6 B.C.E. time span, thus showing a 10-year discrepancy with the year of birth deduced from the account in the Gospel of Luke. Second, the archaeological evidence indicates that Bethlehem of Judea was not populated during the Herodian period, and that no viable record of such a massacre has been
found outside of the New Testament. These difficulties give rise to the likelihood that the Nativity account in the Gospel of Matthew is inaccurate at best, if not fictitious altogether"
 Mary did not travel on the back of a donkey, as far as we know.  That is a myth created by later Christian artists.  The birth definitely did not happen in winter.  There is no evidence that Jesus was born in winter, as the shepherds were out in their fields.   The fact that Christians created a fake “birthday” of Jesus in December is beside the point.  More likely it was in the Spring or Fall.  We know from records that Augustus called for a census in both 8 BC and 6 AD.  With the slow communication of the time, it is only natural to imagine such a census not actually occurring in Judea until 6 BC.  As for the two Bethlehems, given that Joseph was descended from the family of David, and given that we know from the Bible that his ancestral home was in Bethlehem Ephethreh (the one near Jerusalem), the claim that there is an error here is a non-starter.  This author clearly has a lot of facts to get on straight.  He ought to research his claims rather than simply throw out familiar but groundless, unscholarly charges.  For this reason, you can reasonably discount much of what he is saying.  Jesus was born 6 or 5 BC, as established by all the evidence.  This person is trying to create confusion where there is none.   It is true that there is no independent confirmation of the murder of the Bethlehem children, but this would have been a rather small incident in the long rule of an extremely brutal tyrant, whose actions are  absolutely consistent with such behavior.  The problem with Quirinius is overblown.  In any case, to claim that Luke was off on the date of the birth of Jesus by at least twelve years, given his fantastic historical reliability is completely unbelievable.   Critics need to look elsewhere if they want to create a believable case against the historical reliability of the gospel accounts.  As to Quirinius, we know that he was ruling and leading a military expedition in Cilicia in 5 BC.  Cilicia is the neighboring province to Syria, so it is not a large stretch at all to believe he also had some kind of authority in Syria at the time. If people want to undermine the reliability of the Gospel accounts, they ought to provide more credible criticisms, in my opinion. John Oakes   

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