False Witnesses: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny and Suetonius
Here's another important new one from the European mythicist school, passed along to me by Dr. Christian Lindtner, whose own mythicist work in German should be added to the list. I've confined the books above to English, obviously, but we need a list of non-English mythicist titles as well.Falsche Zeugen (False Witness) by Dr. Hermann Detering
I've run the German book promo page for through Google Translate and then cleaned it up a bit.
Extrabiblical Jesus Testimonies on Trial
Did Jesus really live? According to most theologians and historians, the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth is attested clearly by not only Christian but also non-Christian sources. Appealed to in particular as "key witnesses" are the ancient historians Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius as well as the Roman writer and governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger.
Modern methods of investigation, however, let shine the origins of Christianity in a new light. Is the section about the "wise man" Jesus really from the pen of Josephus? Was there really persecution of Christians under Emperor Nero? Is the "Chrestus" of Suetonius [reference] to Jesus? Are the "Christians- letters" of the younger Pliny at all authentic?
It turns out that the alleged "Jesus testimony" can testify to neither a historical Jesus of Nazareth nor to the existence of early Christianity in the first century. The negative historical results raise the question of the significance of history for the Christian faith.
From the Contents
Christian interpolations in Josephus * Tacitus: The burning of Rome and the "Neronian persecution of Christians" * Pliny the Younger - Persecution of Christians in Bithynia * life and work of the younger Pliny * Suetonius: Christ in Rome, Suetonius and his biographies of Roman emperors * Mara bar Serapion: the "wise king" * Thallus: A reference to the Passion story * The silence of non-Christian sources
Here is a new review of Detering's book by Lindtner, edited and annotated by me.
Dr. Detering's False Witnesses
by Dr. Christian Lindtner
Pope Benedikt XVI has stated what is, of course, the official view of all bishops, priests, theologians and orthodox Christians all around the world, namely: "Jesus is not a myth, he is a man of flesh and blood, he stands as a reality in history."
But can we really rely on the Pope in this regard? Is his opinion based merely on faith, or on sound scholarship? Can we be sure that this Pope is honest? Even the most critical Protestant theologians cling to a historical Jesus, e.g. Bultmann: "To doubt that Jesus really existed is unfounded, and not even worth a word of refutation."
But there are others who think otherwise and who will have nothing of such papal arrogance.
In Germany there was, for instance, Arthur Drews, and now there is, above all, Dr. Hermann Detering. In his new book, Falsche Zeugen: Ausserchristliche Jesuszeugnisse auf dem Prüfstand, Dr. Detering reviews the external non-Christian testimonies for Jesus, i.e., the well-known passages from Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, as well as the less-known Mara bar Serapion and Thallus.
Dr. Detering's method is historical and philological, reminding us of the great Eduard Norden. All views expressed by German and foreign theologians, all pros and cons are taken into consideration. Detering's judgment is always informed, fair and mature.
The passage on Chrestus in Suetonius has nothing to do with Jesus known as Christus.
The remaining passages in Josephus etc. are shown, very convincingly and with many fine philological observations, to be later Christian interpolations.
The motive for making these interpolations is also obvious. Once they had decided to turn their mythical hero into a historical person, they had to fabricate evidence in support. And so they did. When have Christians, starting with Paul, have any problem with pia fraus [pious fraud], if good for the church?
It is, therefore, wrong of theologians to claim that we here have external evidence for the historicity of Jesus called Christ.
Dr. Detering does not deal with the internal evidence of the NT. To him, however, Christianity still retains a symbolic value, even if Jesus is just a myth, for: "The incarnation of the Logos is a grandiose religious idea." If looked upon as a historical fact that took place in the years 1-30, it becomes an intellectual monster.
For a historian who is familiar with Hellenistic religions and has no apologetic axe to grind, it ought to be fairly obvious that there is no solid internal evidence in the NT to support any claim of a historical Jesus. There were numerous "sons of God" in those days, and Jesus is just one of them. Nor should there be any doubt about the true identity of his heavenly father, ho patêr ho ouranios, i.e. Zeus.
When the Greeks spoke of the God, "ho theos," they meant Zeus. Zeus had many sons, typically called kings (anax, basileus), and Jesus is his Jewish son, and king of Israel. Mary was, alas, not the only virgin with whom Zeus had a son, as all theologians ought to keep in mind.
But theologians will want to ignore all these simple and obvious facts. They will want to ignore the excellent detective work of Dr. Detering, just as they ignored or defamed the work of Arthur Drews, and just as they have decided to ignore the fact that "the Greek of the New Testament (is) a patchwork of various passages from Buddhist scriptures, originally written in Sanskrit and Pâli" (Michael Lockwood, Buddhism's Relation to Christianity, Chennai 2010, p. 250).
If we share Dr. Detering's faith in the incarnation of the Logos as a grandiose religious idea, this must also imply a greater openness in regard to other Hellenistic religions, for we are here dealing with ideas that have Orphic and Pythagorean roots.
That, however, is another topic, about which one would like to hear more from Dr. Detering.
One of the very few things I missed in Dr. Detering's book was a discussion of Hadrian's letter to Servianus, where the Roman emperor (117-138) writes:...illic qui Serapim colunt, Christiani sunt et deuoti sunt Serapi, qui se Christi episcopos dicunt, etc. ["Those who worship Serapis are Christians, and these are those devoted to the service of Serapis, who call themselves the bishops of Christ."]
The contents of this letter does not suggest a later interpolatio christiana. Nor can it be taken as evidence of a historical Christ, rather on the contrary.
Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt
? Try it - you'll like it: