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Question: Is Tacitus's mention of Jesus in "Annals" a reliable confirmation of the historical Jesus?
Strong yes   -3 (20%)
Weak yes   -7 (46.7%)
Unsure   -0 (0%)
Weak no   -3 (20%)
Strong no   -2 (13.3%)
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Total Voters: 15

Author Topic: Tacitus on historicity of Jesus - reliable source or not?  (Read 2546 times)
IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2012, 04:13:25 pm »
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Jmfcst seems to not understand one rather basic thing - that Tacitus accepted something is by no means a reliable historical confirmation based on records.

It is not difficult to surmise that someone would accept a mundane claim. All religious movements start somewhere and have founding members. It would be far more absurd to think that someone had made the entire thing up from start to finish and started spreading it around. So if Tacitus is getting a basic rundown of what the Christians believe, he probably wouldn't find it absurd that there was a founder and that he got executed under the circumstances given how the times were - it just wouldn't seem unusual, so those mundane aspects would be something easy to just accept as likely true and move on. People accept mundane claims all the time, even without any corroborating evidence, because they are mundane and they don't feel it would be worth the effort to try to confirm it.

Given that there's no source for the information on "Christus" given, that Tacitus had expressed disdain for Christians, that Christianity was a minor fringe group whose only claim to fame in his eyes seemed to be being hated, arrested, tortured, and executed by a famed mad emperor, and that none of the information isn't something he couldn't get from hearsay, I just find the possibility that he just accepted some hearsay too great to think the sentence a reliable confirmation of Jesus's historicity. That's not to say that Tacitus couldn't have done good research, but as has been pointed out even though he was one of the better Roman historians he was still not above the types of errors they would make.


Also, Tacitus’ statement that “an immense multitude [of Christians] was convicted [in Rome]”, is proof that the citizens of Rome also accepted the historicity of Jesus.

I'm sorry, but given the gross ignorance which most Roman citizens would have had about Christian beliefs at the time I don't think it's proof of that. I mean this is a time when Christians were thought of as having cannibalistic rites by many. Nero was able to use them as scapegoats precisely because of the ignorance of the citizenry - that's hardly a good claim to the Roman citizens accepting the historicity of Jesus, much less even knowing who the heck he was at all. You have to keep in mind that this wasn't an age of widely available information - it was primarily only the elite who could afford to give their children full formal education. It's not like the general citizenry were that educated on historical matters.
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« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2012, 05:28:19 pm »
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Dibble, if Christianity was based on a false secular history of the immediate past, then obviously that would have been much easier to attack than the supernatural aspects of their claims.

If I made up a religion based on claims of supernatural acts that supposedly happened to a supposedly well known person named Joe Bragg who was supposedly publically executed in Washington D.C. in late 2011 by a supposed United States President David Howell and who later supposedly rose from the dead…

…yet neither you nor anyone else you know living in 2012 had ever heard of Joe Bragg, much less a United States President named David Howell, when you and everyone else knows that Obama was POTUS in 2011…

…you wouldn’t bother refuting the supernatural claims, nor would you call it “a most mischievous superstition”, rather you would call it “asinine” and go straight after the made up claims of secular history of the immediate past that are contrary to everything known about the history of the immediate past.

The fact neither Tacitus nor Josephus attacked the secular historical claims of Christianity is proof that Christianity’s secular historical claims were beyond refutation.  Likewise with the Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem – certainly they would have know if Jesus was a historical figure, and if he wasn’t, there is NO WAY Christianity would have been initially taken root in Jerusalem.

It’s just basic common sense. 
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IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2012, 05:29:35 pm »
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To those of you who said no, do you accept what he wrote on other historical figures?

As Mikado mentioned, it depends. There are areas where he's more reliable on some things than others. Since he only wrote a single sentence about Jesus himself (with the rest of the stuff around it being about the early Christians themselves) and it wasn't sourced it's not easy to say how reliable it is on the subject of Jesus himself considering the information that was given could have easily been gained from hearsay. Cases where he wrote about people who held more fame than Jesus (at the time) have much more detail to compare against other sources, so confirming reliability is much easier in those cases.
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« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2012, 05:55:00 pm »
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Dibble, if Christianity was based on a false secular history of the immediate past, then obviously that would have been much easier to attack than the supernatural aspects of their claims.

If I made up a religion based on claims of supernatural acts that supposedly happened to a supposedly well known person named Joe Bragg who was supposedly publically executed in Washington D.C. in late 2011 by a supposed United States President David Howell and who later supposedly rose from the dead…

…yet neither you nor anyone else you know living in 2012 had ever heard of Joe Bragg, much less a United States President named David Howell, when you and everyone else knows that Obama was POTUS in 2011…

…you wouldn’t bother refuting the supernatural claims, nor would you call it “a most mischievous superstition”, rather you would call it “asinine” and go straight after the made up claims of secular history of the immediate past that are contrary to everything known about the history of the immediate past.

This is a piss poor example to use for comparison for multiple reasons:

1. We actually live in the times.
2. Nobody is actually following, or has ever been recorded to follow, the made up religion you just made up.
3. We have better, more reliable means of recording, storing, and transferring information. (printing press, internet, video, etc.)
4. We have reliable evidence that contradicts your made up religion.

Apples and oranges, as you like to say.

Let's try a different example. Let's say that there were no direct historical records or archaeological evidence whatsoever of Joseph Smith himself outside of Mormon literature. Even without any corroborating evidence, we could infer that since a large number of people moved to Utah to practice that religion, supposedly following Joseph Smith to do so, it would seem absurd to think that all these people would migrate to Utah if the man didn't exist at all. We can infer that Joseph Smith probably existed, but since Mormon literature on him isn't likely to be objective the degree to which it is historically reliable is decreased. If later historians wrote about Joseph Smith, accepting that he likely existed using the obvious inference, it would indicate acceptance as you say, but anything they wrote wouldn't be based on independent evidence.

Quote
Likewise with the Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem – certainly they would have know if Jesus was a historical figure, and if he wasn’t, there is NO WAY Christianity would have been initially taken root in Jerusalem.

It’s just basic common sense.

Which is pretty much exactly why I accept that there was a historical Jesus. I can infer it as likely, but it's different from me being able to confirm it. That Tacitus accepted "Christus" as having been a person that existed and started the Christian faith is not what I'm disputing, rather that his passage is a reliable confirmation based on previous reliable records of the person in question.
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« Reply #29 on: February 15, 2012, 01:18:15 am »
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Just for fun, my all-time favorite passage from Josephus (and an example as to why you should take classical historians with a grain of salt):

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Now within this place there grew a sort of rue that deserves our wonder on account of its largeness, for it was no way inferior to any fig tree whatsoever, either in height or in thickness; and the report is, that it had lasted ever since the times of Herod, and would probably have lasted much longer, had it not been cut down by those Jews who took possession of the place afterward. But still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself its color is like to that of flame, and towards the evenings it sends out a certain ray like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. Here are also fountains of hot water, that flow out of this place, which have a very different taste one from the other; for some of them are bitter, and others of them are plainly sweet. Here are also many eruptions of cold waters, and this not only in the places that lie lower, and have their fountains near one another, but, what is still more wonderful, here is to be seen a certain cave hard by, whose cavity is not deep, but it is covered over by a rock that is prominent; above this rock there stand up two [hills or] breasts, as it were, but a little distant one from another, the one of which sends out a fountain that is very cold, and the other sends out one that is very hot; which waters, when they are mingled together, compose a most pleasant bath; they are medicinal indeed for other maladies, but especially good for strengthening the nerves. This place has in it also mines of sulfur and alum.

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« Reply #30 on: February 15, 2012, 06:43:55 am »
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Tacitus' remarks in the Annals certainly aren't direct confirmation.  The entry is written some eighty years after the execution of Jesus, and, if Tacitus is relying on any kind of documentary evidence in this report, the passage does not reveal that (it speaks only of what people "call" the founder of the Christian movement, and what Christians were suspected of and "hated" for among the Roman populous.  Tacitus also refers to Pilate as a "procurator," even though this is most likely an anachronism, since Pilate was actually a "perfect" or "governor."  Tacitus also alludes to the "abominations" Christians are rumored to be guilty of, which might be an echo of Pliny's charge that Christians practiced "cannibalism" by consuming the body of Christ during their rituals.  The bulk of the passage appears, that is, to be based on innuendo, and even when it does make reference to Pilate, it refers to him with an anachronistic title.  All this does dilute the strength of the testimony to some degree.

However, Tacitus does not in any way deny, and in fact is entirely comfortable boldly asserting, the salient facts about Jesus, namely that he was executed under Pilate, who was surely a historical figure (and by that time one of immense ill-repute among the Romans).  It also corroborates other evidence to the effect that, by Nero's reign, the Christian population of the empire, and the city of Rome itself, was considerable.  

By itself, then, this passage of Tacitus' is probably only indirect corroboration of the historicity of Jesus.  But, at the same time, it does demonstrate that, by the early second century, Roman officials and historians generally acknowledged that there was a man named Jesus, who was called "Christ" by his followers, who was executed under Pilate, and so it is, when seen in the light of the balance of the other evidence we have, corroboration of Jesus as a historical figure.
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« Reply #31 on: February 15, 2012, 08:08:10 am »
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Interesting discussion.

What we know is this; Tacitus mentions that a man called by his followers as 'Christos' was executed by Pilate. Which is fine by me; it’s not particularly troubling. It is possible that that a man called Jesus is likely to have existed and Tacitus confirms he was killed (note nothing is said of the supposed 'resurrection') However to suggest that;

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The fact neither Tacitus nor Josephus attacked the secular historical claims of Christianity is proof that Christianity’s secular historical claims were beyond refutation.

is nonsense. If anyone is familiar with Tacitus, he generally attacks the beliefs of other, non Roman faiths (the druids in Yns Mon for example) but doesn’t necessarily take the time to refute the basis of their claims. He simply repeats what he hears. For example he repeats verbatim that the druids were able to perform ‘magic’ as they ‘brandished their torches; while a circle of Druids, lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations, struck the troops with such an awe at the extraordinary spectacle that, as though their limbs were paralysed, they exposed their bodies to wounds without an attempt at movement.’

They were then overcome by the Roman opposition and he launches into his usual diatribe against the faith. Again, Tacitus wasn’t there. But he reports that according to the source, the druids imprecations actually worked and paralysed the enemy. In fact, he is less dismissive in his tone to the druids than he is to the Christians.

Tacitus in his talk of the Christians is disinterested with checking or verifying claims. A simple check of Roman records (which we know he had access to) would have confirmed that Pilate was a prefect not a procurator. Nor would he have refered to the man as Christos, which is a religious term conferred upon him by his supporters. Roman records would have named ‘Christos’ by his real name. Therefore Tacitus’ quip about Christians is clearly from a Christian source and is subject to bias.

If we ponder for a moment and imagine that Jesus wasn’t a real person (and note that I’m not making that assumption), but he was ‘real’ to his followers in Rome decades later, then his followers could simply be repeating that lie to Tacitus.
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« Reply #32 on: February 15, 2012, 09:27:58 am »
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Tacitus, of course, claimed that it is possible for an army to swim across the Menai without mass drowning.
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« Reply #33 on: February 15, 2012, 09:42:34 am »
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Tacitus, of course, claimed that it is possible for an army to swim across the Menai without mass drowning.

Which may be the fate of boundary commissioners if they do the same thing. Boom Boom.
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« Reply #34 on: February 15, 2012, 12:40:30 pm »
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Interesting discussion.
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The fact neither Tacitus nor Josephus attacked the secular historical claims of Christianity is proof that Christianity’s secular historical claims were beyond refutation.

is nonsense. If anyone is familiar with Tacitus, he generally attacks the beliefs of other, non Roman faiths (the druids in Yns Mon for example) but doesn’t necessarily take the time to refute the basis of their claims.

But, that’s no different than the approach of you and I would take, *IF* there is no secular context to attack.  Take the case of Scientology, there’s not much of a secular historical context to attack, so we simply focus on its supernatural claim, if we focus on it at all. 

But in the case of religion spouting a fictitious grand secular historical context of the immediate past, both you and I wouldn’t waste time attacking the non testable supernatural claims when we could easily discredit those supernatural claims by attacking the secular contradiction.

In the case of Tacitus, not only did he not attack the secular historical context of Christianity, he affirmed it. 

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Tacitus in his talk of the Christians is disinterested with checking or verifying claims.

Why would Tacitus NOT be interested in attacking the secular historical claims of Christianity which also IMPLICATED ROME SECULAR RULE in its claim that the Son of God was killed by the hands of Rome?!  Tacitus was, after all, a Roman historian!

Tacitus had vast access to records and living officials who would have known if the stories regarding Christ’s death at the hands of Pilate were accepted by Rome as historical fact.

The fact that Christianity not only threatened Rome’s religious identity, but also implicated the Roman government, is what made Christianity so “mischievous” in the eyes of Tacitus, a loyal Roman.  But, if the historical context of Christianity was made up, then Tacitus could, with a single argument, totally discredited Christianity’s religious claims, claims that also implicated Roman rule.

But Tacitus did not call the claim of Christ’s execution at the hands of Pilate as “mischievous”, rather Tacitus affirmed the history of that public execution.  Instead, Tacitus attacked the untestable claim of the resurrection, and it was this untestability of the resurrection, interwoven in accepted history, which made it “mischievious”.

It is very very easy to get into the head of Tacitus and see why he viewed Christianity’s claim of Christ’s resurrection as “mischievous” – it claimed a private resurrection of someone who was known to be publically executed by the authority of Rome.

Case closed.
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« Reply #35 on: February 15, 2012, 12:50:06 pm »
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Just for fun, my all-time favorite passage from Josephus (and an example as to why you should take classical historians with a grain of salt):

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[some irrelevant story]

Mikado, do me a favor:

List the number of historical events which are corroborated by both Josephus and Tacitus...then list the number of those historical events rejected by "scholars".
« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 12:51:56 pm by consigliere jmfcst »Logged

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I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?
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A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
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« Reply #36 on: February 15, 2012, 01:30:00 pm »
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See, this is what I don’t get about those of you who doubt the historicity of Jesus…

…when I was an unbeliever and looking into the church started by Herbert Armstrong, I didn’t waste time examining the claims of that church I couldn’t test, simply because I knew it would produce ZERO – I had no basis whatsoever to approach Armstrong’s claims of being given by God the answer to 7 mysteries. .

But, since Armstrong was stating that the answers given to him by God were backed up by the bible, then I had a basis from which to test for congruency…so I tested for that congruency knowing that if Armstrong failed the test for congruency, then his claims would be shown to be a house of cards.

That’s just common sense and basic reasoning.

But, in the case of Tacitus and Josephus, they had every opportunity to test the congruency of the historical context of Christianity.  Josephus was a Jewish historian in Jerusalem who had open access to the upper echelon of the leadership of Judaism, Tacitus was a historian in Rome who had open access to upper echelon of Roman leadership…no one can claim that Josephus and Tacitus lacked either the will or the opportunity to discount the historical record of the immediate past as told by Christians, a history that claimed deep involvement and interaction within both Roman rule and Judaism, including indictments against both Rome and Judaism.  So, even if they discounted Christian religious claims, these two epic historians had personal interest to investigate its secular historical claims of the immediate past.

So, even though Tacitus and Josephus had ample motive and opportunity to investigate the secular historical claims and accusations against the institutions that they loved, they never offered an objection against those claims, in fact, they accepted them.

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« Reply #37 on: February 15, 2012, 02:12:22 pm »
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I'm trying to visualize Tacitus and Josephus, the two great Roman and Jewish historians...with all the contacts they had...never taking the briefest moment to ask those who were 20 years their senior, "Hey, what's with this Jesus story, was he really crucified under Pilate?"...and I’m just not seeing it.

A mere child has enough curiosity to inquire about such basic facts, and these two were historians by choice, renowned in their field, and in the perfect position and surrounded by the best available records and witnesses.

But, I highly doubt they would have had to have asked, with Jesus’ public execution witnessed by thousands, and the subsequent spread of Christianity keeping the memory of his execution in the public conscience…there would be no need for Tacitus or Josephus, or anyone else living in those societies to deny well known facts of the immediate past… which is why neither Tacitus and Josephus denied it, rather they confirmed it.
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A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

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« Reply #38 on: February 15, 2012, 02:15:20 pm »
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I'm trying to visualize Tacitus and Josephus, the two great Roman and Jewish historians...with all the contacts they had...never taking the briefest moment to ask those who were 20 years their senior, "Hey, what's with this Jesus story, was he really crucified under Pilate?"...and I’m just not seeing it.

A mere child has enough curiosity to inquire about such basic facts, and these two were historians by choice, renowned in their field, and in the perfect position and surrounded by the best available records and witnesses.

But, I highly doubt they would have had to have asked - Jesus’ public execution witnessed by thousands, and the subsequent spread of Christianity keeping the memory of his execution in the public conscience…there would be no need for Tacitus or Josephus, or anyone else living in those societies, to deny well known facts of the immediate past… which is why neither Tacitus nor Josephus denied it, rather they accepted it, without question, as fact..
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I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?
Coming for to carry me home,
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

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Coming for to carry me home.
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« Reply #39 on: February 15, 2012, 02:33:38 pm »
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See, this is what I don’t get about those of you who doubt the historicity of Jesus…

Excuse me, but which of us is that again?


Also, you keep mentioning Josephus, but his reference is not being questioned here - I actually would find his reference to be quite strongly reliable. Not just as inference, but perhaps as actual confirmation. After all, Josephus was born in Jerusalem only a few years after the execution of Jesus supposedly occurred - during his upbringing he would likely have heard something of Jesus (given his followers were still active it wouldn't just be 'old news' that people didn't talk about anymore), possibly from people who had some degree of direct exposure to Jesus. (be they people who had met him or even just people who witnessed the crucifixion) His father also was a temple priest, so he would have been quite informed on it as well and if the young Josephus had questions on the subject he no doubt would have asked him about it. His direct exposure to the people and places were much greater than that of Tacitus.

I'm trying to visualize Tacitus and Josephus, the two great Roman and Jewish historians...with all the contacts they had...never taking the briefest moment to ask those who were 20 years their senior, "Hey, what's with this Jesus story, was he really crucified under Pilate?"...and I’m just not seeing it.

The briefest moment? You do realize that they didn't have telephones, e-mail, and Wikipedia, right? The process would involve writing letters to people living in places of various distance, the delivery time taking weeks or possibly longer in some cases. Tacitus probably would have already known that Pilate was the person governing over Jerusalem from prior research, so he wouldn't think it unusual that some seditious Jew was executed by him. He wouldn't necessarily want to take the time to confirm that one detail about a person who was to him was a mere historical footnote involved in a mere superstition.

And as mentioned above Josephus wouldn't have had to use contacts - he likely just knew about it from his younger days.
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« Reply #40 on: February 15, 2012, 03:01:55 pm »
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Tacitus was born twenty years after the crucifixion; he was still living in northern Italy at age seven during the Great Fire of Rome (he mentions the Christians in the context of their community at the time of this fire, describing how Nero was blaming them for it). He didn't live in Rome for another decade or so, and he didn't write the relevant passage until ~117 AD, some 53 years after his descriptions took place. It's also worth mentioning that Book 15 of the Annals, where this description occurs, is generally considered to have still been in a "rough draft" stage; he died before finishing the next volume.

He writes as an old man remembering Rome half a century beforehand, using unknown sources- nothing official, either, or he would have gotten Pontius Pilate's rank right. I'm assuming he just wrote what he could recall that had been told by or about Christian beliefs to him over the years, considering that the remarks in question were basically just an aside, where he briefly describes the group Nero blamed the fire on, and so I think it was less likely that he "fact checked" that part, especially considering he died pretty soon afterwards.

I don't know whether Tacitus was a reliable source or not, or whether you can confirm Jesus was a real person based on this account alone, but I do think there's enough evidence to confirm that a sizable community existed in Rome at the time that did believe Jesus was real, yes.
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« Reply #41 on: February 15, 2012, 03:20:43 pm »
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See, this is what I don’t get about those of you who doubt the historicity of Jesus…

Excuse me, but which of us is that again?

Well, maybe I should have just referred to your overall idiocy in these threads, instead of focusing on a specific example.  Idiocy is one thing I tend to focus on while on this forum, even to the point of trying to reason with Derek over many threads.

Here is a true observation:

At least Sam knows how to conduct a flame war.  No pussyfooting around with paragraph long posts about how much nicer their car is or how retarded someone may be- just straight napalm. 

as I have said before: 

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One of my problems is that I am not like KEmperor...not to idolize the guy or anything, but he does have the ability to stare idiocy straight in the face, deal with it, and then walk away.  Just like he did with jamespol's comment that he only debates those who agree with him.  I, on the other hand, have flipped jamespol's comment over a thousand times in my head over the last 5 years in a vain effort to find some wisdom in it.  KEmperor can deal with jamespol being an idiot.  I can't.  So, trust me when I tell you that it is not out of hatred that I dwell on idiocy.

Sam Spade and KEmperor can both accept idiocy and simply walk away.  I can't.

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Also, you keep mentioning Josephus, but his reference is not being questioned here

That’s because you’re obviously purposely attempting to ignore corroboration, by examining each witness in a vacuum, to avoid dealing with the preponderance of evidence.

---

I'm trying to visualize Tacitus and Josephus, the two great Roman and Jewish historians...with all the contacts they had...never taking the briefest moment to ask those who were 20 years their senior, "Hey, what's with this Jesus story, was he really crucified under Pilate?"...and I’m just not seeing it.

The briefest moment? You do realize that they didn't have telephones, e-mail, and Wikipedia, right? The process would involve writing letters to people living in places of various distance[/quote]

…lousy attempt to ignore the fact Tacitus spent much of his career in Rome…what’s more, he was a Roman Senator….he had access to scores of elders who would have know if Rome denied any knowledge of Jesus’ execution at the hands of Pilate, who governed Judea for 10-11 years, and  was summoned back to Rome in 37AD.  Also, Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee for 35 years…both Pilate and Antipas would have had many many previous subordinates who later returned to Rome, thus there would have been no need to write any letters of inquiry in order to establish whether or not Jesus was crucified under order from Pilate


Come on, you’re boring me; you can do better than that.

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« Reply #42 on: February 15, 2012, 03:30:32 pm »
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Tacitus was born twenty years after the crucifixion; he was still living in northern Italy at age seven during the Great Fire of Rome (he mentions the Christians in the context of their community at the time of this fire, describing how Nero was blaming them for it). He didn't live in Rome for another decade or so, and he didn't write the relevant passage until ~117 AD, some 53 years after his descriptions took place.

eyewitness - someone who has knowledge about an event through seeing it firsthand.

historian - a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it.

---


It's also worth mentioning that Book 15 of the Annals, where this description occurs, is generally considered to have still been in a "rough draft" stage; he died before finishing the next volume.

…and, what’s your point?  Are you assuming the finished product would include a historical narrative 180 degrees different from the rough draft?

---

I am again going to request the following…

List the number of historical events which are corroborated by both Josephus and Tacitus...then list the number of those historical events rejected by "scholars".
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« Reply #43 on: February 15, 2012, 04:01:19 pm »
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Also, you keep mentioning Josephus, but his reference is not being questioned here

That’s because you’re obviously purposely attempting to ignore corroboration, by examining each witness in a vacuum, to avoid dealing with the preponderance of evidence.

No, what I'm questioning is whether Tacitus would have bothered corroborating it at all. We know that he was not always the most reliable of historians, even if he was one of the better of his day, and didn't always base his work on reliable sources. I mean seriously, do you think it completely implausible that a man who had the intellectual dishonesty to make up an entire speech and record it as a historical account could have just gone "meh, sound's plausible enough" and just wrote down some basic information he knew from an incomplete source?

…lousy attempt to ignore the fact Tacitus spent much of his career in Rome…what’s more, he was a Roman Senator….he had access to scores of elders who would have know if Rome denied any knowledge of Jesus’ execution at the hands of Pilate, who governed Judea for 10-11 years, and  was summoned back to Rome in 37AD. Also, Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee for 35 years…both Pilate and Antipas would have had many many previous subordinates who later returned to Rome, thus there would have been no need to write any letters of inquiry in order to establish whether or not Jesus was crucified under order from Pilate

1. Part of your argument here relies on the idea that these "scores of elders" would have cared enough about the Jesus issue to look into it. Nobody is saying that there was a concerted effort to deny it, but the fact is that to Rome as a whole it was a minor issue most wouldn't have known about and among those who did and weren't Christians wouldn't have cared much about.

2. Pilate and any of his or Antipas's subordinates who had returned to Rome would have more than likely been dead for decades by the time Tacitus had begun writing Annals - seeing as I don't think you believe they rose from the dead, I think even you would have had a hard time arguing that they were available for a visit.
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« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2012, 04:23:55 pm »
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There's no indication that Tacitus got Pilate's rank 'wrong', either, even if Pilate was not called 'procurator' during his lifetime. The sources disagree as to whether he was a prefect or a procurator, and the simplest explanation is that the position was simply renamed at some point. Which, well...it was. It was attested to have been, twice.
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« Reply #45 on: February 15, 2012, 04:28:58 pm »
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There's no indication that Tacitus got Pilate's rank 'wrong', either. The sources disagree as to whether he was a Prefect or a Procurator, and the simplest explanation is that he was both, which was far from unheard-of in the Roman administrative system for outlying areas.

Alternatively Tacitus could have just used the equivalent rank that was in use for the position Pilate held during his day for one reason or another. The Pilate rank issue is a minor argument against reliability rather than a major one.
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« Reply #46 on: February 15, 2012, 04:30:01 pm »
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There's no indication that Tacitus got Pilate's rank 'wrong', either. The sources disagree as to whether he was a Prefect or a Procurator, and the simplest explanation is that he was both, which was far from unheard-of in the Roman administrative system for outlying areas.

Alternatively Tacitus could have just used the equivalent rank that was in use for the position Pilate held during his day for one reason or another. The Pilate rank issue is a minor argument against reliability rather than a major one.

Yes, I edited the post to reflect that possibility as well. In Japanese history the first few dozen Emperors bore one of four different titles, すめらみこと 'sumeramikoto', 大和大君 'yamato ookimi', 倭国王 'wakoku ou', or 天の下大王 'ame no shita ookimi', and during the medieval period 帝 'mikado' was used, but these days they are almost always referred to as 天皇 'tennou' like modern Emperors.
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« Reply #47 on: February 15, 2012, 04:44:32 pm »
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There's no indication that Tacitus got Pilate's rank 'wrong', either, even if Pilate was not called 'procurator' during his lifetime. The sources disagree as to whether he was a prefect or a procurator, and the simplest explanation is that the position was simply renamed at some point. Which, well...it was. It was attested to have been, twice.

The following call Pilate a prefect:
A single Inscription found in Caesarea

The following 3 call Pilate a procurator:
the NT - from the viewpoint of Judea
Josephus - from the viewpoint of Judea
Tacitus - from the viewpoint of Rome

Given the historical accuracy of titles of officials from the works of NT/Josephus/Tacitus, it is highly highly doubtful that three corroborative yet separate historical views, two from Judea and one from Rome, would have gotten Pilate's rank wrong.

If we knew the whole truth, there’s probably a very simple way to reconcile all 4 sources.  To sit here 1970 years later with just very small fragments of the whole picture, and claim there is no possible reconciliation is extremely arrogant and most likely, dead wrong.
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« Reply #48 on: February 15, 2012, 04:48:15 pm »
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There's no indication that Tacitus got Pilate's rank 'wrong', either, even if Pilate was not called 'procurator' during his lifetime. The sources disagree as to whether he was a prefect or a procurator, and the simplest explanation is that the position was simply renamed at some point. Which, well...it was. It was attested to have been, twice.

The following call Pilate a prefect:
A single Inscription found in Caesarea

The following 3 call Pilate a procurator:
the NT - from the viewpoint of Judea
Josephus - from the viewpoint of Judea
Tacitus - from the viewpoint of Rome

Given the historical accuracy of titles of officials from the works of NT/Josephus/Tacitus, it is highly highly doubtful that three corroborative yet separate historical views, two from Judea and one from Rome, would have gotten Pilate's rank wrong.

If we knew the whole truth, there’s probably a very simple way to reconcile all 4 sources.  To sit here 1970 years later with just very small fragments of the whole picture, and claim there is no possible reconciliation is extremely arrogant and most likely, dead wrong.


The reconciliation is the fact that the position got renamed twice. It was procurator before AD 6 and after AD 44, the latter period being when NT, Josephus, and Tacitus were written. It was prefect between those dates. There's no conflict.
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« Reply #49 on: February 15, 2012, 05:06:33 pm »
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Is it even clear what the difference between a prefect and a procurator would be? Procurator essentially just means 'equivalent to a curator', no? (Quite similar to proconsul, etc.) And consistency of terminology is frustratingly rare with antique authors.

I'm actually not at all familiar with the way the cursus honorum looked beyond the early Imperial Age (Roman history just isn't the same after Actium Sad ). Would a procurator have been a former curator? I suppose he would, again going from the proconsul analogy. Didn't Pilatus came from a family of Umbrian rural equites? Curator would have been the sort of rank that would be relatively achievable for someone with such a background. So that seems sort of plausible. A bit off-topic, I know, but to be fair this thread and its companion are all sorts of pointless and a real understanding of antiquity seems to be remarkably absent (not that I've really read any of the marathon posts beyond the first half of the first page), so I might as well ask an actually semi-interesting little question.
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