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Extrabiblical evidence of Jesus's miracles?

Postby Baggins » Mon Apr 27, 2020 4:39 pm

Are there any documents outside of the Bible that contain information about Jesus’s miracles? How do we know he didn’t fake them?

Re: Extrabiblical evidence of Jesus's miracles?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 07, 2022 12:38 am

  • Josephus, in a text parts of which are considered to be historically reliable (Testimonium Flavianum), mentions "Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who did surprising deeds."
  • A bowl recently discovered in Alexandria, Egypt, dates to the first century AD. The engraving reads (in Greek) "*dia chrstou o goistais*," translated by the excavation team as "through Christ the magician." It is speculated that a first-century magician used it in the work he was doing to invoke the name of Jesus, showing from an extra-biblical source that Jesus was known for His miracles.
  • The Paris Magical Papyrus, dated to about AD 300, describes an elaborate exorcism ritual that begins with, "I beseech you by the god of the Hebrews," and then lists a number of mystical names, of which Jesu is the first one listed. The papyrus then continues with numerous other references to biblical events and persons, some of which are undecipherable. It is yet another evidence from an extra-biblical source that Jesus was known as a worker of wonders, a successful exorcist, and called "the god of the Hebrews."

> How do we know he didn’t fake them?

We have to consider alternative explanations, since most of Jesus's miracles were in very public settings before crowds of people. Card tricks can be sleight of hand. Enabling a lame man to walk or a blind man to see is beyond trickery. This is not the stuff of David Copperfield. But let's talk about it.
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Re: Extrabiblical evidence of Jesus's miracles?

Postby Reconnoiter » Thu Sep 14, 2023 2:14 pm

I know I wasn't the OP, but this kind of stuff fascinates me. What other kinds of cross references can we find of not only His miracles, but his existence, too? I would love to hear all your thoughts.
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Re: Extrabiblical evidence of Jesus's miracles?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Sep 14, 2023 3:00 pm

There are plenty of extra-biblical references to Jesus as being a historical person who actually existed (and therefore not just a legend or a mystical vision or some such).

  • Mara bar Sarapion (who lived sometime between AD 73 and the 3rd c.) mentions "the king of the Jews" in speaking of VIP deaths like Socrates and Pythagorus, which could believably be a reference to Jesus.
  • Thallus, a historian of Samaritan birth, writing in about AD 50, writes in his 3rd book of his histories of Christ dying during a Paschal full moon. (The original of this writing does exist, but only a copy written by Julius Africanus in about 221. Its authenticity is debated.)
  • Pliny the Younger (AD 61-ca. 112) writes about the persecution of Christians and that true Christians cannot be induced to curse Christ.
  • The Babylonian Talmud (about AD 500) speaks of Jesus being hanged on Passover Eve.
  • Lucian of Samosata (AD 125 - sometime after 180) alludes to Jesus as having been crucified in Palestine.
  • Josephus (writing in the late 1st c.) mentions Jesus twice in his writings, once in Antiquities 18.33 and also in book 20.
  • Suetonius, Roman historian, mentions a "Chrestus," which some take to be a reference to Jesus.
  • The Egerton Papyrus (from AD 70-200) mentions Jesus.
  • The James ossuary (mid-1st c.) mentions Jesus as the son of Joseph and brother of James. Its authenticity is debated.
  • Tacitus, Roman historian, mentions a "Christus" as the founder of a group known as "Christians." (Annals X.44
  • Ignatius of Antioch (AD 35-117) was a believer who mentions Jesus in his writings.

With all of these references, there is no reasonable doubt that Jesus existed as a man. There is no evidence from antiquity that the existence of Jesus was ever denied by those who opposed Christianity. It is also widely agreed as implausible that Christians invented him. Today nearly all historians, whether Christian or not, accept that Jesus existed. The claim that Jesus was simply made up can be debunked in many places. The total evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt.
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