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Thread: Tacitus on Jesus

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    Tacitus on Jesus

    If Christus were Yeshua Christus or Iesa or a name akin to Jesus I might say a reference to Pontius Pilate and a need Nero had to cause people to commit suicide (Seneca the Younger) in order to save his own part in the burning of Rome might have relevance to the historicity of Jesus. I however, do not. I do regard Tacitus as a good source and far better than the lying quisling Josephus. So here we have Tacitus in his Annals with scraps or fragments which some people want to say proves the myth is real and not an amalgam of many people including John the Baptist who were known as Messiah or Christos.

    This author is clutching at straws - and asserting a fact no where to be found. It is Christus not Jesus and Christus was not a founder of what Rome created if he was a Judean unless Rome bought him off or captured him like General Josephus who sold out his own troops. I have addressed the matter with many other scholars under threads including The Historical Jesus by Crossan - who is fair and rational on the matter.

    "Tacitus was a Roman historian writing early in the 2nd century A.D. His Annals provide us with a single reference to Jesus of considerable value. Rather frustratingly, much of his work has been lost, including a work which covers the years 29-32, where the trial of Jesus would have been had he recorded it [Meie.MarJ, 89].

    Here is a full quote of the cite of our concern, from Annals 15.44. Jesus and the Christians are mentioned in an account of how the Emperor Nero went after Christians in order to draw attention away from himself after Rome's fire of 64 AD:

    But not all the relief that could come from 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. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

    A survey of the literature indicates that this citation by Tacitus has not been given enough regard, having often been overshadowed by the citations in Josephus (see next entry). Respected Christian scholar R. T. France, for example, does not believe that the Tacitus passage provides sufficient independent testimony for the existence of Jesus [Franc.EvJ, 23] and agrees with G. A. Wells that the citation is of little value.

    It is unfortunate that France so readily agreed with Wells' assessment. An investigation into the methods and background of Tacitus, as reported by Tacitean scholars (whose works, incidentally, France does not consult), tells us that this is an extremely reliable reference to Jesus and for early Christianity.

    Is this a genuine reference, or are there doubts about its veracity?

    Very few would assert that this passage is a forgery [though see Cutn.JGMM, 111-2], for the evidence is strongly in favor of the genuineness of this passage. The passage is in perfect Tacitean style; it appears in every known copy of the Annals (although there are very few copies of it, and none dates earlier than the 11th century), and the anti-Christian tone is so strong that it is extremely unlikely that a Christian could have written it.

    Indeed, the Tacitean polemic against Christianity is so strong that it was one of two things Tacitus was condemned for in the sixteenth century - the other being that he wrote in bad Latin [Dor.Tac, 149], and it is even said that Spinoza liked Tacitus because of his anti-Jewish and anti-Christian bias [Momig.CFou, 126].

    This is not to say that there are not those whom we may encounter who will suggest that this passage is an interpolation. Some will suggest that because no church father quotes the passage early in church history, it must have been added later.

    No church father, however, would have willingly quoted such a negative reference to Jesus and the Christians; moreover, indications are that Tacitus wrote for a very limited audience of his peers. The Annals may not have gotten into the Church's hands at an early date. {This is lunacy and buys the idea of Rome not having a reason to usurp all beliefs and use them to build their Empire.}

    So, the idea that this passage is an interpolation is no more credible than the idea held in the 19th century that Tacitus' entire works are fifteenth-century forgeries.

    Is this historian/writer a reliable source? Is there good reason to trust what they say?

    The answer here is: Absolutely! The Tacitean literature is full of praise for the accuracy, care, critical capability, and trustworthiness of the work of Tacitus, and it is singularly unfortunate that many writers in this subject area have failed to appreciate this!

    Let's look at a number of quotes from scholars in the Tacitean camp:
    • Syme, who was regarded as one of the foremost Tacitean scholars, says [Sym.Tac, 398] "the prime quality of Cornelius Tacitus is distrust. It was needed if a man were to write about the Caesars." He adds [ibid., 281, 282] that Tacitus "was no stranger to industrious investigation" and his "diligence was exemplary."
    • Chilver [Chilv.Tac, 24] indicates that "for Tacitus scepticism was inescapable is not to be doubted."
    • Martin [Mart.Tac, 211], though noting difficulties about discerning Tacitus' exact sources, says that "It is clear, then, that Tacitus read widely and that the idea that he was an uncritical follower of a single source is quite untenable."
    •Grant [Gran.Grec, 40-3; see also Gran.Tac, 18], while charging Tacitus with bias, error, and "unfair selectivity" in various areas (especially associated with the Emperor Tiberius), nevertheless agrees that Tacitus "was careful to contrast what had been handed down orally with the literary tradition." Elsewhere he notes that "There is no doubt that (Tacitus) took a great deal of care in selecting his material" [ibid., 20].
    •Dudley [Dud.Tac, 29] notes that despite problems in discerning what sources Tacitus used, "it may be said with some confidence that the view that Tacitus followed a single authority no longer commands support."
    •Mellor [Mell.Tac, 20, 45] observes that although he made use of other sources, including friends like Pliny, Tacitus "does not slavishly follow, as some of his Roman predecessors did, the vagaries of his sources."

    He adds (ibid., 31-2) that, "If research is the consultation and evaluation of sources, there can be little doubt that Tacitus engaged in serious research though it is not often apparent in the smooth flow of his narrative." Tacitus "consulted both obscure and obvious sources," and "distinguishes fact from rumor with a scrupulosity rare in any ancient historian."
    Last edited by R_Baird; 04-07-2016 at 01:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Continuing to give the Christian following Roman Popery and propaganda his right to say what is to me an obvious lie - he surely knows what Christos means in every language it was translated into.

    "•Benario [Benar.Tac, 87] tells us that Tacitus "chose judiciously among his sources, totally dependent upon none, and very often, at crucial points, ignored the consensus of his predecessors to impose his own viewpoint and his own judgment."
    •Wellesley [Dor.Tac, 65-6] remarks that investigation "very seldom shows (Tacitus) to be false to fact" and that archaeology has shown that "only once or twice is Tacitus found guilty of a small slip."

    He adds: "When the sources differ and the truth is hard to decipher, (Tacitus) takes refuge in ambiguous language or the balance of alternative and sometimes spiteful variants," rather than doing original research to determine which option is the truth. We may note that there is no such ambiguous language in the Christus cite.

    • Finally, Momigliano [Momig.CFou, 111-2], while pointing out that Tacitus was of course "not a researcher in the modern sense," nevertheless says that he was "a writer whose reliability cannot be seriously questioned." He cites only one possible major error by Tacitus, but puts it down to him relying on a trusted predecessor rather than official records.

    We therefore conclude that there is every reason to trust Tacitus as reliable.

    Tacitus may have borrowed his information of Jesus from Christians or from Pliny the Younger, or from some other secondhand source. It may not be reliable.

    Overall, Tacitus' reliability as a historian counts against his having borrowed information uncritically from any source. Moreover, and as further support:
    • That Tacitus got his information from Christians is shown unlikely by the negative tone of the reference.
    • That Tacitus got his information on Jesus, or some of it, from Pliny originally is quite possible: The two men were close friends. Tacitius sent his works to Pliny for criticism, and "he himself begged for the product of Pliny's pen" [Mende.Tac, 15]. Tacitus also "turned to Pliny for first-hand material for his Histories" [ibid., 21], so he was not hesitant to use Pliny as a source.
    However, this does not mean that Tacitus accepted Pliny's information on Jesus, or on any topic, uncritically. Annals 15.53 indicates that Tacitus did collect some information from Pliny - and that he disputed it, and even considered it wholly absurd. Simply because Pliny was Tacitus' friend and confidant does not mean that he believed everything that Pliny told him.

    More generally, let's look at how carefully Tacitus analyzed and sifted his sources, according to the Taciteans:
    • Mendell notes that in Annals 13, Tacitus quotes three divergent opinions from three different historians on a story involving Nero. [Mende.Tac, 208] He was concerned even about minor historical details in this regard. Mendell [ibid., 207] further notes Tacitus' citation of a fantastic story about one Drusus, "based only on persistent rumor, which (Tacitus) refutes by the application of logic." He writes: "In the Histories there are sixty-eight instances in which Tacitus indicates either a recorded statement or a belief on someone's part with regard to something which he himself is unwilling to assert as a fact; in other words, he cites divergent authority for some fact or motive" [ibid., 201]. These instances "would seem to indicate a writer who had not only read what was written by historians...but had also talked with eye witnesses and considered with some care the probable truth where doubt or uncertainty existed.
    "The sum total of the picture is clear. For the main narrative, Tacitius assumes the responsibility of the historian to get at the truth and present it. His guarantee was his own reputation. To make this narrative colorful and dramatic, he felt justified in introducing facts and motives which he might refute on logical grounds or leave uncontested but for which he did not personally vouch. There is no indication that he followed blindly the account of any predecessor" [ibid., 203-4]. Mendell also notes that Tacitus was concerned for maintaining his integrity as a historian.

    In the Annals, the work with the paragraph on Jesus, Mendell cites 30 instances where Tacitus uses specific phrases "to substantiate a statement or to present a statement for which he does not care to vouch" [ibid., 205]. Mendell also notes that "In Books 11-16 of the Annals (the Jesus cite is in 15) Tacitus "concerns himself with the evidence and source references to a greater extent than in the earlier books." He relies on other historians, a bronze inscription (11.14), reports or memoirs (15.16), personal testimonies (15.73), and physical evidence (15.42). There are indications of searches for first-hand (15.41) and written (12.67, 13.17) evidence [Mende.Tac, 207]. Thus, the cite on Jesus comes in the middle of one of Tacitus' most carefully-documented works.

    In reporting a conspiracy of Piso to assassinate Nero, Tacitus acknowledges the difficulty of accurate knowledge of such conspiracies, indicates where his knowledge is uncertain, and does not use even one of Pliny's quotes as positive evidence because he considers it to be "wholly absurd" (15.53) [ibid., 209].

    In short, Tacitus was a very careful historian - he would certainly not trust a source that he held in such disdain as he did Christians, and he would carefully check material that came to him, even from his friends."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    There is so much confusion created by all the various myths and lies encouraged over two millennia by Gnostics, Kabbalists, Cabalists, Romans, and over twenty thousand denominations calling themselves Christians; not to mention Islam and pagans of all manner including Constantine who edited the Bible and put his god or lord's birthday in the place now known as Christmas. Here is Wikipedia to consider.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate, and the existence of early Christians in Rome in one page of his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44.[1] {The people who say there are more references or any with the name Jesus are liars.}

    The context of the passage is the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of the city in AD 64 during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.[2] The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome.[3][4]

    Scholars generally consider Tacitus' reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source.[5][6][7] Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.[8] However, Richard Carrier has suggested that the line mentioning Christ by name is a Christian interpolation.[9][10]

    Historian Ronald Mellor has stated that the Annals is "Tacitus's crowning achievement" which represents the "pinnacle of Roman historical writing".[11] Scholars view it as establishing three separate facts about Rome around AD 60: (i) that there were a sizable number of Christians in Rome at the time, (ii) that it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome, and (iii) that at the time pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Roman Judea.[12][13] These facts however are so narrowly established (see "Other Roman sources" below) that they are subject to much scrutiny, including that of reports of Pilate's rank, the spelling of key words or Tacitus' actual sources.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    In case you do not know it, the ethics of our society are not delivered to us via a stork or from a devil. We are brainwashed!

    If you ever had an ancestor who had his balls cut or stomped on - you are forbidden entry into the House of the Lord. If you ever had an ancestor who was a 'bastard' forget getting into that place. That means no one will be there even if you somehow fooled St. Peter. Are you related to an Ammonite or Moabite - tough sh^t!

    The Cycle of Violence is a very touchy subject for most people. There are those who sit in positions where they know the depth of the problem and they might even know what could be done in some cases. But can they actually do something about it?

    Here are some of the problems.

    1. Parents think it is their right to have children and raise them as their father and other earlier family members raised them. They do not want to admit they are control freaks or abusers of one form or another. They may even think their religious indoctrination is correct despite the fact that it does nothing to teach the joy and soulful potential of sex alongside the civil and moral responsibilities that are connected.

    2. Politicians know that if they addressed the totality of the problem it would mean many children would be taken away from parents and there is no social network in place like the extended family or clan that would ensure the children get the proper character development while having their human potential creatively embraced or developed. In some countries politicians enjoy wielding perverse power over people and giving them ridiculous religious laws or ideas about virgins in heaven or the place of man versus woman. Arranged marriages are a form of prostitution and marriage itself needs to place the rights of children ahead of the rights of parents. All children become wards or citizens of the state and the costs or dangers associated with abuse are many.

    3. In the ethical system that allows older people to force naïve young people into wars or to work at things which are not productive we have a macro-social and soulful issue which is most egregious to say the least. There have been times when de-population makes sense and the whole planet can become threatened by rampant over-population so it makes sense to plan the parenting of children rather than allow de-population efforts to succeed. As mankind goes into space there will be a need for more people unless the robots take over. But sending poor examples of our species out to populate our galaxy is a most troubling issue for me.

    4. Therapists are in danger of being sued if they say the victim is in need of therapy too. There are no intake questionnaires in schools or hospitals which might target certain at-risk children and class action suits against the government or its institutions could result if courts are not aware of the dangers of religious and ethnic mores and morays that actually generate abuse. Courts and therapists as well as teachers of proper training or education are not in agreement and the matter requires some kind of realization that we do indeed face a monstrous and real threat to our potential growth as a race or species.

    5. Police forces and other powerful mundane jobs often attract people who are abusive or overly forceful. Fear and a lack of trust rather than healing and loving approaches are everywhere. We have seen growing awareness of the abuse of authority in churches in relation to pedophilia but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

    "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.
    As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
    - President Abraham Lincoln, 1865

    As this author says (somewhat tongue in cheek) all books of the Bible and this cult are corrupt. Savior = save your ($$)

    It's Not Your Fault!

    Saying goodbye is easy for the traveler. I am a person who traveled so much that I had no roots except 'within' and I learned to be connected to 'What IS'.

    In the movie Good Will Hunting there are many great insights about the rat race and cycle of violence. I never was beaten but I had a horror show caused by the social system due to a schizophrenic mother. But I empathized with the Psychologist played by Robin Williams because I have always been there to counsel those in need or trouble. I had studied just like Will Hunting, a lot of the books on philosophy and psychology. Before I was ten I dare say I had read more than the average Doctor of Psychology.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Critical analysis of the whole genre of Roman writing is not too difficult to see one had to write what fit with the desires of those in control, and this had been true in most places and times when Empire is uppermost. Things became a lot better in the Renaissance and you could say it is better still as each century has passed, but not quite as much as you would think if you consider what passes for independent thinking on vast areas of knowledge or social investigation. History and politics are inexorably entwined and journalism collected or cobbled together is not really investigative - do you believe what politicians say?

    They make a pretty compelling argument as do the scholars ion Know Rome, Know Jesus, No Rome, No Jesus. Does it make sense that the Talmud has no reference to any person called Jesus, and if you consider the Talmud is the rabbinical collective discourses and Jesus was a rabbi (teacher) would that alone make the matter fairly obvious. Jesus as a person was a fiction made by Rome to further the Roman agenda.

    And the Roman agenda was (is) to build power for a few people - as few as they have to share it with.
    Last edited by R_Baird; 04-22-2016 at 08:54 PM.

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