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Historical Jesus

Aug 12, 1996 01:32 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Abrantis Writes:

>Now I bring one more reference about Jesus lived under Pilate.
>Enc. Britanica Vol22 page 337
>[The mention of Jesus`execution in the Annals of the Roman
>historian Tacitus (Annals XV,44) written about AD110 is worthy
>of note. In his account of the persecution of christians under
>the emperor Nero which was occasioned by the burning of Rome (AD
>64), the Emperor in order to rid himself of suspicion, blamed
>the fire on the so-called Christians, who were already hated
>among the people. Tacitus writes in explanation: The name is
>derived from Christ, whom the procurator Pontius Pilate had
>executed in the reign of Tiberius." The "temporarily suppresscd
>pernicious superstition" to which Jesus had given rise in Judaea
>soon afterward had spread as far as Rome. Tacitus does not
>speak of Jesus but, rather, of Christ (originally the religious
>title '-Messiah," but used very early among Christians outside
>Palestine as a proper name for Jesus)]

There is no question that by 110 A.D., when the above was
written, the story of a Jesus crucified under Pilate was well
established in the Christian community.  Therefore Tacitus'
explanation is not historical evidence of the event, but merely a
repetition of Christian belief, which Tacitus would have no
reason to question.

>Here Gibbon refers to pious fraud made in Josephus text of
>Antiquities XX,200, also cited by HPB. Suetonius also wrote
>after AD100, about christian in Vita Claudii XXV,4 "He
>[Claudius] expelled the Jews, who had on the instigation
>of Chrestus continually been causing disturbances, from Rome."
>This may refer to turmoils occasioned among the Jews of Rome by
>the intrusion of Christianity into their midst. But the
>information must have reached the author in a completely garbled
>form or was understood by him quite wrongly to mean that this
>"Chrestus" had at that time appeared in Rome as a Jewish
>agitator.  Claudius' edict of expulsion (AD 49) is also
>mentioned in Acts 18:2.
>(Enc. Britanicca)

This is indeed vague.  "Chrestus" appears to be a latinized
spelling of "Chrestos", meaning "good" or "pious" people.  The
term could refer to the "christian" sect of Judaism, but the term
"chrestus" does not derive from "christos"--a very different word
signifying a group of initiates.  If this is the case, then the
reference has nothing to do with Christians.  On the other hand,
we could assume that the word was both a misspelling and a
reference to Jesus (making "Christus" to mean "Messiah").  In
this case, the above could be a report of friction between the
Jews and the christian sect among them, as you suggest above.  In
this case, the Romans are making a distinction between the Jews
and the christians among them.  But, in this case, the term
"chrestus" might be correct after all, because the Romans of that
time might have indeed considered these people "pious" compared
to the trouble making Jews.  However, even if we stretch the
meaning of the above record by changing the spelling, the report
still tells us nothing about the historicity of Jesus.


   |Jerry Hejka-Ekins,                      |
      |Member TI, TSA, TSP, ULT                |
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