ARE THE EVENTS OF JESUS’ CAREER THE BEST ATTESTED FACTS OF ANCIENT HISTORY? A Comparison to the Attestation for Caesar’s Crossing of the Rubicon and for Spartacus

ARE THE EVENTS OF JESUS’ CAREER THE BEST ATTESTED FACTS OF ANCIENT HISTORY? A Comparison to the Attestation for Caesar’s Crossing of the Rubicon and for Spartacus

© 2016, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.


NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS AN EXCERPT (mutatis mutandis) FROM A FORTHCOMING LONGER ARTICLE.


Introduction

Maclean’s, which boasts of being “Canada’s National Magazine, celebrated Easter this year by publishing a cover article titled, “Did Jesus Really Exist?”[1] with the provocative cover blurb, “The science is in: New memory research is casting doubt on the few things we thought we knew about Jesus. Now a growing number of experts think he didn’t exist at all. P.38”

On the basis of “memory research” touted in a new book by evangelical-turned-agnostic Dr. Bart Ehrman[2] and claims by “Jesus mythicist[3] Dr. Richard Carrier, Maclean’s author Brian Bethune produced his four-page article[4] which made no attempt objectively to weigh evidence pro and con, but consisted mainly of unsubstantiated allegations and bald assertions.  In response, Truth In My Days published a detailed, 18-page rebuttal that thoroughly debunked Bethune’s claims.[5]

Subsequently, historian Dr. Richard Carrier, one of the two scholars upon whom Bethune had drawn, posted a response of his own to our article.[6]  Amid copious childish insults, Carrier listed forty-eight objections to what we had said in our article, most of it consisting of links to his own writings.  Truth In My Days is preparing a response to Carrier’s article.

However, it should be noted that the quality of the historical attestation for Jesus as compared to that for other ancient historical personages is of crucial importance.  For obvious reasons, both liberal scholars such as Ehrman and mythicists such as Carrier must insist that the attestation for Jesus is much weaker than that for other such personages or else they will be faced with having to explain why we should accept the weaker evidence for others and not the stronger evidence for Jesus, and, indeed, why, if the attestation for Jesus is strong, we should not accept it.

It is absolutely necessary, therefore, for liberal scholars and mythicists to insist that the attestation for other historical personages is better than that for Jesus, and Carrier at least does not simply assert this but does try to prove it.  In his response to our article, he specifically raised the matter of Julius Caesar’s well known crossing of the Rubicon River in 49 BC as an event and the escaped gladiator and rebel leader Spartacus as a person both of which, he says, are better attested than Jesus.

Accordingly, we will examine the two cases made by Carrier to see whether or not this event and this person are indeed better attested than the events of the career of Jesus.  Note that each of the following two sections begins with a quote from Carrier’s article, each of which begins with a quote (in bolding and quotation marks) from our article.

Caesar’s Crossing of the Rubicon: An Assessment of the Historical Attestation

“It should be noted that, inasmuch as the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the best attested facts of ancient history …”: Pardon me as I choke on my whiskey laughing … See OHJ.  All of OHJ.  But for an aperitif, we’ve already done this for Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.  (That’s far better attested than the death and resurrection of Jesus; the [earthly] life and ministry of Jesus is even more poorly attested than his death & resurrection, since the former aren’t even mentioned in the letters of Paul, our earliest sources, nor in 1 Clement, or Hebrews, or even 1 Peter: OHJ 11.)[7]

Has Carrier actually read and understood his own article that he linked on Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon?[8]  He tells us we have two primary sources for this event, Caesar and Cicero, though neither of them actually says that Caesar crossed the Rubicon.  Carrier insists that the geographic description means that Caesar must have crossed the Rubicon, though that is not correct; he could in theory have marched his army west and circled the head of the Rubicon and then moved back east to his target cities.[9]

Either way, the bottom line is that regarding Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, we have two contemporary sources about it, neither of which explicitly says that he crossed the Rubicon.[10]  For Jesus, on the other hand, there are four accounts of His life, ministry, death, and resurrection, all of them from eyewitness times.  Three of them were written by eyewitnesses (one through an agent) and the other was based on eyewitness testimony relayed directly to the author.  Furthermore, the earliest of these accounts was published within eight years of Jesus’ resurrection.[11]

Carrier’s statement, then, that Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon is “far better attested than the death and resurrection of Jesus” is not only absurd but bizarre; three accounts by eyewitnesses who explicitly tell us of post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and a fourth based on eyewitness testimony explicitly saying the same thing is better than two accounts of an event, neither of which explicitly avers that it happened.  Carrier is surely not handling the evidence in an even-handed manner here.

He becomes more ridiculous still when he asserts that

the [earthly] life and ministry of Jesus is even more poorly attested than his death & resurrection, since the former aren’t even mentioned in the letters of Paul, our earliest sources, nor in 1 Clement, or Hebrews, or even 1 Peter.

So we have three eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and a fourth based on eyewitness testimony, but we are supposed to believe that these events are “poorly attested” because later letters that are written to teach theology and praxis to Christians who already know the facts of Jesus’ life and ministry (and have three of the Gospel books to refer to if necessary) and so have no need to recapitulate those events do not in fact recapitulate themselves.  Ridiculous doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word to describe this claim of Carrier’s; it is embarrassing.

Spartacus: An Assessment of the Historical Attestation

“… as we have seen, if these claims about the untrustworthiness of memories were true, we would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history. : Nope.  See PH.  All of PH.  But for an aperitif, see my discussion of Spartacus (which links in turn to many other historical figures far better attested than Jesus).[12]

This one, folks, is hilarious.  Let us recall what “these claims” were that I was discussing in the sentence fragment quoted here from me by Carrier:

For example, Bethune writes, “False memories are easily implanted.  Just imagining being at an unusual event – seeing Lazarus rise from the dead, say – can cause a hearer to ‘remember’ being personally present.  A group of students in one test Ehrman cites were led, one by one, to a Pepsi machine; half were asked to get down on one knee and propose to it, the other half to imagine doing so.  Two weeks later, half of the second cohort remembered actually making the marital offer.[13]

So if people could easily be induced to believe that something happened simply by imagining, and, indeed, could develop a false memory (a memory of something that had never happened) by “two weeks later”, then certainlywe would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history.”  If human memory is so frail that it can become so hopelessly garbled within two weeks that people can remember things that never happened, it is impossible to see how we would not “have to throw out everything we know about ancient history.”

Yet Carrier replies with another glib “nope.”  Really?  Why not?  He suggests “for an aperitif, see my discussion of Spartacus.”  Very well; let’s do that, keeping in mind that the Gospel books were written between eight and thirty-two years after the events they describe or, if the dates that liberal scholars typically assigned to the Gospel books (AD 70-100) are true, between 37 and 67 years after the events they describe.

Now, Carrier avers that

We have way better evidence for Spartacus anyway.[14]

He links an article titled “Historical Accounts of Spartacus’ War[15] which lists the following:

  • Plutarch’s Life of Crassus
  • Appians’s Civil Wars
  • Sallust’s Histories
  • Orosius’ Historiae Adversus Paganos
  • Florus’ Epitome of the Histories of Titus Livy
  • Frontinus’ Strategems
  • Livy’s Periochae
  • Cicero’s Orations

My, that does seem impressive, doesn’t it?  Until one takes a closer look, that is.  Let us do that:

Plutarch’s Life of Crassus was written ca. AD 100, which is about 170 years after the events they describe.

Appians’s Civil Wars was written ca. AD 150, which is about 220 years after the events they describe.

And Carrier admits that “Those are the earliest detailed narratives” about Spartacus!  The Gospel books are certainly “detailed narratives” about Jesus’ ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection – and they date, even by the reckoning of liberal scholars, to 37 – 67 years after the events they describe.  Note to Carrier: 8-32 years after the events and even 37-67 years after the events is better than 170-220 years after the events.

The fun continues.  Orosius’ Historiae Adversus Paganos was written in AD 416-417, which is more than 470 years after the eventsNote to Carrier: 8-32 years after the events and even 37-67 years after the events is better than 470 years after the events.

Florus’ Epitome of the Histories of Titus Livy (c. 130 AD) was written ca. AD 130, about 200 years after the events they describe.

Frontinus’ Strategems has only a small excerpt about Spartacus, and it was written sometime between AD 84 and 96, which is a minimum of 155 years after the events they describe.

Livy’s Periochae is more or less a table of contents of what was in Livy’s books, the relevant ones of which are now lost.  The Periochae itself comes from the 4th century, and as we have seen,

It is uncertain whether the authors [of the Periochae] were working directly from the text of Livy or from an earlier summary (or summaries).  Conflicts between the summaries and the text of Livy himself can be attributed errors by the epitomator or to the use of sources other than Livy.  Comparison of the summaries with the extant books indicates that we cannot always assume that the summaries of the lost books provide a reliable indication of their contexts.[16]

Therefore, we cannot assume that its information about Spartacus is accurate.  Even if we did make such an assumption, we are faced with the facts that (a) what is preserved in the Periochae does not tell us a great deal about Spartacus himself, and (b) Livy himself wrote well after the facts.  It is believed he began his work on his Histories in 27-25 BC, which is about 45 years after the death Spartacus, but his later sections were written later, so it is all but certain that the part about Spartacus was written much later.  (Even Carrier tells us that “Livy was born about ten years after the Spartacus war and wrote probably around the turn of the era[17] – or about 70 years after the death of Spartacus.  But even forty-five years would make Livy’s book further removed from its events than the Gospel According to Mark is even by liberal accounting – and Mark tells us a great deal more about Jesus’ ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection than the Periochae tells us about Spartacus.

Now we come to Cicero’s Orations.  According to the article Carrier linked,

In 43 BC, roughly thirty years after the war, Cicero made a series of speeches to the Senate attacking the leadership of Mark Antony.  In these speeches he compares Mark Antony to Spartacus twice.[18]

Yet the word “Spartacus” is used simply as an epithet both times.[19]

But we are told that

Another time when Cicero mentioned Spartacus’ War was during his prosecution of Gaius Verres, a magistrate on trial for his mismanagement of Sicily in 70 BC (only one year after Spartacus was killed).[20]

But there is a problem with this claim about “Spartacus’ War – and that is that there is absolutely no mention of Spartacus anywhere in Cicero’s statements here!  Cicero mentions “the war of the runaway slaves” (and an earlier war against fugitive slaves in Sicily), gives Marcus Crassus and Cnaeus Pompeius credit for winning the war, and mocks Gaius Verres for claiming he prevented the slaves from invading Sicily – and that’s all.[21]  Spartacus is mentioned nowhere.  Adducing this as an historical source for Spartacus, then, is disingenuous; one may as well adduce a 1st-century description of, say, the priesthood in Jerusalem and claim that it is a source for Jesus.

Then Carrier chimes in with his own contribution.  He admits the “the earliest detailed narratives” we have of Spartacus date from about 170 to 220 years after the events they describe, but then he tries to mitigate this by appealing to Livy.  He tells us that “Livy was born about ten years after the Spartacus war and wrote probably around the turn of the era[22] – which means that (a) Livy was not an eyewitness, and (b) Livy was writing about seventy years after the events he describes regarding Spartacus.

Carrier pleads that

We can tell even by extant summaries by his readers that Livy wrote extensively and believably about Spartacus (unlike anything in Josephus about Jesus) and had good and detailed information (unlike anything in Josephus about Jesus) and none of it shows signs of obvious forgery or meddling (unlike everything in Josephus about Jesus: OHJ, Chapter 8.9).[23]

This is desperate nonsense.  Livy’s writings about Spartacus no longer exist.  The 4th-century AD Periochae says the following:

Seventy-four gladiators escaped from the school of Lentulus at Capua, gathered a large number of slaves and workhouse prisoners, began a war under command of Crixus and Spartacus, and defeated the army of praetor Publius Varenus and his deputy Claudius Pulcher. (From Book 95.2)

Praetor Quintus Arrius crushed Crixus, the leader of the runaway slaves, and 20,000 men.  Consul Gnaeus Lentulus, however, unsuccessfully fought against Spartacus.  Consul Lucius Gellius and praetor Quintus Arrius were defeated by the same leader.  Proconsul Gaius Cassius and praetor Gnaeus Manlius unsuccessfully fought against Spartacus, and the war was confined to praetor Marcus Crassus. (From Book 96.1,3,6)

Praetor Marcus Crassus first fought victoriously with a part of the runaways, mainly Gauls and Germans, and killed 35,000 of them, including their leaders Castus and Gannicus.  Then he completely defeated Spartacus, who was killed with 60,000 people. (From Book 97.1,2)

This is a very bare list of a few events in the war with Spartacus, with no details about the war or background and personal details about Spartacus.  It is not nearly enough to tell us whether “Livy wrote extensively and believably about Spartacus.”  At any rate, what is germane here is not so much whether Livy wrote “extensively and believably” but whether he wrote accurately – and Livy is known to have overstated and exaggerated his tales of Roman triumphs[24] and the defeat of Spartacus would surely call for such exaggeration.

We should note the fact that Carrier completely sidesteps the issue of Livy’s accuracy, perhaps thinking that the reader will simply assume it.  This overlooks the fact that

It could easily be shown that Livy disregarded original sources that were available and accessible, that he often neglected to verify his facts and his topography, that he used his sources with too little discrimination, that he was not interested in sifting his information and in making valid deductions from it, and that, finally, he allowed his patriotism to make him ungenerous towards his country’s enemies.[25]

Moreover,

Livy is not a scientific historian.  Although he professes to weigh one authority against another, he is often inaccurate and unintelligible in detail.[26]

Apropos to this, Carrier’s bald assertion that Livy “had good and detailed information” cannot be supported by the very brief list given in the Periochae regarding the events related to Spartacus, especially since we do not know that the epitomator of the Periochae did not supplement that list by “the use of sources other than Livy.[27]  And, as we have just seen, even if Livy “had good and detailed information” available to him, it does not mean he used them carefully, or even at all:

Livy disregarded original sources that were available and accessible, that he often neglected to verify his facts and his topography, that he used his sources with too little discrimination, that he was not interested in sifting his information and in making valid deductions from it.[28]

As to Carrier’s claim that “none of [Livy’s writing about Spartacus] shows signs of obvious forgery or meddling,” it is patently obvious that it is impossible to know this without having Livy’s writings available to examine.  The fact that there are discrepancies between those books of Livy that do survive and the summaries given of them in the Periochae means that “we cannot always assume that the summaries of the lost books provide a reliable indication of their contexts.[29]  In other words, there may well have been forgery or meddling.[30]

Pause for a moment now to savour Carrier’s conclusion that

So even just on this count, in Livy we already have better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus.

So according to this historian, a document that was not written by an eyewitness, that was written seventy years after the fact by a man who “disregarded original sources that were available and accessible … often neglected to verify his facts and his topography … used his sources with too little discrimination … [and] was not interested in sifting his information and in making valid deductions from it[31] and – oh, yeah – that doesn’t actually exist is better evidence than four eyewitness accounts written between eight and 32 years after the events they describe and which do, in fact, exist.  It is hard to know whether Carrier actually expects anyone to take this seriously.  Certainly his credibility is taking a severe beating by now.

But Carrier is not done.  He appeals to Sallust’s Histories, which, he says, is the earliest account of Spartacus that “we have pieces of.[32]  According to Carrier, Sallust

wrote around 40 B.C., just thirty years after the Spartacus war, a better source than we have for Jesus in any form at all.  This makes Sallust comparable to the letters of Paul, but unlike Sallust, Paul does not treat Jesus as a subject of narrative history or give any specific historical details about him or write anything biographical about him other than vague theological statements (OHJ, Chapter 11).  So once again, in Sallust we have even better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus.[33]

This is not remotely true, of course.  The first three Gospel books had already been published within thirty years of Jesus’ ascension (and the fourth one two years later).  However, let us assume for the moment that Carrier’s dates are correct and see if Carrier’s conclusions here are correct.

What do we find out about Spartacus from the extant fragments of Sallust?  He is mentioned twice.

In 3.64, which describes some events in the midst of some details about a showdown between Romans and a slave army, the last line reads, “But […] were almost at blows with each other, because they could not agree on a plan of action; Crixus and his fellow Gauls and Germans wanted to go out to confront […] and offer battle, while Spartacus

In 3.66, which describes the brutality of the slaves, there is a line that reads, “Nothing was sacred or inviolable to these men, who had the savagery of barbarians and the temperament of slaves.  Since Spartacus could not stop these […], he earnestly begged them to forestall the news of what they had done, and quickly …”

These two mentions are all that we find of Spartacus in the extant fragments of Sallust.  Now, Carrier says that in terms of timing, Sallust to Spartacus is comparable to Paul to Jesus, but, he says,

unlike Sallust, Paul does not treat Jesus as a subject of narrative history or give any specific historical details about him or write anything biographical about him other than vague theological statements.[34]

Now, Paul was writing letters to teach believers the theology and praxis of the Christian life.  These Christian believers already knew the account of Jesus’ life and ministry and so Paul had no reason to mention them, although in the course of his writings he does mention such “specific historical detailsas His descent from David (Romans 1:3), the Last Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), His trial before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13), His crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:8), His death and burial (1 Corinthians 15:3-4a), His resurrection (Romans 1:4, 6:4, 1 Corinthians 15:4b), and His post-resurrection appearances.

What of Sallust and Spartacus?  What “specific historical details” or “anything biographical” does Sallust give about Spartacus?  Look at the fragments again.  Other than the fact that Spartacus was present during the showdown between the slave army and the Romans (and based on only the fragments of Sallust, it is not even possible to be certain of which side Spartacus was on), there is no “specific historical detail” and nothing “biographical” at allSo Carrier’s claims in this matter are a colossal bluff.

Carrier tries again, claiming that

Spartacus is also attested in the Library of History by Diodorus Sicilus: fragment 39.22 mentions Spartacus, and reveals that Diodorus had written a whole section on the Spartacus war.  Diodorus was a Greek, in his twenties during the war, and wrote his histories between 60 and 30 B.C., so a living contemporary historian writing about Spartacus earlier than anything we have for Jesus (apart from maybe the highly mythical Gospel of Mark: OHJ, Chapter 10.4).[35]

There are two problems here.  First, Diodorus’ reference to Spartacus is in Book 39 of 40, which makes it all but certain that it was written in the latter part of the given range, some forty years after the events (and all four Gospel books were written in closer proximity to the ascension of Jesus than that – and even by the reckoning of liberal scholars Mark was certainly closer).  Second, the only extant material on Spartacus recorded by Diodorus Siculus is the single line in 39.21 that reads,

The barbarian Spartacus showed himself to be grateful to someone who had helped him; for nature itself leads even barbarians, without any education, to reward their benefactors with proper gratitude.

This hardly accords with the other material we have on Spartacus and certainly that one line is not better material than we have about Jesus.

Carrier is still not done.  He says that

We have [Spartacus] attested in the letters of Cicero: in Response to the Haruspices written in 57 B.C., just fourteen years after the Spartacus war.[36]

But what does Cicero actually say in Response to the Haruspices?  There is a single mention of one “Spartacus” in Response to the Haruspices, in Section 26, which reads

And then he makes mention to me of his family, when he would rather celebrate the games after the fashion of Athenio or Spartacus, than like Caius or Appius Claudius.  When these great men were celebrating games, they ordered all the slaves to depart from the theatre.  But you turned slaves into one, and turned free men out of the other. Therefore they, who formerly used to be separated from free men by the voice of the herald, now, at your games, separated free men from themselves not by their voice, but by force.

Interesting; there is one single mention of a “Spartacus,” in which he is described as one of the “great men [who] were celebrating games.”  It is not possible that in 57 BC Cicero was referring to the Spartacus who led the slave rebellion in this way.  Either this is a different Spartacus, or our picture of Spartacus, which is based on later sources, is severely problematic.  One wonders how Carrier could have missed this.

Carrier’s last gasp is his claim that

We also know the erudite Varro, who was in his forties during the Spartacus revolt and was thus in the Senate during the war, also attested to the existence and treatment of Spartacus.  Because Varro’s books are quoted doing so by a later reader, Sosipater Charisius (a scholar of the 4th century A.D., his quotation of Varro is in Grammatical Arts 1.133).  We have nothing at all like that for Jesus.[37]

The problems with appealing to a non-existing source should by now be obvious.  Flavius Sosipater Charisius is said to quote “Although he was an innocent man, Spartacus was condemned to a gladiatorial school” in Ars Grammatica 1.133.  Varro lived from 116 BC to 27 BC, but we have no idea what work this quote came from or when it was written – if indeed it came from Varro at all.  Regarding Charisisus,

Virtually nothing is known of the life and whereabouts of Charisius, a fourth-century gentleman of letters whose only extant work is the compilatory treatise on Latin grammar he dedicated to his son.[38]

We have no idea how careful he was in his historical work or what sources he used.  Did he misquote this passage?  Did he misattribute it to Varro?  Did he use a source that misattributed to Varro?  We have no way of knowing.  In addition, the fact stated in this quote is not corroborated elsewhere, so we do not have that “multiple attestation” liberal scholars demand for Jesus.  And certainly the bare fact in this quote does not tell us much about the life and career of Spartacus.

The mind boggles.  For Jesus we have three early and detailed eyewitness accounts (and a fourth based on eyewitness testimony), but all that is “nothing at all like” a single line written at an unknown time by someone who was not an eyewitnessand Carrier actually acts as if the latter is better!  Can any rational person see this as anything other than sheer lunacy?

This, then, is the ancient evidence for Spartacus offered by Carrier.[39]  Let us sum up where he stands.

First, we note that Carrier’s comment and his appeal to the sources for Spartacus was in response to my comment “… as we have seen, if these claims about the untrustworthiness of memories were true, we would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history,” and that “these claims” that I was discussing in the sentence fragment quoted from me by Carrier were

For example, Bethune writes, “False memories are easily implanted.  Just imagining being at an unusual event – seeing Lazarus rise from the dead, say – can cause a hearer to ‘remember’ being personally present.  A group of students in one test Ehrman cites were led, one by one, to a Pepsi machine; half were asked to get down on one knee and propose to it, the other half to imagine doing so.  Two weeks later, half of the second cohort remembered actually making the marital offer.[40]

Carrier responded,

Nope.  See PH.  All of PH.  But for an aperitif, see my discussion of Spartacus (which links in turn to many other historical figures far better attested than Jesus).

Now, it is difficult to understand Carrier’s appeal to PH, which was published in 2012, years before Erhman’s Jesus Before the Gospels (2016) in which this memory research is risibly applied to the case for Jesus, which is then used by Bethune.  I doubt that this particular claim was addressed in PH before the claim itself was made.

Furthermore, Bethune claims that false memories of doing things they never did can be implanted into people within two weeks, and if that were true, we certainly “would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history,” as I said – unless, of course, Carrier can come up with ancient sources written less than two weeks after the events they describe.  Of course he does not; in his “aperitif” about Spartacus, he appeals to sources that date from 30 years after the events to 470 years after the events[41] (and all of the ones less than 155 years after the fact consist of mere mentions of the name or epithets or one sentence that does not agree with all other sources).  Note to Carrier: two weeks is less than thirty years.  Two weeks is less than 155 years, 170 years, 200 years, 220 years, and 400+ years, the dates of his other sources.  So if Bethune’s claim is correct, then, we would indeed have to throw out everything we know about ancient history,”  Carrier’s asinine “nope” notwithstanding.

However, as I showed in my previous article,[42] Bethune’s claims are utter rubbish and can safely be ignored.  Let us consider the respective cases for Jesus and Spartacus on their own merits as historical documents.

Carrier blithely asserts that

We have way better evidence for Spartacus … in Livy we already have better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus … in Sallust we have even better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus … So, altogether, very much better than we have for Jesus.[43]

Oh, really?

Now, the claim I made is that we have “better and more certain documentation for the events of the career of Jesus than there is for any other ancient personage.”[44]  Notice again: “the events of the career.

The “events of the career” of Jesus are chronicled the four Gospel books, three of which are eyewitness testimony (one through an agent) written eight, ten, and thirty-two years after the events described, and the fourth based on eyewitness testimony written fifteen years after the events.  As we have seen, this is what the actual evidence shows, and Carrier’s bald assertions to the contrary do not change that fact.  But even by Carrier’s reckoning, the earliest account of the “events of the career” of Jesus was written about thirty-seven years after the events they describe and the last sixty-seven.

By contrast, the “events of the career” of Spartacus are chronicled by Plutarch and Appian 170 and 220 years after the events they describe.  Again, to help out Carrier, we point out that 170 and 220 are larger numbers than 8, 10, 32 and even 37 and 67. Plutarch and Appian did not write during the lifetime of eyewitnesses of Spartacus.  All of the earlier sources to which Carrier appealed do no more than mention Spartacus’ name; they do not detail the “events of the career” of that man.  So Carrier’s claim that “We have way better evidence for Spartacus … So, altogether, very much better than we have for Jesus[45] is absolute lunacy.

Furthermore, we have three eyewitness accounts of the “events of the career” of Jesus and a fourth that was based on eyewitness testimony (and by any reckoning, the Gospel books were certainly written during the lifetime of eyewitnesses of Jesus) whereas we have no eyewitness testimony or any testimony from eyewitness times for the “events of the career” of Spartacus.  To help out Carrier, let us point out that having eyewitness testimony (and/or testimony from eyewitness times) is better than not having it.

And Carrier claims that

in Livy we already have better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus.[46]

So Carrier wants us to believe that a document that does not exist, which was supposedly written about seventy years after the facts by one who was not an eyewitness, and all for which we have is a table of contents from more than four hundred years later, a table of contents that has contradictions with Livy where Livy exists and which may have been drawn from other sources, is better than four details accounts of the “events of the career” of Jesus from eyewitness timesCan any rational person believe that?

Yet Carrier has the gall to say also that “in Sallust we have even better evidence for Spartacus than for Jesus,” as if fragments that mention Spartacus twice but tell us nothing about him is better than four details accounts of the “events of the career” of Jesus from eyewitness times.  Absurd does not seem to be strong enough to describe this claim.

In sum, then, Carrier’s assertion that We have way better evidence for Spartacusaltogether, very much better than we have for Jesus[47] is a lunatic claim that cannot be taken seriously by any thinking person.  And one wonders if even Carrier suspects that somewhat, as we cannot overlook the fact that he resorts to special pleading even before he adduces evidence.  “First,” he says,

partacus belongs to a different reference class [from Jesus].  He is not a worshiped deity whose only narratives are extensively mytho-fantastical … This is the first problem with trying to compare Jesus with ordinary people … Ordinary people are not usually mythical … Ordinary people are not worshiped celestial gods with astonishing supernatural powers and suspiciously convenient names (Jesus means “Savior”), rapidly surrounded by wildly egregious myths, to serve as reified authorities for promoting certain cultural and religious norms.[48]

It should be obvious that Carrier’s reference to “wildly egregious myths” is a product of his own metaphysical bias; he has not proved that there are any myths in the accounts of Jesus, so this is nothing but begging the question, which is a logical fallacy.  And to claim that the accounts were invented “to serve reified authorities for promoting certain cultural and religious norms” is so ludicrous that it is actually funny; the claims about Jesus went against the “cultural and religious norms” of both the Jewish and Roman societies, both of which did their level best to destroy Christianity for centuries.  One wonders if Carrier is even listening to himself.

The second scam Carrier pulls is to attack the narratives about Jesus because they are different from narratives about “ordinary people.”  Indeed they are, for the eyewitnesses of Jesus were making the exact point that Jesus was not an ordinary man at all but the Jewish Messiah and “God with us” who worked miracles and rose from the dead thus proving that He was in fact no ordinary man.  If Carrier does not understand that, then he truly has no place in such a discussion but should pack up his things and go home into retirement.

Finally, as to the heart of Carrier’s special pleading, that the accounts about Jesus are mythical, that too is a nonstarter.  Jesus was a real person living in a real place at a real time, as attested by people who knew Him personally, and who described the things they saw Him do and who testify that He rose from the dead in real time and real space.  That, folks, is not myth; it is history.  One would think that an historian like Carrier would know the difference between myth and history.

But we should not be surprised.  As I wrote in my original article,

Bethune … certainly seems to accept the reliability of historical testimony even hundreds of years after the fact, with no concern about the effects of fallible memories, so it is difficult to see his attempt to discredit the Gospel books on that basis as anything other than special pleading on a colossal scale.

It should be noted that, inasmuch as the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the best attested facts of ancient history, as we have seen, if these claims about the untrustworthiness of memories were true, we would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history.  Naturally, mythicists never suggest doing that; such claims are wielded as weapons solely against the historic truth of Jesus, not against anything else.[49]

That, folks, is what liberal scholars have to do; they have to have one standard for Jesus and a separate one for all other ancient historical narratives, for without that, they would have to accept the truth about Jesus.  It is not surprising, then, that Carrier has to resort to this sort of special pleading in order to judge Jesus by a different standard, for, on the basis of the actual evidence, it is indubitably true that we have “better and more certain documentation for the events of the career of Jesus than there is for any other ancient personage.”[50]  Carrier’s attempt to gainsay this fact has been a signal failure, an utter and dismal failure.  That hissing sound you hear is whatever was left of Carrier’s credibility deflating.

It should also be noted at this point that liberal scholars love to claim that there are contradictions in the Gospel books while ignoring the fact that there are actual serious errors and contradictions in the historical sources they champion.  For example, as we’ve already pointed out, for Alexander the Great, there are five ancient accounts of his life and career[51], but none of them is an eyewitness account; in fact, the earliest one, Universal History (Book 17) by Diodorus Siculus, postdates Alexander’s death by three full centuries!  (Furthermore, the five extant sources do not always agree among themselves.  Even such a basic fact as how he died remains in question.[52])

Furthermore, there is only one primary source from the time of Alexander, which is the Babylonian Astronomical Diary,[53] which consists of only a very brief paragraph about the Battle of Gaugamela,[54] but it contradicts all of the other sources on Alexander on a key point; it tells that the Persian soldiers fled, abandoning their king, whereas the five ancient accounts of Alexander all assert that the king fled, abandoning his soldiers!  This is far more problematic than any alleged contradictions in the Gospel books.  And such problems do not obtain only in the case of Alexander, yet liberal scholars blithely ignore such problems in other ancient writings while carping about supposed minor inconsistencies in the New Testament.

Too, liberal scholars insist that the Gospel books are not to be trusted because the writers were biased, wanting the reader to believe certain things (though if they were better thinkers, they’d ask what did these writers see and hear that convinced them Jesus was who He claimed to be, Lord and Christ, so that they would want people to believe this), while ignoring palpable bias on the part of other ancient writers.

Carrier is no different.  He allows that “We don’t trust that all the surviving sources are wholly reliable in every detail.  For example, Appian makes identifiable errors, and thus probably has made several unidentifiable ones as well,[55] but insists that, unlike for Jesus, for these other ancient characters we have “numerous objective historians researching his history from earlier sources and discussing it, all within one to two centuries after the event.[56]

Yet this is not even remotely true.  As Dr. Hector Avalos, another liberal scholar who dismisses the Gospel books, says,

many or most of Alexander’s exploits cannot be verified because they depend on secondary and tertiary sources whose claims are difficult to corroborate.[57]

Avalos tells us that:

“The nature of the sources has become increasingly under question because we often don’t have the means to verify which of Alexander’s exploits actually happened or which were just part of an ancient pro-Alexander propaganda machine, the result of uncritical acceptance of previous traditions, etc.”[58]

“In general, the main extant sources for Alexander consist of biographies written hundreds of years after he lived … verifying what is true in any of the extant ancient historians is very difficult for a modern historian.”[59]

“[I]t would be difficult to see how Arrian, writing in the second century CE, himself verified which, if any, of his sources, was telling the truth about anything that happened some 400 years earlier.”[60]

And Dutch historian Jona Lendering points out

This brings us to the vexed question: what sources were used by Tacitus?  We know that he wrote letters to people who could tell him more – two letters from Pliny the Younger, concerning the eruption of the Vesuvius, survive – but he must have used other sources of information as well.  He pretty accurately renders a speech by Claudius, which has survived as an inscription.  The idea that he checked the state’s archives, has by now been rejected; and he sometimes quotes authors like Pliny the Elder.  Still, it is remarkable that he was capable of ignoring important sources as well – his account of the Jewish War is not based on Flavius Josephus.  Essentially, Tacitus’ sources are an unsolved riddle.[61]

Furthermore, Carrier speaks of these ancient writers as “objective historians,” but that is not really true either.  For example,

The book of Deeds of Alexander is now lost, but underlies much of what was written later.  It seems to have been the work of a professional flatterer who knew how to please a king who had developed a life-long rivalry with Achilles.  For example, it contained many allusions to Homer’s Iliad, a calculation of the date of the fall of Troy (exactly thousand years before Alexander’s visit to the sacred city), and references to towns mentioned by Homer and visited by Alexander.  Callisthenes stressed Alexander’s manly behavior and the effeminate weakness of the Persians.  Another story that Alexander must have appreciated is that of the sea doing obedience to the new Achilles.  One thing is certain: Callisthenes did not object to Alexander’s claim to be the son of Zeus.[62]

So the main (and long since lost) putative primary source about Alexander was written by a “professional flatterer” trying to please the man he was writing about, a man who could – and eventually did – have him killed.[63]  This is far more grounds for bias than the early Christian writers supposedly had.  Meanwhile, consider the following about Aristobulus, whose account is supposed to be “among the most important sources of Arrian’s Anabasis, our main source for the career of the Macedonian conqueror[64]:

We can be confident that Aristobulus was among Alexander’s greatest admirers, because when there are more than one stories about the same event, Aristobulus usually gives the kinder version.  For example, all authorities agree that Alexander was a heavy drinker, but Aristobulus explains that this was merely because he loved to be with his friends.  And when a drunken Alexander killed Clitus, Aristobulus says that it was Clitus’ own mistake.  Another example: Ptolemy writes that Alexander ordered Callisthenes, who had criticized him in public, to be crucified, and Aristobulus says that the man died in prison.[65]

In sum, then, the picture Carrier paints of objective, careful ancient writers who give us much better sources of information for the life and deeds of personages from the ancient world is pure fantasy.  It is not even close to being true.  Ancient writers were biased; they used (or ignored) sources as they wished; they were unable to verify the truth of what they found in their sources; they often conflict with each other; and they are known to us from small numbers of manuscripts that date from many centuries after the original date of composition.  There are very few eyewitness accounts of anything, and almost all of the detailed documentation we have were not even written in eyewitness times.

By contrast, according to the evidence we have the Gospel books comprise four accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection, all from eyewitness times.  Three were written by eyewitnesses (one through an agent) who were ideally placed to know what they are writing about, and the fourth was based on eyewitness testimony passed directly to the writer, so that the authors did not have to rely on written sources long after the fact.  The earliest was Gospel book was published a scant eight years after the events they describe.  And we have thousands of extant manuscripts, the oldest substantial one which postdates the composition of that book by mere decades, not centuries.[66]

It is an indubitable fact, then that we have far better and more certain documentation for the events of the career of Jesus than there is for any other ancient personage, including Alexander the Great and Spartacus.  Carrier’s continual denial of this fact does not change it; all he does is stultify himself.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to take him seriously.


Endnotes

[1] Bethune, Brian. “Did Jesus Really Exist? Memory research has cast doubt on the few things we knew about Jesus, raising an even bigger question.” Maclean’s Magazine 129:12 & 13, (March 28 & April 4, 2016), pp. 38-41

[2] Carrier, “We Weep for John Tors.” Posted on April 24, 2016, at https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/10064

[3] A “Jesus mythicist” is one who not only denies Jesus’s Deity, miracles, and resurrection but actually believes that no such person ever lived at all.

[4] Much of the total page space is taken up by pictures; there are not four pages of actual text.

[5] Tors, John. “Yes, Jesus Really Did Exist: Refuting Maclean’s Magazine’s Latest Madness” at https://truthinmydays.com/yes-jesus-really-did-exist-refuting-macleans-magazines-latest-madness/

[6] Carrier. “We Weep for John Tors,” op. cit.

[7] Carrier, “We Weep for John Tors,” op. cit.

[8] Carrier, Richard. “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story.” (6th ed., 2006). Posted on TheSecularWeb at http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/rubicon.html

[9] This is a viable option, and actually stronger than Carrier realizes. In Caesar’s day the Rubicon was only 29 km long, and so Caesar’s army could have circled it and returned to the coast within two days, and could have done it easily within three (“An ordinary day’s march for the Roman army consisted of 15-18 miles done in 7 of our hours” http://www.therthdimension.org/AncientRome/Roman_Army/On_the_March/on_the_march.htm) and that fits nicely into the timeline offered by Cicero’s letters as described in Carrier’s own article (ibid.) “in a previous letter to Tiro dated 12 January, Cicero is aware that Caesar is about to invade Italy, and preparations are being made to hold Italy against his advance (300, Letters to Friends and Family 16.2).  Then in a letter to Atticus dated 19 January (303, Letters to Atticus 7.2), Cicero reveals there is all manner of confusion as to how far Caesar has advanced.  By the 27th he has an accurate account of Caesar’s march” and “In his letter to his freedman Tiro (letter 311, or Letters to Friends and Family 16.12, dated 27 January in the year of the war, 49 B.C), Cicero says: ‘[W]hen Caesar yielded to the promptings of what may be called downright insanity, and–forgetting his name and his honours–had successively occupied Ariminum, Pisaurum, Ancona, and Arretium, I left the city [Rome].’”

Carrier (ibid.) then states that “In other words, Caesar invaded Italy at Ariminum and proceeded down the coast seizing every town on the way” but Carrier’s “in other words” are wrong; Cicero’s letter does not say that “Caesar invaded Italy at Ariminum“ but only that Ariminum was the first city “occupied” by Caesar.  So Carrier’s claim (ibid.) that “The only way Caesar could have invaded Italy at Ariminum was to cross the Rubicon (Ariminum is only ten miles down the road from the Rubicon)” is blatantly wrong; the fifteen days between Cicero’s letter in which he expresses awareness of Caesar’s plan to invade Italy and the letter in which he lists four cities occupied by Caesar’s forces easily allows for the two or three days required to have circled the Rubicon.  And military commanders know to avoid trying to cross a body of water while facing enemy fire, and so Caesar, perhaps unsure of how quickly resistance would be ready to face him and also perhaps wanting to surprise and circle behind foes that might congregate on the south shore of the Rubicon, may well have decided to circle the Rubicon rather than cross it.

[10] Only one of Cicero’s three letters makes this claim even indirectly.

[11] This is discussed in more detail earlier in the article from which this excerpt is taken.  For the facts that prove these contentions, see Wenham, John. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992 and Robinson, John A.T. Redating the New Testament. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976.  Both the evangelical Wenham and the liberal skeptic Robinson carefully examined the Patristic evidence and showed that it yields these early dates.  In fact, Eusebius explicitly records in Chronicon that Matthew published his Gospel book in the third year of Caligula (AD 39-40) and that Mark wrote his Gospel book prior from his departure from Rome to Alexandria, “in the third year of Claudius,” which puts the publication of this book to AD 43 (or possibly 42, since he wrote “prior to” his departure in AD 43).  For yet more evidence, see the Family-35 colophons (Pickering, Wilbur. The Greek New Testament According to Family 35. Lexington, KY: 2014, p. 56).  This should be enough evidence to convince any fair-minded, thinking person of the early dates of the Gospel books.  Regarding the date of the Gospel According to John, see Robinson (op. cit.) and Tors, John. “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster: Why the Monster Wins” at https://truthinmydays.com/creation-ministries-international-and-the-three-headed-monster-why-the-monster-wins/.

[12] Carrier, “We Weep for John Tors,” op. cit.

[13] ibid.

[14] Carrier, Richard. “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” Posted on July 5, 2015, at https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7924

[15] “Historical Accounts of Spartacus’ War.” Posted at http://spartacus.wikia.com/wiki/Historical_Accounts_of_Spartacus’_War

[16] Briscoe, John. “Livy” in Hornblower, Simon and Antony Spawforth. Eds. The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 425  (Bolding added.)

[17] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[18] “Historical Accounts of Spartacus’ War,” op. cit.

[19] “The whole then of the contest, O Romans, which is now before the Roman people, the conqueror of all nations, is with an assassin, a robber, a Spartacus!” and “O you Spartacus! for what name is more fit for you? you whose abominable wickedness is such as to make even Catiline seem tolerable.” (from ibid.)

[20] “Historical Accounts of Spartacus’ War,” op. cit.  (Bolding added.)

[21] Here is the entire text of Cicero’s comments: “What will you say?  That in the war of the runaway slaves Sicily was delivered by your valour?  It is a great praise; a very honourable boast.  But in what war?  For we have understood that after that war which Marcus Aquillius finished, there has been no war of fugitive slaves in Sicily.  Oh!  but there was in Italy. I admit that; a great and formidable war.  Do you then attempt to claim for yourself any part of the credit arising from that war?  Do you think that you are to share any of the glory of that victory with Marcus Crassus or Cnaeus Pompeius?  I do not suppose that even this will be too great a stretch for your impudence, to venture to say something of that sort.  You, forsooth, hindered any part of the forces of these slaves from passing over from Italy into Sicily?  Where?  When?  From what part of Italy, as they never attempted to approach Sicily in any ships or vessels of any sort?  For we never heard anything whatever of such an attempt; but we have heard that care was taken, by the courage and prudence of Marcus Crassus, that most valiant man, that the runaways should not make boats so as to be able to cross the strait to Messana; an attempt from which it would not have been so important to have cut them off, if there were supposed to have been any forces in Sicily able to oppose their invasion.  But though there was war in Italy so close to Sicily, still it never came into Sicily.  Where is the wonder?  For when it existed in Sicily, at exactly the same distance from Italy, no part of it reached Italy.

“What has the proximity of the countries to do with either side of the argument in discussing this topic?  Will you say that access was very easy to the enemy, or that the contagion and temptation of imitating that war was a dangerous one?  Every access to the island was not only difficult to, but was entirely cut off from men who had no ships; so that it was more easy for those men, to whom you say that Sicily was so near, to go to the shore of the ocean than to Cape Pelorus.  But as for the contagious nature to that servile war, why is it spoken of by you more than by all the rest of the officers who were governors of the other provinces?  Is it because before that time there had been wars of runaway slaves in Sicily?  But that is the very cause why that province is now and has been in the least danger.  For ever since Marcus Aquillius left it all the regulations and edicts of the praetors have been to this effect, that no slave should ever be seen with a weapon.”

[22] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[23] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[24] Dudley, Donald R. The Romans: 850 BC – AD 337. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1970, p. 19.

[25] Gould, H.E. & J.L Whitely. Eds. Livy: Book I. “Introduction 2. Livy as an Historian.” London: Bristol Classical Press, 1939, 2004, 2005, p. x.  (Bolding added.)

[26] Lake, E.D.C and F.S. Porter. Eds. Livy: Hannibal The Scourge of Rome. “Introduction B. Livy as Historian and Writer.” London: Bristol Classical Press, 1934, 2004, p. Xiv.  (Bolding added.)

[27] Briscoe, op. cit.

[28] ibid.

[29] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[30] Regarding the authenticity of Josephus’ passage about Jesus, against which Carrier repeatedly casts aspersions, see Tors, John. “The Testimony of Josephus: Powerful Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, or an Interpolated Fraud?” at https://truthinmydays.com/the-testimony-of-josephus-powerful-evidence-for-the-truth-of-christianity-or-an-interpolated-fraud/.

[31] Gould, H.E. & J.L Whitely, op. cit.

[32] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.  Sallust was also mentioned in the article linked by Carrier, “Historical Accounts of Spartacus’ War.”  We deal with Sallust now.

[33] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[34] ibid.

[35] ibid.

[36] ibid.  (Bolding added.)  Carrier also appeals to the fact that “Cicero also mentions details of the Spartacus war albeit without naming Spartacus in Against Verres, written and orated to the Senate just three years after the war” (ibid.), but we have already shown why that appeal is worthless.

[37] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?”  Do note that not even Carrier claims that Varro was an eyewitness of Spartacus.

[38] Conduché, Cécile. Review of Javier Uría (ed.), Carisio: Arte gramática. Libro I. Biblioteca Clásica Gredos; 375. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 2009. Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.05.41). Posted at http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-05-41.html

[39] Carrier has missed one, which is Velleius Paterculus, who in Compendium of Roman History 2:30:5-6 writes, “As war against Sertorius was being waged in Spain, sixty-four runaway slaves led by Spartacus escaped from a gladiatorial school in Capua.  In that city they got hold of swords and at first made for Mt. Vesuvius; soon, when their crowd increased daily, they inflicted serious ruin on Italy on various occasions.  Their number grew to such an extent that in the final battle in which they fought they faced the Roman army with 90,000 men.  Marcus Crassus had the glory of finishing off this war; soon, everybody was in agreement that he was the leading citizen in the republic.” (See “The Principal Ancient Sources on Spartacus.” Posted at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470776605.oth1/pdf.)  But Velleius was writing one hundred years after these events, and in his short paragraph contradicts the Periochae on one point and Orosius on another.

[40] Tors, “Yes, Jesus Really Did Exist,” op. cit.

[41] The one reference earlier than that, at fourteen years after the events, seems actually to be reference to a different Spartacus.  And fourteen years is also more than two weeks.

[42] Tors, “Yes, Jesus Really Did Exist,” op. cit.

[43] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[44] Tors, “Yes, Jesus Really Did Exist,” op. cit.

[45] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[46] Do recall that Carrier is trying to gainsay my point which was specifically about the evidence for the “events of the career” of people from ancient history.

[47] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.  (Bolding added.)

[48] ibid.

[49] Tors, “Yes, Jesus Really Did Exist,” op. cit.

[50] ibid.

[51] Hamilton, J.R. “Introduction.” Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander. London: Penguin Books, 1971, p. 18

[52] Graham, Daryn. “Alexander: The Death of a King.” Archaeological Diggings 17:5 (2010), pp. 33-35

[53] “Alexander 3.1 Eastern Sources: A contemporary source: the Astronomical diary”. Posted at http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_z1.html

[54] “That month, the eleventh, panic occurred in the camp before the king [The Macedonians] encamped in front of the king.  The twenty-fourth, in the morning, the king of the world [erected his] standard [lacuna].  Opposite each other they fought and a heavy defeat of the troops [of the king he inflicted].  The king, his troops deserted him and to their cities [they went]  They fled to the land of the Guti/On the eleventh, in Sippar an order of Al[exander to the Babylonians was sent as follow]s: ‘Into your houses I shall not enter.’  On the fourteenth, these Ionians a bull [lacuna] short, fatty tissue [lacuna].  Alexander, king of the world, came into Babylon [lacuna], horses and equipment of [lacuna] and the Babylonians and the people of [lacuna] a message to [tablet ends here]” from at http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_t40.html

[55] Carrier, “Okay, So What about the Historicity of Spartacus?” op. cit.

[56] ibid.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[57] Avalos, Dr. Hector. “Alexander the Great, Jesus, and David Marshall: A Simpleton’s Approach to History.” Posted on April 15, 2013, at http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.ca/2013/04/alexander-great-jesus-and-david.html.

[58] ibid.

[59] ibid.

[60] ibid.

[61] Lendering, Jona. “Tacitus.” Posted at http://www.livius.org/person/tacitus/.  (Bolding, italics, and underlining added.)

[62] Lendering, Jona. “Callisthenes of Olynthus.” Posted at http://www.livius.org/caa-can/callisthenes/callisthenes.html

[63] “Calisthenes of Olynthus,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Posted at http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/90024/Callisthenes-of-Olynthus

[64] Lendering, Jona. “Aristobulus.” Posted at http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/aristobulus/aristobulus.html

[65] ibid.

[66] Papyrus Bodmer II (P66) is a nearly complete copy of the Gospel According to John (with lacunae), missing only 40 out of 879 verses (6:12-34, 14:27-28, 31, 15:1, 27, 16:1, 5, 8-9, 20:21, 24, and 21:10-25) (Comfort, Philip W. Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1990, p. 60).  It was originally dated late to ca. AD 200, but was “dated in 1960 by Herbert Hunger, director of papyrological collections in the National Library of Vienna, to ca. 125-150” (Comfort, Philip Wesley. The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992, p. 32).  Comfort himself dates P66 to AD 150-175 (ibid., p. 92).  If we take AD 150, then, as the reasonable date, this manuscript dates to 85 years after the date of composition, which is not even one century later.

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