Using this definition of history to frame a response, "History is the stories that men tell to give themselves an identity," compare how the New Testament records history with how the Greeks recorded history, using references to Greek authorship.
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A comparison between Jewish writers' records of history in the New Testament and Greek writers' records of history is not an easy task because there are a limited number of Greek secular writers whose references can be compared to the Jewish New Testament accounts of history. Some of the most commonly discussed secular (non-New Testament) writers, historians and others, are:
- Tacitus: Roman senator and historian
- Suetonius: Roman historian of the equestrian order (order of nobles)
- Pliny the Younger: Roman lawyer, governor and epistolarian
- Thallus: Greek historian whose works are lost but whose remarks on New Testament era history is quoted by Sextus Julius Africanus
- Mara Bar-Serapion: Syrian philosopher and epistolarian
- Flavius Josephus (Josephus ben Mattathias): Jewish priest, military general and historian
- Lucian of Samosate: Greek dramatist and satirist
- Babylonian Talmud: Orthodox Jewish religious text with rabbinical commentary
There are only two Greeks in the list, one was a historian while the other was a playwright. Surprisingly, in the essential details secular historical accounts agree with the New Testament accounts. There are variations in insignificant details but, to historians, these variations in non-material details help to prove authenticity of ancient documents. Thus, in terms of the quotation, "History is the stories that men tell to give themselves an identity," the first century Jewish identity constructed by Jewish writers of the New Testament agrees with the first century Jewish identity constructed by secular (Greek, Roman, Syrian, Orthodox Jew) writers of histories, letters, plays and religious commentary.
As an example, Josephus wrote: "Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, [was] a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure." A New Testament writer wrote: "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book" (John 20:30).
Another example is from Pliny the Younger who, being concerned that his execution of Christians for not worshiping as Romans did, wrote for advice to Emperor Trajan. Pliny said that Christians had religious practices that were harmless though they held to "depraved, excessive superstition." A commentary in the Babylonian Talmud, commentary by Orthodox Jewish rabbis, says: "On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. ... because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. ... not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover."
These examples of quotations show that the histories--the stories--recorded by Jewish Christians, Roman historians and governors, and Orthodox Jewish rabbis agree in essential detail about the identities of the first century Jews as recorded by New Testament writers.
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