A little while back I wrote a blog, entitled “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, refuting the notion that there is less evidence and historical documentation for Jesus than would be expected – a view held by some who are insistent that, because of a lack of historical narrative about Jesus, he simply could not have been a real person. I demonstrated how those who propose this idea are arguing from a position of ignorance and that to argue that someone was not real because one cannot find enough written about said person is non sequitur and, therefore, not logical. This because, as anyone who has studied logic at all will understand, one cannot prove a negative.
Now, I have no real issue with what any of these people personally believe. They can “believe” that Jesus was not a real person, or even that he was an alien, all they want (although such is also not logical in formulation), but to continue to insist that a perceived lack of evidence proves that he never lived is going beyond the limits of good sense. Yet, as late as yesterday I came across yet another attempt (in an article entitled “Where’s the Historical Evidence for Jesus?” by Dr. David E. Lee; published in “The Real Truth about Religion” [http://realtruthaboutreligion.blogspot.com/2015/06/wheres-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html#.XJpmZHtKiM8]) to somehow prove that Jesus never lived as a real person simply because of a lack of documentation for his life. I basically responded that there is actually plenty of documentation, whether one wishes to accept it as valid or not.
But what was even more distressing than reading this tired scenario played out yet again was the fact that, in this case, it was coupled with the now popular assertion that the life of Jesus was modeled after the life of the ancient Pythagorean philosopher who lived at roughly the same time (only a bit longer, it would seem), Apollonius of Tyana. The author brought out the supposed similarities in the two lives, along with scripture references from the New Testament, to bolster his argument and, supposedly, seal the deal.
Now, I am not going to get into all of that because it is not necessary to what I have to say. I could pose a refutation of each point, one by one, and bore the reader to tears. And that would be self-defeating. No, instead, in this case, I am simply going to go straight for the jugular.
ALL arguments claiming that Jesus was not a real person because of some perceived lack of documentation for his life fall completely apart exactly by tying his life to the life of Apollonius of Tyana. Why? Because of a serious lack of documentation for the life of Apollonius of Tyana!
Those who want to claim that there is not enough historical evidence for the life of Jesus actually use the life of another person to compare him to who has even less historical evidence for his life! Shocking, isn’t it!
I should here reiterate, from my previous blog “Yes, Jesus Was Real”, that the most important source for the life of Jesus, meager as it is, outside of New Testament writings and other similar texts that did not become canonical, is the historian Josephus. That his work has obviously been edited over time is irrelevant here if we accept that he himself did write at least SOMETHING about Jesus – even a mere mention. And I do accept that. Other ancient sources were Tacitus, the philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, the historian Suetonius, The Babylonian Talmud, Pliny the Younger, the emperor Trajan (who indirectly referenced Jesus and Christianity), Thallus, Phlegon of Tralles, Lucian of Samosata, Porphyry, Celsus and the emperor Julian (the Apostate). This is actually quite a few extant sources given the overall, and often wholesale, destruction of ancient documents that took place over the millennia since.
By contrast, the sources for the life of Apollonius of Tyana are the following: “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana”, written by the sophist Philostratus at the request of the empress Julia Domna (160-217 CE; wife of the emperor Septimius Severus) and completed after her death (thus, not even a contemporary source since Apollonius died in about 100 CE); a work purportedly by Apollonius himself entitled “On Sacrifices”, parts of which have been preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea; some letters purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a “Biography of Pythagoras”, purportedly written by Apollonius (no longer extant); a book written by an imperial secretary, Maximus, detailing the supposed works of Apollonius in Aegaea, Aeolis (no longer extant); and a biography of Apollonius by Moiragenes (no longer extant).
All of these latter sources were used by Philostratus for his work. Thus, in reality, we have ONE source for the life of Apollonius of Tyana. And it was written over one-hundred years after his death. In addition, not one of the sources mentioned can be considered to have been penned by a real historian. AND, not one of those mentioned by Michael Paulkovich in his book “No Meek Messiah”, whom he states should have at least mentioned Jesus, mention Apollonius in any way whatsoever. AND, if that wasn’t enough, not one of the sources that mention or allude to Jesus mention Apollonius at all, period.
Thus, articles and books claiming any connection whatsoever between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana are at best fiction and at worst complete rubbish! One can posit a connection if one so desires, but one cannot base said supposition on anything that can be called evidence or documentation. Many things happened in history that we will never have any documentation for, so anything is POSSIBLE. But to purport to have evidence of any kind for this seriously flawed scenario is nothing more than charlatanry. These are articles and books of complete fiction.
If one wishes to read a book about the life of the man, Jesus, which is based on the evidence as it actually exists, then my book, “Apocalypse and Armageddon. The Secret Origins of Christianity” is one I highly recommend.