Primary Source Evidence from the First Century and a Half from Non-Christian Sources for Christianity

There are some who deny that Jesus did the things recorded of Him as they are reported in the New Testament.

In a discussion thread in a Facebook group I was very recently invited to join, the question of the historicity of the New Testament accounts was raised. I claim the New Testament is comprised of 27 documents that are primary source evidence that document the history they record.

They come from the pens of authors who were there and observed those events, or authors who were closely acquainted with those who were there, or who carefully compiled the evidence available to them from others who in that day had written about these events or who participated in the events and told their story to the New Testament author (Luke, for example).

The claim sometimes made is that there are no books that Jesus wrote, and the New Testament books were written long after the events they record by persons who were not there to witness the events.

Back in 2007 I participated in a discussion about these same issues. Back then I cited a source I have in my personal library by C. R. Haines titled Heathen Contact with Christianity during its First Century and a Half.

Below is the record of what I posted in that discussion. At the time I typed a portion of this book so others could read it. This was a laborious task. I just discovered that I still have some of those files, so I am posting them here so others can learn about what this great Classics scholar, C. R. Haines, has written.

11/8/07 To Hopetx re C. R. Haines

Dear Hopetx,

I cited C. R. Haines as a reputable, scholarly source for information on the subject of his book titled [I]Heathen Contact with Christianity during its First Century and a Half[/I].

I gave a full physical description of the book and its contents in detail to demonstrate I was not dreaming up a source which does not exist.

While I used the common term “Xerox” to describe my copy, it was actually made by an earlier process which leaves a mottled background to each page, though the print is readable. It might not be scannable, though I have the (new, as yet uninstalled) software and scanner to put it in electronic format.

I have not had the time to check the Internet to see if this source is already on line somewhere.

I may have learned of this book through the bibliographical writings of Wilbur Smith. I asked Mr. Alec R. Allenson (a major library bookseller in Napier, Illinois) to find me a copy. He said he had a copy, and would loan it to me so I could make a copy of it. This was back in the late 1960s or early 1970s.


The Preface of the book states:

[quote]The present book is put forward as the first in a projected series of little works on early Christianity up to the end of the second century. They are intended to provide the student with convenient materials for the proper understanding of the relations that progressively subsisted between it and the Roman Empire.

If this volume is found satisfactory, and meets with success, it will be followed by a reconstruction of the anti-christian polemic of Celsus, to be succeeded by other volumes on the Early Apologists, the first authentic martyrdoms, and a General Sketch of the attitude of the Roman Administration towards the Christian religion, and in particular a separate treatment of the reign of Marcus Aurelius in this respect.

My best thanks are due to the Rev. F. A. Haines for kindly reading the proofs of this little work and making most valuable criticisms and suggestions.



September 1923



Dr. Wilbur M. Smith mentions this book by Haines very briefly in his 1973 book, The Minister in His Study, on page 48:



All theological professor and many ministers are asked if there were any references in secular literature to Christ and the Christian faith within the one hundred years during and following the apostolic period? There is one small volume of 120 pages that, as far as I know, is the only one that records all such references, in Greek and Latin literature, down to 150 AD. It is significantly entitled, [I]Heathen Contact with Christianity During Its First Century and a Half[/I], with the informing subtitle, [I]Being All References to Christianity Recorded in Pagan Writings During that Period[/I]. The author was C. R. Haines. Here you have both the original Latin and Greek texts, with excellent translations and adequate footnotes.[/quote]

I hope to come back to this thread and share more specifics from the book by C. R. Haines.


11/8/2007 Citation from C. R. Haines Introduction


I have just a little time to provide more information from Mr. C. R. Haines’ book. The nature of the copying process used for my copy makes it unlikely that it can be scanned. Its use of multiple languages, even in the discussion of the sources presented, makes it unlikely that I can transcribe into a post much of the content itself.


Nevertheless, from the section “Prefatory Notes on the Authors Cited Below,” which begins on page 7, I can cite the list of ancient authors whose material Mr. Haines provides:


  1. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (circa B.C. 5-65 A.D.)


  1. Epictetus (circa 45-120 A.D.), page 10


  1. Gaius Plinius Secundus, the Younger (circa 61-113 A.D.), page 11


  1. Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Emperor, 98-117), page 13


  1. Marcus Cornelius Tacitus (circa 55-120 A.D.), page 13


  1. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (circa 70-150 A.D.), page 15


  1. Publius Aclius Hadrianus (Emperor 117-138), page 16


  1. Phlegon (circa 80-140 A.D.), page 18


  1. Marcus Cornelius Fronto (circa 95-167 A.D.), page 18


  1. Titus Antoninus Pius (Emperor 138-161), page 20


  1. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Sub-emperor 147-161; Emperor 161-180), page 21


  1. Titus Flavius Domitianus (Emperor 81-96 A.D.), page 24


  1. Dio Cassius Cocceianus of Nicaea (circa 155-235 A.D.), page 26


  1. Publius Aelius Aristides (circa 120-189 A.D.), page 27


  1. Lucianus (Lycinus) of Samosata (circa 120-190 A.D.), page 28


  1. Apuleius of Madaura in Africa (circa 120-190 A.D.), page 31


  1. Claudius Galenus of Pergamos (circa 130-210 A.D.), page 31


  1. Graffito on the Palatine at Rome (circa 180 A.D.), page 33


  1. Numenius of Apamea (circa 170 A.D.)

I have given the page numbers to convey some indication of the amount of introductory discussion Haines provides for each author.

For number 18, which I selected because of its brevity, Haines states (as far as I can transcribe it on this keyboard, since I can’t transcribe the Greek, etc.):

[quote]The inscription, which was found in 1856, is scrawled on the plaster beneath a caricature which represents a figure with an ass’s head crucified, and a man raising his hand in adoration as he gazes upon it.(2) The caricature is supposed to have been made by one of the royal pages quartered on the spot and directed against a fellow page. Tertullian (3) tells us of a caricature showing a figure with ass’s ears and hooves, holding a book, with the inscription [in Greek, theos anokoitees] beneath it, which was exhibited by a renegade Jew in Carthage.

(1) In the Demus Gelatiana, where stood the quarters for the royal pages.

(2) Near by was found another graffito [I]Alexamenos fidelis[/I].

(3) [I]Apol[/I]. 16. See, for a similar figure, Champfleury [I]Hist. of Ancient Caricature[/I] p. 284 (1867) and Duruy [I]Hist. Rom[/I]. V 752 (Engl. Transl.)


11/9/07 Citation from CR Haines pp 7-9.


Just another tidbit for C. R. Haines from a website detailing potentially expired copyright:


[quote]Charles Reginald HAINES [M: c1867 – 1935 Aug 4]

Heathen Contact With Christianity During Its First Century… [n|1923]




I note on that website that a few titles are provided links to where they are available on line. No link provided for this C. R. Haines title.


Let me hand-transcribe just a bit from the first entry of the “Prefatory Notes on the Authors Cited Below” from page 7:


[quote][B]1. Lucius Anaeus Seneca (1)[/B] ([I]circa[/I] B.C. 5-65 A.D.).


The high morality of Seneca’s writings and their resemblance here and there in expressions and sentiments to the N.T. [New Testament] disposed certain of the Fathers to regard this Stoic moralist as almost a Christian. Tertulian, writing in the third century, does not scruple to style him [I]Seneca sepe noster[/I] (2), and Jerome (3) two hundred years later echoes his words. In consequence it has become a pleasing fancy that Seneca may have known St. Paul personally at the very end of their lives, which ran almost exactly parallel in time. It has been supposed that he gathered from St. Paul some knowledge of Christ and His teaching before they both perished at the hands of the same tyrant within a year or two of each other.


At first sight it seemed quite possible that he might have heard of the Apostle from his favourite brother M. Annaeus Novatus, who on being adopted into the family of the Gallios took the names L. Junius Gallio, and is the very proconsul of Achaia mentioned in the [I]Acts[/I](4). But on reflection it appears highly unlikely that


(1) Though Seneca’s knowledge of Christianity cannot be said in any sense to be established, yet the intrinsic interest of the question as to whether he was acquainted with it, and the striking personality of the writer must justify his insertion in this section of the Testimonies.


(2) [I]De anima[/I] 20.


(3) [I]Adv. Iovin[/I]. I 49


(4) xviii 12-18.


[end of page 7]


Gallio, who as an official took no cognizance of these things, whould have interested himself in the doings of an obscure and despised Jew.


However when St. Paul was brought as a prisoner to Rome and placed under the charge of Burrus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard and Seneca’s close friend, it is not wholly impossible, though it cannot be called likely, that the philosopher and the prisoner were brought into contact. As Nero’s adviser Seneca may also have been present at St. Paul’s first trial and acquittal, in which case he could scarcely have failed to be struck with so remarkable a personality. It has further been suggested that Acte (according to Chrysostom a convert of St. Paul), whose amour with Nero was promoted, it is said, by Seneca, may have been the means of bringing the two men together. This is all that can be adduced in favour of the possibility of any personal contact between the Apostle and the philosopher. But it must never be forgotten that Seneca detested the Jews and called them a [I]gens scleratissima[/I]. (1)


Nevertheless it is undeniable that Seneca’s works contain a number of passages which recall parallel sayings in the N.T. A few of the most striking are here given (2). But in spite of their great superficial resemblance it is difficult to believe that Seneca could have been so familiar with Christian teaching and phraseology as these would seem [I]prima facie[/I] to imply. Moreover the vital question of priority in writing has to be considered, and few of Seneca’s works can be accurately dated. But while it is practically certain that in some


(1) See Augustine De Civitate Dei VI 2, from which passage it would seem that Seneca had never even heard of the Christian colony at Rome.


(2) The cumulative effect of quoting [I]all[/I] the parallel passages makes a much greater impression. See Lightfoot, [I]Philipp[/I]. pp. 268ff.


[end of page 8]


of the instances generally adduced Seneca was the earlier writer, yet it is noticeable, as Lightfoot (1) points out, that the resemblances become more frequent in his later works, a fact which calls for explanation. Ramsay thinks that “it is plain from his writings that Seneca had some slight acquaintance with Christian teaching,” but he overlooks the possibility that the diction and phraseology of philosophy, especially that of the Stoics, may have coloured St. Paul’s ideas and his mode of expressing them, and so assimilated them to those of Seneca. Still, besides the longer passages, the little similarities of expression are more frequent than we should expect under cover of this or any like explanation: as, for instance, [I]Isti ques pro felicibus aspicitis, si non qua occurrunt sed qua latent videritis, miseri sunt sordidi turpes ad similitudinem parietum suorum extrinsecus culti,[/I] compared with the “whited sepulchres” of St. Matthew (2), and further illustrated by Seneca’s subsequent words, “the counterfeit splendour covers a deep and real foulness”; and, again, [I]in ipso usu sui periturum[/I], by the side of [Greek,] [I]esti panta eis phthoran tee apoxreesei[/I]. The supposed reference to the Trinity is a mere coincidence of language, the work in which it occurs having been written too early to be indebted to Christian sources. The unfamiliar use of [I]caro[/I] (4) in the Christian sense of “flesh” as opposed to “spirit,” as in [I]omne animo cum hac carne grave certamen est[/I], derives from Epicurus (5). As the Christians were


(1) See his Essay quoted above p. 289. Professor W. M. Ramsey in The Church in the Roman Empire, p. 273.


(2) [I]De Provid[/I]. 6; Matt. xxiii 27.


(3) Seneca, [I]De Vita Beata[/I] 7; Coloss. ii 21.


(4) [I]Ad Marciam[/I] 24; see also [I]Epist[/I]. 65: cp. Galatians v 17.


[end of page 9][/quote]


I think the objectivity of C. R. Haines is very evident even in this short citation I have transcribed from his work.

11/11/07 More from CR Haines, Post 76 Thread 262851


Since the volume I have by C. R. Haines is not readily available, I trust no one will think it amiss if I transcribe more from this source. You will recall that I left off on page 9 in my Post 57, the last sentence of which continues on page 10. To make reading the text easier, let me cite the last partial sentence at the end of page 9 before giving material from page 10:


[quote]As the Christians were not[/quote] (end of page 9)


Page 10:


[quote]persecuted till the last year of Seneca’s life, the references to the [I]tunica molesta[/I] (1) and to the man who could smile under hideous torments (2) cannot point to the Christians.


That some of the [I]Gens Annaea[/I], to which Seneca belonged, became Christians in later times may be inferred from an inscription found at Ostia on the [I]Via Severiana[/I] (3) in 1887, the reference to the [I]Di Manes[/I] not militating against this.


[B]2. Epictetus[/B] ([I]circa[/I] 45-120 A.D.


As reported by Arrian, this Stoic writer does not use the term Christians, but he calls them “Galileans,” and perhaps in one place, like Plutarch and Lucian, “Syrians.” In some of his words and phrases he recalls the N.T.; but here again, as in the case of Seneca, it is not clear how far the Stoic background and the philosophic terminology generally were responsible for this. Besides the more important parallelisms there are many thoughts and turns of expression which echo familiar Scripture sayings, as for instance [Greek, my transliteration] kurie ele-ee-son (4), ei nomimos eethleesas (5), with which compare ean mee nomimous athleesee, and tis soi tauteen teen exousian edoke (6), oudeis amartanon eleutheros (7), and orkon paraiteesai (8).


There is [I]a priori[/I] much more likelihood that Epictetus, the slave of Epaphroditus, Nero’s freedman and


(1) [I]Epist[/I]. 14.

(2) [I]Epist[/I]. 78

(3) ‘D(is) M(anibus) M Annio Paulo Petreo M Anneus Paulus Flio Carissimo’

(4) Epict. II 7 12.

(5) [I]Ibid[/I]. III 10 8 and II Timoth ii.5.

(6) Epict. I 29 11 and Matt. xxi.21.

(7) Epict. II 1 23 and John viii.34.

(8) Epict. [I]Encheir[/I]. 33 5 and James v.12. See also Epict. III.1 26 = I Peter iii.3, 4; III 22 3 = Matt xxiv. 48-51; III 24 86 = Mark xi 12.


[end of page 10]


secretary, living too as he did to so much later a period, should have been brought into contact with Christianity than Seneca the [I]dives[/I] and courtier. If he was brought to Rome before 64, he as well as Seneca may have witnessed the cruelties suffered by the Christians in the Vatican gardens. (1)


(1) On the expulsion of the philosophers in 89 A.D. he retired to Nicopolis where Paul had perhaps passed the last winter of his life (Titus iii 12).



11/11/07 Still more from Haines, p 11-12, Post 79 Thread 262851


Dear Hopetx,


Thank you for your continuing patience and graciousness. You stated (post 76):


[quote]You think my concerns are ‘ludicrous” [/quote]


I know you read what I wrote most carefully. I did not say your concerns were ludicrous, only that your dismissing of the validity of C. R. Haines’ writing as not good enough evidence to be counted valid is ludicrous. I buttressed my assertion with direct links (to Amazon) to the fact that his writings are still published, even as you yourself had mentioned in a prior post. I pointed out that for anyone to get his writing or translation of classic literature admitted to the publication list of the Loeb Classical Library clearly establishes that person as a credible scholar. If you clicked on the book cover display that lets you view a portion of the book on Amazon, you would have noticed that the subject matter, the style, and the very page formatting is identical to what I have been posting from the out of print book, Heathen Contact with Christianity during its First Century and a Half, subtitled “Being all references to Christianity recorded in Pagan writings during that Period.”


Now for more actual discussion of the evidence from Mr. C. R. Haines, continuing with page 11:


[quote][B]3. Gaius Plinius Secundus, the Younger[/B] ([I]circa[/I] 61-113 A.D.)


With the famous correspondence between Trajan and Pliny we get the first clear reference to the Christians by name. Pliny had been sent out by the Emperor as [I]Legatus[/I] of Bithynia and Pontus to restore order in a province that had been suffering from lax administration. He was a lawyer, a financier, a polished Roman gentleman, and an intimate friend of the Emperor’s.


The Christians at that time were ranked in the category of brigands and disturbers of the peace, members of a body that set themselves in deliberate opposition to the unifying policy of the State. Pliny’s primary duty of restoring discipline in the province brought him before long into conflict with the Christian community of Amisus. He did not hesitate, naturally humane though he was, to deal summarily, in his capacity of Roman administrator, with the situation that arose there. A sudden outbreak of public feeling, caused apparently by the effect of a decay of temple worship upon certain trades, brought the whole question of the legality of Christianity to the front in an [end of page 11]


[page 12]

abrupt and violent manner. Pliny’s letter explains pretty fully what occurred.


It is quite a mistake to suppose that Trajan’s answer to Pliny established any new principle in dealing with the Christians. It only explained clearly for Pliny’s guidance what the standing law and usage were. But Trajan, as Pliny had evidently hoped and desired, without shewing the slightest intention of altering the legal status of the Christians, was at the same time unwilling to press the law against them. The mere admission that the accused was a Christian was sufficient, so long as a responsible accuser was forthcoming, to bring about his condemnation and death; but inconsistently enough, as Tertullian (1) later on was not slow to point out, the Emperor ruled that Christians must not be hunted out, as brigands and other malefactors, with whom they were graded, habitually and necessarily were. Yet the mere fact of their disobedience to authority and opposition to the imperial system was enough to justify the extreme penalty.


The account Pliny gives us of the Christian worship and manner of life is the earliest we have from the heathen side and, though ambiguous in one or two points, it is full of interest for us. We do not know how many persons suffered in this persecution. Some were sent toRome to be dealt with by the Emperor as Roman citizens, others were degraded from their rank (2), and many more were executed by Pliny. Probably there were between 100 and 200 martyrs (3), more,


(1) [I]Apol[/I]. I.

(2) Tertullian [I]Apol[/I]. I.

(3) The [I]Acts of Phocus[/I] bishop of Sinope place his martyrdom under Trajan, but the Governor of the Province is named Africanus.


[page 13:]


possibly, than under Nero or in the whole reign of Marcus.[/quote]


11/18/07 CR Haines p13-16 post 93 thread 262851


I did not mean for my last posts to be “thread killers”!


Now to continue from my last citation from C. R. Haines, Heathen Contact with Christianity during its First Century and a Half: Being all references to Christianity recorded in Pagan writings during that Period.


I left off, back in my Post 79, with the start of page 13. I continue transcribing the text from page 13:


[quote][B]4. Marcus Ulpius Traianus[/B] (Emperor 98-117).


Though we can gather from his letters to Pliny that neither by character nor principle was Trajan a persecutor of the Christians, yet we have much reason to suppose that Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was thrown to the beasts by his authority in Rome itself. The prisoners sent by Pliny to Rome to be dealt with by the Emperor were doubtless beheaded by his orders. Nor were these the only martyrs under Trajan. Symeon bishop of Jerusalem and cousin of our Lord, fell a victim a few years before. Polycarp in his Letter to the Philippians (1) mentions Zosimus and Rufus in association with Ignatius. The martyrdom of Phocas above referred to is more doubtful. The Acts of Sharbil and Barsamya (2) evidently belong to the reign of Traianus Decius, as the mention of Fabianus the Roman bishop shews.


[B]5. Marcus Cornelius Tacitus[/B] ([I]circa[/I] 55-120 A.D.).


As we know from Pliny’s letter to Tacitus describing the elder Pliny’s death, they were on friendly terms and Pliny assisted the historian with materials for his work. We may therefore with some confidence suppose that Tacitus heard of his predecessor’s experience with the Christians in the Province, where it appears that Tacitus succeeded Pliny in the command. Moreover, as [I]consul suffectus[/I] in the year of Domitian’s death, he must have known all about his persecution of the Christians and Nerva’s milder policy towards them (3).


(1) Ch. 9.

(2) Lightfoot [I]Ignat. and Polycarp[/I] I 66 f.

(3) It has been thought by some that Tacitus may have drawn upon the [end of page 13] elder Pliny’s [I]Histories[/I] (from Claudius to Vespasian) now lost. See Batiffol [I]The Credibility of the Gospel[/I] 36. Engl. Trans.


[page 14:]


But in what he has to say about the Christians under Nero he is noticeably hard and unsympathetic. He takes their guilt for granted, terms their religion a pernicious superstition, calls them enemies of the human race, and implies they deserved their fate. Unless he had more and better things to say of them in his lost Books, we cannot credit him with any real knowledge of them or their belief. Nor in what he does say can be we sure that his account has not been coloured by the standpoint of the Roman world towards Christianity when he wrote at the end of Trajan’s reign.


From what we learn from Pomponia Graecina in the extract given here it seems pretty clear that she must have been a Christian (1), though this cannot be said to be absolutely established. We know that several of the [I]Gens Pomponia[/I], holding high positions in the State, were Christians by the end of the second century. De Rossi has suggested that Pomponia Graecina may have received the name [I]Lucina[/I] at her baptism, and be in fact the Lucina, on whose property was situated a cemetery on the Quirinal Hill near the Catacomb of Callixtus, where members of the [I]Gens Pomponia[/I] and the [I]Gens Caccilia[/I] were buried.


The third passage, relative to the Council of War held by Titus at the siege of Jerusalem, has been recovered from the pages of Sulpicius Severus by the acumen of Bernays. It gives the substance, though [end of page 14]


(1) Wandinger in his tract on Pomponia suggests that her acquittal in her husband’s court was due to the [I]flagitia[/I] laid to the charge of Christians not being proved against her, and that, as Christianity was not yet distinguished from Judaism, she escaped under the privilege accorded to the latter as a [I]religio licita.[/I]


[page 15:]


doubtless not the precise words, of what Tacitus wrote, and is valuable as shewing that the distinction between Jew and Christian was clearly recognized by that time.


[B]6. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus[/B] ([I]circa[/I] 70-150 A.D.).


Critics are not agreed whether in the first extract [I]Chresto[/I] stands for [I]Christo[/I] or not. Chrestus was a common name, especially among slaves. On the other hand [I]Chrestiani[/I] was the vulgar form of [I]Christiani[/I] (1). The Sinaitic MS ([I]pr. manu.[/I]) spells it so in Acts xi 26, and we have seen above that the word was probably so spelt by Tacitus.


Orosius (2) quoting this passage of Suetonius says “ait hoc modo, [I]Claudius Iudaeos impulsore Christo adsidus tumultuantes Roma expulit[/I], quod ultrum contra Christum tumultuantes coerceri et comprimi iusserit, an etiam Christianos (3) simul velut cognatae religionis homines voluerit expelli, nequaquam discernitur.”


The second extract given below is of some importance owing to its position among sumptuary and police regulations, such as a prohibition against disorders among charioteers, made by Nero. It is clear from this that action against the Christians, which must have followed closely upon the fire, was not based on any regular judicial process by means of a [I]quaestio[/I], but was of the nature of summary jurisdiction ([I]cognito[/I]). Such remained still the case under Trajan and after. The trial of Christians did not come before a constituted Court, but was conducted, in right of his power of [I]coercitio[/I],


(1) See Justin, [I]Apol[/I]. I 4.

(2) VII. 15.

(3) It is unlikely there were many Christians in Rome so early as 50 A.D. There were probably a few. [end of page 15]


[page 16:]


by the [I]legatus[/I] or proconsul of a province, or by the [I]praefectus urbi[/I] at Rome.


The rest of the quotations from Suetonius refer to Domitian’s persecution, and though the Christianity of the victims is not expressly stated, it is fairly certain that Flavius Clemens, and possible that Acilius Glabrio also, were converts to Christianity, and that Clemens was put to death not only for suspected treason but also for his adoption of a new religion. As his sons were heirs designate to the Empire (1), this must have opened out an unwelcome prospect for the future. With respect to Cerialis and Orfitus, mentioned with Clemens, the case is not so clear. Some converts from Judaism of the humbler classes (2), by being counted as Jews owing to their being circumcized, may have suffered incidentally under the harsh and degrading regulations of the [I]Fiscus Iudaicus[/I] (3).


(1) Suet. [I]Dom[/I]. 15.

(2) See Juvenal below p. 98.

(3) Suet. [I]Dom[/I]. 12.


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