I wonder if any historians can point me in the right direction please?
I am discussing Jesus and history with an atheist (I know, I deserve all the grief I get!), and he has questioned whether we can know historically that Jesus was executed by the Romans, saying: "he wasn't an ordinary guy, he was an enemy of the state. States ALWAYS brag about vanquishing their foes. This means either the Romans didn't kill him, or he didn't exist."
A quick check (Wikipedia, etc) indicates the Romans crucified many Jews (e.g. Josephus mentions hundreds). My recollection is that Roman historians didn't commonly record such mundane matters, and I haven't heard of Roman records being kept of individual crucifixions.
Does anyone have any references that would help me here please? His statement seems hopelessly definite, and ignores the historical value of the gospels plus Tacitus and Josephus, but I'd be interested to know if my suspicion is correct that we don't have information about any or many crucified individuals.
I remember hearing an exchange between a youtube apologist and one of the more low-level atheists. If I remember, the skeptic was bringing up that there were no reports by Pontius Pilate of Jesus' crucifixion. The apologist made it known that we have NO reports from Pilate or something along those lines.
Yes, a couple of references I found said something similar.
The Jews under Roman Rule By E. Mary Smallwood says: "no complementary accounts written from the Roman angle survive to balance that of Josephus .... In Roman eyes Judea was an unimportant province and most events there were too insignificant to merit a place in the record of the empire as a whole until a major war developed"
Here a christian site says: "In a brilliant essay titled, “Surviving Literature from the First Century,” Professor Blaiklock has demonstrated that there are almost no primary documents that survey the period that embraces the life of Christ." The article goes on to say of Pontius Pilate that: "there is not a solitary Roman archival document that so much as mentions his name!".
The redoubtable and reliable Earl Docherty is quoted on this forum as saying: "the Romans hardly kept records of the countless crucifixions around the empire going back almost a century. We have no evidence of such extensive record-keeping". I wouldn't normally trust such a biased non-scholar, but in this case he is arguing against the common atheist view, and so may possibly be correct. At least it is a quote that can be used against Jesus-mythers.
But I don't know how well accepted the first two sources are, and it would be nice to know I had the best sources available. Thanks for your input.
I don't know how much you would expect, however, because of the general patchiness of records from that time and because Jesus was hardly ever a major threat. Pilate probably saw himself as stringing up some religious fruitcake to pacify a bunch of yokels: hardly the kind of thing you'd set the bards to sing about.
For a record like that to have survived, it must have been made in stone. And the Romans definitely wouldn't bother to spend money on something like that - not to mention that the whole countryside would have been dotted by such stones.
And that for a population where few could read even their own language...
The Romans didn't need to boast about killing their enemies in Palestine in the 30's. Everyone knew they did, like all occupiers (Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks etc) - and word spread quickly (a high context society).
Rome was a no nonsense power, one to deal swiftly with offenders, threats and inconveniences. Jesus fitted at least one of these.
Romans didn't keep records of their crucifixions. At least, we can't find them. If they did, they put them in the trash bin. Even Crossan says that Jesus' crucifixion is sure as a historical event can be.
However, I guess the one you are arguing with is a functional creationists. A species which rarely is confused by facts and peer reviewed research.
The guy I'm discussing with is quite friendly. But when I presented my first bunch of evidence (the quotes I presented before plus another one), he just shrugged of his previous claims as follows:
I am saved, as always by my disclaimer: "I can't stand polluting my brain with religious stuff, so I in no way qualify as a scholar." Cheap? Maybe, but honest. I was frankly hoping for someone more qualified to jump in at some point before I went too far, but that obviously didn't happen.
I was a little gobsmacked. I infer he knew he was on shaky ground, but went ahead with the argument anyway, perhaps hoping I would get to evidence. I just replied "I hope you don't use that argument again".
To reply to the first point, even without any primary Roman documents, one could point out that the Jews saw him as much more of an enemy than the Romans. If we are to believe the New Testament, then Pilate was reluctant to send Jesus to his death because he could not find any crime for which he was guilty, at least one that warranted a death sentence. It was only at the demands of the crowd that Pilate sentenced him to crucifixion.
I reported previously on a discussion about Jesus and history I was having with an atheist on the "Rational Response Squad" forum. He had suggested Jesus wasn't really crucified because we had no Roman records of the fact. I quoted some historians to demonstrate that we had very few records of that period in Palestine, and none of Pilate, so his argument proved nothing. He admitted he had done no research, so I replied: "I hope you don't use that argument again."
I thought it worth recording for posterity his amazing, and disgusting, response in full:
I can't say I will. Fact is that, as I mentioned above, the average theist who I come across has no problem spouting proven lie after proven lie after unsupported assertion. I have absorbed their tactics to mirror against them, coupled with the tactics of the scientist. Even if I'm way off, it has been a successful tactic, and I don't stop using successful tactics. Of all the thousands of theists I've used this on, less than 5 have achieved what you have.
I told him what I thought of this and terminated the discussion. I don't suppose he is typical (he is more honest about his lack of integrity) but I don't suppose he is alone either. And to think I bothered asking you guys for some good references!