Extra Biblical Christian Evidence
Note: Though many skeptics claim the early church fathers did not use independent extra-Biblical sources, throughout this section will show otherwise. Potential references to the use of a extra-biblical sources will be shown using purple font.
CLEMENT OF ROME (? – 98? A.D.) Clement was a bishop of Rome and later became known as the fourth pope. He was eventually martyred in approximately 98 A.D. Some speculate Paul was referring to Clement in Philippians 4:3 but this cannot be proven. Clement was a first century apostolic author which gives credence to his first-hand account of early Christianity. In the passage below, Clement confirms the ministry of the disciples and some of the basic tenets of early Christianity.
“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and being fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God will full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.”Corinthians 42
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Clement:
- “And giving heed unto His words, ye laid them up diligently in your hearts, and His sufferings were beforeyour eyes“ Chapter 2 (correspondence with possible eye-witnesses)
- Tertullian and Jerome record the belief Clement was personally ordained by and a disciple of Peter (whichimplies he was privy to extra-biblical information as he was close to an original apostle).
- “The New Testament he [Clement] never quotes verbally. Sayings of Christ are now and then given, butnot in the words of the Gospels. It cannot be proved, therefore, that he used any one of the SynopticGospels.” The Catholic Encyclopedia Online
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (? – ~100 A.D) Ignatius was a Bishop of Antioch reported to have been appointed to his position by Peter of whom he was a disciple. He is also believed to be a disciple of Paul and John. Ignatius was arrested by the Romans and executed as a martyr in the arena. Even though his testimony would ultimately lead to his death, Ignatius was adamant about the things he witnessed. He reinforces early Christian beliefs in the letters he penned while in prison. Even when execution was imminent, Ignatius refused to recant his faith.
“Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth. Who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe in Him.” Trallians
“He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh but Son of God by the Divine will and powered, truly born of a virgin and baptized by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch… That He might set up an ensign unto all ages through His resurrection.” Smyrneans, 1
“Be ye fully persuaded concerning the birth and the passion and the resurrection, which took place in the time of the governorship of Pontius Pilate. For these things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ our hope.” Magnesians XI
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Ignatius:
- Theodoret states Ignatius was personally appointed to the Antioch See by Peter (like Clement, this impliesa personal relationship with an original apostle, making extra-biblical information available to him).
- John Chrysostom emphasises the honor bestowed upon Ignatius as he personally received his dedicationfrom the apostles.
- Clement was also believed to be a disciple of Paul and John.
Skeptic Interjection: How can Clement and Ignatius knowing the apostles be considered extra-biblical
resources? If some of the apostles were said to have written the New Testament, how is this any different thanusing the New Testament as a source? Answer: There are several reasons why this is important. First of all, Clement and Ignatius would have most certainly been privy to the apostles’ first-hand testimonies instead of simply having to rely on a “text” that “someone” had written. Second, because they were said to have known the apostles intimately, they would have had a far greater ability to discredit their claims. Apparently the disciples passed all of their tests because both Clement and Ignatius died as martyrs (which would have been highly unlikely if they had any doubts concerning
the apostles’ claims).
QUADRATUS OF ATHENS (126 A.D.) Quadratus was an Athenian bishop and direct disciple of the Apostles. He is generally regarded as the first Christian apologist because of his defense given to Emperor Hadrian in 126 A.D. Quadratus points out the fact that a few who were healed and resurrected by Jesus lived until modern times.
“The deeds of our Savior were always before you, for they were true miracles. Those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only while our Lord was on earth, but likewise when he had left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times.” Eusebius IV III, 2
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Quadratus:
- In the above passage, Quadratus refers to those who were healed by Jesus and had lived until moderntimes.
- Like Clement and Ignatius, Quadratus was said by Eusebius to be a direct disciple of the apostles.
ARISTIDES THE ATHENIAN (126 A.D.) Aristides, along with Quadratus mentioned above, presented an apology to Emperor Hadrian during his stay in Athens in 126 A.D. Aristides describes the treatment of Jesus by His own people, the Jews, and contrasts their beliefs with those of the Christians.
“When the Son of God was pleased to come upon the earth, they received him with wanton violence and
betrayed him into the hands of Pilate the Roman governor. Paying no respect to his good deeds and the
countless miracles he performed among them, they demanded a sentence of death by the cross… Now the Christians trace their origin from the Lord Jesus Christ… The Son of the most high God who came down from heaven, being born of a pure [Hebrew] virgin, for the salvation of men… And he was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews. And after three days He came to life again and ascended into heaven. His twelve apostles, after his ascension into heaven, went forth into the provinces of the whole world proclaiming the true doctrine… They who still observe the righteousness enjoined by their preaching are called Christians.” Apology XIV-XV
JUSTIN MARTYR (~100 – 165 A.D.) Justin Martyr, possibly the most well-known early Christian apologist, was an educated pagan philosopher who converted to Christianity around 130 A.D. Though he risked losing his wealth, status, and life, Justin fearlessly spread Christianity throughout Asia Minor and Rome. Refusing to recant his testimony, he was led to his death via scourging and beheading in 165 A.D. Being an educated man, Justin weighed the evidence carefully before accepting his new faith and explains to the reader he made his decision only after careful consideration and research.
“There is a village in Judea, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was born, as you can see from the tax registers under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea… He was born of a virgin as a man, and was named Jesus, and was crucified, and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven… After He was crucified, all His acquaintances denied Him. But once He had risen from the dead and appeared to them and explained the prophecies which foretold all these things and ascended into heaven, the apostles believed. They received the power given to them by Jesus and went into the world preaching the Gospel.” First Apology, 34, 46, 50
“At the time of His birth, Magi from Arabia came and worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who was then sovereign in your land… When they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands and feet. Those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots… But you did not repent after you learned that He rose from the dead. Instead, you sent men into to the world to proclaim that a godless heresy had sprung from Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom was crucified and that His disciples stole His body from the tomb in order to deceive men by claiming He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.” Dialogue withTrypho, 77 97, 107-8
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Justin:
- Justin presents one of the earliest statements that specifically attest to Jesus’ historicity. Justin refers hisaudience to the Judean tax registers where they would find evidence of Jesus’ birth.
- In the second quote above, Justin is refuting the rumors concerning a resurrection conspiracy and theaccusation that Jesus was a Galilean deceiver. Justin’s awareness of the rumors concerning Jesus revealshis knowledge of extra-Biblical testimony.
- Justin uses the healing ministry of Christians to attest to the very real power of Christ: “Countlesspossessed men throughout the land are being exorcised by many of our Christian men in the name ofJesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, continue to heal, rendering helpless and driving thedemons out of men, though they could not be cured by any other exorcists or those who used incantationsand drugs.” Second Apology VI
- Justin makes a reference to The Acts of Pilate which was not a Biblical: “And that these things did happen,you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.” First Apology XXXV
HEGESIPPUS (110 A.D. – 180 A.D.) Hegesippus converted to Christianity from Judaism after extensively researching the Gospel story for himself. Instead of accepting the Gospel story at the word of others, he travelled extensively throughout Rome and Corinth in an effort to collect evidence of the early Christian claims. Hegesippus provides important testimony that the stories being passed around were not watered down, embellished, or fabricated.
“This man [James] was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ… The Corinthian church continued in the true doctrine until Primus became bishop. I mixed with them on my voyage to Rome and spent several days with the Corinthians, during which we were refreshed with the true doctrine. On arrival at Rome I pieced together the succession down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus, Anicetus being succeeded by Soter and he by Eleutherus. In ever line of bishops and in every city things accord with the preaching of the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord.” The History of the Church
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Hegesippus:
- Hegesippus describes the ministry and demise of James (Jesus’ brother) at the hands of the pharisees.These accounts were not mentioned in the New Testament.
- Hegesippus fervently retraced the roots of the early church and states he did so in order to ensure thecirculating testimonies concerning Christ were genuine.
- In his research, Hegesippus recounts the ministries of several witnesses (primarily church fathers) notincluded in the Bible.
- Hegesippus documents the interrogation of Jesus’ grand-nephews by Domitian and records they lived intothe reign of Trojan.
- Hegesippus documents the martyrdom of Bishop Symeon, (the son of Cleopas mentioned in Luke 24:18).He was believed to be either a relative, disciple, and/or contemporary of Jesus.
- Hegesippus addresses heresies being spread by differing sects, implying he did not focus his researchsolely on Biblical teachings.