I have been listening to the argument that the Christian Faith is incorrect because the writings about Christ are inaccurate. Some even go so far as to say the entire story of Jesus Christ was simply a 'tale' borrowed from other ancient myths and that no one named Jesus Christ ever existed.
For the moment let us not worry about if Jesus Christ was or was not the Son of God. But simply focus on if he existed. The obvious two sources that show he existed are The Christian Bible and The Koran or Qur'an. However, since both are religious documents, let us not use those as proof. For the skeptics will maintain that the documents were written to simply perpetuate the myth.
Finding surviving documentation from 200 years ago can prove to be a challenge. Then keeping in mind that about 2000 years have past since the events involving Christ happened, finding surviving documentation from that time period is nearly impossible. But nonetheless, there are several documents that exist to this day. Some that are not extremely informative, while others provide a great deal of insight to the views about Christ & Christianity at the time.
However, the ones I find most interesting and the most useful in proving that Christ did indeed exist are the documents that go to great length to discredit Him.
Before I continue let me pose a challenge to you. Let us suppose you must write a paper to prove that Superman a.k.a. Clark Kent never really existed. How would you do it? Would you do it by going to great length to discredit his powers and his parents? Or would you simply show that Superman was the fictional creation of Writer Jerry Siegel and Artist Joe Shuster first shown in the story "Reign of the Superman" of a 1933 'fanzine'?
Personally I think most people would choose to point out who created the story and simply say that all the people and events in the story are fictional rather than try to disprove the powers and discredit the moral character of a fictional creation.
However, something that is interesting with Jesus Christ, the writers from around that time period, which were against Christianity, did not choose to say he was simply a fictional creation of the religious groups but rather chose to discredit His actions and His heritage.
Celsus, a pagan philosopher, in a literary attack against Christianity titled True Discourse argued that Jesus was born in low circumstances. Saying that Christ was born out of wedlock after His mother had been seduced by a Roman soldier named Pandera (or Panthera). Then going on to say that later in life He (Christ) announced Himself to be God, deceiving many. Celsus charged that Christ 's own people killed Him, and that His resurrection was a deception. But Celsus never challenged the existence of Jesus.
Lucian of Samosata (c. A.D. 115-200) also wrote against Christianity saying that Christians worshipped the well-known 'sophist ' who was crucified in Palestine because He introduced "new mysteries". But He never denied the historicity of Christ.
Porphyry of Tyre born about A.D. 233, studied philosophy in Greece, and lived in Sicily where he wrote several books against the Christian faith. In one of his books, 'Life of Pythagoras, ' he contended that magicians of the pagan world exhibited greater powers than Christ. Why would he bother to try to prove that any powers are greater than that of a fictional character? If indeed Christ did not exist.
Interestingly there are numerous writings from around the time of Christ that go to great length to discredit His works and His family, rather than simply saying that his entire existence was made up by the writers of the various religious documents. If Christ did not exist at all, why would these people go to such length to prove that his actions were tricks / magic and that his heritage was of questionable origin? Could it be that many people had seen Christ in person and were telling others of the things that they had seen Him do and heard Him say?
I cannot prove to anyone if Jesus Christ was/is the Son of God or simply a man. For either belief is a matter of faith. However, If you believe that there was no one named Jesus Christ that ever existed, you might want to reconsider that position, for (while I have only listed three references) you are ignoring the many documents (both religious and nonreligious) that do exist which suggest that there was indeed someone named Jesus Christ that lived about 2000 years ago.
I found a book which gives the reader some information and something to think about. The web site is located at:
An account of early Christian persecution, as compiled from numerous sources outside the Bible, is:
Foxes' Christian Martyrs of the World
John Foxe, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Ed. by W. Grinton Berry, Reprinted by Fleming H. Revell, 1998.
The author of the page also makes an interesting point about the existence of Jesus and that Jesus was truly the Son of God.
in part the page reads:
". . . I want to reexamine the Christian persecution and death that was such a dramatic part of early Christian history. Like me, any skeptic who holds to a notion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a man-made legend created after-the-fact by a group of religious zealots, should sincerely check out the legacy of Christian persecution and martyrdom. Eleven of the 12 apostles, and many of the other early disciples, died for their adherence to this story. This is so spectacular, since they all witnessed the alleged events surrounding Jesus and his resurrection, and still went to their deaths defending them. Why is this spectacular, when many throughout history have died martyred deaths for a religious belief? Because people don't die for a lie. Look at human nature throughout history. No conspiracy can be maintained when life or liberty is at stake. Dying for a belief is one thing, but numerous eye-witnesses dying for a known lie is quite another. . . ."
The following which I copied from : http://www.bibleviews.com/non-biblical.html
1. Emperor Tiberitus (14-37) or Claudius (41-54) issued an edict against grave robbing. An inscription of it was found in Nazareth. It reads:
"Ordinances of Caesar, it is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain undisturbed in perpetuity for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If however any man lay information that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing of other stones, against such one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them, in case of contravention I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charge of violation of sepuiture."
Before this time punishment would had been mild. Why was it changed to death? We know this decreed was soon after Christ's resurrection. Was it due to a reaction against the turmoil in Israel caused His resurrection?
2. Josephus (A.D. 37-100), the Jewish historian, would wrote a generation after Jesus Christ, makes several references to people well-known to New Testament readers. F. F. Bruce summarized the evidence:
"Here, in the pages of Josephus, we meet many figures who are well known to us from the New Testament; the colorful family of the Herods; the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and the procurators of Judea; the high priestly families--Annas, Caiaphas, Ananias, and the rest; the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and so on" (F. F. Bruce, New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p.104.)
He wrote explicitly about Jesus:
"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. . . . Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die. And those who had become His disciples did not abandon His discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders" (Antiquities, xviii.ch. 3, subtopic 3, Arabic text).
"Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew ever to him both many of the Jews, and many Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestions of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to be condemned and to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not foesake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and the ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Antiquities, xviii.ch. 3, subtopic 3, Greek text).
Note: The above are disputed passages, especially the second one. Josephus writing were handed down through Christian scribes. No Jew cared for this Jew turned Roman General. Since Josephus was not a Christian it is unlikely statement like "if it be lawful to call him a man ," "he was the Christ," etc. Surely words were added to these statements, especially to the second one. No unbelieving Jew would made such statements about Jesus.
Josephus also wrote about James, the brother of Jesus.
"(Ananus) assembled the sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he deliever them to be stoned" (Antiquities XX 9:1).
3. Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55?-after 117), the Roman Historian, wrote of Nero's attempt to relieve himself of the guilt of burning Rome:
"Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also" (Annals XV.44).
4. Lucian (second century), Greek Satirist, alludes to Christ in these words:
"The man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. . . . Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws" (On the Death of Peregrine).
5. Suetonius (c. A.D. 120), a Roman Historian and court official under Hadrian made two references to Christ. In the Life of Claudius (25.4) he wrote
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chestus [another spelling of Christus or Christ], he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome."
In the Lives of the Caesars (26.2) he wrote:
"Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition."
6. Pliny the Younger (c. A.D. 112), when writing to the emperor about his achievements as governor of Bithynia, wrote how he had killed multitudes of Christian men, women, and children. He wrote:
"All who denied that they were or had been Christians I consider should be discharged, because they called upon the gods at my dictation and did reverence, with incense and wine, your [the emperor's] image . . . they curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do" (Epistles, X.96).
He also wrote in the same letter:
"[Christians} were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse of a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, and never to deny a truth when they should be called upon to deliver it up."
7. Thallus (c. A.D. 52) was a Samaritan-born historian. Julius Africanus (c. A.D. 221) wrote:
"Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun-unreasonably, as it seems to me."
This was unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the time of the paschal full moon when Christ died.
8. Mara Bar Serapion (after A.D. 73) wrote a letter that now resides in the British Museum. According to F. F. Bruce it was written by a father to his son in prison. In the letter he compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and Jesus:
"What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. . . . But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given" (Bruce, op. cit., p.14).
9. The Jewish Talmud was completed by A.D. 500. The Babylonian Talmud reference to Jesus:
"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and them herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover" (Sanhedrin 43a, "Eve of Passover").
Some more interesting reading about various writtings found at:
I. PAGAN SOURCES
The non-Christian sources for the historical truth of the Gospels are both few and polluted by hatred and prejudice. A number of reasons have been advanced for this condition of the pagan sources:
The field of the Gospel history was remote Galilee;
the Jews were noted as a superstitious race, if we believe Horace (Credat Judoeus Apella, I, Sat., v, 100);
the God of the Jews was unknown and unintelligible to most pagans of that period;
the Jews in whose midst Christianity had taken its origin were dispersed among, and hated by, all the pagan nations;
the Christian religion itself was often confounded with one of the many sects that had sprung up in Judaism, and which could not excite the interest of the pagan spectator.
It is at least certain that neither Jews nor Gentiles suspected in the least the paramount importance of the religion, the rise of which they witnessed among them. These considerations will account for the rarity and the asperity with which Christian events are mentioned by pagan authors. But though Gentile writers do not give us any information about Christ and the early stages of Christianity which we do not possess in the Gospels, and though their statements are made with unconcealed hatred and contempt, still they unwittingly prove the historical value of the facts related by the Evangelists.
We need not delay over a writing entitled the "Acts of Pilate", which must have existed in the second century (Justin, "Apol"., I, 35), and must have been used in the pagan schools to warn boys against the belief of Christians (Euseb., "Hist. Eccl.", I, ix; IX, v); nor need we inquire into the question whether there existed any authentic census tables of Quirinius.
We possess at least the testimony of Tacitus (A.D. 54-119) for the statements that the Founder of the Christian religion, a deadly superstition in the eyes of the Romans, had been put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate under the reign of Tiberius; that His religion, though suppressed for a time, broke forth again not only throughout Judea where it had originated, but even in Rome, the conflux of all the streams of wickness and shamelessness; furthermore, that Nero had diverted from himself the suspicion of the burning of Rome by charging the Christians with the crime; that these latter were not guilty of arson, though they deserved their fate on account of their universal misanthropy. Tacitus, moreover, describes some of the horrible torments to which Nero subjected the Christians (Ann., XV, xliv). The Roman writer confounds the Christians with the Jews, considering them as a especially abject Jewish sect; how little he investigated the historical truth of even the Jewish records may be inferred from the credulity with which he accepted the absurd legends and calumnies about the origin of he Hebrew people (Hist., V, iii, iv).
Another Roman writer who shows his acquaintance with Christ and the Christians is Suetonius (A.D. 75-160). It has been noted that Suetonius considered Christ (Chrestus) as a Roman insurgent who stirred up seditions under the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54): "Judaeos, impulsore Chresto, assidue tumultuantes (Claudius) Roma expulit" (Clau., xxv). In his life of Nero he regards that emperor as a public benefactor on account of his severe treatment of the Christians: "Multa sub eo et animadversa severe, et coercita, nec minus instituta . . . . afflicti Christiani, genus hominum superstitious novae et maleficae" (Nero, xvi). The Roman writer does not understand that the Jewish troubles arose from the Jewish antagonism to the Messianic character of Jesus Christ and to the rights of the Christian Church.
C. Pliny the Younger
Of greater importance is the letter of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan (about A.D. 61-115), in which the Governor of Bithynia consults his imperial majesty as to how to deal with the Christians living within his jurisdiction. On the one hand, their lives were confessedly innocent; no crime could be proved against them excepting their Christian belief, which appeared to the Roman as an extravagant and perverse superstition. On the other hand, the Christians could not be shaken in their allegiance to Christ, Whom they celebrated as their God in their early morning meetings (Ep., X, 97, 98). Christianity here appears no longer as a religion of criminals, as it does in the texts of Tacitus and Suetonius; Pliny acknowledges the high moral principles of the Christians, admires their constancy in the Faith (pervicacia et inflexibilis obstinatio), which he appears to trace back to their worship of Christ (carmenque Christo, quasi Deo, dicere).
D. Other pagan writers
The remaining pagan witnesses are of less importance: In the second century Lucian sneered at Christ and the Christians, as he scoffed at the pagan gods. He alludes to Christ's death on the Cross, to His miracles, to the mutual love prevailing among the Christians ("Philopseudes", nn. 13, 16; "De Morte Pereg"). There are also alleged allusions to Christ in Numenius (Origen, "Contra Cels", IV, 51), to His parables in Galerius, to the earthquake at the Crucifixion in Phlegon ( Origen, "Contra Cels.", II, 14). Before the end of the second century, the logos alethes of Celsus, as quoted by Origen (Contra Cels., passim), testifies that at that time the facts related in the Gospels were generally accepted as historically true. However scanty the pagan sources of the life of Christ may be, they bear at least testimony to His existence, to His miracles, His parables, His claim to Divine worship, His death on the Cross, and to the more striking characteristics of His religion.
II. JEWISH SOURCES
Philo, who dies after A.D. 40, is mainly important for the light he throws on certain modes of thought and phraseology found again in some of the Apostles. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., II, iv) indeed preserves a legend that Philo had met St. Peter in Rome during his mission to the Emperor Caius; moreover, that in his work on the contemplative life he describes the life of the Christian Church in Alexandria founded by St. Mark, rather than that of the Essenes and Therapeutae. But it is hardly probable that Philo had heard enough of Christ and His followers to give an historical foundation to the foregoing legends.
The earlist non-Christian writer who refers Christ is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus; born A.D. 37, he was a contemporary of the Apostles, and died in Rome A.D. 94. Two passages in his "Antiquities" which confirm two facts of the inspired Christian records are not disputed. In the one he reports the murder of "John called Baptist" by Herod (Ant., XVIII, v, 2), describing also John's character and work; in the other (Ant., XX, ix, 1) he disappoves of the sentence pronounced by the high priest Ananus against "James, brother of Jesus Who was called Christ." It is antecedently probable that a writer so well informed as Josephus, must have been well acquainted too with the doctrine and the history of Jesus Christ. Seeing, also, that he records events of minor importance in the history of the Jews, it would be surprising if he were to keep silence about Jesus Christ. Consideration for the priests and Pharisees did not prevent him from mentioning the judicial murders of John the Baptist and the Apostle James; his endeavour to find the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies in Vespasian did not induce him to pass in silence over several Jewish sects, though their tenets appear to be inconsistent with the Vespasian claims. One naturally expects, therefore, a notice about Jesus Christ in Josephus. Antiquities XVIII, iii, 3, seems to satisfy this expectation:
About this time appeared Jesus, a wise man (if indeed it is right to call Him man; for He was a worker of astonishing deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with joy), and He drew to Himself many Jews (many also of Greeks. This was the Christ.) And when Pilate, at the denunciation of those that are foremost among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those who had first loved Him did not abandon Him (for He appeared to them alive again on the third day, the holy prophets having foretold this and countless other marvels about Him.) The tribe of Christians named after Him did not cease to this day.
A testimony so important as the foregoing could not escape the work of the critics. Their conclusions may be reduced to three headings: those who consider the passage wholly spurious; those who consider it to be wholly authentic; and those who consider it to be a little of each.
Those who regard the passage as spurious
First, there are those who consider the whole passage as spurious. The principal reasons for this view appear to be the following:
Josephus could not represent Jesus Christ as a simple moralist, and on the other hand he could not emphasize the Messianic prophecies and expectations without offending the Roman susceptibilities;
the above cited passage from Josephus is said to be unknown to Origen and the earlier patristic writers;
its very place in the Josephan text is uncertain, since Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., II, vi) must have found it before the notices concerning Pilate, while it now stands after them.
But the spuriousness of the disputed Josephan passage does not imply the historian's ignorance of the facts connected with Jesus Christ. Josephus's report of his own juvenile precocity before the Jewish teachers (Vit., 2) reminds one of the story of Christ's stay in the Temple at the age of twelve; the description of his shipwreck on his journey to Rome (Vit., 3) recalls St. Paul's shipwreck as told in the Acts; finally his arbitrary introduction of a deceit practised by the priests of Isis on a Roman lady, after the chapter containing his supposed allusion to Jesus, shows a disposition to explain away the virgin birth of Jesus and to prepare the falsehoods embodied in the later Jewish writings.
Those who regard the passage as authentic, with some spurious additions
A second class of critics do not regard the whole of Josephus's testimony concerning Christ as spurious but they maintain the interpolation of parts included above in parenthesis. The reasons assigned for this opinion may be reduced to the following two:
Josephus must have mentioned Jesus, but he cannot have recognized Him as the Christ; hence part of our present Josephan text must be genuine, part must be interpolated.
Again, the same conclusion follows from the fact that Origen knew a Josephan text about Jesus, but was not acquainted with our present reading; for, according to the great Alexandrian doctor, Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Messias ("In Matth.", xiii, 55; "Contra Cels.", I, 47).
Whatever force these two arguments have is lost by the fact that Josephus did not write for the Jews but for the Romans; consequently, when he says, "This was the Christ", he does not necessarily imply that Jesus was the Christ considered by the Romans as the founder of the Christian religion.
Those who consider it to be completely genuine
The third class of scholars believe that the whole passage concerning Jesus, as it is found today in Josephus, is genuine. The main arguments for the genuineness of the Josephan passage are the following:
First, all codices or manuscripts of Josephus's work contain the text in question; to maintain the spuriousness of the text, we must suppose that all the copies of Josephus were in the hands of Christians, and were changed in the same way.
Second, it is true that neither Tertullian nor St. Justin makes use of Josephus's passage concerning Jesus; but this silence is probably due to the contempt with which the contemporary Jews regarded Josephus, and to the relatively little authority he had among the Roman readers. Writers of the age of Tertullian and Justin could appeal to living witnesses of the Apostolic tradition.
Third, Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl"., I, xi; cf. "Dem. Ev.", III, v) Sozomen (Hist. Eccl., I, i), Niceph. (Hist. Eccl., I, 39), Isidore of Pelusium (Ep. IV, 225), St. Jerome (catal.script. eccles. xiii), Ambrose, Cassiodorus, etc., appeal to the testimony of Josephus; there must have been no doubt as to its authenticity at the time of these illustrious writers.
Fourth, the complete silence of Josephus as to Jesus would have been a more eloquent testimony than we possess in his present text; this latter contains no statement incompatible with its Josephan authorship: the Roman reader needed the information that Jesus was the Christ, or the founder of the Christian religion; the wonderful works of Jesus and His Resurrection from the dead were so incessantly urged by the Christians that without these attributes the Josephan Jesus would hardly have been acknowledged as the founder of Christianity.
All this does not necessarily imply that Josephus regarded Jesus as the Jewish Messias; but, even if he had been convinced of His Messiahship, it does not follow that he would have become a Christian. A number of posssible subterfuges might have supplied the Jewish historian with apparently sufficient reasons for not embracing Christianity.
C. Other Jewish Sources
The historical character of Jesus Christ is also attested by the hostile Jewish literature of the subsequent centuries. His birth is ascribed to an illicit ("Acta Pilati" in Thilo, "Codex apocryph. N.T., I, 526; cf. Justin, "Apol.", I, 35), or even an adulterous, union of His parents (Origen, "Contra Cels.," I, 28, 32). The father's name is Panthera, a common soldier (Gemara "Sanhedrin", viii; "Schabbath", xii, cf. Eisenmenger, "Entdecktes Judenthum", I, 109; Schottgen, "Horae Hebraicae", II, 696; Buxtorf, "Lex. Chald.", Basle, 1639, 1459, Huldreich, "Sepher toledhoth yeshua hannaceri", Leyden, 1705). The last work in its final edition did not appear before the thirteenth century, so that it could give the Panthera myth in its most advanced form. Rosch is of opinion that the myth did not begin before the end of the first century.
The later Jewish writings show traces of acquaintance with the murder of the Holy Innocents (Wagenseil, "Confut. Libr.Toldoth", 15; Eisenmenger op. cit., I, 116; Schottgen, op. cit., II, 667), with the flight into Egypt (cf. Josephus, "Ant." XIII, xiii), with the stay of Jesus in the Temple at the age of twelve (Schottgen, op. cit., II, 696), with the call of the disciples ("Sanhedrin", 43a; Wagenseil, op. cit., 17; Schottgen, loc. cit., 713), with His miracles (Origen, "Contra Cels", II, 48; Wagenseil, op. cit., 150; Gemara "Sanhedrin" fol. 17); "Schabbath", fol. 104b; Wagenseil, op.cit., 6, 7, 17), with His claim to be God (Origen, "Contra Cels.", I, 28; cf. Eisenmenger, op. cit., I, 152; Schottgen, loc. cit., 699) with His betrayal by Judas and His death (Origen, "Contra cels.", II, 9, 45, 68, 70; Buxtorf, op. cit., 1458; Lightfoot, "Hor. Heb.", 458, 490, 498; Eisenmenger, loc. cit., 185; Schottgen, loc. cit.,699 700; cf. "Sanhedrin", vi, vii). Celsus (Origen, "Contra Cels.", II, 55) tries to throw doubt on the Resurrection, while Toldoth (cf. Wagenseil, 19) repeats the Jewish fiction that the body of Jesus had been stolen from the sepulchre.
III. CHRISTIAN SOURCES
Among the Christian sources of the life of Jesus we need hardly mention the so called Agrapha and Apocrypha. For whether the Agrapha contain Logia of Jesus, or refer to incidents in His life, they are either highly uncertain or present only variations of the Gospel story. The chief value of the Apocrypha consists in their showing the infinite superiority of the Inspired Writings by contrasting the coarse and erroneous productions of the human mind with the simple and sublime truths written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Among the Sacred Books of the New Testament, it is especially the four Gospels and the four great Epistles of St. Paul that are of the highest importance for the construction of the life of Jesus.
The four great Pauline Epistles (Romans, Galatians, and First and Second Corinthinas) can hardly be overestimated by the student of Christ's life; they have at times been called the "fifth gospel"; their authenticity has never been assailed by serious critics; their testimony is also earlier than that of the Gospels, at least most of the Gospels; it is the more valuable because it is incidental and undesigned; it is the testimony of a highly intellectual and cultured writer, who had been the greatest enemy of Jesus, who writes within twenty-five years of the events which he relates. At the same time, these four great Epistles bear witness to all the most important facts in the life of Christ: His Davidic dscent, His poverty, His Messiahship, His moral teaching, His preaching of the kingdom of God, His calling of the apostles, His miraculous power, His claims to be God, His betrayal, His institution of the Holy Eucharist, His passion, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, His repeated appearances (Romans 1:3-4; 5:11; 8:2-3; 8:32; 9:5; 15:8; Galatians 2:17; 3:13; 4:4; 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 13:4; etc.). However important the four great Epistles may be, the gospels are still more so. Not that any one of them offers a complete biography of Jesus, but they account for the origin of Christianity by the life of its Founder. Questions like the authenticity of the Gospels, the relation between the Synoptic Gospels, and the Fourth, the Synoptic problem, must be studied in the articles referring to these respective subjects.