IN our last chapter we dealt with the date of Jesus according to the accepted canonical sources, and endeavoured to track out the main strength of the tradition preserved by the synoptic writers. The result of this investigation was that the probabilities seemed to be strongly in favour of our possessing a historical fact in the statement that Jesus was a contemporary of Pilate. We now turn to a consideration of the earliest external evidence. 

It has always been an unfailing source of astonishment to the historical investigator of Christian beginnings, that there is not one single word from the pen of any Pagan writer of the first century of our era, which can in any fashion be referred to the marvellous story recounted by the Gospel writers. The very existence of Jesus seems unknown. 

It can hardly be that there were once notices, but that they were subsequently suppressed by Christian copyists because of their hostile or even scandalous nature, for inimical notices of a later date have been preserved. The reason for this silence is doubtless to be discovered in the fact that Christianity was con-


founded with Judaism, no distinction being made between them in the minds of non-Jewish writers. Converts to Christianity were held to be proselytes to Judaism, and it was a matter of no importance to a Roman what particular sect of Jewry a convert might join. Such a question as what particular phase of Messianism the Judaei might be agitated about never occurred to him; circumcision or uncircumcision had no interest for him. He had a vague idea that the Judaei were a turbulent folk politically dangerous to the state, that they had a strange superstition and were haters of the human race, and there he left it. 

As, then, we can find nothing about the Christians in Pagan writers of the first century, we turn to our earliest notices of the second century as found in the writings of Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Tacitus.

All three were men who held imperial offices, were well known at court, and presumably had access to the archives of the empire. All three were distinguished writers and historians, and probably all three were personal friends. We know for a fact from his letters that Pliny and Tacitus were intimate friends, and also that Pliny and Suetonius were friendly correspondents. Pliny was born 61 A.D., his greatest literary activity was in the reign of Trajan, but as to whether or no he survived his imperial master (d. 117) we have no information. Tacitus was of the same age as Pliny and survived Trajan, but the exact date of his death is unknown. Suetonius was some ten years younger, being born about 70-71 A.D.; he was private secretary to Hadrian (emp. 117-138 A.D.), but the year of his death also is unknown. 


If we, then, first turn to the famous letter of Pliny to Trajan and to Trajan's reply ("Letters," x. 96, 97), we shall find much to interest us concerning the Christians of distant Pontus and Bithynia who came up for trial before Pliny as Propraetor, but nothing in either Pliny's report or in the presumed rescript of the Emperor that will give us the smallest clue to the date of Jesus. But even had we found in this correspondence direct or indirect confirmation of the traditional date, we should still have had to consider the arguments of those who have contended either that both pieces are forgeries or that interpolations have been made in the original text.[1] If, however, we have a genuine letter of Pliny before us, and I am inclined to think it largely genuine, it is with very great probability to be assigned to the year 112 A.D.;[2] but as the question of the date and genuineness of this correspondence does not immediately concern us (for in it we can find nothing to help our present investigation), we pass to the statements of Suetonius. 

There are two short sentences in Suetonius' “Lives of the Twelve Caesars “ (from Julius Ceesar to Domitian —i.e., to 96 A.D.), both of which appear to refer to the Christians. In his Life of Claudius (emp. 41-54 A.D.) Suetonius tells us (ch. xxv.), that the Emperor banished the Jews, or certain Jews, from Rome because of the 

[1] On the literature see Platner's (S. B.) “Bibliography of the Younger Pliny “(Western Reserve University, Ohio; 1895); also Wilde (C. G. I.), S.J., “De C. Plinii Caecilii Secundi et Imp. Traiani Epp. mutuis Disputatio" (Leyden; 1889), who, while maintaining their genuineness, gives a summary of contrary opinions.

[2] See Mommsen (T.), “Hermes “(1869), iii. 53. 


persistent disturbances which arose among them “impulsore Chresto

For long fierce controversy has raged round these two words, which we may translate by the phrase “at the instigation of Chrestus“ (lit., “Chrestus being the impulsor"). 

It is contended on strong philological grounds that this must refer to a living person.[1] It has thus been supposed by some to refer simply to a Jew called Chrestus who was then living at Rome; but this seems to me to be a very unsatisfactory explanation. For we know that “Chrestus “is still sometimes found in MSS. where we should expect “Christus"; we know further that Tertullian (" Apol.," iii.), at the beginning of the third century, accuses the Romans of so mispronouncing the name of Christ, and from Lactantius ("Institt.," iv. 7), a century later, that it was still a common custom"- 

It is not necessary here to enquire whether this confusion of Christus and Chrestus was really only an ignorant mistake on the part of non-Christians, or whether there may not be some further explanation of the phenomenon;[2] an outsider like Suetonius would anyhow not be likely to know the difference, and so we may very well in this passage take Chrestus for Christus. 

[1] See Smilda (H.), "C. Suetonii Tranquilli Vita Divi Claudii" (Groningen; 1896), p. 124, n.; also Schiller (H.), “Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit" (Gotha; 1883), i. 447, n. 6. 

[2] The most ancient dated Christian inscription (Oct. 1, 318 A.D.) runs "The Lord and Saviour Jesus the Good"—Chrestos, not Christos. This was the legend over the door of a Marcionite Church, and the Marcionites were Anti-Jewish Gnostics, and did not confound their Chrestos with the Jewish Christos (Messiah). 


But even so we are confronted with the difficulty that according to the received tradition the Christian Christ was never at Rome, and did not survive to the reign of Claudius. 

Moreover, if it be argued that Suetonius does not employ the phrase “impulsore Chresto“ literally, but intended it to carry a metaphorical meaning, even so we have to remember that Christos does not necessarily refer to Jesus. Christos is simply the Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, the “anointed," and at this period there were many claiming to be this ''anointed." The reference may then be simply to a Messianic riot of some sort among the Jews.[1]

When, then, we come across the term “Christiani“ in pagan writers referring to disturbances of the first century, we are not to assume offhand that those thus designated must necessarily have been followers of Jesus of Nazareth; they may on the contrary have been simply Jewish Messianists, and most probably of the Zealot type. And this may be argued to be the case when Suetonius, in the second of his famous sentences, in his Life of Nero (emp. 54-68), tells us (c. xvi.) that certain “Christiani “were severely punished or put to the torture; these he characterises as “a class of people who believed in a new and noxious superstition." This might apply to Messianists, for the Romans had been compelled to deal with many disturbances of this nature in Palestine in the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius and Nero, and doubtless tumults of a similar character had arisen among the Jews of the Dispersion as well. 

[1] See Schiller (H.), “Geschichte des römischen Kaiserreichs unter der Begierung des Nero “(Berlin; 1872), p. 434. 


But we cannot be sure that this is the meaning of Suetonius, even if the question were not rendered far more complicated by what is found in Tacitus on the subject. Least of all can we dispose of the difficulty by assuming that the two sentences in Suetonius are interpolations by a Christian hand, for it is almost impossible to believe that any Christian could have used such phraseology. 

We, therefore, finally turn to the famous passage in Tacitus ("Ann.," xv. 44), where we find it clearly stated that the Christians were so called from a certain Christus who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death under Pontius Pilate. This statement occurs in a brief but graphic account of the horrible cruelties which these Christiani are said to have suffered under Nero. It was in connection with the Great Fire at Rome in 64 A.D. Tacitus will have it that it was commonly believed at the time that the conflagration had been started by the express orders of the Emperor himself. To divert the public mind and remove this imputation, Nero had singled out the Christiani to play the part of scapegoat, seeing that they were held in general detestation for their evil practices. They were accused, put to the torture, condemned and done to death with refinements of cruelty. 
From the time of Gibbon, however, it has been strongly questioned whether at that date Christians were numerous enough at Rome to have been so singled out, and it has been accordingly maintained that the fury of the populace had been vented simply on the Jews in general, seeing that the fire had broken out in their quarter; in short, that Tacitus is in error and has 


transferred the popular detestation of the Christians in his own day to the times of Nero. 

In this connection we have to recall the short sentence in Suetonius which apparently refers to the same event when we read Tacitus, but which seems to have nothing to do with it when we read Suetonius. We can further speculate as to whether Suetonius may have derived his information from Tacitus, or Tacitus may have embellished the statement of Suetonius.[1] But surely if Suetonius had had the passage of Tacitus before him, and had believed in his great contemporary's view of the matter, he would have made more use of his graphic details? It seems far more probable that Suetonius is reproducing the dry bones of some brief official record, while Tacitus, in working out a character sketch of Nero from insufficient data, and with a strong prejudice against him. has collected together unrelated events, and painted them in with the gaudiest colours of a vivid imagination excited by some tragic stories he had heard concerning the Christians of a later time and of his own day.[2]

But it is not so much the persecution of Christiani 

[1] Schmiedel (art. “Christian, Name of," “Enc. Bib.") gives the date of the passage in Tacitus as 116-117, and of those in Suetonius as 120 A.D., but this is unproved. 

[2] See Bruno Bauer, "Christus und die Caesaren: Der Ursprung des Christenthums aus dem römischen Griechenthum" (Berlin; 1879; 2nd ed.). That in general Tacitus is a historical romancist who has too long fascinated schoolmasters and their pupils by the beauty of his style, and not a sober historian, is an accepted judgment among competent historical scholars. See especially Tarver (J. C.), "Tiberius the Tyrant” (London; 1902); Tarver gives a totally different estimate of Tiberius from the caricature of Tacitus, to whom the good fame of an anti-senatorial emperor was of far less importance than the neat turning of a phrase. 


under Nero that concerns us, as the explicit statement that the Christiani whom Tacitus has in mind, were the followers of that Christus who was put to death under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. If this statement is from the pen of Tacitus, and if it was based on information derived from Roman records, there is nothing more to be said. The positive answer to our question has been found, and the accepted date of Jesus stands firm. 

The famous sentence runs as follows: “Auctor nominis ejus Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat." 

Let us first of all assume its genuineness, that is that we have before us a sentence written by Tacitus himself. Even so, it is very difficult to persuade oneself that the statement is derived from some official Roman record. On the contrary it has all the appearance of being part of a Christian formula. Surely in an official record we should not have the name of Pilate introduced with no further qualification than simply that of Procurator. Procurator of what? “In the reign of Tiberius under Pilate the Governor" would mean something definite to a Christian, for he would know that the whole story of Christus had to do with Judaea, but to a Roman the phrase would convey nothing of a very precise nature. Later on in the Tacitean narrative it is true we are told the Christian sect arose in Judaea, but on the other hand we must remember that it is just this sudden “Pilate the Governor" which meets us in our investigation of the synoptic tradition, as we showed in our last chapter. It might then (if the sentence is genuine) be of interest to determine the date of writing of this 


part of the “Annals," but this is impossible to do with any exactitude. It seems, however, probable that it was written subsequently to 117 A.D., a date when the Pilate formula was indubitably firmly established among Christian circles. 

It is also to be noticed that Tacitus seems to know nothing of the name of Jesus; and it is exceedingly improbable that in any official record the proper name of the person would be omitted, and a name used which officials familiar with Palestinian affairs must have known to be a general title which was at that time being claimed by many. Moreover, Jesus was not, according to the canonical tradition, accused of being a claimant to Messiahship, a matter which did not concern the Roman magistrates, but with the political offence of claiming to be King of the Jews. It is then far more probable that Tacitus derived his information from hearsay, and imagined that Christus was the actual and only name of the founder of the Christian sect. 

But all these considerations depend upon the assumption that we have a genuine sentence of Tacitus before us. Now it has been often pointed out that “Tiberio imperitante" is entirely opposed to all Tacitean usage. It cannot be paralleled elsewhere in his vocabulary, and moreover is contrary to regular use. The early Emperors were still regarded solely as heads of the Republic, and as such were called Principes; we should, therefore, expect “Principe Tiberio," or some such combination. Philological arguments, however, as a rule, are seldom very convincing; but it is not very easy to dispose of the present one offhand. The sentence


moreover, has a strong appearance of being inserted in the rest of the narrative. Many, therefore, consider it an interpolation, and some even are of opinion that the whole of the chapter is a fabrication. As Hochart says: “This chapter contains almost as many inexplicable difficulties as it does words."[1]

But this laborious scholar represents the extreme left wing of Tacitean criticism, and valuable as is his work in bringing out the difficulties which have to be surmounted before we can be positive that the whole chapter under discussion—(much more then the sentence which specially interests us)—is not, as he contends,[2] an interpolation, his authority is somewhat weakened by his subsequent lengthy researches,[3] in which he courageously revived the whole question of the authenticity of the famous MS., purporting to contain the last six books of the "Annals" and the first five of the “Histories“ of Tacitus, which was first brought to light about 1429 by Poggio Bracciolini and Niccoli—the sole MS. from which all copies have since been made. Hochart maintains that in the very learned humanist Poggio himself we have a Pseudo-Tacitus, and that in these books of the “Histories “and “Annals “we are therefore face to face with an elaborate pseudepigraph. 

[1] “Annales de la Faculté des Lettres de Bordeaux," 1884, No. 2. 

[2] Hochart (P.), “Études au Sujet de la Persécution des Chrétiens sous Néron" (Paris; 1885). For arguments in favour of its genuineness see Arnold (0. F.), "Die neronische Christenverfolgung" (Leipzig; 1888). 

[3] “De 1'Authenticité des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite“ (Paris; 1890), p. 320; and “Nouvelles Considérations au Sujet des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite" (Paris; 1894), p. 293. 


On the whole, however, I am inclined to think that the strain of supporting this conclusion is too great for even the most robust scepticism (though it may be that stranger things have happened in literature). In any case it does not affect the main point of our argument —namely, that, admitting the genuineness of the chapter and even of the sentence which specially concerns our enquiry, we cannot be sure that we have in it a confirmation of the canonical tradition of the Pilate date from an independent source. 

We have, then, passed in review our earliest notices in the works of Pagan writers of the second century, and may next turn our attention to that Jewish writer of the first century who above all others might be expected to supply us with the certainty of which we are in search. 

Joseph ben Mattatiah, the priest, or, to use the name he adopted in honour of the Flavian House, Flavius Josephus, was born 37-38 A.D. and survived till at least 100 A.D. His father Matthias was a member of one of the high priestly families, was learned in the Law and held in high repute in Jerusalem. Matthias was thus a contemporary of Pilate, and should therefore have been an eye-witness of those wonderful events in Jerusalem which the Gospel narratives so graphically depict in connection with the death of Jesus; he might even have been expected to have taken part in them; at the very least he could not have failed to have heard of them if they actually occurred in the way in which they are described. 

Josephus, if we can accept his own account of himself, was from his earliest years trained in the Law and had 


an insatiable love of religious learning. When he was but fourteen years old, he tells us, the high priests and doctors used to come to ask him questions on difficult points of the Torah and its traditions. This may of course refer simply to his wonderful memory, in the exercise of which for the most part such learning consisted; but over and beyond this, we are told, he was most eagerly anxious to know and practise the inner side of religion[1] and busily enquired into the tenets of all the sects of Jewry. For three years he retired to the desert, apparently to some Essene-like community, and submitted himself to its vigorous discipline. In 64 A.D., at the age of twenty-six, we find him at Rome, interested in obtaining the freedom of some friends of his, priests who even in prison refused all Gentile fare and managed to support themselves on the ascetic diet of figs and nuts. 

During the Jewish War Josephus was given the important command of Galilee, and displays an intimate knowledge of the country in which, according to the Gospel tradition, was the chief scene of the ministry of Jesus. As a self-surrendered prisoner in the hands of the Romans he played a very important part in the hastening of the end of the war, and was subsequently held in high estimation by the rulers of the Empire and devoted himself to writing a history of his people and an account of the war. Many additional reasons could be adduced, but enough has already been said to show why Josephus, who might be called the “historian of the Messianic age," is just the very writer who might be expected to tell us something decisive about the Christians and their origins. Nor can the detestation 


of the Jews for the memory of the “traitor," which makes them still regard every line of his writings about those days with exaggerated suspicion, in any way lessen the authority of Josephus in this respect; for the complaint of Christians against him is not that he misrepresents them or their beginnings, but that he absolutely ignores their existence.

It is true that we have that famous passage in his “Antiquities “(xviii. iii. 3) which amply and doctrinally confirms the Gospel tradition; but how a so transparent forgery could have escaped detection in even the most uncritical age is a marvel. For many years it has been abandoned by all schools of criticism, even the most conservative, and we have only to turn to any modern translation or text to find it definitely characterised as an interpolation or enclosed in brackets.[1] It is not only that we are confronted with upwards of a dozen most potent arguments against its authenticity, but that we have also the explicit statement of Origen in the third century that Josephus (with whose works he was acquainted, and whom he is quoting to prove the historic existence of John the Baptist) had no belief whatever in Jesus being the Christ,[2] whereas the spurious passage states categorically that he was the Christ. Nevertheless, there are still a few daring scholars who, while admitting that it is heavily interpolated, en- 

[1] See, for instance, F. Kaulen's German translation, “Flavius Josephus' jüdische Alterthümer “(Koln; 1892, 3rd ed.), p. 620, n.; and B. Niese's critical text, “Flavii Josephi Opera" (Berlin; 1890), iv. pp. 151,152. The most recent French translation, edited by T. Reinach, “OEuvres complètes de Flavius Josèphe “'(Paris; 1900), has so far given us only five books of the “Antiquities." 

[2] Origen," Contra Celsum," i, 47. 


deavour to save some fragments of the passage,[1] and even one stalwart apologist who maintains its complete genuineness.[2] 

But if there be anything certain in the whole field of criticism, it is that this passage was never written by Josephus. And this being so, the reference (in “Antiqq.," xx. ix. 1) to a certain Jacobus, “the brother of Jesus called Christ," constitutes the only reference to Jesus in the voluminous writings of Josephus which Origen could discover; but unfortunately the statement of Origen casts grave doubts upon the words “brother of Jesus called Christ," for he twice[3] declares that Josephus describes the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple as a divine retribution for the murder of this James—a most highly improbable opinion to father upon Josephus, and no trace of which is to be found either in the passage in which the phrase we are considering now stands, or in the rest of Josephus' works. It is therefore exceedingly probable that this epithet was taken from Origen and incorporated into the text of Josephus by later scribes. These being the only references that can be adduced in the voluminous writings of the Jewish historian, it follows that Josephus knows nothing of “the Christ," though he knows much of various “Christs." 

Though the argument from silence must in all cases be received with the greatest caution, it cannot fail 

[1] See Müller (G. A.), “Christus bei Josephus Flavius “(Innsbruck; 1895, 2nd ed.); and Reinach (T.), "Rev. Étud. Juives," xxxv. 1-18. 

[2] Bole (F.), “Flavius Josephus uber Christus und die Christen" (Brixen; 1896). 

[3] Origen, "Contra Celsum," i. 47, ii. 13. 


deeply to impress us in the case of Joseph ben Mattatiah; for it is almost humanly impossible that, if the details of the Christian tradition and the affairs of the Christian world had been historically in the time of Josephus just what they are stated to have been in our canonical documents, the historian of that special age and country could have kept silence concerning them. If these things were just as they are said to have been, there is no convincing reason that we can assign for the silence of a man who, like Josephus, was in a most admirable position to know about them. 

Josephus had been trained in an Essene-like community and seems even to have gone to Rome in “Essene“ interests. He is just the man to tell us of those early Christian communities which were formed on models closely resembling those of the Pious and the Poor and the Naked. He goes to Rome just when Paul is also said to have been there, and no doubt was there, and just about the time when, if we are to believe Tacitus, the Christiani were singled out for public persecution and cruel martyrdom by Imperial tyranny; and yet he knows nothing of all this. With regard to the ministry and death of Jesus it might be said that all this had happened before Josephus was born, though surely it might be expected that his father would have told him of such stirring, nay overwhelming, events; still it is strange that with regard to the gruesome tragedy at Rome he apparently knows not even so much as of a community of Christians. 

Was, then, the story in those days other than we have it now? Were the origins of Christianity, as we have elsewhere suggested, hidden among the pledged 


members of the mystic communities and ascetic orders, and only imperfectly known among their outer circles, which were also largely held to secrecy? Was it all of older date than we are accustomed to regard it? Who shall say with utter confidence? The silence of Josephus permits us to speculate, but gives us no answer to our questionings. It may be even that some items of what the Jewish writer tells us of other leaders of sects and claimants to Messiahship may have been conflated and transformed later on by our Gospel writers or their immediate predecessors, and so used to fill out the story of a life for which they had but little historic data. But this is a delicate and obscure subject of research which requires new treatment.[1] 

We thus see that, as far as our present enquiry is concerned, we can obtain no positive help from any Pagan or Jewish writer of the first century, or for that matter of the first quarter of the second. It remains to enquire whether from the fragments of extra-canonical gospels or the remains of Old-Christian traditions and from the apocrypha generally we can get any help. 

If the general learned opinion on this literature, or at any rate on all of it which in any way makes mention of the Herod or Pilate dates, holds good, namely, that it is later than our Gospels, then we have nothing to help us. 
But the recent brilliant study of Conrady[2] on the "Book “Book of James," commonly called the “Protevangelium" 

[1] See the attempt of Solomon (G.), “The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Tradition Identified" (London; 1880). 

[2] Conrady (L.), “Die Quelle der kanonischen Kindheitsgeschichte Jesus'" (Gottingen; 1900). 


(the name given to it by Postel, who first brought it to light in the sixteenth century), the original of which is already admitted by some to reach back as far as the middle of the second century, opens up a question which, if answered in the affirmative, “would mean a complete revolution of our views on the canon and of the origins of Christianity."[1] Conrady believes that he has demonstrated that in some of their details of the history of the infancy our first and third evangelists borrow from a common source, and that this source is no other than our extant "Protevangelium." He would have it that this “Book of James" is of Egyptian origin. The author was not a Jewish Christian, but most probably an Egyptian and an Alexandrian. It is to be hoped that Conrady may follow up his excursion into this field of investigation by other researches of a similar nature; and since he has raised the presumption that we have in the “Protevangelium“ one of the “many" Gospel writings referred to in the introduction of the third Gospel, we may glance through the literature,[2] other than that of the distinct Pilate apocrypha, for a reference to Pilate. 

This we shall find only in the so-called "Gospel of Peter," a considerable fragment of which relating to the passion and death of Jesus was discovered in a tomb at Akhmim in 1885 and first published in 1892. Much has been written during the last ten years on this interesting 

[1] See Nieliol's review of Conrady's (book in "The Critical Review “(London), January, 1902. 

[2] See Preuschen (E.), “Antilegomena: Die Reste der ausser-kanoischen Evangelien und urchristlichen Ueberlieferungen ' (Giessen; 1901). 


fragment, but the general opinion of scholars is that the writer shows a knowledge of all our four Gospels. If, however, the original of this fragment could be shown to be older than our Gospels (a most difficult undertaking), it would also rank among the "many." Although agreeing substantially with our Gospel accounts, it differs very considerably in its more abundant details from the simple narrative of the “common document," and is strongly Docetic, that is to say, represents Jesus as suffering only in appearance. Its Gnostic character, however, in this respect (for as I have shown elsewhere[1] the origin of Docetism does not depend on purely doctrinal considerations) does not, in my opinion, necessarily point to a late date, though its elaboration of detail seems to argue a later development of tradition as compared with the simplicity of the narrative of the "common document." On the other hand it may be that the "common document" had already begun the process of "selection." 

Finally in this connection we may have to pay more attention to the so-called "Gospel of Nicodemus “or "Acts of Pilate," the first thirteen chapters of which describe the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection, substantially in agreement with our canonical Gospels, but containing many other details not found elsewhere. Though the present form of these Acts is not earlier than the fourth century, the question of there being what the Germans call a Grundschrift of a comparatively very early date underlying them has recently been raised by Rendel Harris in an exceed- 

[1] "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten" (London; 1900), p. 427


ingly interesting monograph,[1] in which he pleads for a new investigation of the subject, on the ground that he has detected traces of a Homeric Gospel under the Greek text of our "Acta," that is to say a Gospel story patched together out of verses of the great Homeric literature. Among many other points of interest, he thinks he has shown that in the passage where Joseph begs the body of Jesus from Pilate, "that Pilate has been turned into Achilles, that Joseph is the good old Priam, begging the body of Hector, and that the whole story is based upon the dramatic passages of the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad"; and in favour of his hypothesis it must be said that we certainly know from the Sibylline literature that Jewish writers long prior to the first century of our era used Homeric verses for similar purposes. 

Professor Harris thus contends that such a Homeric Gospel may have existed prior to Justin Martyr (c, 150), and so this famous apologist, when in his “Dialogue with Trypho “(cc. 102, 103) he twice refers to certain "Acts of Pilate," may be saved from the now generally endorsed imputation that his wish solely was father - to his statement. Justin may have had this much ground for his assertion that there was in existence the Grundschrift of our "Acta," though of course these "Acta" were by no means the official Roman reports which he seems to have believed them to be. 

The subject is a fascinating one, but will not help us much in our present enquiry; for—granting the existence of the underlying document, and also its Homeric 

[1] Rendel Harris (J.), “The Homeric Centones and the Acts of Pilate" (London; 1898). 


nature, thus accounting for its strange conflation of miracles and events (separately recorded in our canonical Gospels), by the necessity of the vague and general nature of the verse-tags which had to be employed by the Centonist—it argues a later date than our Gospels.[1]

It will thus be seen that our review of the earliest external evidence for the date of Jesus, even when we take into consideration the most unusual lines of research, leaves us with nothing so distinct as does the result of the analysis of the tradition of our canonical Gospels. The argument for the authenticity of the Pilate tradition centres round the obscure question of the date of the "common document." The earlier we can push this back the greater is the probability of the genuineness of the tradition. 

We will next turn our attention to the Talmud Jeschu stories, but before doing so it will be advisable to give the general reader some idea of the Talmud itself, and to append some further necessary preliminaries. 

[1] It is to be hoped, however, that the new edition of the “Acts of Pilate," which is being prepared by Dr. Ernst von Dobschütz for the great Berlin collection of early Church documents, will throw some new light on the subject.