Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Thallus - Who was he?

Historians have a problem in that not everything in the past survives. They have to do some detective work. In some cases they can not find any speeches from great kings and leaders, but then they then find an ancient peasant's shopping lists. The Historian is at the whim of what lasts and they then has to shift through the bias and or context of the evidence and then connect other pieces of evidence together to fill in a bigger picture.

The first eye witness account of Jesus outside the bible I want to look at is Thallus (or Thallos). When I first started looking at this piece of evidence I didn't think this is really a strong case for Jesus, but other historians think it has some weight, so I provide it here for information.

Who was Thallus?

Thallus was a historian who wrote around 50-75 AD. There is a slim possibility that Josephus (37-100 AD) mentions Thallus in his Antiquities 18:167 (do a word search on that link for the quote) and there is more of a chance that Eusebius (263-339 AD) says this about him:
After the seventy years of the Captivity Cyrus became king of Persia, in the year in which the fifty-fifth Olympic festival was held, as one may learn from the Bibliotheca of Diodorus, and the histories of Thallus and Castor, also from Polybius and Phlegon, and from others too who were careful about Olympiads: for the time agreed in all of them.
and a few lines down he goes on to say:
For both the historians of Athens, Hellanicus and Philochorus who wrote The Attic Histories, and the writers on Syrian history, Castor and Thallus, and the writer on universal history, Diodorus the author of the Bibliotheca, and Alexander Polyhistor, and some of our own historians recorded these events more accurately even than all the Attic writers. If therefore any remarkable narrative occurs in the thousand and twenty years, it shall be extracted as may be expedient.
Both above quotes come from Book 10 of Praeparatio Evangelica (The Preparation of the Gospel) by Eusebius.

So here we have at least a "Thallus" been called a historian by Eusebius and in the next post we will see Sextus Julius Africanus citing a work called Histories by Thallus set around the same time frame.


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