History In The New Testament

When Jesus died darkness came over the earth.
Didn't anyone notice?

THE HUMANIST'S CLAIM: Matthew 27:45 alleges that while Jesus was on the cross, there fell over the whole land a darkness lasting from midday until three in the afternoon. Andrew White explains that although Romans such as Seneca and Pliny carefully described much less striking occurrences of the same sort in more remote regions, they failed to note any such darkness occurring even in Judea.

Notice that the reference is to Andrew White. If you've been reading previous pages in this series you know what that means. Whatever he says you can just throw out... he likes to just make up his "facts." Click here for more on Andrew White.

Even though Andrew White is referenced in this case, this is a valid question that others have asked, so let's find out what really happened.

Matthew 27:45-46

Now from the sixth hour [noon] darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3 PM]. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The three hour darkness is also recorded in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44–45.

Are The Gospel Accounts Reliable?

J.A.T. Robinson, a liberal New Testament scholar, conducted an in-depth study in which he discovered strong historical, textual, and logical evidence for dating all of the gospels between AD 40–65. And Robinson was no friend of conservative biblical Christianity. Based on these dates, Matthew, Mark, and Luke would have written about the darkness a mere 7 to 32 years after the actual event. Compared to other ancient historical accounts, this is like a news flash. Suetonius, a Roman historian, wrote his account of Caesar crossing the Rubicon at least 110 years after the event, and it is considered to be generally reliable. The earliest biographies of Alexander the Great, by Arrian and Plutarch, were written over 400 years after his death, and they are considered trustworthy accounts. - Daniel Anderson, Darkness at the crucifixion: metaphor or real history?

Yes, the gospel accounts are reliable. Another important point is that they were circulated within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses to the events they record. Christians had many enemies, in particular the Jewish leadership. If they could have found an eyewitness who would dispute what was recorded in the gospels... they could have ended Christianity. All they needed would be just one lie... and Christianity was dead. But not such witnesses were found. The gospels are true and accurate.

Was The Darkness An Eclipse?

I live on the Oregon coast and the path of a total solar eclipse passed through Oregon this year. My wife kept telling me, the eclipse is starting! And I'd look outside and it didn't look any darker. Where we live the eclipse was 95% complete... and if my wife had not kept after me, I'd have never noticed there was an eclipse. You need to be directly in the path of totality for it to get dark.

How long does an eclipse last? About ten minutes.

We know when and where every total eclipse of the sun happens. There was no eclipse when Jesus was crucified. An eclipse did not cause the three hours of darkness.

Was This Darkness Recorded As Occurring in Other Locations?

No. The darkness appears to have been localized to just Palestine.

Did others in Palestine notice the darkness? Yes. For example Thallus, a Samaritan historian who wrote around 52 AD, and Phlegon both recorded the darkness.

Thallus tried to explain away the darkness as an eclipse. Julius Africanus (AD 160-240) researched the topic of the darkness and wrote the following:

"Upon the whole world there came a most fearful darkness. Many rocks were split in two by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. It seems very unreasonable to me that Thallus, in the third book of his histories, would try to explain away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun."

Phlegon, a Greek historian, wrote the following in about AD 137:

In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [AD 33] there was "the greatest eclipse of the sun" and that it became night in the sixth hour of the day [ noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.

Yes, the darkness was noticed, and some of those who wrote about it, attributed it to an eclipse.

Why didn't others, such as Josephus, write about the darkness?

We don't know. However, we do know that not every writer makes note of every thing. Daniel Anderson notes:

Many skeptics also ask why other early historians such as Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger fail to mention the darkness. But the skeptics are committing the fallacy of arguing from silence. It is unreasonable to expect every contemporary writer to include every event that happened—and there are good reasons not to expect these specific authors to mention the darkess. What we do have is a plethora of extremely early, historically reliable, and highly respected sources for the darkness during the crucifixion. The list of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Thallus, Phlegon, Africanus, and Tertullian is impressive indeed!

Conclusion:

There was a three hour darkness during the crucifixion of Jesus, just as the gospel accounts record.

Next Accusation:

Robert Ingersoll wondered why the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, “the best historian the Hebrews produced, said nothing about the life or death of Christ; nothing about the massacre of the infants by Herod; not one word about the wonderful star that visited the sky at the birth of Christ; nothing about the darkness that fell upon the world for several hours in the midst of day; and failed entirely to mention that hundreds of graves were opened, and that multitudes of Jews rose from the dead, and visited the Holy City?” Ingersoll also asked, “Is it not wonderful that no historian ever mentioned any of these prodigies?”

Ingersoll’s questions are even more forceful when one considers that there still exist at least some of the works of more than 60 historians or chroniclers who lived in the period from 10 C.E. to 100 C.E. Those writers were contemporaries of Jesus, if in fact he ever lived.

Still another person committing the fallacy of arguing from silence. Who was Robert Ingersoll? He is showing up as a reference the humanists often use. He was a a well-know orator in the 19th century, but is largely forgotten now. Nicknamed "The Great Agnostic," he was a lawyer who dedicated his life to the defence of agnosticism. We'll take a look at what he says on the next page. Click here for more truth...


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