Thallus by Two

A Comparison of the work of Glenn Miller and Richard Carrier on Thallus by"Wildcat"

Tekton guest writer and reader "Wildcat" proposed to make a comparison and evaluation for us of the respective works of these two writers on Thallus to see who made the stronger case. I will be making editorial comments as needed. -- JPH


One of the more remarkable extra-biblical references to Jesus Christ and His crucifixion is to be found in the following quote by Thallus, as related by Julius Africanus:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth--manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. (XVIII.1)

This quote was taken from Julius Africanus’ work “The History of the World” up to about 220 A.D.

Glenn Miller, in 1996, did some research on this quote and presents this research here( In 1999, Richard Carrier also did some research on this quote and presents his research here( Both set out to examine the authenticity of this quote. Miller concluded that this passage represents an authentic extra-biblical reference to not only Jesus, but also His crucifixion and the event AND timing of the mysterious darkness that enveloped the land as is recorded in the Gospels(Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44, Matthew 27:51-53). Carrier, contrarily, attempts to cast doubt on the authenticity of this passage. Although Carrier’s work was written three years later, his exposition is not written as a direct refutation to Miller. What follows will be an examination of each author’s work in light of the arguments presented by both authors.

Let’s look first at some opening remarks of Carrier:

John makes no mention of any such events, nor does Paul or any other New Testament author. Such a story has obvious mythic overtones and can easily be doubted. That a solar eclipse should mark the death of a king was common lore among Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples (Herodotus 7.37, Plutarch Pelopidas 31.3 and Aemilius Paulus 17.7-11, Dio Cassius 55.29.3, John Lydus De Ostentis 70.a), and that such events corresponded with earthquakes was also a scientific superstition (Aristotle Meteorology 367.b.2, Pliny Natural History 2.195, Virgil Georgics 2.47.478-80). It was also typical to assimilate eclipses to major historic events, even when they did not originally correspond, or to invent eclipses for this purpose (Préaux claims to have counted 200 examples in extant literature; Boeuffle and Newton have also remarked on this tendency). The gospel stories also make a solar eclipse impossible: the crucifixion passover happened during a full moon, the darkness supposedly lasted three hours, and covered the whole earth. Such an impossible event would not fail to be recorded in the works of Seneca, Pliny, Josephus or other historians, yet it is not mentioned anywhere else outside of Christian rhetoric, so we can entirely dismiss the idea of this being a real event.

Carrier’s remark that a solar eclipse was impossible is agreed upon by Africanus, as can be seen by the quote itself, and is used by Africanus to reinforce his argument that the darkness did not have a naturalistic explanation. Carrier also seems to assume that the darkness covered literally the entire earth. As for the lack of corroborating support from the likes of Seneca, Pliny, Josephus, etc. please see here(

Carrier then asserts:

Nevertheless, Thallus is cited at least as a witness to the early date of the gospel story of the darkness, if not to the factuality of the darkness itself. But the facts surrounding Thallus are all too often incorrect, or asserted with unjustified boldness, calling for a proper historical treatment of the facts.

Carrier starts us out:

On various occasions Thallus' work is referred to as the Histories (HISTORIAI in George Syncellus, and possibly in Eusebius, quoting Julius Africanus; HISTORIA in Theophilus, and in Lactantius quoting Theophilus, and possibly in Eusebius quoting Julius Africanus). This is the only work by Thallus of which we have a title. Attempts to reconstruct a title from an Armenian translation of a Greek chronology composed by Eusebius are not trustworthy, since the text seems only to describe the work, not name it, in a list of authors which sometimes names their works and sometimes merely describes them. But whether a discription or a title, the work described in that text does not appear to be the same work quoted by everyone else. This is because it is described as a "brief compendium" (in three volumes, which is indeed exceedingly brief--equivalent to three chapters in a modern book) covering the years from the fall of Troy (1184 BC) to the 167th Olympiad (109 BC), but Thallus is often cited for events long preceding the Fall of Troy, and on one occasion appears to be cited regarding an event at the death of Christ, which comes long after 109 BC (leading several scholars to amend the text to give a later date). In all cases the nature of the facts being drawn from Thallus further suggests a rather detailed work, and not a "brief compendium." It is most likely that the book referenced by Eusebius is one of at least two works by Thallus, and not the work in which he mentions the darkness associated with the death of Christ (if he mentioned this at all). This is an altogether more likely explanation than the many alternatives that have been suggested (for example, that a later, anonymous author expanded Thallus' work).

As for what Thallus wrote about, we are told by Eusebius, quoting Julius Africanus, that Thallus recorded Syrian history just as Castor did, which is consistent with other remarks by Tertullian placing Thallus among historians of Eastern events, and with several authors who cite Thallus on details of Assyrian history (Theophilus, Lactantius, George Syncellus) and with another who possibly cites him as an expert on Lydian affairs (Malalas). But Thallus is also listed among those who recorded Greek and Roman history, especially the deeds of Saturn in Italy (Tertullian, Lactantius, Minucius Felix). To confuse matters further, the late forger of a work in the name of Justin Martyr claims Thallus among those who mentioned Moses and the antiquity of the Jews in the context of Athenian history! This last can be dismissed, however, since the forged text is almost a word-for-word adulteration of a quote from Julius Africanus, which we have more reliably preserved in the works of Eusebius, which merely lists Thallus, with Castor, as a reliable historian of Syrian affairs and nothing more.

The Armenian reference places the end of Thallus' "brief compendium" at the 167th Olympiad (which spans 112-109 BC). This would remain uncontested if it were not for a single reference to Thallus regarding an event long after that time: namely, the darkness at the death of Christ. Since this event must have occurred in the 1st century AD, and no doubt sometime between 28 and 38 AD, there are two possibilities: either the Armenian text is referring to a different work, or the date has been corrupted. Virtually every scholar to date has opted for the latter and made efforts to conjecture the original date--the only two plausible (though still unlikely) options are the 207th Olympiad (which spans 49-52 AD) and the 217th Olympiad (which spans 89-92 AD). The latter in fact is the more likely, judging from palaeography. But as I've already noted, it seems far more likely that the Armenian reference is to a different work. It could even be an excerpted epitome of a longer chronology.

This leaves us with no clue as to when Thallus wrote. Since the 1st-century darkness was probably not mentioned in the "brief compendium," there is no reason to suppose that the date of 109 BC is incorrect--there is nothing physically wrong with the text, nor any other reason to suspect an error (although Mosshammer claims otherwise, his reasoning is hard to justify). However, if Thallus did mention the darkness in another work (probably the Histories), he clearly had to have written after 28 AD. Although the guess of 52 AD as the end-date for the compedium is the one most commonly mentioned, if the date is wrong at all then 92 AD is more likely correct. But all these possible dates--109 BC, 52 AD, 92 AD--only give us the "time after which" he had to have written this "brief compendium." These dates do not tell us when he wrote the Histories or whatever work that mentioned the darkness.

It is also supposed that the final date covered by the compendium should be close to the time the compendium was written, but that also does not follow. Eusebius, for instance, wrote a world chronicle that ended some thirty years before he wrote it. Moreover, when an author writes a compendium there is no telling how much history he intends to cover, or how far back he will end it--and a work as short as three books might very well have been so short because it was unfinished. In other words, the "compendium" could have ended in 109 BC even if it was written in 109 AD, and if the compendium's end-date was 52 AD or 92 AD, it could still have been written in 109 AD, or later. So we have to look elsewhere for a "time before which" Thallus wrote. All we have is this: the first time Thallus is ever mentioned is by Theophilus, writing around 180 AD, which leaves us with over a century of grey area: Thallus could have written any time between 28 and 180 AD. And if he did not mention an eclipse occurring in the first century, then he could have written any time between 109 BC and 180 AD, a span of almost three centuries.

This is where proper historical method turns the tables on Christian apologists. The usual argument is that Thallus is the earliest witness to the gospel tradition, proving that the story was circulating, and taken seriously enough by pagans to debunk it, before the 2nd century. But the opposite reasoning applies: since we do not know that Thallus wrote in the 1st century, but know that he could have written in the 2nd, and since no other sources attest to any gospel tradition earlier than the 2nd century, it follows that Thallus most likely wrote in the 2nd century--or at the earliest, the 90's AD, since there is some evidence that Josephus referred to Luke in that decade, although that same evidence just as easily suggests that Luke used Josephus, dating that gospel after 96 AD. Otherwise, since all other sources which mention any gospel tradition appear only in the 2nd century, and Thallus may easily have written in that period, it follows that Thallus most likely wrote in the 2nd century. This conclusion would change if any further data were rescued from the sands of time which made an earlier date more plausible, but odds are, Thallus is not the earliest witness to the gospel tradition. Even at best, there is at present no reason to assume he is.

Carrier asserts that the traditional dates in which Thallus was referring was in his work was between 1184 B.C. and 109 B.C. according to the Armenian reference. However, scholars mostly are in agreement that the date was corrupted since Christ’s crucifixion, a first century event, is referred to by Thallus. With this being the case, alternate dates of 52 A.D. and 92 A.D., the former being most popular, are proposed. Carrier then mentions that the supposition that Thallus must have written his compendium shortly after the final date covered by the compendium, but this is not necessarily the case since Eusebius, for instance, wrote a world chronicle that ended about 30 years before he wrote it. Theophilus is the first to mention Thallus in 180 A.D. Carrier, thus, reasons that Thallus could have written anywhere between 28 A.D. and 180 A.D.

Miller seems to accept the traditional 1st century dating of Thallus as this quote from his article shows:

What do we know about this Thallus? We have two possible other extra-Africanus references to him. One, Eusebius tells us that this Thallus wrote in Greek an account of world history from the fall of Troy down to the mid-first century--c.52 CE. Thallus' work is generally believed to have been written in the period 50-100 CE.[Murray Harris, JSOTGP5:344]

Miller then discusses what he feels to be a possible reference of Thallus by Josephus and provides some data that could support the possibility that Josephus was referring to this same Thallus:

Two, Josephus POSSIBLY refers to a certain Thallus as a wealthy Samaritian freedman of Tiberius (d. 37CE) who had lent a million drachmas to the bankrupt Herod Agrippa. (Ant 18.167):

Now there was one Thallus, a freedman of Caesar's of whom he borrowed a million of dracmae, and thence repaid Antonia the debt he owed her; and by spending the overplus in paying his court to Caius, became a person of great authority with him.

If these two are the same Thallus, then it would explain several things for us:

  1. how he had TIME to write a history
  2. how he had ACCESS to records (being a close associate of Tiberias)
  3. how he had KNOWLEDGE of events in Palestine (being a Samaritan)
  4. how he had the financial means to do the heavy travel REQUIRED/EXPECTED to do history in those days (cf. NTLE:81)

In fact, the requirements for writing Hellenistic history (as opposed to Roman history) would necessitate a background like that mentioned by Josephus. So Fornara in NHAGR:49:

Polybius...fairly represents the great tradition of historia. The hallmark of the profession was personal observation (autopsy), inquiry, and travel. Now these conditions excluded all but the members of the highest levels of society. Wealth and social contacts were essential to their craft. The nature of what historians intended to investigate...required mobility, familiarity with the great, and the prestige necessary to ensure the cooperation of strangers.

However, Carrier seems to cast doubt on this possible reference from Josephus:

One of the key pieces of "evidence" used to prove a 1st-century date for Thallus was actually innocently invented in the 18th century. The item in question is a supposed reference in Josephus to a Samaritan freedman of Tiberius, which places a man by the name of Thallus from Samaria, a region in the East (from where a historian of Syrian affairs might come), in a position which would produce historians in later years (Phlegon, a freedman of Hadrian, also wrote a chronicle), in a definite first-century date (Tiberius reigned from 14 AD to 37 AD). Too good to be true? Indeed. First of all, it has long been noticed that Josephus says nothing about this "freedman" composing any literary work, and thus it is already a leap to suppose it would be the same man. Thallus, as it turns out, is a common name, appearing regularly in inscriptions throughout antiquity.

But most importantly, the name does not in fact appear in any extant text of Josephus. The passage in question (Antiquities of the Jews 18.167) does not have the word THALLOS in any extant manuscript or translation, but ALLOS. The addition of the letter theta (TH) was conjectured by a scholar named Hudson in 1720, on the argument that ALLOS didn't make sense, and that Thallus was the attested name of an imperial freedman of Tiberius in inscriptions: in his own words, "I put 'Thallos' in place of 'allos' by conjecture, as he is attested to have been among the freedmen of Tiberius, going by the inscriptions of Gruter" (p. 810, translated from Hudson's Latin). But there is no good basis for this conjecture. First, the Greek actually does make sense without the added letter (it means "another"), and all extant early translations confirm this very reading. Second, an epitome of this passage does not give a name but instead the generic "someone," which suggests that no name was mentioned in the epitomizer's copy.

Finally, the most likely name, if one were needed here at all, would be HALLOS, requiring no added letters (there is no letter for the H-sound in Greek), since an imperial freedman by this name is also known in the time of Tiberius from inscriptions. Thus, Hudson's conjecture is groundless and is to be rejected. Although we still have an inscription recording a man named Thallus as an imperial freedman, this name we know is common, and appears often in inscriptions. And the inscription in question says nothing about the man being a Samaritan, much less an author. Therefore, this attempt to place Thallus in the 1st century fails. It also fails to establish him as a Samaritan, a detail which is still cited as if it were a fact, even by good scholars.

With that in mind, we move on to Miller's analysis of the historical reliability of Thallus:":

But Julius himself gives us additional information about Thallus--he is mentioned two other times BEFORE this reference:

And after 70 years of captivity, Cyrus became king of the Persians at the time of the 55th Olympiad, as may be ascertained from the Bibliothecae of Diodorus and the histories of Thallus and Castor, and also from Polybius and Phlegon, and others besides these, who have made the Olympiads a subject of study. (XIII.2)


For these things are also recorded by the Athenian historians Hellanicus and Philochorus, who record Attic affairs; and by Castor and Thallus, who record Syrian affairs; and by Diodorus, who writes a universal history in his Bibliothecae; and by Alexander Polyhistr, and by some of our own time, yet more carefully...(XIII.3)

Miller adds:

Whoever this Thallus is, he is in GOOD company as far as historians go! He is included in lists of historians that are considered innovative (e.g. Hellanicus--cf. HAMM:10; Castor--cf. HAMM:59) and the most methodologically scrupulous (e.g. Polybius--cf. BAFCSALS:5-8, most std. works on ancient historiography--HAMM, EAMH). He is linked twice with Castor of Rhodes, who set the format for most of subsequent historical writing--the 'comparative columns' format (adapted by Africanus)--cf. HAMM:59. He is said to have focused on Syrian history (perhaps evidence for a Samaritan background?), and to have been the author of a work on 'historia' (more on this term later).

Whoever he was, our first impulse MUST BE to take Thallus seriously as a historian!

What other data elements do we have? He was obviously of a generation earlier than Julius, judging by the contrast with 'those of our own time'. This, of course, fits well with the dates given above. Eusebius tells us he wrote his history in Greek, and that it was a 'summary' from the Fall of Troy until the 167 Olympiad (c.50-53ad).

At this point we may note a seeming discrepancy. Carrier places the time of the 167th Olympiad at 109 B.C. whereas Miller has it at 50-53 A.D. From our research Carrier appears to be correct on this one, and Miller seems to have made an error.

Next, let’s examine what our two authors have to say about the quote itself. First, Carrier gives his commentary on it:

What exactly is Thallus supposed to have said about Jesus? We don't really know. We can only guess, based on an obscure passage passed down to us second-hand which already shows signs of at least one interpolation. George Syncellus, a 9th-century monk, composed a world chronicle, quoting verbatim from numerous previous chroniclers, one of whom being the 3rd-century Christian chronicler Julius Africanus. In one such case, Africanus is quoted regarding "what followed the savior's passion and life-giving resurrection" as follows:

This event followed each of his deeds, and healings of body and soul, and knowledge of hidden things, and his resurrection from the dead, all sufficiently proven to the disciples before us and to his apostles: after the most dreadful darkness fell over the whole world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake and much of Judaea and the rest of the land was torn down. Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of his Histories, without reason it seems to me. are we to believe that an eclipse happened when the moon was diametrically opposite the sun?

This is all we get. It isn't clear what Thallus actually said, or whether he even mentioned Jesus at all. Africanus is merely criticising the possibility that the darkness at the death of Christ was a solar eclipse, and thus a natural rather than a supernatural event--an attack addressed in the Apology of Tertullian, and voiced by the Jews in the Gospel of Nicodemus, which may have been written in the time of Africanus. Although this implies that Thallus mentioned the death of Christ in some way, it does not entail it. For Thallus may have simply recorded an eclipse that occurred around the time that Christ was believed to have died, with Africanus connecting the events on his own. We do not have the context of this quote, and we do not know what else Africanus said about this event or about Thallus. Of course, even if Thallus did mention the death of Jesus, we have already shown that he then probably wrote in the 2nd century, when we know this gospel story was already circulating nearly a century after the event. In such a case, Thallus is not an independent witness to the story, but is merely responding to Christian literature. This makes him of practically no use to apologists.

Carrier seemingly has seemingly accepted a 2nd century date for the writing by Thallus. Also, Carrier seemingly is implying that Thallus did not document the darkening of the sun as a historical event, but rather as a response to the Christian claim that the darkness is historical. Of course, one observation that stands out immediately is why Thallus would try to explain the event away as a naturalistic phenomenon in the first place if he had reason to believe that it was not a historical event. It would be much easier to cast doubt on the event itself rather than explain it as an eclipse.

Plus, Miller has shown that Thallus was highly regarded as a historian from the quotes mentioned above. It seems more likely that Thallus, as a reliable historian, likely concluded from his research that the darkness occurred and explained it as an eclipse. It would seem much simpler to refute the Christian claim, if he had reason to believe from his research that the darkness did not occur, to deny the veracity of the event’s historicity rather than propose an alternative explanation.

In regards of the event’s historicity, Miller takes a closer examination of this passage and provides the following supporting arguments:

Now, if we look at the quote under discussion in the larger context, some other items are suggested:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth--manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. (XVIII.1)

There are several things to notice from this passage:

  1. The phrase 'this darkness' (touto to skotos) makes it clear that Thallus was attempting to account SPECIFICALLY for the darkness surrounding the crucifixion.
  2. The phrase "let it carry the majority" probably indicates that a 'majority' of historians accounted for it thus, IMPLYING that MANY MORE such explanations were circulating! In other words, the strange darkness was REAL and a topic of scholarly discussion.
  3. The phrase "portent only to the eye" indicates that some argued that it was strictly a mass visual hallucination (but still requiring scholarly explanation).
  4. Another historian Phlegon recorded this event as well, specifying the very HOURS OF THE EVENT! (Phlegon was another freedman of the emperor, who wrote a 14-book history--cf. CAE:118). The wording of Julius' remark here suggests that Phlegon was merely reporting the phenomenon, without referring to Jesus.
  5. The phrase "let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun..." indicates that what is under discussion is NOT the factuality of the event, but the EXPLANATION of it. In other words, Thallus is EXPLAINING the occurrence of the darkness--NOT 'documenting' it (contra G. A. Wells, DJE:13) as was Phlegon.
  6. Harris (op.cit.) points out one of the implications of Julius' word choice here: It is clear that Thallus was not merely documenting an eclipse of the sun that took place in the reign of Tiberius, as G.A. Wells alleges....If Africanus were simply questioning the accuracy of Thallus in claiming that an eclipse had occurred at a certain time, he would not have rejected Thallus' view by an expression of opinion--'(wrongly) it seems to me'. What he was rejecting was a naturalistic explanation of the darkness not an alleged occurrence of a solar eclipse. He proceeds to point out that Thallus' explanation was unsatisfactory because an eclipse of the sun is impossible at the time of the full moon.
  7. [One might also notice that Thallus is singled out for Africanus' rebuttal; Phlegon, who seems merely to be chronicling the event, is accosted for INCOMPLETENESS--not inaccuracy, even though Thallus and Phlegon are BOTH said to be talking about an 'eclipse'. They are obviously arguing two different things, and NOT both merely documenting an eclipse (contra Wells, again.) In fact, Phlegon's witness is probably used--from literary structure--as a refutation of the preceding clause "a portent ONLY to the eyes". An appeal to a public record like that would make sense in the literary context.]
  8. It is also important to note that Julius calls Thallus' work a historia and not some other general term for literary works. The import of this for our discussion is that it explains why (1) Julius' is taking Thallus seriously; and (2) why Thallus is dealing with the astronomical issue of the darkness. Since the earliest days of historiography--even as far back as Xanthos of Lydia (5th century BC), writers had attempted to 'anchor' their chronologies and explanations on potentially dateable events such as earthquakes, floods, etc. (cf. HAMM: 10). For example, Thucydides (The Peloponnesian War) correlates events to seasons of the year (e.g. 2.31.1) and astronomical events (e.g. 2.78.2). These types of events were kept in public archives (e.g. annales, acta populi in Rome, who probably patterned the idea after Greek practice--cf. NHAGR:57, n12.) and were easily accessible to researchers. Indeed, these archives were so full of minutia, that 'high brow' literary types scorned the seeming trivialities of the record. So, the Roman censor Cato (b.184 BCE) could complain:

    It is disagreeable to write what stands in the tablet at the house of the pontifex maximus--how often grain was costly, how often darkness or something else blocked the light of the moon or the sun. (NHAGR:24)

    [The exactitude of the younger Phlegon's reference to 3 hours of darkness may have been based on such public records, and would have been a perfectly adequate evidentialist counter-argument to the "portent ONLY to the eyes" explanation of the darkness.]

What was the historical context for this remark? At the time of his writing, anti-Christians had already been explaining the darkness at the time of the crucifixion as a purely natural phenomenon--an eclipse. Origen, for example, had already hinted in his writings that this idea of it being an eclipse was an invention of the pagans to discredit the Gospels (DM:1040, n.17). The passage in Africanus occurs in the discussion as to the darkness that accompanied the Crucifixion of Jesus. The phrase 'this darkness' indicates that Thallus was referring to (in HIS history) the events surrounding the death of Jesus. It is clear from this passage that both Julius AND Thallus took it for granted that Jesus died (and therefore existed!). What I find interesting about the existence of this interchange is the context of Julius' purpose in writing. He is writing a HISTORY/CHRONOLOGY, not an APOLOGETIC per se. He is trying to anchor dates and merge biblical chronology with the chronologies of Greece, Rome, etc. In this effort, he is much more concerned about proving that the darkness was NOT an eclipse than that it was a supernatural event. The chronology needs to be consistent with astronomical data (as required for ALL good 'historia'). His concern is historical TRUTH, not theology.

It is important to consider Miller’s points. Let’s examine a few of them more closely in light of Carrier’s conclusion. Comment #2 by Miller is especially telling. The implications that many such naturalistic explanations were in circulation(see also comment #3) and that many historians likely had reported the event weakens Carrier’s argument that Thallus was the only non-Biblical witness to the event. Let’s, of course, not forget that the vast majority of ancient literature has not survived. Miller, in comments #5 and #6, draws the same conclusion as was discussed above that the historicity of the event was not in question, but rather the explanation of how and/or why the event occurred was the point of disagreement. Miller also mentions Phlegon who supposedly mentioned the exact 3 hours of darkness as is recorded in the Gospels. Carrier, however, attempts to cast doubt on Phlegon thusly:

The story gets more curious, however. For the quoted Africanus passage continues:

In fact, let it be so. Let the idea that this happened seize and carry away the multitude, and let the cosmic prodigy be counted as an eclipse of the sun according to its appearance. Phlegon reports that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, during the full moon, a full eclipse of the sun happened, from the sixth hour until the ninth. Clearly this is our eclipse! What is common about an earthquake, an eclipse, rocks torn apart, a rising of the dead, and such a huge cosmic movement? At the very least, over a long period, no conjunction this great is remembered. But it was a godsent darkness, because the Lord happened to suffer, and the Bible, in Daniel, supports that seventy spans of seven years would come together up to this time.

There is a lot of interesting material here, but I only wish to discuss what relates to Thallus. Most scholars have assumed that Africanus is here quoting Phlegon, too, as a witness to the darkness story--although we know for a fact that Phlegon wrote in the 140's AD, and was fond of fantastic stories, so it would not be surprising to find him borrowing this one from Christian literature….

Here we should interject Miller’s study on Julius Africanus:

What was the background of Julius Africanus? Let's begin by noting some of the events and activities of his life (CTEC:103, Schaff:I.191; PAC:307):

  • A native of Jerusalem (Aelia)
  • Socialized with King Abgar IV the Great at Edessa
  • Visited Ararat in search of Noah's ark
  • Visited Dead Sea and Jacob's terebinth in Palestine
  • Travelled to Rome as embassy from Emmaus
  • "At Rome he so impressed the Emperor Alexander Severus (222-35) by his erudition that the emperor entrusted him with the building of his library at the Pantheon in Rome" (CTEC:103)--NOTICE: this is pre-Constantine!
  • Wrote a miscellany, similar in content to Pliny's Natural History, dedicated to Severus.
  • Did work in textual criticism of Homer's works: "he knew various manuscripts of Homer which lay in civic libraries from the old site of Jerusalem to that fine city Nysa in Caria" (PAC:307)
  • "Africanus was the first Christian whose writings were not all concerned with his faith." (CTEC:103)
  • "He was not an ecclesiastic, as far as we know, but a philosopher who pursued his favorite studies after conversion and made them useful to the church." (Schaff)
  • He knew Hebrew, and of course Greek.
  • The later Christian historian Socrates classes him for learning with Clement of Alexandria and Origen!
  • His Chronicle is the foundation of medieval historiography of the world and the church.
  • "He made the first attempt at a systematic chronicle of sacred and profane history" (Schaff)
  • He had literary critical skills and was honest enough to use them (and confront others on even matters of 'sacred cows'!)--"He once attended a theological disputation during which Origen appealed to the History of Susanna, and afterwords wrote to Origen a fatherly rebuke for failing to notice that the pun, being only possible in Greek, proves the History of Susanna to be an addition to the original book of Daniel." (CTEC:103).

Robin Lane Fox cites him as an example of the best educated dual-culture products of his day--one in which the best of culture was expressed (PAC, op.cit.)

Do we have any reasons to believe that Julius was QUALIFIED as a historian? There are three questions we could raise to 'check' Africanus:

  • Does his background lead us to believe he had the requisite skills, resources, and access to information necessary to do 'history'?
  • Did subsequent historians consider him 'reliable' (a sort of 'peer review') as a historian?
  • Do his works manifest historical rigor and historiographical integrity, in such a way as to lead us to 'trust' him?

Let's look at each of these.

The first one--on data from his background--we have already looked at above. But let's note the items that are relevant to our current issue:

  • He traveled widely (in the model of rigorous historians of the day)
  • He built an imperial library in Rome (giving him access to sources and materials)
  • He was a favorite of the Emperor (perhaps giving him access to 'rare and privileged' info)
  • He had a broad, semi-scientific approach (rel. to the day--a la Natural History)
  • He had skills in textual criticism (important for studying ancient sources)
  • He had a knowledge of many libraries (important for finding sources)
  • He had literary critical skills (as evidenced in his skirmish with Origen)
  • He had excellent linguistic skills in Greek.
  • He stood solidly in the middle of the best traditions of ancient historiography: He used the comparative columns technique of Castor (HAMM:57), the universal history approach of Hellanicus (HAMM:10), and used the official-list approach to chronology (e.g. he added bishop-lists to the earlier sources' king-lists; EAM:110).
  • He had a commitment to truth (at least in the area of historical documents) adequate to 'take on' the establish church and its most intellectually-intimidating leader (i.e. Origen)

Just to give an idea of how detail-oriented and appropriately critical he was, let me quote Bruce's account of the Origen-Africanus exchange (BCANON: 76):

Julius Africanus, born in Jerusalem, was a contemporary and friend of Origen. About AD 238 he read a controversial work by Origen in which appeal was made to the History of Susanna, one of the Septuagintal additions to Daniel, as though it were an integral part of Daniel. He spent some time considering his matter and preparing relevant arguments; then he sent a respectful letter to Origen in which he questioned the propriety of using the < of>as though it belonged to the authentic book of Daniel. It was evident, he pointed out, that the History of Susanna was originally written in Greek, because the crux of the story turned on a double pun which was possible only in Greek. In the story Daniel conducts a separate examination of each of the two false witnesses against Susanna and asks under what kind of tree her alleged offence was committed; he receives inconsistent answers and pronounces an appropriate doom against each. To the one who specifies a mastic tree (Gk 'schino') he says, 'God will cut you in two' ('schizo-'); to the one who specifies a holm-oak (Gk. 'prinos') he says, 'God will saw you asunder' (Gk. 'prio-'). At one time Origen himself had acknowledged the force of this argument...

I find this instructive. In it we see Julius making 'source critical' decisions on the basis of linguistic and literary criteria! He was NOT content to accept 'tradition' but thought carefully and critically.

The second one--on how subsequent historians assessed/used him.

Again, from above we saw how he was used by ALL succeeding historians (e.g. Eusebius, Socrates), by even his contemporaries (e.g. Hippolytus), and that his work formed the foundation of medieval historiography . Even the comment adduced by Robin Lane Fox above supports his overall credibility.

A very important piece of data comes from the antagonist side! When one of the most effective critics of Christianity in the ancient world--Porphyry--decides to rebut Christianity, he picked Origen and Julius as his targets! What a compliment to their credibility.

The third one--on data from his actual works--can be seen by a simple survey of relevant quotes from his Chronicle. Let's look at several of these, and ask questions about their implications.

  • The Egyptians, indeed, with their boastful notions of their own antiquity, have put forth a sort of account of it by the hand of their astrologers in cycles and myriads of years; which some of those who have had the repute of studying such subjects profoundly have in a summary way called lunar years; and inclining no less than others to the mythical, they think they fall in with the eight or nine thousands of years which the Egyptian priests in Plato falsely reckon up to Solon. (I)

    Notice: (1) he does NOT dignify the Egyptian accounts with the title 'history' but with 'sort of account'; (2) he makes a pejorative statement about someone being 'inclined to the mythical', and (3) he compares this with a specific text in Plato. He certainly seems to be more interested in historical truth, than in mythology--a predisposition towards accuracy.

  • When men multiplied on the earth, the angels of heaven came together with the daughters of men. In some copies I found "the sons of God." What is meant by the Spirit, in my opinion, is that the descendants of Seth are called the sons of God..." (II)

    Notice: (1) He opts for a 'naturalistic' explanation of the Gen 6 passage over the 'supernatural' one; (2) He has compared source texts and found 'better' readings; and (3) he has couched his point of view with uncertainty (and humility)--"in my opinion", indicating that he observes a difference between fact and opinion.

  • And when the water abated, the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which we know to be in Parthia; but some say that they are at Celaenae of Phrygia, and I have seen both places. (IV)

    Notice: JA traveled to both sites, as a 'proper' historian was supposed to do. In this case, when the data was divided, he visited BOTH sites.

  • And some say that the staff of one of the angels who were entertained by Abraham was planted there. (X)

    Notice that JA is careful to qualify the remark with a 'some say' (= the modern 'allegedly'?), indicating an unconfirmed report. He took the time to make sure his reader was NOT misled as to the certainty of his source!

  • And after Ogygus, on account of the vast destruction caused by the flood, the present land of Attica remained without a king till the time of Cecrops, 189 years. Philochorus, however, affirms that Ogygus, Actaeus, or whatever fictitious name is adduced never existed. (XII)

    Notice: JA is careful to make sure his reader KNOWS where the uncertainty of the mythological lies, even citing the specific scholar who takes a very strong stance.

  • Up to the time of the Olympiads there is no certain history among the Greeks, all things before that date being confused and in no way consistent with each other. But these Olympiads were thoroughly investigated by many, as the Greeks made up the records of their history not according to long spaces, but in periods of four years. For which reason I shall select the most remarkable of the mythical narratives before the time of the first Olympiad, and rapidly run over them. But those after that period, at least those that are notable, I shall take together, Hebrew events in connection with Greek, according to their dates, examining carefully the affairs... (XIII.1)

    NOTICE: (1) He knows the difference between 'certain' and 'uncertain' history; (2) he values consistency of records/accounts; (3) he knows that 'many' have investigated the Greek history; (4) he knows of the Greek 'records' of their history; (5) he knows the difference between 'mythical' and 'non-mythical' narratives; (6) he knows to spend little time on the 'mythical' and to concentrate on those matters that have been more 'thoroughly investigated'; (7) he commits to 'examining carefully' the data. This sounds like careful historical method to me.

  • And after the 70 years of captivity, Cyrus became king of the Persians at the time of the 55th Olympiad, as may be ascertained from the "Bibliothecae" of Diodorus and the histories of Thallus and Castor, and also from Polybius and Phlegon, and others besides these, who have made the Olympiads a subject of study. For the date is a matter of agreement among them all. (XIII.2)

    Notice: (1) JA documents his statement, by citing some of the most important records of his time!; (2) he refers to 'others' meaning he even consulted OTHER resources as well; (3) he points out that they all agree--he knows that agreement of disparate sources is an important historical piece of evidence; (4) Diodorus, Castor, and Polybius are some of the biggest names in ancient Historiography! (Notice also that Thallus is included in this list). JA was certainly at home in the methods, records, and content of the major scholars in his field.

  • For these things are also recorded by the Athenian historians Hellanicus and Philochorus, who record Attic affairs; and by Castor and Thallus, who record Syrian affairs; and by Diodorus, who writes a universal history in his Bibliothecae; and by Alexander Polyhistr, and by some of our own time, yet more carefully...(XIII.3)

    Notice: (1) to the "who's who" list above is added Hellanicus, another 'big name' in ancient historiography; (2) he is aware of the fields of specialization of the scholars; (3) he is familiar with contemporary writers as well; (4) he indicates that his contemporaries have a greater methodological rigor; (5) Thallus is again mentioned, and contrasted with those of 'our own time.'

  • For Philochorus asserts that...Polemo, for instance, in the first book of his "Greek History," says...And Apion the son of Poseidonius, the most laborious of grammarians, in his book "Against the Jews," and in the fourth book of his "History," says that...And Herodotus also makes mention of this revolt...And Ptolemy the Mendesian, who narrates the history of the Egyptians from the earliest times, gives the same account of all these things... (XIII.6)

    Notice: (1) JA gives us a string of citations from the best practitioners of history, citing even the book and location in some cases--he KNEW the material; (2)he had NO QUALMS about using an 'enemy of the faith' (e.g. Apion) as a reliable source, even citing two different locations in his works(!)--no 'ostrich in the sand' Christian reader was he!

  • As far, then, as is in our power, we have taken the Scripture, I think, correctly; (XVIII.4)

    Notice: JA qualified his remark here with a "I think"--he knew and practiced the difference between fact and opinion.

    This seems quite rigorous and very 'modern' (in a positive sense, of course) to me. I find here a historian of immense scholarship--comfortable and competent in both ancient and contemporary works--with critical thinking skills, access to the best materials, ability to appraise his sources carefully, deeply sensitive to 'levels of certainty' in historical conclusions, and non-biased in his use of subject-matter experts.

    I am not sure what additional criteria could be advanced to argue that his value as a historian is low, and that his use of Thallus' work (and the quote) is somehow questionable. He demonstrates the highest standards of balanced scholarship and integrity I have seen among the ancient authors. [I find absolutely NO basis in the text for Grant's accusation that his Chronographies are 'full of mathematical symbolism and fantasy'! (cf. GRH:117). I am frankly puzzled at such a statement--having gone through this work many, many times during this writing...its ONLY 7 pages long! I would assume there are probably SOME problems in his writings, but to use the phrase "full of" is a gross exaggeration, bordering on misrepresentation.]

    Given the credentials of Julius Africanus, it seems unfounded that Africanus would use Phlegon uncritically. However, Carrier asserts that the reference to Phlegon may be a later interpolation which would, if true, explain why Phlegon, if unreliable as a historian, would be found in the text. Here is what Carrier writes concerning this:

    But Martin Routh noticed some telling details: the sentence mentioning Phlegon is grammatically and logically out of place.

    In Greek, new sentences are marked by certain special words, usually left untranslated, such as MEN or DE or OUN, etc. The Phlegon sentence is not marked. That is like not leaving a period at the end of the preceding sentence. Also, Africanus has just finished attacking Thallus' idea of a solar eclipse, yet here cites Phlegon favorably, who calls it the same exact thing. Moreover, the flow of thought is broken by this sentence. Africanus has begun a rhetorical argument with the phrase "let it be so," which is otherwise interrupted by interjecting a historical note about Phlegon. Remove that sentence (and the added "Clearly this is our eclipse!") and we have a continuous stream of thought that makes more sense. The Phlegon sentence, for all of these reasons, does not belong here.

    In fact, the phrase "Clearly this is our eclipse" (literally "clearly this is it") is a telltale sign of an interlinear note by some other scribe. It appears that some copyist was copying or reading this passage in either Africanus or Syncellus and remembered the Phlegon connection, writing it as a note to the side or in between the lines. A later copyist then mistook this marginal note as text to be re-inserted, since, not having erasers, scribes who forgot a line would add it in the margins or between the lines (if they noticed the error at all). This was very common in the transmission of ancient and medieval books. There was no standard rule for distinguishing between added notes and re-inserted text. Both were marked and written the same way, leading to many marginal notes being read as re-inserted text and many lines of re-inserted text being mistook for marginal notes. Without further data, we might say that Syncellus mistook the marginal note of a previous owner of his copy of Africanus, or made the note himself while a later copier of Syncellus mistook it as text, or that the note and the mistake happened entirely before or after the involvement of Syncellus. But since Syncellus immediately follows the Africanus quote with a passage from Eusebius which quotes Phlegon correctly, it is almost certainly the case that the Phlegon passage here was inserted after Syncellus. This is further supported by the extent of the insertion's inaccuracy, which looks more like something that appears in the work of Agapius in the 10th century, or in Michael the Syrian in the 12th century.

    We have another discrepancy here it seems. Notice that Carrier says that Africanus is citing Phlegon favorably whereas Miller above says that Africanus is attacking Phlegon for incompleteness. Carrier continues:

    This leads us to the most important reason for supposing this line to be an insertion by someone other than Africanus (or Syncellus): Phlegon almost certainly said no such thing. Eusebius quotes Phlegon verbatim (the only one to do so), and what Phlegon actually said is telling--the text is attested in Syncellus in the original Greek, but also in the Latin of Jerome, the Syrian epitome, and the Armenian:

    Jesus Christ..underwent his passion in the 18th year of Tiberius [32 AD]. Also at that time in another Greek compendium we find an event recorded in these words: "the sun was eclipsed, Bithynia was struck by an earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings fell." All these things happened to occur during the Lord's passion. In fact, Phlegon, too, a distinguished reckoner of Olympiads, wrote more on these events in his 13th book, saying this: "Now, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [32 AD], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour [noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea."

    This quotation shows that Phlegon did not mention Jesus in this context at all (he may still have mentioned him in some other obscure context, if we believe Origen).

    Yes, but how do we know that this is the only reference Phlegon made to the darkness? Notice also that it mentions the starting point(sixth hour) which corroborates the other potential quote by Phlegon referenced by Africanus and the Gospels themselves. Secondly, Carrier himself admits that “he may still have mentioned him in some other obscure context, if we believe Origen.” Why not believe Origen? He was a well respected Christian and very close to the events.

    Carrier continues:

    Rather, Phlegon merely recorded a great earthquake in Bithynia, which is on the coast of the Black Sea, more than 500 miles away from Jerusalem--so there is no way this quake would have been felt near the crucifixion--and a magnificent noontime eclipse, whose location is not clear. If the eclipse was also in Bithynia, as the Phlegon quote implies but does not entail, it also could not have been seen in Jerusalem, any more than partially, since the track of a total eclipse spans only 100 miles and runs from west to east (Jerusalem is due south).

    Here Carrier assumes that the eclipse was also in Bithynia. Plus, he seems to assume that it was a total eclipse even though Africanus shows that to be impossible. The only way this argument would work against the historicity of the darkness would be if it has a natural explanation. The position by Africanus was that it is supernatural which is also satisfactory to us. Secondly, while it seems unlikely that an earthquake in Jerusalem would have grand impact at a site 500 miles away, this is still a possibility that shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. Keep in mind as well the quote by Africanus, in that the earthquake DID occur in Judaea. Since Miller proves Africanus to be a very reliable historian, we can be confident that this earthquake was felt in Judaea as he records.

    In fact, the only coincidence with the gospel story is the year (although some modern scholars calculate the eclipse in question to have actually occurred in 29 AD) and time: it began at the sixth hour. Prigent suspects this last detail is a corruption by another scribe drawing from the gospel stories, although a noon eclipse is particularly startling and might get special mention (although the total eclipse would only occur at noon in one location--are we to suppose it was in Nicaea?). What is most important, however, is that Phlegon says nothing about the eclipse occuring during a full moon or lasting three hours (both physical impossibilities), yet these details are attributed to him in the lines added to Africanus. Clearly the quote has been altered over time.

    Once again the reader should be reminded that Carrier is assuming, based on his statements, that if the darkness did occur, it was an eclipse. The historicity of the event does not rest on whether or not the event has a naturalistic explanation, except for those who presuppose based on their anti-supernaturalistic biases that miracles are impossible.

    Africanus wrote in the early 3rd century. His contemporary, Origen, also cites Phlegon's mention of an earthquake and eclipse but does not repeat the exaggerations. Indeed, he expressly denies one of them in his commentary on Matthew, stating that "Phlegon, who mentioned an eclipse during the reign of Tiberius Ceasar, did not say that it happened during the full moon." This suggests that the exaggerated quote, which would surely have been seized upon as a valuable testimony, did not yet exist, in Africanus or anywhere else. But it appears in Agapius in the 10th century. And by the time of Michael the Syrian, in the 12th century, the Phlegon quote had already gone way over the top, to include the astonishing sentence: "the dead were resurrected, entered Jerusalem and said 'Woe to the Jews!'" Syncellus wrote in the 9th century. So a copier of his work who had also read Agapius probably put two and two together and gullibly added the note, which was eventually pulled into the text as copies continued to be made by other scribes.

    This is significant for the Thallus passage because it shows that another chronologer who did not mention Jesus was distorted and later believed to have mentioned him or events surrounding him. The same thing could have happened to Thallus.

    Carrier has a good point in the first paragraph above. There is a discrepancy between what Origen said and what Africanus states. Africanus says that Phlegon said that it occurred at full moon whereas Origen denies this.

    We move now to Carrier’s concluding comments:

    Eusebius, in the passage quoted above, cites "another" Greek historian as reporting the eclipse and earthquake in Bithynia in the year of the crucifixion. Was this Thallus? If so, then Thallus did not actually mention Jesus, and Africanus was clearly drawing his own conclusions. Indeed, if Thallus had mentioned Jesus, why wouldn't Eusebius quote so precious a source? Possibly because his Histories were lost, explaining why Eusebius only had a "brief compendium" to work from, which probably did not include this event (although he did have Africanus to consult). But if Eusebius had the right text at hand, another explanation for why he did not use it is that he did use it: the sentence quoted, after all, is exceptionally concise--exactly what we would expect from a "brief compendium."

    In the first sentence, Carrier seems to too quickly assume that “another” is referring to Thallus. The argument that Africanus was drawing his own conclusions seems to contradict the facts reported by Miller that he was a very careful historian.

    Although this would entail a corrupted date for the conclusion of that work, this is a tempting theory, especially since there are two other tantalizing details that might support the notion: first, the quoted passage of Africanus identifies the reference as the third book of the histories of Thallus, which, as many scholars have noted, nicely corresponds to the "three books" of the "brief compendium" listed by Eusebius. Second, his name might in fact have been written by Eusebius after all: the Greek now reads EN ALLOIC MEN ELLHNIKOIC UPOMNHMACIN, "in another Greek compendium," and the Latin and other versions say essentially the same thing, so if this was corrupted, the error had to have happened very early--but this is still possible. If so, it could have originally read EN THALLOY MEN ELLHNIKOIC UPOMNHMACIN, "in the Greek compendium of Thallus." The only changes required here are the loss of a single letter (theta), just as Hudson had supposed in the text of Josephus, and the mistaking of IC as Y, which is not impossible.

    It seems likely that even if the text as we have it is correct, Eusebius was thinking of Thallus, since he lists him as a source in the introduction which survives in the Armenian translation. If we accept this, then we must conclude that Thallus did not mention Jesus or the gospel tradition at all, since the quote is clearly devoid of any such references. On the other hand, it is also possible that Africanus was thinking of Phlegon, and simply wrote Thallus by mistake, confusing the two chronologers. We know from Eusebius (and from Origen) that Phlegon recorded the Bithynian earthquake and eclipse in the thirteenth book of his own work. This opens the possibility that the nice correspondence of "third book" and "three books" is a red herring, and in fact an error made by Africanus, or a later scribe who was fated to vex us. Thirteen would have been written TRITHI KAI DEKATHI, while three would have been written simply TRITHI. Africanus may have simply confused himself, or a scribe may have skipped over the KAI DEKATHI, as commonly happens: looking away to write and then returning to the text, seeing the second THI and mistaking it for the first before continuing to copy.

    Or, if the original text were alphanumeric, thirteen would have been IG' and three would have been G'. A mistake then would be even easier: letters were run together in ancient texts, and it would be easy to see (or think) ENIG'TWN and write ENG'TWN by mistake. If anything like this happened, then Africanus was thinking of the same reference to an eclipse that everyone else thought of--Origen, Philopon, Eusebius, Agapius, Michael, and the anonymous interpolator of Africanus or Syncellus--and, again, drawing his own conclusions about the correspondence with the death of Jesus, a conclusion that was also easily drawn by his contemporary, Origin. In support of this theory is the fact that even though Thallus is well known by Christian apologists, being cited by Eusebius, Theophilus, Lactantius, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Pseudo Justin, and Malalas, no one ever mentions his reference to Jesus or to any events of any kind after 109 BC. This is a very strange state of affairs--certainly such a juicy reference would have been quoted repeatedly and gleefully, not ignored.

    This leaves us with four options: Africanus meant Phlegon, not Thallus; or Eusebius quoted Thallus verbatim, revealing that Thallus did not mention Jesus; or Thallus mentioned Jesus, but wrote in the 2nd century, when we know the gospels were already in circulation; or Thallus mentioned Jesus and wrote in the 1st century, and is the earliest witness to the gospel tradition. Although all of these are possible, it is clear that any of the first three are more likely than the last one, since there are several facts which support each of them, but none which support the last one--in other words, it is a "mere" possibility, whereas the others actually have some arguments in their favor.

    Contrarily, Miller concludes:

    Well, frankly, I personally am quite surprised at where I ended up on this issue.

    I originally thought that I would end up saying that the Thallus' evidence for the death of Jesus was positive, but shaky at best, but my study has led me to a much stronger position. It seems clear to me now, in the context of the historiographical stature of both Thallus and Julius Africanus, that this early piece of scholarly evidence has EQUAL or GREATER credibility to even the official history of Tacitus or the official correspondence of Pliny (to be examined later).

    The reference to the miraculous darkness around the Crucifixion of my Lord--even documented as to the hours by Phlegon!--is powerful evidence not only for the 'existence of Jesus', but for the reliability of those portions of the gospel accounts that describe that phenomena. In the public records of the day, a "most fearful darkness" followed our rejection of the Light of the World. Remind you of today?


    After our survey of the arguments, a few conclusions can be drawn.

    1. It seems, for one, that Carrier’s assessment of Africanus “drawing his own conclusions” contradicts the fact that Africanus was held in such high regard as a historian. Plus, Miller makes the good point that Africanus was NOT, at least in this case, interested in theology but historical truth. Therefore, Africanus the historian was trying to prove that it was not an eclipse.
    2. Carrier, in his conclusion, argues that later Christian apologists besides Africanus would likely not pass up such a “juicy” quote if one existed. However, Miller’s analysis shows that it was likely taken as a FACT at that time that the darkness occurred and that the event was probably circulating among many historians at the time, that there were many alternative explanations for the phenomenon going around by non-Christians, and that the event may have been in the public archives! In light of this, it makes sense that something already taken as a fact at the time may not have been alluded to by other apologists.
    3. Carrier in several places seems to assume that it is a total eclipse even though that is not necessary for the darkness to have been historical.
    4. In light of the fact that Africanus was writing a historical document rather than a Christian apology, and that Africanus was a credentialed historian, the earthquake in Judaea as well as the supernatural darkness has reasonable historicity. Africanus, as a meticulous historian, would be unlikely to record such events in a document intended for history(not theology), based on his religious presuppositions.
    5. Carrier, to his credit, does pinpoint an interesting discrepancy in regards to the “full moon” from the testimonies of Africanus and Origen.
    6. Carrier also provides, what seems to be, at least on the surface, reasonable evidence that the quoting of Phlegon is a later interpolation, but in the canons of textual criticism, hard data is always preferred, and he does not have that.