Answering the philo Argument

excavation of house discovered in Nazareth. 2009

All arguments the Jesus mythers use are arguments from silence. The idea that there is no proof for Jesus historicity, therefore we can't believe in  it, that is argument from silence (AFS). The opposite is the case, Jesus' historical existence is accepted by historians as a fact, therefore, the myther has the burden to prove he did not exist. History says he did. The mythers have a few arguments that appear on the surface like positive evidence, they assert that they are. It's very important to quash them.

One such argument says that a long string of major writers of Jesus' days did not mention him. I am going to look at the way two different mythers use this argument. These guys are not famous but I have seen both used quoted agaisnt me in argument a couple of times.The first one is on the atheist echo chamber "read it" by a guy called Jim Jones who I trade insults with regularly on Secular Out Post. He is a typical mocker, and a Dawkamentalkst.[1].

The argument presents a long string of writers who don't mention Jesus:

The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:Josephus, Philo-Judaeus, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Quintilian, Lucanus, Epictetus, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Hermogones, Valerius Maximus, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Appian, Theon of Smyrna, Phlegon, Pompon Mela, Quintius Curtius, Lucian, Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus, Florus Lucius, Favorinus, Phaedrus, Damis, Aulus Gellius, Columella, Dio Chrysostom, Lysias, Appion of Alexandria.(Ibid)

That looks so very impressive. Just a couple of thing before I begin showing how utterly useless this argument is. (1) This argument is clearly  AFS. Not that this is a fallacy per se, but it doesn't prove anything. This is especially so when one can show why the silence is there. We can show why these guys would not mention Jesus even if everything in the NT is true. (2) Atheists assume that if Jesus really worked miracles he would be made world famous, in his own day that is a fallacious assumption. Let's look at the way two mythers use this argument, First, nearly everyone beveled in the possibility of miracles in that day. Not that they would not have been amazed to see one but they were not as skeptical as we are. That does not mean they would automatically assume any claim of a miracle but it does mean with a host of other wonder workers being talked about guys in far away Rome would not take notice of a wonder worker in Palestine.

On Tekton apologetic J.P. Holding (our fellow cadrist) discusses why Jesus would not be mentioned by Roman writers. Notice most of the writers on Jone's list are Roman:

As far as the historians of the day were concerned, he was just a "blip" on the screen. Jesus was not considered to be historically significant by historians of his time. He did not address the Roman Senate, or write extensive Greek philosophical treatises; He never travelled outside of the regions of Palestine, and was not a member of any known political party. It is only because Christians later made Jesus a "celebrity" that He became known.
Sanders, comparing Jesus to Alexander, notes that the latter "so greatly altered the political situation in a large part of the world that the main outline of his public life is very well known indeed. Jesus did not change the social, political and economic circumstances in Palestine (Note: It was left for His followers to do that!) ..the superiority of evidence for Jesus is seen when we ask what he thought." [Sand.HistF, 3]Harris adds that "Roman writers could hardly be expected to have foreseen the subsequent influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire and therefore to have carefully documented" Christian origins. How were they to know that this minor Nazarene prophet would cause such a fuss?
Jesus was executed as a criminal, providing him with the ultimate marginality. This was one reason why historians would have ignored Jesus. He suffered the ultimate humiliation, both in the eyes of Jews (Deut. 21:23 - Anyone hung on a tree is cursed!) and the Romans (He died the death of slaves and rebels.).
On the other hand, Jesus was a minimal threat compared to other proclaimed "Messiahs" of the time. Rome had to call out troops to quell the disturbances caused by the unnamed Egyptian referenced in the Book of Acts [Sand.HistF, 51] . In contrast, no troops were required to suppress Jesus' followers.To the Romans, the primary gatekeepers of written history at the time, Jesus during His own life would have been no different than thousands of other everyday criminals that were crucified.
Jesus marginalized himself by being occupied as an itinerant preacher. Of course, there was no Palestine News Network, and even if there had been one, there were no televisions to broadcast it. Jesus never used the established "news organs" of the day to spread His message. He travelled about the countryside, avoiding for the most part (and with the exception of Jerusalem) the major urban centers of the day. How would we regard someone who preached only in sites like, say, Hahira, Georgia?
Jesus' teachings did not always jibe with, and were sometimes offensive to, the established religious order of the day. It has been said that if Jesus appeared on the news today, it would be as a troublemaker. He certainly did not make many friends as a preacher.Jesus lived an offensive lifestyle and alienated many people. He associated with the despised and rejected: Tax collectors, prostitutes, and the band of fishermen He had as disciples.esus was a poor, rural person in a land run by wealthy urbanites. Yes, class discrimination was alive and well in the first century also![2]

Jones says of his list: "Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ. " [3] Notice he lumps in both Josephus passages as "forgery." This is ludicrous when the less quoted "bother passage" is not even accused of being a forgery. In his debate with me on Josephus's brother passage Bradely Bowen (one of the best thinners at SOP and far better than Jones) could not quote a single scholar who said so, nor did he present any argumnet about forgery,[4] 

Not to mention the fact that the assertion of complete forgery for the TF. Josephus' major passage about Jesus is rejected by the consensus in the field of real historical scholarship and the arguments exist to blow the mythers away on it. [5]

Apart from Josephus the major guy in the list is Philo, He was a Jew in the time of Christ.The Romans had no reason to care about Jesus but Philo may have. Yet, there are good reasons why he did not deal with him. Jones asserts that Philo lived in Jerusalem when Jesus was there. "He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem." [6] He is wrong in assuming that Philo was living in Jerusalem and that he was there strait through Jesus whole life. Philo lived in Alexandria and he spent a good deal of his time in Rome. He only visited Jerusalem one  time. Moreover he did not live long after the time of Jesus, he died in 40 in AD. [7] 

As for the argument on slaughter of the innocents, this event would not have been any more compelling or earth shattering than any of the other slaughters and moral outrages perpetrated by Herod. First of all the number of children killed would have been quite small, on the order of a dozen or two dozen, as recounted by famous historian Paul Maier[8] Maier gives a long list of Hreod's atrocities. The last was the same year of Jesus' birth 4 BC where he had thousands of Jewish leaders slaughtered. [9] There is no real reason why the incidente in Bethlehem should standout in anyone's mind. As for the Triumphal entry there is no way to prove that Philo was in Jerusalem for that.

Kenneth Humphreys also makes the argument that Philo didn't mention Jesus. [10] This is the same genius who founded the Paul myther movement, which I tore apart on [CADRE] blog a year or more ago,.He says:
As it happens, we have an excellent witness to events in Judaea and the Jewish diaspora in the first half of the first century AD: Philo of Alexandria (c25 BC-47 AD).
Philo was an old man when he led an embassy from the Jews to the court of Emperor Gaius Caligula. The year was 39-40 AD. Philo clearly, then, lived at precisely the timethat "Jesus of Nazareth" supposedly entered the world to a chorus of angels, enthralled the multitudes by performing miracles, and got himself crucified.Philo was also in the right place to give testimony of a messianic contender. A Jewish aristocrat and leader of the large Jewish community of Alexandria, we know that Philo spent time in Jerusalem (On Providence) where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. His brother, Alexander the "alabarch" (chief tax official), was one of the richest men in the east, in charge of collecting levies on imports into Roman Egypt. Alexander's great wealth financed the silver and gold sheathing which adorned the doors of the Temple (Josephus, War 5.205). Alexander also loaned a fortune to Herod Agrippa I (Antiquities 18). (Ibid)
We know from the Hiller article (op cit) that He did not live in Jerusalem and he only went there once, (EN7)(There is a reason why he;s called"of Alexandria."). He may have heard of Jesus since he clearly craved the company of Roman elites he may have found Jesus embarrassing. There's no way they can prove he was in Jerusalem during times of High Jesus visibility such as the triumphal entry. It is their burden of proof because they seek to eliminate the established fact of history. So the argument from silence about Philo is of no consequence. Now he says Philo had contact with the Royal House of Judea, That is Herod that means he murdered Jesus' cousin and tried to murder Jesus as an infant. Thus discussion of the Nazerath boys would probably be a black card topic at table with  Herod. Especially True since Maier  says the pattern for Herod was fear of opposite murder of opponent followed by more depression and more fear more murder,,(op cit EN8). Might not be a real good idea to remind him of killing them and John Jesus' cousin. I can just hear the Judea brothers discussion dinner at Herod's "Now brother don't make the homicidal dictator mad." Might be a good reason to leave that scruphy preacher guy Jesus out of the next book.

What Humphreys says about Alexander, Philo's brother,  and his wealth as chief tax collector. Not only would he be hated by the people but also would have reason to fear Jesus since he was popular among the rebels, was himself poor, and seemed to say things encouraging to the poor such as that they  are blessed.Thus he carried an overtone of class conflict. At least it's a reason why Philo would find him uninteresting. Jesus railed against money changers  said a rich man can';t enter heaven any more easily than a camel can traverse the eye of a needle, so there was a lot lot of motivation for Philo to either just not take an interest est or avoid discussion of him.,

At best the philo argumemt is an argument from silence and proves nothing. In the context of the Jesus mytherism issue the Philo argumemt fails to qualify as positive evidence against the existence of Jesus. Jesus' historicity is established historical fact,


all on line sources accessed 5/6/17

[1] Jim Jones, "The Silence of Comteproary Wrioters,"  Read it  (21 Dec 2014) (archive)
URL:  (accessed 5/4/17).

[2] J.P. Holding, "General Thoughts on Jesus  Not Existing," Tekton Apologetic, website on line
(accessed 5/4/17)

Meier's Marginal Jew and Harris' Three Crucial Questions About Jesus.

[3]  Jones op cit]

[4] Bowen/Hinman Debate: Josephus (the brother passage), on Religious a priori: Jesus and Bible
Debate between Joseph Hinman and Bradley Bowen

Index for the full debate: Hinman/Bowen Debate om Jesus historicity

[5] Joseph Hinman, "Josephus. Secular and Jewish Historians," Religious a priori  website URL:

[6] Jones op cit

[7] Marian Hillar, "Philo of Alexandria. 20BCE-40CE" Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (peer reviewed) website URL

Hillar is with the Center for Philosophy and Socinian Studies

[8] Paul Maier, quoted in "Did Herod Really Kill Baby Boys?" Ask Pastor John Interview with 
 Senior writer,
"Paul Maier, a widely respected historian, in what will be a little longer of an episode than usual. Until his retirement, Maier served as the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University. And he is the author of many fictional books and many non-fiction books including In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church, as well as several books for children, including, The Very"

[9] Ibid.

[10] Kenneth Humphreys, "Witness to Jesus? Philo of Alexandria." Jesus Never Existed 2006 websiote URL:


David Madison said…
Nice work, Joe. The problem with arguments from silence can be summed up in one word: ASYMMETRY. There is an asymmetrical relation between evidence and the absence of evidence. Consider the following statement. The crime scene was 99.99% free of the suspect's fingerprints. So we have 99.99% silence versus 0.01% evidence. Things are looking good for the suspect, right? In fact, things are looking very bad for the suspect.

We all understand that tiny scraps of evidence can outweigh an ocean of silence. And we also understand that in most cases there is no obligation to explain silence. The Prosecution don't have to explain why the crime scene is 99.99% free of the suspect's fingerprints.

Those who try to use arguments from silence are the ones who are obliged to show that the argument is valid. And since in this case we are dealing with a 2000-year-old crime scene and therefore expect the evidence to be fragmentary, there is a very heavy obligation for the person using an argument from silence to show that it is valid.

David Madison

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