Numerous ancient historians during and before Jesus lifetime

To encourage even more people to read the vital information contained in Echoes of Jesus, the next several blog posts will include modified excerpts from various chapters.

In this excerpt from Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? I have sought to engage with the common assumption that people who lived around the time of Jesus were unable to write accurate history. As a consequence of this, the small amount of literature that was produced is probably very inaccurate. One New York Times best selling author went so far as to say that those living at the time of Jesus had no notion of history being about verifiable events.

In the first chapter of my book, titled Writing history and creating libraries, I demonstrate that there existed people, during and before the time of Jesus, who were able to write reliable historical records. The research I conducted revealed that not only did such people exist, but that there were vast numbers of ancient historians. These historians were quite aware of the what was needed in order to write accurate history. In other words the study of how history is written, namely historiography, was already an ancient discipline by the time Jesus began teaching his disciples.

I hope you enjoy this brief look inside.

Vast Numbers of historians

At least 856 names of ancient Greek historians whose works have been mostly lost have been compiled based on ‘fragments of their works, whether in quotation and paraphrase, or through testimonia: that is, comments about their lives and writings’.[1] For example, the Latin author Aulus Gellius (born c. 125 AD) wrote a series of books called Attic Nights, which supplies:

valuable information in many fields of knowledge, and it contains extracts from a great number of Greek and Roman writers (275 are mentioned by name), the works of many of whom are otherwise wholly or in great part lost.[2]

Only the writings of six of the top-10 well-known ancient Greek historians have survived.[3] We know of the other four based on the mentions they receive in ancient writings. Between 323 BC and 146 BC (the Hellenistic age) many histories consisted of 30 volumes or more.[4] The writing of history continued after the birth of Christianity, and in geographically diverse regions.

The books of Appian of Alexandria (c. 95–165 AD) in Greece can still be read today, as can the books of Cassius Dio (c. 163–235 AD) from the Roman province of Bithynia in present-day Turkey.[5]

These are a few examples of the history books produced in ancient times:

·    Polybius of Megalopolis (203–120 BC) wrote about the history of the Mediterranean. Although his publication only covered the period 264–145 BC, it consisted of 40 books.[6]

·    The Syrian called Nicholas of Damascus (born c. 64 BC) wrote a world history comprising 144 books.[7]

·    Livy (c. 59 BC to 17 AD) wrote a history of Rome called From the Founding of the City, which consisted of 142 books. It might be conjectured by some that these were small books. However, some simple calculations estimated that in book 10 alone there are over 24,600 words.[8] To help put this in perspective, the book you are reading now consists of about 105,000 words exclusive of the footnotes.

·    The Jewish historian Josephus (37 AD to c. 100 AD) wrote several books, The Antiquities of the Jews being his largest and containing approximately 360,000 words.[9]

·    The Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56 AD to c. 125 AD) wrote two major historical works, The Annals being his latest although in reality it was a prequel to his Histories. The two of them together comprised about 30 books. Although most of The Annals have been lost (four complete books and part of four others survive), this series originally consisted of at least 16 books and book 1 alone consists of approximately 13,000 words.[10]

I hope this extract entices you to purchase Echoes of Jesus. Check out Echoes of Jesus.comvfor where to buy ebook and paperback versions. Readers living in Australia can purchase paperback versions from Koorong bookshops spread throughout the country, and from Christian Supplies in Brisbane.


[1] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, in The Greek Historians, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 106.

[2] Gellius, The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius: with an English Translation by John C Rolfe, vol. 1, William Heinemann, London, 1970, pp. xvi–xvii.

[3] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, pp. 105–6.

[4] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, pp. 107–8.

[5] Bithynia would now be part of central and northern Turkey.

[6] TJ Luce, ‘Polybius’, in The Greek Historians, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 123.

[7] S Bowman, ‘Josephus in Byzantium’, in LH Feldman & G Hata (eds), Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1987, p. 367.

[8] This is based on the English translation edited by Rev Canon Roberts as found on Tufts University’s Perseus Digital Library (, where I calculated the number of words in the first 10 chapters, and then noted that there were 47 chapters.

[9] This is based on The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged Translated by William Whiston, Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts, 1989. I calculated the number of words in the preface (excluding footnotes of the translator), noted that there were 515 pages and then subtracted 5% to be conservative in allowing for variable lengths of footnotes made by the translators.

[10] This word count based on The Annals by Tacitus: Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, accessed from on 6/04/2008.

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