Some of you may be familiar with the argument from silence advanced by many mythicists in which it is claimed that the historians of the early first century never mentioned Jesus.
Patently false claim. Two historians from the first century who record events of the first century Judaea mention Jesus â€“ i.e. Tacitus and Josephus.
One person in particular who might be expected to have mentioned Jesus is Philo of Alexandria.
Using your reasoning we must also conclude Christians didnâ€™t exist either since Philo fails to mention them.
For an argument from silence to carry weight it's not enough to simply argue something/someone wasn't mentioned. There are many reasons why something/someone may not be mentioned. You have to establish why we would expect Philo to mention Jesus if he knew about him. And the location Philo should have mentioned Jesus.
Philo wasnâ€™t writing a history of first century Judaea. Although Philo does, for example, mention Pilate (in his Embassy to Gaius
) he does so in context to his overall argument regarding the plight of the Jews. How would Jesus, a rebellious blaspheming messiah claimant crucified at the request of the Jews and for treason by the Romans, have fit in or helped Philoâ€™s case here? Assuming Philo was around at the time of Jesus and did know about him, Philo probably didnâ€™t mentioned Jesus for the same reason he didnâ€™t mention Christians. Because they, along with Jesus, were known to be a trouble making Jewish cult and bringing them up would only hurt Philoâ€™s case, not help it.
Was Jesus so small-time that nobody bothered to write about him while he yet lived, or was he such a powerful, big-time figure that many years after his death he was deified?
It depends upon the perspective from which one asks. Think of it from the other way. Why didnâ€™t the followers of Jesus (or Jews in general) write lengthy biographies about Pilate or Tiberius? Well, why would they? Romans wrote about Romans. Jews wrote about Jews and so on.
From a Roman perspective Jesus was a troublesome Jew convicted and crucified for treason. Hardly worthy of more than a mere derogatory mention; a happenstance remark as the result of recording other more important events. Which is exactly what we get from Tacitus in regards to mentioning Jesus.
From a Jewish (i.e. the non-believing Jews) perspective Jesus was just another failed messiah claimant. And a troublesome blaspheming one at that. Again, not worth much more than a mention in this regard which is basically what Jesus gets from Josephus.
From the perspective of Jesusâ€™ followers he was the unique Son of God. Which would explain why we have four ancient biographies all within 70 years. And numerous letters and so on.
Lukeâ€™s opening words in his Gospel are also suggestive here. He tells us that, â€œmany have undertaken to set down an orderly account.â€� Was Luke referring to Mark's Gospel (and maybe Matthew)? Or perhaps something like Q? It seems unlikely Luke had just one or two written narratives in mind when he said â€œmany.â€� So how many is many? Well, we donâ€™t know. But it seems likely that by â€œmanyâ€� Luke meant more than Mark and Matthew.