(2)It is also related that Jesus introduced new teachings in Palestine (the location is given in another unquoted portion of Section II) and (3)that he was crucified because of these teachings. Jesus taught his followers certain doctrines, such as (4) all believers are brothers, (5)from the moment that conversion takes place and (6) after the false gods are denied (such as those of Greece).
46 Maier, First Easter, pp. 117–118.
47 Ibid., pp. 118–119.
48 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 108.
49 Tertullian, On Spectacles, 30.
50 Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11–13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4.
Additionally, these teachings included (7)worshiping Jesus and (8)living according to his laws. (9) Lucian refers to Jesus as a “sage,” which, especially in a Greek context, would be to compare him to the Greek philosophers and wise men.
Concerning Christians, we are told (10)that they are followers of Jesus who (11) believe themselves to be immortal. Lucian explains that this latter belief accounts for their contempt of death. (12)Christians accepted Jesus’ teachings by faith and
(13)practiced their faith by their disregard for material possessions, as revealed by the holding of common property among believers.
The portion of Lucian not quoted presents some additional facts. (14)The Christians had “sacred writings” which were frequently read. (15)When something affected their community, “they spare no trouble, no expense.” (16)However, Lucian notes that Christians were easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.^51 From Lucian, then, we learn a number of important facts about Jesus and early Christian beliefs. Many of these are not reported by other extra-New Testament beliefs. Mara Bar-Serapion
The British Museum owns the manuscript of a letter written sometime between the late first and third centuries AD. Its author was a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion, who was writing from prison to motivate his son Serapion to emulate wise teachers of the past:^52 What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.^53
From this passage we learn (1)that Jesus was considered to be a wise and virtuous man. (2)He is addressed twice as the Jews’ King, possibly a reference to Jesus’ own teachings about himself, to that of his followers or even to the wording on the titulusplaced over Jesus’ head on the cross. (3)Jesus was executed unjustly by the Jews, who paid for their misdeeds by suffering judgment soon afterward, probably at least as reference to the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman armies. (4)Jesus lived on in the teachings of the early Christians, which is an indication that Mara Bar-Serapion was almost certainly not a Christian. Rather, he follows Lucian and others in the popular comparison of Jesus to philosophers and other wise men in the ancient world.