Tertullian’s account claims (4)that Tiberius actually brought details of Christ’s life before the Roman Senate, apparently for a vote of approval. The Senate then reportedly spurned Tiberius’ own vote of approval, which engendered a warning from the emperor not to attempt actions against Christians. As noted by Bruce, this incident, which Tertullian apparently accepts as accurate, is quite an improbable occurrence. It is difficult to accept such an account when the work reporting it is about 170 years later than the event, with seemingly no good intervening sources for such acceptance.^83

It should be noted that the Acts of Pilatereferred to here should not be confused with later fabrications by the same name, which may certainly have been written to take the place of these records which were believed to exist.

There may well have been an original report sent from Pilate to Tiberius, containing some details of Jesus’ crucifixion. In spite of this, it is questionable if Justin Martyr and Tertullian knew what any possible report contained. Although the early Christian writers had reason to believe such a document existed, evidence such as that found in the reference to Thallus is missing here. In particular, there are no known fragments of the Acts of Pilateor any evidence that it was specifically quoted by another writer. Additionally, it is entirely possible that what Justin thought original was actually a concurrent apocryphal gospel.^84 At any rate, we cannot be positive as to this purported imperial document. Like the Gnostic sources, we therefore are cautious in our use of this source.

Phlegon

The last reference to be discussed in this chapter is that of Phlegon, whom Anderson describes as “a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian who was born about AD 81 Justin Martyr, First Apology, XLVIII. 82 Tertullian, Apology, V. 83 See Bruce, New Testament Documents, p. 116, for an analysis of Tertullian’s statement. 84 Daniel-Rops, “Silence of Jesus’ Contemporaries,” p. 14. 80.”^85 Phlegon’s work is no longer in existence and we depend on others for our information.

Origen records the following: Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events (although falling into confusion about some things which refer to Peter, as if they referred to Jesus), but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions.^86 So Phlegon mentioned that Jesus made predictions about future events that had been fulfilled.

Origen adds another comment about Phlegon: And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place, Phlegon too, I think, has written in the thirteenth or fourteenth book of his Chronicles.^87

Julius Africanus agrees on the last reference to Phlegon, adding a bit more information: “Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth to the ninth hour.”^88

Origen provides one other reference, this time actually quoting Phlegon on the subject of the resurrection: “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.”^89