51 These additional facts are found in Lucian, ibid., 12–13.
52 Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 30.
53 British Museum, Syriac Manuscript, Additional 14,658. For this text, see Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 31.
As Bruce notes, some of Mara Bar-Serapion’s material concerning Athens and Samos is quite inaccurate.^54 Yet the statements about Jesus do not appear to be flawed and thus add to our extra-New Testament data about him. Gnostic Sources
This category of extra-New Testament sources is different from all the others in that these works often at least make the claim to be Christian. Although scholars still debate the question of the origin of Gnosticism, it is generally said to have flourished mainly from the second to the fourth centuries AD. It is from four, second century documents that we get the material for this section. While it is possible that there are other Gnostic sources as old or older than the four used here, these have the advantage both of being better established and of claiming to relate facts concerning the historical Jesus, many of which are not reported in the Gospels.
However, it must be admitted that this group of writers was still more influenced by the New Testament writings than the others in this chapter. Yet, although many of the ideas in these four books are Christian, Gnosticism in many of its forms and teachings was pronounced heretical and viewed as such by the church. Hence we are discussing such material in this chapter.
The Gospel of Truth
This book was possibly written by the Gnostic teacher Valentinus, which would date its writing around AD 135–160. If not, it was probably at least from this school of thought and still dated in the second century AD.^55 Unlike some Gnostic works, The Gospel of Truthaddresses the subject of the historicity of Jesus in several short passages. It does not hesitate to affirm that the Son of God came in the flesh. The author asserts that “the Word came into the midst . . . it became a body.”^56 Later he states: For when they had seen him and had heard him, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father . . . . For he came by means of fleshly appearance.^57 From these two quotations this book indicates (1)that Jesus was the Son of God, the Word and (2)that he became a man and took on an actual human body which could be perceived by all five senses. (3)We are also told that he instructed his listeners about his Father.