Talk:List of biblical figures identified in extra-biblical sources

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This page would be more useful if it included where the extrabiblical mentions were? Texts, inscriptions, monuments? Rmhermen 13:26, May 2, 2005 (UTC)

Definitely, this is just a stub so far. The plan:
  • Complete the list
  • Add info what the extra-Biblical sources are.
  • Info on where in the Bible they are mentioned, perhaps just a verse in the case of obscure minor figures.
  • Divide the list up according to type of source?
    • Cases of identification in archaeological evidence that prove a Biblical figures existence beyond doubt.
    • Cases where its pretty clear that an historical figure is intended but it is uncertain who as in the case of Ahasuerus of Esther identified with numerous Persian kings in different theories
    • Cases where it is definitely a Biblical figure being mentioned and the reference is not purely based on the Biblical account but where the extra-Biblical source does not carry any more historical weight than the Bible, e.g Moses in Artapanas.
    • Cases of tentative identifications like Marduka in Xerxes I court = Mordecai.
    • Cases of tentative identifications that even if correct are insufficient to prove historicity of a figure e.g David in the Tel Dan stele, land of Jacob, land of Joseph in Egyption inscriptions.

Kuratowski's Ghost 21:42, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

I would say cases of a bulla saying "X son of Y" fall rather emphatically into the last category: "tentative identifications that even if correct are insufficient to prove historicity of a figure". Mere coincidence of names can surely not be ruled out for such tiny amounts of data. - Mustafaa 23:02, 31 May 2005 (UTC)
I've been thinking about this, not too certain in my own mind how definite such identifications are. Will chop the list up into categories soon (if someone else doesn't get to do it before me, I'm meant to be working, not editing wikipedia ;) Kuratowski's Ghost 23:20, 31 May 2005 (UTC)
Actually I'd put these in the second last category, as they would prove historicity if shown to be correct by other evidence. The last category would be more like the possible reading "field of Abraham" in the Shoshenq inscription. Even if it is correct, it is non-contemporary and so it does not prove the existence of Abraham, merely that a field was named after him regardless of whether he was mythical or historical. Kuratowski's Ghost 01:06, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Biblical and Extra-Biblical[edit]

We also need to be clear on what constitutes "Biblical" vs "extra-Biblical". For "Biblical figures" I propose anyone mentioned in the Old Testament, New Testament as well as the deuterocanonicals as there are some interesting historical figures in the latter particularly in Maccabees. For "extra-Biblical" I would say anything other than "Biblical" but _excluding_ material which has the "Biblical" material as its source (e.g most of Josephus) or which is part of the body of traditions surrounding the "Biblical material" (i.e Talmud, Midrash, writings of the Church fathers, Koran, Roman references to Judaeo-Christian traditions e.g. Tacitus). Kuratowski's Ghost 01:06, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Need to re-design this article[edit]

Posted on the talk page of Kuratowski's Ghost on 10 August 2006: Need to re-design the article "List of Biblical figures identified in extra-Biblical sources"

In recognition of your diligent work on this fledgling article from the very beginning, Mr. Kuratowski's Ghost, I would like to at least describe to you the thorough re-design I would like to propose before doing anything about it. Here are a few points that come to mind at _prima vista_:

1. Your separation of Biblical figures who are unambiguously identified in contemporary sources from those who are only tentatively identified shows sensitivity to the gradations of strength or weakness of such identifications and _should_be_preserved_.

2. Provenanced materials excavated under controlled conditions must be treated separately from unprovenanced materials that have appeared on the antiquities market. This is simply to separate materials whose authenticity is generally beyond reproach from materials whose authenticity is unknown, i.e., potential forgeries. Possible forgery of unprovenanced materials has been arguably the hottest issue surrounding the study of inscriptions since about late 2002 or early 2003, with the filing of lawsuits against antiquities dealers in Israel. Of course, this issue also extends to fakery, i.e., modern alteration of ancient materials such as the modern inscribing of ancient-looking letters on a genuinely ancient potsherd to create a faked ostracon. (See the article that accepts the "three shekels" ostracon in _Biblical Archaeology Review_ (ca. 2002?), followed by the article on it in _Israel Exploration Journal_ in early 2005, which includes technical analysis demonstrating it to be faked.)

3. While the article still includes names that have not yet been placed into the appropriate category, such names should be listed (with their accompanying data) in a "yet to be classified" section, rather than left sitting in the list of the "unambiguously identified." It was easy to spot some that certainly do not meet the requirements of this category, e.g., Jezebel, King Ahab's queen, in an unprovenanced, carved stone seal that contains only the name, apparently without the initial _aleph_ in the Biblical spelling (unless it was chipped off). In the first place, it is relatively easy to forge a stone seal, and then, even if it were shown to be authentic, the name alone is insufficient evidence to establish an identification. There is no other identifying information beyond that found in the fact that it is a scaraboid and whatever can be learned from the letter shapes (approximate date and "nationality").

I have spent more than a decade working to evaluate potential identifications of Biblical figures in Hebrew, Aramaic, Ammonite, Moabite, and other inscriptions, using the original languages and the scripts found on the inscriptions themselves, as photographed or sketched, so I hope you will take this suggestion seriously (see under "Mykytiuk" in the "For further reading" section of the article on the "Mesha Stele") If I had not done this homework, I would probably have remained interested but silent. I sense that it might be against the Wiki-rules to mention my homework, but I mention it only to insure a serious hearing, rather than to deny that to anyone else. Lawrencemykytiuk 16:53, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Moving the unclassifieds to a separate section would be the first step. Kuratowski's Ghost 23:10, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Agree, though this discussion is quite old, these issues are still not quite resolved. A major rewrite/reorganisation is necessary. I have started a page in my user-space to work on this article (anyone may contribute to this by the way). This list-article is, I think, quite different from most lists because much in this area is disputed, therefore every single item in the list should have at least one reference. I plan to do the following:
- Provide a reliable inline citation/source that confirms the identification in contemporary non-biblical sources for each person in this list.
- In case such a source cannot be found, the person will be deleted from the list, or, intitially, placed in an 'unclassifieds' section.
- I may add additional biblical figures, but only after I find a reliable source.
All help is welcome, including suggestions for people not yet included in this list. I noticed for instance that even David is not mentioned here and there may be many more. scrap that, Tel Dan and Mesha Stele are not contemporary Lindert (talk) 18:35, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
I updated the page with many references. 9 names were removed, and some were moved to different section. See page for details on removed names. Thus far I have only checked the 'Hebrew Bible' section. Considering that the 'New Testament' has exactly zero references, there is still some work to do.

"Hebrew Bible"[edit]

What specific scriptures is this supposed to be? (talk) 18:15, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

The Hebrew Bible is in its contents identical to the Jewish Tanakh, these are also the books of the old testament as accepted by most protestants. As its name suggests, all were written in Hebrew or (partly) in a related language such as Aramaic or Chaldean. The names of the included books in English are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Lindert (talk) 18:35, 26 April 2010 (UTC)

Irrelevant Citation in "New Testament"[edit]

The problematic citation:

Bockmuehl, Markus N. A., The Cambridge companion to Jesus, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 124 [1] "The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (...) seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score"

I find this citation to be grossly out of context, and its use to be purposefully misleading. By itself, it seems to be talking about more than one non-Christian source, but in fact, this is from a larger passage about the Testimonium Flavianum attributed to Josephus, and the "non-Christian evidence" supposedly referred to is merely the parts of the passage that aren't obvious Christian forgeries:

"This so-called Testimonium Flavianum has given rise to enormous debate (cf. also p. 89 above). There is little doubt that it cannot have been written by Josephus in its present form: the language is too explicitly Christian for that. Many have therefore argued that the whole paragraph is a secondary addition to the text of Josephus, added by Christian scribes. However, others have argued that, if one deletes the most obviously Christian phrases (those in italics above), then the rest of the passage can be plausibly read as stemming from Josephus. If so, the text may provide further evidence from a non-Christian source for Jesus' existence and his crucifixion under Pilate (along with the witness that he had a following and was credited with performing miracles).

"All this does at least render highly implausible any far-fetched theories that even Jesus' very existence was a Christian invention. The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (for whatever reason) and that he had a band of followers who continued to support his cause, seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score."

The author is claiming that, since the portions which aren't obvious Christian forgeries seem more believably non-Christian, they are likely authentic. That is the real significance of the last sentence, and its out-of-context use in the citation transforms it into something else. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Blueaster (talkcontribs) 09:38, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

You are mistaken, the "Non-Christian evidence" referred to here is not only the Testimonium Flavianum. On page 123, the author states: "There is a very small amount of Non-Christian evidence, and it is that which I will consider first". Immediately after, the section "Non-Christian evidence" begins. It briefly discusses three lines of evidence: Rabbinical evidence, Tacitus and Josephus. From Josephus not only the Testimonium Flavianum, but also the smaller passage mentioning 'James the brother of Jesus, who is called Christ'. Note that this passage, as well as Tacitus' and the rabbinical sources are not disputed. In context, the "all this" clearly refers to all three witnesses discussed in the preceding two pages, especially considering that it is the final statement in the section "Non-Christian evidence". -- Lindert (talk) 10:11, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

On what the authentic 1st and 2nd century documents mention:

The cited portions of Levine (HJiC) and Stanton (GaJ) establish the scholarly conensus on Jesus' historicity, but aren't relevant to the content of the "historical documents" themselves. Bockmuehl (Cambridge Companion) does mention "Rabbinic evidence" but he admits they are late (4th century). He claims they "may preserve earlier traditions", but this is not relevant to what this source is being used to verify. I based my wording off of the summary given of Tacitus' mention of Jesus (which is more concerned with the name of his followers), along with Jospephus' mention of James as his brother, which also notes that Jesus was "called Christ"). I think framing the mention in a manner closer to the primary sources mentioned by this essay is appropriate for the context, which is concerning the documentary evidence. I must mention here that, so far, this source only mentions 1 first century document (Antiquities), and 1 second century document (Annals), and does not mention any other documents or sources, only "traditions" from this era. Which makes the numerical aspects of stating "some authentic first century and many second century writings exist" problematic. Blueaster (talk) 18:32, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

The problem with using Tacitus' terminology is that it ignores everything else. Josephus calls him 'Jesus, who is called Christ', then we have Paul and the authors of Hebrews and the synoptic Gospels, who use 'Jesus', 'Jesus Christ', 'Christ' or 'the Lord Jesus'. Peter, James and Jude, all of whom use 'Jesus Christ', then we have Clement, who uses 'Jesus Christ'
So far, I have listed 10 authors generally accepted to be from the first century, who use the name Jesus Christ, in which Christ is clearly a title, and Jesus the actual name. Then from the second century we have Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and many apocryphal works, all of whom also use 'Jesus Christ'. So the sentence is certainly right, 'some' is actually 10 or more, most of which are of course Christian works, but that does not exclude them from historical significance. From the second century, I think I could easily document a few dozen authors who mentioned Jesus, but including Tacitus and Suetonius I have now named 6. John may be first or second century. In addition we have many anonymous authors, e.g. of the Gospel of James, Gospel of Thomas, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas etc. I'd say the terminology used is rather modest in describing the mountain of writings we have even from the first two centuries. -- Lindert (talk) 20:24, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

Correct Punctuation[edit]

The words Biblical and Bible in every English country is spelt with a capital B. This article should reflect normal English usage. The koran/quran is respecte dhere with capitals, why does Wikipedia have a bias? (talk · contribs)

This isn't about punctuation, but never mind. When 'Bible' refers to the title of a book, we capitalise it. When it is just the word 'bible', we don't. In either case it's a noun. Biblical is not a noun, it's an adjective and we don't capitalise adjectives except of course where they are at the start of a sentence or part of a title. This is normal English usage and also part of our manual of style. You will find some usages of 'Biblical' that don't follow this, but I think many more that do. Dougweller (talk) 13:08, 28 May 2012 (UTC)


Is the Deir Alla Inscription enough to include Balaam from Numbers 22-24 in this list? (talk) 04:50, 21 March 2013 (UTC)

No, the current criteria for inclusion are that the person must be "unambiguously identified in contemporary sources". This requires 3 things:
1) It must be clear that the source refers to the same person as the Bible does
2) The source must be genuine (not a modern forgery)
3) The source must come from the same time period as the Biblical person would have lived.
In the case of the Deir Alla Inscription, the first two criteria are satisfied, but the third is not. The inscription is dated to the 9th or 8th century BC, but Balaam in the Bible is contemporary with Moses, so he would have lived in the 15th century BC (or, according to some theories the 13th century BC). So there is a time gap of (at the very least) 400 years between Balaam and the Deir Alla Inscription. Nevertheless, it remains a fascinating discovery, particularly because the Deir Alla Inscription comes from a non-Jewish/Hebrew context. - Lindert (talk) 09:23, 21 March 2013 (UTC)


The patriarch Noah is also mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon and Norse kings genealogies. -- (talk) 22:39, 31 December 2013 (UTC)