Phlegon of Tralles on the passion phenomena.

As cited by various Christian authorities.


One of the ancient pagan testimonia. Also refer to the Thallus testimonium.

There is a solid discussion of the following texts by Richard Carrier available online at the Internet Infidels. A .pdf file of the fragments of Phlegon is available from the Christian Hospitality Archives.

Jerome, Chronicle (a translation of the work of that same name by Eusebius), Olympiad 202 (Latin text from Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, page 1165, Phlegon history 16a; English translation based on the online edition at the Tertullian Project):

Iesus Christus, secundum prophetias quae de eo fuerant praelocutae, ad passionem venit anno Tiberii XVIII, quo tempore etiam in aliis ethnicorum commentariis haec ad verbum scripta repperimus: Solis facta defectio, Bithynia terrae motum concussa, et in urbe Nicaea aedes plurimae corruerunt, quae omnia his congruunt quae in passione salvatoris acciderant. scribit vero super his et Flego, qui olympiadarum egregius supputator est, in XIII libro ita dicens:

Jesus Christ, according to the prophecies which had been foretold about him beforehand, came to his passion in the eighteenth year of Tiberius, at which time also we find these things written verbatim in other commentaries of the gentiles, that an eclipse of the sun happened, Bithynia was shaken by earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings collapsed, all of which agree with what occurred in the passion of the savior. Indeed Phlegon, who is an excellent calculator of Olympiads, also writes about these things, writing thus in his thirteenth book:

Quarto autem anno CCII olympiadis magna et excellens inter omnes quae ante eam acciderant defectio solis facta; dies hora sexta ita in tenebrosam noctem versus ut stellae in caelo visae sint terraeque motus in Bithynia Nicae[n]ae urbis multas aedes subverterit.

In the fourth year, however, of Olympiad 202,* an eclipse of the sun happened, greater and more excellent than any that had happened before it; at the sixth hour, day turned into dark night, so that the stars were seen in the sky, and an earthquake in Bithynia toppled many buildings of the city of Nicaea. These things [are according to] the aforementioned man.

* Id est, year 32/33.

Haec supra dictus vir.

These things [are according to] the aforementioned man.

Erik Zara has kindly supplied a scan of the above passage. He writes: Here is the Phlegon quotation (marked, with Flego underlined) in the Codex Oxoniensis Bodleianus Lat. auct. T II 26.

George Syncellus, century IX, Chronography chapter 391, citing Julius Africanus, early century III (Greek text from Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, page 1157, Thallus history 1, and page 1165, Phlegon history 16b; English translation based on the online excerpt at the Tertullian Project):

Καθ ολου του κοσμου σκοτος επηγετο φοβερωτατον, σεισμω τε αι πετραι διερρηγνυντο και τα πολλα Ιουδαιας και της λοιπης γης κατερριφθη. τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν του ηλιου Θαλλος αποκαλει εν τριτη των ιστοριων, ως εμοι δοκει, αλογως. Εβραιοι γαρ αγουσι το πασχα κατα σεληνην ι̅δ̅, προ δε μιας του πασχα τα περι τον σωτηρα συμβαινει. εκλειψις δε ηλιου σεληνης υπελθουσης τον ηλιον γινεται· αδυνατον δε εν αλλω χρονω, πλην εν τω μεταξυ μιας και της προ αυτης κατα την συνοδον αυτην αποβηναι. πως ουν εκλειψις νομισθειη κατα διαμετρον σχεδον υπαρχουσης της σεληνης ηλιω; εστω δη, συναρπαζετω τους πολλους το γεγενημενον και το κοσμικον τερας ηλιου εκλειψις υπονοεισθω εν τη κατα την οψιν. Φλεγων ιστορει επι Τιβεριου Καισαρος εν πανσεληνω εκλειψιν ηλιου γεγονεναι τελειαν απο ωρας εκτης μεχρις ενατης, δηλον ως ταυτην. τις δ η κοινωνια σεισμω και εκλειψει, πετραις ρηγνυμεναις, και αναστασει νεκρων τοσαυτη τε κινησει κοσμικη;

A most terrible darkness fell over all the world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake, and many places both in Judaea and the rest of the world were thrown down. In the third book of his Histories Thallus dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse, unreasonably, as it seems to me. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on Luna 14, and what happened to the Saviour occurred one day before the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun takes place when the moon passes under the sun. The only time when this can happen is in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last day of the old moon, when they are in conjunction. How then could one believe an eclipse took place when the moon was almost in opposition to the sun? So be it. Let what had happened beguile the masses, and let this wonderful sign to the world be considered a solar eclipse through an optical [illusion]. Phlegon records that during the reign of Tiberius Caesar there was a complete solar eclipse at full moon from the sixth to the ninth hour; it is clear that this is the one. But what have eclipses to do with an earthquake, rocks breaking apart, resurrection of the dead, and a universal disturbance of this nature

From Origen, Against Celsus 2.14 (Greek text from Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, page 1165, Phlegon history 16e; English translation based on the online text at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library):

Φλεγων μενιοι εν τρισκαιδεκατω η τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατω, οιμαι, των χρονικων και την περι τινων μελλοντων προγνωσιν εδωκε τω Χριστω, συγχυθεις εν τοις περι Πετρου ως περι του Ιησου, και εμαρτυρησεν οτι κατα τα ειρημενα υπ αυτου τα λεγομενα απηντησε.

Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Christ a knowledge of future events, though 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.

From Origen, Against Celsus 2.33 (Greek text from Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, page 1165, Phlegon history 16d; English translation based on the online text at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library):

Περι δε της επι Τιβεριου Καισαρος εκλειψεως, ου βασιλευοντος και ο Ιησους εοικεν εσταυρωσθαι, και περι των μεγαλων τοτε γενομενων σεισμων της γης, ανεγραψε και Φλεγων εν τω τρισκαιδεκατω η τω τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατω, οιμαι, των χρονικων.

And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose kingship 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.

Confer Origen, Against Celsus 2.59.

Philopon (middle of century VI), On the Making of the World (de opificio mundi) 2.21 (Greek text from Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, page 1165, Phlegon history 16c):

Τουτου δε του σκοτους... και Φλεγων εν ταις ολυμπιασιν εμνησθη. λεγει γαρ οτι τω δ̅* ετει της διακοσιοστης δευτερας ολυμπιαδος εγενετο ηλιου εκλειψις μεγιστη των ουκ εγνωσμενων προτερον, και νυξ ωρα εκτη της ημερας εγενετο, ωστε και αστερας εν ουρανω φανηναι. οτι δε της εν τω σταυρω του δεσποτου Χριστου γενομενης του ηλιου εκλειψεως και ουχ ετερας εμνησθη και Φλεγων, πρωτον μεν εκ του λεγειν μη εγνωσθαι την τοιαυτην εκλειψιν τοις προτερον χρονοις, εστι δηλον, ...και απ αυτης δε της περι Τιβεριου Καισαρος ιστοριας δεικνυται. βασιλευειν μεν γαρ αυτον φησιν ο Φλεγων τω δευτερω ετει της εκατοστης ενενηκοσιης {ογδοης} ολυμπιαδος, την δε εκλειψιν γεγονεναι εν τω τεταρτω* ετει της διακοσιοστης δευτερας ολυμπιαδος.

* Either Jacoby or Reichardt (the editor whence Jacoby takes the text) expands δ̅ as δευτερω (second), which leaves unexplained why Philopon would say at one point that the eclipse took place in the second year of Olympiad 202 and at another point that it was the fourth year. On the other hand, if δ̅ means four or fourth, then it is simply expressed numerically in this instance but verbally (τεταρτω) later in the text, a phenomenon which Roger Pearse assures me is not uncommon in ancient manuscripts.

And of this darkness... Phlegon also made mention in the [book of] Olympiads. For he says that in the fourth [or second] year of Olympiad 202 an eclipse of the sun happened, of a greatness never formerly known, and at the sixth hour of the day it was night, so that even the stars in heaven appeared. And it is clear that it was the eclipse of the sun that happened while Christ the master was on the cross that Phlegon mentioned, and not another, first from his saying that such an eclipse was not known in former times, ...and also [because] it is shown from the history itself concerning Tiberius Caesar. For Phlegon says that he became king in the second year of Olympiad 19{8}, but the eclipse happened in the fourth year of Olympiad 202.

Shlomo Pines, on pages 7-8 of An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and Its Implications, translates part of the passage in Agapius, History of the World (century X), that leads up to his version of the Testimonium as follows:

We have found in many books of the philosophers that they refer to the day of crucifixion of Christ, and that they marvel thereat. The first of them is the philosopher Inflātūn,1 who says in the thirteenth chapter of the book he has written on the kings: In the reign of [Tiberius] Caesar, the sun was darkened and there was night for nine hours;2 and the stars appeared. And there was a great and violent earthquake in Nicea and in all the towns that surround it. And strange things happened.

1 Pines notes that this name is the usual Arabic form of Plato, which appears in this case to be a mistake for Phlegon, an uncommon name.
2 Literally, according to Pines, in nine hours, which he says is awkward in Arabic (as it certainly is in English).

On page 52, note 184, Pines gives the French translation by J. B. Chabot of a similar passage in Syriac from Michael the Syrian (century XII) as follows (the English translation from the French is my own, but with invaluable help from S. C. Carlson and others in a post from the Internet Infidels Discussion Board):

Phlégon, philosophe profane, écrit ainsi: Le soleil s'est obscurci, et la terre a tremblé; les morts ont ressuscité, sont entrés à Jérusalem et ont maudit les Juifs. Dans l'ouvrage qu'il écrivit sur les temps des olympiades, il dit dans le XIIIe livre: La quatrième année de la IIIe olympiade, il y eut une obscurité à la sixième heure du jour, un vendredi, et les étoiles apparurent. Nicée et la région de Bithynie tout entière furent ébranlées, et beaucoup d'autres endroits furent renversés.

Phlegon, a secular philosopher, has written thus: The sun grew dark, and the earth trembled; the dead resurrected and entered into Jerusalem and cursed the Jews. In the work which he wrote concerning the time of the Olympiads, he said in the thirteenth book: In the fourth year of the third* Olympiad, there was a darkness at the sixth hour of the day, a Friday, and the stars appeared. Nicea and the entire region of Bithynia were shaken, and many other places were overturned.

* I cannot explain why this text says it was during the third Olympiad except to blame copyist error; our other sources say that it was during Olympiad 202.