The darkness of Golgotha

It is common for modern atheists to claim that neither science nor history has detected any sign of the Biblical account of Jesus Christ. But only those who are ignorant of both can make the assertion with a straight face.

It is certainly interesting to observe how even ancient man was trying to explain away supernatural events with natural ones—a hobby often taken up in our modern day. Returning to ancient Greece, we can read from Pseudo-Dionysus in a letter to Polycarp:

Then ask him: “What have you to say about the Solar Eclipse, which occurred when the Savior was put on the cross? At the time the two of us were in Heliopolis and we both witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of the moon hiding the sun at the time that was out of season for their coming together… We saw the moon begin to hide the sun from the east, travel across to the other side of the sun, and return on its path so that the hiding and the restoration of the light did not take place in the same direction but rather in diametrically opposite directions…”

In 1457, Lorenzo Valla would ridicule this notion that Christ’s crucifixion was caused by an eclipse. In our modern day, NASA and astronomers worldwide would solidify Valla’s position, pointing to the fact that no projection of the ancient past shows an eclipse at that time. And yet it happened. Ancient man was witnessing a global supernatural occurrence.

If we jump to 52 AD, we can read a Greek secular historian named Thallus who recorded the following:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”

Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1

This quote of one of Thallus’ lost writings was by Julius Africanus, who was writing about the event around 221 AD. Africanus also discusses another ancient who bore testimony to the darkness of Christ’s crucifixion:

“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; 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?”


This very same Phlegon is also quoted in Eusebius’ The Chronological Canons:

“However in the fourth year of the 202nd olympiad, 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.”