by Matt Slick
In Luke 23:44-46 there is the record of darkness falling upon the land during Christ's crucifixion. "And it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun being obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.' And having said this, He breathed His last." Is there any non-biblical evidence of the day of darkness mentioned at Christ's death? The answer is yes, there is.
"Circa AD 52, Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time. This work itself has been lost and only fragments of it exist in the citations of others. One such scholar who knew and spoke of it was Julius Africanus, who wrote about AD 221. In speaking of Jesus’ crucifixion and the darkness that covered the land during this event, Africanus found a reference in the writings of Thallus that dealt with this cosmic report. Africanus asserts: '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.'"1
One might wonder why other historians of the time did not also mention the darkness. First of all, the darkness was localized, so it would not be a widespread phenomena that other historians would naturally record. Second, other historians like Pliny, Tacitus, and Josephus generally were focusing on events that could be verified and were not based in the miraculous. The fact that Thallus mentions the darkness tells us that something did happen, and that there is extrabiblical citation for the event.
- 1. Julius Africanus, Extant Writings, XVIII in The Ante–Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), vol. VI, p. 130, as cited in Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company), 1996.