We have comparable examples even within the very same century that saw the development of the Gospels. Josephus wrote the Jewish War between 75 and 79 CE, in which he relates the following obvious legends, which "occurred" only ten to fifteen years previous (in or around 66 CE): it was a bright as midday for half an hour around the Altar and Sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple–at three in the morning!; during the usual sacrifices a cow gave birth to a lamb "in the middle of the Temple courts"; a bronze gate, requiring twenty men to move, unbolted, unlocked, and opened itself at midnight–right in front of the temple guards!" and last but not least, chariots and armies were seen marching through the skies and encircling all the towns of Judaea. Josephus finally remarks, "I would have dismissed it as an invention, had it not be vouched for by eyewitnesses, and followed by disasters that bore out the signs." R. Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb," R. Price & J. Lowder, eds. The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Prometheus 2005), 173-174.
For Carrier, this is proof positive that Josephus was a credulous and superstitious man. And since he moved in the same thought-world as the Gospel writers, we should lend their accounts no greater credence. There are, however, some basic problems with Carrier's comparison:
i) To begin with, the logic is circular. He presumes that since the miraculous portents in Josephus are incredible, then by parity of argument, so are the Gospels.
However, I, for one, don't automatically discount miracle reports outside the Bible. The fall of Jerusalem was a turning point in Jewish history. It wouldn't surprise me if there were some authentic marvels that portended that fateful event.
That doesn't mean I give equal weight to every item on his list. Assuming this is actually based on independent information, there's no reason to think that if one report is true, all are true; if one report is false, all are false. These come from different sources. Different reporters.
ii) But I'd also like to consider a different approach. Ironically, it may not be Josephus, but Carrier's who's gullible. Carrier takes it for granted that Josephus believes what he's saying in this regard. But surely that's naive.
To begin with, accounts of portents and prodigies were a stock feature of Roman historiography. This was typically associated with major events and major political figures in Roman history. So Josephus, in writing to and for a Roman audience, may be adapting himself to that contrivance.
That consideration is reinforced by the fact that Josephus is writing as a Jewish apologist to his Roman overlords. As such, he's motivated to wow them with his own account of portents and prodigies. In other words, it's highly possible that he's regaling them with tall tales to impress his pagan Roman patrons regarding the reality of Yahweh–the one true God.
Indeed, his ingenuous profession that "I would have dismissed it as an invention, had it not be vouched for by eyewitnesses, and followed by disasters that bore out the signs," is the kind of calculated protestation that you'd expect from an author who's endeavoring to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader. "I'd scarcely believe it myself, were it not for the fact that…"
That's a familiar rhetorical gambit to win the confidence of the audience. "See, I'm just as skeptical as you are! I believe this against my will!"
I'm not saying that interpretation is necessarily correct. But I think it's quite plausible that Josephus is pandering to Roman sensibilities at this juncture. And he may well have hoodwinked an unsuspecting atheist in the process!