As F. F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, has rightly said: "Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the 'Christ-myth' theories."
Otto Betz concludes that "no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus."
A Roman historian, in 112 AD, Governor of Asia, son-in-law of Julius Agricola who was
Governor of Britain AD 80-84. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ
and to the existence of Christians at Rome:
"But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could
bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero
from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to
suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite
tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus,
the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of
Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through
Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." Annals XV.44
Tacitus has a further reference to Christianity in a fragment of his Histories, dealing with the
burning of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70, preserved by Sulpicius Severus (Chron. ii. 30.6).
LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA
A satirist of the second century, who spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christians. He connected
them with the synagogues of Palestine and alluded to Christ as: "...the man who was crucified in
Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world...Furthermore, their first lawgiver
persuaded them that they are all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for
all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under
his laws." The Passing Peregrinus
Lucian also mentions the Christians several times in his Alexander the False Prophet, sections
25 and 29.
FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (born AD 37)
A Jewish historian, became a Pharisee at age 19; in AD 66 he was the commander of Jewish
forces in Galilee. AFter being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says in
a hotly-contested quotation:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a men, for he was a
doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over
to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at
the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that
loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as
the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.
And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day." Antiquities. xviii.33.
(Early second century)
The Arabic text of the passage is as follows: "At this time there was a wise man who was called
Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (He) was known to be virtuous. And many people from
among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be
crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.
They reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that He was
alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted
The above passage is found in the Arabic manuscript entitled: "Kitab Al-Unwan Al-Mukallal Bi- Fadail Al-Hikma Al-Mutawwaj Bi-Anwa Al-Falsafa Al-Manduh Bi-Haqaq Al-Marifa." The approximate translation would be: "Book of History Guided by All the Virtues of Wisdom. Crowned with Various Philosophis and Blessed by the Truth of Knowledge."
The above manuscript composed by Bishop Apapius in the 10th century has a section commencing with: "We have found in many books of the philosophers that they refer to the day of the crucifixion of Christ." Then he gives a list and quotes portions of the ancient works. Some of the works are familiar to modern scholars and others are not.
We also find from Josephus a reference to James the brother of Jesus. In Antiquities XX9:1 he describes the actions of the high priest Ananus:
"But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. AS therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." (The passage is from Book 20, Ch. 9, part 1)
SUETONIUS (AD 120) Another Roman historian, court official under Hadrian, annalist of the Imperial House,
says: "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus
(another spelling of Christus), he expelled them from Rome." Life of Clausius 25.4
He also writes: "Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given
to a new and mischievous superstition." Lives of the Caesars, 26.2
PLINIUS SECUNDUS, PLINY THE YOUNGER
Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (AD 112), Pliny was writing the emperor Trajan seeking
counsel as to how to treat the Christians.
He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so
many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was
discovered to be a Christian, or if he should kill only certain ones. He explained that he
had made the Christians bow down to the statues of Trajan. He goes on to say that he
also "made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do." In the
same letter he says of the people who were being tried:
"They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in
the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate
verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any
wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word,
not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up." Epistles X.96
Jurist-theologian of Carthage, in a defense of Christianity (AD 197) before the Roman
authorities in AFrica, mentions the exchange between Tiberius and Pontius Pilate:
"Tiberius accordingly, in those days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all the accusers of the Christians" (Apology, V.2). Some historians doubt the historicity of this passage. Also, Cr. Justin Martyr, Apology, 1.35.
THALLUS, THE SAMARITAN-BORN HISTORIAN
One of the first Gentile writers who mentions Christ is Thallus, who wrote in 52 AD. However, his writings have disappeared and we only know of them from fragments cited by other writers. One such writer is Julius Africanus, a Christian writer about 221 AD. One very interesting passage relates to a comment from Thallus. Julius Africanus writes:
"'Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun - unreasonable, as it seems to me' (unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died)."
Thus, from this reference we see that the Gospel account of the darkness which fell upon the land during Christ's crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from those non-believers who witnessed it.
PHILEGON, A FIRST CENTURY HISTORIAN
His Chronicles have been lost, but a small fragment of that work, which confirms the darkness upon the earth at the crucifixion, is also mentioned by Julius Africanus. After his (Africanus') remarks about Thallus' unreasonable opinion of the darkness, he quotes Phlegon that "during the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon."
Phlegon is also mentioned by Origen in Contra Celsum, Book 2, sections 14,33,59.
Philopon (De. opif. mund. II 21) says: "And about this darkness...Phlegon recalls it in the Olympiads (the title of his history)." He says that "Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the LORD Christ, and no other (eclipse), is clear that he did not know from his sources about any (similar) eclipse in previous times...and this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar."
LETTER OF MARA BAR-SERAPION
F. F. Bruce records that there is:
"...in the British Museum an interesting manuscript preserving the text of
a letter written some time later than AD 73, but how much later we cannot
be sure. This letter was sent by a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion to his
son Serapion. Mara Bar-Serapion was in prison at the time, but he wrote
to encourage his son in the pursuit of wisdom, and pointed out that those
who persecuted wise men were overtaken by misfortune. He instances
the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras and Christ:
"'What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to Death?
Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What
advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a
moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews
gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their
kingdom was abolished. GOD justly avenged these three wise men:
the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the
sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete
dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the
teaching of Plato.
Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.'"
About AD 150, Justin Martyr, addressing his Defense of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, referred him to Pilate's report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. But the words, "They pierced my hands and my feet," he says, "are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the "Acts" which were recorded under Pontius Pilate." Later he says: "That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the 'Acts' of Pontius Pilate." Apology 1.48.
Elgin Moyer, in Who Was Who in Church History, describes Justin as a: "...philosopher, martyr, apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis. Well educated, seems to have had sufficient means to lead a life of study and travel. Being an eager seeker for truth, knocked successively at the doors of Stoicism, Aristotelianism, Pythagoreanism and Platonism, but hated Epicureanism. In early days became somewhat acquainted with the Jews, but was not interested in their religion. Platonism appealed to him the most and he thought he was about to reach the goal of his philosophy - the vision of GOD - when one day in a solitary walk along the seashore, the young philosopher met a venerable old Christian of pleasant countenance and gentle dignity. This humble Christian shook his confidence in human wisdom, and pointed him to the Hebrew prophets, 'men more ancient than all those who were esteemed philosophers, whose writings and teachings foretold the coming of Christ...' Following the advice of the old gentleman, this zealous Platonist became a believing Christian. He said, "I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable.' AFter conversion, which occurred in early manhood, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the vindication and spread of the Christian religion."
THE JEWISH TALMUDS
Tol'doth Yeshu. Jesus is referred to as "Ben Pandera."
Babylonian Talmud. (Giving opinion of the Amorian) writes "...and hanged him on the eve of Passover."
Talmud title referring to Jesus: "Ben Pandera (or 'Ben Pantere')" and "Jeshu ben Pandera." Many scholars say "pandera" is a play on words, a travesty on the Greek word for virgin"parthenos," calling him a "son of a virgin." Joseph Klausner, a Jew, says "the illegitimate birth of Jesus was a current idea among the Jews..."
Comments in the Baraila are of great historical value:
"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going forth to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him
on the eve of Passover" (Babylonia Sanhedrin 43a). - "Eve of Passover."
The Amoa 'Ulla' ("Ulla" was a disciple of R. Youchanan and lived in Palestine at the end of the third century.) adds:
"And do you suppose that for (Yeshu of Nazareth) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: 'Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him.' It is otherwise with Yeshu, for he was near to the civil authority."
The Jewish authorities did not deny that Jesus performed signs and miracles (Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22) but they attributed them to acts of sorcery.
"The Talmud," writes the Jewish scholar Joseph Klausner, "speaks of hanging in place of crucifixion, since this horrible Roman form of death was only known to Jewish scholars from Roman trials, and not from the Jewish legal system. Even Paul the Apostle (Gal. iii.13) expounds the passage 'for a curse of GOD is that which is hanged' (Deut. xxi.23) as applicable to Jesus."
Sanhedrin 43a also makes references to the disciples of Jesus.
Yeb IV 3; 49a: "R. Shimeon ben Azzai said [concerning Jesus]: 'I found a
genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard
of an adulteress.'"
Klausner adds to the above: "Current editions of the Mishnah add: 'To support the
words of R. Yehoshua' (who, in the same Mishnah, says: What is a bastard?
Everyone whose parents are liable to death by the Beth Din). That Jesus is here
referred to seems to be beyond doubt..."
An early Baraita, in which R. Eliezer is the central figure, speaks of Jesus by name.
The brackets are within the quote. Eliezer speaking: "He answered, Akiba, you
have reminded me! Once I was walking along the upper market (Tosefta reads
'street') of Sepphoris and found one [of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth] and
Jacob of Kefar Sekanya (Tosefta reads 'Sakkanin') was his name. He said to me,
It is written in your Law, 'Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot, etc.' What was
to be done with it - a latrine for the High Priest? But I answered nothing. He said
to me, so [Jesus of Nazareth] taught me (Tosefta reads, 'Yeshu ben Pantere'): '
For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them, and unto the hire of a harlot
shall they return'; from the place of filth they come, and unto the place of filth they
shall go. And the saying pleased me, and because of this I was arrested for Minuth.
And I transgressed against what is written in the Law; 'Keep thy way far from
here' - that is Minuth; 'and come not night the door of her house' - that is the
The above brackets are found in Dikduke Sof'rim to Abada Zara (Munich
Manuscript, ed. Rabinovits).
Klausner, commenting on the above passage, says:
"There can be no doubt that the words, 'one of the disciples of Jesus of
Nazareth,' and 'thus Jesus of Nazareth taught me,' are, in the present passage
both early in date and fundamental in their bearing on the story; and their primitive
character cannot be disputed on the grounds of the slight variations in the parallel
passages; their variants ('Yeshu ben Pantere' or "Yeshu ben Pandera,' instead of
'Yeshu of Nazareth') are merely due to the fact that, from an early date, the name
'Pantere,' or 'Pandera,' became widely current among the Jews as the name of the
reputed father of Jesus."
The latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica uses 20,000 words in describing this person, Jesus. His description took more space than was given to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Concerning the testimony of the many independent secular accounts of Jesus of Nazareth, it records:
"These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries."
Back to Top
Video Transcription. Please excuse any errors which occurred during transcription:
Often we come across titles on the internet which says things like it is doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all then these articles go on to say, "If he did exist, we don't know anything about him outside of the bible." However one would be very hard pressed to find a historian who agrees with these sensational articles. Many people have raised questions about Jesus Christ and some have doubted what the bible says about him is true, but the circle of those who claim he never lived at all or that if he did live we can know nothing about him is very very small. In fact, you'd be very hard pressed to find a real historian who would make the claim that Jesus did not exist. However, today I am going to address the extra biblical accounts of Jesus Christ. These are secular or pagan, Jewish, and Christian accounts of Christ in the early period after his death. Let's start with something relatively modern. One of the great American revolutionaries, Thomas Paine was not a fan of Christianity.
However, he never questioned the historical nature of Jesus of Nazareth. While Paine believed that the Biblical statements about Jesus as deity were false he still believed that Jesus actually lived. This is what Paine said, "He, Jesus Christ, was a virtuous man. The morality that he preached and practiced was of the most benevolent kind and though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius and by some of the Greek philosophers many years before, by the Quakers since and by many good men in all the ages it has not been exceeded by many. The historical account of Christ for an unbiased historian is equal to that of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the Christ myth theories. No serious scholar has attempted to venture into the non-historical nature of Jesus. The history of Jesus isn't just a matter of curious interest for the Christian. The Christian faith itself is grounded in history. Let's begin with some secular historical authorities on Jesus. By secular I mean pagan, non-Christian, and non-Jewish, and generally anti-Christian. Some of these historical accounts of Jesus are very negative, but realize they are coming from people who were trying to disprove his deity and his resurrection. The first one we will begin with is Tacitus. He was a Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over a half dozen Roman emperors. He has been called the greatest historian of Ancient Rome, an individual generally acknowledged among scholars for his moral integrity and essential goodness. Tacitus' most acclaimed work are the Annals and the Histories. The Annals cover the period from Augustine's death in AD 14 to Nero in AD 68. The Histories begin after Nero's death and proceed to about AD 96. Rain on the reign of Nero, he alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians in Rome. He did misspell Christ. He wrote C-H-R-I-S-T-U-S. This was a common spelling error made by pagan writers. This is what Tacitus wrote in the Annals of the Histories, 'but not all relief that could come from men not all the bounties that the prince could bestow nor all the anointments which could be presented to the gods availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the fire of Rome hence to suppress the rumor he falsely charged with guilt and punished with the most exquisite tortures the persons commonly called Christians who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name was put to death by Pontius Pilate of Judah in the reign of Tiberius, but this superstition repressed for a time broke out again not only through Judah where the mischief originated but through the City of Rome also. Note that Pilate's existence is never questioned, however Pilate is not mentioned in any other pagan document which has come down to us and it may be regarded as an instance of the irony of history that the only surviving reference to him and a pagan writer mentions him because of the sentence of death which he passed upon Christ. For a moment Tacitus joins hands with the ancient Christian creed, "suffered under Pontius Pilate." Although Pilate is only mentioned in this Pagan work, the Pilate stone was found. The Pilate stone is a name given to damaged rock of carved limestone with a particularly intact subscription attributed to, and mentioning Pontius Pilate of the Roman controlled providence of Judah from 26 to 36 AD. It was discovered on an archaeological site in 1961. The artifact is significant because it is not only widely accepted as an archaeological find today but of a first century Roman inscription mentioning the name Pontius Pilate. It is contemporary to Pilate's lifetime and accords with what is known of his reported career. In effect the writing constitutes the earliest surviving record and only contemporary evidence of the historical existence of this person otherwise known only from the New Testament and brief mentions in Roman histories. The Pilate stone is now being held at a museum in Israel. The next we will look at is Lucian. He was a Greek satirist of the later half of the second century. He spoke scornfully of Christ and of the Christians.
However, he never assumed or made arguments that they were unreal as he said, "The Christians you know worship a man to this day, the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rights and was crucified on that account. You see these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them. And then it was impressed on them by their original law giver that they are brothers from the moment that they are converted and deny the gods of Greece and worship the crucified sage and live after his laws. All these they take quite on faith with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike. The next person we will look at is another grand Roman historian. He was a court official and analyst of the Imperial House stated in the life of Claudius 25.4, as the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of C-H-R-E-S-T-U-S which is another spelling, he, Claudius expelled them from Rome. Luke also refers to this event in Acts 18:2 which took place in AD 49. In another work he wrote about the fire that swept through Rome in AD 64 under the reign of Nero. He recounts the punishment by Nero was inflicted upon the Christians. A class of men given to a new and mysterious superstition, that's in the Lives of Caesar, 26. The Claudius reference particularly the part that says, "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Christ, he expelled them from Rome. As it is highly and likely that a hypothetical Christ interloper would have been called Jesus and placed him in Rome in 49 or called him a troublemaker, the overwhelming majority of scholars conclude that the passage is genuine. The passage indicates that Claudius only expelled those Jews who were making disturbances because of Christ or as has been translated from the Latin, "From Rome he, Claudius, expelled the perpetually trouble making Jews prompted by Christ." Most scholars assume that the disturbances mentioned in this text, in this passage are due to the spread of Christianity in Rome. These disturbances were likely caused by the objections of the Jewish community that continue preaching of the Hellenistic Jews in Rome and their insistence that Jesus was the Messiah resulting in tensions with the Jews in Rome. In Nero 16 he also list various laws by Nero to maintain public order including halting chariot races if the drivers were cheating and robbing the shows which frequently were scenes of brawls. Among these punishments were punishments for Christians. He states, "During his reign many abuses were severely punished and put down and no fewer laws were made. A limit was set on expenditures. Public banquets were confined to the distribution of food. The sale of any kind of cooked things in the taverns were forbidden with the exemption of vegetables where before every sort of dainty was exposed for sale. Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. He put an end to the diversions of the chariot drivers who from immunity of long standing claimed the right of ranging at large and amusing themselves by cheating and robbing the people. The actors and their partisans were banished from the city. As a church father wrote, "We read the lives of the Caesars, at Rome, Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising faith." Also this early church father used this author as a source by quoting Lives of the Caesars as proof that Nero was the first Roman emperor to murder Christians. The next we will look at is Pliny the Younger. He was the governor in Asia Minor in AD112. He was writing the Emperor to seek counsel on how to treat the Christian. He explained that he had been killing both men and women, girls and boys. There were so many Christian being put to death under him that he began to wonder if he should continue killing them or if he should just kill certain Christians. He explained that he had made the Christians bow down to the statues. He goes on to say that he also made them curse Christ which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do. In the same letter he says to the people being tried, "They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light. That they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves in a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up." Note that he says Christ as to a god. Here he is implying that Christ is indeed a historical figure.
However, he is denying Christ's deity. The next we will be looking at is one of the first secular writers who mentions Christ. This one is dated perhaps around AD52. He wrote, 'a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time'. Unfortunately his writing now only exist in fragments that have been cited by other writers. One interesting passage relates to the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Thallus in the third book of his Histories explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably of course because a solar eclipse could not take place at that time of the full moon and it was at the season of the partial moon that Christ died. This reference shows that the gospel account of the darkness that fell upon the land during Christ's crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from non-Christians. Thallus did not doubt that Jesus had been crucified and that an unusual event had occurred in nature that required an explanation. What occupied his mind was the task of coming up with a different interpretation. The basic facts were never called in to question in his works. Another secular, historical authority or in another History called the chronicles. While the original text has been lost small fragments have been preserved of his writing. Like Thallus this work confirms that the darkness came upon the earth at Jesus's crucifixion. And he too explains it is a result of a solar eclipse. He writes during the time of Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon. This even is also mentioned by a 3rd century Christian apologist and a 16th century writer. Next we move on to AD70. A Syrian philosopher wrote a letter from prison to his son encouraging him to pursue wisdom. In his letter, he compares Jesus to the philosopher Socrates. He writes to his son, "What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men. The Athenians died of hunger, others were overwhelmed by the sea. The Jews ruined and driven out from their land, live in complete desperation nor did the wise king died for good. He lived on the teaching which he had given". The father was certainly not a Christian, since he put Jesus on equal footing with Socrates. He has Jesus living now in his teaching rather than his resurrection. In another place he indicates a belief in polytheism, nonetheless his reference to Christ indicated he did not question whether Jesus really lived or not. Now we will move on to Jewish references to Jesus in history. Scholars have found many reliable references to Jesus as well as many unreliable ones and ones that were ones tried to refer to Jesus but do not. I am going to go through a very select few of the more important and reliable references. Similar to secular references the ones found in ancient Jewish sources are friendly toward Christianity's founder, followers, and belief. For this reason their testimony to the events surrounding Jesus' life are very valuable testimony. The first one we will look at is the Babylonian Talmud. It has been taught, on the eve of Passover that they hanged Jesus. And an announcer went out in front of him for 40 days saying he is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor let him come and plead in his behalf. But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover. Another version of this text calls him Jesus the Nazarene using the spelling Y-E-S-H-U. This translates through Greek, to English as Jesus.
And the reference to him being a Nazarene makes the link to Jesus Christ even stronger. Moreover the word hanged is another way of referring to the crucifixion which we can see in Luke 23:39 and Galatians 3:13. A Jewish scholar wrote that the Talmud speaks of hanging in place of crucifixion since this horrible Roman form of death was only known to Jewish scholars from Roman trials and not from the Jewish legal system. Even Paul the Apostle expounds this passage, "For the curse of God is that which is hanged" as applicable to Jesus, therefore this text clearly affirms the historic nature of Jesus and his death. It also affirms that the Jewish authorities were involved in the sentencing, but it tries to justify their actions. In a backhanded way it even testifies to Jesus's miracles, but it attempts to explain them away as the work of a sorcerer or a magician. A response mentioned by the gospel writers in Mark 3: 22, Matthew 9:34, and 12:24. Following the Jewish text appears a comment by a late 3rd Century writer which states "would you believe that any defense has been so zealously sought for him? He was a deceiver, and the All-merciful says, you shall not spare him, neither shall you conceal him." It was different for Jesus, for he was near the kingship. This phrase, "near to the kingship" may refer to Jesus' genealogical descent from Israel's King David or it may denote Pilate's washing his hands before turning Jesus over to crucifixion. And yet another passage we find his mother Marian, a woman's hairdresser, as they say this one straight from her husband who was a descendant of princes and governors played a harlot with carpenters. This passage is of course at attempted explanation for the Christian confession of Jesus' virgin birth. Princes and governors may refer to some of the names in Luke's genealogy which some of the church fathers assigned to Mary's ancestors all the way back to King David. The New Testament records that the scribes and Pharisees indirectly leveled this charge against Jesus in John 8:41.
Although the New Testament affirms that these charges are baseless the accusation does confirm that the Christian account of Jesus' miraculous birth was an early claim of the church that required a response. And now we move to the very controversial and much talked about testimony of Josephus. Josephus was born in 37 or 38 AD and died after 100 AD. He was a Jewish aristocrat, a priestly politician, a not-so-eager commander of the rebel of the troops in Galilee during the first Jewish revolt in Rome, a tricky turn-coat, a Jewish historian in the pay of the emperors and a supposed Pharisee. He was captured in 67. He served the Romans as mediator and interpreter during the rest of the revolt. Brought to Rome, he composed two great works, The Jewish War, written in the early 70's and the much longer Jewish Antiquities, finished around 93 or 94. Josephus became part of the emperor's inner circle. He was given the emperor's name as his Roman name. Josephus was his Jewish name. In the Jewish Antiquities a passage occurs that has created much heated debate among scholars. This is how it reads, "Now there was a time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many Jews and many Gentiles. He was the Christ, and then Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, hand condemned him to the cross, those that he loved at first did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again on the third day as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him and the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day." This passage has raised much debate because Josephus was a non-Christian Jew. He would not make statements about Jesus that an orthodox Jew could not affirm. For instance, he refers to Jesus as the Christ, Messiah and claims that he rose from the dead as the Hebrew prophets had foretold. After looking at the evidence, scholars see that there are some Christian additions for this passage. Notably, the phrases which are italicized have been made to the text that are clearly formed to it. The testimonium contains a good deal of truth that Josephus could have easily affirmed. If you read the testimonium without the italicized passages, you will see that the flow of thought is clear. Josephus calls Jesus by the generic title 'Wise Man.' Josephus then proceeds to unpack the generic designation of 'Wise Man' with two of its main components in the Roman world, miracle working and effective teaching.
I will now read it without the italicized words, which most scholars have confirmed to be the actual writing. "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men, has received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians so named after him are not extinct to this day." Following to this testimonium a couple of sections later, Josephus refers to James, the brother of Jesus. He describes the action of the High Priest. Here's what he says:
"But they younger who as we said received the High Priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring. He followed the party of the Sadducees who are severe in judgment above all the Jews as we have already shown. And therefore, was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity as Festus was now dead. So he assembled the council of judges and brought before the brother of Jesus, the so called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others. And having accused them as law breakers, he delivered them to be stoned."
Lewis Feldman, a professor of classics and translator for the addition of the inequity states, "Few scholars have doubted the genuineness of this passage. The passage referring to Jesus as the so called Christ does not make sense unless Josephus had provided a longer discussion about Jesus earlier and has inequities." This is yet another indication that the earlier and more extensive treatments of inequities is genuine, excluding the obvious Christian insertions. So, even the great 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, writing just a little more than a half-century after Jesus' life and crucifixion, attests to the truth that Jesus was not a figment of the Church's imagination but a real historical figure.
There are many, many early Christian sources on the history of Jesus. Early Christians often paid with their lives and suffered great persecutions for the reports that Jesus had lived, died and risen from the dead and appeared to many after his resurrection. These early Christians had nothing to gain and everything to lose for their testimony that these things had actually happened. For this reason, their accounts are highly significant historical resources. We call these pre-New Testament confessions.
An apologist explained these affirmations preserved some of the earliest reports concerning Jesus for about 30-50 AD. Therefore in a real sense, the creeds preserved the pre-New Testament material.
In our earlier resources of the life of Jesus, in the book Verdict of History, it focuses on the several of the creed affirmation embedded in the New Testament. There are many of these and you can view them on our website. For example, in Romans 1, 3 and 4, it is an ancient creed and is shown by the parallelism of the clauses, which is especially seen in the contrast between Jesus as both the son of David and the son of God. The same Jesus who was born in space and time was raised from the dead. This creed proclaims that Jesus was shown to be the son of God, Christ or Messiah and Lord and vindicated as such by his resurrection from the dead. Cullman adds that redemption and Jesus' final exhalation were also included in the significant creedal affirmation. Such an encompassing statement including three major Christian titles and implying some of the actions of Jesus reveals not only one of the earliest formation of Christ's nature but also conveys an apologetic motif and relating all of these theologies to the vindication provided by Jesus' resurrection. It is clear that this New Testament creeds provide the earliest testimonies the church's conviction that Jesus, the sinless God man actually lived, died and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven for the salvation of anyone who would confess in his Lord and truly believe that God resurrected him. If you're interested in the Christian sources for Jesus' history, please visit our website at the storyofliberty.net
Next we look at the Clement of Rome. Clement was bishop of the Church of Rome towards the end of the first century. He wrote a letter to help settle a dispute between the church in Corinth, between the church leaders and the people. In this work he said, "The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God and the apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order, having therefore received the charge and having them fully assured to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed and word of God was fully assured of the Holy Ghost. They went forth with the glad tidings of the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country or town they appointed their first fruits. When they had proved them by the spirit to the bishops and the deacons, and to them that they should believe. Among other things, this passage affirms that the gospel message came from the historic of Jesus who have been sent by God and that his message was authentic by his actual resurrection from the dead.
Next we look at Ignatius. While on his way to an execution in Rome, Ignatius who was the bishop of Antioch wrote seven letter, six to different churches and one to his friend. Three references Ignatius makes that the historic of Jesus are especially permanent and characteristic of his other statements. He said, "Jesus Christ, who was at the race of David, who was the son of Mary who is truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died, and in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under earth, who moreover was truly raised from the dead, his Father having raised him, who in the light fashion will so rise us also who believe on him." Ignatius, who Christian tradition identifies as disciple of Peter, Paul and John, was obviously convinced that Jesus really lived and that he was all the apostles said he was.
Quadratus was a disciple of the apostles and a bishop of the church of Athens. He was one of the earliest apologists. A Christian historian has preserved the only lives remaining of his defense of the faith to the Roman Emperor. This is what it says, "The deeds of our savior were always before you for they were true miracles. Those that were healed, those that were raised form the dead, those who have seen, not only when healed and when raised but were always present, they remain living a long time not only while our Lord was on earth but likewise when he left the earth, so that some of them has also lived to our own times." Here he observed and affirms the actual existence of Jesus through the history and of his miracles. Many of those healed or raised where still alive when Jesus left the earth and some were reportedly still alive in his own time.
Next we look at the Epistle of Barnabas. The authorship of this letter is unknown. A commonly accepted date is probably around 130-138 AD. The epistle confirmed many of the event claimed as fact and the sources are already cited. In section five of the letter we read, "He himself endured that he might destroy and show forth the resurrection of the dead. For that he must needs to be manifest in the flesh but at the same time he might redeem the promise made to the Fathers. And by preparing the new people for himself might show while he was on earth that having brought about the resurrection, he will himself exercise judgment. Yeah, and further he preached teaching Israel and performing so many wonders and miracles and he loved them, Israel, exceedingly. And when he chose his own apostles who were to proclaim his gospel, who that he might show that he came not to call the righteous but sinners, were sinners above every sin, then he manifested himself to be the son of God." In section seven, the author also add, "But moreover when crucified, He, Jesus, has vinegar and gale given to him to drink."
Next we look at Aristides who was the second century philosopher of Athens. His work was lost until late nineteenth century when it was discovered in three separate versions. Armenian, Syrian and Greek. He addressed his defense of Christianity to the Roman Emperor who resigned between 138 AD and 161 AD.
In part of this, he described Jesus Christ as son of the most high God revealed by the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven, born of a Hebrew virgin. His flesh he received from the virgin. And he revealed himself in the human nature as the son of God. In his goodness which brought glad tidings. He has won the whole world by his life giving preaching. He selected twelve apostles and taught the whole world by his life giving truth. And he was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews. And he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He sends the apostles into all the world and instructed by divine miracles full of wisdom. Their preaching bares blossoms and fruits to this day and cause the whole world to illumination."
Next we look at Justin, the martyr. The consensus of scholarly opinion is that Justin the martyr is one of the greatest early Christian apologist. He was born around 100 AD and was scourged and beheaded for his faith around 167. He was a learned man, well versed in learning philosophies of his day. After his conversion of Christ, Justine became the professor of Christianity in his own private school in Rome. Here is some selections from his works concerning the accuracy of the account about Jesus Christ. "Now there is a village in the land of the Jews in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing, your first procurator in Judah." Also he wrote, "For at the time of his birth, Magi who came from Arabia worshiped him, coming first to Herod, who then was governing your land."
Now we look at Hapeticius. We find this passage. "Jerome says that Hapeticius lived near at the time of the apostles. He draws his inclusion that Hapeticius was a Jew and says his work compromise five books of memoirs. Only fragments of these memoirs have survived. What they show is that Hapeticius traveled extensively. It was intent on determining if the true story of Jesus has been passed on from the apostles down through their successors. Here is what he wrote, "The Corinthian church continued in the true doctrine until Primus became bishop. I mixed with them on my voyage to Rome and spent several days with the Corinthians during which we were refreshed with the true doctrine. On arrival at Rome I appear to gather the succession in every line of bishop and then every city, things of accord with the preaching of the law, the prophets and the Lord. The essential facts about Jesus and his teaching were passed down by the apostles and carefully preserved and faithfully passed on by the churches generation after generation from one location to another."
There are many additional historical resources which we don't have time for in this video. They come from Trajan, Macrobius, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius in the letter which the emperor described "Christians in fighting action with the Roman army", Juvenals, which are satires makes a valid mention of the torches of Christians by Nero in Rome, Seneca who like Juvenal describes the cruelties of Nero dealt upon the Christians, Heracles in which he condemns Peter and Paul as sorcerers.
In discussing Christ as the man of history, one of the most important collections of material is the volume published by Cambridge in 1923 by CR Haynes entitled Heathen Contact with Christianity during its First Century and a Half. The subtitle reads as follows, "Being all references to Christianity recorded in pagan writings during that period."
Howard Clarkely professor at Boston University makes the following conclusions from the sources outside the New Testament. "The result of the examination of the sources outside the New Testament that they're directly or indirectly on our knowledge of Jesus is to confirm his historical existence, his unusual powers, his devotion of its followers, the continued existence of his movement after his death at the hands of the Roman governor in Jerusalem and the penetration of Christianity into the upper strata of society and Rome itself by the later first century". He adds, "In spite of the range of ways in which the traditions about Jesus had been transmitted, we have available of clear and remarkably consistent array of evidence about the figure whose life, teachings and death has continued to have such impact on the subsequent history of the human race."
In the 1974 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, the contributor writing about Jesus Christ uses 20,000 words that described him. More space that was given to Aristotle, Alexander, Julius Cesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad or Napoleon Bonaparte. Concerning the testimony of the many independent secular accounts of Jesus of Nazareth, the author resoundingly concludes, "The independent accounts prove that in ancient times, even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historical accuracy of Jesus, which is disputed for the first time and an inadequate ground by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries. Those who would deny the historical evidence of Jesus."
Noted British New Testament scholar, Howard Marshal, "It is not possible to explain the rise of the Christian church or the writing of the Gospels and the streams of tradition that lies behind them without accepting the fact that the founder of Christianity actually existed. Though the non-Christian sources do not provide as much details about Jesus as the New Testament, they do provide collaboration for some of the basic facts of the biblical portrayal of Jesus.
Robert Stine, a New Testament professor states, "That non-Christian sources established beyond reasonable doubt the following minimum. One, Jesus was truly a historical person. This may seem solely the stress, but through the years, some have denied that Jesus ever lived. The non-biblical sources puts such nonsense to rest. Two, Jesus lived in Palestine in the first century of our era. Three, the Jewish leadership was involved in the death of Jesus. Four, Jesus was crucified by the Romans under the governorship of Pontius Pilate. And five, Jesus' ministry was associated with wonder.
RT Francis writes, "Non-Christian evidence therefore substantiates the fact of Jesus' existence. His popular following, his execution and the rofting."
A professor of history at Miami University assert that we have more and better historical documentation for Jesus than any other religious founder. For example, we have more secular information on Jesus than Buddha or Mohammad. Of the non-biblical sources testifying of Christ, he concludes, "Even if we did not have the New Testament of Christian writings, we will able to conclude from such non-Christian such as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus and Pliny the younger that one, Jesus was a Jewish teacher; two, many people believe that he performed healings and exorcisms; three, he was rejected by Jewish leaders; four, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; five, despite his death, his followers who believed that he was still alive spread beyond Palestinians so that there were multitude of them in Rome by AD 64; and six, all kinds of people from the cities and the country side, men and women, slave and free, worshiped him as God by the beginning of the second century.
As a noted Yale historian wrote, "Regardless what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth, has been the dominant figure in history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. If it were possible of some sort of super magnet to pull out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? His impact in the course of history is without parallel."
As Newsweek magazine author wrote, "By any secular standard, Jesus is also a dominant figure of Western culture. Like the millennium itself, much of what we now think of as Western ideas, innovation and values finds the source and inspiration in the religion that worships God in His name. Art and science, the self and society, politics and economics, marriage and family, right and wrong, body and soul; all have been touched and often radically transformed by Christian influence."
Upon serving the historical evidence for the existence of Christ, Gary Haberman notes, "Surprisingly few scholar has asserted that Jesus never existed or have attempted to cast almost total doubt on his life and ministry. Once such effort have occurred, they have been met or outcries from the scholarly community. We have seen that these attempts are refuted at almost every turn by the early and eye witness testimonies presented by Paul and others. As well as by the early gate of the gospel.
The evidence is conclusive. Jesus really lived among us and accomplished powerful works that even hostile, non-Christian resources do not fail to confirm. The skeptics about Jesus' historical existence are simply wrong.