Table of Contents
Question: What is the evidence to the historicity of Jesus from non-Christian sources?
Answer: Here is evidence for the historicity of Jesus from some of the non-Christian resources:
Evidence from Tacitus (56 – 120 AD)
Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. Reporting on Emperor Nero’s decision to accuse the Christians for the fire that had ruined Rome in A.D. 64, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote:
“Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…” Tacitus, Annals 15.44, cited in Strobel, The Case for Christ, 82.
Evidence from Pliny the Younger (61 –113 AD)
Pliny was the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. In one of his letters, dated around A.D. 112, he sought Trajan’s council about the right way to conduct legal proceedings against those accused of being Christians. Pliny said that he needed to consult the emperor about this issue because a great multitude of every age, class, and sex stood accused of Christianity. Pliny, Epistles x. 96, cited in Bruce, Christian Origins, 25,27; Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 198.
Pliny wrote some of the information he had known about these Christians:
“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.” Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X:96, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 199.
Evidence from Josephus (37 – 100 AD)
Josephus was a famous first century Jewish historian. On two occasions, in his Jewish Antiquities, he mentioned Jesus. The first reference stated:
“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats…. He was the Christ. When Pilate …condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared … restored to life…. And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.” Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64, cited in Yamauchi, “Jesus Outside the New Testament”, 212.
The second reference described the condemnation of a person named “James” by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Josephus said, this James, was “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.” Josephus, Antiquities xx. 200, cited in Bruce, Christian Origins, 36.
Evidence from the Babylonian Talmud (70-500 AD)
The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings. The most significant reference to Jesus from this period stated:
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald … cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.” The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I. Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, 281, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 203.
Evidence from Lucian (c. 125 – after 180 AD)
Lucian was a Syrian satirist and rhetorician. He wrote of the early Christians as follows:
“The Christians … worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.” Lucian, “The Death of Peregrine”, 11-13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4., cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 206.
1-Josephus and Lucian indicated that Jesus was regarded as wise.
2-Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian inferred that Jesus was a powerful and respected teacher.
3-Josephus and the Talmud specified that Jesus performed miraculous feats.
4-Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian recorded that Jesus was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus said that this took place under Pontius Pilate. And the Talmud stated it occurred on the eve of Passover.
5-Tacitus and Josephus referred to the Christians’ faith in Jesus’ resurrection.
6-Josephus wrote that Jesus’ followers believed that He was the Christ or the Messiah.
7-Pliny and Lucian showed that Christians worshiped Jesus as God.
In His service,