From the non biblical record of history, we can reconstruct the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The majority of these texts speak of Jesus in derogatory or non-complementary terms. None of these texts are seeking to prove the existence of Jesus nor validate Him as a genuine person of history. In fact, by their non complementary, and often scathing remarks, these writers of antiquity have preserved for us a substantial and conclusive chronicle of the same events that are a part of the New Testament narrative.
From this substantial list, we can accurately conclude that Jesus is a genuine person of history and that His presence on earth, as described in the pages of the New Testament, are also accurate.
As you read the following, remember that these are not believers in Jesus, nor are they seeking to validate Jesus as a real person. A majority of the following writings by these non-Christian sources, are visibly hostile, even hateful towards Jesus and those who follow Him. This is the entire point: By their adversarial remarks, without being aware, these non-Christian writers have preserved for us, an empirical record from history that Jesus did in fact live, die, and rose from the dead.
Substantial Secular Confirmation
We know that the text of Luke was written before Acts, his second book. In Acts Luke details the missionary journeys of Paul in Asia Minor. In Acts 11:27 Luke writes: “During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world.” (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius).[A]
This reference to Roman Emperor Claudius allows us to date this verse from the book of Acts. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was emperor from 41-54 A.D. Agabus said that this famine was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius. In the fourth century, Roman historian, Orosius, writes that this famine described by Agabus took place in 46 and 47 A.D. A translation from Orosius is found in the historical record written by King Alfred of England during the middle ages in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’.
This Chronicle lists British history from 1 A.D. to 1154 A.D. and contains the following text: “A.D. 46. In this year, Claudius, the second Roman emperor to invade Britain, put much of the island under his control and added the Orkneys to Rome’s kingdom. This took place in the fourth year of his rule. In this same year, a great famine in Syria took place which Luke mentions in his book, ‘The Acts of the Apostles.’ Due to his incompetence, The Emperor Claudius Nero almost lost control of the British isle.”
Jewish historian, Josephus, also records in Antiquities 20 chapter 1.3-2.5: “Herod, the brother of Agrippa who had perished, was allowed to govern over Chalcis. He asked Claudius Caesar for control over the temple along with the sacred treasury, and the ability to choose the high priests, and he was given all that he had asked for.” Around this time lived queen Helena of Adiabene, along with her son Izates. They both began to follow the Jewish way, turning away from their past lifestyle . . . Her arrival was of great help to the masses in Jerusalem, for there was a famine in the land that overtook them and many people died of starvation.
Queen Helena sent some of her stewards to the city of Alexandria in order to purchase as much grain as possible. She sent others to the island of Cyprus to bring back dried figs. Helena’s efforts to save many people left a legacy in the historical record, that allows us to verify the date of this famine described by Luke in the Book of Acts.
Roman historian, Suetonius, also mentions this same famine in his writing, “Life of Claudius” Chapter 18: “There was a scarcity of food, which was the result of bad harvests that occurred during a span of several years.”
Roman historian, Tacitus, also writes in describing the famine, in his Annals, Chapter 11:4: “A vision that came to him at night was the reason charges were filed against the man. In this dream, he claimed to have seen Claudius crowned with a wreath made of wheat, the ears of which were folded downward. And from this vision, he predicted lean harvests to come.”
This presents us with a substantial secular and Biblical confirmation that the text of Acts, written by Luke, is not only accurate but confirmation that both Acts and Luke’s Gospel of Christ were written by 44 A.D.
Secular Confirmation Of Jesus And Christians
Serenius Granianus: Proconsul to Asia, writing to the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the first century.
- Serenius describes the treatment of Christians in the first century and the prejudice and cruel treatment they received by leaders of the Roman government.
- Christians were convicted without due process of the law.
- Emperor Hadrian writes in response that Christians should each be examined and given the opportunity to defend themselves, without harassment or malicious proceedings.
- Hadrian instructs Serenius to give fair treatment to Christians during their examination.
- The result of these examinations should include no tainting because of the petitions or complaints that were made by those who brought their accusations against Christians.
- Christians were to be judged strictly according to the “heinousnes nature” of their crimes.
- Christians were frequently written about and accused of crimes, simply because they believed in Jesus and His resurrection.
Pliny the Younger: the writer of ten books during the first century, describing Christianity and facts concerning Jesus.
- The presence of Christianity in the world during the first century was so prevalent that many pagan temples had been abandoned.
- Pliny wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan and asked whether the Christians that he was interrogating should be afforded mercy if they repented of their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Pliny confirms the existence of Christians in the first century and their flourishing numbers, due largely to their belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
- Their was great concern that a wide-spread belief in the resurrection would cause tremendous difficulties for the government of Rome. For this reason, those who believed in Jesus were put to death if they refused to repent and deny that Jesus had risen from the dead.
- Pliny records that Christians were careful to not act in any way that would bring disrepute to the name of Christ, as they lived their lives.
- Pliny mentions that Christians eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus during their communion ceremonies, was a grotesque practice.
- Christians are described as worshipping on Sunday.
- Pliny asked the Emperor if Christians could be spared if they were willing to deny Christ and instead, worship the Roman god’s.
- Pliny writes that those who believed in Christ would not repent of their belief.
- Pliny mentions deaconesses in the Christian church who were tortured in order to gain information about their dangerous religion.
- Pliny described those who believed in Jesus and His resurrection, as meeting regularly for worship.
Emperor Trajan: Writing about Christian’s in response to Pliny’s letters in the first Century.
- Trajan instructs Pliny to punish unrepentant Christians with some restrictions.
- Pliny was not to seek-out Christians.
- Worship of Roman god’s by repentant Christians was cause to commute their sentence of death.
- Trajan instructs Pliny to ignore any evidence that was presented to him containing names of those who followed the Christ.
Tacitus: A Roman Senator and recorder of events from the Roman Senate, first Century.
- Tacitus describes the followers of Jesus as “Christians.”
- Jesus was Crucified by Pontius Pilate.
- Jesus was executed during the reign of Emperor Tiberius.
- Jesus’ death stopped the evil superstition of Christianity.
- Believers in Jesus resurfaced after their persecution.
- Followers of Jesus seen in Judea.
- Those who believed in Jesus took testimony of His resurrection to the Roman capital.
- Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the fires that destroyed Rome.
- Writes that Christians were hated because of their faith in Jesus.
- The followers of Jesus were arrested.
- The followers of Jesus were convicted.
- The followers of Jesus were mocked.
- The followers of Jesus were tortured.
- The followers of Jesus were crucified.
- The followers of Jesus were burned to death.
- These actions caused the people of Rome to feel compassion for Christians.
- The response of the public caused the Roman government to change their view of Christians.
- Tacitus concluded that the fervency of Christians was due to their firm belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.
- Tacitus concluded that the reason that Christians were crucified was due to their founder also being crucified.
- Tacitus concluded that the reason that Christians would not deny Jesus was because they were certain He had risen from the dead.
Suetonius: Secretary to the Roman Emperor Hadrian. First Century.
- The reason for the disturbances in Rome was due to Jews who objected to those who believed in Jesus Christ.
- The belief of Christians that Jesus died and rose again were seen as dangerous superstitions.
- The entire reason that 5 million Christians were crucified over a 250 year period of time was due to their unwavering faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Josephus: Primary Jewish historian during the period of history when the followers of Jesus were spreading Christianity throughout Israel and the Roman Empire. First Century.
- Jesus was known as a wise teacher who was alleged to have been without sin.
- The people who believed in Him were both Jews and Gentiles.
- Jesus was executed by Pontius Pilate as he ordered Him to be crucified.
- Josephus writes that the followers of Jesus reported that He had risen from the dead.
- The allegation that people were saying that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day.
- As a result of Jesus alleged resurrection, His followers grew in number.
- The allegation that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
- The Jesus who was crucified was the brother of James.
- Many people in Israel at that time believed that Jesus was the Messiah.
- Josephus was likely the brother of Nicodemus and received testimony about Jesus from him.
- Matthew and Josephus were both alive during the same period of history. Josephus had likely read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and this is likely the source from where he received his information in writing about Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.
Thallus: writer of history for the Eastern Mediterranean period of the Trojan War. His works commented on by scholar Julius Africans. First Century.
- Thallus records commentary on the darkness that encompassed Jerusalem during the time when Jesus was crucified.
- The Christian Gospel was being preached in the region of the Mediterranean in the first century.
- Because of the profound implications of the miracles that Jesus instituted, many explanations were being made by those who did not believe in Jesus or the supernatural origin of the things attributed to Him.
- Julius Africans described the darkness during Jesus crucifixion as supernatural because the occurrence of a Solar Eclipse at that time was scientifically impossible; taking place during a new moon.
- Because of Thallus and the Africanus commentary, the darkness that was described by writers of that period, was defined as a fulfillment of prophecies from the prophet Amos.
Jewish Talmud: Rabbi’s Judah, Akiba, and Meir are cited as writing in opposition to Jesus in the Mishna and Gemaras Talmud. Second Century.
- Jesus is described as “hanged on a tree,” which was common language of that day for describing crucifixion.
- The Talmud confirms Jesus’ crucifixion as occurring during the same period that the New Testament records these events.
- The crucifixion of Jesus took place on Passover, which is profoundly important to the Messiah’s story, since He must be killed during Passover.
- The Talmud describes Jesus as destined to be stoned forty days before they crucified Him.
- Jesus was found guilty of sorcery and apostasy when He taught doctrine that was considered misleading to the people of Israel.
- During the trial of Jesus, no witnesses were found to testify on His behalf.
- Jesus had many disciples who followed Him. These persons were also considered dangerous by the Sanhedrin.
- The Jewish record in the Talmud shows that these leaders of Israel treated Jesus with greater scorn and disrespect than others’s who had been accused of similar crimes.
- The Talmud records that Jesus age at crucifixion was between 33 and 34 years.
- Mary, is described as the mother of Jesus.
Traditions of the Jews, Toledoth Jesu (Chronicles of Jesus): Describing the early feelings of Jews regarding the man called “Jesus.” These documents were reported as compiled in the fifth century, but historical evidence suggests that these writing existed in the second century.
- Describing the common tradition that the disciples of Jesus had removed His body from the tomb in order to convince people that He had risen from the dead.
- A man called “Juda,” is described as discovering this plan to remove Jesus’ body by the disciples. The disciples planned to dig a new grave for Jesus body and bury Him there, after they stole Him from the tomb donated by Joseph of Aramenthea.
- The Jews of the first century had ignored the rapid rise in numbers for those who believed in Jesus.
- Writing to ridicule Jesus’ miracles, His birth, and crucifixion.
- Descriptions of the foundation principles of Jesus’ ministry by satire and criticism.
- According to this narrative, Jews would read the Tolodeth Yeshu on Christmas Eve.
- Jesus allegedly stole the name of God from the temple and gained His powers from this process.
- Jesus fooled the people by magic and false miracles.
- Jesus died a charlatan’s death, as experienced a criminal’s burial.
- Alternative views describe Jesus as a brilliant student who was wrongfully discarded by Rabbi, Joshua ben Perachia of the Sanhedrin. (cf. Sanhedrin 107b; Sotah 47a).
- In subsequent versions of the Toledot Yeshu, there were many accusations of Jesus’ virgin birth, the scandal of His true father, accusations that Mary was raped or a participant in adultery. These were included in the written degradation of Jesus’ life. Toledot Yeshu seminar, Princeton University (2009).
- Marc Shaprio, “Torah Study on Christmas Eve,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 8:2 (1999): 334.
- Alternative views describe Jesus as a brilliant student who was wrongfully discarded by Rabbi, Joshua ben Perachia of the Sanhedrin. (cf. Sanhedrin 107b; Sotah 47a).
- Echoes of this storyline sometimes appear in Toledot Yeshu.
Greek Philosopher, Celsus: Second Century.
- Derided Jesus in his writings, His origin, and those who followed Him.
- Celsus makes comments about statements that are made in the Tolodeth Yeshu.
Greek Satirist, Lucian: In the second century, many derisions against Jesus and His followers.
- Early Believers in Jesus were naive, and lacking good judgment; easily deceived by charlatans, giving large sums of money to support the cause of Jesus.
- Lucian writes that Jesus was crucified and those who believe in Him believed that they would live forever.
- Early believers worshipped Jesus as God.
- Those who believed in Jesus, studied His teaching in context with the Greek language, comparing Him to early Greek philosophers.
- Jesus’s followers believe in Him by faith.
- Jesus’ followers sold their possessions in order to gain money to care for other less fortunate believers.
- The early church, relied upon the writings of letters that were distributed to various places, for their doctrine and teaching.
- Lucian refers to Jesus as “a crucified sage.”
- Those who follow the teaching of Jesus were easily taken advantage of, because of their tender hearts.
Syrian, Mara Bar-Serapion: between the first and third century, writes from prison about the man called Jesus and His teaching.
- Asks the question: “what advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?”
- Questioned if the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., was a direct result of their denial of Jesus.
- Alleges that the Jews were driven from their land, as a result of denying Jesus as their Messiah.
- The suggestion that Jesus was unjustly killed.
Gnostic teacher, Valentinus: From the first century. Clement of Alexandria said that Valentinus was a follower of Theudas, who was a follower of Paul, a writer of the New Testament. Gnosticism is generally regarded as contrary to the teachings of the New Testament regarding the true nature of Jesus.
- Discusses the historical reality of Jesus’ in Israel.
- Refers to Jesus as “the Son of God.”
- Describes Jesus as teaching His followers about His Father.
- Is careful to deny that Jesus came as God in the flesh, which is the basis of all Gnostic doctrine.
- Calls Jesus: “the Word.”
- Speaks of Jesus death on a tree, which is an early manner of speaking to describe crucifixion.
- States that the followers of Jesus believed that His death brought salvation to those who believe.
- Writes that the followers of Jesus affirm that He was resurrected from the dead.
The Acts of Pontius Pilate: Described by Justin Martyr and Tertullian from 150-200 A.D. There are later historical records that are known by the same name, which are known fabrications of this genuine record.
- Justin Martyr described the descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion as validated in the report by Pilate.
- The term: “They pierced my hands and my feet,” as used in Psalm 22, describing the event of Jesus crucifixion 1,000 years later, included in Pilate’s report.
- Pilate’s report also references the prophecy in Isaiah 53, describing the gambling of Jesus’ clothing by the Roman soldiers.
- Pilate’s report details several of Jesus’ miracles and His assertion that He is God, brought to the attention of the Roman Senate by Emperor Tiberius. Because the Roman Senate did not endorse Jesus, they rejected his proposal to include these matters into the senate record.
Phylegon: a freed slave of Emperor Hadrian, born in 80 A.D. His writings are preserved by other historical documents, primarily, Origen.
- Describing Jesus’ ability to accurately predict events of the future that were later confirmed by history as fulfilled.
- Describing Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s future death by crucifixion.
- Describes the crucifixion of Jesus at Jerusalem.
- Describes an alleged solar eclipse that took place during the time of Emperor Tiberius, during the time of Jesus crucifixion.
- Described the earthquakes that took place during Jesus crucifixion.
- States that Jesus retained wounds from the crucifixion after He was resurrected.
Rheginos, who is possibly Valentinus: The Treatise on Resurrection. From the second century.
- Jesus, the man, was also fully God as He is the Son of God.
- Through His death as the Son of God, He defeated death.
- States the facts of Jesus’ death.
- States the facts of Jesus’ resurrection.
- Since Jesus has been raised, Rheginos is encouraged to count himself as raised.
What all this information means to you, the reader: The man called “Jesus of Nazareth” is a genuine person from the historical record.
If Jesus is simply a myth, why do we find over 100 references to Him in the non-biblical records of the Romans, Jews, Greeks, and other Secular documents? In fact, we can completely reconstruct the primary events of Jesus life, death, and resurrection; strictly from these non-biblical sources.
The primary purpose of Jesus in coming to earth was to demonstrate that God exists and that it is His desire to cleanse us from our sins and make every person fully ready for heaven. Jesus repeatedly stated that He and God are one and the same. Then He demonstrated that this is true by performing works that only God could accomplish.
In many of the discussions that I have had with those who claim to an atheist or agnostic, they repeatedly state that “there is no evidence for God.” The type of evidence that they are implying is scientific, empirical, testable, and observable.
In recent years, there has been a great attempt to discredit the New Testament narrative of Jesus—altogether. There are claims made that Jesus never existed; that His life, death, and resurrection are fabrications. Assertions are made that there is no other evidence for the existence of Jesus, other than the accounts written in the New Testament Bible.
This premise ignores the vast evidence that exists from the Jewish Talmud and the records of the Roman Senate. The ancient scribes of Israel who chronicled Jesus in their writings, had no interest in preserving any historical information about Him, nor Christianity. The Jews who recorded their commentary about Jesus in the Talmud, regarded Him and His followers as the latest of many cult religions of their day. These leaders of Israel had no desire to document the existence of Jesus, His crucifixion, nor those who followed Him—yet this is precisely what they accomplished by their adversarial comments regarding His arrest and execution. These records were written during the period of history in which Jesus is reported to have been in Israel, as described by the narrative of the New Testament scriptures.2
In the ancient records of the Roman Senate, Jesus was known as Chrestus, as described by the writings of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. For more than 30 years, Suetonius had access to the Imperial and Senatorial archives, and many other contemporary memoirs and public documents.3 According to historical experts of that period, much of the information that is left to us from Suetonius about the Roman Caesars, came from eyewitness accounts. Unlike Tacitus, Suetonius fact checked the material that was contained within the Roman archives for accuracy. According to Suetonius, Jesus was well know to the Roman government. He was known as Chrestus, the one responsible for the disturbances reported by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. In “The Twelve Caesars,” by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, he says:
“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (Christ), he expelled them from the City.”4
This is a direct corroboration of the text by an impartial, uninterested leader of the Roman government, who received his information from the Roman archives.
Both the Jews and the Romans would rather that Jesus had not existed, yet they found themselves recording many of the events of His life and death—in their preserved records of history. The evidence that is extant from antiquity, demands that Jesus existed as a real person in Israel, during the same period of history in which the New Testament describes Him.
“No credible Biblical scholar today believes that Jesus was not a real person of history. The evidence for His existence is so overwhelming, that to deny Jesus lived in Galilee at the time depicted by the New Testament would place any writer in a classification of incompetency.”5
All opposition to the existence of Jesus has now been refuted; and the fact that He lived and conducted Himself in the events described by the four Gospels of the New Testament, is incontrovertible.
Since we know for certain that the historical record of Jesus is verified by secular, as well as Biblical texts, we must now consider what Jesus stated about Himself. Jesus claimed to be the True and Living God—presented to us in the body of a man. As we examine Jesus’ claims, we find that there is no mistake, no misunderstanding in what Jesus said; He believed Himself to be God. Then Jesus supported His claim to be God by doing things that only God could do: Heal the sick, make the blind see, cause the disabled to walk, heal the leper, cast out demons, and raise the dead. The people who observed Jesus said that He was without sin and that they believed that He is Jehovah-God, the Creator of the universe (Colossians 1:1, Hebrews 1:1, John 1:1).
If this claim is true, and this book validates these facts; then God has proven His existence by empirical evidence.
According to the United States Library of Congress, we have just over 20,000 documents written by Abraham Lincoln, from 1833-1916.6 The documents that describe the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which have survived time and decay, are 24,593.
We know more about Jesus of Nazareth and the events surrounding His life than we do the 16th president of the United States of America.
The man, Jesus Christ, is a real person from history—whose life has been recorded for us by honest men who documented the amazing things that He has said and done. There is more historical evidence for the man called Jesus than practically any other person in the chronology of the world.7
“I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer.” —Dr. Thomas Arnold, Oxford history professor
“The evidence for the resurrection alone is better than for claimed miracles of all other religions. There leaders are buried and still in their graves. Jesus tomb was found empty!”—Anthony Flew, former atheist
The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- The Body Of New Testament Evidence
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?
[A] Acts 11:27-28
1 1) This Chronicle of Jesus was already known by the archbishop Agobard of Lyons in 827 A.D. Schäfer, “Agobard’s and Amulo’s Toledot Yeshu” in Toledot Yeshu (“the Life Story of Jesus”) Revisited. Also:
2) Sarit Kattan-Gribetz, “Hanged and Crucified: The Book of Esther and Toledot Yeshu,” Toledot Yeshu (“the Life Story of Jesus”) Revisited.
2 The following are specific references to Jesus of Nazareth, as found in the Talmud under passages on execution in Sanhedrin 43 a-b.1
Herzog 1: On the eve of Passover, they hanged Jesus the Nazarene.
Vatican 130: He went and brought up Jesus the Nazarene.
Vatican 140: He went and brought up Jesus.
Munich 95: On the eve of the Passover, they hanged Jesus of Nazareth.
Firenze 11.1.8-9: On the Sabbath eve and the eve of Passover, they hanged Jesus the Nazarene.
Karisruhe 2: On the eve of Passover, they hanged Jesus the Nazarene.
Barco: On the eve of Passover, they hanged Jesus of Nazareth.
1 English translations of the Talmud from Peter Schäfer, pp 133–140
3 Graves, Robert (2014-03-05). The Twelve Caesars (Kindle Locations 30-34). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
4 Graves, Robert (2014-03-05). The Twelve Caesars (Kindle Locations 3343-3345). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
5 Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16 states: “biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted”
James D. G. Dunn “Paul’s understanding of the death of Jesus” in Sacrifice and Redemption edited by S. W. Sykes (Dec 3, 2007) Cambridge University Press ISBN 052104460X pages 35-36 states that the theories of non-existence of Jesus are “a thoroughly dead thesis”
The Gospels and Jesus by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, page 145 states : “Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed”.
7 1.Grant, M., Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels New York: Scribner’s, 1977, Page 176
2.Van Daalen, D. H., The Real Resurrection, London: Collins, 1972, Page 41
3.Kremer, Jakob, Die Osterevangelien — Geschichten um Geschichte, Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977, Pages 49-50
Although the preceding information taken from the secular records of the Romans, Jews, and other texts, bears some resemblance to the work of my colleague, Gary Habermas, I have also compiled this information myself over the past 45 years of Biblical studies, teaching, writing, and publishing. This information is all in the public domain.
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures 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 one of our procurators, 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, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed“
Suetonius: Suetonius, Claudius, 25.
“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.”
Josephus: Antiquities 18:3
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats. . . . He was (the) Christ . . . he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
Josephus: Jesus Within Judaism, p. 95.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. 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. But 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 wonders.“
Thallus: 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.
“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..”
Pliny The Younger: Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X: 96.
“They (the Christians) 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.”
Trajan: Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X: 96
“The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. It is not possible to lay down any general rule which can be applied as the fixed standard in all cases of this nature. No search should be made for these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our Gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion. Informations without the accuser’s name subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and by no means agreeable to the spirit of the age. “
Hadrian: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, IV:IX.
“I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if any one would bring an accusation, that you should examine it.”
Talmud: The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I. Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, p. 281.
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”
Lucian: 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.
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, 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 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. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
Mara Bar-Serapion: British Museum, Syriac Manuscript, Additional 14, 658. For this text, see Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 31.
“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 statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.
Valentinus: The Gospel of Truth 26: 4-8. The edition used here is Robinson.
“For when they had seen him and had heard him, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father . . . . For he came by means of fleshly appearance.”
Acts of Pontius Pilate: Justin Martyr, First Apology, XXXV. Quotations from Justin Martyr and Tertullian are from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), vol. III.
“And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain in the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.”
Tiberius: Tertullian, Apology, V.
“Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.“