A lot of evidence has been presented during this discussion to confirm Jesus Christ as a historical figure. We have viewed accounts taken from
numerous authors of different theological backgrounds and we have answered some common skeptic questions concerning Jesus' historicity.
I purposely avoided using Biblical evidence to support the existence of Jesus because that would be "using the Bible to prove the Bible."
Instead we focused this study on extrabiblical sources. However, early Christian historians and witnesses were unanimous in their accounts
that several New Testament books were written by eye witnesses of both Jesus and the apostolic ministry. If these authors were indeed eye
witnesses, we can believe they also provide evidence to the historicity of Jesus.
Some readers may be satisfied with such evidence, some may not. Whatever the case, I encourage you to examine all the facts for yourself
before reaching a logical conclusion.
In this section, we will examine 1st and 2nd century sources which verify Jesus as an actual man of history
(not a compilation of pagan myths as some critics allege). Each of the following sections offer their own
advantages: the non-Christian sources are important as they had nothing to gain by their admissions. On the
other hand, the Christian witness had everything to lose- many paying for their testimony with their lives.
The outline we will be following for this discussion is as follows:
1) Secular Sources (Documentary)
2) Secular Sources (Commentary)
3) Jewish Sources (Non-Christian)
4) Extra-Biblical Sources (Christian)
5) Answering Common Skeptic Questions Concerning Jesus' existence
CORNELIUS TACITUS (55 - 120 A.D.) Tacitus was a 1st and 2nd century Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over half a dozen
Roman emperors. Considered one of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Tacitus verifies the Biblical account of Jesus' execution at the
hands of Pontius Pilate who governed Judea from 26-36 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius.
"Christus, the founder of the [Christian] 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, by through the city of
Rome also." Annals XV, 44
What this passage reveals and how it confirms the Biblical account:
- Jesus did exist
- Jesus was the founder of Christianity
- Jesus was put to death by Pilate
- Christianity originated in Judea (With Jesus)
- Christianity later spread to Rome (Through the Apostles and Evangelists)
Skeptic Interjection: Could Tacitus have taken his information from Christian sources?
Answer: Because of his position as a professional historian and not as a commentator, it is more likely Tacitus referenced government
records over Christian testimony. It is also possible Tacitus received some of his information from his friend and fellow secular historian, Pliny
the Younger. Yet, even if Tacitus referenced some of Pliny's sources, it would be out of his character to have done so without critical
investigation. An example of Tacitus criticising testimony given to him even from his dear friend Pliny is found here: Annals XV, 55. Tacitus
distinguishes between confirmed and hearsay accounts almost 70 times in his History. If he felt this account of Jesus was only a rumor or
folklore, he would have issued his usual disclaimer that this account was unverified.
Skeptic Interjection: Could this passage have been a Christian interpolation?
Answer: Judging by the critical undertones of the passage, this is highly unlikely. Tacitus refers to Christianity as a superstition and
insuppressible mischief. Furthermore, there is not a surviving copy of Tacitus' Annals that does not contain this passage. There is no verifiable
evidence of tampering of any kind in this passage.
Skeptic Interjection: Why is this passage not quoted by the early church fathers?
Answer: Due to the condescending nature of Tacitus' testimony, early Christian authors most likely would not have quoted such a source
(assuming Tacitus' writings were even available to them). However, our actual answer comes from the content of the passage itself. Nothing in
Tacitus' statement mentions anything that was not already common knowledge among Christians. It simply provides evidence of Jesus'
existence (a topic not debated at this point in history) and not his divinity.
Skeptic Interjection: Does the incorrect use of title procurator instead of prefect negate Tacitus' reliability?
Answer: No. Evidence is provided in both secular and Christian works which refer to Pilate as a procurator:
It has been suggested by both Christian and secular scholars that Tacitus was either using an anachronism for the sake of clarity or, since
Judea was a relatively new and insignificant Roman province, Pilate might have held both positions.
GAIUS SUETONIUS TRANQUILLUS (69 - 130 A.D.) Suetonius was a prominent Roman historian who recorded the lives of the Roman
Caesars and the historical events surrounding their reigns. He served as a court official under Hadrian and as an annalist for the Imperial
House. Suetonius records the expulsion of the Christian Jews from Rome (mentioned in Acts 18:2) and confirms the Christian faith being
founded by Christ.
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." Life of Claudius 25.4
Skeptic Interjection: Because Suetonius misspells Christus as Chrestus, is it possible he was referring to someone else?
Answer: Because Chrestus was an actual Greek name, critics speculate Suetonius may have been referring to a specific civil agitator. I would
like to present a few arguments as to why I feel this is a reference to Jesus. In order to get as close to the author's intent as possible, this is
the passage as it exists in the original Latin:
"Iudaeos (The Jews) impulsore (the instigation) Chresto (Chrestus) assidue (upon) tumultuantis (making a disturbance) Roma
(Rome) expulit (were expelled)."
- Suetonius seems to imply the word Chrestus as a title- not as a reference to a particular rebel. Though I have seen critics cite the
passage as "a certain/one Chrestus" we can see this is incorrect by the lack of the word quodam in the original Latin.
- Suetonius uses the word instigation- not instigator. The Latin word referring to an instigator is impulsor but the term referring to an
instigation is impusore- and this is the word Suetonius uses, thus affirming the belief he is using the word Chrestus as a title and not as
- It was common for both pagan and Christian authors to spell the name using either an e or an i- and we know the Christian authors
were obviously referring to Jesus when they spelled the name as Chrestus.
- Tertullian criticises pagan disdain for Christianity and points out the fact they can't even spell the name correctly. He implies the
common misspelling of Chrestus by their use of the term Chrestians: "Most people so blindly knock their heads against the hatred of the
Christian name...It is wrongly pronounced by you as "Chrestians" (for you do not even know accurately the name you hate)... But
the special ground of dislike to the sect is, that it bears the name of its Founder." Apology, Chapter III
- We also see Justin Martyr (a Christian apologist, nonetheless!) using the incorrect spelling of Chrestian. First Apology IV
- Lactantius repeats the lament of Tertullian with his statement, "But the meaning of this name must be set forth, on account of the error
of the ignorant who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus." Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries
- Chrestus was a Greco-Roman slave name but Suetonius tells us "foreigners" were not allowed to adopt such names. Knowing the Jews
were a close-knit community, the idea of them following the revolt of a gentile slave to such an extent to get them (and only them!)
expelled from Rome is quite a stretch.
Skeptic Interjection: How could this passage refer to Jesus. He was never said to have travelled to Rome.
Answer: If Chrestus does refer to a title and not a specific name (as we are asserting), there is no need for Him to have been in Rome. A
leader can still be "an instigator" for a cause without being in the vicinity. There are many causes that survived long after the lives of those
who initiated certain movements.
THALLUS (~ 52 A.D.) Although his works exist only in fragments, Julius Africanus debates Thallus' explanation of the midday darkness which
occurred during the Passover of Jesus' crucifixion. Thallus tries to dismiss the darkness as a natural occurrence (a solar eclipse) but Africanus
argues (and any astronomer can confirm) a solar eclipse cannot physically occur during a full moon due to the alignment of the planets.
Phlegon of Tralles, a 2nd century secular historian, also mentions the darkness and tries to dismiss it as a solar eclipse. He also states the
event occurred during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
"On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness. 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. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the
passover. But an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time... Phlegon
records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth-manifestly that one
of which we speak. Chronography XVIII, 47
Skeptic Interjection: Why doesn't Pliny the Elder or Seneca mention this event in their writings?
Answer: Pliny focused his writings on natural astronomical events that had physical, scientific explanations. It is doubtful he would have found
it necessary to record an event of supernatural origin. I can also find no mention of him being in Judea at the time so it is doubtful he would
have mentioned it if he did not witness the event first hand. Seneca focused his writings on dramas, dialogues, and tragedies but also wrote a
meteorological essay, Natural Questions, composed of theories pertaining to ancient cosmology. However this was by no means a complete
scientific almanac of events- it was a literary work. And like Pliny, it is doubtful Seneca was in Judea during this event.
Skeptic Interjection: Because Thallus' and Phlegon's works exist only in fragments, can their testimonies be considered reliable?
Answer: This is something the reader will have to determine on their own. Africanus was an honest, qualified author who did not alter the
quotes to serve his own purpose. This is very likely considering what we know about Africanus (See: here). Africanus' methods were highly
respected by his peers, he was often quoted by other authors, and he even chastises his friend and fellow Christian, Origen, for citing
information from a spurious/unreliable source! (See: Africanus' letter to Origen). It also must be noted that Thallus never said this eclipse did
not happen but instead was trying to actually come up with a scientific explanation to the eclipse instead of assigning it divine origins.
PLINY THE YOUNGER (63 - 113 A.D) Pliny the Younger admits to torturing and executing Christians who refused to deny Christ. Those who
denied the charges were spared and ordered to exalt the Roman gods and curse the name of Christ. Pliny addresses his concerns to Emperor
Trajan that too many citizens were being killed for their refusal to deny their faith.
"I asked them directly if they were Christians...those who persisted, I ordered away... Those who denied they were or ever had been
Christians...worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ. They used to gather on a stated day before dawn and
sing to Christ as if he were a god... All the more I believed it necessary to find out what was the truth from two servant maids, which were
called deaconesses, by means of torture. Nothing more did I find than a disgusting, fanatical superstition. Therefore I stopped the examination,
and hastened to consult you...on account of the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are
brought into danger..." Pliny's letter to Emperor Trajan
Though Pliny states some of the accused denied the charges, a recurring theme in the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan is the
willingness of the true believer to die for Christ. This would hardly be reasonable if they knew He never existed!
Skeptic Interjection: How does dying for one's belief verify the actual existence of Jesus? The sincerity of a belief does not necessarily
make the belief true. How does this passage specifically confirm a historical Jesus and not just the existence of Christians in Rome?
Answer: Pliny states the Christians worshiped Christ as if he were a god. This indicates one who would not normally be considered a god,
such as a human who was exalted to divine status. Also, the early Christians would have been in the position to know if Jesus was a historical
figure or not. Though critics can claim these martyrs took Jesus' existence solely on faith, common sense tells us there would have been a lot
more evidence of a historical Jesus at this time than what has been preserved until today. According to early historians, Jesus' great-nephews
and other relatives were still alive as well as the associates of the original apostles. Such individuals could easily verify His existence. Also,
documents which have been lost to us were still in existence (such as Jesus' trial records and the census records of His birth) and were even
referenced by early authors who wrote about Jesus. These individuals had every reason to be certain of Jesus' existence and were willing to
die because of it.
Skeptic Interjection: Pliny also states some recanted their testimony. Perhaps they did so because they knew Jesus was a myth.
Answer: There are several rational explanations as to why some would recant their Christian beliefs:
- Pliny readily admits to torturing some of the accused (are admissions/denials really credible under torture!?).
- The accused knew if they did not recant they would be put to death (fallible human rationalization: confess and go home [and work out
the hard feelings with Jesus later] or suffer crucifixion?).
- Some of the accused could have been lackadaisical Christians who half-heartedly accepted Christianity because of a spouse, parent, or
friend (and would have had no problem reverting back to paganism upon facing persecution). There were half-hearted Christians 2,000
years ago just like there are half-hearted Christians today.
- New Christians may have recanted to escape persecution if they were not familiar with or did not understand the severity of Jesus'
warning regarding those who deny their Christian beliefs).
- The correspondence between Pliny and Trajan implies many of the accused were being turned in falsely by their enemies. Some were
never Christians to begin with while some had already left the faith prior to their interrogation.
- Just because there were some who may have recanted out of fear or poor judgment doesn't dismiss the deaths of the other individuals
who were certain of Jesus' existence and died because of their knowledge.
CELSUS (~ 178 A.D.) Celsus was a second century Roman author and avid opponent of Christianity. He went to great lengths to disprove the
divinity of Jesus yet never denied His actual existence. Unfortunately for Celsus, he sets himself up for criticism by mimicking the exact
accusations brought against Jesus by the pharisees which had already been addressed and refuted in the New Testament. There are two very
important facts regarding Celsus which make him one of the most important witnesses in this discussion:
- Though most secular passages are accused of being Christian interpolations, we can accept with certainty this is not the case with
Celsus! The sheer volume of his writings (specifically designed to discredit Christianity) coupled with the hostile accusations presented
in his work dismiss this chance immediately.
- The idea of Celsus getting his information entirely from Christian sources (another recurring accusation against secular evidence) is
wholly absurd. Though he is obviously aware of his opponents' beliefs (as anyone who is engaging in a debate should be), Celsus wrote
his exposition in the form of a dialogue between a "Jewish Critic" and himself. This gives us cause to believe he used non-Christian
(probably Jewish) sources.
On Jesus' Miracles: "Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain [magical] powers... He
returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god... It was by means of
sorcery that He was able to accomplish the wonders which He performed... Let us believe that these cures, or the resurrection, or the feeding
of a multitude with a few loaves... These are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers... It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of
incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of [miraculous] power..."
Not only does Celsus confirm Jesus' existence, he also tries to debate the source of Jesus' miracles. Like the pharisees of Jesus' day, Celsus
tries to dismiss these miracles as both demonic possession and cheap parlor tricks. However, he is clearly grasping at straws: On one hand
Celsus accuses Jesus of performing magic learned in Egypt, then later states it is by the power of possession, then states the miracles were
not really miracles at all but were illusionary tricks performed by a deceiver, then finally states the miracles never occurred!
On the Virgin Birth: "Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her
hands. His mother had been turned out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a Roman soldier
named Panthera]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard."
Celsus acknowledges Jesus' birth and existence but does not accept the concept of a virgin conception. He tries to dismiss Mary's premarital
pregnancy as the result of an affair she had with a Roman soldier. Strangely enough, there is a very similar passage in the Jewish Talmud
which makes the same accusation. This gives us reason to believe Celsus might have referenced Jewish sources for some of his arguments.
On the Apostles: "Jesus gathered around him ten or eleven persons of notorious character... tax-collectors, sailors, and fishermen... [He
was] deserted and delivered up by those who had been his associates, who had him for their teacher, and who believed he was the savior and
son of the greatest God... Those who were his associates while alive, who listened to his voice, and enjoyed his instructions as their teacher,
on seeing him subjected to punishment and death, neither died with nor for him... but denied that they were even his disciples, lest they die
along with Him."
Celsus' intentions were to argue that if the disciples really believed Jesus was the Son of God, they would not have forsaken Him at His arrest.
Instead, he only ends up confirming the Biblical account! The Bible tells us when Jesus was arrested, the apostles denied being His followers. It
was only upon Jesus' resurrection they understood the spiritual principles concerning Jesus' crucifixion and boldly went out to preach the
Gospel. Celsus is also wrong with his statement, [they] neither died with nor for him. We are told by early historians all but one of the
remaining apostles were killed for their faith.
On Jesus' Divinity: "One who was a God could neither flee nor be led away a prisoner... What great deeds did Jesus perform as God? Did he
put his enemies to shame or bring to an end what was designed against him? No calamity happened even to him who condemned him... Why
does he not give some manifestation of his divinity, and free himself from this reproach, and take vengeance upon those who insult both him
and his Father?"
Celsus ridicules Jesus for the exact same reasons the pharisees of His time ridiculed Him- if Jesus was the Son of God, why didn't He save
Himself from the cross? Neither Celsus nor the pharisees understood the spiritual implications of Jesus' death to atone for sin. Celsus also asks
why no judgment came upon the Jews but history shows shortly after His death Jerusalem was invaded by the Romans, the Jewish temple was
destroyed, and the Jewish people were dispersed for almost 2,000 years!
John the Baptist "If any one predicted to us that the Son of God was to visit mankind, he was one of our prophets, and the prophet of our
God? John, who baptized Jesus, was a Jew."
Celsus confirms Jesus' baptism by John but asserts that John was the only one who actually prophesied His coming- not the Old Testament
On the Crucifixion: "Jesus accordingly exhibited after His death only the appearance of wounds received on the cross, and was not in reality
so wounded as He is described to have been."
In this statement, Celsus confirms Jesus' death by crucifixion although he claims the only wounds Jesus received were those inflicted by the
crucifixion (thus denying any previous torture had taken place). But not even history offers Celsus the benefit of a doubt as floggings were the
standard form of torture given to victims prior to crucifixion (See here). Celsus contradicts himself yet again when he later states Jesus was
probably never even crucified but instead had an impostor die in His place!
Skeptic Interjection: Celsus also states, "It is clear to me that the writings of the Christians are a lie and that your fables are not well
enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction." How do we know Celsus is referring to a historical Jesus and not just debating myth?
Answer: Evidence which shows Celsus to be refuting aspects of a historical Jesus is as follows:
- Our answer can be found in Celsus' own words: He was therefore a man, and of such a nature, as the truth itself proves, and reason
demonstrates him to be. Satisfied with his presentation of evidence, Celsus offers his conclusion that Jesus was only a man- not a myth
(or a God, as the apostles had claimed).
- Instead of denying the alleged events, Celsus offers alternative theories to the early Christian claims (like the virgin birth being a cover-
up for an illegitimate pregnancy and the miracles actually being works of sorcery). If he was discussing a mythical character, he would
not have needed to go to such lengths but merely to have dismissed Jesus as a myth. After all, there is no easier way to discredit a
religion than to assert its founder never existed! Of course, this is an argument Celsus never makes.
- The "fables" Celsus refers to is his belief that the claims such as a virgin birth and resurrection were embellishments created by early
Christians- not that Jesus was Himself a myth. Celsus was debating the claims of Jesus' divinity, not His existence.
LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA (120 - ~180 A.D.) Lucian was a second century Greek satirist and rhetorician who scornfully describes his views of
early Christianity. Though he ridicules the Christians and their Christ, his writings confirm Jesus was executed via crucifixion and that He was
the founder of Christianity.
"The Christians, you know, 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 they are converted and deny the
gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws..." The Death of Peregrinus 11-13
What this passage reveals and how it confirms the Biblical account:
- Jesus did exist
- Jesus was the founder of Christianity
- Jesus was worshiped by His followers
- Jesus suffered death by crucifixion
Skeptic Interjection: Can we consider Lucian's testimony reliable due to the source being a literary work?
Answer: Lucian's commentary revolved around historical events. In Lucian's work The Way to Write History, he openly criticises his
contemporaries who distort history to flatter their masters or those who fill in the historical gaps with personal conjecture:
"The historian's one task is to tell the thing as it happened... He may nurse some private dislikes, but he will attach far more importance
to the public good, and set the truth high above his hate... For history, I say again, has this and only this for its own. If a man will start
upon it, he must sacrifice to no God but Truth. He must neglect all else." The Way to Write History
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible Lucian received his knowledge from Christian sources or that this passage is an interpolation?
Answer: Seeing how adamant Lucian was in regards to historical accuracy and critical investigation, our answer is an emphatic no. As to the
passage being a Christian interpolation, chances are the reference to Jesus would be far more favorable if this were so. Lucian refers to Jesus
only as a man, a lawgiver, and a sage (human- not divine- descriptions). He never once refers to Jesus as a God. Furthermore, there isn't
anything in the above statement that reveals what wasn't already known- it merely asserts that Jesus lived, preached, and died. Remember, at
this time Christians were trying to prove Jesus' divinity- not His existence.
MARA BAR-SERAPION (Post 70 A.D) Mara Bar-Serapion of Syria penned this letter from prison to his son. Though it is obvious he does not
acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, he does mention aspects of Jesus' life. There is some criticism regarding this passage but it must be
noted nothing in Serapion's letter contradicts what we know about Jesus.
"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 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 teachings 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." Source
Skeptic Interjection: How do we know this passage is a reference to Jesus?
Answer: There are several references in this passage which imply Serapion is referring to Jesus:
- He was a wise King (Jesus was mocked by the Romans as The King of the Jews, the messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus referred to
the coming Messiah as a king, Christian believers believed Jesus was their promised spiritual king, and Jesus was born from the royal
line of King David).
- He was Jewish (Jesus was a Galilean Jew).
- He was executed (Jesus was crucified after the Jews appealed to Pilate to have Him crucified).
- After His death Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed (This occurred in 70 A.D., after Jesus' death).
- The Jews were dispersed after His death (The Jews abandoned Judea after the Roman attack of 70 A.D.).
- He was a teacher (Jesus was a rabbi/teacher).
- He lived on after death in His teachings (Jesus and His teachings founded the Christian faith).
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible Serapion was referring to another person?
Answer: Though critics mention other possible candidates, the timing is off as Serapion specifically states just after that their kingdom was
abolished. Only Jesus fits into the appropriate timeline as Titus destroyed Jerusalem a mere 36 years after Jesus' crucifixion. The others lived
approximately 170-250 years prior to the desolation.
Skeptic Interjection: Didn't the Romans technically kill Jesus, though?
Answer: As I mention towards the bottom of this page, The Jews were under Roman domination which restricted their ability to execute
capital punishment. The Jews rallied the Roman government to crucify Jesus for the crime of blasphemy as they did not have the legal power
to do so. Even the Bible mentions Pilate's reluctance to punish an innocent man but that he allowed it to take place to prevent a Jewish revolt
in an already hostile environment.
ARGUMENTS FOR AUTHENTICITY
1: The vocabulary found in the Testimonium is consistent with
the vocabulary used in other passages in Antiquities. The phrase
Now about this time is used at the beginning of this passage as
well dozens of other passages. It's also doubtful a Christian
forger would have referred to Jesus as simply a wise man but
then go on to assert claims of His divinity. Yet, Josephus uses
this word to refer to many other notable (and purely human)
figures. Josephus also uses the description of Jesus' miracles as
wonderful [astonishing, surprising] works. Lastly, Josephus
refers to Christianity as a tribe- just like he does many other
times in reference to both major and minor sects.
2: Once the disputed words (printed in regular font in the above
passage) are removed, Josephus' though process flows just as
well. This lends credence to the possibility the passage wasn't
wholly interpolated but perhaps altered. When we omit the
disputed words, the passage seems consistent with what an
orthodox Jew would say concerning Jesus:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise 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 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 the first did not forsake him. And the
tribes of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this
3: Greek and Arabic translations of the Testimonium contain
disclaimers preceding the suspicious declarations such as "Jesus
who was believed to be the Christ" and "It has been
reported that He appeared to them alive again on the third
day." If anything, this could lead to the speculation that
Christian authors did not add to the text but edited it by deleting
4: The earliest versions of Antiquities contain the passage as it
is presented above. Objection: The earliest surviving copy
dates from 10th century A.D. (plenty of time from the
publication of Antiquities to alter or interpolate the passage).
Answer: This is true. We do not have an extant copy of
Antiquities dating from before 10th century A.D. What we do
have however, is several citations of this passage by other
authors prior to the 10th century).
5: Many defenders of the Testimonium's authenticity speculate
that if it had been wholly interpolated by a Christian, they most
likely would have inserted the passage next to the John the
Baptist references. Though I understand their reasoning, I feel
this argument is based on conjecture instead of evidence. The
alleged Christian forger could have had just as much reason to
insert this passage next to the John passage, the Pilate passage,
or the James passage.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST AUTHENTICITY
1: This passage seems to interrupt the continuity of Josephus'
thought process in the previous and subsequent verses.
Answer: Interruptions are frequently found in Josephus' works
since he composed his histories during different sittings.
Furthermore, Josephus was known to use the assistance of
scribes during his writings which could easily resolve this issue.
2: The passage contains proclamations an orthodox Jew would
not make such as Jesus being the Christ. Answer: In other
translations (Greek and Arabic) the suspicious statements
contain disclaimers such as "Jesus who was believed to be the
Christ" and "It has been reported..." This presents the theory
Josephus was recording the beliefs regarding Jesus and not
necessarily his personal opinion (as a responsible historian
3: Early Christian authors like Origen and Justin Martyr do not
mention this passage in their writings. Answer: I'm not sure
what the motive is behind this objection because Origen does
reference the other passage by Josephus yet critics claim the
reference is "too late" to be reliable! But, for argument's sake if
we assume this passage did exist in the form most scholars
believe it did, the early church fathers might not have felt the
need to refer to it. The [original?] passage serves as evidence
for the historicity of Jesus- a topic not hotly debated at this point
as the burden of proof revolved around His divinity. Objection:
Origen attests to the historicity of John the Baptist in his work
Contra Celsus when it wasn't even being debated. He could have
cited this passage too. Answer: In Origen's Contra Celsus the
divinity of Jesus was being debated- not his existence. Though
Josephus allegedly admits to Jesus performing miracles, he does
not state how. It would have made no sense for Origen to cite
the Testimonium since it doesn't either dispute or confirm
Celsus' claims. Furthermore, even if the original Antiquities still
existed in Josephus' own handwriting, critics would say he either
drew his information from Christian sources or was to late to be
4: Josephus' Jewish Wars also contains this passage so it must
be a forgery. Answer: This is false- the Testimonium is not
found in the Jewish Wars. To the contrary- Skeptics criticize that
the Testimonium is not found in The Wars but should have
5: Josephus should have written more regarding Jesus if the
passage was genuine. Answer: What topic or how much an
author writes about a topic is their prerogative. Also, since
Josephus believed Jesus was just another messianic pretender
and false prophet, it would have made little sense for Josephus
to have written volumes concerning His life and actions. It would
be similar to a modern a Christian author exhaustively recording
the life of Jim Jones or David Koresh. Josephus most likely held
Jesus in the same regard and felt he warranted little mention.
After weighing the evidence for myself, I personally agree with the consensus of scholars that Josephus did make some mention of Jesus in
this passage but that the text was later altered. Because opinions differ so greatly, I will leave the final conclusion up to the reader. For a more
in-depth discussion on this topic, I suggest reading this non-biased article which details both sides of the on-going debate (although this author
believes the passage was wholly interpolated).
We'll now examine the second passage given to us by Josephus. Fortunately, it is not surrounded in as much controversy!
"So [Ananus] 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 lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." Antiquities XX 9:1
Skeptic Interjection: Is it possible this passage was interpolated by early Christians?
Answer: It must be noted that no copy of Antiquities has ever surfaced without the above text quoted as it is above. Critics are suspicious of
the so-called Christ statement yet this reference (rather than the Christ) shows Josephus was not condoning the belief but simply
documenting it. Also, this passage concerns the actions of the priest Ananus- Jesus and James were not even the primary focus of this verse!
Lastly, this passage is cited in other early works which attests to its authenticity.
Even if we dismiss the disputed words in Josephus' Testimonium, we still see he testifies to a number of things in the above two passages:
- Jesus lived in the first century
- He performed wonderful works (miracles)
- Some believed Jesus to be the Christ
- He was a teacher
- He had many followers
- He was tried by Pilate
- He was crucified
- He was the founder of Christianity
- James was the brother of Jesus
THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD The Babylonian Talmud is an ancient record of Jewish history, laws, and rabbinic teachings compiled throughout
the centuries. Though it does not accept the divinity of Jesus, it confirms the belief He was hanged (an idiom for crucifixion) on the eve of the
"On the eve of the Passover Yeshu (Jesus) [Some texts: Yeshu/Jesus the Nazarene] was hanged [crucified]. Forty days before the execution, 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 favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on
the eve of the Passover."
Skeptic Interjection: How can we know the Talmud is documenting Jesus' existence and not only stating the rumor surrounding a myth?
Answer: In the above excerpt the Talmud mentions Jesus' ability to perform miracles but tries to dismiss it as sorcery. If the writers were
simply refuting myth, they would most likely have dismissed the tale as a rumor- not assign alternative theories to defend their position.
Skeptic Interjection: How can we know this passage is a reference to Jesus and not another individual with the name Yeshu?
Answer: Though it is possible this passage could refer to another individual, we know Jesus was killed during the Passover, we know He was
crucified (a Jewish idiom for hanged), we know He was accused of practicing sorcery by the pharisees (for His miracles), and He was ultimately
arrested for the sin of blasphemy (enticing Israel to apostasy). Furthermore, there are other translations which read Yeshu the Nazarene which
give us even more reason to believe this passage pertains to Jesus. On the other hand, a very thorough article which debates the Talmudic
passages believed to refer to Jesus may be read here.
FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (37 - 100 A.D.) Josephus was a first century pharisee and historian of both priestly and royal ancestry who provided
important insight into first-century Judaism. Josephus was born only three years after the crucifixion of Jesus, making him a credible witness to
the historicity of Jesus.
"Now there was about this 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 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 tribes of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day." Antiquities XVIII, 3:2
Skeptic Interjection: Could this passage have been altered or interpolated by early Christian authors?
Answer: Some think this passage is a complete interpolation while some believe the passage is authentic. However, the general consensus
among scholars is that Josephus most likely made some sort of mention to Jesus but that the original text became distorted over time.
Because this passage is a source of great debate, we will touch on a few of the arguments presented by both sides:
Note: Though many skeptics claim the early church fathers did not use independent extra-Biblical sources, throughout this section we will
show otherwise. Potential references to the use of a extra-biblical sources will be shown using purple font.
CLEMENT OF ROME (? - 98? A.D.) Clement was a bishop of Rome and later became known as the fourth pope. He was eventually martyred
in approximately 98 A.D. Some speculate Paul was referring to Clement in Philippians 4:3 but this cannot be proven. Clement was a first
century apostolic author which gives credence to his first-hand account of early Christianity. In the passage below, Clement confirms the
ministry of the disciples and some of the basic tenets of early Christianity.
"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 a charge, and being fully
assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God will full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went
forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first fruits,
when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe." Corinthians 42
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Clement:
- "And giving heed unto His words, ye laid them up diligently in your hearts, and His sufferings were before your eyes" Chapter 2
(correspondence with possible eye-witnesses)
- Tertullian and Jerome record the belief Clement was personally ordained by and a disciple of Peter (which implies he was privy to extra-
biblical information as he was close to an original apostle).
- "The New Testament he [Clement] never quotes verbally. Sayings of Christ are now and then given, but not in the words of the Gospels.
It cannot be proved, therefore, that he used any one of the Synoptic Gospels." The Catholic Encyclopedia Online
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (? - ~100 A.D) Ignatius was a Bishop of Antioch reported to have been appointed to his position by Peter of whom
he was a disciple. He is also believed to be a disciple of Paul and John. Ignatius was arrested by the Romans and executed as a martyr in the
arena. Even though his testimony would ultimately lead to his death, Ignatius was adamant about the things he witnessed. He reinforces early
Christian beliefs in the letters he penned while in prison. Even when execution was imminent, Ignatius refused to recant his faith.
"Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under
Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth. Who moreover was truly
raised from the dead, His father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe in Him." Trallians
"He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh but Son of God by the Divine will and powered, truly born of a virgin and baptized by
John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch...
That He might set up an ensign unto all ages through His resurrection." Smyrneans, 1
"Be ye fully persuaded concerning the birth and the passion and the resurrection, which took place in the time of the governorship of Pontius
Pilate. For these things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ our hope." Magnesians XI
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Ignatius:
- Theodoret states Ignatius was personally appointed to the Antioch See by Peter (like Clement, this implies a personal relationship with
an original apostle, making extra-biblical information available to him).
- John Chrysostom emphasises the honor bestowed upon Ignatius as he personally received his dedication from the apostles.
- Clement was also believed to be a disciple of Paul and John.
Skeptic Interjection: How can Clement and Ignatius knowing the apostles be considered extra-biblical resources? If some of the apostles
were said to have written the New Testament, how is this any different than using the New Testament as a source?
Answer: There are several reasons why this is important. First of all, Clement and Ignatius would have most certainly been privy to the
apostles' first-hand testimonies instead of simply having to rely on a "text" that "someone" had written. Second, because they were said to
have known the apostles intimately, they would have had a far greater ability to discredit their claims. Apparently the disciples passed all of
their tests because both Clement and Ignatius died as martyrs (which would have been highly unlikely if they had any doubts concerning the
QUADRATUS OF ATHENS (126 A.D.) Quadratus was an Athenian bishop and direct disciple of the Apostles. He is generally regarded as the
first Christian apologist because of his defense given to Emperor Hadrian in 126 A.D. Quadratus points out the fact that a few who were healed
and resurrected by Jesus lived until modern times.
"The deeds of our Savior were always before you, for they were true miracles. Those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead,
who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only while our Lord
was on earth, but likewise when he had left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times." Eusebius IV III, 2
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Quadratus:
- In the above passage, Quadratus refers to those who were healed by Jesus and had lived until modern times.
- Like Clement and Ignatius, Quadratus was said by Eusebius to be a direct disciple of the apostles.
ARISTIDES THE ATHENIAN (126 A.D.) Aristides, along with Quadratus mentioned above, presented an apology to Emperor Hadrian during
his stay in Athens in 126 A.D. Aristides describes the treatment of Jesus by His own people, the Jews, and contrasts their beliefs with those of
"When the Son of God was pleased to come upon the earth, they received him with wanton violence and betrayed him into the hands of Pilate
the Roman governor. Paying no respect to his good deeds and the countless miracles he performed among them, they demanded a sentence
of death by the cross... Now the Christians trace their origin from the Lord Jesus Christ... The Son of the most high God who came down from
heaven, being born of a pure [Hebrew] virgin, for the salvation of men... And he was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews. And after
three days He came to life again and ascended into heaven. His twelve apostles, after his ascension into heaven, went forth into the provinces
of the whole world proclaiming the true doctrine... They who still observe the righteousness enjoined by their preaching are called Christians."
JUSTIN MARTYR (~100 - 165 A.D.) Justin Martyr, possibly the most well-known early Christian apologist, was an educated pagan
philosopher who converted to Christianity around 130 A.D. Though he risked losing his wealth, status, and life, Justin fearlessly spread
Christianity throughout Asia Minor and Rome. Refusing to recant his testimony, he was led to his death via scourging and beheading in 165 A.
D. Being a thoroughly educated man, Justin weighed the evidence carefully before accepting his new faith and explains to the reader he made
his decision only after careful consideration and research.
"There is a village in Judea, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was born, as you can see from the tax registers under
Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea... He was born of a virgin as a man, and was named Jesus, and was crucified, and died, and rose
again, and ascended into heaven... After He was crucified, all His acquaintances denied Him. But once He had risen from the dead and
appeared to them and explained the prophecies which foretold all these things and ascended into heaven, the apostles believed. They received
the power given to them by Jesus and went into the world preaching the Gospel." First Apology, 34, 46, 50
"At the time of His birth, Magi from Arabia came and worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who was then sovereign in your land... When they
crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands and feet. Those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each
casting lots... But you did not repent after you learned that He rose from the dead. Instead, you sent men into to the world to proclaim that a
godless heresy had sprung from Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom was crucified and that His disciples stole His body from the tomb in order to
deceive men by claiming He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven." Dialogue with Trypho, 77 97, 107-8
Examples of Extra-Biblical Resource Evidence for Justin:
- Justin presents one of the earliest statements that specifically attest to Jesus' historicity. Justin refers his audience to the Judean tax
registers where they would find evidence of Jesus' birth.
- In the second quote above, Justin is refuting the rumors concerning a resurrection conspiracy and the accusation that Jesus was a
Galilean deceiver. Justin's awareness of the rumors concerning Jesus reveals his knowledge of extra-Biblical testimony.
- Justin uses the healing ministry of Christians to attest to the very real power of Christ: "Countless possessed men throughout the land
are being exorcised by many of our Christian men in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, continue to heal,
rendering helpless and driving the demons out of men, though they could not be cured by any other exorcists or those who used
incantations and drugs." Second Apology VI
- Justin makes a reference to The Acts of Pilate which was not a Biblical: "And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the
Acts of Pontius Pilate." First Apology XXXV
HEGESIPPUS (110 A.D. - 180 A.D.) Hegesippus converted to Christianity from Judaism after extensively researching the Gospel story for
himself. Instead of accepting the Gospel story at the word of others, he travelled extensively throughout Rome and Corinth in an effort to
collect evidence of the early Christian claims. Hegesippus provides important testimony that the stories being passed around were not watered
down, embellished, or fabricated.
"This man [James] was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ... 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 pieced together the succession down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus,
Anicetus being succeeded by Soter and he by Eleutherus. In ever line of bishops and in every city things accord with the preaching of the Law,
the Prophets, and the Lord." The History of the Church
Perhaps of all the figures mentioned in this section, no one uses more extra-biblical resource evidence than Hegesippus (in fact, he hardly uses
Biblical testimony at all!). Because his entire manuscript is basically a compilation of outside research, I'll only list a few examples:
- Hegesippus describes the ministry and demise of James (Jesus' brother) at the hands of the pharisees. These accounts were not
mentioned in the New Testament.
- Hegesippus fervently retraced the roots of the early church and states he did so in order to ensure the circulating testimonies
concerning Christ were genuine.
- In his research, Hegesippus recounts the ministries of several witnesses (primarily church fathers) not included in the Bible.
- Hegesippus documents the interrogation of Jesus' grand-nephews by Domitian and records they lived into the reign of Trojan.
- Hegesippus documents the martyrdom of Bishop Symeon, (the son of Cleopas mentioned in Luke 24:18). He was believed to be either
a relative, disciple, and/or contemporary of Jesus.
- Hegesippus addresses heresies being spread by differing sects, implying he did not focus his research solely on Biblical teachings.
WHY IS THERE NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OR PERSONAL WRITINGS TO VERIFY JESUS' HISTORICITY?
The Bible has been accused on several occasions of committing historical errors but has later been proven accurate through archaeological
finds. For instance, the Old Testament mentions a tribe of people known as the Hittites. Skeptics pointed out there was no such civilization in
history yet in the 19th century records of the Hittites were discovered within Assyrian ruins. Today we know a lot about the Hittites such as
their language, craftsmanship, geography, and empire chronology. The New Testament mentions the pool of Bethesda as a place where Jesus
healed a paralytic. No such location was known to exist until it was discovered in Jerusalem as a place where the sick would gather to seek
healing. Just because an artifact has not yet been recovered does not mean none exist. Lastly, though the discovery of an artifact may be
interesting, it would never be enough for the devout skeptic. Even a non-biased archaeologist would have a hard time proving a relic's
In regards to personal writings, Socrates, for example, exists only in the writings of his students. There is not a single document still in
existence that contains his original works. If we apply the same logic with Socrates skeptics use to determine Jesus' historicity, we must
assume Socrates was a figment of the imagination of his students. But if we are to accept Socrates as a historical figure based on four
secondary accounts, we must also accept Jesus as a historical figure whose life was documented by His disciples, historians, and those who
rejected His divine claims. When skeptics claim there is a difference between a man such as Socrates and Jesus, they would be absolutely
correct- Jesus had more accounts written about Him.
AREN'T THE WRITINGS THAT REFER TO JESUS JUST HEARSAY ACCOUNTS?
Critics claim because some accounts were recorded after Jesus' life they cannot be considered historically reliable. But this skepticism comes
from a misunderstanding of antiquity. We need to place ourselves in a time where 95% of the population was illiterate. If I really wanted to get
this research across to the typical English speaking American, I would not post this website in Latin! Likewise, documenting the Gospels
preserved the accounts for future generations but oral evangelism was the practical method in making the Gospel available to the current
population. Whether the accounts were written the day after Jesus' ascension or 30 years later, the fact is they were still penned by either the
original witnesses or during the lives of the original witnesses who could confront heretical accounts.
Jesus also concentrated His ministry in various provinces of Judea- not secular hubs of the ancient world like Rome or Alexandria. Christianity
spread into the surrounding areas after the life of Jesus. I would be far more suspicious of a Roman historian writing an excerpt about Jesus
in 30 A.D. rather approximately 95 A.D. when Christianity had reached Rome. When critics argue the only first hand accounts of Jesus' life are
found in the Bible, it makes me wonder where else they think should be. Jesus' ministry only lasted three years and was limited to Judea
(considered the ghetto of the Roman Empire). There would have been no reason given the short time frame and limited area of Jesus' ministry
to have been exhaustively recorded in Roman literature without the accusation of forgery.
WHAT ABOUT THE LACK OF EVIDENCE PERTAINING TO EVENTS WHICH OCCURRED DURING HIS LIFE?
Critics mention two important events that appear not to be recorded in secular history: the darkness that occurred after Jesus' crucifixion and
the slaughter of the innocents by Herod the Great. As stated previously in this discussion, the midday darkness which occurred after Jesus'
death is mentioned by the secular historian Thallus and Phlegon (though they try to dismiss the event as a solar eclipse). The event is also
mentioned by Christian apologists Origen and Philopon but I only focused on the secular accounts due to their critical origins.
The shocking nature of the slaughter of the innocents would make one think all historians would have recorded such an event. Even Josephus
records atrocities committed by Herod against those he believed had ambitions of attaining his throne. Herod even murdered his two sons of
Maccabean heritage for fear they would overthrow him. History shows Herod was a very paranoid ruler who was willing to do what was needed
to maintain his position. If he had ordered the slaughter of all males under two years of age, it would have been well within his character. We
must also realize that Bethlehem was a small village- not a raging metropolis. If the village only had a few hundred residents, as is
ascertained, statistically this would make the number of males under the age of two around twenty in number.
But Herod's character and the amount of victims is not proof of this event. Where is the actual evidence that this event occurred? If we can
consider the eye witness account of Matthew reliable, we can accept his version of the events. But if we are looking for extra-Biblical sources,
we can consider the following passage:
"When Augustus heard that Herod king of the Jews had ordered all the boys in Syria under the age of two years to be put to death and that the
king's son was among those killed, he said, 'I'd rather be Herod's pig than Herod’s son.'" Macrobius
Unlike the account mentioned in the book of Matthew, Macrobius mentions the massacre taking place in Syria and combines the event with the
murder of Herod's sons. Because Palestine was considered a Syrian province at the time, Macrobius could be referring to the vicinity of
Bethlehem. Due to the difference between Macrobius' and Matthew's account and knowing Macrobius was a pagan, we can assume Macrobius
used an independent source for his writings.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia (paraphrased): "Herod's ruling passions were jealousy and ambition, which urged him to sacrifice even those
that were nearest and dearest to him: murder was an equally good means to an end. The slaughter of the Innocents squares perfectly with
what history relates of him, and Matthew's statement is not contradicted by the silence of Josephus- for he follows Nicholas of Damascus who
was a courtier to Herod. Macrobius states that Augustus, having heard about the children Herod had ordered slain in Syria was the king's own
son, remarked 'It is better to be Herod's swine than his son.' Cruel as the slaughter may appear to us, it disappears among the cruelties of
Herod. It cannot surprise us that history does not speak of it. The author shows, as others have done, that the number of children slain may
not have been very great."
WHY IS THERE NO PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION OR DEPICTION OF JESUS ANYWHERE IN ANTIQUITY?
Critics cite the lack of a physical description of Jesus as evidence that He never existed. In fact, the only reference to His human appearance is
a prophecy found in Isaiah! Yet, the fact there is no known physical depiction of Jesus doesn't mean He never existed. Even if a painting or
sculpture did exist it's authenticity would certainly be disputed. Furthermore, many other figures of antiquity have no contemporary image
depicting their appearance yet we can believe they existed.
Even if there were entire manuscripts dedicated to detailing Jesus' appearance or museums filled with first century artwork depicting Jesus, it
still would not prove He existed. There are paintings and sculptures of mythological Greek and Egyptian deities, fairy tale creatures, and
fictional characters of literature. Aphrodite, Paul Bunyan, Dorian Gray, Isis, and Peter Pan all have artwork depicting their appearances yet
they are imaginary figures. A physical depiction or lack of one neither proves nor disproves one's existence.
A very good reason there may be no images of Jesus is to prevent the sin of idolatry. Original images of Jesus would certainly be considered
holy relics by some people. Many believers would turn their attention away from Jesus as the Son of God to the man-made images of an
WHY DON'T ANY AUTHORS SPECIFICALLY ATTEST TO JESUS' HISTORICITY?
Other than Justin Martyr's mention above when he refers his readers to the tax registers that document Jesus' birth, there really was no need
to have done so in their opinion. If I was to write a biography of a historical figure, Adolph Hitler for example, I would find it unnecessary to
dedicate an entire chapter to quotes, photographs, and sources which confirm his existence. To us, he is known to be a historical figure. I
would have to anticipate 2,000 years from now there would be those who would doubt he ever existed. We know that only 65 years after the
Holocaust there are people who deny its scope (even when faced with mounds of evidence that verify the tragedy)! The authors of antiquity
were discussing a figure known to exist. The burden of proof revolved around Jesus' divinity- not existence- as we can see in the above
testimony. The authors had no reason to even suspect His actual existence would one day be in question.
I would also like to mention there is no text from this period of antiquity that argues Jesus did not exist. The easiest way to silence the early
Christians would be to prove the focal point of their beliefs was a lie- but this never happened! Even the secular authors listed on this page do
not argue Jesus' existence.
WHAT ABOUT THE AUTHORS WHO DO NOT MENTION JESUS?
This argument leads to the false assumption that any author who was a contemporary of Jesus would find it necessary to write about Him. We
could dissect every single author of Jesus' lifetime, but because others have already done so, I will simply give a brief synopsis. The three
authors commonly mentioned are Pliny the Elder, Seneca, and Philo Judeaus:
- Pliny the Elder's area of expertise was natural phenomena. He dedicated his writings to the historical sciences such as botany,
geography, and zoology. In essence, he wrote scientific almanacs- not religious history.
- Philo Judeaus was a Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher- not a historian like many critics claim. He was also an Egyptian-born Jew who
served as an ambassador to Caligula for Jewish rights in Alexandria- not Judea.
- Seneca was a Roman philosopher and rhetorician who concerned himself with philosophies, tragedies, and meteorologies. His works
were more literary than historical.
The miscellaneous others who are randomly mentioned may be dismissed for a variety of reasons including geographical locations and areas
of interest. In my opinion, the amount of evidence we do have regarding Jesus is incredible considering there was no organized media at the
time. Though given little attention at its onset, secular authors had no choice but to take notice once Christianity began to spread like wildfire.
This is when we begin to see an explosion in written evidence concerning Jesus.