back to New Testament reliability

14 Ancient Extra-biblical sources from within 125 years after death of Jesus concerning Jesus and the lives of early Christians.

1.      Cornelius Tacitus.  (55-120 A.D.) Roman historian , ¡§ Annuals¡¨

¡§Consequently, to get rid of the report Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the mist 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 Judea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, many 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.¡¨

¡@

2.      Suetonius. Roman historian 49 A.D. 

¡§Because of the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbance at the instigation of Chrestus (Christ), he ( Roman emperor Claudius) expelled them from the city.¡¨ 

¡§After the great fire at Rome ....Punishment were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.¡¨

3.      Josephus, Jewish historian (37-97 A.D.)  Arabic version of Antiquities

¡§ At this time there was a wise man who was called  Jesus. And his conduct was good and was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after this crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.¡¨

In another passage reference was made to Jesus¡¦ brother James:

¡§ So he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.¡¨

¡@

4.      Thallus. 52A.D. His work was lost, but some of them are cited by later ancient writer. Julius Africanus 221 A.D. commented on Thallus¡¦ explanation that the darkness fell upon Judea when Jesus was crucified:

¡§ Thallus, in his third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun- unreasonably, as it seems to me.¡¨

5.      Pliny the Younger. Roman author and government official (112A.D.)

¡§ They (the Christians) were in 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 of an ordinary kind.¡¨

 

6.      Emperor Trajan. (112 A.D.) In response to the Pliny¡¦s inquiry regarding how to deal with the Christians, Trajan replied:

¡§ 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.¡¨

 

7.      Emperor Hadrian  (117 - 138 A.D.)

¡§  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 him 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.¡¨

 

8.      The Talmud. 70-200 A.D.  An important Jewish religious record.

¡§ On the eve of the Passover Yeshu (Jesus) was hanged. For forty days before the execution tool 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 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.¡¨

¡@

9.      Toledoth Jesu. An anit-Christian document with an account regarding Jesus and resurrection, saying Juda stole the body from the tomb and sold it to the Jews. And that is why the disciples found an empty tomb. The story is interesting and proven false by historical facts, but it admitted that the tomb of Jesus was indeed found empty.

 

10.  Lucian 2nd century  Greek satirist who wrote derisively against 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....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.¡¨

 

11.  Mara bar-Serapion  Late 1st century to 3rd century writing, speaking of Jesus¡¨

¡§ What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished......God justly avenged these men (the Jews)....; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land and live in complete dispersion.  Nor did the King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.¡¨

 

12.  The Gospel of Truth ( 135-160A.D.) An heretic writing about Jesus.

¡§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.¡¨

¡@

13.  The Apocryphon of John (120-130 A.D.) An heretic writing about Jesus.

¡§ It happened one day John, the brother of James, who are the sons of Zebedee- went up and came to the temple, that a Pharisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him ¡§ Where is your master whom you followed?¡¨ And he said to him ¡§ He has gone to the place from which he came...¡¨

 

14. Acts of  Pontius Pilate.  A lost document which is believed to be a correspondence between the Rome and Pilate, if it is true it should have been written around 30A.D. The lost document was found quoted in a writing of Justin Martyr around 150 A.D.

        ¡§ And the expression. ¡§They pierced my hands and my feet¡¨, was used in reference to the mails 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 the ¡¥Acts¡¦ of Pontius Pilate¡¨

¡@

                                        -------------------------------------- + --------------------------------------

¡@

More further study:

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary R. Habermas

¡@