By: Cougan Collins


Notice the following non-believing early Gentile writers who help prove that Jesus was a real person that existed in the first century: 


1.      Thallus writing around A.D. 52 argued that the abnormal darkness alleged to have accompanied the death of Christ was a purely natural phenomenon and coincidence (a fragment preserved by Julius Africanus). 


Notice, Thallus did not deny Jesus’ existence or that He was crucified; he was simply trying to explain away the darkness that happened that day. In doing so, he shows that it must have been common knowledge that Jesus existed and the darkness happened that day just as recorded in Mark 15:33. 


2.      Cornelius Tacitus was the governor of Asia writing around A.D. 112. He was considered one the greatest historians of Rome. He wrote about the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-56) and how he used the Christians as scapegoats for the great fire of A.D. 64. It had been rumored that Nero started the fire in order to gain glory by rebuilding the city. Cornelius said, “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had it origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…


This bit of history proves several things. 1. Christianity was prevalent during the 1st century just as the Bible says it was. 2. It proves that Jesus is the source of Christianity. 3. It gives us a time frame of when Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate because Jesus was put to death in the reign of Tiberius who reigned from A.D. 14 to A.D. 37. 4. It adds additional proof that Jesus was real and was crucified by the order of Pilate (Mt. 27).  


3.      Pliny the younger writing around A.D. 112 wrote a letter to the Emperor Tragan telling him information he had extracted from Christians by torture. “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light when the sang an anthem to Christ as God, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to commit any wicked deeds.”


This shows how Christians came together and how they regarded Jesus as God.


4.      Suetonius writing around A.D. 120 wrote about the life of Claudius and how he expelled all the Jews from Rome by Imperial decree. “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”


Presumably, since so many Jews had become Christians, Claudius thought all Jews were Christians. The Bible agrees with the history recorded by Suetonius (Acts 18:1-2).


5.      Celsus, a pagan philosopher of the second century, produced the oldest extant literary attack against Christianity. His True Discourse (A.D. 178) was a bitter assault on Christ. Celsus argued that Jesus was born in low circumstances, being the illegitimate son of a soldier named Panthera. As he grew, He announced Himself to be God, deceiving many. Celsus charged that Christ’s own people killed Him and that His resurrection was a deception. But Celsus never questioned the historicity of Jesus. (Wayne Jackson)


6.      Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 115-200) was called “the Voltaire of Grecian literature.” He wrote against Christianity more with patronizing contempt than volatile hostility. He said Christians worshipped the well-known “sophist” who was crucified in Palestine because He introduced new mysteries. He never denied the existence of Jesus.


Be sure to read next week’s article, as we examine more external evidence for Jesus’ existence from history. Feel free to join us for worship at the Lone Grove Church of Christ.