Evidence from 5 early Pagan (Gentile)
writers that Jesus did exist in the first century.
- Thallus writing around 52 A.D. 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). See Mark 15:33
Bar-Serapion writing around 73 A.D. was writing
to his son from prison and mentions some historical men Socrates, Pythagoras
and Christ. “… What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates
to death? … What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? …What
advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? …Socrates
did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching 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.” (manuscript in the British Musem). (Please note that the date of this writing is
in question and could have been written as late as the third century.)
Tacitus writing around 112 A.D. was
considered one the greatest historians of Rome.
He wrote about the reign of Nero (54-56 A.D.) and how he used the
Christians as scapegoats for the great fire of 64A.D. It had been rumored
that Nero started the fire in order to gain glory by rebuilding the city.
Cornelius says, “ 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…”
the younger writing around 112 A.D. wrote a letter to the
Emperor Tragan telling him information he
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.
- Suetonius writing around 120 A.D. he
wrote about the life of Claudius and how 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.”
See Acts 18:1-2.
Evidence from 2 early Jewish sources.
Talmud (Jewish writings between 70 and 200 A.D.)
contains many references to Christ. All of these references are
hostile to the cause of Christ, but they help establish the existence of
Jesus. According to these writings Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in
practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and
said he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. See Mat. 5:17ff.
Josephus (Sometime after 70 A.D.) not only writes about Jesus he also
writes about many of the people we learn about in the Word of God such as
Pilate, Quirinius of Syria, the Caesars, the Herods, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Annas, Caiaphas, Felix,
Festus, Jesus brother James, and of John the Baptist death. Notice what he
says about Jesus.
”And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should
call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who
receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many
”This man was the Messiah. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross
at the instigation of our own leaders, those who had loved him from the
first did not cease. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again,
as the holy prophets had predicted and said many other wonderful things
about him. And even now the race of Christians, so named after him, has no
yet died out.”
Note: Some have tried to say that these quotes were inserted by the
church however, every single copy of Josephus writings that we have today
contain these two quotes which gives strong evidence that they were not
inserted by the church.
From these Pagan and Jewish sources we learn that Jesus was
real and it also shows the New Testament to be a reliable historical source.
The only source we can learn about the life of Christ is found in the New
The apostolic fathers (those who sat at the feet of the
apostles or at the feet of those who did) writing between 90 and 160 A.D. offer
proof that the New Testament was written by the end the first century because
they quote almost the entire New Testament. This also shows how they viewed the
New Testament documents as being true.
None of the original writings of the New Testament exist,
nor do the originals of many classic histories that are consider accurate by
scholars. Instead we have manuscripts of these early writings. Manuscripts are
copies letter for letter of the original. The closer the manuscript is to the
original in time the more accurate it is considered to be. Notice the chart
below as we compare classical histories to the New Testament.
Gallic Wars (58- 50 B.C.) 9 or 10 good manuscripts. Oldest
manuscript 9th century 800 year gap from original
Roman History of Livy (59 B.C.) 35
manuscripts. Oldest manuscript 4th century 300 year gap from
of Tacitus (100 - 115 A.D.) 2 manuscripts.
Oldest manuscript 9th
century 800 year gap from original
Annals of Tacitus (100 A.D.) 12
manuscripts, Oldest manuscript 11th century 900 year gap from
History of Thucydides 460 – 400 B.C. 8 manuscripts. Oldest
manuscript 900 A.D. 1300 year gap from original.
Written approximately between 45 – 96
It has around 5,000 manuscripts in whole or in part. This
does not include the fragments or numerous quotes of these documents from
early Christian writers. The oldest manuscripts are dated at 350 A.D. with
only about a 250 year gap from the original.
Note: If the New Testament was a secular writing as
on the left scholars would deem it as one the most reliable and accurate documents in existence.
But, since it involves miracles and the existence of God they question its
validity even though it has less of a gap in years from the original and has
thousands more copies than these classical histories on the left which they
The evidence is overwhelming that the New Testament is
indeed a reliable source of history as recorded by first century eyewitnesses.
We have no reason to doubt their testimony that Jesus is the Son of God and all
the miracles they recorded did in fact take place.