DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU there’s no proof Jesus was real.
Jesus shows up in Roman and Jewish history books, including two books written during his own century when people who knew him were still alive.
Jewish historian, Josephus (about AD 37-101), wrote about Jesus in two books from his encyclopedia series called Antiquities of the Jews.
Death and resurrection. “There was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good….Pilate condemned him to be crucified…His disciples didn’t abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive.”
Death of Jesus’ brother. “Ananus [Jewish high priest]…called a meeting of judges [the Sanhedrin Jewish Supreme Court] and brought into it the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah….James was his name. Ananus accused James and others of breaking the law, and he sentenced them to execution by stoning.”
Then there’s the report in Annals by a Roman official named Tacitus (about AD 55-118) who said he hated Christians.
“Emperor Nero, to stop the rumor [that he ordered the fire that burned much of Rome] blamed and punished in the most horrifying ways…the crowd called Christians. The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed during the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”
Another Roman historian, Suetonius (about AD 70-130), seemed to refer to Jesus in The Lives of the Caesars. Suetonius blamed “Chrestus” for causing the riots in Rome in AD 49. Many scholars say this is probably a reference to the riots caused when tradition-minded Jews clashed with open-minded Jews who embraced the teachings of Jesus. Claudius Caesar quickly “deported all Jews from Rome,” (Acts 18:2).
An article in the current issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, January/February 2015, plows deep into the detail: “Did Jesus exist?” It’s written by Lawrence Mykytiuk, history librarian and prof at Purdue University.
According to Mykytiuk, here are the facts we know about Jesus, based on reports outside the Bible, written by Roman and Jewish historians within a century of Jesus.
- He existed as a man.
- His name was Jesus.
- People also called him Christ. That’s Christos in Greek, Messiah in Hebrew, and Anointed One in English.
- His followers included Jews as well as people outside the Jewish faith.
- Jewish leaders of the day criticized him.
- Roman governor Pilate ordered Jesus executed.
- Romans crucified Jesus.
- Jesus died while Pilate served as governor of Judea (AD 26-36).
- Jesus had a brother named James who was stoned to death.
Each of these facts confirm reports in the Bible, but they show up in Roman and Jewish writings that had nothing to do with the Bible and were reported by writers who weren’t Christians.
This is worth knowing, in case anyone asks.
Jesus wasn’t fiction. He was fact.
Random book winner this week
I give away one free book a week to a randomly selected subscriber to my free blog and quarterly newsletter.
Brad is random this week.
John (Jay) Spence
As Christians, we often are challenged as to the legitimacy of our faith. The life of Jesus is indisputable and the Bible is not the only book we can refer to in order to prove it.
Stephen M. Miller
Thank you, my friend from across the decades. (As opposed to “old friend.”)