Bible History Daily recently published an article entitled Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible. It’s an interesting article, citing in particular two non-Christian sources as references that show a historical Jesus – without whom, of course, there could be no Jesus as Christians know Him.
The two sources are Tacitus and Josephus; Tacitus records Nero’s suppression of Christians and Josephus mentions Christians in passing as part of his history of the destruction of the Temple.
The thing that fascinates me, however, is the silence greeting those two scholarly references. No, they’re not extensive – it’s not like we’re talking about historians whose works were published enough that they lined birds’ cages, and wrapped fish in the market, but they were known and were respected authors – and remember, this was a time when writing histories was something few did.
Other historians would have read their works, and would have noticed even mentions in passing of a Christian movement, especially since Tacitus records Nero’s suppression as a central issue. (Remember, the story of Nero fiddling while Rome burned is the event being described – something that we know of today and use as a colloquialism.)
But they read the history and the claims of these Christians, followers of a Christ, and this was not met with protests that said anything other than that this was a valid history. Nobody stepped up and said, “Hey, wait a minute – you’re slandering Pilate, this bloke didn’t exist.”
It’s possible that reality and history was seen as malleable – an eastern view of the world – and therefore other historians might have looked and said, “Well, to Tacitus the fellow existed, I suppose.”
However, someone would have presented the other view, a contrarian point of view, especially given that Christ’s existence would have been a problem unless He actually existed historically.
So I’d say that it’s a valid point, to cite Josephus and Tacitus as extrabiblical references – and I’d also add the absence of contrarian claims in antiquity to the chorus of evidence.
Jesus Christ was real. He died on a cross, in Jerusalem.
Christianity says that He died such that all who accepted His sacrifice in their stead would be glorified in Him, for His purposes.
Have you accepted Christ?