March 13, 2020
Who is Jesus Christ?
He was the friend of Judas (who betrayed Jesus), and the man beaten down and then helped by Simon of Syrene (who helped Jesus carry the cross).
He was the leader of some fishermen (who were the 12 disciples), the Lamb of God (who is Jesus' Father), and the fulfillment of John the Baptist's prophecy (who baptized Jesus).
He was also bold as a lion to the Jewish leaders (who were the Pharisees), denied by James (who was Jesus' brother), watched as his best friends all fled from Him (again, who were the 12 apostles), and was crucified on a cross by a tyrant (who was Pontius Pilate).
It was Pilate (statued below) who crucified Christ.
We know all these things from the Bible.
But what about the historical Jesus of Nazareth?
There is REAL PROOF Jesus is real.
We are going to go over the evidence, outside of the bible, that proves Jesus lived and walked the earth.
We won't spending time on the more well-known questions of Jesus' biblical narrative, like who is Jesus' mother (Mary), who were the apostles (his followers) or who was Nicodemus?
We will dig deeper into Jesus from a historical context.
So who is Christ? Who is Yeshua? Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
We are not going to ask the question, "Who is Jesus to YOU?"
We want the actual archaeological documents to speak, more than any subjective feeling or opinion.
Here are the sections we will be going over if you would like to skip around:
Let’s get right into it.
Did you know that there is extrabiblical evidence (extrabiblical means evidence OUTSIDE of the Bible) that Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus Christ (Christ means ‘messiah’) lived in the 1st century AD, and was crucified on the cross?
Of course, there’s plenty of evidence within the Bible that these events occurred, but what we will be going over is evidence outside of the Bible that points to this man, Jesus, who was also God, living and dying on the cross, under Pontius Pilate, in the 1st century AD, just as the Bible says.
In this section, I will show you ancient non-Christian sources that speak about this historical person named Jesus walking the earth, performing miracles, being crucified on a cross, and being worshipped as God.
How do we know, outside of the Bible, that there even WAS a person named Jesus?
We will go over just 5 ancient non-Christian sources (there are others); I will show you below.
Tacitus (statued below) (full name - Publius Cornelius Tacitus) was a Roman historian who lived from around AD 56 to around AD 120 (keep in mind that Jesus was crucified around AD 30, and that St. Paul’s letters (Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) were written between about AD 48 and AD 64).
Tacitus wrote a book called “Annals” in around AD 116. In one part of the book, Tacitus reports on the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of the city in AD 64 during Emperor Nero’s reign.
Emperor Nero (statued below) (Roman emperor from AD 54 to AD 68) had decided to blame the Christians for the fire that had destroyed Rome in AD 64.
And Roman historian Tacitus (again, he is writing in AD 116, reporting on an event from AD 64) reports it like this:
Notice, first of all, that Tacitus reports that Christians derived their name from an historical person named Cristus (from the Latin Christ).
This Cristus is said to have suffered the extreme penalty (obviously referring to the Roman method of execution known as crucifixion).
So this is evidence, outside of the Bible, from an unsympathetic outside source, that there was a man named Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, in the 1st century AD, just as the Bible says.
For more information on Tacitus, check out this GREAT article by author Robert M. Bowman Jr. on the early extrabiblical references to Jesus:
Another important source for the validity of Jesus being worshipped as God, and the early Christians can be found in the letters from Pliny the Younger (real name - Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus) to Emperor Trajan.
Now Pliny the Younger (who lived from about AD 61-113) was the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor.
Emperor Trajan was a Roman emperor who reigned from about AD 98-113.
At one point in Pliny’s letter to Emperor Trajan (written between about AD 109 and AD 111), Pliny relates some of the information that he has learned about these Christians. He says:
This passage provides us with a number of interesting insights into the beliefs and practices of the early Christians.
If his interpretation is correct, Pliny understood that early Christians were worshipping an actual historical person (Jesus) as God.
Of course, this agrees perfectly with the New Testament doctrine that Jesus was both God and man.
Amongst many other divinity passages, in John 20:28, Thomas calls Jesus, "My Lord and My God".
If you would like more divinity passages, I have included a video here.
The Christian History Institute recounts the actual letters between Pliny and Emperor Trajan, and has many other informative resources as well here:
The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings, and there are a few key references to Jesus in it.
In the case of the Talmud, the earliest period of compilation occurred between AD70 and AD200.
The most significant reference from the Jewish Babylonian Talmud to Jesus from this period states:
Now, you may have noticed that it refers to someone who is named, “Yeshu” so why do we think this is Jesus?
Actually, “Yeshu” or “Yeshua” is how Jesus’ name is pronounced in Hebrew.
But what does the passage mean by saying that Jesus was hanged? Doesn’t the New Testament say that Jesus was crucified?
Indeed it does.
But the term hanged can function as a term for crucified.
For instance, Galatians 3:13 declares that Jesus was hanged (or hung), and Luke 23:39 applies this term to the criminals who were crucified with Jesus.
The Babylonian Talmud is, of course, from an unsympathetic witness, who said that Jesus walked in power.
The problem is that Jesus’ so-called sorcery was not a couple magic tricks.
But this was Him healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead.
The passage also tells us why Jesus was crucified.
It says that he “practiced sorcery, and enticed Israel to apostasy”.
Since this accusation comes from a rather hostile source, we should not be surprised that Jesus is described a bit differently than he is in the New Testament.
But if we make allowances for this, what might this imply about Jesus?
They do not deny that he did miracles, they only disagree with the source of his power.
These miracles (healing the blind, raising the dead) are not the sort of events of sorcerers. Plus, Jesus’ ethical standards of not ever sinning in his life sort of defeat these arguments for sorcery.
The Talmud also declares that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover, just as the Bible tells us.
So that's 3 early and ancient NON-CHRISTIAN sources (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and the Babylonian Talmud) who talk about Jesus, his power, Him being worshipped as God, crucified under Pontius Pilate (all confirming what the Bible says).
Here are 2 more for you.
Dr. Michael Brown is a fabulous resource for insight on the Talmud, and other Christian-related questions to Judaism.
Here is a great video from his website on the Talmud that will give you much more insightful information:
And for his YouTube page, where he has many more videos, go here:
In a passage written somewhere between AD 73 and AD 200, Mara Bar-Serapion (pictured above), who was a stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria, made these casual remarks about Jesus:
So here again, early on, we have here an historical account of Jesus being executed.
For further study on Mara Bar-Serapion, check out this article from the Christian Apologetics Alliance:
Lucian of Samosata (pictured above) was a 2nd century Greek satirist. In one of his works, he wrote of the early Christians as follows:
Although Lucian does not mention his name, here is ANOTHER ancient work where he is clearly referring to Jesus.
But what did Jesus teach to arouse such wrath?
According to Lucian, he taught that “all men are brothers from the moment of their conversion”.
Well that’s harmless enough, but what did this conversion involve?
It involved denying the Greek gods (like the statue above), worshipping Jesus instead, and living according to his teachings.
It’s not too difficult to imagine someone being killed for teaching that. Since they denied other gods in order to worship Jesus, they apparently thought him a greater God than any Greece had to offer.
So if NO BIBLE ever existed, and all we had were these ancient NON-CHRISTIAN sources to go from, what would we know about Jesus?
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned about from this 5-part examination of non-Christian ancient sources.
First, Lucian of Samosata indicates that Jesus was wise.
Second, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian imply he was a powerful and revered teacher.
Third, the Talmud indicates that he performed miraculous feats.
Fourth, Tacitus, the Talmud and Lucian all mention that he was crucified.
Tacitus said this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And the Talmud indicates that this happened on the eve of Passover.
Much of this section was taken from the book, “Evidence for the Historical Jesus,” by Dr. Gary Habermas. Dr. Habermas is one of the, if not the, leading scholar on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I had the pleasure of meeting him, and he is also a very nice man with a GREAT sense of humor.
You can find this e-book at GaryHabermas.com.
We have more information on this topic and other Apologetics topics at WelcomeToTruth.com.
Now let me turn it over to you: Which extrabiblical reference were you most impressed with? Was it Pliny the Younger's letters to Emperor Trajan, talking about the early Christians worshipping Jesus as God, or Tacitus referring to Jesus being crucified under Pontius Pilate?
Let me know in the comments section below.
July 30, 2020
By the way, my last comment is referring to Vince’s comment :)
Yeah I actually changed the wording of that. I can see how that could appear a bit misleading and really doesn’t need to be there. Thank you for the comment!
July 13, 2020
Why do you refer to Jesus as the “elder brother of Peter” in the introduction?
March 16, 2020
Thanks so much for the comment and encouragement Ronnie. I definitely agree! I hope you can use this information to bring more people to Christ. A good question to ask non-believers is, if He lived, and if He was crucified (both confirmed by modern scholarship), then what happened to His body?
March 15, 2020
Very good! It seems conclusive enough to realize and understand from these sources, that Jesus the Christ actually lived according to what the scriptures say.
April 25, 2020
April 25, 2020
April 10, 2020