Some feel that the bible is the only source for information concerning our Lord Jesus.
The Scriptures, however, are not the only data stream from which we can determine historical truths about the Life of Christ. Philosopher, Gary Habermas of Liberty University, lists several historical sources, from ancient historians, government officials, to Jewish, Gentile and even Gnostics, each containing data about Jesus Christ. For the sake of time we will only look three, briefly:
· “Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 55–120) was a Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over a half dozen Roman emperors. He has been called the ‘greatest historian’ of ancient Rome, an individual generally acknowledged among scholars for his moral ‘integrity and essential goodness.’” 1 In two of his most recognized works Tacitus made at least one reference to the person of Christ and at least two to early Christianity. Below, Tacitus mentions Christ (“Christus”, from the Latin) as the leader of the Christians. He evens calls Christianity a “superstition” that was halted for a time but has erupted again. Tacitus records:
o “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment”
· Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, a Roman historian made one reference to Jesus and one to Christians is Suetonius was the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138), this provided him access to the imperial records. 8 He is recorded as saying:
o “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.” 10 [Chrestus, is a noted variant spelling. It is basically the same as the Tacitus usage]
· “Jewish historian Flavius Josephus was born in AD 37 or 38 and died in AD 97.” Josephus was a Pharisee by the age of 19. Early on Josephus was a soldier and even fought against the Romans. Later, however, he would become the court historian for emperor Vespasian.13 Professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has rendered the saying of Josephus thusly:
o “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” 20
1 1Moses Hadas, “Introduction” to The Complete Works of Tacitus (New York: Random House, 1942), pp. IX, XIII-XIV.
Habermas, G. R., & Habermas, G. R. (1996). The historical Jesus : Ancient evidence for the life of Christ. Rev. ed. of: Ancient evidence for the life of Jesus. (187). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.
Habermas, G. R., & Habermas, G. R. (1996). The historical Jesus : Ancient evidence for the life of Christ. Rev. ed. of: Ancient evidence for the life of Jesus. (188). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.
8 8Robert Graves, “Introduction” to Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, transl. by Robert Graves (Baltimore: Penguin, 1957), p. 7.
10 10Suetonius, Claudius, 25.
Habermas, G. R., & Habermas, G. R. (1996). The historical Jesus : Ancient evidence for the life of Christ. Rev. ed. of: Ancient evidence for the life of Jesus. (192). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.
20 20Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, p. 95.