The Historical Jesus
by Jonathan Sherwin
The great, British philosopher Bertrund Russell once said,
“Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do now know anything about Him.”- Why I Am Not A Christian
Jesus Christ is arguably the most influential man in the whole of human history. So, outside of the Bible – which incidentally is an incredibly reliable document – what kind of evidence is there that Jesus ever existed? Is dear old Mr. Russell right? Is there any extra-biblical evidence for Jesus?
Well, yes, there is.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth under the watch of the Roman Empire, which covered much of Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of the Middle East. So what did the Romans, the rulers of the day, have to say? Here’s Tacitus, probably the best Roman Historian in the world:
“Christus … suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”
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This small excerpt is part of a longer piece on how the Romans treated the early Christian church. Tactitus, writing in the second half of the 1st Century, corroborates Biblical facts about Jesus and the birth of the early church.
A popular objection to the Biblical record may be, “The early Christians made up the stories about Jesus because they needed to spread their false message.” Well, Tacitus and the Romans didn’t need to spread the message. Quite the opposite; they wished the Christians didn’t exist! This is simply an honest historical account of the facts.
Another group of people not exactly tickled by the arrival of Jesus were the Jews. So let’s see what the Jewish historical record says…
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