Historical evidence for the Bible

I once heard about an Atheist lawyer that became a Christian after attempting to write a book that showed that the teachings of Christianity could not hold trial in a court of law. Through his research, he in fact discovered that it could when the hundreds of eye witnessed testimonies were taken in account. I was wondering if there were any non biblical statements from the early Christians. I’m looking for ancient writings from any non Christians regarding Jesus and the early Christians also.


Josephus comes to mind

Hi Lenny,

Just as we listen to sermons from our priests and bishops today regarding Jesus and reflecting on the scriptures, the same pattern has been evident since early Christianity.

We see this in the early Church Fathers, also known as the Apostolic Fathers, who were mostly the disciples and successors to the 12 apostles. These include Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, etc. and you can read and be inspired by their writings such as Clement’s epistles. This can get even more interesting when looking into their very own disciples who came in the 2nd Century AD, such as Irenaeus of Lyon or Justin Martyr.

Also, yes non Christians that come to mind include Josephus and I know there are others who write more negatively about the events of the New Testament and early Christians, however, that is still evidence.

I hope this helps and that others can add on with better description.

God bless,

Here’s a god article:



Here is something that may interest you. The Odes Project. The Earliest Christian Hymnbook translated by James H. Charlesworth. Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon

The Historical Jesus – Jewish, Roman and Pagan References

Thallus (AD 52)

In his work of history, Julius Africanus mentions two earlier historians, Phlegon and Thallus, who in turn made references to Jesus. Thallus:

• Acknowledges that Jesus was a real person
• Confirms that Jesus was crucified
• Mentions an earthquake and darkness (possibly an eclipse) – both were said to have occurred at the time of Jesus’ death in the gospels.

Mara bar Serapion (ca. AD 73)

“What advantage did the Athenians gain by murdering Socrates, for which they were repaid with famine and pestilence? Or the people of Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, because their country was completely covered in sand in just one hour? Or the Jews [by killing] their wise king, because their kingdom was taken away at that very time? God justly repaid the wisdom of these three men: the Athenians died of famine; the Samians were completely overwhelmed by the sea; and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, are scattered through every nation. Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the new laws he laid down.” (Letter in Syriac to his son; Van Voorst, page 54)

• while Jesus is not named and ‘wise king’ is not a common Christological title, Jesus is doubtless meant by ‘their wise king’;
• Mara, a Jew writing to his son, speaks of this ‘wise’ Jew as a king, and ‘king [of the Jews]’ is prominently connected to Jesus at his trial (e.g. Mark 15:26);
• the link between the destruction of the Jewish nation and the death of the ‘wise king’ is parallel in Christianity to the destruction of Jerusalem as a punishment for Jewish rejection of Jesus (cf. Matt 23:37-39; 24:2; 27:25; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 19:42-44; 21:5-24; 23:28-31);
• the mention of ‘the new laws he laid down’ is probably a reference to the Christian religion, especially its moral code;
• Mara probably doesn’t mention Jesus directly because it was the Romans who desolated and dispersed the Jews – he does not want to offend his captors, the people who hold his loved ones.

Josephus (AD 93-94)

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people 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 reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.” (Antiquities XVIII, 63 from Josephus: The Essential Writings by Paul L. Maier, page 264-265; this text is from An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and Its Implications by S. Pines [Jerusalem, 1971]; another translation of above found in Van Voorst, page 97; for a different version of the text infamously interpolated by later Christian editors, see discussion in Van Voorst, page 85ff; also full discussion in A Marginal Jew, volume 1 by John P. Meier, pages 56ff)

• this text, which definitely mentions Jesus and his crucifixion under Pilate by a well-known Jewish historian of the first century, is hotly disputed because of possible later ‘Christian interpolation’ but the above is the Arabic text found without these ‘Christian’ additions;
• this version leaves the question of Jesus’ messianic status neutral (“perhaps the Messiah”);
• this is another piece corroborating a ‘neutral reconstruction’ of the Testimonium (which is the preferred view among scholars);
• the neutral reconstruction, which isolates and removes the later pro-Christian interpolations, makes good sense of the pattern of ancient Christian witnesses to Josephus (e.g. Van Voorst, page 95-97).

“Upon Festus’ death, Caesar sent Albinus to Judea as procurator. But before he arrived, King Agrippa had appointed Ananus to the priesthood, who was the son of the elder Ananus [or Annas of the Gospels]. This elder Ananus, after he himself had been high priest, had five sons, all of whom achieved that office, which was unparalleled. The younger Ananus, however, was rash and followed the Sadducees, who are heartless when they sit in judgment. Ananus thought that with Festus dead and Albinus still on the way, he would have his opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death.” (Antiquities XX, 197; from Josephus, Maier, page 275-276; another translation in Van Voorst, page 83)

• we have a passing but clear reference to Jesus here, and to Jesus’ brother named James (cf. Gal 1:19);
• the overwhelming majority of scholars holds that the words ‘the brother of Jesus called Christ’ are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found;
• the passage fits in well with its own context;
• a Christian ‘interpolator’ would have used laudatory language to describe James and especially Jesus, calling him ‘the Lord’ or similar language.


Pliny the Younger (c. 112 AD)

“An anonymous accusatory pamphlet has been circulated containing the names of many people. I decided to dismiss any who denied that they are or ever have been Christians when they repeated after me a formula invoking the gods and made offerings of wine and incense to your image [or statue], which I had ordered to be brought with the images of the gods into court for this reason, and when they reviled Christ [Christo male dicere]. I understand that no one who is really a Christian can be made to do these things. Other people, whose names were given to me by an informer, first said that they were Christians and then denied it. They said that they had stopped being Christian two or more years ago, and some more than twenty. They all venerated your image and the images of the gods as the others did, and reviled Christ. They also maintained that the sum total of this guilt or error was no more than the following: They had met regularly before dawn on a determined day, and sung antiphonally a hymn to Christ as if to a god [carmenque Christo quasi deo decere secum invicem]. They also took an oath not for any crime, but to keep from theft, robbery and adultery, not to break any promise, and not to withhold a deposit when reclaimed.” (Letter 96:10; Van Voorst, page 25)

• Christ is mentioned three times in this letter to the emperor Trajan;
• the text of the two letters (Pliny’s Letter 96, and Trajan’s reply, Letter 97) are well-attested and stable, and their authenticity is not seriously disputed;
• supposed ‘Christian interpolators’ would not have testified to Christian apostasy or speak disparagingly of Christianity calling it ‘madness’ (amentia), etc.
• Christ here is the divine leader of this religion, worshiped by Christians, so that cursing him is tantamount to rejecting Christianity (cf. 1 Cor 12:3).

Tacitus (AD 55-120)

“Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts [flagitia], whom the crowd called ‘Chrestians.’ The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Suppressed for a time, the deadly superstition erupted again not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city [Rome], where all things horrible and shameful from everywhere come together and become popular. Therefore, first those who admitted to it were arrested, then on their information a very large multitude was convicted, not so much for the crime of arson as for hatred of the human race. Derision was added to their end: they were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to death by dogs; or they were crucified and when the day ended they were burned as torches. Nero provided his gardens for the spectacle and gave a show in his circus, mixing with the people in charioteer’s clothing, or standing on his racing chariot.” (Annals of Imperial Rome 15:44, AD 116)

This passage corroborates the following facts:

  1. Jesus Christ existed
  2. Jesus was the founder of Christianity
  3. Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate
  4. Christianity began in Judea
  5. Christianity later spread to Rome

Skeptic Objection #1: Tacitus may gave gotten his information from other sources.

Response: Tacitus was an official government historian which means that he had access to official records and would not be dependent on less trustworthy sources. Additionally, even if Tacitus did get information from Josepus or Pliny, his professional ethic would have required him to confirm personally anything he received from them. Tacitus is careful to distinguish between facts in which he had confidence versus mere hearsay. The passage containing references to Jesus do not contain his customary caveat that the information he recorded was unverified. Finally, Tacitus’ disdain for Christianity is clearly evident which suggests that he would be unlikely to trust Christians to provide an accurate account of Jesus.

Skeptic Objection #2: The passage may be the result of a later Christian interpolation.

Response: Tacitus refers to Christianity as a “deadly superstition” which is not the sort of language one would expect any Christian to write. Additionally, there is no surviving copy of the Annals which does not contain this unflattering language meaning that it had to have been included in the original manuscript and copied widely thereafter.

Skeptic Objection #3: None of the Early Church Fathers quoted this passage.

Response: The portrayal of Christianity by Tacitus was not flattering and highly condescending. Moreover, there is nothing contained in this passage that was not already widely known and contained in other sources. Since the existence of Jesus was not in question during the period of the Church Fathers, there would have been no reason to cite non-Christian sources as proof of his existence.


Seutonius (c. AD 120)

“He [Claudius] expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were always making disturbances because of this instigator Chrestus [Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit].”(Lives of the Caesars, book 5, Claudius 25:4; Van Voorst, page 30)

• Christ appears to be mentioned by this Roman historian under the name ‘Chrestus’;
• besides one textual variant that reads ‘Christ’ (instead of ‘Chresto’) the Latin text is sound;
• a Christian interpolator would more likely have spelled his name correctly, and would not have placed him in Rome in 49 AD or called him a ‘troublemaker’;
• the overwhelming majority of modern scholarship concludes this sentence is genuine, and that ‘Chrestus’ is indeed Christ.

Compare this with:

Luke (c. AD 49)

“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. (Gospel of Luke 18:2)

Seutonius also wrote:

“punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new mischievous superstition.” (Seutonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of the Nero, 16.2).

Lucian of Samosata (c. AD 170)

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their noble rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they were converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.” (Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13)

This passage corroborates the following facts:

  1. Jesus Christ existed
  2. Jesus was the founder of Christianity
  3. Jesus was worshipped by his followers
  4. Jesus suffered death by crucifixion

Skeptic Objection #1: Lucian was known as a satirist so he can’t be relied upon for history.

Response: In a work entitled, “The Way to Write History,” Lucian writes:

The historian’s one task is to tell the thing as it happened. This he cannot do, if he is Artaxerxes’s physician trembling before him, or hoping to get a purple cloak, a golden chain, a horse of the Nisaean breed, in payment for his laudations. A fair historian, a Xenophon, a Thucydides, will not accept that position. He may nurse some private dislikes, but he will attach far more importance to the public good, and set the truth high above his hate; he may have his favourites, but he will not spare their errors. For history, I say again, has this and this only for its own; if a man will start upon it, he must sacrifice to no God but Truth; he must neglect all else; his sole rule and unerring guide is this — to think not of those who are listening to him now, but of the yet unborn who shall seek his converse.

Skeptic Objection #2: The passage may be the result of a later Christian interpolation.

Response: Lucian refers to Jesus as a man and a sage but not as God. Christians at this time in history were focused on convincing people of Jesus’ divinity – not of his existence. Therefore, the passage falls to far short of that goal to have been forged by Christians.

**Sextus Julius Africanus **

“Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of the Jews, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible. Whether then the case stand thus or not no one could find a clearer explanation, according to my own opinion and that of every candid person. And let this suffice us, for, although we can urge no testimony in its support, we have nothing better or truer to offer.”

Thank You

This is wikipedia
“Historicity of Jesus”

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