Jesus is missing from the paperwork?

(I put a TL;DR note at the bottom in case you want to work through this fast)

So this past weekend I was talking about a conversion story I had read with a good friend of mine. Her brother who is an atheists was in the room. He seemed interested in the story since it was about a Christian man who converted to Islam then to Protestantism and finally made his way to the Catholic faith. He made a comment saying to was a strange place for him to end up because the Catholic Church is . . . (he trailed off/ I don’t remember his objection).

I replied that the Catholic Church is the original Church and can trace itself back to the original apostles and to Jesus Christ. It was just a brief sound bite to let him know that the Catholic Church is the original Church with the fullness of Truth and thus it isn’t that strange the someone who really looked for the truth and researched like the gentleman from the conversation story would end up Catholic.

Now to the point my friend’s brother said that it was interesting because there are no written records of anyone named Jesus Christ being crucified. He said that the Romans were very good at things including bureaucracy and often kept records on things like crucifixions. Thus it is very strange that there is not a record for Christ’s.

My reply was “Isn’t it possible the record was lost or destroyed? Are you saying that just because we are unable to find a written record by the Romans that it is untrue? Do you believe that just because there isn’t a written record for something that makes it untrue or means it never happened?”

My friend replied that there may not have been a record because it wasn’t overly official. The events were more whirlwind than ordered so it isn’t likely someone would remember to be taking notes on the happenings.

I think I proved the error in his logic because he ended up at least agreeing that just because there isn’t a written record doesn’t necessarily mean the event never happened. I also pointed out that Jesus is mentioned in other works from Non-Christians of the time but I didn’t remember any of the writings.


While taking with an atheists I was approached with an objection I have never heard that the Romans were great record keepers (masters of bureaucracy) thus it is very strange that Christ’s crucifixion wasn’t recorded. Implying that it is possible that the act of Jesus being crucified never historically happened. Also mild implication of Jesus not being historically real.

So the questions:

Where else was Jesus mentioned throughout historical writings by Non-Christains? (I have heard it before I just don’t remember)

Also have you ever heard the objection of Romans being awesome record keepers and thus the missing records for Jesus’s Crucifixion are a stumbling block for someone?

Thank you and God Bless.

I believe a Roman took note of a historical man named Jesus and his crucifixion. His name is Cornelius Tacitus.

Josephus mentions what he has heard from Jews about Jesus the Christ in Antiquities of the Jews, although many scholars believe that passage about Jesus is a forgery by early Christians.

Those who demand records need to keep in mind that Jerusalem was completely destroyed in 70 AD. Only one building was left standing and some estimate the death toll at 1.2 million.


This! :thumbsup:

The ‘argument from silence’ doesn’t work. Now, on the other hand, if he were able to say, “we have the records of all the crucifixions in Jerusalem from 30 A.D. to 35 A.D., and nowhere is there a record of a ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ being crucified”… then he would have a real interesting argument. He isn’t able to say this, though. So, the best he can do is make a vague insinuation. It doesn’t hold water. :shrug:

Challenge absurd arguments. Ask him to show you the list of names of those people crucified in the Roman Empire in the fifty years before and after Christ. Of course, he won’t be able to, because no such list exists.

It is funny how people can deny Jesus ever existed and don’t even want to look at the historical evidence of the Church founded by HIM which has been here on earth for 2000+ years.
It is like “Nope don’t give me facts, don’t confuse the issues with facts… where is the death certificate of Jesus with the signature and wax seal of Pontious Pilatus!”

St. Monica went to Jerusalem how many years after Jesus death and resurrection 360? and found a plethora of information on the Christian early years there, this was 220 years after Jerusalem had been razed to the ground by the Romans.
It is disheartening to say the least and yet me have to keep giving testimony and account about HIM, for even if we convince 1 person (soul) that is great wonderful.

The Romans kept better records of their Emperors, would’t you agree?

The Emperor, Nero, is an interesting example. You’ve heard of Nero, right? He was the Emperor of the Roman Empire for 16 years. He is one of few Roman Caesars who is thought to have died a natural death. How many contemporary accounts of Nero survive? Answer: None. The “most” contemporary account of this Emperor of Rome was written 50 years after Nero’s death, by an author who was a young boy when Nero died. The next two most “contemporary” accounts were written 150 years after Nero died.

If the bureaucracy of Rome cannot produce ONE SINGLE DOCUMENT about the Emperor of the Roman Empire (for sixteen years) written DURING his reign, why should we expect the bureaucracy to be any MORE efficient at recording the execution of a condemned Jewish criminal in a remote Roman province? Do we somehow suppose that the Roman bureaucracy documented *criminals *BETTER than Emperors?

Archeological evidence of the practice of crucifixion is less than scant. There exists exactly one heel bone with a nail through it. That’s it. Nothing else anywhere.

*It is therefore an odd fact that archaeological evidence of this punishment — crosses, for example, or perforated skeletons — has never been found anywhere in the world, with one exception: the stone box containing Yehohanan’s remains.*

It is almost as if… almost as if… almost as if… God wants us to believe without seeing.


This is completely untrue.

Thank you all so much. You all rock! :slight_smile:

It is amazing how much detail the writings of Josephus give us about the time of Jesus. There is an undisputed passage that mentions the death of James the Just bishop of Jerusalem as the chief cause of the destruction of Jerusalem. There is also a very disputed passage about the death of Jesus. It is disputed because it is too Christian in content, using language that a non-believing Jew would not use. People hold one of three positions about it:

*]It was added entirely at a later date by Christian scribe.
*]There was an existing account that was probably not very flattering about Jesus that was edited by a later Christian scribe to make it more acceptable to the Christian audience of his day.
*]It is substantially correct in all detail.

I tend to favor option 2 since there is so many other source about Jesus. Josephus could have had access to Gospel accounts, letters of Paul, or documentation from hostile Jewish sources, or even directly from people who lived in the time of Christ and had survived the fall of Jerusalem.

There is also the Tacitus reference to Roman persecution of Christians, and references from Pliny the Elder asking the Emperor for instructions on what to do with the followers of Christ.

God bless,

We hear that said, but is it true? The Romans crucified lots of people. Do we have a record today of ANY of them?

These guys make it sound like there are boxes of death warrants sitting around somewhere. Where, exactly? Are there links to copies or transcriptions so I can read one?

Just ONE???

And what about Roman citizens, who (like St. Paul) were beheaded instead of crucified? Surely there would be better records of death warrants for citizens than foreigners and slaves. Can anyone find any records of beheadings?

Peace to you.

Your atheist objector looks for a quick a proof. ‘BAM! I can believe in Jesus because I have this document that says he really did what he said, and really existed’.

Instead, Jesus gives his life for you, and promises that if you have faith in him he will come to dwell in your soul. This takes time.

First you must have faith, then you can come to believe by experiencing God.

Belief in God takes a process, it is not an event.

I think as David said, this is unabashed nonsense. The Roman Empire crucified millions of people over the course of its existence, and if records were kept they have almost certainly been destroyed since, though that is unlikely to begin with.

Why exactly would records exist of executions during peacetime in a backwater province of the Empire?

Atheist here. The fact that historical records don’t exist during the time period in question for Jerusalem can be attributed to its destruction in 70 AD. So lack of records can’t show that Jesus didn’t exist as a historical figure, but neither are there records proving he was a historical figure. So while in general I don’t see any evidence God or a supernatural Jesus existed, on this particular point your atheist friend’s argument is ungrounded.

This lack of records from Jerusalem also makes the claim that Tacitus referred to historical records when he mentions “Christus” in Annals unfounded as well. It is far more likely that Tacitus learned of Jesus through the Christians and those who knew them or knew about them. So Tacitus’s mentions in Annals certainly provide good evidence for Christians existing during the time of Nero, but are not good direct evidence of a historical Jesus.

Tacitus in fact doesn’t mention the name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” (the regional name from which “Jesus” is derived), and only mentions him by title. Any records in Jerusalem would have been under “Yeshua”, and would not have had the title “Christus” associated with them.

The Procurator and the Peasant
by Jimmy Akin

In the book of Acts, one of the key chronological benchmarks is in Acts 24:27, when the Roman procurator who presently has Paul in custody (Felix) is replaced by his successor (Festus).

You’d think that it would be easy to simply look up in secular sources when this change of government officials took place, but we can’t do that. We don’t have the records, and dating the beginning of Festus’s tenure is tricky.

In fact, as Ben Witherington points out:

About Felix’s successor, Porcius Festus, very little can be said, for our sources are limited to what we find in Acts 25–26 and in Josephus, Ant. 20.182–97 and War 2.271 [The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 717].

Got that?

The sources we have about Festus are limited to Acts and a couple of passages in Josephus. Now, Festus was an important man. He ruled the entire province of Judaea (more than just the Southern territory of Judea). He had a huge number of subjects. He’s one of the successors of Pontius Pilate. Further, he was one of the few (some say the only) good procurator that the Romans sent to Judaea. And yet we know only a tiny amount about him.

From this, several things suggest themselves…

  1. The footprint left in ancient historical sources by even as important a person as the Roman procurator of Judaea can be very slight.

No doubt, in his own day, there were many more literary references to him–in all kinds of works, from official government documents to private letters–but except for the references in Acts and two passages of Josephus, they have all perished.

  1. This should help us calibrate our expectations regarding other people in the ancient world.

If the Roman procurator has only two ancient authors mentioning him, then we would expect the vast majority of his subjects to go completely unmentioned in historical sources–as, indeed, they do.
We know the names of only a handful of Festus’s subjects, and they are people who have significant stature, like the high priests of his day.

  1. We should not make excessive demands about mentions of Jesus in ancient sources.

Jesus came from the peasant class (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev. 12:8), and we would expect the events of his early life to leave no traces at all in surviving secular sources. It was only after his ministry began that he became such a public figure that he might be expected to be mentioned in non-Christian sources, as he and the movement he founded is:

*]Josephus, writing around A.D. 93 (including the undisputed passage regarding his brother James the Just)
*]Pliny the Younger, writing in A.D. 110 or 111
*]The Emperor Trajan, replying to Pliny in A.D. 110 or 111
*]Tacitus, writing around A.D. 116
*]Suetonius, writing around A.D. 121

Comparing this to the single non-Christian source mentioning Festus (Josephus), and the number of early, non-Christian sources mentioning Jesus is quite ample!

He left a bigger footprint on the literature of his day than did this Roman procurator!

  1. We shouldn’t dismiss the historical value of biblical evidence

A historian of the Roman empire would have two early century sources to tell him about Porcius Festus: Luke and Josephus. It would be foolish to ignore either of these and, indeed, secular historians do not discount things Luke says simply because his works are in the New Testament. Only hyper-skeptical individuals dismiss the New Testament as a historical source out of hand. Sober historians treat it like they do other historical sources. One coming from a secular approach will not regard it as divinely inspired, but that does not mean it is without historical value.

The idea that everything the New Testament says should be considered false unless otherwise confirmed by outside sources is nonsense. Historical evidence found in the New Testament is just that . . . historical evidence.

Atheist here, too:

An Atheist Historian Examines the Evidence for Jesus (Part 1 of 2)
By Tim O’Neill

An Atheist Historian Examines the Evidence for Jesus (Part 2 of 2)
By Tim O’Neill

O’Neill debunks the Jesus Mythicist nonsense and discusses Josephus and Tacitus along the way. :thumbsup:

Yup, it looks like that source largely agrees with what I said, except that the author finds it more likely that Tacitus’ information came from contemporary historians, rather than non-historians in the population. My observation that it is unlikely Tacitus accessed original records from Jerusalem still stands. :thumbsup:

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