Is There any Non-Biblical Evidence that Jesus Existed?


Have you ever heard this argument before? It goes something like this: "I don't believe in Jesus because the only recorded accounts come from the Bible, which is already a biased document because of it's religious content".

Not only is this inaccurate (see the recorded accounts given below), but even if this were the case, there would still be more written about the life of Christ than was written about many of the Roman emperors and other historical figures that we take for granted.

The handful of historians listed below all lived around or close to the time of Jesus, and they were all non-christian writers. But guess what makes this interesting? They all recorded accounts of either Christ, or his group of followers (a.k.a. Christians). What this means is that there are in fact a good deal of non-biblical accounts that lend themselves as separate proofs that Jesus walked the earth in the 1st century. Lets look at 3 of these accounts below.

Josephus: a Jewish historian (AD 37 - 101), in his book Antiquities wrote, "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, (if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure). He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; (for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him). And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." **

Tacitus: (AD 55 - 117) was a Roman historian who says this in his work Annals, "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, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular."

Pliny the Younger: governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor wrote to Emperor Trajan around AD 112, "They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food--but food of an ordinary and innocent kind."

OK, so what does all of this mean? Well, aside from these accounts being corroborative evidence for the life of Christ, it provided the following string of logic. A.) now that we know Jesus actually did exist, then B.) we need to make the choice: is He the Son of God or just a good teacher. C.) Once we arrive at the Truth that He was in fact from God, we need to listen to what He is telling us in the New Testament!

** some scholars debate whether the words in parenthesis in the account of Josephus are original, since they seem so favorable to Christ. This still of course represents an account of Jesus (even leaving out those sentances), and as such we can take it as a non-biblical proof.

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Comments

  1. Most historians view the "testimonium flavianum" as a forgery, and for good reason.

    Interestingly enough, the Tacitus quote includes the phrase "a most mischievous superstition" which shows that he himself views this belief as a superstition, so it isn't really evidence for the existence of Christ. Even if you ignore that bit, you still do not have evidence of Jesus because Tacitus is simply saying who the Christians are worshiping - Christ. The only thing it proves is that at the time of Tacitus writting this, there were Christians, and these Christians believed in Christ - something we already knew.

    Pliny the Younger's account is the same as Tacitus', it's simply proving that Christians existed at the time these items were written. It doesn't not provide evidence for the existence of Christ. Had he been writting about pagans and their pagan gods and rituals you wouldn't see it as evidence for the existence of those God's. You would only see it as evidence that those pagans and their beliefs existed.

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  2. I might go along with you regarding the last portion of your comment ('You would only see it as evidence that thos pagans and their beliefs existed.') if it weren't for the timing and the uniqueness of the Christian following. By uniqueness I don't mean that there weren't other fledgling followings around of course, but rather that the Christians didn't seem to go back on their oaths and/or renounce their faith when things went sour. By "timing" I mean that even though these historians didn't have a snapshot or video tape of Jesus, the Christians were following a man claiming to be the Son of God, not Zeus or the like. And it spread quickly, seemingly against many odds.

    All taken together, I can see why hardly anyone believes that Jesus didn't actually exist. There is an alarming amount of evidence out there for the nonbeliever I think.

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