Tacitus on Christ

Last updated
The Fire of Rome, by Karl von Piloty, 1861. According to Tacitus, Nero targeted Christians as those responsible for the fire. Karl von Piloty Nero Roma egeset szemleli.jpg
The Fire of Rome, by Karl von Piloty, 1861. According to Tacitus, Nero targeted Christians as those responsible for the fire.

The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate, and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44. [1]

Roman historiography is indebted to the Greeks, who invented the form. The Romans had great models to base their works upon, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are different from the Greek ones however, and voice very Roman concerns. Unlike the Greeks, Roman historiography did not start out with an oral historical tradition. The Roman style of history was based on the way that the Annals of the Pontifex Maximus, or the Annales Maximi, were recorded. The Annales Maximi include a wide array of information, including religious documents, names of consuls, deaths of priests, and various disasters throughout history. Also part of the Annales Maximi are the White Tablets, or the "Tabulae Albatae", which consist of information on the origin of the republic.

Tacitus Roman senator and historian

PubliusCornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature, and is known for the brevity and compactness of his Latin prose, as well as for his penetrating insights into the psychology of power politics.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.


The context of the passage is the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of the city in AD 64 during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero. [2] The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome. [3] [4]

Great Fire of Rome urban fire in Ancient Rome

The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred in July of 64 AD. The fire began in the merchant shops around Rome's chariot stadium, Circus Maximus, on the night of July 19. After six days the fire was brought under control, and before the damage could be measured, the fire reignited and burned for another three days. In the aftermath of the fire, two thirds of Rome had been destroyed.

Nero Fifth Emperor of Ancient Rome

Nero was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius' death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered.

Christians people who adhere to Christianity

Christians are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words Christ and Christian derive from the Koine Greek title Christós (Χριστός), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ).

The scholarly consensus is that Tacitus' reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate is both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source. [5] [6] [7] Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd argue that it is "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus. [8] Scholars view it as establishing three separate facts about Rome around AD 60: (i) that there were a sizable number of Christians in Rome at the time, (ii) that it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome, and (iii) that at the time pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Roman Judea. [9] [10]

Pontius Pilate Fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, c. 26–36 CE

Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27 to 36/37 CE. He is best known today for being the official who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion. Pilate's importance in modern Christianity is underscored by his prominent place in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. The Coptic and Ethiopian Churches venerate Pilate as a saint.

Greg Boyd (theologian) American theologian and pastor

Gregory A. Boyd is an American theologian, pastor, and author. Boyd is Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and President of Reknew.org. He is one of the leading spokesmen in the growing Neo-Anabaptism movement, which is based in the tradition of Anabaptism and advocates Christian pacifism and a non-violent understanding of God.

Crucifixion of Jesus Jesus crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels

The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st-century Judea, most likely between AD 30 and 33. Jesus' crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although there is no consensus among historians on the exact details.

The passage and its context

A copy of the second Medicean manuscript of Annals, Book 15, chapter 44, the page with the reference to Christians MII.png
A copy of the second Medicean manuscript of Annals, Book 15, chapter 44, the page with the reference to Christians
Emperor Nero as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle Nero.png
Emperor Nero as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle

The Annals passage (15.44), which has been subjected to much scholarly analysis, follows a description of the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of Rome in July 64 AD. [3]

<i>Annals</i> (Tacitus) history of the Roman Empire by the senator Tacitus

The Annals by Roman historian and senator Tacitus is a history of the Roman Empire from the reign of Tiberius to that of Nero, the years AD 14–68. The Annals are an important source for modern understanding of the history of the Roman Empire during the 1st century AD; it is Tacitus' final work, and modern historians generally consider it his greatest writing. Historian Ronald Mellor calls it "Tacitus's crowning achievement,” which represents the "pinnacle of Roman historical writing".

The key part of the passage reads as follows (translation from Latin by A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb, 1876):

Alfred John Church

Alfred John Church was an English classical scholar.

But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. 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 Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

(In Latin: Sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia, quin iussum incendium crederetur. ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt. [11] )

Tacitus then describes the torture of Christians:

Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed. [12]

The exact cause of the fire remains uncertain, but much of the population of Rome suspected that Emperor Nero had started the fire himself. [3] To divert attention from himself, Nero accused the Christians of starting the fire and persecuted them, making this the first documented confrontation between Christians and the authorities in Rome. [3] Tacitus never accused Nero of playing the lyre while Rome burned – that statement came from Cassius Dio, who died in the 3rd century. [2] But Tacitus did suggest that Nero used the Christians as scapegoats. [13]

No original manuscripts of the Annals exist and the surviving copies of Tacitus' works derive from two principal manuscripts, known as the Medicean manuscripts, written in Latin, which are held in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy. [14] It is the second Medicean manuscript, 11th century and from the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino, which is the oldest surviving copy of the passage describing Christians. [15] Scholars generally agree that these copies were written at Monte Cassino and the end of the document refers to Abbas Raynaldus cu... who was most probably one of the two abbots of that name at the abbey during that period. [15]

Specific references

Christians and Chrestians

Detail of the 11th century copy of Annals; the gap between the 'i' and 's' is highlighted in the word 'Christianos' Highlight of MII.png
Detail of the 11th century copy of Annals; the gap between the 'i' and 's' is highlighted in the word 'Christianos'

The passage states:

... called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin ...

In 1902 Georg Andresen commented on the appearance of the first 'i' and subsequent gap in the earliest extant, 11th century, copy of the Annals in Florence, suggesting that the text had been altered, and an 'e' had originally been in the text, rather than this 'i'. [16] "With ultra-violet examination of the MS the alteration was conclusively shown. It is impossible today to say who altered the letter e into an i. In Suetonius' Nero 16.2, 'christiani', however, seems to be the original reading". [17] Since the alteration became known it has given rise to debates among scholars as to whether Tacitus deliberately used the term "Chrestians", or if a scribe made an error during the Middle Ages. [18] [19] It has been stated that both the terms Christians and Chrestians had at times been used by the general population in Rome to refer to early Christians. [20] Robert E. Van Voorst states that many sources indicate that the term Chrestians was also used among the early followers of Jesus by the second century. [19] [21] The term Christians appears only three times in the New Testament, the first usage (Acts 11:26) giving the origin of the term. [19] In all three cases the uncorrected Codex Sinaiticus in Greek reads Chrestianoi. [19] [21] In Phrygia a number of funerary stone inscriptions use the term Chrestians, with one stone inscription using both terms together, reading: "Chrestians for Christians". [21]

Adolf von Harnack argued that Chrestians was the original wording, and that Tacitus deliberately used Christus immediately after it to show his own superior knowledge compared to the population at large. [19] Robert Renehan has stated that it was natural for a Roman to mix the two words that sounded the same, that Chrestianos was the original word in the Annals and not an error by a scribe. [22] [23] Van Voorst has stated that it was unlikely for Tacitus himself to refer to Christians as Chrestianos i.e. "useful ones" given that he also referred to them as "hated for their shameful acts". [18] Eddy and Boyd see no major impact on the authenticity of the passage or its meaning regardless of the use of either term by Tacitus. [24]

The rank of Pilate

The Pilate Stone, now at the Israel Museum Pilate Inscription.JPG
The Pilate Stone, now at the Israel Museum

Pilate's rank while he was governor of Judaea appeared in a Latin inscription on the Pilate Stone which called him a prefect, while this Tacitean passage calls him a procurator. Josephus refers to Pilate with the generic Greek term ἡγεμών (hēgemṓn), or governor. Tacitus records that Claudius was the ruler who gave procurators governing power. [25] [26] After Herod Agrippa's death in AD 44, when Judea reverted to direct Roman rule, Claudius gave procurators control over Judea. [3] [27] [28] [29]

Various theories have been put forward to explain why Tacitus should use the term "procurator" when the archaeological evidence indicates that Pilate was a prefect. Jerry Vardaman theorizes that Pilate's title was changed during his stay in Judea and that the Pilate Stone dates from the early years of his administration. [30] Baruch Lifshitz postulates that the inscription would originally have mentioned the title of "procurator" along with "prefect". [31] L.A. Yelnitsky argues that the use of "procurator" in Annals 15.44.3 is a Christian interpolation. [32] S.G.F. Brandon suggests that there is no real difference between the two ranks. [33] John Dominic Crossan states that Tacitus "retrojected" the title procurator which was in use at the time of Claudius back onto Pilate who was called prefect in his own time. [34] Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans as well as Van Voorst state that Tacitus apparently used the title procurator because it was more common at the time of his writing and that this variation in the use of the title should not be taken as evidence to doubt the correctness of the information Tacitus provides. [35] [36] Warren Carter states that, as the term "prefect" has a military connotation, while "procurator" is civilian, the use of either term may be appropriate for governors who have a range of military, administrative and fiscal responsibilities. [37]

Louis Feldman says that Philo (who died AD 50) and Josephus also use the term procurator for Pilate. [38] As both Philo and Josephus wrote in Greek, neither of them actually used the term "procurator", but the Greek word ἐπίτροπος (epítropos), which is regularly translated as "procurator". Philo also uses this Greek term for the governors of Egypt (a prefect), of Asia (a proconsul) and Syria (a legate). [39] Werner Eck, in his list of terms for governors of Judea found in the works of Josephus, shows that, while in the early work, The Jewish War , Josephus uses epitropos less consistently, the first governor to be referred to by the term in Antiquities of the Jews was Cuspius Fadus, (who was in office AD 44–46). [40] Feldman notes that Philo, Josephus and Tacitus may have anachronistically confused the timing of the titles—prefect later changing to procurator. [38] Feldman also notes that the use of the titles may not have been rigid, for Josephus refers to Cuspius Fadus both as "prefect" and "procurator". [38]

Authenticity and historical value

The title page of 1598 edition of the works of Tacitus, kept in Empoli, Italy Lipsius manuscript.jpg
The title page of 1598 edition of the works of Tacitus, kept in Empoli, Italy

Although its authenticity has sometimes been questioned, most recently by Christ mythicist Richard Carrier, [41] most scholars hold the passage to be authentic while acknowledging some textual problems. [42] [43] William L. Portier has stated that the consistency in the references by Tacitus, Josephus and the letters to Emperor Trajan by Pliny the Younger reaffirm the validity of all three accounts. [44] Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to be of historical value as an independent Roman source about early Christianity that is in unison with other historical records. [5] [6] [7] [44]

Tacitus was a patriotic Roman senator. [45] [46] His writings show no sympathy towards Christians, or knowledge of who their leader was. [5] [47] His characterization of "Christian abominations" may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the ritual as cannibalism by Christians. [47] [48] Andreas Köstenberger states that the tone of the passage towards Christians is far too negative to have been authored by a Christian scribe. [49] Van Voorst also states that the passage is unlikely to be a Christian forgery because of the pejorative language used to describe Christianity. [4]

Tacitus was about seven years old at the time of the Great Fire of Rome, and like other Romans as he grew up he would have most likely heard about the fire that destroyed most of the city, and Nero's accusations against Christians. [13] When he wrote his account, Tacitus was the governor of the province of Asia, and as a member of the inner circle in Rome he would have known of the official position with respect to the fire and the Christians. [13]

In 1885 P. Hochart had proposed that the passage was a pious fraud, [50] but the editor of the 1907 Oxford edition dismissed his suggestion and treated the passage as genuine. [51] Scholars such as Bruce Chilton, Craig Evans, Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd agree with John Meier's statement that "Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine.” [35] [24]

Suggestions that the whole of Annals may have been a forgery have also been generally rejected by scholars. [52] John P. Meier states that there is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the argument that a scribe may have introduced the passage into the text. [53]

Portrait of Tacitus, based on an antique bust Tacitus portrait.jpg
Portrait of Tacitus, based on an antique bust

Van Voorst states that "of all Roman writers, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ". [4] Crossan considers the passage important in establishing that Jesus existed and was crucified, and states: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact." [54] Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus. [8] Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman wrote: "Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius's reign." [55]

James D. G. Dunn considers the passage as useful in establishing facts about early Christians, e.g. that there was a sizable number of Christians in Rome around AD 60. Dunn states that Tacitus seems to be under the impression that Christians were some form of Judaism, although distinguished from them. [9] Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier state that in addition to establishing that there was a large body of Christians in Rome, the Tacitus passage provides two other important pieces of historical information, namely that by around AD 60 it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome and that even pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Judea. [10]

Although the majority of scholars consider it to be genuine, some scholars question the value of the passage given that Tacitus was born 25 years after Jesus' death. [4]

Some scholars have debated the historical value of the passage given that Tacitus does not reveal the source of his information. [56] Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz argue that Tacitus at times had drawn on earlier historical works now lost to us, and he may have used official sources from a Roman archive in this case; however, if Tacitus had been copying from an official source, some scholars would expect him to have labeled Pilate correctly as a prefect rather than a procurator. [57] Theissen and Merz state that Tacitus gives us a description of widespread prejudices about Christianity and a few precise details about "Christus" and Christianity, the source of which remains unclear. [58] However, Paul Eddy has stated that given his position as a senator Tacitus was also likely to have had access to official Roman documents of the time and did not need other sources. [24]

Michael Martin states that the authenticity of this passage of the Annals has also been disputed on the grounds that Tacitus would not have used the name "Christos", derived from “messiah”, [59] while others have questioned if the passage represents "some modernizing or up-dating of the facts" to reflect the Christian world at the time the text was written. [60]

Weaver notes that Tacitus spoke of the persecution of Christians, but no other Christian author wrote of this persecution for a hundred years. [61] Brent Shaw has argued that Tacitus was relying on Christian and Jewish legendary sources that portrayed Nero as the Antichrist for the information that Nero persecuted Christians and that in fact no persecution under Nero took place. [43]

Scholars have also debated the issue of hearsay in the reference by Tacitus. Charles Guignebert argued that "So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless". [62] R. T. France states that the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he had heard through Christians. [63] However, Paul Eddy has stated that as Rome's preeminent historian, Tacitus was generally known for checking his sources and was not in the habit of reporting gossip. [24] Tacitus was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a council of priests whose duty it was to supervise foreign religious cults in Rome, which as Van Voorst points out, makes it reasonable to suppose that he would have acquired knowledge of Christian origins through his work with that body. [64]

Other early sources

The earliest known references to Christianity are found in Antiquities of the Jews , a 20-volume work written by the Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus around 93–94 AD, during the reign of emperor Domitian. This work includes two references to Jesus and Christians (in Book 18, Chapter 3 and Book 20, Chapter 9), and also a reference to John the Baptist (in Book 18, Chapter 5). [65] [66]

The next known reference to Christianity was written by Pliny the Younger, who was the Roman governor of Bithynia and Pontus during the reign of emperor Trajan. Around 111 AD, [67] Pliny wrote a letter to emperor Trajan, requesting guidance on how to deal with suspected Christians who appeared before him in trials he was holding at that time. [68] [69] [70] Tacitus' references to Nero's persecution of Christians in the Annals were written around 115 AD, [67] a few years after Pliny's letter but also during the reign of emperor Trajan.

Another notable early author was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, who wrote the Lives of the Twelve Caesars around 122 AD, [67] during the reign of emperor Hadrian. In this work, Suetonius described why Jewish Christians were expelled from Rome by emperor Claudius, and also the persecution of Christians by Nero, who was the heir and successor of Claudius.

See also


  1. P.E. Easterling, E. J. Kenney (general editors), The Cambridge History of Latin Literature, page 892 (Cambridge University Press, 1982, reprinted 1996). ISBN   0-521-21043-7
  2. 1 2 Stephen Dando-Collins 2010 The Great Fire of Rome ISBN   978-0-306-81890-5 pages 1-4
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Brent 2009, p. 32-34.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Van Voorst 2000, p. 39-53.
  5. 1 2 3 Evans 2001, p. 42.
  6. 1 2 Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 2001 ISBN   0-86554-373-9 page 343
  7. 1 2 Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond 2004 ISBN   0-521-61620-4 page xi
  8. 1 2 Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 127.
  9. 1 2 Dunn 2009, p. 56.
  10. 1 2 Antioch and Rome: New Testament cradles of Catholic Christianity by Raymond Edward Brown, John P. Meier 1983 ISBN   0-8091-2532-3 page 99
  11. "Tacitus: Annales XV".
  12. Tacitus, The Annals, book 15, chapter 44
  13. 1 2 3 Barnett 2002, p. 30.
  14. Cornelii Taciti Annalium, Libri V, VI, XI, XII: With Introduction and Notes by Henry Furneaux, H. Pitman 2010 ISBN   1-108-01239-6 page iv
  15. 1 2 Newton, Francis, The Scriptorium and Library at Monte Cassino, 1058–1105 , ISBN   0-521-58395-0 Cambridge University Press, 1999. "The Date of the Medicean Tacitus (Flor. Laur. 68.2)", p. 96-97.
  16. Georg Andresen in Wochenschrift fur klassische Philologie 19, 1902, col. 780f
  17. J. Boman, Inpulsore Cherestro? Suetonius' Divus Claudius 25.4 in Sources and Manuscripts Archived 2013-01-04 at Archive.today , Liber Annuus 61 (2011), ISSN 0081-8933, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem 2012, p. 355, n. 2.
  18. 1 2 Van Voorst 2000, p. 44-48.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Bromiley 1995, p. 657.
  20. Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries by Peter Lampe 2006 ISBN   0-8264-8102-7 page 12
  21. 1 2 3 Van Voorst 2000, p. 33-35.
  22. Robert Renehan, "Christus or Chrestus in Tacitus?", La Parola del Passato 122 (1968), pp. 368-370
  23. Transactions and proceedings of the American Philological Association, Volume 29, JSTOR (Organization), 2007. p vii
  24. 1 2 3 4 Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 181.
  25. Tacitus, Annals 12.60: Claudius said that the judgments of his procurators had the same efficacy as those judgments he made.
  26. P. A. Brunt, Roman imperial themes, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN   0-19-814476-8, ISBN   978-0-19-814476-2. p.167.
  27. Tacitus, Histories 5.9.8.
  28. Bromiley 1995, p. 979.
  29. Paul, apostle of the heart set free by F. F. Bruce (2000) ISBN   1842270273 Eerdsmans page 354
  30. "A New Inscription Which Mentions Pilate as 'Prefect'", JBL 81/1 (1962), p. 71.
  31. "Inscriptions latines de Cesaree (Caesarea Palaestinae)" in Latomus 22 (1963), pp. 783–4.
  32. "The Caesarea Inscription of Pontius Pilate and Its Historical Significance" in Vestnik Drevnej Istorii 93 (1965), pp.142–6.
  33. "Pontius Pilate in history and legend" in History Today 18 (1968), pp. 523—530
  34. Crossan 1999, p. 9.
  35. 1 2 Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN   90-04-11142-5 pages 465-466
  36. Van Voorst 2000, p. 48.
  37. Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor by Warren Carter (Sep 1, 2003) ISBN   0814651135 page 44
  38. 1 2 3 Feldman 1997, p. 818.
  39. Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter (T&T Clark: October 10, 2001) ISBN   978-1563383427 p. 215.
  40. Werner Eck, "Die Benennung von römischen Amtsträgern und politisch-militärisch-administrativenFunktionen bei Flavius Iosephus: Probleme der korrekten IdentifizierungAuthor" in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 166 (2008), p. 222.
  41. Carrier 2014.
  42. Van Voorst 2000, p. 42-43.
  43. 1 2 Shaw 2015.
  44. 1 2 Portier 1994, p. 263.
  45. Josephus, the Bible, and history by Louis H. Feldman 1997 ISBN   90-04-08931-4 page 381
  46. Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell 1998 ISBN   0-664-25703-8 page 33
  47. 1 2 Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN   0-7425-6833-4 page 293
  48. An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN   0-521-00720-8 page 485
  49. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN   978-0-8054-4365-3 pages 109-110
  50. Henry Furneaux, ed., Cornelii Taciti Annalium ab excessu divi augusti libri. The annals of Tacitus with introduction and notes, 2nd ed., vol. ii, books xi-xvi. Clarendon, 1907. Appendix II, p. 416f."
  51. Henry Furneaux, ed., Cornelii Taciti Annalium ab excessu divi augusti libri. The annals of Tacitus with introduction and notes, 2nd ed., vol. ii, books xi-xvi. Clarendon, 1907. Appendix II, p. 418.
  52. Van Voorst 2000, p. 42.
  53. Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Doubleday: 1991. vol 1: p. 168-171.
  54. Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. ISBN   0-06-061662-8 page 145
  55. Ehrman, Bart D. (2001). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN   978-0195124743.
  56. F.F. Bruce,Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) p. 23
  57. Theissen and Merz p.83
  58. Theissen, Gerd; Merz, Annette (1998). The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p. 83. ISBN   978-0-8006-3122-2.
  59. The Case Against Christianity, By Michael Martin, pg 50-51, at https://books.google.com/books?id=wWkC4dTmK0AC&pg=PA52&dq=historicity+of+jesus&hl=en&sa=X&ei=o-_8U5-yEtTH7AbBpoCoAg&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=tacitus&f=false
  60. Shaw, Brent (2015). "The Myth of Neronian Persecution". Journal of Roman Studies. 105: 86. doi:10.1017/S0075435815000982.
  61. The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century: 1900-1950, By Walter P. Weaver, pg 53, pg 57, at https://books.google.com/books?id=1CZbuFBdAMUC&pg=PA45&dq=historicity+of+jesus&hl=en&sa=X&ei=o-_8U5-yEtTH7AbBpoCoAg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=tacitus&f=false
  62. Jesus, University Books, New York, 1956, p.13
  63. France, R. T. (1986). Evidence for Jesus (Jesus Library). Trafalgar Square Publishing. pp. 19–20. ISBN   978-0-340-38172-4.
  64. Van Voorst, Robert E. (2011). Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 2159. ISBN   978-9004163720.
  65. Maier, Paul L. (1995). Josephus, the Essential Writings: A Condensation of Jewish Antiquities and the Jewish War. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications. p. 12. ISBN   978-0825429637.
  66. Baras, Zvi (1987). "The Testimonium Flavianum and the Martyrdom of James". In Feldman, Louis H.; Hata, Gōhei (eds.). Josephus, Judaism and Christianity. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 54–7. ISBN   978-9004085541.
  67. 1 2 3 Crossan 1999, p. 3.
  68. Carrington, Philip (1957). "The Wars of Trajan". The Early Christian Church. Volume 1: The First Christian Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 429. ISBN   978-0521166416.
  69. Benko, Stephen (1986). Pagan Rome and the Early Christians. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 5–7. ISBN   978-0253203854.
  70. Benko, Stephen (2014). "Pagan Criticism of Christianity during the First Centuries A.D.". In Temporini, Hildegard; Haase, Wolfgang (eds.). Rise and Decline of the Roman World. second series (Principat) (in German). Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 1055–118. ISBN   978-3110080162.

Related Research Articles

Josephus on Jesus

The extant manuscripts of the writings of the first-century Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus include references to Jesus and the origins of Christianity. Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93–94 AD, includes two references to the biblical Jesus Christ in Books 18 and 20 and a reference to John the Baptist in Book 18. Scholarly opinion varies on the partial authenticity of the reference in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3 of the Antiquities, a passage that states that Jesus the Messiah was a wise teacher who was crucified by Pilate, usually called the Testimonium Flavianum.

Gospel of Nicodemus apocryphal gospel

The Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate, is an apocryphal gospel claimed to have been derived from an original Hebrew work written by Nicodemus, who appears in the Gospel of John as an associate of Jesus. The title "Gospel of Nicodemus" is medieval in origin. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but according to the 1907 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia scholars agree in assigning the resulting work to the middle of the fourth century AD.

The historicity of Jesus is the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth can be regarded as a historical figure. Nearly all New Testament scholars and Near East historians, applying the standard criteria of historical-critical investigation, find that the historicity of Jesus is effectively certain, although they differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the details of his life that have been described in the gospels.

Historical Jesus is the reconstruction of the life and teachings of Jesus by critical historical methods, in contrast to Christological definitions and other Christian accounts of Jesus. It also considers the historical and cultural contexts in which Jesus lived.

Historical background of the New Testament

Most scholars who study the historical Jesus and early Christianity believe that the canonical gospels and life of Jesus must be viewed within his historical and cultural context, rather than purely in terms of Christian orthodoxy. They look at Second Temple Judaism, the tensions, trends, and changes in the region under the influence of Hellenism and the Roman occupation, and the Jewish factions of the time, seeing Jesus as a Jew in this environment; and the written New Testament as arising from a period of oral gospel traditions after his death.

Tiberius Julius Alexander was an equestrian governor and general in the Roman Empire. Born into a wealthy Jewish family of Alexandria but abandoning or neglecting the Jewish religion, he rose to become procurator of Judea under Claudius. While Prefect of Egypt (66–69), he employed his legions against the Alexandrian Jews in a brutal response to ethnic violence, and was instrumental in the Emperor Vespasian's rise to power. In 70, he participated in the Siege of Jerusalem as Titus' second-in-command.

Matthew 27:2

Matthew 27:2 is the second verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of the twenty-seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Jesus has just been condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin, and in this verse is presented to Pontius Pilate.

Jesus and history may refer to:

Pilate stone 1st-century piece of limestone with inscription mentioning Pontius Pilate

The Pilate stone is a damaged block of carved limestone with a partially intact inscription attributed to, and mentioning, Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26 to 36. It was discovered at the archaeological site of Caesarea Maritima in 1961. The artifact is particularly significant because it is an archaeological find of an authentic 1st-century Roman inscription mentioning the name "[Ponti]us Pilatus". It is contemporary to Pilate's lifetime, and accords with what is known of his reported career. In effect, the inscription constitutes the earliest surviving, and only contemporary, record of Pilate, who is otherwise known from the New Testament, the Jewish historian Josephus and writer Philo, and brief references by Roman historians such as Tacitus.

Lucceius Albinus was the Roman Procurator of Judea from 62 until 64 AD and the governor of Mauretania from 64 until 69 AD.

Mara bar Serapion on Jesus

Mara bar ("son of ") Serapion, sometimes spelled Mara bar Sarapion was a Stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria. He is noted for a letter he wrote in Syriac to his son, who was also named Serapion. The letter was composed sometime after 73 AD but before the 3rd century, and most scholars date it to shortly after AD 73 during the first century. The letter may be an early non-Christian reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Marcellus was Roman Prefect of the province of Judea.

Roman Procurator coinage were coins issued by the Roman Procurators and Prefects of the province of Judea between AD 6 and 66. They minted only one denomination and size, the bronze prutah.

Historiography of early Christianity is the study of historical writings about early Christianity. Historians have used a variety of sources and methods in exploring and describing the history of early Christianity, commonly known as Christianity before the First Council of Nicaea in 326.

Suetonius on Christians

The Roman historian Suetonius mentions early Christians and may refer to Jesus Christ in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

Sources for the historicity of Jesus discussion of Christian and non-Christian sources about Jesus as historical character

Christian sources, such as the New Testament books in the Christian Bible, include detailed stories about Jesus, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus. The only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

Caesar’s Messiah is a 2005 book by Joseph Atwill, which argues that the New Testament Gospels were written as wartime propaganda by scholars connected to the Roman imperial court of the Flavian emperors: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. According to Atwill, their primary purpose in creating the religion was to control the spread of Judaism and moderate its political virulence. The Jewish nationalist Zealots had been defeated in the First Jewish–Roman War of 70 AD, but Judaism remained an influential movement throughout the Mediterranean region. Atwill argues that the biblical character Jesus Christ is a typological representation of the Roman Emperor Titus.


Barnett, Paul (2002). Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. ISBN   978-0830826995.
Brent, Allen (2009). A Political History of Early Christianity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. ISBN   978-0567031754.
Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1995). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0802837851.
Crossan, John Dominic (1999). "Voices of the First Outsiders". Birth of Christianity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. ISBN   978-0567086686.
Dunn, James D. G. (2009). Beginning from Jerusalem (Christianity in the Making, vol. 2). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0802839329.
Eddy, Paul R.; Boyd, Gregory A. (2007). The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Ada, Michigan: Baker Academic. ISBN   978-0801031144.
Evans, Craig A. (2001). Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies. Leiden: Brill Publishers. ISBN   978-0391041189.
Portier, William L. (1994). Tradition and Incarnation: Foundations of Christian Theology. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. ISBN   978-0809134670.
Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0802843685.

Further reading