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Descriptions of Jesus Outside of the New Testament

Descriptions of Jesus Outside of the New Testament

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Published by Nick Hill
Jesus is an historical figure of history. Read for yourself descriptions of him from early sources outside of the Bible.
Jesus is an historical figure of history. Read for yourself descriptions of him from early sources outside of the Bible.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Nick Hill on Apr 30, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Descriptions of Jesus Outside of the New Testament: A Sample of Some of thePrimary Source Material
 Ancient Historians
1. Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 55 120 A.D.) a Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over a half dozen Roman emperors. He has been called the “greatest historian” of ancientRome. The Annals, written about 115 A.D. The following was recounted concerning thegreat fire in Rome during the reign of Nero:“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the mostexquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by thepopulace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penaltyduring the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and amost mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous andshameful 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 theirinformation, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing thecity, as of hatred against mankind. 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 tocrosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, whendaylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting ashow in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stoodaloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplarypunishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for thepublic good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.2. Suetonius Tranquillas. Little is known about him except that he was the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (117 138 A.D.) and that he had access to the imperialrecords. The first reference occurs in the section on emperor Claudius (41 54 A.D.).Writing about the same time as Tacitus, Suetonius remarked concerning Claudius:“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus,he expelled them from the city.3. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus was born in 37 or 38 A.D. and died in 97 A.D. In1972 Professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem released the resultsof a study on an Arabic manuscript containing Josephus’ statement about Jesus:“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he)was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nationsbecame his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had
Adapted from The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary R. Habermas(http://garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm#ch9)
2become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he hadappeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly hewas perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.4. Thallus. At least the death of Jesus was mentioned in an ancient history composedmany years before Tacitus, Suetonius or Josephus ever wrote and probably even prior tothe Gospels. Circa 52 A.D. Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean worldfrom the Trojan War to his own time. This work itself has been lost and only fragmentsof it exist in the citations of others. One such scholar who knew and spoke of it was Julius Africanus, who wrote about 221 A.D. In speaking of Jesus’ crucifixion and thedarkness that covered the land during this event, Africanus found a reference in thewritings of Thallus that dealt with this cosmic report. Africanus asserts:“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by anearthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. Thisdarkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason,an eclipse of the sun.”
Government Officials
5. Pliny the Younger. A Roman author and administrator who served as the governor oBithynia in Asia Minor:“They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it waslight, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and boundthemselves 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 calledupon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble topartake of food — but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
Other Jewish Sources
6. The Talmud. The Jews handed down a large amount of oral tradition from generationto generation. This material was organized according to subject matter by Rabbi Akibabefore his death in 135 A.D. His work was then revised by his student, Rabbi Meir. Theproject was completed about 200 A.D. by Rabbi Judah and is known as the Mishnah.Ancient commentary on the Mishnah was called the Gemaras. The combination of theMishnah and the Gemaras form the Talmud. A very significant quotation is found inSanhedrin 43a:“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution tookplace, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he haspracticed sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in hisfavour, let him come forward ad plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was broughtforward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”

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