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  • Writer's pictureAnush A. John

Evidence of Jesus Outside the Bible


The central force of the Bible is the account of Jesus Christ. However, a skeptical person might wonder if there are any historical accounts of Jesus outside the Bible, or if the biblical writers simply fabricated the entire account of Jesus.


There are several reasons why any account of Jesus outside the Bible is challenging to have:


a. Judah and Galilee, where Jesus sojourned, were at the outer extent of the Roman Empire at that time. As a result, it was considered an unimportant location. Additionally, Jesus' main ministry was on the outskirts of the central location of Jerusalem, making it even less accessible, especially at a time when communication was very onerous.


b. Many religious and political figures rose over the years, and the frequency of regional instability resulted in less attention to activities from this region. Historical writing usually focused on the upper class or important people. This is unsurprising because, at that time, only educated people were literate.


c. It is likely that much of the ancient documents have been lost. Thus a lack of documentation does not mean there is no documentation from that time. For example, even a Rome-appointed leader like Pontius Pilate, who was the governor for about 10 years in Judea, is mentioned only by one Roman historian, Tacitus. Most extra-biblical information about Pontius Pilate is through Josephus and Philo, both Jewish historians.


Despite these challenges, there is historical documentation about Jesus from the following sources. Any mention of Jesus outside the Bible in this context, even if they are negative, would give significant credibility to the historicity of Jesus.


There is historical documentation of Jesus in Roman, Jewish, and Greek writings. A summary of all these writings shows the following about Jesus:


‘Jesus was a Jewish teacher who had a group of disciples; He was a wonder-worker of some sort, performing healings and exorcisms; He was rejected by the Jewish leaders and crucified by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar; the sky turned dark at the time of His crucifixion (the pagan historian Thallus explains this as an eclipse of the sun!); His followers claimed to have seen Him risen from the dead shortly after His crucifixion; and the Christian movement spread so rapidly that within a few decades it had taken root in Rome itself.’

We shall now look briefly at some of the different sources.

Evidence from Roman Sources

Evidence from Syrian Source

Evidence from Jewish Sources

The Jewish, Roman, and Syrian writings corroborate what the gospels say about Jesus. Under the circumstances, in an era when any ancient documents are in dearth, any extra-Biblical mention of Jesus is powerful evidence of his historical existence. The historical accounts in the gospels can therefore be trusted as true.


Notes

Darrell L. Bock, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 49–50.

Picture: Josephus: the Main Manuscripts of "Antiquities, "https://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manuscripts/josephus_antiquities.htm

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