Quick Fact: “Non-Christian Sources For Jesus”
Although it might sound strange, some critics have made the bold claim that Jesus never even existed. They claim that because the New Testament documents are biased and therefore cannot be trusted, and that since there are also no non-Christian sources which mention him, that we cannot reliably conclude that Jesus actually existed. However, aside from whether or not the New Testament documents are trustworthy, did you know that there are actually several non-Christian sources which mention Jesus around the same time period as the New Testament?
As mentioned above, there are actually several non-Christian (some could even be considered anti-Christian) sources that mention Jesus. From ancient historians (Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Thallus), to government officials (Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, Hadrian), to Jewish sources (Talmud, Toledoth Jesu), gentile Sources (Lucian and Mara Bar-Serapion), gnostic sources (The Gospel of Truth, The Apocryphon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, The Treatise on Resurrection), and even some lost sources (The Acts of Pontius Pilate and Phlegon), the evidence for Jesus outside of the New Testament is far from nonextant.
Furthermore, of the numerous non-Christian sources for Jesus, ten of them that mention him were written within 150 years of his life (note that only nine sources exist which mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus, within that same time period). But these sources do not merely serve to confirm his existence, but they also happen to give us valuable insights on who Jesus was, what type of life he led, etc. In fact, using only the ten known non-Christian sources mentioned above, all of the following can be established about Jesus (note that all are consistent with the New Testament documents):
1. He lived during time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder-worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.
So, regardless of whether or not the New Testament can be trusted, there are several non-Christian sources which confirm the existence of Jesus. As such, the theory that Jesus never existed is plainly unreasonable. After all, how could sources which are entirely non-Christian in nature just happen to coincide with the New Testament records on all of these critical points if the ultimate focal point of those records never even existed?
1 Geisler, N. L., & Turek, F. (2004). I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (220–223). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
2 Geisler, N. L. (1999). Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker reference library (381–385). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.