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10 Historical Facts About Jesus


10 Historical Facts About Jesus From Non-Christian Sources

 – 3/27/2017
If you have ever been involved in religious discussion on Facebook or Twitter, you have probably come across some version of the comment below:

I just think it’s interesting that the only book that even talks about Jesus is the Bible! I’m not even sure we can prove he actually existed.

Although this assertion is largely rejected by scholars in all spheres of historical and biblical studies, it tends to pop back up on social media like a never-ending game of digital whack-a-mole. The truth is that Jesus is not only documented in the eye-witness testimony compiled in the New Testament, but He is mentioned as a historical person by several non-Christian sources within 150 years of His life. From those sources, we can learn 10 things about Jesus without even opening a Bible:

1. He was known to be wise and virtuous. 

This fact was reported by Jewish Historian Josephus, who was born around AD 37. In his Antiquities of the Jews, he reports: 

At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. (1)

2. He had a brother named James. 

In recounting the stoning of James, Josephus records:

So he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. (2)

3. He was known to perform miracles. 

Celsus was a  2nd-century Greek philosopher and a fierce opponent of Christianity. In what is known to be the first comprehensive intellectual attack on Christianity, he tried to resolve why Jesus was able to perform miracles. The story is wild—but the main point is that by trying to explain away the miracles of Jesus, he is actually affirming that they happened:

Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god.(3)

4. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. 

This fact comes to us from one of the most trusted historians of the ancient world. Cornelius Tacitus was born in AD 56 and served as a respected senator and proconsul of Asia under Emperor Vespasian. He wrote a history of the first century Roman Empire, which many historians consider to be the “pinnacle of Roman historical writing.”(4) He notes:

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. (5)

Josephus confirmed:

Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.(6)

5. His crucifixion was accompanied by darkness and an earthquake.

This fact was originally recorded by a Samaritan historian named Thallus, who was alive at the same time Jesus was (AD 5-60). He wrote a 3-volume history of the 1st-century Mediterranean world, which unfortunately no longer exists.  But before his writings were lost, he was cited by another ancient historian, Julius Africanus, in AD 221. Africanus  described Thallus’ account of what happened during Jesus’ crucifixion:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. (7)

6. He had many Jewish and Gentile disciples.

Josephus wrote:

And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon discipleship.(8)

7. He lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.

Julius Africanus also reported that another ancient historian, Phlegon, confirmed the darkness at the time of Jesus’ death and that Jesus was alive “in the time of” Tiberius Caesar:

Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth. (9)

8. His disciples believed that He rose from the dead.

In his commentary regarding the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ death, Josephus recorded:

[Jesus’ disciples] reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion; and that he was alive…. (10)

9. His disciples believed He was God, and they met regularly to worship Him.

Pliny the Younger lived from AD 61-113 and was an influential lawyer and magistrate of ancient Rome. In a letter to Emperor Trajan he wrote:

They [Christians] 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. (11)

Lucian of Samosata was a 2nd-century Greek satirist known for his wit and sarcasm. Even though Christians were the object of his snark, he affirmed certain details about them:

The Christians, you know worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rights, and was crucified on that account….it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. (12)

10. His disciples were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs.

The persecution and suffering of early Christians was recorded by Suetonius, the official secretary of the Roman Emperor Hadrian around AD 121. He documented that they were expelled from Rome in AD 49 by Claudius:

Because the Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (Christ), he expelled them from Rome. (13)

and:

Nero inflicted punishment on the Christians, a sect given to a new and mischievous religious belief.  (14)

Tacitus also confirmed Nero’s persecution of early Christians:

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  (15)

Conclusion: 

From non-Christian and even anti-Christian sources, we can be sure that Jesus in fact existed, was crucified, was believed to be resurrected from the dead, and His many followers were willing to suffer and die for that belief.

The next time someone claims that there is no evidence for Jesus outside the Bible, be sure to share these 10 facts with them!

Resources:
(1)Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3 (There are more specific, fantastical, and supernatural versions of this quote in antiquity that are believed to have been interpolated. The quote I cite in this article is the one that most scholars agree is authentic. See Shlomo Pines, An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and Its Implications, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities: Jerusalem, 1971, cited in J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity)
(2) Josephus, 20.9.1

(3) Origen, Contra Celsum, 1.28
(4) Ronald Mellor, Tacitus’ Annals, p. 23
(5) Tacitus, Annals, 15.44
(6) Josephus, 18.3.3
(7)  Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol. 9, Irenaeus, Vol. II— Hippolytus, Vol. II— Fragments of Third Century (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1870), 188. (Cited in J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity.)
(8) Josephus, 18.3.3

(9) Ante-Nicene Christian Library, eds. Roberts and Donaldson, vol. 9, 188. (Cited in J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity.)
(10) Josephus, 18.3.3
(11) Pliny the Younger, Book 10, Letter 96
(12)Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13
(13) 
C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Claudius, 25.4
(14) Suetonius, The 12 
Caesars, Nero Claudius Ceasar, XVI
(15)  Tacitus, Annals, 15.44

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Thomas Sowell To Liberals, Words Trump Facts


 

Words seem to carry far more weight than facts among those liberals who argue as if rent control laws actually control rents and gun control laws actually control guns.

It does no good to point out to them that the two American cities where rent control laws have existed longest and strongest — New York and San Francisco — are also the two cities with the highest average rents.

Nor does it make a dent on them when you point out evidence, from both sides of the Atlantic, that tightening gun control laws does not reduce gun crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for gun crimes to rise when gun control laws are tightened. Apparently armed criminals prefer unarmed victims.

Minimum wage laws are another issue where the words seem to carry great weight, leading to the fact-free assumption that such laws will cause wages to rise to the legally specified minimum. Various studies going back for decades indicate that minimum wage laws create unemployment, especially among the younger, less experienced and less skilled workers.

When you are unemployed, your wages are zero, regardless of what the minimum wage law specifies.

Having followed the controversies over minimum wage laws for more than half a century, I am always amazed at how many ways there are to evade the obvious.

A discredited argument that first appeared back in 1946 recently surfaced again in a televised discussion of minimum wages. A recent survey of employers asked if they would fire workers if the minimum wage were raised. Two-thirds of the employers said that they would not. That was good enough for a minimum wage advocate.

Unfortunately, the consequences of minimum wage laws cannot be predicted on the basis of employers’ statements of their intentions. Nor can the consequences of a minimum wage law be determined, even after the fact, by polling employers on what they did.

The problem with polls, in dealing with an empirical question like this, is that you can only poll survivors.

Every surviving business in an industry might have as many employees as it had before a minimum wage increase — and yet, if the additional labor costs led to fewer businesses surviving, there could still be a reduction in industry employment, despite what the poll results were from survivors.

There are many other complications that make an empirical study of the effects of minimum wages much more difficult than it might seem.

Since employment varies for many reasons other than a minimum wage law, at any given time the effects of those other factors can outweigh the effects of minimum wage laws. In that case, employment could go up after a particular minimum wage increase — even if it goes up less than it would have without the minimum wage increase.

Minimum wage advocates can seize upon statistics collected in particular odd circumstances to declare that they have now “refuted” the “myth” that minimum wages cause unemployment.

Yet, despite such anomalies, it is surely no coincidence that those few places in the industrial world which have had no minimum wage law, such as Switzerland and Singapore, have consistently had unemployment rates down around 3 percent. “The Economist” magazine once reported: “Switzerland’s unemployment neared a five-year high of 3.9% in February.”

It is surely no coincidence that, during the last administration in which there was no federal minimum wage — the Calvin Coolidge administration — unemployment ranged from a high of 4.2 percent to a low of 1.8 percent over its last four years.

It is surely no coincidence that, when the federal minimum wage law remained unchanged for 12 years while inflation rendered the law meaningless, the black teenage unemployment rate — even during the recession year of 1949 — was literally a fraction of what it has been throughout later years, as the minimum wage rate has been raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation.

When words trump facts, you can believe anything. And the liberal groupthink taught in our schools and colleges is the path of least resistance.

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Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

 

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