In our lesson this week, we are studying Christ, His humanity and His deity. We will study the biblical accounts of Jesus but did you ever wonder if there is non-biblical, historical evidence that Jesus actually walked on this earth?
The Historical Jesus
Probably one of the best places to start would be to find writings from “hostile” sources – writers who mentioned Jesus in a negative light or derogatory fashion. These authors certainly were not predisposed to further the cause of Christ or otherwise to add credence to His existence. In fact, the opposite is true. They rejected His teachings and often reviled Him as well.
Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) was a member of the Roman provincial upper class with a formal education who held several high positions under different emperors such as Nerva and Trajan. His famous work, Annals, was a history of Rome written in approximately A.D. 115. In the Annals he told of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in A.D. 64. Nero, the Roman emperor in office at the time, was suspected by many of having ordered the city set on fire. Tacitus wrote:
“Nero fabricated scapegoats—and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome.”
Tacitus hated both Christians and their namesake, Christ. He therefore had nothing positive to say about what he referred to as a “deadly superstition.” He did, however, have something to say about it. His testimony establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the Christian religion not only was relevant historically, but that Christ, as its originator, was a verifiable historical figure of such prominence that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!
(the above is an edited version of “The Historical Christ—Fact or Fiction?” at Apologetics Press http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/157)