Have you ever wondered if someone as important to human history as Jesus is was ever mentioned in secular history? The answer to the question is YES! Giving credit where credit is due, everything you will read in this article I read in the Jan/Feb 2015 Biblical Archaeology Review, by Dr. Lawrence Mykytiuk. He is associate professor of library science and the history librarian at Perdue University. His Ph.D. is in Hebrew and Semitic Studies.
One source is Caius/Gaius (or Publius) Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55/56-118 A.D.). He was a Roman senator, orator and ethnographer (he studied human cultures), and was arguably the best of the Roman historians. He also despised Christians. In his last major writing, titled Annals, written around 116-117 A.D., he includes a biography of the Emperor Nero. Nero was accused of setting the fire that partially destroyed Rome in 64 A.D. He tried to shift the blame to Christians, which was the occasion for Tacitus to mention them in his writings. Here's part of what he wrote to identify who started the fire. The culprits whom the crowd called "Chrestians." The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate. He was unaware that his name was Jesus and Christ was his title.
Another source is the Jewish historian Josephus. He was a Jewish priest in first century Palestine. During the first Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 A.D.) he was a commander in Galilee, but soon surrendered and became a prisoner of war. After prophesying that the Roman commander Vespasian would become emperor, and he did, Vespasian freed him and he continued to live in Rome, where he composed his historical and apologetic writings. He even took a Roman name, calling himself Flavius Josephus. Most Jews viewed him as a despicable traitor. In one of his great works, titled Jewish Antiquities, he mentioned Jesus twice.
Keep in mind when you read the following that the reason he gives the details he does is that the names James (Iakobos, ee-ak'-o-bos) i.e. Jacobus and Jesus (Iesous, ee-ay-sooce') i.e. Jehoshua, were very common names in 1st Century Israel. Normally, a person was identified by his father's name (i.e. James, son of Joseph), but that wouldn't work because Joseph was also a very common name. Therefore, Josephus identifies which James he's referring to by naming his famous brother. Here's what he wrote: Ananus (the high priest) called a meeting (literally, Sanhedrin) of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah, James by name, and some others. In another place he writes: Around this time there lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who did surprising deeds, and a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who in the first place came to love him did not give up their affection for him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, have still to this day not died out.
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