Secular Witness to the Crucifixion of Jesus

 Secular testimony to the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion

1. Non-Jewish and non-Christian sources:

1. Tacitus, a Roman historian, in his Annals, c. AD 115, describes the Roman Emperor Nero’s actions after the great fire of Rome, c. AD 64:

“…Nero fabricated scapegoats-and punished…Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus.” (2)

2. Lucian, Greek satirist, second century AD, alludes to Christ:

“…the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.” (3)

3. Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian, c. AD 52, quoted by Julius Africanus, c. AD 221:

“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun- unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the time of the pascal full moon when Christ died.” (4)

4. Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, after AD 73 (this letter resides in the British Museum):

“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished….But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.” (5)

2. Jewish sources:

1. Josephus, Jewish historian (AD 37-100) wrote of Jesus:

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders.” (6)

2. The Jewish Talmud (Centuries of Jewish oral tradition committed to writing between AD 200 and AD 500):

“On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.” (7)

See John 11:57 for confirmation of this.

3. Conclusions from the non-biblical sources:

All available sources recognize Jesus’ death by crucifixion as fact. Both the Romans and the Jews believed Jesus died by crucifixion exactly as the Gospels relate. Jews even to this day don’t doubt that Jesus died on a cross. They just don’t recognize Him as the Messiah and that He rose from the dead.

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