Did Jesus ever really exist?
Josephus Jewish Antiquities (c.93 C.E.)
(later interpolations in brackets)
“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man [if it be lawful to call him a man], for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. [He was the Messiah.] And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him [for he appeared to them alive again at the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him]. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this date.”1
Pliny the Younger Letter to Trajan (c.111-117 C.E.)
“…they maintained that their fault or error amounted to nothing more than this: they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before sunrise and reciting an antiphonal hymn to Christ as God, and binding themselves with an oath not to commit any crime, but to abstain from all acts of theft, robbery and adultery, from breaches of faith, from repudiating a trust when called upon to honour it.”2
Tacitus Roman Annals (c.115-117 C.E.)
“They got their name from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. That checked the pernicious superstition for a short time, but it broke out afresh–not only in Judea, where the plague first arose, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home.”3
Sanhedrin 43a (200-500 C.E.)
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu4 was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of Passover!”5
- Antiquities xviii. 33 (early second century) from F.F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 37.
- Pliny, Epistles x.96, from Bruce, p.26.
- Tacitus, Annals xv, 44, from Bruce, p. 22.
- Talmudic designation of Jesus.
- “Sanhedrin,” vol 3 of Nezikin, Babylonian Talmud, edited by Isidore Epstein, reprint (London: Soncino, 1938), 281.