Besides the many thousands of scriptures that contain accounts of Jesus Christ written by eye witnesses in the Bible there are also numerous extra-biblical, historical texts that mention Him as well as archaeological evidence. It is highly unlikely that such a large group of people, spanning many years and holding different beliefs could have made up the existence of Jesus Christ as it would need people to work together in an age without phones or internet to create such a conspiracy.
The extra-biblical, archaeological evidence proves that Jesus Christ was known by early historians and no-one thought that the story or the life of Jesus was made up – these men were not Christians and had no reason to be bias. In comparison, the existence of King Arthur (who lived about five hundred years after Jesus Christ) is not backed up by as great an amount of historical resources as the existence of Jesus Christ.
1st Century Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus:
1st Century Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote “Antiquities of the Jews” to document Jewish history and help the Romans understand Jewish culture and history. Josephus references the biblical Jesus Christ in Books 18 and 20 and John the Baptist in Book 18. “…brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James…” Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9. “…of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man…” Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 5. “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] Christ. 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 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 day.” Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3.
Annals of Imperial Rome, written by the Roman senator and historian Tacitus:
Another account of Jesus Christ appears in Annals of Imperial Rome, a first-century history of the Roman Empire written around 116 A.D. by the Roman senator and historian Tacitus. “…called Christians by the populace. 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…”
Roman governor Pliny the Younger (A.D 111-115):
Roman governor Pliny the Younger mentioned in a letter to Emperor Trajan that early Christians would gather “on a certain day before sunrise” in order to sing “hymns to Christ as to God” (Latin, carmenque christo quasi deo; Pliny, Epistles 10.96.7) “…on a stated day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak and to recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god, and that so far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, their oath was to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, and from breach of faith, and not to deny trust money placed in their keeping when called upon to deliver it.”
Roman historian Suetonius:
Roman historian Suetonius made reference to Jesus by noting that Emperor Claudius had expelled Jews from Rome who “were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus.”
The Babylonian Talmud:
The Babylonian Talmud contains writings of the Jewish Rabbi’s, which occasionally refers to Jesus Christ. The earliest writings were made between 70 A.D. to 200 A.D. and these stated that Jesus was hung on the eve of the Passover, because he committed witchcraft. They referred to Jesus as Jeshu or Yeshua, because that was the way that the name of Jesus is pronounced in Hebrew. They state that Jesus was hung because it meant the same thing as being crucified, however the herald that cried that Jesus would be stoned was attesting to the fact that the Jewish leaders planned to murder Jesus, but that the Romans interfered with their plans. The accusation that Jesus committed witchcraft was similar to those when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub. These charges confirm the fact that Jesus did perform miracles in the New Testament. The only way to confirm the miracles were by accusing Jesus of sorcery.
Lucian provides evidence:
A Greek satirist from the second century called Lucian of Samosata wrote about early Christians worshiping a man to this day, who introduced them to novelties, and for that He was crucified. That they were told that they were brothers, and they had to deny the Greek gods, but to rather worship their crucified King. Lucian was making fun of the early Christians in these writings, but yet he had some remarkable comments about Jesus. He writes that they worshiped Jesus, and that He introduced them to novelties, but that these actions made his adversaries angry. Lucian does not say it in as many words, but the fact that Christians denied other gods indicated that they believed that Jesus was more than human, and that Jesus was superior to the Greek gods.
The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran:
The unique and interesting thing about the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they were only discovered in 1947 which means that these scrolls missed centuries of church corruption and gives us an opportunity to cross reference the bible we have today with the many undisturbed scrolls at Qumran. At the excavation of Qumran in 1947, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a cave by a Bedouin herdsman were at least ten micva (baptism) pools, this community (“The Way” – Essences 200BCE – 80CE) was formed around the importance of water immersion. A scroll identified as 11Q13 called “Melchizedek” was found in Cave 11. The scroll speaks about The Coming Of Melchizedek, a messianic agent of salvation, using similar language to that used for Jesus in Hebrews, such as “Heavenly Prince Melchizedek”. To the Qumran sect, the zadokites, Melchizedek was an ever-present hope and imminent reality. The Zadokites believed Melchizedek and the Messiah were interconnected. Their expectation was for Melchizedek to appear, He was to them an exalted, divine being. “…for (… Melchizedek) , who will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them the Jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of all their sins.” , “…when he shall atone for all the Sons of Light, and the people who are predestined to Melchizedek.“ , “and by his might he will judge God’s holy ones and so establish a righteous kingdom, as it is written about him in the Songs of David ; “A godlike being has taken his place in the council of God; in the midst of divine beings he holds judgement” , “Scripture also says about him ; “Over it take your seat in the highest heaven; A divine being will judge the peoples” , “Zion” is the congregation of all the sons of righteousness, who uphold the covenant and turn from walking in the way of the people.” The Qumran scrolls also contain one of the most ancient surviving interpretations of the Genesis Flood.
To conclude, the extra-biblical evidence confirms that:
1. Lucian and Josephus regarded Jesus as wise.
2. The Talmud, Lucian and Pliny implied that He was a powerful and revered teacher.
3. Both the Talmud and Josephus indicate that He performed miraculous feats.
4. Josephus, Tacitus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mentioned that He was crucified.
Josephus and Tacitus agreed that this happened during the reign of Pontius Pilate, and according to the Talmud the events transpired on the evening of the Passover, and both refer to the resurrection of Jesus.
5. The Dead sea scrolls declared that the Messiah who the new testament writers identify as Jesus Christ (“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16) is an exalted, divine being who would release them from the debt of all their sins, will judge all people and establish a righteous kingdom here on earth. This is also exactly what the bible teaches. “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” John 5:22, “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:6
Images: (Section introduction) The Psalms Scroll (11Q5), one of the 981 texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, with a partial Hebrew transcription. / Caves at Qumran / Two Dead Sea Scrolls Jars at the Jordan Museum, Amman.
(Below) The romanticized engraving of Flavius Josephus appearing in William Whiston‘s translation of his works / Modern statue representing Tacitus outside the Austrian Parliament Building / Statue of Pliny the Younger on the facade of Cathedral of S. Maria Maggiore in Como / A bust of Suetonius in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Images: (Top of page) The Psalms Scroll (11Q5), one of the 981 texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, with a partial Hebrew transcription. / Caves at Qumran / Two Dead Sea Scrolls Jars at the Jordan Museum, Amman.
Images: The romanticized engraving of Flavius Josephus appearing in William Whiston‘s translation of his works / Modern statue representing Tacitus outside the Austrian Parliament Building / Statue of Pliny the Younger on the facade of Cathedral of S. Maria Maggiore in Como / A bust of Suetonius in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.
- Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2848/2848-h/2848-h.htm#link202HCH0009
- Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 5: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2848/2848-h/2848-h.htm#link202HCH0009
- Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2848/2848-h/2848-h.htm#link182HCH0003
- The Dead Sea Scrolls, 11Q13 called “Melchizedek” found in Cave 11: http://www.gnosis.org/library/commelc.htm
- Annals of Imperial Rome, written by the Roman senator and historian Tacitus: http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html
- Letter to Emperor Trajan by Roman governor Pliny the Younger: http://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html
- Roman historian Suetonius: https://www.crystalinks.com/Suetonius.html