HISTORICAL EXTRA-BIBLICAL EVIDENCE
Some uninformed people have tried to claim that Jesus never even really existed. Others recognize he was indeed a real
person in history but reject anything mentioned that is in nature miraculous. Modern historians rule out the resurrection because
of their philosophical presuppositions not because of lack of evidence. In other words because they believe that there is no
such thing as a miracle they rule out the resurrection on that basis alone. I believe it is wise to let the facts speak for themselves
even if it means we are proven wrong and forced to change our views. As for those who in their presuppositions claim
"miracles do not happen" the question may be asked, "Where is the critic of scripture who can without error explain everything
that happens in the world today by a purely rational and naturalistic means?" We will now examine some historical writings. We
will show that certain events in the life and death of Jesus can be established as history without the use of the Bible.
The following is found in the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia under Jesus Christ "Jesus ...as he was known to his
contemporaries, was a Jew who appeared as a prophet, a teacher, and a sage in Palestine about AD 30." THE HISTORICAL
JESUS The Christ-myth school of the early 20th century held that Jesus never lived but was invented as a peg on which to hang
the myth of a dying and rising God. Yet the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus is good." Non-Christian Sources
Among Roman historians, TACITUS (Annals 15.44) records that the Christian movement began with Jesus, who was
sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate."
The Book "The Historical Jesus" by Gary Habermas pg.187-188 we find some information and a quote from Tacitus Annals
15.44 as mentioned above that I would like to include. Cornelius Tactius was a Roman historian. He has been referred to as
the "greatest historian" of ancient Rome. He lived 55-120 AD
" Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their
abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus ( a variant spelling of Christ from Latin) 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, and a
most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of evil, but
even in Rome"
From the previous sources we can learn that (1) Jesus lived about 30 A.D (2) Jesus was sentenced to death by the Roman
procurator Pontius Pilate.(3) during the reign of Tiberius (4) His death ended the "superstition" for a short time
(5) but it broke out again in Judaea where it originated (6) then it spread to Rome.
(Note the reign of Tiberious was 14-37 A.D.) It should also be noted that Jesus was crucified at Jerusalem Mt.20:17-19,
Lk.23:6-7. Jerusalem is in Judea this is where Tactius the Roman historian says "a most mischievous superstition, thus
checked for the moment again broke out" This correlates perfectly with Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and the proclamation by
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived from 37-97 A.D. he did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah. (This
can be found in "The Historical Jesus" by Gary Habermas pg.192.) Tertullian a theologian around 193 A.D. Had the following to
say about Josephus, Tertullian, The Apology chapter 19 "their critic the Jew Josephus, the native vindicator of the ancient
history of his people, who either authenticates or refutes the others."
The following quote is found in "The Works of Josephus", book 18, chapter 3, #3
"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.
Here we seen a non-Christian source of ancient literature that verifies Pilate had Jesus condemned to the cross
and people believed they seen Jesus appear to them alive after the crucifixion. As Michael Green points out in
McDowell's book "Evidence", pg.187 "Josephus was a Jew writing to please the Romans. This story would not have pleased
them in the slightest. He hardly would have included it if it were not true."
Justin Martyr was a Christian writer who lived during 100-165 A.D. The following two quotes are his statements. "And
that it was predicted that our Christ should heal all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was said. There are these words:
"At His coming the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerer shall be clear speaking: the blind shall see, and
the lepers shall be cleansed; and the dead shall rise, and walk about." And that He did those things, you can learn from the
Acts of Pontius Pilate."
"Jesus Christ stretched forth His hands, being crucified by the Jews speaking against Him, and denying that He was the Christ.
And as the prophet spoke, they tormented Him, and set Him on the judgment-seat, and said, Judge us. And the expression,
"They pierced my hands and my feet," was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet.
And after He was crucified they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these
things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate."
Tthese quotes can be found in Ante-Nicene Fathers: Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Volume I, The First Apology
of Justin Chapter XLVIII & XXXV)
Justin here was appealing to "the Acts of Pontius Pilate" to his readers. Justin apparently believed the critics could verify these
things as actual events in this document. We can also see that Justin assumed his readers would know of the document he
was referring to. It should be noted here that there is no known manuscript found, which contains the Acts of Pontius Pilate.
Also this should not be confused with later fabrications by the same name. It is not known who wrote this document that Justin
refers to. Gary Habermas in his book "The Historical Jesus", pg.215-217 states that both Justin Martyr and Tertullian agree
that this was an official document of Rome.
The following information is to let you know who is who in the next 2 quotes concerning the darkness and earthquake at the
time of Jesus' death as recorded in Mt.27:45-54. Julius Africanus, took up chronological science in the imperfect state where
it was left by Clement, with whom he was partially contemporary; for he was Bishop of Emmaus in Palestine he composed
books of chronological history, under Marcus Aurelius who was a Roman Emperor from 161 A.D. until his death. Little seems
to be known of who Phlegon was; his work lost; extracts from it by Julius Africanus as well as others.
We know that he is called "Phlegon, bishop of Marathon" and he is also referred to as "Phlegon the Trallian" The Apostle Paul
sent his greetings to him, Romans 16:14, Tiberius Caesar was emperor of Rome, 14- 37 A.D. see Luke 3:1. Origen was a
theologian and lived during 185-254 A.D.
Julius Africanus, The Extant Writings,Vol.18 (James, Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume VI, Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson,)
"Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to
the ninth--manifestly that one of which we speak."
Origen against Celsus Vol. LIX, (Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume IV, Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James.)
"He imagines also that both the earthquake and the darkness were an invention; but regarding these, we have in the preceding
pages, made our defence, according to our ability, adducing the testimony of Phlegon, who relates that these events took
place at the time when our Saviour suffered. And he goes on to say, that "Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself,
but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by
Here we seen even the darkness and earthquake have been recorded. Although some have argued that this is impossible
because they say that the darkness would have to be an eclipse and at that time period they say there was no eclipse. Phlegon
lived during that time period he should know, if there was darkness and an earthquake or not better than people who lived after
the event. There is no known just grounds to discredit Phlegon's testimony of this event.
Ignatius according to tradition was a pupil of the Apostle John. He is said to be the second bishop of Antioch after Peter and
he lived between 50-115 A.D. Ignatius also died a martyr for his faith and belief in the resurrection. (This can be verified in
"Fox's book of martyrs", pg.7-8. "Evidence", by Josh McDowell pg.185, "American Peoples Encyclopedia", Vol.10,pg.895)
The following is a quote by Ignatius, which is found in Ante-Nicene Fathers:
Vol. I, Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians Ch. 9.
"Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of
the Virgin, but not after the same manner. For indeed God and man are not the same. He truly assumed a body; for "the Word
was made flesh," and lived upon earth without sin. For says He, "Which of you convicteth me of sin? " He did in reality both eat and drink.
He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight
of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. By those in heaven I mean such as are possessed of incorporeal
natures; by those on earth, the Jews and Romans, and such persons as were present at that time when the Lord was crucified;
and by those under the earth, the multitude that arose along with the Lord. For says the Scripture, "Many bodies of the saints
that slept arose," their graves being opened. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a
multitude; and rent asunder that means of separation which had existed from the beginning of the world, and cast down its
partition-wall. He also rose again in three days, the Father raising Him up; and after spending forty days with the apostles, He
was received up to the Father, and "sat down at His right hand, expecting till His enemies are placed under His feet." On the
day of the preparation, then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the
sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath He
continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathea had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord's day He arose
from the dead"
Polycarp is also said to have been a disciple under Saint John. Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna and lived from
69-155 A.D. He also died a martyr for his faith. This can be verified in "Fox's book of martyrs", pg.9, Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia under Polycarp, American Peoples Encyclopedia Vol.15,pg.1011. The following is a quote from Polycarp found
in Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume I, Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James,
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians Chapter 2
"Wherefore, girding up your loins," "serve the Lord in fear" and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error
of the multitude, and "believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory," and a throne at
His right hand."
The fact that Ignatius and Polycarp wrote these things to others shows that this belief was no secret. This is
important considering the time frame when Ignatius and Polycarp lived. It is believed they personally knew the John that wrote
the gospel of John.
More quotes not from the Bible could be given providing more detail but this should suffice. Without using the Bible we have
shown confirmation for the following. Jesus was a real person in history about 30 A.D. Many people believed he was the
Christ told about in Old Testament prophecy. They claimed that Jesus healed the lepers, the blind, the mute and even raised
the dead. He was sentenced to death by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius in Judea. This death
was crucifixion in which they nailed his hands and feet to a cross. There was darkness from the 6th hour till the 9th hour and
there was an earthquake at the time of the death of Jesus. This did not end Christianity, but rather it started up in the very place
where Jesus lived and died shortly after his death, from there it spread to Rome. Many people claimed that after
3 days Jesus arose from the dead and appeared to many over a period of 40 days.
Most of our quotes were from people that lived during the 1st century. The quotes that came after the 1st century were quoting
from writings of someone who did live in the 1st century. It should be evident that what we read about concerning the death and
resurrection of Jesus was no secret. Furthermore these were actual events in history.
Even if one does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it cannot be denied that it is a matter of historical record, that
many people in the first century where Jesus lived and died did for some reason believe Jesus rose from the dead.
The following is from the book titled "Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?"
by Gary R. Habermas and Antony G.N.Flew pg.19 & 20
"Some events are generally agreed to be facts by practically all critical scholars who deal with this topic today, whatever
their school of thought or discipline. In other words, critical historians, philosophers, theologians, and scripture scholars who
address this subject usually accept this factual basis. At least eleven events are considered to be knowable history by
virtually all scholars, and a twelfth event is considered to be knowable history to many scholars. (1) Jesus died due to the
rigors of crucifixion and (2) was buried. (3) Jesus' death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
(4) Although not as frequently recognized, many scholars hold that Jesus was buried in a tomb that was discovered to be
empty just a few days later.
Critical scholars even agree that (5) at this time the disciples had real experiences that they believed were literal
appearances of the risen Jesus. Because of these experiences, (6) the disciples were transformed from doubters who were
afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and Resurrection, even being willing to die for this
belief. (7) This message was central in the early church preaching and (8) was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where
Jesus died shortly before.
As a result of this message, (9) the church was born and grew, (10) with Sunday as its primary day of worship.
(11) James the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected
Jesus. (12) A few years later Paul the persecutor of Christians was also converted by an experience that he, similarly,
believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.
These historical facts are crucial to a contemporary investigation of Jesus' Resurrection. Except for the empty tomb,
virtually all critical scholars who deal with this issue agree that these are the minimal known historical facts regarding this
event. Any conclusion concerning the historicity of the Resurrection should therefore properly account for this data. The
pivotal fact, recognized by virtually all scholars, is the original experiences of the disciples. It is nearly always admitted that
the disciples had actual experiences and that something really happened."
This book I just quoted from is a debate between Flew and Habermas. Flew does not believe in the resurrection and
Habermas does. I find it interesting that Flew did not challenge this statement quoted here. Why? Because these really are
knowable facts of history.
In a court of law when the hostile witness agrees with the defense it is considered a fact. In other words lets say there is a
murder trial. The prosecuting attorney said that David murdered Albert. The defense gets up and says David did indeed kill
Albert but it was an accident. Since both sides agree that David killed Albert, this would be considered a fact, and it would not
be called into question. Since the actual events regarding Jesus' ministry, crucifixion and death are not disputed by those
opposed to Christianity in that time frame where Jesus lived and died, the events themselves are considered fact.
From these known historical facts people have tried to come up with various explanations of what happened, to explain away
the literal physical resurrection of Jesus. The account given by the eyewitnesses in the New Testament concerning the
resurrection of Jesus is yet, the only theory known that logically and accurately accounts for all 12 known historical facts
concerning this event. Since these facts are established by critical and historical procedures. It is not logical reasoning for
someone to reject the resurrection simply because they do not accept the inspiration of the Scriptures. These events can be
shown in history outside of scripture. If the resurrection of Jesus is not true then there has to be a reasonable explanation of
what might have taken place based upon the known historical facts.
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