Just to clarify, I believe that Jesus is the son of God. I believe there is ample evidence for that assertion. Some might ask, however, “Did Jesus even exist?” Is there reason to believe that an historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth even lived? Aside from the four Gospels (because four witnesses aren’t enough, apparently), there is no other mention of Jesus Christ (They also missed Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians etc.).
Well, there were at least five ancient historical writers who mentioned Jesus. None of them were believers in Jesus as the son of God, you understand, and none of them mentioned Jesus for any reason than the fact that he was an important historical figure in the first century.
- Josephus was a Jewish historian. He was Jewish by nationality and faith. My point is that he had no theological reason to mention Jesus. Yet in his Antiquities he mentions Jesus’ birth, trial under Pilate and execution. He calls Jesus a “rabbi” and a wise man.
- Tacitus (AD 55-120), a Roman historian noted for championing a historical style that sought to investigate both sides of a story, writes of Jesus.
- Gaius Suetonius (secretary to Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) writes of Jesus.
- Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator, writes a lengthy and interesting study of Christians in Asia Minor and spends some time detailing the story of Jesus.
- Julius Africanus quotes from a history of the Eastern Mediterranean written in about AD 52 by Thallus. Thallus, just twenty or so years after the execution of Jesus describes the day of his death: “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.” “This darkness,” Julius Africanus observes, “in the third book of his (i.e. Thallus) History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”
None of these writers had any reason to mention Jesus other than the fact that he was historical. They mention him in the same way a historian of World War II would mention Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin because you cannot adequately explain the events of the first century without him. There is no reasonable way one can deny that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible reflects this truth.