Early Non-Christian Accounts
Skeptics like Ellen Johnson cite the “lack of secular history” for Jesus as evidence that he didn’t exist.
Yet there is very little documentation for any person from the time of Christ. Most ancient historical documents have been destroyed through the centuries, by wars, fires, and pillaging, or simply through weathering and deterioration.
According to E. M. Blaiklock, who has cataloged most of the non-Christian writings of the Roman Empire, “practically nothing exists from the time of Christ”, even for great secular leaders such as Julius Caesar. Yet no historian questions Caesar’s existence.
And since he wasn’t a great political or military leader, Darrell Bock notes, “It is amazing and significant that Jesus shows up at all in the sources we have.”
So, who are these sources Bock mentions? Which early historians who wrote of Jesus did not have a Christian agenda? First of all, let’s look to Jesus’ enemies.
Jewish Historians: The Jews had the most to gain by denying Jesus’ existence. But they always regarded him as real. “Several Jewish writings refer to Jesus as a real person whom they opposed.
Noted Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of James, “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.” If Jesus wasn’t a real person why wouldn’t Josephus have said so?
In another somewhat controversial passage, Josephus speaks more extensively of Jesus.
At this time there was a man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and he died. And 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 thought to be the Messiah.”
Although some of his words are in dispute, Josephus’ confirmation here of Jesus’ existence is widely accepted by scholars.
Israeli scholar Shlomo Pines writes, “Even the most bitter opponents of Christianity never expressed any doubt as to Jesus having really lived.”
World historian Will Durant notes that no Jew or Gentile from the first-century ever denied the existence of Jesus.
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