|"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details."
Is the text of the Bible a reliable historical document?
In relatively recent times, some have tried to dispute the
fact that the Christian figure of Jesus Christ was an actual historical
person. Jesus, they say, never really lived, but was fabricated
in the imaginations of those who founded Christianity.
However, there are several surviving non-Christian documents
from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. which confirm not
only the historicity of Jesus, but also the following information
about Him: 1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; 2) many people
believed that He performed healings and exorcisms; 3) He was
rejected by the Jewish leaders; 4) He was crucified under Pontius
Pilate in the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37); 5) despite this
shameful death, his followers, who believed that He was still
alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of
them in Rome by A.D. 64; 6) all kinds of people from the cities
and countryside — men and women, slave and free — worshiped
Him as God by the beginning of the 2nd century.
As the Encyclopedia Britannica observes, the non-Christian
accounts that corroborate the above facts “prove that in
ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never
doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the
first time and on inadequate grounds at the end of the 18th,
during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” The Encyclopedia lists the following historical accounts as
- Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37–100). This work is described as “invaluable” for Jewish history. As a historian, with access to both Roman and Jewish
governmental records, Josephus described events in Israel
during the 1st century A.D. His work includes several
references to Jesus Christ, one of which reads: “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.”
- The Annals [historical records] of the Roman historian and
governor of Asia, Cornelius Tacitus, written about A.D. 110. These writings confirm such things as the execution of
Jesus, identify Jesus as the founder of the Christian faith,
and discuss the persecution of Christians.
- An inquiry of the governor of Asia Minor, Plinius Secundus
(Pliny the Younger), in his letter to the emperor Trajan (A.D.
111). Here, Christians are described as those who “bound
themselves to a solemn oath” and sang hymns to Christ
“as to a god.”
- Roman historian, Suetonius, in his Life of Claudius (A.D. 100). Suetonius refers to the Christians causing disturbances in Rome which led to their being banished from the city. Claudius’s decree of expulsion (A.D. 49) is also mentioned
in the Bible (Acts 18:2).
- The Talmud, a compendium of Jewish law, lore, and commentary. (Referring to specific writings from the 1st and
2nd centuries). These writings reveal an acquaintance with
the Christian tradition, but include several divergent legendary
motifs as well. The picture of Jesus offered in these
writings may be summarized as follows: born the (according
to some interpretations, illegitimate) son of a
man called Panther, Jesus worked magic, ridiculed the
wise, seduced and stirred up the people, gathered five
disciples about him, and was hanged (crucified) on the
eve of the Passover.