Assertion: “Jesus was not a literal person, just a myth. The fact that there is no extra-biblical testimony is proof.”
This one is pretty easy to disprove.
There are many people who lived in Rome and not all of them are verifiable 2,000 years later. It would be extremely significant to find references to people who lived in the days of Jesus.
Since Jesus was a literal person, we are able to find extra-biblical, non-sympathetic references to his life and impact on society.
If Jesus were simply a myth, then there would be no references to his existence other than by those who believe. If the claims of his followers are false, then the references by unbelievers would largely be in order to disprove the Christian’s clams. Fortunately, there are references to Jesus as a person by his contemporaries.
Two things can be proven:
- Jesus was a literal person
- Jesus was worshipped as God by his followers, who claimed he rose from the dead (not a later embellishment)
Hopefully, this list helps those who REALLY want to explore truth and those who need a quick reference in order to debate completely false historical assertions.
All of the following references are from anti-Christian sources. There are also references to Jesus, his crucifixion, his followers belief that he was virgin-born, and that he rose from the dead in the Babylonian Talmud.
Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 A.D.)
Modern historians call him the “Greatest Historian” of ancient Rome. His writings “Histories” and “Annals” are among the most acclaimed historical sources for ancient Rome. The “Annals” not only references “Christus,” which was what the pagan writers of Rome called “Jesus,” but it also alludes to the fact that Jesus’ immediate followers believed he rose from the dead (not that it was later invented).
From “Annals XV, 44”
“Christus, the founder of the name (Christians), was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only throughout Judea, where the mischief originated, but throughout the city of Rome also.”
Thallus (52 A.D.)
He wrote about the darkness that covered the land when Jesus was crucified, then explained it away as being a freak solar eclipse.
Wrote about the expulsion of Jews who followed Christ from Rome in 49 A.D.
Pliny the Younger (112 A.D.) – Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor
He wrote emperor Trajan to ask how to handle the Christians. He had been killing them all (including their children), but the faith was continuing to spread. This reference is important, because it shows that Jesus was being worshipped as God shortly after his crucifixion. He wrote the following:
“They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”
He also confirms historically that darkness covered the land after Jesus’ crucifixion.
Mara Bar-Serapion (Syrian who wrote around 70 A.D. referencing Jesus)
“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?”
He then spoke of how they were eventually driven from Rome as a result.