Did Christianity really originate from a Jesus the Christ of First Century Israel? Did Jesus really live?
Encyclopedia Britannica concludes, “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 by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” (15th edition, 1979 – Macropedia Vol. 10, page 145). My friends, the evidence of Jesus’ existence is as good, or better than for the existence of George Washington.
Consider the following: (1) Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived from about 37 A.D. until 100 A.D. He wrote Jewish history for the Romans. In that history he wrote of the stoning of James. He wrote, “James, the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…” (Antiquities XX, 200). (2) The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus lived from about A.D. 55 till 120 A.D.. He wrote of Nero’s attempt to avoid personal blame for the burning of Rome, “Therefore, to scotch the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men … whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate…” (Annals XV). (3) Pliny, the younger, while serving as the imperial legate of the province of Bithynia wrote a letter to the emperor Trajan in 111 A.D. about how he should treat certain ones. He wrote, “An anonymous document was laid before me concerning many peoples’ names … some of these denied that they were Christians or ever had been so; at my dictation they invoked the gods and did reverence with incense and wine to your image, which I ordered to be brought for this purpose along with the statutes of the gods; They also cursed Christ; And as I am informed that people who are really Christians cannot possibly be made to do any of those things, I considered that the people who did them should be discharged.” He also wrote of how true Christians sang hymns to Christ, “as to a god” (Epistle 10, p. 96-ff). (4) A contemporary of Pliny, a Roman named Suetonius wrote in regards to the life of the emperor Claudius, “He (Claudius) expelled the Jews who had on the instigation of Chrestus continually been causing disturbances, from Rome (the city – Acts 18:2)” [Vita Claudii 25:4].
Brad T. Bromling has written, “Records of Jesus’ life come to modern man with impressive force. Not only are there Christian writings (whose manuscripts number in the thousands), there are also Jewish and Roman sources which give testimony to the Lord’s historicity. The latter may be termed ‘hostile’ witnesses since they have virtually nothing positive to say of the Christ … History is clear; His existence was recorded by both friend and foe. Jesus Christ is an incontestable figure of history”(Reason & Revelation Vol. XIII, NO. 1 , p. 7).