Historical evidence for the life of Jesus Christ
We live in a time when basic truths need to be rediscovered again and again. Because many people have forgotten what is white and what is mottled, because the burden of information and flashing pictures does not allow them to come to their senses and understand themselves.
So, regarding the historical earthly life of Jesus Christ. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, written in the first century, are already proof in themselves-they convey with meticulous accuracy the contradictions of the era, the names, and events known from other sources.
What else but the living testimony of Christianity could have made thousands of Christ's followers take risks and die in a time of religious skepticism, saturated with various cults?
However, today, 20 centuries later, many people have not read the Gospels, do not know, and have little information. Many need an Internet stream straight from the first century to believe. And even then, it is possible that if they had that stream, they would say that it was filmed in Qatar.
So, historically recognized evidence directly from the era of the birth of Christianity.
When describing how Emperor Nero decided to blame Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome in 64, the Roman historian Tacitus described how Nero accused Christians of setting fire to Rome to divert suspicion from himself, and also at the behest of his wife Poppaea, who was influenced by Jews who were in fierce conflict with Christians, many of whom were also Jews:
"But neither by human means, nor by the generosity of the prince, nor by appealing to the deity for help, could the rumor that defamed him, that the fire was set by his order, be stopped. And so Nero, in order to overcome the rumors, sought out those responsible and executed those who had incurred universal hatred with their abominations and whom the crowd called Christians. Christ, from whose name this name is derived, was executed under Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate; and this harmful superstition, suppressed for a time, began to break out again, not only in Judea, from which it originated, but also in Rome, where all the most vile and shameful things flock from everywhere and where they find supporters. Thus, first those who openly recognized themselves as belonging to this sect were seized, and then, on their instructions, many others were also seized, who were found guilty not so much of criminal arson as of hatred of the human race. Their deaths were accompanied by mockery, as they were dressed in the skins of wild animals to be torn to death by dogs, crucified on crosses, or condemned to death in fire, set on fire after dark for the sake of night lighting. Nero provided his gardens for this spectacle; at the same time, he gave a performance in the circus, during which he sat among the crowd dressed as a carriage driver or drove a sled, participating in a chariot race. Although the Christians were guilty and deserved the most severe punishment, these cruelties still aroused sympathy for them, for it seemed that they were being exterminated not for the sake of public benefit, but because of the bloodthirstiness of Nero alone."
This text was written by Tacitus around 100 AD.
Some of the most remarkable references to Jesus outside of the Bible were recorded by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, a Jewish general who was captured by the Romans during the destruction of Jerusalem in the Jewish revolt of 66-70 AD. He was an extremely competent and talented person, and I recommend that those who have not read his Jewish Antiquities do so.
In them he mentions Jesus twice. The brief mention is in the story of the sentence passed on James by the Jewish Sanhedrin. This James, Josephus writes, was the brother of Jesus, "the so-called Christ." The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians (1:19) called James "the brother of the Lord" because he was a cousin of Jesus Christ.
The second passage by Josephus reads as follows: "At that time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if he can be called a man at all. He ... did wonderful things ... He was the Christ. When Pilate...sentenced him to be crucified, those who had loved him from the beginning were faithful to him. On the third day he himself appeared... alive to them... And... to this day there are still so-called Christians who call themselves by his name."
This passage is so Christian in spirit that many scholars in the New Testament began to consider it a Christian insertion of the 3-4th centuries.
However, in the 20th century, an ancient Arabic translation by Josephus was published, where the phrase about Christians was also present: "At that time there lived a wise man whose name was Jesus (la-Isu), whose way of life was impeccable and was known for his virtue. Many Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate sentenced him to crucifixion and death, but those who were his disciples did not deny his teachings. They claimed that he appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. That is why they believe that he was the Messiah whose miraculous deeds were announced by the prophets."
In the same place, Flavius also mentions Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist. This is a text from the 90s after the Nativity of Christ.
In Book 18 of the Jewish Antiquities, the following is said about John literally: "Some of the Jews think that God destroyed Herod's armies in all justice, punishing him for the death of John, who is called the Baptist. Herod killed him, a worthy man who persuaded the Jews to practice virtue, to be just to each other and pious before God, and then to come to be baptized. He believed that one should be baptized not to ask for forgiveness of sins, but for the sake of bodily purity, when the soul had been purified by righteousness beforehand. People gathered around him, inspired by his words. And Herod, fearing that he, possessing such a power of persuasion, might raise a rebellion (it seemed that people would do anything on his advice), decided that it would be much better to prevent events and kill John without waiting for a rebellion, rather than repent later if a coup happened. Suspected by Herod, he was sent in chains to Maheruntha, a prison we spoke about earlier, and killed there."
Although Josephus does not mention the beating of infants in Bethlehem by order of King Herod immediately after the birth of Jesus Christ, which is present in the Gospel, he testifies that this story was quite possible.
For example, according to Flavius, Herod was so suspicious that he executed three of his sons, and before his death, knowing that the Jews would rejoice at the end of his tyranny, he planned a mass murder of one person from all Jewish families:
"His bile so agitated him against everyone that just before his death he devised the following terrible deed: when, at his command, all the most influential Jews appeared from everywhere (it was a terrible mass of people, because everyone obeyed his orders, for those who disobeyed were threatened with the death penalty), the king, equally agitated against the innocent and the guilty, ordered them all to be locked in the hippodrome. Then he sent for his sister Solomia and her husband Alexei and told them that he was about to die because his suffering was unimaginable. Of course, this is quite natural and happens to everyone, but he is especially upset that he will die and no one will cry for him and grieve for him to the extent that would be appropriate, because he is a king.
He is well aware of the mood of the Jews, and he knows how desirable and pleasant his death is to them, since they had rebelled in his lifetime and treated his sacrificial gifts with insolence. Therefore, he said, it is now their job to come up with some kind of relief for him to endure his suffering. So if they (Solomia and her husband) do not refuse to help him, he will be given a funeral as lavish as any king has ever deserved, and then the whole nation will be in sincere grief, while now this nation mocks and laughs at him. Therefore, when they (Solomia and her husband) are convinced of his death, let them order the troops to surround the hippodrome, but they should not yet be informed of his death (this can be announced to the people after his will has been fulfilled) and order them to shoot the people gathered in the hippodrome. This order of his is completely inhuman, because when he died, he wanted to plunge the entire nation into grief due to the loss of his dearest persons. After all, he ordered one person from each house to be killed, and without these people having committed any illegal acts or being accused of any crime. Anyone who values virtue usually forgets their hatred for their real enemies at such moments in life."
And here is how Flavius described the end of Herod:
"Meanwhile, Herod's illness grew worse, for the Lord God was punishing him for all his iniquity. It was a slow fire that was not so much visible outwardly as raging within his body; to this was added a passionate, irresistible desire to tear off a member of his body.
He also suffered from internal abscesses, especially terrible stomach pains; his legs were filled with a watery, transparent liquid. The lower abdomen also suffered from the same disease; worms appeared on the rotting parts; when he tried to rise, breathing caused him terrible suffering due to the stench, and he was seized with convulsions, and the king showed unnatural strength. God-fearing people who knew how to explain such phenomena said that the Eternal One was now punishing the king for his great iniquities."
The Babylonian Talmud, which was compiled between 70-500 AD, contains several direct references to Jesus:
"On the eve of Passover, Yeshua was hanged. And after forty days they proclaimed that he should be stoned to death for practicing witchcraft and seducing Israel..." (That is, Jesus' miracles were so obvious that opponents could not deny them and attributed them to witchcraft. The accusation of witchcraft reminds us of how the Pharisees accused Jesus of "casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons").
There is interesting evidence of Christians in Pliny the Younger's letters to Emperor Trajan, from the beginning of the 2nd century. Pliny was governor in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. He consulted with Trajan on how to conduct trials against those accused of being Christian. Here Pliny reports what he knows about these Christians:
"...They had a custom to assemble at dawn on a certain day and read, alternating with each other, hymns to Christ as God, and that they would not take an oath for any crime, but to not commit theft, robbery, adultery, not to deceive trust, not to refuse to return what was deposited on demand. After that, they usually dispersed and gathered again for a meal, but an ordinary and innocent one..."