Jesus Outside the New Testament

Roman Sources

(1) Tombs, Ordinances and Graffiti

Tomb Inscriptions - late 30's C.E.?
"Several of the tombs in the Dominus Flevit ['the Lord wept'] catacombs outside Jerusalem bear inscriptions like, 'Jesus, have mercy', and 'Jesus, remember me in the resurrection', inscriptions thought to date from the 40's or late 30's, and indicating the presence in Jerusalem from a fairly early date of a community that believed in resurrection and in the power of someone named Jesus to see the believer safely through death and beyond."
     - Alan Millard, Discoveries From the Time of Jesus

The tombs were discovered during the rebuilding of a Franciscan chapel and excavated from 1953 to 1955.

"A tomb of the Late Bronze period gave finds which are important for the civilization of Jerusalem just at the time of its conquest by the Hebrews. A necropolis used from 136 BC to 300 AD produced a great amount of material. The necropolis had two periods each with different styles and cultures. The first, the earlier is characterized by Kokhim (oven-shaped) tombs running from 185 BC, while the second is characterized by tombs with an arcosolium belonging to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. With the Kokhim tombs are closely connected the sarcophagus and the ossuary; the first cut in hard stone (mizzi) follow the motifs of classical art, both in structure and subject, in close artistic relation with the Tombs of the kings and 'Herod's' of the 1 cent. AD; the ossuaries, on the other hand in soft stone (kacooley) follow a local trade technique with architectonic and floral motifs.
"On the ossuaries were found many more or less symbol signs (crosses, tau, Constantinian monograms) and 43 inscriptions (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) incised or traced with charcoal. Of interest is the recurrence of names common in the New Testament, as Mary, Martha, Philo the Cyrene, Matthew, Joseph, Jesus."
     - Dominus Flevit the site where "The Lord Wept"

Caesar's Decree - c. 50 C.E.
"A stone slab found in Nazareth, of height 0.61m is inscribed (in Greek) with a decree demanding the death penalty for anyone who broke the seals on a tomb or stole a dead body." (Attributed date c. 50 C.E.)
     - Summarized extract - IVP Three Volume Bible Dictionary (under section for Nazareth)

"It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain undisturbed in perpetuity for those who have made them for the cult of their ancestors, or children, or members of their house. If, however, any man lay information that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing or other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honour the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In the case of contravention I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charge of violation of sepulture."
     - Ordinance of Caesar

"The Emperor threatens the death penalty for interference with, or the removal of bodies from, tombs, may belong to any date from Augustus to Claudius."
     - Summarized extract - Peakes Commentary of the Bible
(Various sections found from index under Claudius' expulsion of Jews from Rome and Tombs, sanctity of.)

The original owner of the stone left only a short note about its origins when he donated it to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris - "Marble slab sent from Nazareth in 1878."

"Nazareth may be the place, but the finder could have carried it there from somewhere else, a few days' donkey journey away, wanting to sell it to Christian pilgrims. Since the nature of the connection with Nazareth is uncertain, no argument linking the stone with the early Christians can rely on its. Unless the stone was set up on Judaea and moved northwards later, Pontius Pilate cannot have had it made, because Galilee was in the kingdom of Herod Antipas, where Pilate had no power. Indeed, even a decree of Caesar would hardly be displayed in Galilee until after Antipas' reign ended in AD 44. That means it is possible that Claudius made the decree."
     - Alan Millard, Discoveries From the Time of Jesus

"Why would a Caesar have any cause to take such a specific interest in this part of the Empire and in a matter which, apparently, not an issue of Roman state? Surely this would seem to be better resolved by local Government and not one to demand the intervention of the Emperor. However, if the implications of any such alleged activity had affected Rome that would make it more understandable."
     - Mark Carlin

Chrestus, the Instigator - 50 C.E.
"Expulsion of Jews from Rome reported by Suetonius (Claud. 25.) and Orosius (Hist. VII, vi, 15) . Orosius puts this in Claudius' ninth year, 25th Jan. AD 49 - 24th Jan. AD 50. The later claiming to have extracted the date from Josephus, however, our copies of Josephus do not contain such an entry. Claudius had expelled from Rome the Jews who were 'incessantly causing tumults with Chrestus as the instigator'."
     - Summarized extract - Peakes Commentary of the Bible:

"Since the Jews were constantly causing disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome."
     - Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars - Claudius 5.25.4 (c. 120 CE)

"The Emperor Claudius, around the year 49-50, expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2) because (says Suetonius) they were fomenting disorder at the instigation of one Chrestos. It seems plausible that there were disputes in Rome between Jews who believed that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb because he had risen, and Jews who believed that it had been stolen. When these disputes caused public disorder, Claudius (or his deputy) made inquiries, expelled both sides from the city (after the manner of a parent who, when two children are fighting over a toy, takes it away from both of them for the time being), and then ordered a stern decree against grave-robbing to be promulgated at the places where the disturbance had begun. Presumably these would include at least (1) Jerusalem, where the alleged corpse-snatching had taken place, and (2) Nazareth, the home town of the alleged corpse."
     - James Kiefer

"The report that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in A.D. 41 because they were, 'at the instigation of Chrestus, repeatedly rioting,' probably refers to some local troublemaker."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 66

"A short note on the name 'Chrestus': From the examination of the Greek for Chrestus and Christos I have observed that the former is a common slave name which has the basic meaning of 'good' and the latter derived from the rare Greek word (rare or just closest?) 'to anoint' and thus Christos is the best match for the Aramaic word 'messiah' - which also, essentially means 'anointed one' with the Jewish associations of king, etc. What may be important is that while both names basically mean something different from each other they are, I have read, phonetically the same."
     - Mark Carlin

"'Chrestus' is the correct Latin form of a very common Greek name and is not a misspelling, but some scholars believe that Seutonius meant to use 'Christos' instead. One problem with this (if indeed Seutonius was referring to Christ) is that the context of the passage suggests that someone named Chrestus was living in Rome at the time, a century after Jesus. Kee and Wells get around this problem by assuming that Seutonius was referring to Christian preachers who were announcing that the Messiah in Jesus was coming. Kee (Jesus in History) also adds that Suetonius may have had his dates confused and was instead referring to the actual disturbances that occurred during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE). Wells (The Jesus of the Early Christians) is not as generous and sticks closer to the known in that 'Chrestus' was probably an agitator who emerged from the Roman ghetto proclaiming himself as the Messiah. Messianic fervor ran high during the time of the fall of Jerusalem (70 CE) and this is a highly likely explanation. In any case, it is very difficult to construe from Suetonius anything that even remotely speaks to the historicity of Jesus."
     - James Still, "Biblical and Extrabiblical Sources for Jesus"

"Could it be that the expulsion of the "Jews" (which might include any associated bickering faction) was as a result of a dispute in which one party had claimed that a grave had been robbed? In my mind, both Aquina and Priscilla were Christian before they were expelled from Rome (though I know this is debated) and migrated to Corinth (Acts). Also, when Paul first visited Rome he was greeted by the 'brethren' (in Acts) which again leads me to the opinion that Rome had Christians from a very early date.
"If there is connection between Suetonius' report and the archaeological find in Galilee (and I realize that this is speculative) it raises a distinct possibility that the early critics of Christianity held the view that the Christian claim to a resurrection was a false claim and that the earlier movement had themselves removed the body of the dead Jesus. Also, that the charge was so strongly held and expressed that a tumulus of such magnitude arose which led Caesar Claudius to expel the lot of them rather than risk riots in the streets of Rome."
     - Mark Carlin

Thallus' Eclipse - 52 C.E.
A "passage on Jesus was contained in Thallus' work on the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to 52 A.D. Thallus noted that darkness fell on the land at the time of the crucifixion. He wrote that such a phenomenon was caused by an eclipse."
     - Harry V. Martin. "Proving the Historic Jesus"

According to McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, "Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian mentioned Christ in 52 C.E. However his works are no longer extant, so we have only citations of it by others...Julius Africanus, a Christian writing about 221, says, talking about the darkness that fell when Christ was crucified, 'Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun -- unreasonably, as it seems to me.' (It is unreasonable because the crucifixion was at Passover, which is based on the lunar calendar and requires a full moon. When there's a full moon, the moon is at the opposite side of the earth from where it has to be for an eclipse.)".
"Phelgon, another first-century historian, is also quoted by Africanus as saying 'during the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon'. Phelgon's comment (presumably the same one) is also referred to by Philopon."
     - James Kiefer

Mara's Letter - c. 73 C.E.

"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."
     - Mara bar Serapion, letter to his son from prison

According to F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (p. 114), the Mara bar Serapion letter was " written some time later than A. D. 73, but how much later we cannot be sure." Written in Syriac, this letter may actually have originated in the 2nd or 3rd century C.E. The "wise king" is not identified by Mara bar Serapion and may have lived in the same time frame as Socrates and Pythagoras - half a millenium earlier than Jesus.

"The Bible itself recorded the political assassinations of Jewish royalty that occurred close enough to Nebuchadnezzar's capture of Jerusalem [586 B.C.E.] to consider the conquest of either Israel or Judea as an event that had happened 'just after' the murder of one of these kings. Josiah's father, King Amon, for example, was assassinated less than 50 years before Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:23)."
     - Farrell Till, "The 'Testimony' of Mara Bar-Serapion"

"Amon's officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace."
     - 2 Kings 21:23

It should also be noted that the letter contains an historical inaccuracy. Pythagoras was not burned by the men of Samos but died later in Metapontum (contemporary Metaponto), Italy.

Magical Gems and Graffiti - c. 200 C.E.
"...Already in Jesus' lifetime magicians began to use his name in their spells. Acts 19.13 shows that the practice was continued, even by Jewish magicians, after his death. Accordingly, of the three oldest representations of the crucifixion, two are on magical gems..."

"Perhaps the earliest of all representations of the crucifixion is a graffito, a picture scratched on the plaster of a schoolroom on the Palatine hill in Rome. It shows a crucified figure seen from behind. The feet rest on a small crossbar, the head is turned to one side. On that side, slightly below, stands a young man, one hand raised in reference. A misspelled Greek inscription reads 'Alexamenos reveres God.' The date is about 200, possibly a bit before...But the head of the crucified figure is that of a donkey.
"There was a long standing legend that the god of the Jews was a donkey, or donkey-headed. The legend probably arose from the fact that the donkey was the sacred animal of Seth, the villain in the Egyptian pantheon, who was commonly thought by the Egyptians to be the god of foreigners. He was also, being a villain, given a large role in magic, and often appears as a donkey-headed figure on magical gems. The Jews were among the largest groups of foreigners in Egypt, so their god, Iao, was identified with Seth. Io or Eio in Coptic means 'donkey,' so the identification was almost predetermined."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) pp. 81-82

(2) Flavius Josephus

References to James, the Brother of Jesus - 94 C.E.
In 94 C.E., Antiquities of the Jews written by Josephus in Aramaic was translated to Greek. The document refers briefly to the trial of James, "the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah".
     - James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism

"...So he [Albinus the new procurator of Judea] assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ [later translations give the so-called Christ], whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done..."
     - Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XX, Ch IX, Sn 1

"In the third century C.E. the Christian writer Origen had expressed his astonishment that Josephus, while disbelieving that Jesus was the Messiah, should have spoken so warmly about his brother. This information from Origen is incontrovertible evidence that Josephus referred to Jesus before any Christian copyist would have had a change to make alterations."
     - Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence

"This James was of so shining a character among the people, on account of his righteousness, that Flavius Josephus, when, in his twentieth book of the Jewish Antiquities, he had a mind to set down what was the cause why the people suffered such miseries, till the very holy house was demolished, he said, that these things befell them by the anger of God, on account of what they had dared to do to James, the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ; and wonderful it is, that while he did not receive Jesus for Christ, he did nevertheless bear witness that James was so righteous a man. He says farther, that the people thought they had suffered these things for the sake of James."
     - Origen, Comment. in Matth. (230 C.E.)

"If Josephus knew of, and referred to James as 'the brother of Jesus, him called the Christ,' why does he not refer to James in regard to his membership in any Christian sect, let alone his leadership of it? If James was the head of a Jerusalem church which had spread its tentacles far and wide across the empire (a la Acts), including right into Rome where Josephus lived and worked, would such an organization, such a success story, have been ignored by him?"
     - Earl Doherty (CrossTalk)

The Testimonium Flavianum
Josephus' reference to Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum may be translated from the Greek as follows. Clearly Christian (interpolated) words are in italics:

"At this time there was Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising works, (and) a teacher of people who with pleasure received the unusual. He stirred up both many Jews and many of Greeks. He was the Christ. And when Pilate condemned him to the cross, since he was accused by the first-rate men among us, those who had been living (him from) the first did not cease (to cause trouble), for he appeared to them on the third day, having life again, as the prophets of God had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him. And until now the tribe of Christians, so named from him, is not (yet?) extinct."
     - Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XVIII, Ch III, Sn 3

The knowledge here encapsulates the kerygma, the earliest formulation of the Christian message by the author of the Gospel of Mark and the apostle Paul.

"However because it has an explicit acceptance of Jesus as Messiah [Christ] and of his resurrection, almost all scholars believe that this passage is a Christian interpolation. There are some scholars who believe that the core of it is original, and Christians added only the parts acknowledging Jesus as Messiah and the reality of resurrection. There is virtually no doubt about the passage referring to James." (Source: John Meier, Bible Review, June 1991)
     - James Kiefer

"Perhaps Josephus referred to Jesus as 'the so-called Christ', as he did in his comment on the death of James, the brother of Jesus."
     - Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 143

"Probably the most damning evidence against the Josephus passages is that the two interpolated passages do not seem to appear in Origen's second-century version of Antiquities. Origin was locked in a fierce debate with the Platonic philosopher Celsus over the merits of Christianity in Origen Contra Celsum (Origen against Celsus) and although Origen quotes freely from Antiquities to support Christianity, he never once used either of these passages instead remarking that 'Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ.'"
     - James Still, "Biblical and Extrabiblical Sources for Jesus"

"For more than two hundred years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist. Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed that that writer had not acknowledged Christ [Comment. in Matth.] This passage first appeared in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is known to have tampered with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers, introduces this passage:"
     - Marshall J. Gauvin, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live?"

"Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness."
     - Eusebius, Evangelical Demonstration, Book III., p.124

"Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage [Testimonium Flavianum]. It is written in the style of Eusebius, and not in the style of Josephus. Josephus was a voluminous writer. He wrote extensively about men of minor importance. The brevity of this reference to Christ is, therefore, a strong argument for its falsity. This passage interrupts the narrative. It has nothing to do with what precedes or what follows it; and its position clearly shows that the text of the historian has been separated by a later hand to give it room."
     - Marshall J. Gauvin, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live?"

Comparison with the Emmaus Narrative in Luke - 1st c. C.E.
"G. J. Goldberg identifies a regular series of correspondences between the Testimonium Flavianum and the Emmaus narrative of Luke. He argues these are so close the two must have been derived from a common source, a Christian document now lost.
"Moreover, the correspondences are not plausibly what would be expected of a Christian forger, nor can later interpolations have been made or the relationship between the texts would have been destroyed."
     - Maria M. Oberg , "The Mystery of the Testimonium Flavianum"

"'The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a [man] prophet (aner profetes) mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to the judgment of death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. [...]' Then he said to them, ' Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?' Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
     - Luke 24:19-21; 24:25-27
(The reference to the women has been omitted.)
About this time there was Jesus, a wise man (aner), [if indeed one ought to call him a man]. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Christ.] And when, upon an accusation by the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these things and countless other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
     - Josephus, Antiquities 18.63
among us     of us
par' hemin     hemon

"In this case, there is a very unusual grammatical match with the use of the first person plural in identifying the our leaders, the principal men among us. For Josephus in his writings usually obeys the conventions of objective historians and refers to his people in the third person as 'the Jews' and the like, not as 'us'."
"Stranger still, Luke also does not employ the first person when he identifies accusers of Jesus within the speeches of Acts."

"In Christian doctrine, Jesus' resurrection occurred 'on the third day,' a key expression in statements of belief. The prevalent form uses the preposition 'on,' with 'third day' the object of the preposition; in Greek, en triti himei.
"But this is not the form in either Josephus or Luke. In these,' third day' is the object of a verb, and not a preposition. It's grammatical form is consequently the accusative case, triten hemeran. The verbs -- Josephus 'having' , Luke 'spending' or 'passing' -- are synonyms here, for in Greek literature echon and agein are used interchangeably when denoting the passing of time."
"Luke's Emmaus passage and the Testimonium are the only two texts using the resurrection third day as object of a verb in all of ancient Christian literature."
     - Maria M. Oberg , "The Mystery of the Testimonium Flavianum"

According to G. J. Goldberg, computer content analysis of representative kerygma in works of the New Testament, Igantius, Justinian and the Old Roman Creed reveal that the correlations between Testimonium Flavianum and Luke's Emmaus narrative are statistically significant and unique (>95% confidence level). Oberg theorizes that a common source must lie behind both works.

"The similarities are what would be expected if Josephus had employed a document very similar to Luke's Emmaus narrative as his source for information on Jesus, which he then moderately rewrote."
     - Maria M. Oberg, "The Mystery of the Testimonium Flavianum"

Oberg rejects the hypothesis that the Testimonium Flavianum is an interpolation of the Emmaus narrative by a later Christian copyist.

"To have employed Luke, the proposed interpolator would have had to remove the extensive flashback in the middle of the text (which for Luke serves the purpose of linking this story to one he has told previously), lift two quotations out of the mouths of the characters who speak them, combine them into a single unit, change the first person to the third person, making one error in the process, cutting off the rest of the chapter, and adding in a gratuitous comment about the continued existence of the so-called Christians. This an intrinsically implausible procedure, and there is no precedent for such an interpolation in other ancient texts."
     - Maria M. Oberg , "The Mystery of the Testimonium Flavianum"

Josephus is known to have made extensive use of outside written sources when not recounting his own direct experience.

Kitab al-'Unwan - 10th c. C.E.
"An Arabic version of the Testimonium Flavianum has been discovered in Agapius' Book of the Title (Kitab al-'Unwan), which is a history of the world from its beginning until 941/42 C.E. Agapius (or Agapios) was a tenth-century Christian Arab and Melkite bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, in Asia Minor."
     - James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism

"Similarly Josephus (Yusifus), the Hebrew. For he says in the treatises that he was written on the governance (?) of the Jews: 'At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But 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 perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders'."
     - Agapius, Book of the Title (translated by Israeli scholar S. Pines in 1971)

Note that in Agapius' version, that there is no mention of "principal men" accusing Jesus. Pilate appears to act on his own initiative.

"What is immediately obvious - when one compares the Arabic and the Greek recensions - is that the blatantly Christian passages are conspicuously absent in the Arabic version. The first two Christian passages in the Greek ('if indeed one ought to call him a man' and 'He was the Christ'') are missing. The third, and final, one is introduced by the words 'They reported that...'
"The final statement is contorted; how could a Jew claim that anyone 'was perhaps the Messiah'?....It is best to assume that what Josephus wrote is not accurately preserved in any extant recension (Greek, Slavic, or Arabic); it has been at least slightly altered by Christian scribes."
     - James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism

Note however, that in parallel with the Emmaus Narrative in Luke, the placement of the word "Messiah" occurs near the end of the quotation. Also, since the reference to the resurrection is qualified with "they reported that", Josephus can be let off the hook as expressing a belief in Christianity.

Context of the Testimonium
"The placement of the paragraph [in Jewish Antiquities] is significant. It comes right next to a story about a chaste and devout woman who was tricked into spending the night at a pagan temple and there sleeping with a man under the impression that he was the god of the temple. The connection of the story with the history of the Jews, Josephus's alleged subject, is a bit tenuous, but it makes perfect sense if we suppose that he was using it to introduce the story of a gullible Galilean virgin who was tricked into sleeping with a man under the impression that he was angelic or divine, and whose son grew up to become a wandering faith-healer who was executed by the Romans for claiming to be the Messiah, and whose followers are still disturbers of the peace..."
     - James Kiefer

Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the Testimonium directly follows an account of sedition in Jerusalem which was put down by Pontius Pilate with a heavy death toll. If the Testimonium is not the invention of Eusebius (or some other church official), could a Christian copyist have expurgated original wording which implicated Jesus in this or a similar activity?
(Josephus was contemptuous of the Zealot movement with which at least some of Jesus followers may have been associated. See Freedom Fighters)

"The neutral, or ambiguous, or perhaps somewhat dismissive tone of the Testimonium is probably the reason why early Christian writers (especially the apologists of the 2d century) passed over it in silence, why Origen complained that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, and why some interpolator(s) in the late 3d century added Christian affirmations."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

Josephus' War of the Jews duplicates the material in Antiquities of the Jews from the taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Although the section covering the demonstrations put down by Pilate (Bk II, Ch IX, Sns 2-4) closely parallels the accounts in Antiquities, there is no mention of Jesus anywhere in Wars.

(3) An Illegal Superstition

Tacitus' Annals - 112 C.E.
"...When Paul arrived in Rome shortly after A.D. 60, the leading men of the Jewish community there are said to have told him, 'as for this sect (of the Christians) we know that people are talking against it everywhere.' The people in Rome were, that is certain."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 66

"The Christians were a collection of persons who did not fit into any well-recognized group; their religion was new and was entirely distinct form the Jewish religion; consequently their cult could not be considered legal, not being covered by the various immunities granted to the Jews. So the new superstition was automatically illegal, and it was made all the worse by the fact that the Christians appeared to be followers of one who had been condemned and executed by Roman soldiers for political crimes against the 'majesty' of Rome (a crime more recently imputed to Paul as well.)."
"The sharp distinction between Jews and Christians now had a further effect. It meant that the Christians had no right to have been dispensed hitherto from sacrificing to the Dea Roman and the divinities of emperors. Yet as monotheists they could not perform these sacrifices, and non-observance became a very serious specific charge against those who refused."
     - Luigi Pareti, The Ancient World

"Just a few years later, when much of the city burned in the fire of July, 64, the Christians were sufficiently notorious for the imperial government to pick them as scapegoats."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 66

"Therefore to squelch the rumor that 'Nero had started the Great Fire of Rome', Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called 'Christians', [a group] hated for their abominable crimes. Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Suppressed for the moment, the deadly superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the land which originated this evil, but also in the city of Rome, where all sorts of horrendous and shameful practices from every part of the world converge and are fervently cultivated."
     - Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (written in 112 C.E.)

"There are serious problems with Tacitus' account concerning the historicity of Jesus. Roman imperial documents would never refer to Jesus by his Christian title as 'Christ' and Pilate was a prefect, not a procurator. This has led many scholars to conclude that the passage is a later Christian interpolation, inserted to provide validity to their fledgling movement. Unlike Josephus however, no real evidence exists to suggest literal textual tampering, so this has become a controversial position to take and others like Robertson, prefer to say that Tacitus was merely repeating a story told to him by contemporary Christians. Considering the inaccuracy in the passage, the latter is just as valid an explanation as the interpolation suggestion. Either way it puts us no closer to the historicity of Jesus because by the end of the first century the passion narrative, as told by Paul, was already well known."
     - James Still, "Biblical and Extrabiblical Sources for Jesus"

"Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed."
     - Tacitus Annals 15.44

Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, who compiled pagan references to Christ in his The History of the Church in the early 4th C. C.E., never mentions the Tacitus passage. In fact no reference appears until the 15th century C.E.

Pliny the Younger - 112 C.E.
"Though Christ was not proclaimed a deity until the fourth century, Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator who served as the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote in 112 A.D., two hundred years before the 'deity' proclamation, that Christians in Bithynia worshipped Christ."
     - Harry V. Martin. "Proving the Historic Jesus"

"After killing Christians, he sought advice from Trajan [98-117 C.E.], mentioning that Christians "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..."
     - Pliny the Younger, (61-112 C.E.)

Suetonius - c. 121 C.E.
"From 70 to 361 C.E. a special annual tax of 2 drachmas levied on all Jews of the Roman Empire since Jupiter Capitolinus (God of Rome) had defeated God of Jerusalem. Besides other taxes, that on the Jews was levied with the utmost rigour, and those were prosecuted who without publicly acknowledging that faith yet lived as Jews, as well as those who concealed their origin and did not pay the tribute levied upon their people. (These were doubtless Christians, whom the Romans commonly confounded with the Jews.)"
     - Paul Harvey

"I recall being present in my youth when the person of a man ninety years old was examined before the procurator and a very crowded court, to see whether he was circumcised."
     - Suetonius, de Vita Caesarum, Book VII

Lucian of Samosata - c. 175 C.E.

Christ is "... the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. ... Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws."
     - Lucian of Samosata (Roman satirist)

Celsus - c. 245 C.E.
Around 247 C.E. the Christian apologist Origen wrote a reply to an attack on Christianity by a Platonist named Celsus. Origen's book, Against Celsus is the source of much of our knowledge of anti-Christian polemic at that time.

"In VI.75 Celsus says that Jesus' body was, 'as they say, small and ugly and undistinguished.' Origen finds an unlikely source for 'ugly' in Isaiah 53.1-3, but knows of no evidence for 'small and undistinguished,' yet 'they say' indicates that Celsus had some source. His statement that Jesus claimed to be a god (II.9, etc.) is explicable from Christian texts, but is also attributed in the gospels to Jesus' opponents. That he was thought an 'angel' looks like a reflection of an early Jewish Christology not represented by the gospels. 'Deserted and betrayed by his associated, hid, fled, and was caught' (II.9-12) all might have come from the gospels; but 'hid' and 'fled' could better have come from a different account of the same events, and Celsus said he was betrayed by 'many' disciples (II.11)."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) pp. 78-79

(4) Lack of Historical References

Philo of Alexandria
There is no known mention of Jesus by the Jewish historian Philo of Alexandria.

"Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place--when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not."
     - John E. Remsburg, The Christ : A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence

Justus of Tiberius
Justus of Tiberias was a contemporary and rival of Josephus.

"Other than Philo, the historian Justus of Tiberius (c 80 CE) should have made some mention of Jesus. Justus was a native of Galilee (where Jesus was born and lived) and wrote extensively on the history of the region."
     - James Still, "Biblical and Extrabiblical Sources for Jesus"

"...although his [Justus'] writings have been lost, Photius [Christian patriarch in Constantinople] had read them in the ninth century and remarks with surprise: 'This Jewish historian does not make the smallest mention of the appearance of Christ, and says nothing whatever of his deeds and miracles'."
     - George Albert Wells, The Jesus of the Early Christians: a Study in Christian Origins

"I have read the chronology of Justus of Tiberias, whose title is this, [The Chronology of] the Kings of Judah which succeeded one another. This [Justus] came out of the city of Tiberias in Galilee. He begins his history from Moses, and ends it not till the death of Agrippa, the seventh [ruler] of the family of Herod, and the last king of the Jews; who took the government under Claudius, had it augmented under Nero, and still more augmented by Vespasian. He died in the third year of Trajan, where also his history ends. He is very concise in his language, and slightly passes over those affairs that were most necessary to be insisted on; and being under the Jewish prejudices, as indeed he was himself also a Jew by birth, he makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, or what things happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did. He was the son of a certain Jew, whose name was Pistus. He was a man, as he is described by Josephus, of a most profligate character; a slave both to money and to pleasures. In public affairs he was opposite to Josephus; and it is related, that he laid many plots against him; but that Josephus, though he had his enemy frequently under his power, did only reproach him in words, and so let him go without further punishment. He says also, that the history which this man wrote is, for the main, fabulous, and chiefly as to those parts where he describes the Roman war with the Jews, and the taking of Jerusalem."
     - Photius, Bibliothec, 33rd Code

Jewish Sources

"Insisting that Jesus, though believed by the Christians to be the Son of God, had taught only a short while before his own time (a short while that is, in comparison with the span of human history I.26), Celsus presented the things he thought a Jew of Jesus' time might have said to him, putting them in the mouth of an imaginary Jewish interlocutor (I.28). This procedure suggest he was drawing on what he believed to be early Jewish tradition; the content of 'the Jew's' remarks proves the suggestion correct. He accused Jesus of having made up the story of his birth from a virgin, whereas actually he came from a Jewish village and from a poor country woman who lived by her spinning. She was thrown out as an adulteress by her husband, a carpenter. Wandering about in disgrace, she secretly gave birth to Jesus, whom she had conceived from a soldier named Panthera. After growing up in Galilee, Jesus went as a hired laborer to Egypt. There he learned some of those magical rites on which the Egyptians pride themselves. He came back [to Palestine] hoping for great things from his powers and because of them proclaimed himself a god (I.28, 38)"
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) pp. 76-77

Ben Pandera
"The Talmud refers to Jesus several places, typically as 'Ben Pandera', where Pandera is sometimes taken to be the name of a Roman soldier who was Jesus' illegitimate father. It may also be a play on words, since the Greek word for virgin is 'parthenos'."
     - McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict

"The story of Mary's seduction by Pandera was in circulation around 150 C.E., when it was cited by Celasus [Origen (ca. AD 185-254), Contra Celsum]; and the Toldot Yeshu was quoted by Tertullian in 198 C.E. Almost certainly its author did not intend his work to be taken seriously, but was rather riduculing Matthew by writing a parody. Nothing else could explain his making Jesus huios pantherou (son of a panther), a transparent pun on huios parthenou (son of a virgin)."
     - William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

Biblical scholar Morton Smith disagrees that Pandera was based on a pun.

The word parthenos "depends on a Greek translation of Isaiah 7.14; it cannot be derived from the Hebrew with which the rabbis were more familiar. Jesus is never referred to as 'the son of the virgin' in the Christian material preserved from the first century of the Church (30-130), nor in the second -century apologists. To suppose the name Pantera appeared as a caricature of a title not yet in use is less plausible than to suppose it [was] handed down by polemic tradition."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 61

The name Pandera, Pantera or Panthera "is an unusual one, and was thought to be an invention until [a] first century tombstone came to light in Bingerbrück, Germany. The inscription reads: 'Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera of Sidon, aged 62, a soldier of 40 years' service, of the 1st cohort of archers, lies here'."
     - Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence

"...Panthera was a common name in the first two centuries of the Christian era, notably as a surname of Roman soldiers....There is no proof that Jesus was referred to by the title bo buios tes parthenous ['son of the virgin'] this early on. It is possible, though, that the accidental similarity of the Infancy Narratives' parthenos to 'Panthera' ...caused 'Panthera' to be picked as the name of the adulterer, once the theme of an adulterous soldier arose in the tradition."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

"Eusebius, about 300, tried to explain 'their' [the Jews] Panthera story as a misunderstanding of scripture, and Epiphanius, a century later, actually gave Panther a legitimate place in the Holy Family - he became the Savior's 'paternal' grandfather! Later Christian writers found other places for him in the same genealogy."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 80

Ben Stada, Born of an Adulteress?

"Jesus said, 'Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore.'"
     - Gospel of Thomas 105

"I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress."
     - R. Shimeon ben Azzai (ca. 100 C.E.)

"Current editions of the Mishnah [the 'oral' traditions of the rabbis in the Talmud] add: 'To support the words of R. Yehoshua' (who in the same Mishnah, says: What is a bastard? Everyone whose parents are liable to death by the Beth Din).' That Jesus is here referred to seems to be beyond doubt..."
     - Joseph Klausner, "Jesus of Nazareth"

"Gustav Dalman objects that the whole context is simply a debate over the correct definition of 'bastard', with various opinions appealing to various passages in the OT."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

"'But is it not [the case that] Ben Stada brought magic spells from Egypt in the scratches on his flesh?' They said to him, 'He was a madman and you cannot base laws on [that action of ] madmen.' Was he then the son of Stada? Surely he was the son of Pandira? Rabbi Hisda [a third-century Babylonian] said, 'The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira.' [But was not] the husband Pappos ben Judah? His mother was Stada. [But was not] his mother Miriam (Mary) the hairdresser? [Yes, but she was nicknamed Stada] - as we say in Pumbeditha, 's'tat da (i.e., this one has turned away] from her husband'."
     - Rabbi Eliezer

"The original Ben Stada seems to have been a Jew who advocated some cult involving the worship of deities other than Yahweh. He was entrapped by Jews in Lydda, condemned by a rabbinic court, and stoned. Since Jesus also was accused of introducing the worship of other gods - notably himself - he was nicknamed Ben Stada."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 62

"The Tosefta mentions a famous case of a woman named Miriam bat Bilgah marrying a Roman soldier. The idea that Yeishu had been born to a Jewish woman who had had an affair with a Roman soldier probably resulted in Yeishu's mother being confused with this Miriam. The name 'Miriam' is of course the original form of the name 'Mary.' It is in fact known from the Gemara that some of the people who confused Yeishu with ben Stada believed that Yeishu's mother was 'Miriam the women's hairdresser'."
     - Hayyim ben Yehoshua, "Refuting Missionaries, Part 1: The Myth of the Historical Jesus"

Hanged as a Sorceror

"...Rabbi Joshua was reciting the Shema when Jesus came before him. He intended to receive him and made a sign to him. He [Jesus] thing that it was to repel him, when, put up a brick and worshipped it. 'Repent', said Rabbi Joshua to Jesus.
Jesus replied, 'I have learned this from you: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance'.
And a Rabbi has said, 'Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led Israel astray.'"
     - Babylonian Sanhedrin 107b

The Talmudhas "accounts of Jesus ben Pandira, who was tricked into trial, then executed as a sorcerer and blasphemer during the days of Roman occupation of Jerusalem (Sanhedrin 67 a.and Shabbath 104 b.)..."
     - Discussion about Hyam Maccoby's Revolution in Judea (NETCOM)

"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going forth to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defence come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defence and hanged him on the eve of Passover."
     - Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a. Yeb. IV 3; 49a:

(Note that "hanged" here means "hanged on a cross " - crucified.)

This account "agrees with the whole tendency of ancient Jewish sources, which do not deny the existence and execution of Jesus. Indeed, not even the miracles of Jesus are denied, but are rather interpreted as acts of sorcery. The reference to the herald seeking out defense witnesses for forty days may be an apologetic thrust against the canonical Gospels' depiction of arrest, trial, and execution, all in one twenty-four-hour period."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

Of Dubious Historical Value
The Toldot Yeshu or Genealogy of Jesus, "told of a virgin named Miriam, espoused to a man named Yohannan, who was virtually raped by a carpenter, one Yowself ben Pandera, who entered her bed after dark in the guise of her husband. Miriam's bastard child, Yeshu ha-notsriy (Jesus the Nazirite), became a pupil of the greatest rabbi of his day, but while in Egypt misused his learning and became a sorcerer. Current Jewish thinking on the taboo on pronouncing the name Yahweh was evidenced in Yeshu ha-notsriy's learning the ineffable name and pronouncing it to work his evil. Yeshu was hunted by the agent of all that is good, Yahuwdah (Judas), captured through Yahuwdah's efforts (Yahuwdah had also been taught the unspeakable name, and pronounced it against Yeshu), and hanged on a tree. He was buried in a cabbage patch, thereby freeing the world from his evil."
     - William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

According to Morris Goldstein, Jesus in the JewishTradition "the Toldot Yeshu or Genealogy of Jesus is a medieval Jewish production for the frequent disputations with Christians that the Jews were forced to have in those times."
     - Dennis Stallings (private communication)

"One distinguished rabbi, Eliezer, of the generation that flourished from about A.D. 70-100, is said to have been arrested as an old man on the charge of being a Christian. Reportedly, he submitted his cause to the Roman governor's discretion, was therefore pardoned, and later explained his arrest by the admission that once in Sepphoris, a city of Galilee, a Galilean had told him some heretical teaching 'in the name of Jesus the son of Panteri' to which he had assented. The story goes on to make him confess his quilt in transgressing the rabbinic ordinance prohibiting intercourse with heretics. This is suspicious; the ordinance may be later than the confession. Subsequent versions of the story cite that saying attributed to Jesus: 'From filth they came and to filth they shall return,' and a legal conclusion is drawn from it: the wages of a prostitute, if given to the Temple, may be used for building privies. The saying may be early - it resembles many of the Q sayings in being antithetical, vague, and pompous - the legal conclusion was probably drawn by some second-century rabbi."
     - Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) pp. 60-61

"He answered, Akiba, you have reminded me! Once I was walking along the upper market (Tosefta reads 'street') of Sepphoris and found one [of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth] and Jacob of Kefar Sekanya (Tosefta reads 'Sakkanin') was his name. He said to me, It is written in your Law, 'Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot, etc.' What was to be done with it - a latrine for the High Priest? But I answered nothing. He said to me, so [Jesus of Nazareth] taught me (Tosefta reads, 'Yeshu ben Pantere'): 'For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them, and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return'; from the place of filth they come, and until the place of filth they shall go. And the saying pleased me, and because of this I was arrested for Minuth. And I transgressed against what is written in the Law; 'Keep thy way far from here' - that is Minuth; 'and come not nigh the door of her house' - that is the civil government".
     - An early Baraita (in which R. Eliezer is the central figure)
(in the Babylonian Talmud's tractate 'Aboda Zara 16b-17a; cf. Tosefta Hullin 2.24)

"There can be no doubt that the words, 'one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth,' and 'thus Jesus of Nazareth taught me,' are, in the present passage both early in date and fundamental in their bearing on the story; and their primitive character cannot be disputed on the grounds of the slight variations in the parallel passages; their variants ('Yeshu ben Pantere' or 'Yeshu ben Pandera,' instead of 'Yeshu of Nazareth') are merely due to the fact that, from an early date, the name 'Pantere,' or 'Pandera,' become widely current among the Jews as the name of the reputed father of Jesus."
     - Joseph Klausner, "Jesus of Nazareth"

"...The great Jewish scholar Joseph Klausner who wrote earlier in this century [said that] the very few references to Jesus in the Talmudare of little historical worth 'since they partake rather of the nature of vituperation and polemic against the founder of a hated party, than of objective accounts of historical value."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

Jewish polemic puts the words of Jesus into Balaam's mouth:

"If a man says, 'I am God,' he is a liar, if he says I am the Son of Man,' his end will be such that he will rue it; if he says, 'I shall ascend to heaven,' will it not be that he will have spoken and will not be able to perform it?'"
     - Rabbi Abbahu of Caesarea (ca 270)

"... In the earliest rabbinic sources, there is no clear or even probable reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore...when we do finally find such references in later rabbinic literature, they are most probably reactions to Christian claims, oral or written."
     - John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.