Jesus walked the earth, three mentions by non-Christian historians reveal, providing evidence supporting his existence. First-century Roman historian Josephus Flavius of Jewish descent mentioned Jesus twice in pro-Jewish material, and Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a senator born of freedmen, referred to Jesus once in writings about the first-century Roman empire.
Josephus Flavius was a scholar-fighter descended from a line of Jewish priests during the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 66. At first a Roman captive, he eventually became a freedman who retired in Rome and engaged in scholarly activity. The Jesus entries appeared while Josephus walked the walk of a serious writer of the Jewish Revolt called the Jewish War, and the history of the Jews, called Antiquities.
According to Christian Apologetics Research Ministry, Josephus, who adopted the Roman emperor’s family name “Flavius,” mentioned Jesus Christ in a “Testimonium Flavianum” passage of Antiquities (Antiquities 18.63-64). The following Arabic version, impervious to Christian bias, walked readers through the historical event.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And 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. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Josephus Flavius’ treatment of Jesus was incidental to another passage around his brother James. Antiquities, Book 20, chapter 9, walked the same path striving to be objective.
“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; 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.”
Roman historian Publius Tacitus mentioned Jesus Christ in an account of the burning of Rome during Emperor Nero’s reign, the blame put on Christians who walked the proverbial walk of shame. Tacitus dealt with the subject in his final work, Annals, book 15, chapter 44, documented by Mountain Man.
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”
Adding to the historical mentions, the Jewish Talmud acknowledged Jesus walked a narrow path that made him vulnerable to ridicule. Every Student shares this quote from the Talmud.
“We learn that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, gathered disciples, made blasphemous claims about himself, and worked miracles, but these miracles are attributed to sorcery and not to God.”
Other secondary sources of Jesus’ existence come in the form of accounts regarding his physical appearance. For ages, the Bible itself walked interested parties through what he looked like. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, offers this straightforward description in Isaiah 53:2–3.
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”
Even Islam’s Muhammad, over five hundred years after Jesus walked the earth, used an anecdotal grapevine pointing to his existence. Jesus’ elevated status as a prophet may have colored Muhammad’s perception of him, as evidenced by witnesses Imam Bukhari (d.256/834) and Imam Muslim recording Muhammad’s vision verbatim.
“While I was sleeping, I saw myself performing Tawaf. I saw a reddish-white man with lank hair, with water dripping from his head, I asked, ‘Who is this?’ They replied, ‘The Son of Maryam (Mary).'”
This preference for a European complexion is shown in Pontius Pilates’ own narrative, which may have been embellished by Christian scribes touching up the portrait of a deity. The following is a translated excerpt from Pontius Pilate’s letter to Tiberius Caesar, available in the Congressional Library in Washington.
“His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions!”
Whatever the embellishment, the letter maintains that Jesus walked among men.
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