Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tacitus & the Historicity of Christ

Many have denied the historical existence of Christ, claiming He was nothing more than a purely imaginary, mythical figure.  Fortunately, there is extrabiblical, pagan evidence of the historicity of Jesus.  Tacitus, the dean of Roman historians, lived between 55 and 117 AD.  He gave an account of the depravity of Emperor Nero as follows:

“Nero inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  Christ, 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 Pilate.  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.  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.”

It is not the existence but rather the identity of Jesus that is in question.  Was He the realization of Messianic prophecy: the deliverer, the saviour, the Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God?  That is the question that must be answered in the hearts of every human being on planet earth.


  1. Reference: Tacitus, Annals, 15.44

  2. Scriptural references: Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3,14,18; Hebrews 1:2-5,8

  3. “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16