Does history prove that Jesus actually existed?
There are 3 categories of ancient sources that talk about Jesus.
- Opposition Sources produced documents that show them to be enemies of Jesus or the Christian religion.
- Neutral Sources mention Jesus for documentation purposes but are not for or against him.
- Affiliated Sources produced documents that represent allegiance to Jesus or Christianity.
Here are a few Opposition sources from ancient history and some of the things they claimed.
Tacitus in Annals.
Jesus existed, was called Christ, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Galen in various writings.
was a teacher like Moses, his followers, “drew their faith from parables.”
Celsus in True Discourse.
Jesus existed, was the illegitimate child of adultery, and had miraculous powers that he learned from Egyptian magicians.
Rabbinic Writers in the Talmud.
Jesus existed, had disciples, was from Nazareth, and was executed publicly.
Here are a few Neutral sources from ancient history and some of the things they claimed.
Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews
had a brother named James
Suetonius in Lives of the Twelve Caesars
was called Christ
and had Jewish followers in Rome
Mara Bar Serapion in a letter to his son
was called a wise king
was executed unjustly
Phlegon in Chronicles
predicted the future
Here are a few affiliated sources from ancient history and some of the things they claimed.
Paul in 13 biblical writings
appeared to him
raised from the dead
John in 5 biblical writings
raised from the dead
Peter in 3 biblical writings
taught about the kingdom of God
and raised from the dead.
Luke in 2 biblical writings
had a large following
and raised from the dead
Although there are many more, these 13 ancient sources represent a cross section of what was believed about Jesus by a range of writers during his own century and shortly after.
Placing all of these claims on a diagram will help to show the pattern.
They didn’t agree on much but they did agree on at least one thing, that
All of the ancient historical sources that reference Jesus whether affiliated, neutral, or opposition agree on this one fact!