3 Minute Video of Historical References to Jesus

This post originally appeared on 3 Minute Bible Studies by Scott Smelser.  For more of Scotts great videos subscribe to his site, or check his Youtube channel 3MinuteBibleStudy.

Below is a text version of the audio script (citation sources shown in video above):

“Welcome to 3-Minute-Bible-Study on Historical References to Jesus.

The primary historical documents on Jesus Christ are in the New Testament. But references to Christ are also found in ancient writings from unbelievers. From the historical context of the Roman Empire, Greek culture, and the Jewish people, we will examine external references to Christ, beginning with Rome.

Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian born about AD 56. In his account of Nero’s rule and his persecution of Christians, Tacitus gives the following background: “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 Pilate.” This gives us Roman reference to Christ, to his execution, and to same political time frame as recorded in Luke 3:1.

Greece: Lucian of Samosata was a Greek satirist of the second century, who wrote the following. “The Christians, you know, worship a man… who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.” And again, they “worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

Jewish: the works of Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, include two references to Jesus. One, in relation to his death, and a second, in relation to his brother James. The consensus of scholarship is that while the second text is original, the first text represents the combination of an original statement from Josephus, plus some favorable embellishments added by a later hand. The excerpt shown here represents not those later embellishments, but a minimal part of the core recognized as being from Josephus, and records Jesus being condemned to the cross under Pilate. Josephus’ second reference concerns the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus who is called Christ; thus providing external first century references to both Jesus, and his brother James (compare Gal. 1:19).

We’ve seen historical references from Roman, Greek, and Jewish writers. But as noted earlier, the primary documents on Jesus are found in the New Testament itself, whose very origin and existence would be inexplicable had Jesus never existed. The New Testament texts include accounts about and testimony from witnesses who knew, heard, and saw Jesus.

And for those who inclined to view the new Testament as later generation legends, we’ll close with a text that is both early and dateable. First Corinthians is a letter from Paul, dates to about AD 55. In chapter 15 on the resurrection, Paul is reminding them of what he taught in person, back when he came to Corinth, around AD 50. This is dateable by the proconsulship of Gallio (see 3 Minute Bible Study on archaeology for further info). Now AD 50 brings us within about twenty years of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Note also that in chapter 15, Paul gives a witness list with known people, still living, who had seen Jesus. Not some later generation – this is a dateable list with living witnesses that knew and saw Jesus.

From the biblical text foremost, and additionally from history provided by unbelievers, we can document the historicity of Jesus. But Jesus of Nazareth did more than exist in history. He also changed history. The single most influential person in the history of the world was not a myth. He was, and is, Christ Jesus of Nazareth.