Extra-biblical references to Jesus and Christianity

The following are early extra-biblical references to Jesus and/or Christians by non-Christian writers (in some cases, Christian writers are quoting non-Christian writers' references to Jesus). Quotes are copied from the accompanying links, unless otherwise noted. Within the text of the article, authors' names are links to encyclopedia articles about them.

     Julius Africanus
     Pliny the Younger
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Josephus (A.D. 37 - c. A.D. 100)

Josephus' Antiquities (early 2nd century A.D.) refers to Jesus in two separate passages. The common translation of the first passage, Book 18, Ch. 3, part 3, is disputed and is most likely from an altered source. F. F. Bruce has provided a more likely translation:

Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works, a teacher of men who gladly welcome strange things. He led away many Jews, and also many of the Gentiles. He was the so-called Christ. When Pilate, acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross, those who had attached themselves to him at first did not cease to cause trouble, and the tribe of Christians, which has taken this name from him is not extinct even today.

The translations of this passage are discussed in Josephus: Testimonium Flavianum from Jesus.com.au.

The second passage is from Book 20, Ch. 9, part 1:

...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, [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...

(Note: The Antiquities can be found at several different sites, including the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Perseus Digital Library and Crosswalk.com)

Tacitus (c. A.D. 55 - c. A.D. 117)

Annals, book XV:

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.

Suetonius (c. A.D. 69 - c. A.D. 140)

Lives of the Caesars - Claudius, sec. 25:

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.

Lives of the Caesars - Nero, sec. 16

Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.

Julius Africanus (c. 160 - c. 240)

Chronography, XVIII refers to writings by Thallus and Phlegon concerning the darkness during the Crucifixion:

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun...Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth - manifestly that one of which we speak.

Origen (c. 185 - c. 254)

In Against Celsus, Origen quotes Celsus, a second-century skeptic, on Jesus. Celsus' view of Christians and Christianity, an article from Bluffton College, contains relevant excerpts.

Pliny the Younger (c. 62 - c. 113)

Letters, 10.96-97 records Pliny's dealings with Christians

Discussions of extra-biblical references to Jesus

Did Jesus exist? page from Tekton
Historical Evidence for Jesus of Nazareth by Mark Eastman
Extrabiblical, Non-Christian Witnesses to Jesus before 200 A.D. by Glenn Miller
Listing of historical references and a discussion of Thallus

Online libraries

Internet History Sourcebooks
"Collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use." Edited by Paul Halsall at Fordham University.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Perseus Digital Library
Provided by Tufts University
The Internet Classics Archive
Provided by MIT

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