What Did Cornelius Tacitus Write About Jesus?

Who is Cornelius Tacitus? How do his writings support Jesus' existence? Tacitus was a non-Christian, non-Jewish, Roman historian who referenced Jesus in his writings.
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Who is Cornelius Tacitus?

Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman historian who lived during the reigns of many Roman emperors, from about A.D. 55-120. He has been called the "greatest historian" of ancient Rome (Habermas, VHCELJ, 87).

What did Tacitus write about Jesus?

One of his most famous works is the Annals, which covers the period from Augustus's death in A.D. 14 to Nero's death in A.D. 68. In the Annals, when writing about Nero, Tacitus mentions the death of Jesus, using a common misspelling of Christ, "Christus":

But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. (Annals XV, 44)

There are four things of particular note in this passage:

  1. Tacitus is a trustworthy source because he is neither Christian nor Jewish
  2. Tacitus's mention of "Christus" demonstrates that Jesus actually existed and lived.
  3. The statement that Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate corroborates what the Bible teaches
  4. Tacitus's mention of "the pernicious superstition" alludes to Jesus' resurrection

This passage from Tacitus's writings is strong evidence that Jesus not only existed, but was also crucified, and it also suggests that a large number of people believed that Jesus resurrected from the dead.

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