Our evidence for Jesus as a real historical person includes not only the four familiar New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life, but also non-biblical references to Jesus and to his teachings in the writings of early non-Christians, including:
1. Cornelius Tacitus (55-57 CE to 120 CE), ancient Rome’s greatest historian, wrote about Jesus in The Annals. Here Tacitus refers to “Christians” as those whose name came from Christus (Latin for “Christ”), whom Tacitus writes “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius” by “Pontius Pilate” (15.44). Tacitus’ record here is consistent with the New Testament record in Luke 3:1 and in 23:24-25, 33. Also, we have Pilate's name in the New Testament (Matthew 27:11-14), inscribed in stone from the same time period, and, more recently, on a metal ring found in the area Pilate governed.
2. Flavius Josephus (CE 37 to 97), famous Jewish historian who was also a Roman citizen. In his Antiquities of the Jews (18.63-64) Josephus refers to a “wise man” called “Jesus” and that he was “thought to be the Christ” (emphasis mine). This is the reading of the 10th century Arabic version and 12th Syriac version, which is nearly the same as Jerome's earlier translation of Josephus (see Alice Whealey, “The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic,” NTS 54, p. 581).
Though, as Origen also notes (Against Celsus 1.47; Commentary on Matthew 10.17), Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, in these texts he nonetheless writes about Jesus being 'condemned by Pilate' (compare Tacitus' report in 1., above). Josephus also here writes about how Jesus' followers believed he "appeared to them three days after" his death.
3. Flavius Josephus (CE 37 to 97) also wrote a little later in his Antiquities about a certain “James” whom he called “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ” (Antiquities 20.9). This agrees with the New Testament letter to the “Galatians” (1:19), in which the early Christian known as the apostle Paul described James as “the Lord’s [Jesus’] brother.”
4. Pliny the Younger (c. 61 to 112 CE), a Roman, non-Christian official and adviser to then-Emperor Trajan, wrote a letter (Letters 10.96) to Trajan briefly describing the early Christians and asking the Emperor what he should do about them. See here for Trajan’s response.
5. C. Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69 to sometime after 122 CE), wrote a work called, "The Lives of the Twelve Caesars." In it he refers to a Jewish 'instigator' whom he calls in Latin, Chrestus. In spite of what some wrongly believe, this is another form of the word Christus or "Christ," used by Tacitus in 1. above. We know this because of what the Latin writer Tertullian (160 to 220 CE) wrote in his Apology (Chapter 3), “Christian, so far as the meaning of the word is concerned, is derived from anointing. … it is wrongly pronounced by you, 'Chrestianus,' (for you do not even know accurately the name you hate)."—Translation by Rev. S. Thelwall (I italicized "Chrest" in "Chrestianus").
In this text Suetonius also writes that, because of the "disturbances" by Jews as the instigation of "Chrestus," then-Emperor Claudius "expelled them from Rome." This is exactly what we read about in the New Testament book of Acts 18:1-3, where the Christian Paul went out of his way to see a Jew named "Aquila," who was one of those Jews ordered out of Rome by Claudius. It is therefore likely this Jew named "Aquila" was also, like Paul, familiar with the one they called "Christ." Claudius, at this early date (41 to 53 CE), would not likely have seen any difference between the Christians and other Jewish sects of that time, so he would have undoubtedly considered them all "Jews."
6. Lucian of Samosata (c. 120 CE to 190 CE), though born in the second century CE, nonetheless provide some value insight about what he knew of the Christians at this time. Lucian was not a Christian. In fact, his writings show he looked down on them and even sought to infiltrate and to take advantage of them. Lucian wrote various dialogues in which he satirizes humanity and the philosophies of his day. In his work The Death of Peregrine (11) Lucian writes about the devotion of “the Christians” to “a man” who “was crucified” because of the “novel rites” introduced by the “crucified” man (Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11). Once again we find non-Christians familiar with and repeating to others the same story we find in Tacitus and in Josephus, namely, he was put to death in a torturous manner.
- Belief in “Jah, Jaho(h)-ah,” the God of Moses;
- Accept Jesus of Nazareth as the One about whom Moses wrote; and
- Treat others the way we would also want to be treated.