Some say Jesus Christ was just a man, or maybe a great teacher. But He was much more than that. The Bible says Jesus is unique in both His person and His purpose. He wasn’t just some spiritual individual during His time on earth; He was both God’s Son (John 3:16), and God Himself – God in human flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Yes, He was fully man, but He was also fully God. While we can turn to the Bible for information about the life of Jesus, there are also historical facts from non-Christian sources that back up claims about Jesus' life and ministry. Here are seven historical facts about Jesus from non-Christian sources.
He Lived During the Time of Tiberius Caesar
Throughout the life of Jesus, Tiberius was the Emperor of Rome. He was the second Roman Emperor, after Augustus who died in 14 AD. It is not known whether Tiberius had heard of Jesus, or knew about the crucifixion of Jesus. Word about Jesus and his miracles spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire, even to the Imperial Palace on Palatine Hill, but Tiberius had retired to his palace on the Island of Capri in 26 A.D. while all sorts of corruption was happening in Rome. Julius Africanus also reported that another ancient historian, Phlegon, confirmed the darkness at the time of Jesus’ death and that Jesus was live “in the time of” Tiberius Caesar: “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.
He Was Known to Be Wise and Virtuous
From His earliest moments, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). In many cases, the Savior used the Scriptures to rebuke offenders and teach important principles. He was pure and virtuous – turning away from things that polluted mind, body and spirit. Jewish Historian Josephus, who was born around A.D. 37 reports in Antiquities of the Jews: At this time there was a wise man name Jesus. His conduct was good and he was good, and he was known to be virtuous.
He Had a Brother Named James
According to the Gospels, Jesus had several “brothers and sisters”, but James and Jude are the only ones mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament – James as a leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and Jude in the short letter bearing his name. In recounting the stoning of James, Josephus records: So he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.
He Was Known to Perform Miracles
Celsus, who was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and a fierce opponent of Christianity, is known to make the first comprehensive intellect attack on Christianity when he tried to resolve why Jesus was able to perform miracles. What’s crazy is the fact that in trying to explain away the miracles of Jesus, he actually affirmed that they were happening: Jesus, on account of His poverty, was hired to go to Egypt. While there He acquired certain powers, and on the strength of them gave Himself out to be God.
His Crucifixion Was Accompanied By Darkness and an Earthquake
This fact was originally recorded by a Samaritan historian named Thallus, who was alive at the same time Jesus was (AD 5-60). He wrote a three-volume history of the 1st –century Mediterranean world, which unfortunately no longer exists. But before his writings were lost, he was cited by another ancient historian, Julius Africanus, in AD 221. Africanus described Thallus’ account of what happened during Jesus’ 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.
He Was Crucified Under Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from A.D. 26 to 36. He served under Emperor Tiberius, and is best known today for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The sources for Pilate’s life are an inscription known as the Pilate Stone, which confirms his historicity and establishes his titles as prefect; a brief mention by Tacitus; Philo of Alexandria; Josephus; the four canonical gospels; the Acts of the Apostles; The First Epistle of Timothy; the Gospel of Nicodemus; the Gospel of Marcion; and other apocryphal works.
His Disciples Were Willing to Suffer and Die For Their Beliefs
Not much information has survived about the fates of the 12 disciples, but some is still available from various sources, including the New Testament itself, apocryphal texts and early Christian historians. Some include the story of Simon-Peter, who was appointed by Jesus as the leader of the new sect. He is viewed by Roman Catholics as the first pope. He was eventually martyred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero. As the story goes, Peter asked to be crucified upside down, so that his death would not be the equal of Jesus and the Romans supposedly obliged. Bartholomew supposedly preached in several countries, including India where he translated the Gospel of Matthew for believers. In one account, “impatient idolaters” beat Bartholomew then crucified him, while in another, he was skinned alive, then beheaded.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is God, and there are many reasons we can trust the Bible. There are also a number of historical facts about Jesus that serve to support the Bible’s claims. Not only do we have many reasons to believe that the text of the Bible is true, but many will find that reading the Bible allows God to speak to them – perhaps not audibly, but through His Words.