Most of this information, is widely known and perhaps widely disputed as well. It can be found in Robert E. Van Voorst’s book Jesus Outside the New Testament. This is in response to a discussion that is ongoing here because of this post. I decided to post instead of comment. As you can see, it is just too much to put into a comment. I believe that any discussion that has been maintained at the level which ours has is beneficial, if no one else, to me. There is enough here to dismiss the idea, I believe, that Christianity is a religion based on a myth or cultic character from 1st century Palestine. In the days that predated the mass media and communication, to see a movement powerful enough to be expelled from Rome in 49, having started only 16 years earlier, has to be contributed to something more than a myth or misunderstanding of ‘good teacher’. The Christian religion spread from Palestine to Rome in 16 short years and was large enough to be considered of refutation and mockery.
Thallos (c.55) – Thallos was historian of which little remain. His three volume work on the history of the Mediterranean from the fall of Troy to about 50 was lost as was the book by the Christian writer, Sextus Julius Africanus, in his own history (c.220) which was subsequently lost. The only reference we have to this book is found 7 centures after it was written as quoted by the Byzantine historian Georgius Syncellus. According to this historian, Africanus, in writing about the darkness at the death of Christ, refers to Thallos’ work:
In the third of his histories, Thallos calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun, which seems to me to be wrong.
Africanus takes it Thallos to be hostile to the death of Christ, perhaps with the original work a refutation in small part of the new sect of Judaism.
Pliny the Younger (61-113) – Pliny was an important administrator in Palestine during the 1st and 2nd century on this, our common era. Around 112, Pliney writes the Roman Emperor Trajan concerning his pursuit of the Christians, which has given us perhaps one of the finest examples of early Christian daily life,
They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind
Pliny does not deal with the historical figure of a certain Jesus, nor does he note any differences among sects, but he does give a solid example of Christians who were willing to be put to death for this Christ as if He was a god.
Suetonius (c.70-140) – Suetonius was a Roman lawyer, and a friend of Pliny the Younger. He is known for his authorship of the Lives of Caesar. In the fifth book of the series, concerning the Emperor Claudius (41-54), he writes,
He expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were always make disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus.
Most scholars agree that this expulsion occurred c. 49.
After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. (Acts 18:1-2 NKJV)
The Jews were not Jews alone, but Christians as well, of Jewish descent. While the name of Chrestus was popular among the Greco-Roman slaves of the Empire, no where is it documented among the Jews, whom this Chrestus was supposedly a leader. Not one mention is found in the Jewish catacombs of ancient Rome.
Tacitus (c56-c120) – Tacitus was another Roman historian, the writer of Annals, of which a portion survives. Writing of the Emperor Nero and the burning of Rome (c64), he says,
But neither human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gos ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Neoro substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts, whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Suppressed fora time, the deadly superstition erupted again not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city (Rome), where all things horrible and shameful from everywhere come together and become popular.
Mara bar Serapion (early second century) – The remaining manuscript which is housed in the British Museum is dated to the seventh century. He most likely was of the school of the Stoics. In the letter to his son, he makes mention of the Athenians, the people of Samos, and the Jews. The Athenians, according to the author, are condemned for the murder of Socrates; the people of Samos for the destruction of Pythagoras; and the Jews for the murder of their Wise King. The Athenians died of famine, the people of Samians drowned, and the Jews suffered the Diaspora. He concludes,
Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wife king, because of the new laws he laid down.
We noticed that no hint of divinity is applied the the Jewish wise king.
Lucian of Samosata (c115-200) – Lucian was a satirist, and oddly enough from the same city which nurtured Adoptionism only a short time later. Writing in 165, he makes mention of Christ,
Lucian of Samosata writes,
During this period associated himself with the priests and scribes of the Christians in Palestine, and learned their astonishing wisdom. Of course, in a short time he made them look like children; he was their prophet, leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He explained and commented on some of their sacred writings, and even wrote some himself. They looked up to him as a god, made him their lawgiver, and chose him as the official patron of their group, or at least the vice- patron. He was second only to that one whom they still worship today, the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation into the world”
Having convinced themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, the poor wretches despise death and most willingly give themselves to it. Moreover, that first lawgiver of theirs persuaded them that they are all brothers the moment they transgress and deny the Greek gods and begin worshipping that crucified sophist and living by his laws
The attribution of ‘sophist’ to Christ follows the early Christian tradition of assigning Wisdom to Christ.