Apart from the Bible, there are very few historical accounts of Jesus Christ from around the time he lived. One of the main historical writings of Jesus comes from Tacitus, who is regarded as one of the best historians of the Roman era.
In the Annals of Imperial Rome, which was a first century depiction of the Roman Empire, Tacitus wrote about a man called Christus who was put to the cross by Pontius Pilate.
Tacitus was writing about the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, which was blamed on a relatively new group known as Christians by the Roman emperor Nero.
Tacitus wrote in the Annals that Nero blamed “the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities.”
According to Tacitus, Nero wrongly accused the Christians in order to rid the Roman empire of the new religion.
Tacitus wrote: “Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.
“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 Judea, 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.
“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.”
Lawrence Mykytiuk, an associate professor of library science at Purdue University, told History there is no reason to doubt Tacitus’ account.
Prof Mykytiuk said: “When Tacitus wrote history, if he considered the information not entirely reliable, he normally wrote some indication of that for his readers.
“There is no such indication of potential error in the passage that mentions Christus.”
There are other written accounts which back up Tacitus’ claims.
The sole surviving account of first century Judea, the ‘War of the Jews’ by Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar and historian, does mention Jesus specifically on several occasions, including one passage which reads: “At this time there was a wise man named Jesus.
“His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous.
“And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples.
“Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.
“But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.”
Main image copyright: Getty Images
Written by: Sean Martin