Pagan Testimonies for Jesus Christ
1. Dated Pagan Testimonies
“Look not for any end, moreover to this curse until God appears to accept upon His head the pangs of thy own sins vicarious”
Virgil, Fourth Eclogue, 20 B.C.
Now the virgin is returning
A new human race is descending
from the heights of heaven
The birth of a child, with whom
the iron age of humanity will
end and the golden age begin
Virgil wrote of the birth of the "offspring of Jove" and the restoration of the world. The coming of this child would end the iron age of humanity and commence a golden age, an age in which "all footprints of our guilt/ Shall perish" and "all the earth/ Shall be all-fruitful." There were also references to the coming of a Virgin, the crushing of a serpent, and the abolition of the ancient blight of wickedness so firmly rooted in the human heart. It is perhaps unsurprising that Dante, more than a millennium later, would state of his literary and spiritual father, Virgil: "Through you I became a poet, through you, a Christian."
Whats more very early evidence of the crucifixion comes from two 1st century pagan historians. Firstly Thallus a Samaritan born historian who writing just 19 years after Our Lord’s ascension in 52AD recorded the crucifixion of Our Lord in an attempt to prove that the darkness that enveloped the world at the time was a product of a solar eclipse. Even though his works have been lost to history we know this because the 3rd Century Julius Africanus cites his work in defense that the darkness was miraculous simply because the festival of passover happens at the full moon which of course precludes a solar eclipse. “Thallus in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun -unreasonably, as it seems to me" . Notice that Thallus did not deny the existence of Jesus Christ but merely speculated as to the causes of the strange events surrounding His death.
Cornelius Tacitus 53-112 A.D.
"Hence to suppress the rumour he [Nero] falsely charged with the guilt and punished with the most exquisite tortures the persons commonly called 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." Annals, XV.44. Cornelius also wrote "a wise man who was called Jesus. . . .... Pilate condemned Him to death. He also noted that Jesus' disciples "reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive."
Speaking for the ancient Romans says “People were generally persuaded in the faith of the ancient prophecies, that the East was to prevail and that from Judea was to come the Master and Ruler of the World.”
Suetonius 69-120 A.D.
“He [Claudius] drove out of Rome the Jews who were perpetually stirring up trouble at the instigation of Chrestus [another spelling of Christus}” Life of Claudius. The authenticity of this cannt be doubted for it is recorded by St Paul in Acts 18: 2 “And finding a certain Jew named Aquila born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla his wife because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, he came to them”. In the “Lives of the Caesars” 26. 2 he goes on to say “Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and micheivous superstition”
Pliny the Younger c 61-113 A.D.
A Roman Governor of Bithinia in Asia and witness to the historical Jesus too writes around 77 years after Our Lord’s ascension of the testimony of the early Christians who would sing to the person of Christ as their God nearly 4 centuries before the Catholic Church proclaimed the dogma of His divinity. He records how persecuted Christians in their defense described their meetings and songs of “a hymn to Christ as God”.
“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. PythagDras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.”
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Historian 93-94 A.D
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again in the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him are not extinct at this day” Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.iii.3. In a second reference, Flavius Josephus refers to the stoning to death of James in 62 AD writes “But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned” Antiquities of the Jews XX ix.1
Lucian of Samosata c120-180 A.D.
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day, the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account...You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods, alike, regarding them merely as common property."
Justin Martyr 150 A.D.
“They pierced my hands and my feet [is] a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the 'Acts' which were recorded under Pontius Pilate”.
Tertullian 155-200 A.D.
“Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all the accusers of the Christians” Apology, V. 2
“On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf. But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of the Passover… Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith (enticer), concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him (Deut. 13:9)? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government (or royalty, i.e., influential). Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni, and Todah” Sanhedrin 43a.
Secondly the Amoa “Ulla” composed by Ulla a 3rd century Palestinian Jew and disciple of Rabbi Youchanan adds more weight to the Jewish acknowledgement of the historical Jesus “And do you suppose that for (Yeshu of Nazareth) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: "Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him." It is otherwise with Yeshu, for He was near to the civil authority”
That the Jews believed Jesus Christ was a historical person is also corroborated by Justin martyr who wrote that Justin Martyr wrote that that Jews of his day befieved "Jesus [was] a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified”
2. Undated Pagan Testimonies
“In the 24th Year of Tchao-Wang of the dynasty of the Tcheou on the 8th day of the 4th moon, a light appeared in the South West which illumined the Kings Palace. The monarch struck by its splendour, interrogated the sages. They showed him books in which this prodigy signified the appearance of the great Saint of the West who’s religion was to be introduced into their country”
Spoke of “the Saint”
Both spoke of the Logos and of the Universal Wise Man “yet to come”
Spoke of “A saviour and redeemer to unloose man from the primal eldest curse”
After recounting the sayings of the ancient oracles and the Sibyls about a “King whome we must recognize to be saved” asked in expectation “To what man and to what period of time do these predictions point?”
The second first Century non-Christian Roman writer Phlegon also wrote of Christ’s death and resurrection in his chronicles saying " Jesus while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” Phlegon even mentioned "the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place." Later the great Christian theologian Origen would cite Phlegon in defending Julius Africanus’s argument that the darkness of the Passion of Christ was supernatural when he wrote “Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, and no other [eclipse], it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any [similar] eclipse in previous times...and this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar”
Spoke of “A universal King”