- Lives of the First Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, a Roman court official and chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, who wrote around A.D. 120. He records the emperor Claudius “banished the Jews from Rome, who were continually making disturbances, Chrestus [Christ] being their leader” ( Lives of the First Twelve Caesars: Life of Claudius ).
The Roman Emperor, Claudius reigned from A.D. 41 to 54 and this expulsion of the Jews from Rome is mentioned in the Bible in Acts 18:2: “And he [Paul] 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.”
- Letters of Pliny the Younger, a Roman governing official in north-central Turkey, who wrote to the emperor Trajan about A.D. 120 requesting advice on how to deal with Christians who refused to reverence the Roman emperor’s image. Pliny noted these Christians met regularly and considered Jesus Christ to be divine and sang hymns “to Christ as if to a god.” His correspondence also reveals these Christians were so convicted some refused to renounce their beliefs even under penalty of torture and death! (Letters 10:96:7).
- The most complete information we have from a Roman writer from this period comes from Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, who was born around A.D. 56 and wrote early in the second century. He discussed the devastating fire of Rome in A.D. 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero and adds information about Nero blaming Christians for the fire.
- In addition to these historical tracts , the famous first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote about Jesus and a number of other figures mentioned in the Gospels. He wrote The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews late in the first century, and refers to many people named in the New Testament, including Jesus, John the Baptist and James the half-brother of Jesus.
Those who would deny the existence of Jesus Christ have to explain not only a number of specific references to Him, but also historic references to His half-brother James and John the Baptist, plus historians’ statements confirming the key themes and facts of the Gospels and the book of Acts!
The first-century witnesses of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection say He was God. As the opening verses of the Gospel of John tell us He was the Word who emptied Himself of His divine might and glory and became as a servant to perform a deed essential for human salvation. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is the means by which mankind is reconciled to God in an eternal covenant that offers and guarantees salvation, eternal life and the sharing of the divine existence in eternity.
That is why it is so critically important to know Jesus really existed and why He came. Without Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection we have no hope of eternal life with God.