Tacitus on Christ

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Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. His writings cover the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in AD 14 to the death of emperor Domitian in AD 96.

Tacitus' work called the Annals (written c. 116) is important to Christianity because it is considered by many Christians to confirm the historicity of Jesus. Book 15.44 mentions Christ as a person executed by Pontius Pilate during Tiberius' reign. However, as Tacitus does not disclose his source of knowledge and specific details are not given, the authority of Annals is controversial among Biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and Charles Guignebert.


Historical Jesus

Important historical evidence comes from the pen of the Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56–120). He was a careful scholar, so his brief reference to the historical Jesus is very important. His collection of books called The Annals includes the famous story about the six-day fire, that burned much of Rome in July AD 64 and was thought by some Romans to have been set by Emperor Nero himself. To put that rumor to rest, Nero blamed Christians for setting the fire. [1] Tacitus describes the support for the homeless provided by Nero and the rebuilding of the city. [2] However, none of this did away with the suspicion that the fire had been started on Nero's orders:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite punishments on a class hated for their disgraceful acts, called Chrestians by the populace. Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty [i.e., Crucifixtion] 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 Judaea, 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. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.[3][4]

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