Simon Brown.

Proverbs 8:34-36 Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my door posts. For whoever finds me finds life, and will obtain favor from Yahweh. But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me love death.” Psalm 84: 11 For Yahweh God is a sun and a shield. Yahweh will give grace and glory. He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly. 12 Yahweh of Armies, blessed is the man who trusts in you. 1 John 5:5 Now who is the one overcoming the world, except the one believing that Jesus is the Son of God?

Sunday 18 January 2015



Physical Descriptions of Jesus The Oldest Views and Literary  Data on the External Appearance of Jesus the Nazarene The Description of Publius Lentullus. The letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar. The Emerald of Caesar.  The Archko Volume. Josephus, the "Antiquities Of The Jews" Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian. READ Physical Descriptions of Jesus. CLICK HERE TO VISIT THIS SITE
Matthew 11:15. Historicity of Jesus
Historicity of Jesus for unlearned unbelievers.

St Paul stated: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 

Here is another one of many sad comments I received just this morning.

+Simon Brown
How sad for you personally, shutting your eyes from reality.
There is proof for forgery and lies of every part of the bible, from what other myth it was copied, who did it, when, that Christianism deleted  the documents disproving their cult when they were in power, banning and burning books of historians and inventing Heaven and Hell. 
Pray to God, if you get an answer search a psychiatrist.

In short the Wikipedia article confirms two very important facts. That there is historical evidence of Jesus being baptised and crucified. Yes and He was crucified by the Romans.
Two of the most important facts of the Christian faith confirmed by Scholars who attribute varying levels of certainty.

Here is the article by Wikipedia. Historicity of Jesus.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The historicity of Jesus concerns the analysis of historical evidence to determine whether Jesus of Nazareth existed as a historical figure, and whether any of the major milestones in his life as portrayed in the gospels can be confirmed as historical events. Historicity is the historical actuality or authenticity of persons and events, as opposed to being mythlegend, or fiction.
The historicity of Jesus is distinct from the related study of the historical Jesus, which refers to scholarly reconstructions of the life of Jesus based primarily on critical analysis of the gospel texts.
Since the 18th century a number of quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, and historical critical methods for studying the historicity of Jesus have been developed. Unlike for some figures in ancient history, the available sources are all documentary. In conjunction with Biblical sources such as the Pauline Letters and the Synoptic Gospels, three passages in non-Christian works have been used to support the historicity of Jesus. These are two passages in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, and one from the Roman historian Tacitus. Although the authenticity of all three passages has been disputed to varying degrees, most scholars believe that all three are at least partially authentic.
The majority viewpoint among scholars is that Jesus existed, but scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the parts of his life that have been recorded in the Gospels. Scholars who believe that Jesus existed differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts, 
but most scholars agree that Jesus was a GalileanJew who was born between 7-4 BC and died 30-36 AD, that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, that he was crucified by the order of the Roman PrefectPontius Pilate and that he lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere. The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support.

Historicity is the historical actuality or historical authenticity of a person or event, as opposed to being a mythlegend, or fiction. Historicity focuses on the truth value of knowledge claims about the past (denoting historical actuality, authenticity, and factuality.) The historicity of a claim about the past is its factual status.
Questions regarding historicity concern not just the issue of "what really happened," but also the issue of how modern observers can come to know "what really happened."This second issue is closely tied to historical research practices and methodologies for analyzing the reliability of primary sources and other evidence.
Evidence of Jesus
The sources for the historicity of Jesus are mainly Christian sources, such as the gospels and the purported letters of the apostles. The authenticity and reliability of these sources has been questioned by many scholars, and few events mentioned in the gospels are universally accepted.
There are three mentions of Jesus in non-Christian sources, which have been used in historical analyses of the existence of Jesus. These are two mentions in the works of 1st-century Roman historian Josephus and one mention in the works of the 2nd-century Roman historian Tacitus.
Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93-94 AD, includes two references to the biblical Jesus Christ in Books 18 and 20. The general scholarly view is that while the longer passage, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or forgery. Of the other mention in Josephus, Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman has stated that "few have doubted the genuineness" of Josephus' reference to Jesus in Antiquities 20, 9, 1 and it is only disputed by a small number of scholars.
Roman historian Tacitus referred to Christus and his execution by Pontius Pilate in his Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44. The very negative tone of Tacitus' comments on Christians make the passage extremely unlikely to have been forged by a Christian scribe and the Tacitus reference is now widely accepted as an independent confirmation of Christ's crucifixion, although some scholars question the authenticity of the passage on various different grounds.
Classical historian Michael Grant wrote that:
If we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.
Accepted historic facts.
Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted. In antiquity, the existence of Jesus was never denied by those who opposed Christianity. Geoffrey Blainey notes that a few scholars have argued that Jesus did not exist, but writes that Jesus' life was in fact "astonishingly documented" by the standards of the time - more so than any of his contemporaries - with numerous books, stories and memoirs written about him. The problem for the historian, wrote Blainey, is not therefore, determining whether Jesus actually existed, but rather in considering the "sheer multitude of detail and its inconsistencies and contradictions". There is, however, widespread disagreement among scholars on the details of the life of Jesus mentioned in the gospel narratives, and on the meaning of his teachings.
According to New Testament scholar James Dunn, nearly all modern scholars consider the baptism of Jesus and his crucifixion to be historically certain. He states that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus.
Bart D. Ehrman states that the existence of Jesus and his crucifixion by the Romans is attested to by a wide range of sources including Josephus and Tacitus. John P. Meier views the crucifixion of Jesus as historical fact and states that based on the criterion of embarrassment Christians would not have invented the painful death of their leader. Meier states that a number of other criteria, e.g. the criterion of multiple attestation (i.e. confirmation by more than one source), the criterion of coherence (i.e. that it fits with other historical elements) and the criterion of rejection (i.e. that it is not disputed by ancient sources) help establish the crucifixion of Jesus as a historical event. Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan, highly skeptical with regard to the Gospel accounts of miracles, wrote in 1995
That (Jesus) was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.
One of the arguments in favour of the historicity of the baptism of Jesus by John is that it is a story which the early Christian Church would have never wanted to invent, typically referred to as the criterion of embarrassment in historical analysis. Based on this criterion, given that John baptised for the remission of sins, and Jesus was viewed as without sin, the invention of this story would have served no purpose, and would have been an embarrassment given that it positioned John above Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew attempts to offset this problem by having John feel unworthy to baptise Jesus and Jesus giving him permission to do so in Matthew 3:14-15.
Leading historian of ancient history Robin Lane Fox states "Jesus was born in Galilee". Co-director of Ancient Cultures Research Centre at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia Alanna Nobbs has stated "While historical and theological debates remain about the actions and significance of this figure, his fame as a teacher, and his crucifixion under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, may be described as historically certain."

Amy-Jill Levine has summarized the situation by stating that "there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus' life" in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and over a period of one to three years debated Jewish authorities on the subject of God, gathered followers, and was crucified by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate who officiated 26-36 AD.

There is much in dispute as to his previous life, childhood, family and place of residence, of which the canonical gospels are almost completely silent. This silence is a problematic fact in explaining the historiography of Jesus. It has been suggested that it was the result of a conflict between the Nazarene Jewish followers of Jesus, led by his brother James, and the nascent Gentilic Christians led by the Apostle Paul.

Scholars attribute varying levels of certainty to other episodes. E.P. Sanders and Craig A. Evans independently state that there are two other incidents in the life of Jesus that can be considered historical: that Jesus called disciples, and that he caused a controversy at the Temple. This extended view assumes that there are eight elements about Jesus and his followers that can be viewed as historical facts-four episodes in the life of Jesus and four about him and his followers, namely:
  • Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He called disciples. He had a controversy at the Temple. Jesus was crucified by the Romans near Jerusalem.
  • Jesus was a Galilean. His activities were confined to Galilee and Judea. After his death his disciples continued. Some of his disciples were persecuted.
Scholarly agreement on this extended list is not universal.
The Mishnah (c. 200) may refer to Jesus and reflect the early Jewish traditions of portraying Jesus as a sorcerer or magician. Other possible references to Jesus and his execution may exist in the Talmud, but they also aim to discredit his actions, not deny his existence.

Myth theory
Main article: Christ myth theory
The Christ myth theory is the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels.

The theory that Jesus never existed at all has very little scholarly support.
Historicity of Jesus. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


  1. My reason for posting this article is because I receive many comments from atheists on you tube, saying ‘THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF JESUS’. I have added one such comment below. 
    Here is a perfect example of the damage it causes when Christians who are meant to support Gods word to be true with Bible discoveries but instead condemn them. For example, the most important event in the world, the life and existences, the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ preserved on two cloths, the Shroud of Turin supports and confirms the four Gospels of the Bible PRECISELY. Even with today's up to date technology it still cannot be disproved. 
  2. Yet there are believers who I have met that run from the Shroud in disbelief, with some who have even hidden it under the carpet. 

    It is particularly surprising when I come across Christians who act almost like atheists in their scepticism – whether they be a Pastor, Teacher or Scientist or preacher.
  3. Here is a comment that I received by someone as posted on one of my videos. 
    There is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by the Romans or by the Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, during his entire lifetime.’ 
    This comment was posted on my video -The concluding part of THE GARDEN TOMB OF JESUS DOCUMENTARY EPISODE 4.   
    When I sent this person this article he never replied back. I think he was shocked with the amount of evidence of Jesus, well I hope he was!!
    To be honest if I was to write about all the evidence of Jesus I would never finish writing the article. I am already grey. 

    I Simon Brown consider the Shroud of Turin to be a gift from God above, I believe it establishes scientific and historical proof of the reliability of the Bible and also perhaps, just for the skeptics and doubting Thomas's, the supernatural evidence of God's love for humans.

This shroud gives us physical evidence of the death by crucifixion of his only begotten son, Jesus, recording a supernatural picture of his pain and suffering on the cross in graphic detail.

The image on the shroud reveals the torture of the forty lashes, shows us the scars and pierced body, the pain from the puncture wounds from the crown of thorns, piercing his head. It shows us his plucked out beard and records his humiliation by the Romans, who punched and bruised his swollen cheek bones. It shows his pain from carrying his own cross, which can be seen by the damaged knee when falling. Depicting the passion, his agony, the blood shed of his pierced hands and feet, it bears silent witness to the horror of the cross, his death, the spear wound and burial, and yes, the ultimate triumph, the Resurrection of Jesus, whose name Yeshua, means Salvation.

All this is recorded supernaturally on The Shroud of Turin. 

UPDATE 21/11/2014
A copy of the second Medicean manuscript of Annals, Book 15, chapter 44, the page with the reference to Christians
By Tacitus (text copied by a monk in the 11th century). Photographic facsimile by Henricus Rostagno, 1902. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
DID Tacitus provide a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus?
Hello friends. I do hope and pray love and blessings on you.

I would like to share with you an interesting comment I received only today from an atheist saying: Simon Brown Let's not move the goal posts. I'll be happy to discuss any other issues, after you answer what I asked: why would Tacitus, a meticulous historian, not mention hundreds of zombies walking around after Jesus' death, including Jesus himself?

Well this person encouraged me to do some research on the man Tacitus, as I am not familiar with him.
After some hours I discovered there were lots of articles about him. As always many believers believe the writings to be genuine while some are not so convinced.

I found it interesting how this atheist wanted to prove me wrong, but instead proved himself wrong.

Well last week I reported to you about some Bible discovery hoaxes. But this week from my research I personally believe this Tacitus (text copied by a monk in the 11th century) to be genuine. However you decide. I look forward to hearing what you believe.

Tacitus on Christ

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fire of Rome, by Karl von Piloty, 1861. According to Tacitus, Nero targeted Christians as those responsible for the fire.
The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christhis execution by Pontius Pilate and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44.[1]
The context of the passage is the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of the city in AD 64 during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.[2] The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-centuryRome.[3][4]
Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source.[5][6][7] Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.[8] However, there have been suggestions that the 'Christ, the author of this name, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius' line is a Christian interpolation.[9][10]
Historian Ronald Mellor has stated that the Annals is "Tacitus's crowning achievement" which represents the "pinnacle of Roman historical writing".[11] Scholars view it as establishing three separate facts about Rome around AD 60: (i) that there were a sizable number of Christians in Rome at the time, (ii) that it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome, and (iii) that at the time pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Roman Judea.[12][13] These facts however are so narrowly established (see Other Roman Sources below) that they are subject to much scrutiny, like reports of Pilate's rank or the spelling of key words or Tacitus' actual sources.

The passage and its context[edit]

A copy of the second Medicean manuscript of Annals,Book 15, chapter 44, the page with the reference to Christians
The Annals passage (15.44), which has been subjected to much scholarly analysis, follows a description of the six-day Great Fire of Rome that burned much of Rome in July 64 AD.[3]
The key part of the passage reads as follows (translation from Latin by A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb, 1876):
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. 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 Judæa, 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".
(In Latin:[2] ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiablilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt.)
Tacitus then describes the torture of Christians. The exact cause of the fire remains uncertain, but much of the population of Rome suspected that Emperor Nero had started the fire himself.[3] To divert attention from himself, Nero accused the Christians of starting the fire and persecuted them, making this the first confrontation between Christians and the authorities in Rome.[3] Tacitus never accused Nero of playing the lyre while Rome burned - that statement came from Cassius Dio, who died in the 3rd century.[2] But Tacitus did suggest that Nero used the Christians as scapegoats.[14]
No original manuscripts of the Annals exist and the surviving copies of Tacitus' works derive from two principal manuscripts, known as the Medicean manuscripts, written in Latin, which are held in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy.[15] It is the second Medicean manuscript, 11th century and from the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino, which is the oldest surviving copy of the passage describing Christians.[16] Scholars generally agree that these copies were written at Monte Cassino and the end of the document refers toAbbas Raynaldus cu... who was most probably one of the two abbots of that name at the abbey during that period.[16]

Specific references[edit]

Christians and Chrestians[edit]

Detail of the 11th century copy of Annals, the gap between the 'i' and 's' is highlighted in the word 'Christianos'.
The passage states:
"... called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin ..."
In 1902 Georg Andresen commented on the appearance of the first 'i' and subsequent gap in the earliest extant, 11th century, copy of the Annals in Florence, suggesting that the text had been altered, and an 'e' had originally been in the text, rather than this 'i'.[17] "With ultra-violet examination of the MS the alteration was conclusively shown. It is impossible today to say who altered the letter e into an i. In Suetonius’ Nero 16.2, "christiani", however, seems to be the original reading".[18] Since the alteration became known it has given rise to debates among scholars as to whether Tacitus deliberately used the term "Chrestians", or if a scribe made an error during the Middle Ages.[19][20] It has been stated that both the terms Christians and Chrestians had at times been used by the general population in Rome to refer to early Christians.[21] Robert Van Voorst states that many sources indicate that the term Chrestians was also used among the early followers of Jesus by the second century.[20][22] The term Christians appears only three times in the New Testament, the first usage (Acts 11:26) giving the origin of the term.[20] In all three cases the uncorrected Codex Sinaiticus in Greek readsChrestianoi.[20][22] In Phrygia a number of funerary stone inscriptions use the term Chrestians, with one stone inscription using both terms together, reading: "Chrestians for Christians".[22]
Adolf von Harnack argued that Chrestians was the original wording, and that Tacitus deliberately used Christus immediately after it to show his own superior knowledge compared to the population at large.[20] Robert Renehan has stated that it was natural for a Roman to mix the two words that sounded the same, that Chrestianos was the original word in the Annals and not an error by a scribe.[23][24] Van Voorst has stated that it was unlikely for Tacitus himself to refer to Christians as Chrestianos i.e. "useful ones" given that he also referred to them as "hated for their shameful acts".[19] Paul Eddy sees no major impact on the authenticity of the passage or its meaning regardless of the use of either term by Tacitus.[25]

The rank of Pilate[edit]

The Pilate Stone, now at the Israel Museum
Pilate's rank while he was governor of Iudaea province appeared in a Latin inscription on the Pilate Stone which called him a prefect, while this Tacitean passage calls him a procuratorJosephus refers to Pilate with the generic Greek term ἡγεμώνhēgemōn, or governor. Tacitus records that Claudius was the ruler who gave procurators governing power.[26][27] After Herod Agrippa's death in AD 44, when Judea reverted to direct Roman rule, Claudius gave procurators control over Judea.[3][28][29][30]
Various theories have been put forward to explain why Tacitus should use the term "procurator" when the archaeological evidence indicates that Pilate was a prefect. Jerry Vardaman theorizes that Pilate's title was changed during his stay in Judea and that the Pilate Stone dates from the early years of his administration.[31] Baruch Lifshitz postulates that the inscription would originally have mentioned the title of "procurator" along with "prefect".[32] L.A. Yelnitsky argues that the use of "procurator" in Annals 15.44.3 is a Christian interpolation.[33] S.G.F. Brandon suggests that there is no real difference between the two ranks.[34] John Dominic Crossan states that Tacitus "retrojected" the title procurator which was in use at the time of Claudius back onto Pilate who was called prefect in his own time.[35] Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans as well as Van Voorst state that Tacitus apparently used the title procurator because it was more common at the time of his writing and that this variation in the use of the title should not be taken as evidence to doubt the correctness of the information Tacitus provides.[36][37]Warren Carter states that, as the term "prefect" has a military connotation, while "procurator" is civilian, the use of either term may be appropriate for governors who have a range of military, administrative and fiscal responsibilities.[38]
Louis Feldman says that Philo (who died AD 50) and Josephus also use the term procurator for Pilate.[39] It should be noted that, as both Philo and Josephus wrote in Greek, neither of them actually used the term "procurator", but the Greek word ἐπίτροπος (epitropos), which is regularly translated as "procurator". Philo also uses this Greek term for the governors of Egypt (a prefect), of Asia (a proconsul) and Syria (a legate).[40] Werner Eck, in his list of terms for governors of Judea found in the works of Josephus, shows that, while in the early work, The Jewish War, Josephus uses epitropos less consistently, the first governor to be referred to by the term in Antiquities of the Jews was Cuspius Fadus, (who was in office AD 44-46).[41] Feldman notes that Philo, Josephus and Tacitus may have anachronistically confused the timing of the titles - prefect later changing to procurator.[39] Feldman also notes that the use of the titles may not have been rigid, for Josephus refers to Cuspius Fadus both as "prefect" and "procurator".[39]

Authenticity and historical value[edit]

The title page of 1598 edition of the works of Tacitus, kept in EmpoliItaly.
Most modern scholars consider the passage to be authentic.[42][43] William L. Portier has stated that the consistency in the references by Tacitus, Josephus and the letters to Emperor Trajan by Pliny the Younger reaffirm the validity of all three accounts.[43] Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to be of historical value as an independent Roman source about early Christianity that is in unison with other historical records.[5][6][7][43]
Tacitus was a patriotic Roman senator.[44][45] His writings shows no sympathy towards Christians, or knowledge of who their leader was.[5][46]His characterization of "Christian abominations" may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the ritual as cannibalism by Christians.[46][47] Andreas Köstenberger states that the tone of the passage towards Christians is far too negative to have been authored by a Christian scribe.[48] Van Voorst also states that the passage is unlikely to be a Christian forgery because of the pejorative language used to describe Christianity.[42]
Tacitus was about 7 years old at the time of the Great Fire of Rome, and like other Romans as he grew up he would have most likely heard about the fire that destroyed most of the city, and Nero's accusations against Christians.[14] When he wrote his account, Tacitus was the governor of the province of Asia, and as a member of the inner circle in Rome he would have known of the official position with respect to the fire and the Christians.[14]
In 1885 P. Hochart had proposed that the passage was a pious fraud,[49] but the editor of the 1907 Oxford edition dismissed his suggestion and treated the passage as genuine.[50] Scholars such as Bruce Chilton, Craig Evans, Paul R. Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd agree with John Meier's statement that "Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine.”[36][51] However in 2014 an article by Richard Carrier detailing the reasons to suspect the "Their founder, one Christ, had been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius" part in the passage is a Christian interpolation was published in Vigiliae Christianae[52] some of which are highlighted in Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus where he also presents reasons that even if it is totally genuine there are reasons to suspect Tacitus is merely repeating a story told by the Christians themselves.[53] Suggestions that the whole of Annals may have been a forgery have also been generally rejected by scholars.[54]
John P. Meier states that there is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the argument that a scribe may have introduced the passage into the text.[55]

Portrait of Tacitus, based on an antique bust.
Van Voorst states that "of all Roman writers, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ".[42] John Dominic Crossan considers the passage important in establishing that Jesus existed and was crucified, and states: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."[56] Eddy and Boyd state that it is now "firmly established" that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.[8] Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman wrote: "Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius's reign."[57]
James D. G. Dunn considers the passage as useful in establishing facts about early Christians, e.g. that there was a sizable number of Christians in Rome around AD 60.[12] Dunn states that Tacitus seems to be under the impression that Christians were some form of Judaism, although distinguished from them.[12] Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier state that in addition to establishing that there was a large body of Christians in Rome, the Tacitus passage provides two other important pieces of historical information, namely that by around AD 60 it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome and that even pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Judea.[13]
Although the majority of scholars consider it to be genuine, a few scholars question the authenticity of the passage given that Tacitus was born 25 years after Jesus' death.[42]
Some scholars have debated the historical value of the passage given that Tacitus does not reveal the source of his information.[58] Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz argue that Tacitus at times had drawn on earlier historical works now lost to us, and he may have used official sources from a Roman archive in this case; however, if Tacitus had been copying from an official source, some scholars would expect him to have labeled Pilate correctly as a prefect rather than a procurator.[59]Theissen and Merz state that Tacitus gives us a description of widespread prejudices about Christianity and a few precise details about "Christus" and Christianity, the source of which remains unclear.[60] However, Paul R. Eddy has stated that given his position as a senator Tacitus was also likely to have had access to official Roman documents of the time and did not need other sources.[25]
Michael Martin notes that the authenticity of this passage of the Annals has also been disputed on the grounds that Tacitus would not have used the word “messiah” in an authentic Roman document.[61]
Weaver notes that Tacitus spoke of the persecution of Christians, but no other Christian author wrote of this persecution for a hundred years.[62]
Hotema notes that this passage was not quoted by any Church father up to the 15th century, although the passage would have been very useful to them in their work; [63] and that the passage refers to the Christians in Rome being a multitude, while at that time the Christian congregation in Rome would actually have been very small.[64]
Scholars have also debated the issue of hearsay in the reference by Tacitus. Charles Guignebert argued that "So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless".[65] R. T. France states that the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he had heard through Christians.[66] However, Paul R. Eddy has stated that as Rome's preeminent historian, Tacitus was generally known for checking his sources and was not in the habit of reporting gossip.[25] Tacitus was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a council of priests whose duty it was to supervise foreign religious cults in Rome, which as Van Voorst points out, makes it reasonable to suppose that he would have acquired knowledge of Christian origins through his work with that body.[67]

Other Roman sources[edit]

Tacitus is one of three key Roman authors who may refer to early Christians, the other two being Pliny the Younger and Suetonius.[68][69] These authors refer to events which took place during the reign of various Roman emperors, Suetonius writing about an expulsion from Rome during the reign of Claudius (41 to 54), and also punishments by Nero(who reigned from 54 to 68), Pliny's letters are to Trajan about the trials he was holding for Christians around 111 AD.[68] But the temporal order for the documents begins with Pliny writing around 111 AD, then Tacitus around 115/116 AD and then Suetonius writing in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars around 122 AD.[68][70] Thus 47 to 58 years after the 64 AD fire and Nero's alleged persecution.

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ P.E. Easterling, E. J. Kenney (general editors), The Cambridge History of Latin Literature, page 892 (Cambridge University Press, 1982, reprinted 1996). ISBN 0-521-21043-7
  2. Jump up to:a b Stephen Dando-Collins 2010 The Great Fire of Rome ISBN 978-0-306-81890-5pages 1-4
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e A political history of early Christianity by Allen Brent 2009 ISBN 0-567-03175-6pages 32-34
  4. Jump up^ Robert Van VoorstJesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. p 39- 53
  5. Jump up to:a b c Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies by Craig A. Evans 2001 ISBN 0-391-04118-5 page 42
  6. Jump up to:a b Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 2001 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 page 343
  7. Jump up to:a b Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond 2004 ISBN 0-521-61620-4 page xi
  8. Jump up to:a b Eddy, Paul; Boyd, Gregory (2007). The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition Baker Academic, ISBN 0-8010-3114-1 page 127
  9. Jump up^ Carrier, Richard (2014) "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44" Vigiliae Christianae, Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 264 – 283 (an earlier and more detailed version appears in Carrier's Hitler Homer Bible Christ)
  10. Jump up^ Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 344
  11. Jump up^ Tacitus' Annals by Ronald Mellor 2010 ISBN 0-19-515192-5 Oxford page 23
  12. Jump up to:a b c Beginning from Jerusalem by James D. G. Dunn 2008 ISBN 0-8028-3932-0 pages 56-57
  13. Jump up to:a b Antioch and Rome: New Testament cradles of Catholic Christianity by Raymond Edward Brown, John P. Meier 1983 ISBN 0-8091-2532-3 page 99
  14. Jump up to:a b c Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett 2002 ISBN 0-8308-2699-8 page 30
  15. Jump up^ Cornelii Taciti Annalium, Libri V, VI, XI, XII: With Introduction and Notes by Henry Furneaux, H. Pitman 2010 ISBN 1-108-01239-6 page iv
  16. Jump up to:a b Newton, Francis, The Scriptorium and Library at Monte Cassino, 1058–1105ISBN 0-521-58395-0 Cambridge University Press, 1999. "The Date of the Medicean Tacitus (Flor. Laur. 68.2)", p. 96-97. [1]
  17. Jump up^ Georg Andresen in Wochenschrift fur klassische Philologie 19, 1902, col. 780f
  18. Jump up^ J. Boman, Inpulsore Cherestro? Suetonius’ Divus Claudius 25.4 in Sources and Manuscripts, Liber Annuus 61 (2011), ISSN 0081-8933, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem 2012, p. 355, n. 2.
  19. Jump up to:a b Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 pages 44-48
  20. Jump up to:a b c d e International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1995ISBN 0-8028-3781-6 page 657
  21. Jump up^ Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries by Peter Lampe 2006 ISBN 0-8264-8102-7 page 12
  22. Jump up to:a b c Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 pages 33-35
  23. Jump up^ Robert Renehan, "Christus or Chrestus in Tacitus?", La Parola del Passato 122 (1968), pp. 368-370
  24. Jump up^ Transactions and proceedings of the American Philological Association, Volume 29, JSTOR (Organization), 2007. p vii
  25. Jump up to:a b c The Jesus legend: a case for the historical reliability of the synoptic gospels by Paul R. Eddy, et al 2007 ISBN 0-8010-3114-1 pages 181-183
  26. Jump up^ Tacitus, Annals 12.60: Claudius said that the judgments of his procurators had the same efficacy as those judgments he made.
  27. Jump up^ P. A. Brunt, Roman imperial themes, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-19-814476-8ISBN 978-0-19-814476-2. p.167.
  28. Jump up^ Tacitus, Histories 5.9.8.
  29. Jump up^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988. ISBN 0-8028-3785-9ISBN 978-0-8028-3785-1. p.979, col.1.
  30. Jump up^ Paul, apostle of the heart set free by F. F. Bruce (2000) ISBN 1842270273 Eerdsmans page 354
  31. Jump up^ "A New Inscription Which Mentions Pilate as 'Prefect'", JBL 81/1 (1962), p.71.
  32. Jump up^ "Inscriptions latines de Cesaree (Caesarea Palaestinae)" in Latomus 22 (1963), pp.783-784.
  33. Jump up^ "The Caesarea Inscription of Pontius Pilate and Its Historical Significance" in Vestnik Drevnej Istorii 93 (1965), pp.142-146.
  34. Jump up^ "Pontius Pilate in history and legend" in History Today 18 (1968), pp. 523—530
  35. Jump up^ Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan (Apr 1, 1999) ISBN 0567086682 T & T Clark p.9.
  36. Jump up to:a b Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN 90-04-11142-5 pages 465-466
  37. Jump up^ Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. p.48.
  38. Jump up^ Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor by Warren Carter (Sep 1, 2003) ISBN 0814651135 page 44
  39. Jump up to:a b c Louis Feldman "Flavius Josephus Revisited" in Aufstieg Und Niedergang Der Roemischen Welt, Part 2 edited by Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase 1984 ISBN 311009522X page 818
  40. Jump up^ Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter (T&T Clark: October 10, 2001) ISBN 978-1563383427 p.215.
  41. Jump up^ Werner Eck, "Die Benennung von römischen Amtsträgern und politisch-militärisch-administrativenFunktionen bei Flavius Iosephus: Probleme der korrekten IdentifizierungAuthor" in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 166 (2008), p.222.
  42. Jump up to:a b c d Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. p 39- 53
  43. Jump up to:a b c Tradition and Incarnation: Foundations of Christian Theology by William L. Portier 1993 ISBN 0-8091-3467-5 page 263
  44. Jump up^ Josephus, the Bible, and history by Louis H. Feldman 1997 ISBN 90-04-08931-4 page 381
  45. Jump up^ Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell 1998 ISBN 0-664-25703-8 page 33
  46. Jump up to:a b Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293
  47. Jump up^ An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485
  48. Jump up^ The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 pages 109-110
  49. Jump up^ Henry Furneaux, ed., Cornelii Taciti Annalium ab excessu divi augusti libri. The annals of Tacitus with introduction and notes, 2nd ed., vol. ii, books xi-xvi. Clarendon, 1907. Appendix II, p. 416f."
  50. Jump up^ Henry Furneaux, ed., Cornelii Taciti Annalium ab excessu divi augusti libri. The annals of Tacitus with introduction and notes, 2nd ed., vol. ii, books xi-xvi. Clarendon, 1907. Appendix II, p.418
  51. Jump up^ The Jesus Legend: a case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul R. Eddy, Gregory A. Boyd 2007 ISBN 0-8010-3114-1 page 181
  52. Jump up^ Carrier, Richard (2014) "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44" Vigiliae Christianae, Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 264 – 283 (an earlier and more detailed version appears in Carrier's Hitler Homer Bible Christ)
  53. Jump up^ Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 343-346
  54. Jump up^ Robert Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence 2000 ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 42
  55. Jump up^ Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Doubleday: 1991. vol 1: p. 168-171.
  56. Jump up^ Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. ISBN 0-06-061662-8 page 145
  57. Jump up^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2001). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0195124743.
  58. Jump up^ F.F. Bruce,Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) p. 23
  59. Jump up^ Theissen and Merz p.83
  60. Jump up^ Theissen, Gerd; Merz, Annette (1998). The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-8006-3122-2.
  61. Jump up^ The Case Against Christianity, By Michael Martin, pg 50-51, at
  62. Jump up^ The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century: 1900-1950, By Walter P. Weaver, pg 53, pg 57, at
  63. Jump up^ Secret of Regeneration, By Hilton Hotema, pg 100, at
  64. Jump up^ Secret of Regeneration, By Hilton Hotema, pg 100, at
  65. Jump up^ Jesus, University Books, New York, 1956, p.13
  66. Jump up^ France, RT (1986). Evidence for Jesus (Jesus Library). Trafalgar Square Publishing. pp. 19–20. ISBN 0-340-38172-8.
  67. Jump up^ Van Voorst, Robert E. (2011). Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus. Brill Academic Pub. p. 2159. ISBN 978-9004163720.
  68. Jump up to:a b c Stephen Benko "Pagan Criticism of Christianity" in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt edited by Hildegard Temporin et al ISBN 3110080168 page
  69. Jump up^ Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 69-70
  70. Jump up^ Christianity and the Roman Empire: background texts by Ralph Martin Novak 2001 ISBN 1-56338-347-0 pages 13 and 20

Further reading[edit]

                       Tacitus on Jesus.                
What do they say at the end of their article?
What do we learn about Jesus and or Christianity from this historian/writer?
Tacitus turns out to be an extremely rich source of data that confirms important aspects of Christian history:

  1. He regards "Christus" as the founder of the movement. This militates against ideas that Paul or some other person was the ideological head of Christianity.
  2. He confirms the execution of Jesus under Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius.
  3. He indicates that Jesus' death "checked" Christianity for a time. This would hint at the probability that Christianity was recognized to have had some status as a movement (albeit not under the name "Christianity") prior to the death of Jesus.
  4. He identifies Judaea as the "source" of the movement. This militates against ideas that Christianity was designed piecemeal from pagan religious ideas.
  5. He indicates that Christians in Rome in the mid-60s A.D. were dying for their faith.
  1. Pliny the Younger on Christians
  2. Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. Wikipedia
Pline le Jeune
De Sacy
Lettres - Tome premier
Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée par Jules Pierrot - C.L.F. Panckoucke - 1826                                  

Pliny the Younger on Christians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fragment of an inscription bearing the name Pliny, Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan
Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (now in modern Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. The letter (Epistulae X.96) details an account of how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asks for the Emperor's guidance on how they should be treated.[1][2]
Neither Pliny nor Trajan mentions the crime that Christians had committed, except for being a Christian; and other historical sources do not provide a simple answer to this question, but a likely element may be the stubborn refusal of Christians to worship Roman gods; making them appear as objecting to Roman rule.[3][4]
Pliny states that he gives Christians multiple chances to affirm they are innocent and if they refuse three times, they are executed. Pliny states that his investigations have revealed nothing on the Christians' part but harmless practices and "depraved, excessive superstition". However, Pliny seems concerned about the rapid spread of this "superstition"; and views Christian gatherings as a potential starting point for sedition.[4]
The letter is the first pagan account to refer to Jesus or Christianity, providing key information on early Christian beliefs and practices and how these were viewed and dealt with by the Romans.[2][5][6] The letter and Trajan's reply indicate that at the time of its writing there was no systematic and official Empire-widepersecution of Christians.[7][8] Trajan's reply also offers valuable insight into the relationship between Roman provincial governors and Emperors and indicates that at the time Christians were not sought out or tracked down by imperial orders, and that persecutions could be local and sporadic.[9]

Context and overview[edit]


Location of Bithynia et Pontus within the Roman Empire
Pliny the Younger was the governor of Bithynia et Pontus on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia Turkey; having arrived there around September 111 as the representative of Roman Emperor Trajan.[1] Pliny likely wrote the letters from Amisus before his reign ended in January 113.[10] The origin of Christianity in that region is not known, but it has not been associated with Apostle Paul's travels.[1] Given the reference to Bithynia in the opening of the First Epistle of Peter (which dates to the 60s) Christianity in the region may have had some Petrine associations throughSylvanus.[1][11]
In 111 Bithynia et Pontus was known for being in disorder, and Pliny was selected by Trajan because of his legal training and his past experience.[2] Pliny was familiar with the region, having defended two of their proconsuls for extortion in the Senate, one case being around AD 103.[10] However, Pliny had never performed a legal investigation of Christians, and thus consulted Trajan in order to be on solid ground regarding his actions, and saved his letters and Trajan's replies.[2] The lack of familiarity of Pliny may indicate that such prosecutions against Christians had taken place before, but Pliny had not been involved in them.[2]
As governor, Pliny held large influence over all of the residents of his province.[9] This was especially true in the legal treatment of Christians. The Roman legal construct ofcognitio extra ordinem afforded governors a large amount of discretion in deciding legal cases.[6]

Persecution of Christians[edit]

Prior to the 249 Decius edict which required all inhabitants of the Roman Empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods, the persecution of Christians had been local affairs, based on local determinations.[7][8] Timothy Barnes characterized the situation by stating: "Actual persecution…was local, sporadic, almost random".[9] Before the Decius edict ushered in an empire wide persecution, individual governors treated Christians very differently depending on the public and social issues, e.g. Tertullian wrote that no Christian blood was shed in Africa prior to 180, but Pliny executed Christians in 112.[6][7]
Although it is clear that Pliny executed Christians, neither Pliny nor Trajan mention the crime that Christians had committed, except for being a Christian; and other historical sources do not provide a simple answer to this question.[3] Trajan's response to Pliny makes it clear that being known as a "Christian" was sufficient for judicial action.[3]
Everett Ferguson states that the charges against Christians by Pliny may have been partly based on the "secret crimes" associated with Christianity, later characterized byAthenagoras as atheism, cannibalistic feasts and incest.[4] The cannibalistic feasts and incest charges were based on misunderstanding of the Eucharistic act and Christians being "brothers and sisters", even after marriage. However, the charge of atheism related to the failure to worship the state gods, and made Christianity a superstition and not a religion.[4] George Heyman states that the refusal of Christians to participate in sacrificial rituals that honored the emperor and instead follow their own sacrificial rhetoric and practices conflicted with the Roman forms of social control, making them an undesirable minority.[3] Ferguson states that Pliny viewed the obstinacy (contumacia) of Christians as much of a threat to Roman rule and order as the divergence of their beliefs from the Romans; and considered Christian gatherings as a potential starting point for sedition.[4]

Letter and response[edit]

Pliny's Letter to Trajan[edit]

Main article: Epistulae (Pliny)

Opening Questions[edit]

Letters of Pliny the Younger, Paris, 1826. (Click to read)
Pliny opens the letter (sections 1-4) with questions to Trajan concerning trials of Christians brought before him, since he says has never been present at any trials of Christians. This may indicate that previous trials had taken place and that Pliny was unaware of any existing edicts under Trajan for prosecuting Christians.[12] He has three main questions:
  • Should any distinction be made by the age of the Christian? Should the very young be treated differently from mature people?
  • Does denying being a Christian mean the accused is pardoned?
  • Is the “name” of Christianity itself enough to condemn the accused or is it the crimes associated with being a Christian? (Nomen ipsum si flagitiis careat an flagitia cohaerentia nomini puniantur.)
A.N. Sherwin-White states that “When the practice of a sect was banned...indictment of the nomen (“name”), i.e. of membership of a cult group, sufficed to secure conviction. This looked uncommonly like religious persecution to the victims themselves, but the underlying ground remained theflagitia (“shameful acts”) supposed to be inseparable from the practice of the cult.”[13]

Trial Format[edit]

Pliny gives an account of how the trials are conducted and the various verdicts (sections 4-6). He says he first asks if the accused is a Christian: if they confess that they are, he interrogates them twice more, for a total of three times, threatening them with death if they continue to confirm their beliefs. If they do not recant, then he orders them to be executed, or, if they are Roman citizens, orders them to be taken to Rome. Despite his uncertainty about the offences connected with being Christian, Pliny says that he has no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, at least their inflexible obstinacy (obstinatio) and stubbornness, (pertinacia) deserve punishment. This shows that, to the Roman authorities, Christians were being hostile to the government and were openly defying a magistrate who was asking them to abandon an unwanted cult.[14] Most notably, the Christians present at these trials Pliny is inquiring about were accused by a privately published anonymous document and not by Pliny nor the empire.
There were three categories of accused Pliny mentions with corresponding verdicts. If the accused denied that they had ever been a Christian, then they must pray to the Roman gods (in words dictated by Pliny himself), offer incense and wine to images of Trajan and the gods, and curse Christ – which Pliny says true Christians are unable to do. They were then discharged. Accused who were at one point Christians but had quit the religion also followed the aforementioned procedure and were let go. Sherwin-White says the procedure was approved by Trajan but it was not a way to “compel conformity to the state religion or imperial cult,” which was a voluntary practice.[15] Those who confessed to being Christians three times were executed.

Practices of Christians[edit]

Depiction of ChristianEucharistic bread, Catacomb of Callixtus, 3rd century
Pliny then details the practices of Christians (sections 7-10): he says that they meet on a certain day before light where they gather and sing hymns to Christ as to a god. They all bind themselves by oath, "not to some crimes", says Pliny, as though that is what he would have expected; rather, they pledge not to commit any crimes such as fraud, theft, or adultery, and subsequently share a meal of "ordinary and innocent food". Pliny says, however, that all of these practices were abandoned by the Christians after Pliny forbade any political associations (hetaerias or “club”). These clubs were banned because Trajan saw them as a “natural breeding ground for grumbling” about both civic life and political affairs. One such instance of a banned club was a firemen’s association; likewise, Christianity was seen as a political association that could be potentially harmful to the empire.[16] However the Christians seem to have willingly complied with the edict and halted their practices.
Pliny adds that he felt it necessary to investigate further by having two female slaves called deaconesses tortured, which was standard procedure in Roman interrogation of slaves, and discovered nothing but "depraved, excessive superstition" (superstitio). By using this word instead of religio, religion, Pliny is "denigrating the Christians' position"[17] because it was outside the religious practices of Rome.[18] The apparent abandonment of the pagan temples by Christians was a threat to the pax deorum (the harmony or accord between the divine and humans), and political subversion by new religious groups was feared, which was treated as a potential crime.[19]
Pliny ends the letter by saying that Christianity is endangering people of every age and rank and has spread not only through the cities, but also through the rural villages as well (neque tantum...sed etiam), but that it will be possible to check it. He argues for his procedure to Trajan by saying that the temples and religious festivals, which before had been deserted, are now flourishing again and that there is a rising demand for sacrificial animals once more – a dip and rise which A.N. Sherwin-White believes is an exaggeration of the toll Christianity had taken on the traditional cult.[20]

Trajan’s response[edit]

Trajan statue, Glyptothek, Munich
Trajan’s short reply to Pliny overall affirms Pliny’s procedure and details four orders: (1) Do not seek out the Christians for trial. (2) If the accused are guilty of being Christian, then they must be punished. (3) If the accused deny they are Christians and show proof that they are not by worshipping the gods, then they will be pardoned. (4) Pliny should not allow anonymous accusations. Leonard L. Thompson calls the policy “double-edged,” since, “on the one hand, Christians were not hunted down. They were tried only if accusations from local provincials were brought against them. But if accused and convicted, then Christians...were killed simply for being Christians.”[21] Therefore Pliny’s view of Christians was not necessarily persecution but rather Christians were only executed when they were brought before him at trial and confessed; however, pardons were also given to those who denied such charges. de Ste. Croix says the recommended course of action “was ‘accusatory’ and not ‘inquisitorial,’” so that it was never the governors themselves but instead private, local accusers (delatores) who brought forth accusations.[22]


Pliny's letter is the earliest pagan account to refer to early Christians and provides a key description of Roman administrative process and problems.[5][6] The correspondence between Pliny and Emperor Trajan shows that the Roman Empire, as a government entity, did not at this time “seek out” Christians for prosecution or persecution.[23] Although Emperor Trajan gave Pliny specific advice about disregarding anonymous accusations, for example, he was deliberate in not establishing any new rules in regards to the Christians.[6] In doing so, Trajan allowed Pliny to try cases according to his discretion.
The letter supports the existence of the early Christian Church and its rapid growth and speaks to its belief system. It also provides valuable evidence as to the attitudes of the Roman authorities with regard to early Christianity. [24]
New Testament critic Hermann Detering has questioned the authenticity of Book 10,[25] a position that has not found acceptance within the mainstream scholarly community.

Other Roman sources[edit]

Pliny is one of three key Roman authors who may refer to early Christians, the other two being Tacitus and Suetonius.[26][27] These authors refer to events which take place during the reign of various Roman emperors, Suetonius writing about an expulsion from Rome during the reign of Claudius (41 to 54), and also punishments by Nero (who reigned from 54 to 68), Tacitus referring to Nero's actions around the time of the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, while Pliny writes to Trajan.[26][28] But the temporal order for the documents begins with Pliny writing around 111 AD, then Tacitus writing in the Annals around 115/116 AD and then Suetonius writing in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars around 122 AD.[26][29]


  1. Jump up to:a b c d The Early Christian Church Volume 1 by Philip Carrington (Aug 11, 2011) ISBN 0521166411 Cambridge Univ Press page 429
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e Pagan Rome and the Early Christians by Stephen Benko (1 Jul 1986) ISBN 0253203856 pages 5-7
  3. Jump up to:a b c d The Power of Sacrifice: Roman and Christian Discourses in Conflict by George Heyman (Nov 2007) ISBN 0813214890 pages xii-ix
  4. Jump up to:a b c d e Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson (Aug 19, 2003) ISBN 0802822215 pages 504-596
  5. Jump up to:a b Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman (Sep 23, 1999)ISBN 0195124731 Oxford UP pages 57-59
  6. Jump up to:a b c d e St. Croix, G.E.M (Nov 1963). "Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?".Past & Present 26: 6–38. doi:10.1093/past/26.1.6. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  7. Jump up to:a b c J. B. Rives, The Decree of Decius and the Religion of Empire The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 89, (1999), pp. 135-154 [1]
  8. Jump up to:a b Moss, Candida (2013). The Myth of Persecution. New York: HarperOneHarperCollins. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-06-210452-6.
  9. Jump up to:a b c Barnes, Timothy David (1971). Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 143–163.
  10. Jump up to:a b Paul Krestez "Pliny, Trojan and the Christians" in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (Sep 1979) edited by Hildegard Temporini, ISBN 3110078228 page 274
  11. Jump up^ The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude by Thomas R. Schreiner (Sep 1, 2003)ISBN 0805401377 page 37
  12. Jump up^ A.N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 694.
  13. Jump up^ A.N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 696.
  14. Jump up^ A.N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 699.
  15. Jump up^ A.N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 701.
  16. Jump up^ Robert L. Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 13.
  17. Jump up^ Moss, Candida (2013). The Myth of Persecution. New York: HarperOne HarperCollins. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-06-210452-6.
  18. Jump up^ Benjamin H. Isaac (2006). The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton University Press. pp. 466–. ISBN 978-0-691-12598-5. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  19. Jump up^ Valerie M. Warrior (16 October 2006). Roman Religion. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-0-521-82511-5. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  20. Jump up^ A.N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 710.
  21. Jump up^ Leonard L. Thompson, “Ordinary Lives,” in Reading the Book of Revelation, ed. David L. Barr (Leiden: Brill Academic, 2004), 37.
  22. Jump up^ G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, Christian Persecution, Martyrdom, and Orthodoxy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 120.
  23. Jump up^ "Pliny the Younger on the Christ". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  24. Jump up^ Moss, Candida (2013). The Myth of Persecution. New York: HarperOne HarperCollins. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-06-210452-6.
  25. Jump up^ Detering, Hermann (2011). Falsche Zeugen. pp. 75–121. ISBN 978-3-86569-070-8.
  26. Jump up to:a b c Stephen Benko "Pagan Criticism of Christianity" in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt edited by Hildegard Temporin et al ISBN 3110080168 page
  27. Jump up^ Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 69-70
  28. Jump up^ P.E. Easterling, E. J. Kenney (general editors), The Cambridge History of Latin Literature, page 892 (Cambridge University Press, 1982, reprinted 1996). ISBN 0-521-21043-7
  29. Jump up^ Christianity and the Roman Empire: background texts by Ralph Martin Novak 2001 ISBN 1-56338-347-0 pages 13 and 20

Also read a great article by
Pliny's Testimony on Jesus.
Who say at the end of their article - What do we learn about Jesus and/or Christianity from this historian/writer? We learn that Jesus was worshipped, and that believers died for belief in Him, in the early second sentury. This must receive a plausible explanation that the Jesus-myth circle cannot provide. We learn of several aspects of worship that correspond with the NT: Worshipping on a fixed day, practice of the Eucharist (?), and the ethical grounding of Jesus' teachings.
Josh McDowell, bestselling author and one of the most recognized Christian apologists, teams up with researcher Bill Wilson in this classic apologetics book, now with a new title, new cover, and new opportunity to connect with readers.
This accessible resource explores historical evidence about Jesus so seekers, skeptics, and Christians can understand more about Christ, His claims, His impact, and the evidence for His life. Revealing material includes:
  • surprising information from ancient secular writings about Jesus
  • insights and errors from the post-apostolic writers
  • how to test the New Testament evidence and material outside of the gospels 
  • details of the geography, culture, and other religions at the time of Christ
  • findings about Jesus' miracles, death, resurrection, and identity
Packed with fascinating, relevant, and intriguing information about Christ and His purpose, this is an ideal resource for individuals, groups, churches, as well as personal and academic libraries.

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