Did Jesus Live?
A Study Guide
“Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the grounds of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.” - F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?
I. What We Can Know About Jesus, Just from Secular Sources?
Let’s just talk about what we know about Jesus from ancient, secular. . . non-Christian sources. If we pull out the sources (non-Christian sources only) that mention Jesus, you have about a dozen and a half sources: A couple of emperors (Trajan and Hadrian) a couple of major Roman historians (Tacitus and Suetonius), a Jewish historian (Josephus), and Jewish references in their sacred commentary on the Old Testament (the Talmud). If we use only these non-Christian writings and count what they say about Jesus . . . put these all together, and you ask “What do we know about Jesus just from these non-Christian sources, regarding His life, His teachings, His public ministry, even His miracles, His death, His resurrection, and some things about the earliest church?" We have about 50 items. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is one of the most mentioned people in the ancient world. The one that’s reported most frequently is his death. About 2/3s of those sources mention his death.
II. Do These Secular Texts Leave Out the Miraculous?
Actually, they don't [leave out the miraculous]. [These sources] they’ll tell you that Jesus was believed to have or did miracles, talk about his resurrection, and talk about his appearing to the disciples. That’s really something.
Recommended Further Reading:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, by Craig L. Blomberg
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, by F. F. Bruce
The Historical Jesus, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, by Gary Habermas
The Case for the Real Jesus, by Lee Strobel