16 Sources Other Than the Bible That Reference Jesus Christ

SharePinEmailWhile faith is the foundation of Christianity, it is natural to wonder if Jesus is found in history. The Bible provides us with a comprehensive account of Jesus’ life, but there are several non-Bible sources where you can find Jesus.  Flavius Josephus Josephus was a Jewish-Roman historian who was alive around the same time as…

While faith is the foundation of Christianity, it is natural to wonder if Jesus is found in history. The Bible provides us with a comprehensive account of Jesus’ life, but there are several non-Bible sources where you can find Jesus. 

Flavius Josephus

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Josephus was a Jewish-Roman historian who was alive around the same time as Jesus. There are clear references to Jesus in the document Antiquities of the Jews. Experts believe this was written in approximately 93 CE. 

Thallus

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Thallus was another Roman historian, although he left no surviving original work. His writings are assumed to have been completed in the 2nd century. Thallus refers to the crucifixion and the period of darkness that followed. 

Tacitus

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Tacitus lived approximately one century after Jesus, but historians assume that there were still bureaucratic records from that period. In his work Annals, Tacitus refers to the early Christians in Rome, the execution of Jesus and it also mentions Pontius Pilate. 

Mara bar Serapion

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Mara bar Serapion is a philosopher who came from the area now known as Syria. In a letter he wrote to his son Serapion, he refers to the deaths of the three wise men. While he lists Pythagoras and Socrates, he also refers to “the wise king of the Jews.” This document is dated circa 73 CE, making it one of the earliest references to Jesus. 

Pliny the Younger

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Pliny the Younger is a confirmed figure from the later years of the Roman Empire. Although there is no explicit confirmation that Jesus is real in his writings, he does make references to Christus. 

Pliny’s correspondence reflects the poor opinion held by the Roman government of Jews, but there is some question as to whether Christus is a reference to a historical title given to then-Jewish settlement leaders. 

Suetonius

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The Roman historian Suetonius is best known for his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, but he also makes clear references to the early Christians and their leadership. Suetonius refers to an early first-century local leader who caused problems for Rome. 

The Mishnah

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Many people assume that the Jewish Talmud is a version of the New Testament, but the Mishnah is the oldest book of the Talmud. In this book, there is an explicit of Jesus, but he is referred to as a sorcerer or a charlatan. 

Phlegon of Tralles

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The principal works of Phlegon have been lost over time, but Jesus is referenced in Julian Africanus’ works. This account doesn’t confirm Jesus’ life, but there is a curious reference to an eclipse that happened for approximately three hours during the reign of Tiberius. 

Philo

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Philo was a Jewish philosopher who would have been a local contemporary of Jesus. He doesn’t make any explicit mentions of Jesus in his writing, but his work does lend credence to language used in the New Testament. There is also a suggestion that Philo met Peter, but this is unconfirmed. 

Celsus

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Celsus was a Greek Philosopher and an early vocal opponent of Christianity. In his works, Celsus refers to Jesus as a magician and sorcerer, which was a popular opinion among early Chrisitan detractors. 

Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls are a well-known historical document, but they also provide clues about Jesus’ life. These scrolls preserve the customs and language of Jewish contemporaries of Jesus when he was still alive. 

Epictetus

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Epictetus was a Greek philosopher and one of the most fervent critics of early Christianity. While there is some question about his historical accuracy, he does mention the early Christians as Galilieans. 

Numenius of Apamea

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In the second century, there were some aftershocks resulting from historical changes within the Roman Empire. This has led to some shaky writing that may not be as reliable as the other non-Bible sources we’ve discussed here. But Numenius does refer to Christ and Christians when he discusses academic divergence from Plato’s teaching. This doesn’t confirm Jesus, but it does make an interesting contemporary comparison.

Claudius Galenus

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Commonly referred to as Galen, the philosopher Claudius Galenus possibly referenced Jesus. He discussed the followers of Moses and Christ, comparing them to physicians and philosophers who “cling fast to their schools.” This suggests Galen believed that Jesus was real and given that he lived just a century after Jesus’ death it is a very promising non-Bible source. 

Tertullian

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Tertullian was a scholar in Carthage, but he was also Christian. He firmly believed Jesus was real and cited census records that were likely to have existed during his writing. Unfortunately, the fall of Carthage means that many of the records cited have been lost. 

Abgar-Tiberius’ Correspondence

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If you studied Roman history at school, you will likely have heard of Emperor Tiberius. In his correspondence to King Abgar V of Osroene, Tiberius refers to Christ when discussing the unrest and political developments that occurred near Parthia. 

Jesus as a Real Person

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Although the Bible provides stories and details about Jesus, many people still question whether Jesus was a “real person” and these non-Bible sources certainly provide some confirmation for this. 

From a historical perspective, it can be confirmed that Jesus of Nazareth lived in the 1st century CE in the area of modern-day Palestine and Israel. He is noted as a Jewish healer and preacher who was eventually crucified. 

Of course, this doesn’t provide any substantiation of Jesus as a spiritual leader and son of God, but if you are looking for evidence of Jesus as a real person, some references can be found outside of the Bible.

Further Reading

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Many academics have spent their entire careers studying historical documents to look for traces of Jesus throughout history. If you are interested in checking some of this information for yourself, it is a good idea to concentrate on scholars, philosophers, and correspondence from around the 1st century. But remember that you can learn a great deal more about Jesus from reading the Bible. 

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