Is There Historical Evidence For The Crucifixion Of Christ Outside Of The New Testament? 6 min read

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The short answer is yes. There are multiple historical accounts (evidence) of the crucifixion of Christ, and below we’ve listed only five of these.

  1. Famous Jewish Rabbi and historian Yohanan Ben Zakkai (1 CE) 

In his book, The Biography of Jesus the Nazarene, Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai, a disciple of the famous Rabbi Hillel, wrote: “The king and the Jewish rabbis had condemned Jesus to death because he blasphemed when he claimed that he was the Son of God… and God.” Then he added: “When Christ was on his way to death the Jews shouted in front of him, ‘May You destroy Your enemies, O Lord!'” (cited in Faris al-Qayrawani’s Was Christ Really Crucified?

  1. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (1 CE) 

Famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man—if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as to accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many Greeks. He was Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them, spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” (Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3) 

  1. Roman historian Tacitus (early 2 CE) 

The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Jesus, His 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:

“But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. 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.” 

  1. Lucian of Samosata (2 CE) 

In his book, The Death of Peregrinus, Syrian Artist Lucian of Samosata criticises Christians as follows: “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day, the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion that are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, deny the gods of Greece, worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. (The Death of Peregrine, The Works of Lucian of Samosata) Translated by Fowler, H. W., and F. G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1905.

  1. Thallus (1 CE) referenced by Africanus (2 CE) 

“This darkness”, Thallus recalls in the third book of his history, “as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. The Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour fails on the day before the Passover, but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction. How then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass; however, let it carry the majority with it, and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others, a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—apparently that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending of rocks, the resurrection of the dead, and such a great perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this has been recorded for a long time. But it was a darkness induced by God because the Lord happened then to suffer. (Julius Africanus, Chronography 18: 1) 

The amazing thing about this last piece of writing is that it describes the miraculous and terrifying occurrences in nature that were recorded by eyewitnesses in three of the gospels.

See the following from the NKJV:

Mark 15:33 Now, when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there was darkness over all the land. 

Matthew 27:50-54 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Luke 23: 44-45 44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 

Conclusion: 

As you can see, there are several non-Christian references to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, meaning that this event wasn’t something ‘invented’ by the authors of the New Testament.  This was an actual historical occurrence with more historical evidence than many other events that are uncontested as being authentic.

Below are more articles on the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

Was Jesus Crucified Before The Passover Meal Or After?

Was Jesus Shocked That He Was Crucified?

 

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