Ironically as I sit down to compile the requested data regarding secular sources of antiquity of Jesus existence and crucifixion I momentarily flip channels on my television and find four programs discussing the very same topic. Of course, this is rather normal considering this Sunday is Easter Sunday. Still the world is remains enamored with this Jesus. Programs and documentaries about the historical Jesus abound, as this is one topic with scores of research being continually reviewed and discussed. As such I pulled down several books from my shelves to leaf through and compile some data to present. The following comes exclusively from the book The Case For the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona and Gary Habermas. The other books I leafed through contained much the same sources.
For the purpose of this post, I kept only to the secular sources that referred to Jesus and his death by crucifixion. I give one modern quote at the end that I found of interest. I realize that there is some debate out there about these authors of antiquity. While I accept the validity of the Gospels and that they date within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses as well as the validity of the early creeds that date within five years of Christ’s crucifixion I will wait for another post to present that case.
Josephus – First Century Jewish Historian wrote in Antiquities c 94A.D.:
“When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified. . .”
Tacitus – First Century Historian who was not favorable toward Christians wrote in Annals:
“Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] 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 your procurators, Pontius Pilot.”
Mara Bar-Serapion a Syriac writer who is both non-Christian and non-Jew wrote possibly as early as 73A.D. (40 years after the crucifixion) or as late as third century (there seems to be some debate about this) writes:
“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king?”
The very skeptical scholar of the most liberal Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan writes in his book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography:
“that he [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”