Ancient/Classical History/Jesus

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Question
Hello Maria,
I am really just interested in history, especially Ancient Greece! But I have also come across the interesting figure Jesus of Nazareth, the Christian Messiah, which seems to be somewhat a controversial figure among some history accounts. Regardless of respect to religion (though I myself am Christian), in your professional opinion, did Jesus live?
And a side question, assuming that he did live, (if your comfortable answering it) did Jesus definitely die if the account of the biblical Gospels are correct in saying he was crucified?
I know nothing is personal or meant to be belittling any faith:) I just want to know the truth!
Thanks so much for your time and expertise,
Alan

Answer
Hello Alan,

in my opinion, Jesus is a historical personage who definitely lived and was crucified in Judea, Palestine,a province of the Roman Empire.

We have, in fact, two classical  sources that  tell of Jesus, independently from the account of the biblical Gospels: the former has been written in ancient Greek by the Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 AD - ca. 100 AD), the latter in Latin by the great Roman historian Tacitus (AD 55-c.AD 117).

Here’s what in 93 AD Flavius Josephus says in his  "Antiquities of the Jews", book 18,chapter 3, section 3:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross,  those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
(Greek text: Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς σοφὸς ἀνήρ, εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή: ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων, καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο: ὁ χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν. καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες: ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων. εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀπὸ τοῦδε ὠνομασμένον οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον).

Similarly, in 109 AD the Roman historian Tacitus  in his  “Annals”, book 15, chapter 44, tells of a certain Christ who suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of the procurators, Pontius Pilatus.

Here is the quote from Annals 15.44. where  Jesus and the Christians are mentioned in an account of how the Emperor Nero went after Christians in order to draw attention away from himself after Rome's fire of 64 AD:
“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 (i.e. crucifixion) during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus”.
(Latin text:”Sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia quin iussum incendium crederetur. Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis eius Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat”).

To conclude, the account of the biblical Gospels is correct in saying that Jesus was crucified, since in the Roman Empire  crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights as they are not Roman citizens, just like Jesus.

Moreover  we have a solid evidence for the  existence of Jesus and for historical data about his death, since he was crucified  during the reign of Tiberius(14AD-37AD) at the hands of Pontius Pilatus, who, as a governor of Judaea from AD 26 to AD 36, presided at the trial of Jesus and gave the order for his crucifixion.


Hope this can be helpful to you.

Best regards,

Maria
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-The “Antiquities of the Jews”  are  an account of Jewish history from its early beginnings to the revolt against Rome in AD 66, written in Greek in about AD 93 by Flavius Josephus.

-The “Annals” are Tacitus’ brilliant account of Roman imperial history from the death of Augustus (AD 14) to the death of Nero (AD 68).

Ancient/Classical History

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Maria

Expertise

My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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