Is there Evidence for Jesus outside the Bible? Absolutely!

When sharing the historical evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection from the Gospel narratives with my friends or curious acquaintances, I am at times challenged with, “That’s all very interesting, but is there any extra-biblical evidence, evidence outside the Bible for Jesus’ life, or that he even existed?” When a person raises this objection, they are basically saying, “I don’t believe that the New Testament documents are historically reliable because they were written by Christians, which means they were written by people with a bias, an ulterior motive.” [As the focus of this article is the evidence for Jesus outside the Bible, I won’t cover the historical reliability of the Gospels here. However, I have included equipping resources on this topic at the end of this article which address that issue.]

In reply to my friend’s question regarding whether there is any extra-biblical evidence of Jesus’ life and existence, I generally respond along the lines of, “That’s a good question and one that I hear from time to time. And the answer to your question is a resounding, YES, there certainly is evidence outside the Bible for Jesus life.” I have found that most people who raise this challenge are simply ‘parroting’ the sound bites they’ve picked up from agnostics or skeptics which have been bantered around message boards on the internet. I am then in a position to present the historical extra-biblical sources that they are inquiring about, but don’t think exist. Most people are somewhat taken aback (and at times dumbfounded) when I list just a few of the ancient extra-biblical sources which include the Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, Jewish historian Josephus, the Jewish Talmud, etc., all of which include information regarding Jesus’ life, His death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, His teachings, His power to perform miracles, His disciples worship of Him as God, etc.

In his book, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus-Historical Records of His Death and Resurrection, New Testament scholar and author, Gary Habermas, offers the following summary regarding extra-biblical sources as they relate to the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:

“[A]ncient extra-biblical sources do present a surprisingly large amount of detail concerning both the life of Jesus and the nature of early Christianity. While many of these facts are quite well known, we must remember that they have been documented here apart from the usage of the New Testament. When viewed in that light, we should realize that it is quite extraordinary that we could provide a broad outline of most of the major facts of Jesus’ life from “secular” history alone. Such is surely significant. Using only the information gleaned from these ancient extra-biblical sources, what can we conclude concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus? Can these events be historically established based on these sources alone? Of the seventeen documents examined in this chapter, eleven different works speak of the death of Jesus in varying amounts of detail, with five of these specifying crucifixion as the mode. When these sources are examined by normal historical procedures used with other ancient documents, the result is conclusive. It is this author’s view that the death of Jesus by crucifixion can be asserted as historical fact from this data.”

In his article, Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible, author and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace outlines the specific points of Jesus’ life that are included in the data from the extra-biblical historical sources. The list is quite extensive, which makes the case for the historical Jesus based only on extra-biblical sources even more impressive:

“Let’s review what we’ve learned from hostile pagan and Jewish sources describing Jesus. We’ll do our best to discount the anti-Christian bias we see in the sources, just as we discounted the pro-Christian bias we think might exist in some versions of the writing of Josephus. Many elements of the Biblical record are confirmed by these hostile accounts, in spite of the fact they deny the supernatural power of Jesus:

1) Jesus was born and lived in Palestine. 2) He was born, supposedly, to a virgin and had an earthly father who was a carpenter. 3) He was a teacher who taught that through repentance and belief, all followers would become brothers and sisters. 4) He led the Jews away from their beliefs. 5) He was a wise man who claimed to be God and the Messiah. 6) He had unusual magical powers and performed miraculous deeds. 7) He healed the lame. 8) He accurately predicted the future. 9) He was persecuted by the Jews for what He said, betrayed by Judas Iscariot. 10) He was beaten with rods, forced to drink vinegar and wear a crown of thorns. 11) He was crucified on the eve of the Passover and this crucifixion occurred under the direction of Pontius Pilate, during the time of Tiberius. 12) On the day of His crucifixion, the sky grew dark and there was an earthquake. 13) Afterward, He was buried in a tomb and the tomb was later found to be empty. 14) He appeared to His disciples resurrected from the grave and showed them His wounds. 15) These disciples then told others Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven. 16) Jesus’ disciples and followers upheld a high moral code. One of them was named Matthai. 17) The disciples were also persecuted for their faith but were martyred without changing their claims. 18) They met regularly to worship Jesus, even after His death.

Not bad, given this information is coming from ancient accounts hostile to the Biblical record. While these non-Christian sources interpret the claims of Christianity differently, they affirm the initial, evidential claims of the Biblical authors…[and] the basic facts of the historical events. Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible? Yes, and the ancient non-Christian interpretations (and critical commentaries) of the Gospel accounts serve to strengthen the core claims of the New Testament.”

(For complete article by J. Warner Wallace, Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?, here)

Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible?-J. Warner Wallace

Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible-Peter Williams-The Veritas Forum

Did Jesus exist?-Sean McDowell


Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus-Historical Records of His Death and Resurrection-by Gary Habermas-found on Amazon, here
Eyewitness testimony in the New Testament, untrustworthy or reliable?-by Lane, here
The Case for the Early dating of the Gospels-countering scholarly laziness and blindness-by Lane, here
Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources, Michael Gleghorn, Probe Ministries, 2001, here

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