Why is evidence of Jesus found only in the Bible?

by Matt Slick

There is evidence of Jesus outside of the Bible. But critics often disregard the evidence because it was not written by an eyewitness. Instead, we have comments from people after the death of Christ who wrote about him. But again, critics usually don't accept such post-Christ accounts because they say it is only hearsay.  Nevertheless, here are some of the extra-biblical accounts.

  1. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37?-101?) mentions Jesus--Antiquities, Book 18, ch. 3, par. 3.
    1. "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, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) 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."
      1. There is debate among scholars as to the authenticity of this quote since it is so favorable to Jesus. For more information on this, please see Regarding the quotes from the historian Josephus about Jesus.
  2. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37?-101?) mentions James, the brother of Jesus--Antiquities, Book 20, ch. 9.
    1. "Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done."
  3. Tacitus (A.D. c.55-A.D. c.117, Roman historian) mentions "Christus" who is Jesus--Annals 15.44
    1. "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 Judea, 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."
      1. Ref. from http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.mb.txt

Of course, the Bible fits the evidence of Jesus since it is written by eyewitnesses to his life and ministry. Why do we not find more evidence for Jesus outside of the Bible written at or about the time of his ministry? The answer is rather simple.

First, geographically speaking Israel was a sliver of land on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. It was under Roman rule and there were Roman rulers put in place to keep Israel and its inhabitants under control. Second, during the 3 1/2 years of Jesus' ministry when he performed miracles and taught things contrary to Jewish traditions, the Jews were more concerned about figuring out who he was and what he was teaching, than keeping a log of what he was doing.  The Jews would report to the Sanhedrin and the Sanhedrin would give account to the Romans who were ruling over them at the time. But, the Romans were not interested in the religious "squabbles" that happened in the Jewish nation.  They only wanted peace. There would be no need for the Romans to write about Jesus because initially he wasn't of any concern to them. It was not until the time of the trial of Christ when he faced Pontius Pilate that we might have any official writings about him. But, if they existed we don't have them now.  But let's say they did and we found the records.  There is still a problem. The name 'Jesus' was common in the time and many people were crucified. So if there were a written record of someone named Jesus who was crucified around the time of Christ, how would we know it was really him?

Furthermore, the Jewish religious squabble that was occurring between relatively few people; namely, Jesus and the Pharisees.  It would have been an "in-house" issue. Perhaps the Sanhedrin would have written about Jesus or maybe not. We don't know. But, it wasn't until after his crucifixion and resurrection that Christianity began to take off. By then, Christ was no longer on the scene. What were the Jews and the Romans to do at this point?  Neither group wanted a "resurrected God" unifying the people in a politically volatile location.  Writing about him would have given credence to the claims of his existence and deeds and which might validate his death and resurrection which could potentially increase belief in him and unrest in the geographically important area. The Jews on the other hand, would not want Christ to be popularized so they could keep their political and social power.  They would want him to be forgotten, not validated, so they would probably have kept mention of him to a minimum.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.