In my last blog post, I briefly discussed how historians are faced with the difficult task of unravelling true historical facts from the embellishments that creep in over time. However, the threat of legend overtaking fact is mitigated by the gap between the actual event and the earliest record.
Some doubt that Jesus ever existed. But they’re in the minority. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary: The first century Roman historian Tacitus (born c. AD 55) mentions Jesus in his Annals (15:44). Tacitus’ Jewish contemporary, Josephus (born c. AD 37), references Jesus twice in his Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.3; 20.9.1). Pliny the Younger (born AD 61), the Roman magistrate, mentions Jesus in his letter to the Emperor Trajan (Letters, vol. 2, 10:96). And the second-century satirist, Lucian of Samosata (born AD 125), speaks of Jesus in his work The Death of Peregrine (11-13).
Tacitus, a well-respected historian and senator of the Roman Empire, is recorded as saying:
“The breastplate and the sword are not a stronger defense on the battlefield than eloquence is to a man amid the perils of prosecution.”