What sources outside of the Bible give supporting evidence to the existence of Jesus and any of the events in His life?
- Pliny the younger
- St. Ignatius of Antioch.
I tried to get all those that Norman names. Just a problem with spelling those wholly foreign names. You can find all 19 of them in the video though.
It is curious to note that even Tacitus who was a rather big critic of the early church never thought that Jesus was a myth or never existed. When even Christianity's first century opposition talk about Jesus as a historical figure then it really becomes unreasonable to buy into this atheist rhetoric of him being a myth.
Josephus is the account is the most violently opposed because it gives such credence to Christianity. The atheist is left with the burden of proof of proving the text suspect. This again becomes unreasonable seeing as all the extant manuscripts of The Antiquities of the Jews says the same thing.
The Christian when confronted with these attacks need to ask the naysayer what is his / her evidence for these texts being suspect? This will probably get you the response of denial of the burden of proof or if the opponent is honest enough he / she will admit their is none.
A "Case for Christ" does address this question. Among others, Josephus and Pliny both make reference to early Christian practice. The Josephus material is suspect, or more so than Pliny, anyway. Note these are to the followers of Christ, not "see that guy over there named Jesus" type references. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus for a start.
Most historians choose to accept the existence of a person in ancient times if there is evidence that the person's contemporaries referred to him as existing. Thus, historians accept the historicity of Jesus because of the four gospel accounts of his life. Perhaps this consensus would now be weaker because of the accumulating evidence that Mark's Gospel was the source for the narrative material in Matthew and Luke, and probably also John, meaning that there was only one independent New Testament gospel and this was written by an author who never met Jesus. The apostle Paul seems to have believed that Jesus was a historical person, although he seems vague about how long previously Jesus had lived.
Extra-biblical evidence from the middle of the first century comes in the form of the Gospel of Thomas and the hypothetical 'Q' document, both of which report sayings attributed to Jesus. Of course, we also have documented sayings attributed to pagan gods of the same general period, so GThomas and Q are not strong evidence for the historical Jesus.
Philo of Alexandria would be a near-contemporary of Jesus and ought to be our best source for the existence of Jesus, since he wrote about every Jewish sect and movement of which he was aware, but unfortunately he never mentions Jesus.
Late in the first century, the Jewish historian, Josephus, mentions Jesus in the Testimonium Flavianum:
Antiquities 18.3.3. "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 to this day."
It is impossible that this passage is entirely genuine, although it is likely that Josephus did write something like this and that Christians altered his text. In any case, Josephus was not a contemporary of Jesus and it seems clear from the text that he is simply reporting what the "tribe of Christians" had told him. He makes no claim to have met anyone who had actually met Jesus.
Tacitus wrote in the second century that Jesus was crucified, and this is often accepted as evidence that Jesus existed and was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Tacitus was a patriotic Roman senator and his writings shows no sympathy towards Christians, but it is difficult to imagine any source for his information about Jesus, other than Christians of his own time, and their gospels.
It can not be said with certainty whether the historical Jesus actually lived, but assuming it is likely that he did he may well have lived some time earlier than the gospel account attributes.