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I recently learned about Acta Diurna, which are official notices created by Roman authorities describing legal proceedings and the outcome of trials. It occurred to me that the trial of Jesus before Pilate, and his later crucifixion, would probably have wound up on Acta Diurna, as well as surrounding events such as Pilate freeing Barabbas (part of a yearly tradition).

The article on Wikipedia (sadly lacking sources) notes that no originals survive, but that scribes sometimes made copies and sent them to provincial governors. Have any copies of these Acta Diurna referring to Jesus' trial or other aspects of his life survived? If not, are there any surviving works that reference such copies?

  • Was Jesus tried in a Roman court? I don't believe so- Pilot found no grounds to charge him in one. He was simply turned over to the Judean mob. – Andrew Jan 6 '16 at 23:44
  • Also, the 'trial' was markedly illegal, held in the night. – Sola Gratia Apr 16 '18 at 14:52
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As there is no positive proof that Acta Diurna relating to the trial of Jesus ever existed, the options are i) we do not know, or ii) they did not exist. The first of these options is generally unhelpful, but I believe I can show that they almost certainly did not exist - bearing in mind that it is considered almost impossible to prove a negative conclusively.


If there were any contemporary Roman record of the trial of Jesus or of any other aspect in his life, we can be sure that this would be carefully preserved, to become one of the best known and most cited record in the Christian faith. Of course, to the Romans, Jesus would have been a minor criminal on the fringe of empire and it would be hardly worth making records of his life and crucifixion. We ought not be surprised that Roman records do not exist, and their absence proves nothing about the historicity of Jesus.

The best proof that Roman records of Jesus did not exist is the pseudepigraphical Acts of Pilate, written in the second century, allegedly providing a report of the Roman procurator concerning Jesus. Had a true record existed at that time, then the Acts of Pilate would probably not have been written. Further evidence is that Justin Martyr cited the Acts of Pilate, the only 'Roman record' known to him. The Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius is another pseudepigraphical document found in the Greek Acts of Peter and Paul and as an appendix to the Gospel of Nicodemus in Latin. The Report of Pilate would appear to be older than the documents into which it had been inserted and is evidence that a true record did not then exist.

As a protege of Emperor Flavius, the first-century Jewish historian, Josephus had access to Roman records and would surely have mentioned the life and crucifixion of Jesus if Jesus had a momentous impact on Jewish society, since he reported on several other revolutionaries and false messiahs who preceded Jesus. Josephus does mention Jesus in two passages, but only in regard to Christian beliefs about Jesus. Because of these two passages, which provided a tenuous link back to Jesus, the works of Josephus were preserved, although not in autograph.

Bishop John Shelby Spong researched the gospel account of Barabbas and says, in Jesus for the NonReligious, at page 168, that has he been able to find no evidence that there was a custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Passover.

No Roman record of Jesus is known to have existed; the evidence of history is that such a record probably did not exist.

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    If it were known today, it would be preserved. Back then however, it would have been treated as they thought of him - just another criminal. – The Freemason Jan 6 '16 at 15:08
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    To test this line of thinking, to what extent were the writings of Tacitus and Suetonius used by early Christians to support the historicity of events in the New Testament? Those two historians weren't primary sources, but their writings did constitute Roman records. If Christians didn't utilize historians' writings much (because, I'm hypothesizing, they simply took the events' historicity for granted) then I don't see any reason for them to utilize the Acta Diurna either. But I don't know how how much those writings were utilized; a comparison might strengthen the thesis of your answer. – Mr. Bultitude Jan 6 '16 at 16:46
  • @TheFreemason A comparison can be made to the works of Josephus. Only the Christians were concerned to preserve these, because they provided a tenuous link to Jesus. This was all they had. – Dick Harfield Jan 6 '16 at 20:34
  • I don't know anything about this topic but these sources aren't objective. – Daisy Apr 30 '16 at 3:01

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