Tacitus Mentions Christ and the Early Church

Tacitus is arguably the greatest of Roman historians. He lived from 56 AD to 120 AD. The following quote is taken from Annals 15.44 – his work on Roman history. In the narrative presented below, Jesus and the Christians are mentioned. This is in the context of how the Emperor Nero went after Christians in order to draw attention away from himself (after Nero set fire to Rome in 64 AD):

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Tacitus testifies to the following:

  • Christ’s existence
  • Early Church’s existence
  • Pilate sentencing Christ to death
  • Pilate as Procurator of Judea