Jesus in the Historical records


Cornelius Tacitus


Pliny the Younger

Paul the Apostle


Historical Jesus Christ

Socrates Meets Jesus: History's Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ

 Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Philo, a renowned Jewish writer who was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and lived in Jerusalem before, during and after the time  Jesus is supposed to have lived preached and died, and who chronicled everything and anything of the most minuscule importance that he observed or heard of, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed that can be connected with Jesus.  Philo however, popularized and employed the term Logos in his effort to synthesize Hebrew traditions and Hellenistic Platonism. According to Philo, the Logos is a mediating principle between God and the world and can be understood as God's Word or the Divine Wisdom, which is immanent in the world.  Philo's  definition of the Logos can easily be reconciled to the both traditional and Gnostic representations of Jesus Christ - who has been referred to as the Logos.

The Book of John for instance describes Jesus Christ as the Logos made incarnate, [the Greek word logos being translated as "word" in the English Bible] "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . ." (John 1:1-3, 14).



- Cornelius Tacitus  55 -  120 A.D - Roman historian described as the greatest historian of Rome, noted for integrity and moral uprightness. His most famous works are the The Annals of Imperial Rome and The Histories The Annals relate the historical narrative from Emperor Augustus’ death in A.D.14 to Nero’s death in A.D. 68. The Histories begin after Nero’s death and finish in 96 AD . Tacticus Mentions a man he calls Chrestus who was executed by Pilate, the procurator of Judea during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberias. - He mentions him in passing , and this reference is made around the time of Nero's persecution of the Christians. His information is most likely attained from the second hand , word of mouth from Christians of the Time, and those speaking of Christians.

Suetonius - Roman historian and a court official in Emperor Hadrian’s government. In his Life of Claudius he refers to Claudius expelling Jews from Rome on account of their activities on behalf of a man Suetonius calls Chrestus .

Pliny the Younger was the Governor of a Roman Province in present day Turkey  about 100 years after Christ. He was responsible for executing Christians for not worshipping or bowing down to a statue of the emperor Trajan. In a letter to the emperor Trajan, he describes how the people on trial for being Christians would describe how they sang songs to Christ because he was a god.


Saint Paul

 writings attributed to Paul [St.Paul / Pol ]  reveal next to nothing of the historical Jesus. Some scholars have speculated that Paul knew nothing of Jesus' historical life, his birth, or death. . G.A. Wells for instance believes that Paul may have thought of Jesus as a Godly being who led a very obscure life , ended by crucifixion, perhaps even centuries before Paul's own time [Paul was a contemporary of the Historical Jesus]. Paul and other drafters of New Testament were not particularly interested in historic facts. 

  " The Gospels are not history; they are religious propaganda, contradictory, exaggerated, and mythical. The earliest Christian writings, the letters of Paul, are silent about the man Jesus: Paul, who never met Jesus, fails to mention a single deed or saying of Jesus (except for the ritualistic Last Supper formula), and sometimes contradicts what Jesus supposedly said. To Paul, Jesus was a heavenly disembodied Christ figure, not a man of flesh and blood."  [Dan Barker, a former ordained Protestant minister ]


Jesus as per Flavius Josephus

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who was born in 37 AD.  Josephus does make mention of John the Baptist, but does not mention Jesus in connection with him. He mentions the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Pontius Pilate, and James the brother of Jesus. He also mentions the Essenes - a strict religious sect that founded the Qumran community [Also known as Damascus], where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

In his book, Antiquities of the Jews, Jesus is described as a wise man crucified by Pilate. This passage , known as  Testimonium Flavianum has been the subject of extensive scholarly debate.

 "About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared."

 However, there is good reason to believe that the paragraph in which he describes Jesus is partly or completely a later forgery . The passage appears completely out of context, breaking the flow of the narrative, and is completely unrelated to the previous and subsequent sentence's.  The Testimonium Flavianum, as the above passage has been come to be called is cited by Christian propagandists as confirmation of Jesus' existence .  In addition ..

  1. Early Christian Church father Origen claims that Josephus didn't recognize Jesus as a Messiah, in direct contradiction to the above passage, where Josephus says, "He was the Messiah." Thus, we may conclude that this particular phrase was a later insertion.
  2. Other early Christian writers never cite this passage, even though it would have suited their purposes
  3. The passage is extremely pro-Christian.  Josephus, a Pharisaic Jew, probably wouldn't write a complimentary passage about a man killed for blasphemy.

Most Biblical scholars reject the entire Testimonium Flavianum as a later Christian insertion. However, some maintain that Josephus's work originally did refer to Jesus, but that Christian copyists later expanded and made the text more favorable to Jesus. These scholars cite such phrases as "tribe of Christians" and "wise man" as being untypical Christian usages, but plausible if coming from a first century Palestinian Jew. Of course, a suitably clever Christian wishing to "dress up" Josephus would not have much trouble imitating his style.

Jesus is mentioned again in the writings of Josephus, in the Antiquities, Book 20, 200.  James, the Brother of Jesus is also mentioned.

"Convened the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish religious court / governing body). He had brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, who was called James, and some other men, whom he accused of having broken the law, and handed them over to be stoned."


 Other Jesus characters  bear a resemblance to the Historical Jesus Christ. , they are cataloged below .

  1. The First is  Jesus of Gamala a Wealthy Galilean / high Priest/ Rebel Leader in the vicinity of Tiberias. Was in a position to give orders to Tiberians although under whose authority is not mentioned, possibly as a regional Governor. In the civil war in Judaea. He had debated with the besieging Idumeans, led by ‘James and John, sons of Susa’.  It didn't do him any good. As per legend When the Idumeans breached the walls he was executed.
  2. The second is .Jesus of Shaphat {or Son of Shaphat  / Ben Shaphat} also a Wealthy Galilean / high Priest?/ Rebel Leader in the vicinity of Tiberias.  In the Jewish Revolt of 68AD this Jesus led rebel factions in Tiberias. Led a group that attacked Roman Commander Valerian and made off with his horses, he took refuge in Tiberias.  When the city was about to fall he fled north to Tarichea on the Sea of Galilee.
  3. Third is Jesus ben Sapphias {or Son of Sapphias  / Ben Sapphias } Referred to by Josephus as a rebel leader of a "seditious mob of Mariners"  {mariners being equated to as fishermen} in the vicinity of Tiberias. At one point he was the Governor of Tiberias. Was also a High Priest and a General appointed by "Ananus ". In addition to the simile of names with Jesus of Shaphat, This Jesus's description and geography are very close to Jesus of Gamala and Jesus -Shaphat and Jesus ben Sapphias- they may all be the same person. 
  4. and finally Josephus mentions Jesus ben Ananus {Son of  "Ananus "} Josephus states that this Jesus was a High Priest, and a rebel leader in the Galilee/ Tiberias area. Arrested and flogged by the Romans. Josephus gives a narrative reminiscent of the passion of Jesus, in which the bones of this Jesus were "laid bare" .

"...most eminent of the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his and took up the man Jesus and gave him a great number of severe stripes. Yet he did not say anything for himself, or anything peculiar to those that chastised him,... he went on with the same the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man... he was whipped till his bones were laid bare, yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears."  -Josephus The Jewish War

 All the above Jesus' are Wealthy Galileans with connections or relations to the High priesthood as well as political ties in Galilee, it is Highly unlikely that there were four Jesus' running around Palestine at the same time, all leading guerilla bands opposed to Rome and all hailing from Galilee. They are certainly second hand references , drawing from various resources with varying accreditations of the same Jesus- Jesus of Galilee, the actual Historical Jesus Christ.



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