Extra Biblical Proof of Christianity in 1st Generation
We believe that Jesus died on a Roman Cross outside Jerusalem in about 30 AD. Interestingly, we have some good reasons outside of our experience that Jesus lives. There is a remarkable amount of proof that the Christians did not write mythology to make the New Testament. Let’s look together at much of this data.
The earliest known (non biblical) references to Christianity are found in Antiquities of the Jews, a 20-volume work written by the Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus around 93–94 AD, during the reign of emperor Domitian. This work includes two references to Jesus and Christians (in Book 18, Chapter 3 and Book 20, Chapter 9), and also a reference to John the Baptist (in Book 18, Chapter 5).
Another reference to Christianity was written by Pliny the Younger, who was the Roman governor of Bithynia and Pontus during the reign of emperor Trajan.
Around 111 AD, Pliny wrote a letter to emperor Trajan, requesting guidance on how to deal with suspected Christians who appeared before him in trials he was holding at that time. Tacitus’ references to Nero’s persecution of Christians in the Annals were written around 115 AD, a few years after Pliny’s letter but also during the reign of emperor Trajan.
Another notable early author was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, who wrote the Lives of the Twelve Caesars around 122 AD, during the reign of emperor Hadrian. In this work, Suetonius described why Jewish Christians were expelled from Rome by emperor Claudius (49AD), and also the persecution of Christians by Nero, who was the heir and successor of Claudius. See also Sources for the historicity of Jesus
I will explain these more below.
Lucius Junius Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia who sat as judge of the accusations against the apostle Paul (see Acts 18:12-17), is confirmed by an inscription found in Greece, at Delphi, in the late 19th century (see image above). A Christian website called Deserat has a lot of different facts in historical people of New Testament times.
Gallio and the book of Acts
According to the Book of Acts, he dismissed the charge brought by the Jews against the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:12-17). His behaviour on this occasion (“but Gallio cared for none of these things”, v. 17) showed his disregard for Jewish sensitivities, and also the impartial attitude of Roman officials towards Christianity in its early days. Gallio’s tenure can be fairly accurately dated to between 51-52 AD. Therefore, the events of Acts 18 can be dated to this period. This is significant because it is the most accurately known date in the life of Paul.
See also my post asking if Paul is a historical person.
Extra Biblical Proof of Christianity in First Generation is Plentiful
Tacitus was a professional historian for Rome and wrote the Annals which confirmed that in 60 AD, there were many Christians in Rome and that the authorities knew they were not Jewish.
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
Tacitus certainly was working from Roman government records and not hearsay. He calls the Christians evil, hated, and had abominations. No Christian wrote this. The Annals are an authentic Third party proof of early existence of Christianity and verify the crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.
So Much Proof Moved Skeptical Historians
It is one of the reasons that skeptical historians believe the Bible when it says Jesus died under Pontius Pilate about 30 AD. How else could the Christians have been singled out by the Emperor Nero if not started and became well known in 30 years?
During the reign of Claudius, Suetonius wrote The Lives of the 12 Caesars:
…condition that he should keep their kinsfolk of Ilium (Italy) free from every burden. Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.
This places Christians among Jews like we see in he book of Acts, and this event happens in 49 AD in Rome and Acts mentions it as Aquila got thrown out of Rome then and met Paul. Rome threw the Jews out for often rioting because of Jesus. From what we saw the Jews did to Paul in Acts, we are not surprised that Rome noticed too. The misspelling makes historians see it is authentic as does them saying Jesus is a bad guy.
All these records together makes historians extra confident that Jesus was amazing in AD 30. It also gives them more confidence in the Gospels and Acts. These books say things that the objective history verifies.
Faith in the resurrection is credible, but faith is the gift of God to a lost world. May we hold the cross high.