The Roman historian Tacitus

Tacitus was a Roman historian. His 'Annals', written about 115 AD, mention the emperor Nero's persecution of the followers of Christ in Rome in AD 64.   This was the year of the great fire of Rome. There were suspicions that the emperor himself had started the fire.  This is what Tacitus says (Annals 15:44):

To dispel the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and treated with the most extreme punishments, some people, popularly known as Christians, whose disgraceful activities were notorious. The originator of that name, Christus, had been executed when Tiberius was emperor, by order of the procurator Pontius Pilatus. But the deadly cult, though checked for a time, was now breaking out again not only in Judea, the birthplace of this evil, but even throughout Rome, where all the nasty and disgusting ideas from all over the world pour in and find a ready following.

Notice the following points from Tacitus:

  • Christ was executed while Tiberius was emperor (14-37 AD)
  • He was executed by order of Pontius Pilate (procurator from 26-36 AD)
  • His movement had its origins in Judea
  • There were enough followers of Christ in Rome by AD 64 to be made scapegoats by the emperor Nero

This comes from an unsympathetic pagan writer. 

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