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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Don't We Have More Secular Sources Referring to Jesus?

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Don Stewart

Though the secular sources do tell us that Jesus existed, there are two common objections that arise when this subject is brought up. First, why wasn't Jesus more noticed by historians? In addition, why do the references we do have contain so little detail? The second objection is why don't any contemporary historians of Jesus mention His existence? We will now consider these two common objections.

Objection 1: Why Is Jesus Not Mentioned More Often?

First, why don't we find more mentioned of Jesus apart from the scattered references that have come down to us? If He did the sort of things the New Testament claims that He did, should we not expect others to record these miraculous deeds? Should not we have expected Jesus to be more noticed? Why do we only have brief excerpts in a few writings from early non-Christians?

We Have Limited Knowledge Of That Period

First, we must realize that our knowledge of the first century is limited. The majority of books that were written in the ancient world have not survived. For example, the Roman Emperor Claudius wrote thirty-seven books, but not one of them survives. We only know the existence of his works, as well as other lost books, through references and quotations from them found in other works. Therefore our knowledge of any historical figure or event in the ancient world is limited by the lack of existing sources.

Furthermore, the very few writings that have survived are only fragmentary. Therefore we should not expect to find much information about any figure living at that time. The information is just not there. Consequently the shortage of ancient testimony about Jesus should not surprise us.

They Would Not Have Foreseen His Impact

In addition, we should not expect these ancient writers to have foreseen the influence that Jesus would have had on the world. Therefore we should not expect them to carefully document the life and ministry of Jesus-seeing they had no idea of how Christianity would develop. Many new religions sprung up in the Roman Empire and to them Christianity was just another one of the many.

Jesus Lived In A Remote Area

There is another fact to keep in mind. Judea was in a remote part of the Empire-it held little importance for Rome. The fact that some religious figure was executed would not have been that exceptional. First century writer Flavius Josephus tells us that about two thousand Jewish insurgents were put to death after disturbances following the death of Herod the Great in approximately 4 - 2 B.C. Therefore the death of a single religious figure in this remote area of the Empire would not have been a cause for much notice in Rome-not matter what had been claimed about Him.

Objection 2: Why Didn't His Contemporaries Write About Him?

The second objection is the lack of any contemporary non-Christian writer recording the existence of Jesus. If Jesus existed and performed all these great deeds, then why does any contemporary historian not mention him?

We Do Not Have That Many Sources

Again, we have a problem with lack of sources. There were not that many historians that were contemporary with Jesus that have left us their work. Therefore we should not expect to find information about Jesus when there are only a few contemporary sources. However, Thallus, the historian that we earlier mentioned, might have been a contemporary with Jesus-we are not exactly certain what year he wrote.

The Key Issue: How Reliable Are The Sources?

The real issue concerns the reliability of the source, not necessarily how close the source was to the event under consideration. The key question is, "How accurate is the information that the historian gives us?" The fact that Jesus is not mentioned in any contemporary non-Christian source does not prove He did not exist.

We Have Sufficient Testimony About Jesus

We again emphasize that there are non-Christian sources that mention Jesus life and ministry. They are sufficient to testify that Jesus Himself did exist. Not only do we have the firsthand eyewitnesses testimony of the New Testament, there are also these secular sources that confirm many of the events recorded in the New Testament.

Consequently, we conclude that Jesus was an historical figure whose existence is beyond all doubt. Both the secular sources and the New Testament give evidence of His existence. Therefore the objections-that the non-Christian evidence about Jesus is too little and too late-do not hold any weight. Jesus did exist and there are many things that we can know about His life and ministry.


We do not find Jesus Christ mentioned by contemporary historians. This is not surprising. The non-Christian evidence is what we would expect to find from the sources that we have. It is wrong to expect them to say more about Jesus. There are few sources that still exist from His time. Jesus would have not attracted that much attention living and ministering in far off Israel. In addition, they would not have known the impact that His life was going to make.

We do have accurate testimony about the life and ministry of Jesus from firsthand sources. These are found in the New Testament. They are sufficient to give us a correct portrait of who Jesus is and what he accomplished during his time on the earth.

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