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Tacitus (sometimes called "Cornelius Tacitus", sometimes called "Publius Tacitus") was a Roman historian. Many ignorant Christians like to claim that Tacitus's Annals provides evidence that their mythical Jesus actually existed. But does the evidence support this? No, it does not. Here is an explanation of why.
First of all, Tacitus lived many years after the supposed life of Jesus. Do we normally accept supposed "history" written many years after the fact? No, we don't.
Also, Tacitus was not, and doesn't claim to have been, an eyewitness to Jesus. Every reliable historical source we have was written by eyewitnesses, so this is a reason to dismiss Tacitus without doing any further investigation, since the case is settled here.
But just to make it perfectly clear that Tacitus does not give us a reason to believe in a historical Jesus:
- The part which mentions Jesus is very short. If Jesus was really a real person, Tacitus would have written more about him, since there's more material to write about real people than made-up people.
- Tacitus doesn't tell where he supposedly got this information from. Do other, reliable historical documents provide a source? Yes, they always do. But Tacitus' mention of Jesus is suspiciously lacking any mention of where the information came from.
- In our modern times, we have more information to prove that Jesus never existed. So why should we take his word for it when we already know better?
Another view recently suggested by many scholars is that the mention of Jesus in Tacitus's Annals is a forgery made later by Christian scribes who wanted to trick people into thinking that Jesus actually existed. Since the only copies that we have were copied by Christian scribes, it is logical to assume that the mention of Jesus was just made up and added later.
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