The Roman Empire, which was in control of Israel during the time of Jesus and the early church, also produced some hostile witnesses.
The most noteworthy of these is arguably the Roman senator and historian Tacitus.
In his work ANNALS, written in AD 116, Tacitus wrote about Nero laying blame for the Great Fire in Rome (AD 64) on Christians, even though most Romans at that time believed Nero started the fire himself.
In book 15, chapter 44, Tacitus wrote “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…”
Here we have a non-Christian historian giving extra-biblical proof of the existence of three people also mentioned in the bible: Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, and most importantly, Christ. In the process he also verifies the execution of Christ Jesus at the hands of Pontius Pilate, as also recorded in the bible. (see Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 18-19.)
Tacitus also gives us evidence of the history of persecution of first-century Christians in the Roman Empire.
(to be continued…)