There is no Independent (Non-Christian) Testimony about the Resurrection of Jesus

Excerpt from:  “Why I am not a Christian” by Keith M. Parsons

[P]agan sources do not confirm the resurrection. As has already been noted, Tacitus, in one well-known passage in his Annals (15:44), reported that Pontius Pilate ordered the execution of Jesus. However, there is good reason to suppose that this passage, if not a later Christian interpolation, was written nearly ninety years after the alleged death of Jesus and was based not on independent historical research but on information provided by Christians of the second century. In any case, even if one takes this passage as providing independent historical evidence, it would only provide evidence of Jesus’ death, not his resurrection.

Other pagan writers such as Suetonius and Pliny the Younger provide no support for the Resurrection of Jesus since they make no mention of it. However, Thallus, in a work now lost but referred to by Africanus in the third century, is alleged to have said that Jesus’ death was accompanied by an earthquake and an unusual darkness that he, Thallus, according to Africanus, wrongly attributed to an eclipse of the sun. However … it is unclear when Thallus wrote his history or how reliable Africanus’s account of Thallus is. Some scholars believe that Thallus wrote as late as the second century and consequently could have obtained his ideas from Christian opinion of his time. Clearly, then, Thallus cannot be used to support the Christian account of the Resurrection (Martin, 1991, p. 86).

Non-Christian evidence is too late to give any independent support to the gospels. When Tacitus wrote (about AD 120) that “Christ” was executed under Pontius Pilate, he was merely repeating what Christians were by then saying…. The other pagan writer commonly adduced is Suetonius who wrote also around AD 120, that Claudius (who reigned AD 41-54) expelled Jews from Rome because “they constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus.” Many commentators think that, by “Chrestus,” Suetonius really meant “Christus” (the Messiah); and Watson has convincingly argued that the disorder to which Suetonius here refers was caused by controversy between orthodox Jews and Jewish Christians at Rome about the truth or falsehood of Christianity. No more about the “historical” Jesus need have been included in this Christianity of Claudius’s day than what extent Christian writers (Paul and others) were saying on the subject before the gospels became established much later in the first century; and that, as we saw … does not confirm the gospels’ portrayals of Jesus…

Rabbinic references to Jesus are entirely dependent on Christian claims, as both Christian and Jewish scholars have conceded (Wells, 1989 p. 20).


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