SANDS OF TIME: TACITUS

“The Fire of Rome” by Karl von Piloty. Nero used the burning of Rome as a reason to persecute early Christians.

“Truth?  What is truth?”

– Pontius Pilate to Christ on trial, John 18:38

Truth is a funny thing, or rather people are funny about learning it.  After all, it can be quite painful or even show that all of one’s efforts in life were misguided, a “chasing after the wind” as King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes at the end of his life.  The truth can also be inconvenient, a nagging thorn in the side of a carefree existence.  For those in opposition to the idea of “a God”, the gospel of Jesus has often proven to be this annoying obstacle so much that many have lashed out with claims that “Christ never existed anyway!”  Fitting, that there was a man who in spite of his disdain of the Christian faith would end up verifying it’s core historical foundation: Publius Cornelius Tacitus.

Publius Tacitus

Publius Tacitus

Tacitus was a historian and Senator in the Roman empire 2000 years ago.  Born in 56 AD, a mere two decades after Jesus was crucified, he is a major contributor to modern-day study of ancient Roman life.  Scholars believe this is due to his use of Acta Senatus, the Roman Senate’s official records, which he used to create his greatest work, The Annals.  The work contains an amazingly clear record of what Christians already know from the four gospels in the bible:

“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…”

– The Annals, Book 15, Chapter 44

This is a secular account of Jesus` death recorded in 117 AD, about 84 years after the fact.  For comparison, that is nearly the same as a modern historian writing on the events of WWII.  Of course there will always be naysayers but the fact remains that the majority of professional scholars, Christian and non, believe this to be accurate.  The disturbing thing is this: why not believe it?  As stated before, scores of other cultural information found in Tacitus` works on ancient Rome is highly regarded, studied regularly and utilized by researchers for academia, films and books.  Its validity is rarely questioned, so why now?  Truth, can be inconvenient indeed, but this one doesn`t have to be.

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