Hunt for the Historical Jesus

For years there has been a debate over not only who Jesus was but whether he existed. Historians remain split on many Jesus-related questions – and the issue is fraught with religious overtones – but Rev. Howard Bess believes enough is now known about Jesus to put him in context for his (and our) times.

By the Rev. Howard Bess

What can we know about Jesus? The skeptic will answer “not much” or “probably nothing” — an answer not without reason. The records with which we have to work (The New Testament) are no more than fragments coated with speculations of men who never knew him and never heard him speak.

Paul is the only New Testament writer who can be considered a contemporary of Jesus and Paul never had personal contact with Jesus. Plus, Paul’s writings are not historical reporting but rather theological speculations. The history of Christian scholarship about Jesus also is heavy with mythology and theological projections.

Image of Jesus bearing his cross, from a 14th Century fresco at the Visoki Dečani monastery in Kosovo.

Yet, many Christians embrace Bible readings as fact. For centuries, with few exceptions, Christian churches and leaders focused on what they considered proper beliefs and ignored questions about the “real” Jesus.

In the early 20th Century, Albert Schweitzer made the first significant challenge to the churches’ obsession with belief over facts. In 1906, he published The Quest for the Historical Jesus, but scholars — and Schweitzer himself — later concluded that he had failed in his quest. His tools were limited and his methodology was flawed.

But the question would not go away. The next search for the historical Jesus took place in the mid-20th Century and was short-lived. Most scholars agree that it was another failure. But the curiosity of scholars did not stop. More serious New Testament scholars are working today than ever before. A third search for the historical Jesus is alive and well.

The difference between this third effort and the earlier attempts is that scholars have more and better tools with which to work. They also come to their task with the aid of sociologists, historians, literary critics, linguists, archaeologists and anthropologists. The result is that the life of Jesus now can be put into the context of the history, economics, religion, social norms and dominant politics of his day.

At the time of his teaching more than two millennia ago, the stories Jesus told and the content of his teachings were not kept as written records. Rather, his central teachings were preserved by oral tradition and were only written down later. The authenticity of those accounts is now being tested, placed within the known context of his public activity.

As a result of this third search for the historical Jesus, a real human being is emerging. Scholars are now willing to make a list of the “indisputable facts” of the life of Jesus. Of course, as soon as one scholar calls his list “facts,” there are other scholars who dispute the list with additions, corrections and subtractions. That is the nature of the current debates.

However, there is general agreement that there are facts about Jesus that can be ascertained by the persistent researcher, though the search for the historical Jesus is an ongoing effort and will never be complete.

The New Testament gospels will remain only a small group of snapshots, taken with an old camera with poor quality lens. However, we are getting the best look at the historical Jesus that we have ever had.

What does the search for the historical Jesus have to do with us in the 21st Century? We are living in a time of rapid change, when it is well documented that young people are fleeing traditional Christian churches. It is also well documented that young people are not becoming less religious. Their interest in Jesus is growing, not diminishing.

Apocalyptic thinking with anticipation of the approaching end of the world is on the wane, too. Young people are more interested in the way life should and can be lived.  Young people are living with awareness of social, political and economic dynamics. And based on the latest research, some of the facts that we now know about Jesus speak to American youth.

Jesus was an active advocate of justice for everyone. To him, justice was not understood as punishment but rather as opportunity. He found the behavior of the rich despicable. He looked on the religious leadership with disdain. Love of God was his highest virtue. Love of neighbor was a close second. He was very public with his convictions.

Jesus grew up in Galilee in northern Palestine, part of a family that was poor and faithful to the Jewish religion. In his ministry, Jesus taught in small towns, villages and the Galilean countryside, never taking his public activities to the large cities in Galilee. Then, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. While there, he created a disturbance in the Temple, which led to a show trial and his death on a cross.

Churches teach that Jesus died for the sins of the world, a theological belief that can be believed or disbelieved. The historical fact is that Jesus was put to death because he called for religious reform and social justice.

I feel privileged to be a part of this third search for the historical Jesus. It is the historical Jesus that most truly can save us all from our sins.

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.  His email address is hdbss@mtaonline.net

Share this Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • NewsVine
  • Technorati
  • email

33 comments on “Hunt for the Historical Jesus

  1. Hillary on said:

    Jesus born of a virgin impregnated by God is the “Greatest Story Ever Sold”.

    Anyone gullible enough to believe in it and an “after life ,Heaven and Hell” etc.etc will beilieve almost anything.

    We are just one of the billions of living species on just this little planet.

    In fact, our very existance is an accident in the course of the evolution of our universe.

    Alas religious childlike minds blinded by what they call faith are incapable of seeing basic realities.

    http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

    P.S.Also there are no angels, devils, heaven, hell, ghosts, witches, nor miracles and the Bible is a book of Mythology , fable,forgery and outright lies.

    Christianity appears to have borrowed nearly all of its theology and doctrine from Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Persian beliefs, involving the gods Mithras, Osiris, Attis, Dionysus, and Zoroaster among others. These gods were worshipped long before the birth of Christ. Parallels between Christianity and these earlier religions include: dying and resurrecting god/men; crucifixion; resurrection from the dead; a devil; doctrines on heaven, hell and judgment; Baptism, the Eucharist; virgin birth, (virgin birth was a pre-requisite for any god).

    Christians borrowed from these earlier doctrines to form their own theology.

    BTW — Jesus Christ doesn’t seem to be a Jewish name anyway.

    • FranktheMc on said:

      Actually, “Jesus” is a Greek version of “Joshua.” “Christ” isn’t a last name or anything like that. It means “Messiah.” Check out Garry Wills’s book, “What Christ Meant.”

  2. FranktheMc on said:

    Regarding whether or not Jesus existed, he happens to be the best documented figure in antiquity. Caesar Augustus has nothing on Jesus.

    Also, St. Paul did have contact with Jesus. He said so. Check out 1 Cor 15:1-12. What always catches my eye with this passage is that St. Paul isn’t screaming this fact from the housetops; he’s giving us a throwaway line over coffee. To me, that’s more compelling.

    Actually, Jesus was executed for a Roman crime (sedition). The gospels say the Jews in Jerusalem couldn’t execute. No, not really: they dispactched St. Stephen quickly using the method of choice (stoning). According to Garry Wills, the gospels give two reasons why the Jewish religious establishment moved on him. St. John’s gospel says it was the raising of Lazarus. The synoptics say it was when Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple.

    What better way to piss someone off than go after the money.

    • Carax on said:

      “he (Jesus) happens to be the best documented figure in antiquity.”

      Only best documented by contemporary historians relying on second and third hand information, not by historians who lived at or extremely close to the time Jesus Christs is said to have lived. Out of 23 historians who lived during that time, zero, not one put him into the historical record. Only one, Josephus, wrote about him and was proven to be a complete forgery.

  3. drylongso on said:

    thank you for saying what many, many followers of jesus christ KNOW, but can’t say!!

  4. m.tunney on said:

    Dear author,

    You are obviously unaware that Jesus was not from a poor family and was not born in a stable either and neither was his father a carpenter. Those beliefs are based on mistranslations. Jesus was a member of the royal family of King David. You seem to be unaware either that Jesus traveled extensively and had studied under many masters when he crossed the river Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist.
    Sincerely,
    Mieke tunney

  5. D McK on said:

    Just where are you going to find this “historical Jesus”–in newly discovered writings? That would be quite a surprise and I don’t expect you to name any. Perhaps it will be in some great new interpretation of what is already known, something that suits you better. Here’s a hint–that’s already been done, repeatedly. So, what do you do? Certainly you won’t travel back in time; you’ll have to wait quite awhile for that. The truth is this “search” has gone on for centuries, using all available material and alot of assumptions that are just as unbelievable as the unbelievers view Biblical texts. You “assume” Paul was the only “contemporary” of Jesus and probably wish to refer to assumed and unknown or undiscovered books called by the letter “Q” and others. You say the Gospel writers got hold of one text, then started copying off each other, each with another embellishment. Justinian got word of Jesus nearly a century after his earthly walk, and was impressed enough to comment. But most of all, the “historical” Jesus is exactly who he said he was because you and so many unbelievers still talk about him and seek ways to either “prove” his reality by evidence that does not exist, or disprove it by the same means. It’s like trying to catch wind in a bottle. If you just cannot bring yourself to it, rest assured Jesus will not go away, and you have proved one thing he said, that he would “be with you always, even unto the end of the age.” For me, the fact of hundreds of eye witnesses, recorded for eternity is alone enough. For you and unbelievers everywhere, the proof is there because you cannot stop talking about him–and he just won’t go away. If I have read you wrong–and I do not intend to call you an unbeliever, if you are–please accept my apologies. I would love to hear your reply.

    • Who are these hundreds of eyewitnesses? Names, please.

      • Larry on said:

        The eyewitnesses are as much inventions of literary propaganda as historical Jesus is. Historical Jesus is like Paul Bunyan, nonexistent, measured by what history actually is. It’s much more likely that Jesus is a legendary composite figure, based on two or more different people’s lives, combined with the gospel writers’ agendas and aspirations. And, Frank, you are a singular genius for finding historical Jesus in 1 Cor 15:1-12 – hiding right out there in open plain sight all these centuries – when actual people with minds and time to waste on unicorn research couldn’t see it right in front of them. Let’s call Frank the Christ and be done with the whole subject. If you don’t believe in Frank the Christ, then ye are of little faith. Believe it.

  6. hammersmith on said:

    The Bible, old and new, stories, just stories all. Read “The Invention of the Jewish People” by S. Sand.

  7. Hieronymous on said:

    One respondent asks, “Who are these eyewitnesses?” If, unlike Pilate, who would not stay for an answer, they are discussed at length and convincingly in a recent book by that name, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” by the biblical scholar, Richard Bauckman. There is much more certainly not only about the existence of Christ, whom no responsible modern scholar would deny, but also as to the early dates of the gospels’ composition. Those who are in deep denial about the possibility of the existence of God or Jesus or immortal life will probably not be persuaded by anything. As Jesus himself said, some of those who witenessed a person risen from the dead would still disbelieve.

    Comment to this article that refuse to

    • Larry on said:

      Funny you should mention “deep denial”, Hieronymouse. You couldn’t dig any deeper if you tried.

  8. Nasir Khan on said:

    Many thanks to Rev, Howard Bess, who, as I have come to know him from some of his articles, is not afraid to offer his views on on controversial themes in Chrstianity.

    While doing my research for my last book, I had written about the Historical Jesus. Perhaps our readers may find some historical material there that is not easily available in historical literature.

    Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms. A Historical Survey (2006) can be downloaded from my website: Peace and Justice Post

    that many dare not

  9. Morton Kurzweil on said:

    The quest for Jesus assumes that the Jesus who fills all the requirements of the investigator actually existed. All evidence is given by those who believe what they wish to believe without any basis in fact.
    If there is a God of such supernatural powers such knowledge would be made available to everyone. The right and wrong would be replaced by truth or fallacy and behavior would depend on reason, not blind belief.

  10. On the archeological evidence for Israel, there is very little but check out the following steles: Mernepta, Mesha, and tel Dan. Also see the Shoshenq Relief. These are solid rocks, so there is at least some archeological evidence for Israel. Scholars say the site at Tamar (southern most outpost of Solomon) was not present in the tenth century BC. I was with the group that unearthed tenth century BC pottery in 2006. The data has yet to be published but the Israeli archeological experts verified the findings. It is inaccurate to say there is NO evidence.
    On the historical Jesus: if the skeptics are right, there would be no church. If the church is solely the product of borrowing, has nothing unique, there would be no reason for its existence. What could be the motive to invent Jesus? If he was just another miracle worker, why did he become so prominent? Some mystery religions promised eternal life and gave no moral instructions. The ones that did the latter were very few. The earliest Christian heresy, gnosticism had no problem with Jesus divinity; their problem was his incarnation. At least Christianity has some evidence, the writings and a church—as misguided as the church may be since Constantine. There is no EVIDENCE for the rejections of Jesus; after all you can’t prove a negative. Assertions do not equal evidence.

  11. Jym Allyn on said:

    No Jewish father in the history of the religion would have believed his daughter if she said that she was pregnant and that “God did it.”
    The “virgin birth” is a lie foisted on Christianity by the Romans in an attempt to merge Roman concepts of divinity with Christian politics.
    And if the birth and life and death of Christ was such a significant historical event, why are the only “records” from supporters who lived over 50 years after Jesus died and there are NO Roman records of Jesus’s existence let alone his death.
    It is the same reason why Evangelicals despise Mormons because to admit that Mormon doctrine are based upon lies and gullibility is to admit that Christian doctrines are based upon lies and gullibility.
    Question: IF God is Eternal, why would the laws of physics and biology be different with the birth of Jesus and the “resurrection of Jesus? Or did someone LIE, MISUNDERSTAND, or MISINTERPRET the facts of biology and physics to come up with such a preposterous story. Or maybe all three illusions happened.

    • I do not argue the validity of the unique event, the virgin birth, though I trust the truth of the testimony, because that is a non-starter with unbelievers. What I would discuss is the resurrection; if that is true, there is a God, and the virgin birth is possible. And whenever one can make a case for the existence of the church (warts and all) apart from the resurrection, I shall go all the way to atheism (I used to be an agnostic). God does signs and wonders to make his points, if rarely. Other than the occasional miracle, God maintains the order with which we are all familiar.
      As for no Roman mention of Jesus, see Suetonius’ bio of Claudius where “Chrestus” is mentioned as the center of the controversy that led Claudius to banish the Jews from Rome for a while. Refer to Pliny’s letter to Trajan who writes that the Christians assemble before daybreak on fixed day “…to form words to Christ as a god (little g for Pliny).” Refer to Tacitus who makes a pithy reference to “Christus” who suffered the extreme penalty at the hands of Pontius Pilate. If any want references, I’ll supply them; this is from memory, so It will take a while.
      As to why God would violate the laws of physics, it is because he can, has done so, and in my view, for the betterment of mankind (again, I cannot go along with what the church since Constantine has made of Christ’s life and teachings. I do not belong to the Christian right. The early church had its problems, but it was a one of a kind body of people). I should mention that I agree with scientists about evolution, and I have no problem with their reconstruction of the big bang or any finding that comes from a rigorous application of the scientific method. Scientists may revise a lot when they affirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle. I happily await the finding. With respect, my guess is that some find it difficult to accept a God (or god) that does not meet their expectations of the way things should be done.

      • Ronald Crowe on said:

        AND THE GODS YAWNED
        Christians with their narrow view
        think Jesus’s virgin birth unique,
        but history show more than a few
        to those who would the record seek.

        Fifteen centuries before Mary’s crisis
        in seeking a room at the inn,
        Horus was born of the Virgin Isis
        and received neat gifts from three wise men.

        And Krisna, one of the gods Hindu,
        born 12 hundred years before,
        was birthed of Devaki, a virgin too,
        on Pantheon became eighth avatar.

        Adonis of Babylonian birth
        (whom the goddesses would adore)
        was born of Ishtar, virgin queen of earth,
        goddess of heaven, love and war.

        Eight hundred years ere Christ’s advent
        came Indra from virgin in Tibet.
        And like Jesus when he came to die,
        also ascended into the sky.

        Six hundred years before “the Son,”
        Buddha was born of Maya the pure;
        virgin born also was Quirrnus of Rome,
        Zoroaster of Persia and Mithra for sure.

        The last virgin birth before JC’s,
        according to our miracle lore,
        Attis was born of the virgin Nama
        in Phrygia, two hundred years before.

        So by the time Joe and Mary found shelter
        and amid oxen their tired bodies sat
        virgin births, wise men, and ascensions,
        had become, for the most part, old hat.

        By Ronald G. Crowe.

  12. Ronald Crowe on said:

    Oops. In that first stanza, the line should have read:

    “But history shows more than a few.”

    As a long-time freethinker I have read numerous books on Jesus and the subject of his possible existence or nonexistence. This is a subject we often discuss at our Tallahassee Freethinkers’ Forum at the Unitarian-Universalist Church. One of the most impressive books I have read lately on this subject is The “Jesus Mysteries (Was the original Jesus a Pagan God?)” by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy. For example, there are so many parallels in Jesus’s supposed life with earlier pagan gods, that it is flabbergasting. Why do we think the miracles attributed to our culture’s god are true when we assume all the rest are false? And if we subtract these remarkable similarities, assuming those traits are myth, we aren’t left with enough to paint a convincing portrait.

    • Dying and rising gods have been around, but they are dying and rising “gods.” No dying and rising god was in human flesh. No humans ever crucified or killed a god that can be connected to the Jesus story. The Greeks did not think the body was worth saving, so they could not have been the source of Jesus rising from the dead. The Jews looked forward to resurrection at the end time, so the resurrection of the one Jesus would not come from the Jews, and they did not believe their Messiah was subject to crucifixion. The Jews never denied the existence of Jesus nor did the gnostics that knew Jesus lived but only seemed to live in the flesh. The resurrection generated the church; pagans generated their gods, and that is a huge difference.

  13. D McK on said:

    For names of witnesses, please see the other replies in this thread. I would name, briefly, the Gospel writers and apostle Paul, who in their writings referred to the “hundreds” of other witnesses to Jesus’ reality, his death and appearance after resurrection. I fully agree with other comments, including one to the fact that there is more historical evidence of Jesus than any other ancient figure–I would suggest Plato, Aristotle & Socrates are no more “proven” to exist than is William Shakespeare, and I would guess neither you, nor I, deny their existence (but the “proof” of their existence is considerably less than of Jesus). Even Mohammad around the 8th century, in the Koran, accepts Jesus and his virgin birth as real, and calls him a great “prophet”. The Biblical writings are overwhelming in their “proof” of Jesus’ existence and what is written about him. I would like to add I am not a religious right zealot, and not a right winger of any kind. I am an active Democrat and a lawyer with over 30 yrs. in practice. If I sat on a jury, I would have no problem finding Jesus was everything the Bible says he was (is). The Gospel, if it were some attempt at a “hoax” would never have been written as it was–a “king” born in a feeding trough in a stable, or women (who were not allowed to testify in court, for example) being the first to find and announce the empty tomb, just for a couple of examples. No, it would have been written as a much more “believable” story. As an aside, I don’t have a problem with evolution, considering it very logically (and, still not totally “proved”, but sufficiently for me) the act of the God of eternity, having no beginning and no end. What’s a few billion years to Him? Nobody wants to read a dissertation, so that should be enough for now. (P. S. As Jesus asked Peter, he asks all of us and we are all confronted with it: “Who do you say I am?”)

    • Ronald Crowe on said:

      Here are the words of a renowned biblical scholar and Christian who did a thorough study of the historical Jesus and wrote a well-known book on the subject: “The Quest of the Historical Jesus (A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede)” I’m speaking of Albert Schweitzer. After his study he wrote:

      “There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never had any existence. This image has not been destroyed from without, it has fallen to pieces, cleft and disinegrated by the concrete historical problems which came to the surface one after another.”

      Many contributers to this post seem to think they can use the words from the New Testament to prove their points. That is like using a corporation’s advertisements to find the truth about the organization. Who do you think selected from a large group of writings those writings which would make up the New Testament canon? What was the agenda of the early christian fathers, especially after the Emperor Constantine took over? Why did they destroy all writings Gnostic and Pagan that didn’t fit their agenda. The truth is, we do not know who wrote the so-called synoptic Gospels. Scholars, based on comparison of the Gospels, believe that so-called “Mark” was written first, some time after 70 CE and that “Matthew” and “Luke” copied much of of Mark and then each added other material to complete their versions. Sometimes later John was written. As for Paul, whose writing predated the gospels, he claimed he met Jesus and received his authority from Jesus in a vision. How do we know he was not a con man? If anyone told you today that you met the deceased President Kennedy in a vision, how much credence would you give it? According to the Jesus Seminar, the names of “Mark,” “Matthew” and “Luke” were given the gospels by Papias, an unrealiable source, in about 130 C.E. or a century after Jesus’s supposed crucifixion. See the book: “The Five Gospels (what did Jesus really say)”by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar.

  14. Jim Faubel on said:

    Obviously, there are a lot of opinions about whether or not an “historical Jesus” existed or not, To me, it doesn’t really matter. So many of those who have and do preach “Christianity” have shown through their words and actions that Jesus was never “spiritually born in their hearts” and, if He is not “born in you” it doesn’t really matter whether or not there was “an historical Jesus”.

    • I pretty much agree with what you say. I myself once “accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”, and found that my doing so, and my supposedly having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, had been of no help in enabling me to deal with any difficult situation or circumstance, or with anything that was a source of pain, frustration, or unhappiness for me in this present life.

      I have since parted company with the Christian faith, and in particular have absolved myself of any duties and obligations specifically imposed by the Christian faith (as opposed to those incumbent on any good or moral person). I am as certain as I am of anything that this was the healthy thing and the right thing for me to do.

      That being the case the matter of the historical existence of the person of Jesus Christ is not of interest to me. I have no more than a general knowledge of ancient or biblical history, and I have no particular special interest in the subject. And I would think that my right to make a decision as to what is right for myself should not be contingent on being absolutely certain (or almost certain) as to whether something that supposedly happened 2000 years ago either did or did not happen.

  15. Will McCracken on said:

    Thank you for your article, Reverend.

  16. fosforos on said:

    The statement “The historical fact is that Jesus was put to death because he called for religious reform and social justice” is a historical untruth. The gospel of John states the charge for which Jesus was executed: he claimed to be “Messiah–a King.” That is why the crucifixion, that standard theme in Western art, is almost always depicted with the initials INRI-Jesus of Nazareth, King (Rex) of the Jews (Iudeorum). Jesus was executed by the Romans who couldn’t care less about religious reform and social justice in Judea but cared a great deal about revolutionary political challenge against their rule over a key domain in their shaky (Parthian Iran was permanent threat) heavily exploited Middle Eastern empire. Messiah means annointed King. That was why Jesus Bar Abbas (Jesus, Son of the Father) was sentenced by Pilate and why the Jews demanded his liberation only to be slandered by the Roman Church as being guilty of his death and deserving the extermination advocated by Luther and attempted by Hitler.

  17. Ronald Crowe on said:

    Although I tend to lean towards the theory that Jesus never existed, I’ve always enjoyed reading the Rev. Howard Bess’s articles and look forward to more. He is a most realistic, progressive thinker. I hadn’t before realized there was such a thing as progressive Baptist ministers. But I’ve since learned the American Baptists are very different from Southern Baptists. It’s a shame there aren’t more like him in my part of the country (the deep South).

  18. chmoore on said:

    My understanding of the historical Jesus:

    The Roman Empire, using as justification that Ceasar was a god, had 3 main directives for the population:
    1. Stay orderly
    2. Shut-Up
    3. Pay Taxes

    Jesus did not stay orderly. He entered the Jerusalem Temple (which had become ground zero for an alliance between the Romans and the Jewish Hierarchy), during a time of annual tything and caused a disruption among the currency exchange vendors to gather attention.

    Then he did not shut-up. Once he had everyone’s attention he talked about alternate choices of fairness and justice, which were not part of anyone’s reality at that time.

    These activities were perceived by the Romans as an obstacle to tax collection.

    In dealing with any perceived challenge, the Roman’s enforcemnet of choice was of course crucifixion.

    I would imaging that the surviving folks who had been Jesus’ followers must have been stunned that a person who advocated an alternative to violent revolution would still be crucified anyway. Apparantly, even the Roman historian Tacitus thought it was so unjustified, that he referenced it in his commentary about the Romans, “they make a desolation and call it peace”.

    • Carax on said:

      Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Sutonious wrote a few sentences at best, referring only to Chrestus/Christus, which was only a title during those times, Tacitus made no mention, no reference to an activist or maverick named Jesus Christ crucified on the cross. JC never made it into the historical record. 23 other historians lived during that time, including Livy (15BC-17AD) and not one mentioned him in their writings. Odd for such a big event.

      • Ronald Crowe on said:

        Yes, it is odd, and all the Roman references to Christians were made many years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. And even the alleged statement about Jesus by the Jewish historian turned Roman citizen Flauvius Josephus is now seen by most biblical scholars as a later interpolation or forgery–evidently there was a lot of that in the early Christian Church.