Did You Know?
What evidence exists outside the Bible that Jesus was a real historical figure?
▪ A number of secular writers who lived close to the time of Jesus made specific mention of him. Among them was Cornelius Tacitus, who recorded the history of Rome under the emperors. Regarding a fire that devastated Rome in 64 C.E., Tacitus relates that it was rumored that Emperor Nero was responsible for the disaster. Nero, says Tacitus, tried to place the blame on a group whom the populace called Christians. Tacitus writes: “Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.”—Annals, XV, 44.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also mentions Jesus. In discussing events that took place between the death of Festus, the Roman governor of Judea about 62 C.E., and the arrival of his successor, Albinus, Josephus says that High Priest Ananus (Annas) “convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others.”—Jewish Antiquities, XX, 200 (ix, 1).
Why was Jesus called Christ?
▪ The Gospel accounts relate that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would become pregnant, he told her that she should name her son Jesus. (Luke 1:31) This was a fairly common name among the Jews in Bible times. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of 12 people, other than those mentioned in the Scriptures, who bore that name. Mary’s son was called “the Nazarene,” which served to identify him as the Jesus who came from Nazareth. (Mark 10:47) He also came to be known as “the Christ,” or Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16:16) What does this mean?
The English word “Christ” comes from the Greek Khri·stosʹ, the equivalent of the Hebrew Ma·shiʹach (Messiah). Both words literally mean “Anointed One.” This term was properly applied to others before Jesus. For example, Moses, Aaron, and King David were all said to be anointed, meaning that they were appointed to God-given positions of responsibility and authority. (Leviticus 4:3; 8:12; 2 Samuel 22:51; Hebrews 11:24-26) Jesus, the foretold Messiah, was the preeminent representative of Jehovah. Hence, Jesus appropriately received the designation “Christ, the Son of the living God.”—Matthew 16:16; Daniel 9:25.
[Picture on page 15]
Artist’s rendering of Flavius Josephus