But we are also told that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his followers afterwards. Josephus seems to record the disciples’ belief in the resurrection of Jesus, noting that these witnesses claimed to have seen Jesus alive three days after his crucifixion. Phlegon said that Jesus appeared and showed the marks of the nail prints in his hands, and perhaps other wounds, as well.
The resurrection of Jesus is defended especially by The Treatise on Resurrection, but also proclaimed by The Gospel of Truthand The Gospel of Thomas. Afterward, Jesus was exalted (Apocryphon of John, Gospel of Thomas). Christian Teachings and Worship
Christians were named after their founder, Christ (Tacitus), whose teachings they followed (Lucian). Believers were of all classes, ages, localities and of both sexes, forming a cross section of society (Pliny). For Christians, Jesus’ death procured salvation (Gospel of Truth) for those who exercised faith in his teachings (Lucian). As a result, Christians believed in their own immortality and scorned death (Lucian), realizing that eternal life was a present possession (Treatise on Resurrection).
Additionally, Lucian relates several other Christian teachings. Believers had sacred writings that were frequently read. They practiced their faith by denying material goods and by holding common property. They went to any extent to help with matters pertaining to their community. However, Lucian does complain that Christians were gullible enough to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous persons.
Pliny relates that believers met in a pre-dawn service on a certain day (probably Sunday). There they sang verses of a hymn, worshiped Christ as deity, and made oaths against committing sin. Then they would disband, only to reassemble in order to share food together, which is very probably a reference to the love feast and Lord’s Supper. Pliny also refers to the existence of positions in the early church when he mentions two female deaconesses. The Spread of Christianity and Persecution
After the death of Jesus and the reported resurrection appearances, the disciples did not abandon the teachings which they had learned from him (Josephus). By the middle of the first century, Christian doctrine, and the crucifixion of Jesus in particular, had spread around the Mediterranean. In fact, skeptics were already offering rationalistic explanations for supernatural claims only some twenty years after Jesus’ death (Thallus).
More specifically, Christian teachings had reached Rome by AD 49, less than twenty years after the death of Jesus, when Claudius expelled Jews from the city because of what was thought to be the influence of Jesus’ teachings (Suetonius). By the time of Nero’s reign (AD 54–68), Christians were still living in Rome (Tacitus, Suetonius). We are also told that Christians were present during the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Tacitus).
The spread of Christianity unfortunately involved persecution fairly early in its history. Sometimes it was tempered by a certain amount of fairness, but it was real and serious for many early believers, nonetheless. The Talmud relates an occasion when five of Jesus’ disciples were judged to be worthy of death. Tacitus provides much greater detail. After the great fire at Rome, Nero blamed the occurrence on Christians, who are described as a group of people who were hated by the Roman populace. As a result, many believers were arrested, convicted, mocked, and finally tortured to death. Being nailed to crosses and being burnt to death are two methods that are specifically mentioned. Such treatment evoked compassion from the people, and Tacitus blamed these events on the eccentricities of Nero.