Another Roman historian who also makes one reference to Jesus and one to Christians is Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas. Little is known about him except that he was the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138) and that he had access to the imperial records.^8 The first reference occurs in the section on emperor Claudius (AD 41–54). Writing about the same time as Tacitus,^9 Suetonius remarked concerning Claudius: Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.^10

The translator notes that “Chrestus” is a variant spelling of “Christ,” as noted by other commentators as well,^11 and is virtually the same as Tacitus’ Latin spelling.

Suetonius refers to a wave of riots which broke out in a large Jewish community in Rome during the year AD 49. As a result, the Jews were banished from the city. Incidentally, this statement has an interesting corroboration in Acts 18:2, which relates that Paul met a Jewish couple from Pontus named Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who had recently left Italy because Claudius had demanded that all Jews leave Rome.

The second reference from Suetonius is again to the Christians who were tortured by emperor Nero: After the great fire at Rome . . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.^12

Few facts are derived from the two references by Suetonius. The first relates (1)to the expulsion of Jews from Rome, but also makes the claim (2)that it was Christ who caused the Jews to make the uproar in Rome, apparently by his teachings. The second reference is quite similar to the longer statement by Tacitus, (3)including the use of the word “mischievous” to describe the group’s beliefs and (4)the term “Christians” to identify this group as followers of the teachings of Christ.

7 Chronicles 2:30.6.

8 Robert Graves, “Introduction” to Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, transl. by Robert Graves (Baltimore: Penguin, 1957), p. 7.

9 Amiot, “Jesus A Historical Person,” p. 8.

10 Suetonius, Claudius, 25.

11 Graves, The Twelve Caesars, p. 197; Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 21; Amiot, “Jesus,” p.8.

12 Suetonius, Nero, 16.


Jewish historian Flavius Josephus was born in AD 37 or 38 and died in AD 97. He was born into a priestly family and became a Pharisee at the age of nineteen. After surviving a battle against the Romans, he served commander Vespasian in Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, he moved to Rome, where he became the court historian for emperor Vespasian.^13

The Antiquities, one of Josephus’ major works, provides some valuable but disputed evidence concerning Jesus. Written around AD 90–95, it is earlier than the testimonies of the Roman historians. Josephus speaks about many persons and events of first century Palestine and makes two references to Jesus. The first is very brief and is in the context of a reference to James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.”^14 Here we find a close connection between Jesus and James and the belief on the part of some that Jesus was the Messiah.