The second reference to Jesus in the writings of Tacitus is found in the Histories. While the specific reference is lost, as is most of this book, the reference is preserved by Sulpicus Severus.^7 He informs us that Tacitus wrote of the burning of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans in AD 70, an event which destroyed the city. The Christians are mentioned as a group that were connected with these events. All we can gather from this reference is that Tacitus was also aware of the existence of Christians other than in the context of their presence in Rome. Granted, the facts that Tacitus (and most other extrabiblical sources) report about Jesus are well known in our present culture. Yet we find significance in the surprising confirmation for the life of Jesus. Suetonius
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.