Are Tacitus and Josephus reliable sources?


A lot of times, when I discuss the resurrection accounts with my friends, they would postulate that using the Bible to support the resurrection is circular. While this is untrue if you approach the Bible as historical sources, I would also provide them with non-Biblical evidence for the eight facts that I have discussed previously on my youtube channel (if you haven’t checked them out, make sure you do so here). The two sources that I normally refer to are Tacitus and Josephus. That is why, in today’s blog post, I would be discussing why these two sources are very reliable.

Methodology to test the source:

In order test the strength of these sources, I would compare them with other similar sources of the time to see how they fare when compared to their peers. Since Tacitus and Josephus are normally seen as secondary sources, they should be judged by the standards of a secondary source. However, as you would soon see, Josephus and Tacitus are closer to a primary source than a secondary source.


The Annals written by Tacitus

While we do not know for certain when Tacitus started writing the Annals, we know that he was well into writing by 107 CE, around 70 years after the death of Christ.


Antiquity of the Jews by Josephus

Written around 93-94 AD, this around 60 years after the death of Christ. It is written around 10 years before Tacitus.

Other sources at the time:

For a fair comparison, I will be comparing the sources of Tacitus and Josephus to the works of Polybius, a Greek historian. Polybius is best known for his documentation on the Punic War and is considered the primary source. Since the Punic War started in 264 BC and Polybius was born at 200 BC, we can be certain that he wrote the accounts at least 70 years after the start of the war (he lived through the second half of the Punic Wars).


As you can see, it is clear that Tacitus and Josephus are dated closer to a primary source than a secondary source. If you are interested in more details and how they compare directly with the secondary sources of the Punic War, make sure you check out my youtube video (here).

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