Christians worry about how the gospel portrait of a Jesus who made a big social impact does not line up to the lack of interest in him outside Christian circles.

The pagan historian Suetonius published his The Lives of the Caesars in 120 AD. In Chapter 25, he recorded that some Jews had to be exiled from Rome for rioting under the instigation of a certain Chrestus. Chrestus was a popular name in Italy (The Jesus Mysteries, page 134). Christ means Messiah and the Jews could have argued about anybody if Christ was meant and not just Jesus for there were loads of Messiahs.  And he blames this man Chrestus as if he were alive then and in Rome.  Jesus however had been dead for years.

The writer could have mistakenly have written Chrestus when he should have put down Christus because the two have the same pronunciation. He speaks as if Chrestus were alive and was the cause of the disturbance when the gospels say that Jesus left the earth years before. If Suetonius meant Christ then either Jesus was living in Rome and causing trouble instead of being a dying and rising Saviour or Christianity was a secret religion and its Jesus was a nebulous mythical personage who was as much a mystery to his time as was the composition of the very stars of Heaven. It is significant that Suetonius says the Jews, not some of the Jews were rioting which minimises the chance that Chrestus was Jesus for the Christians were just a kind of Judaism and at that time had begun to separate from Judaism and take on a new religious identity. To say he meant Christ is to admit that nothing was known of this man even among the historians!

Suetonius declared that it was widely believed in the first century that the men who would supernaturally conquer the world would come from Judaea (page 82, Jesus Hypotheses). When he wrote that it is extraordinary that he never mentioned Jesus at least in a scornful light especially if the gospels are telling the truth about how popular Jesus was.
Acts 18:2 seems to match Suetonius. Acts says Claudius ordered all the Jews to exit Rome. Suetonius seems to have read something saying the same thing for he wrote that Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome on account of Chrestus. The match indicates that Chrestus is not Jesus. Acts would tell us if the Jews were in fact Christians but it says they were simply Jews.

Most importantly: he blames this man Chrestus as if he were alive then and in Rome. Jesus however had been dead for years.


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