The Early Jesus Movement
Apart from the New Testament itself, the best historical documentation of Jesus' life and influence, and of the infant church surviving from ancient times, comes from Flavius Josephus, A.D. 37–101, a historian in the courts of several Roman emperors. Though Josephus was Jewish and of a priestly lineage, some Jewish people have considered him suspect because he tried to sustain a middle ground between paganism and orthodox Judaism. But since Josephus' writings date from the same period as the writing of the New Testament, historians generally consider them the most reliable general records of those times. His writings deal widely with Israel, Judah, Palestine, Rome, and (briefly) the new sect called Christians. Josephus' main description of Jesus and the church is this passage, from a section on Herod the Great from his twenty-volume work, Jewish Antiquities (Book XVIII):
Josephus' Jewish Antiquities recapitulates the Torah and tries to tell the whole history of the Jewish people, from which the excerpt just provided about Jesus and the church, is just one paragraph.
It is curious that Josephus wrote so positively about Jesus and the Christians, as Christianity was considered an illegal religion in Rome at the time, and was opposed by the Jewish establishment.
Some scholars believe his positive treatment of Jesus came not from him, but from additions made by later Christian editors.
Josephus wrote in Greek, the language of scholarship in the era of the emperors under whom he served (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, and Trajan). His works were translated in the common language of the empire at the time, Latin, and were widely read and circulated throughout the churches.