Suetonius on Jesus

From Academic Kids

Writing circa 120, Suetonius made one statement that may refer to "Christ": [Iudaeos, impulsore Chresto, assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit.]
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [ Claudius ] expelled them from Rome."

"Chrestus," as Suetonius spells it, is the correct Latin form of a true Greek name. "Chrestus" technically translates as "Useful One", which was a common appelation given to slaves, however, some choose to translate it as Christ.

Suetonius was writing later than Tacitus and may have been influenced by the latter. The aspect that makes this passage interesting is that it probably refers to the expulsion of the Jews commonly dated at 48-50 CE. If there were Christians in Rome at that time, it would arguably be evidence for the existence of Jesus. Four assumptions are involved:

  1. The "Chrestus" causing disturbance in Rome refers to a "Christ" who actually resided some years earlier in Palestine.
  2. The information is not secondhand via Christian sources.
  3. The presence of Christians in Rome by 49 implies the existence of an actual "Christ" rather than a developing legend.
  4. "Chrestus" means "Christ", rather than its translation "Useful One".
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