[Tacitus wrote] at a time when Christians themselves had come to believe that Jesus had suffered under Pilate.
This statement has as an assumption that belief, (and not eye-witness testimony) was the source of the point that Pilate ordered Jesus whipping and crucifixion). Why is he poisoning the well right out of the gate like this before he offers any reasoning? Seems pretty biased from the get go.
There are three reasons for holding that Tacitus is here simply repeating what Christians had told him. First, he gives Pilate a title, procurator [without saying procurator of what! FRZ], which was current only from the second half of the first century. Had he consulted archives which recorded earlier events, he would surely have found Pilate there designated by his correct title, prefect.
This reasoning seems particularly deceptive. There is no evidence of any procurator (tax-collector) governing any province, without also holding the office of prefect or its equivalent. There are examples of governors being referred to as only prefect or procurator but in reality scholars know they were both.
Second, Tacitus does not name the executed man Jesus, but uses the title Christ (Messiah) as if it were
a proper name. But he could hardly have found in archives a statement such as “the Messiah was executed
By the Time Tacitus wrote this around 100 AD, the group of Jesus' followers had long been called a derogatory name "Christians" for decades. It meant "little christs".
Although it started out as a derogatory term, the name stuck. So, by the time Tacitus wrote his history, using the word "Christus" it would have definitely been reasonable for him to use this term either as a passive polemic, description of the leader of the christians, or both.
Third, hostile to Christianity as he was,
he was surely glad to accept from Christians their own view that Christianity was of recent origin, since the Roman authorities were prepared to tolerate
only ancient cults. - G.A. Wells The Historical Evidence for Jesus; p.16
Huh? I thought he was arguing that Christians were an unreliable source. Now, all the sudden they are reliable in stating that their belief was recent (which corresponds to the Resurrection event that Christians maintained was the basis for their faith)
I find this guy's reasons for rejecting Tacitus to be pretty lame.
By the way, Josephus was a Roman sympathizer and opportunist and likely not a pharisee.
"he does not feature the Pharisees in any of his narratives: they hardly figure in his earliest work (the Judean War), becoming significant players only in latter third of the Judean Antiquities-Life, written in the mid-90s; but then they disappear again from his last and most vigorous defense of Judaism.
More importantly, what he writes about Judaism and its laws (or "constitution"), which is a lot, shows no evidence of any Pharisaic bias. We might have suspected Pharisaic influences if he had embraced the special "tradition of the fathers" accepted by Pharisees, for example, or clearly described resurrection from the dead.
But he does not. In fact, a number of his passages are openly hostile toward the Pharisees."
Passive polemics were common in ancient literature, kinda like Pilate mockingly posting a sign above Jesus' head "King of the Jews" . Pilate didn't really believe he was a King, at least not one to ever worry about.