Is the bible a reliable historical document? One of the key ways to check its reliability is to see if sources outside the bible support it. These independent documents establish that Jesus' followers were convinced Jesus was God, that He did die, and that He rose from the dead.
Jesus – God, Died, Rose Again (Non-Biblical Sources)
Jesus is God
“They (Christians) affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god ...” 1
Jesus did die
“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus” 2
Jesus rose from the dead
The weight of historical evidence is that Jesus rose from the dead. In 64 A.D. (only around 30 years after Jesus died) people were so convinced that Jesus rose from the dead that they were prepared to die in the most torturous and painful manner.
"Therefore, to scotch the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. ... They (Christians) were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car." 3
1 Pliny, Epistles 10.96, word in brackets added. Pliny the Younger was the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan in around 112 A.D. and asked his advice about how to ‘deal with’ the Christians because there were so many of them. Pliny was executing Christians who refused to worship the image of the emperor and who refused to curse Christ.
2 Tacitus, Annals, Loeb edition 15. 44. Cornelius Tacitus, (born around 52-55 A.D.) became a senator in the Roman government under Emperor Vespasian. In 112-3 A.D., Tacitus was the proconsul (governor) of Asia. Tacitus wrote the above around 116 A.D. in his Annals.
3 Tacitus, Annals, Loeb edition 15. 44, words in brackets added. In the above text, Tacitus writes of the Great Fire in Rome (64 A.D.) and how Emperor Nero had tried to stop the rumour that he (Nero) was behind the destruction by blaming the Christians.