Most scholars agree that “pagans” did not read Christian scripture. This critical consensus, however, places inordinate weight on a decontextualized quotation from Tertullian and neglects a body of evidence to the contrary. In particular, the role of books in early autobiographical conversion narratives suggests that early Christian authors and copyists could sometimes work with a reasonable expectation of pagan readership. Against traditional notions of the restricted appeal and circulation of Christian literature, pagan and Christian sources alike indicate that Christian writings found an audience among philo-barbarian thinkers and that certain Christians promoted their books in pagan circles.
The reference to Christ in Tacitus’ Annales is one of the earliest references to Jesus by a non-Christian author. Although this so-called “Testimonium Taciteum” is generally accepted as authentic, arguments against the authenticity of the passage given by Richard Carrier have not yet received a thorough response. In this article, I will argue that the arguments against authenticity of the Testimonium Taciteum do not rest on solid ground, nor does the alternative interpretation of the passage by Carrier. On the other hand, it is probable that Tacitus referred in his passage to the persecution of Christians, although that persecution may have been less connected with the fire of Rome than is commonly suggested. There are also four arguments that favour the authenticity of the Testimonium.