The historical reality of the Passion of Jesus is collected in four main sources: Pagan Roman, Jewish, Rabbinical and Christian sources.
The first allusion to Jesus is a Roman letter written by Pliny the Younger to Emperor Hadrian (toward 112 AD). Later, Jesus is also mentioned by Suetonius and Tacitus. There are not many Jewish and Rabbinical testimonies, but the most important one was written by the historian Josephus, who was a Jew at the service of the Roman Empire and the author of ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (toward 93 AD). There is not another Jewish work before 130 AD that refers to Jesus. There are only Rabbinical sources such as comments about the Talmud (written law) after the second century which make reference to the existence of Christ.
The most abundant sources would be the Christian ones, specifically the canonical and apocryphal Gospels, the Pauline epistles as well as other quotes originating from literary traditions of the primitive Church.
The Gospels are not history books, but contain a lot of information about events related to Jesus of Nazareth. The evangelists do not try to make an impartial history of the Passion of Jesus, even though they are not fictitious nor false. They only reconstruct and interpret the facts. That is why there are many gospels written in the Antiquity, although four of them were only accepted by the Church and considered as canonical ones.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke date from 70 AD, when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Emperor Titus. They are synoptic gospels because they are mutually connected. They have a common source known as ‘Q’, which is a collection of sayings of Jesus. It would be a well-known compilation and each author used and interpreted it in his own way. The Gospel of John dates from the end of the first century and it seems to use a different source –oral or written- about the miracles of Christ.
The apocryphal Gospels are not accepted by the catholic orthodoxy, although many of them gather aspects which are admitted by the tradition. Most of them date from the third and the fourth centuries. Consequently, historical Christian churches considered that they misinterpreted the meaning of the word ‘Gospel’ (Good News).
Papyrus manuscript 75, Gospels of Luke and John (toward 175-220)
Papyrus manuscript 90, small fragment of the gospel of John (end of the first century)
Papyrus manuscript 66, Gospel of John
Papyrus manuscript 28, Gospel of John in Greek (end of the third century)
Titus Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews (toward 93. Edition 1466)
Papyrus manuscript of Oxyrhynchus. Apocryphal gospel of Thomas written in the middle of the third century.
Symbols of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Niculoso Pisano (toward 1525) Museum of Fine Arts (Seville)
The authors of the Gospels (St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John) are symbolically represented as the four living beings of the Revelation 4, 7: ‘The first living being is a lion; the second one is an ox; the third one is a man; and the four one is an eagle’.
Lost apocryphal gospels
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of Mary
Gospel of Judas
Gospel of Marcion
Apocryphal gospel of John
Gospel of Truth
Memories of the Apostles
Gospel of Apelles
Gospel of Eve
Apocryphal gospels about the Nativity and the Infancy
Infancy gospel of Thomas
Arabic infancy gospel
Armenian infancy gospel
Book of the Nativity of Mary
Gospel of James
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
Apocryphal gospels about the Passion and the Resurrection
Gospel of Peter
Acts of Pilate or Gospel of Nicodemus
Gospel of Bartholomew
Book of Saint John of Thessaloniki
Story of Pseudo-Joseph of Arimathea
Secret gospel of Mark
Gospel of Pseudo-James
Cathar gospel of Pseudo-John
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Ebionites
Gospel of Barnabas
Gospel of Tatian
Gospel of the Nazarenes
Gospel of Ammonius
Gospel of the Vengeance of the Saviour
Apocryphal gospel of Galilee
Apocryphal gnostic gospels of Nag Hammadi
Gospel of Philip
Gospel of Thomas