There is disagreement about what this passage proves, since Tacitus does not reveal the source of his information.
Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman wrote that: "Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius's reign."
Tacitus may have used official sources from a Roman archive. Tacitus drew on many earlier historical works now lost to us in the Annals. The description of the suppression of Christianity, calling it a superstition for instance, is not based on any statements Christians may have made to Tacitus. However if Tacitus was copying from an official source some would expect him to not incorrectly label Pilate a procurator, as he was a prefect.
Charles Guignebert argued "So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless".
R. T. France concludes that the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he has heard through Christians.
Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz conclude that Tacitus gives us a description of widespread prejudices about Christianity and a few precise details about "Christus" and Christianity, the source of which remains unclear. Christus was a Jew and a criminal whom Pontius Pilate had executed. He authored a new religious movement that began in Judea and was called Christianity which was widespread around the city of Rome during Nero's reign.
Max Radin concludes, based on the text from Tacitus, that these facts can be known from a non Christian source: Jesus was a real person, approximately when his death occurred by execution and that Pilate was his judge.