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Josephus on Jesus

Josephus was a Jewish priest who was born (37 CE). A supporter to Judaism, he led a considerable Jewish force (Galilee) in opposition to the invading Romans. However, when the Jewish temple (temple-state) was destroyed in (70 CE), Josephus betrayed his people and joined the Romans (saving his life; Flavius). Josephus is known for being an early Jewish historian and his most famous works: Antiquities of the Jews and The Wars of the Jews.

The Testimonium Flavianum is a passage within book 18 of the Antiquities of the Jews which is used as a reference to a historical Jesus. This passage is probably, most likely an interpolation and not merely parts of the passage but, the whole passage is an addition by Christian apologetics most like after the 4th century CE. The obvious interpolations are the ones that plainly portray Josephus as a Christian, when in fact; Josephus was a supporter of Judaism (read his autobiography Vita). Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man IF IT BE LAWFUL TO CALL HIM A MAN, for he was a doer of wonderful works, A TEACHER OF SUCH MEN AS RECEIVE THE TRUTH WITH PLEASURE. He drew many after him BOTH OF THE JEWS AND THE GENTILES. HE WAS THE CHRIST. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, FOR HE APPEARED TO THEM ALIVE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY, AS THE DIVINE PROPHETS HAD FORETOLD THESE AND THEN THOUSAND OTHER WONDERFUL THINGS ABOUT HIM, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.The statement, if it be lawful to call him a man,implies that Jesus was not simply a man (divine) which is contrary to Judaism. The statement,he was the Christ, is contrary to the destruction of the Jewish temple and the Jewish Messiah’s commission. The statement, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with please,implies that Jesus taught the truth but, how can Josephus support a man supposedly executed for blasphemy against Judaism. The statement,for he appeared to them… clearly has Josephus supporting the Christian account which is outlandish. Even if we remove these interpolations, we have more problems. How does …and the tribe of Christian, so named from him…follow how that he was the Christ, is removed? Christians are going to have been named from Christ. In the first book of Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus have several, and this group of people were named for this person, type of statements and he is always sure to mention a name that sounds very analogous to that of the group of people and when the name is different Josephus explains it thoroughly (Book 1, Chapter 6). If Christian is derived from Jesus then Josephus would have explained it thoroughly. If you take the context into consideration then the left over core passage does not make sense. Antiquities 18.3.4 starts, about the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder.The death of Jesus would not be a calamity to the Jews. Antiquities 18.3.2 talks about the Jewish rebellion against Pontius Pilate, and how Pilate ordered his soldiers to brutally end the rebellion which if followed by Antiquities 18.3.4 makes ideal sense as the first tragedy that put the Jews into disorder and not the death of Jesus, Antiquities 18.3.3. The phrase, wonderful works, is not once used by Josephus and he was very repetitive in his texts but, the same phrase is used by early Christian apologists (like Origen). The passage (paragraph) does not follow the style of Josephus who gives important figures at least a page. Even if a core passage mentions Jesus, Josephus was not an eye-witness and would be purely hearsay.

The second less known passage that mentions Jesus is also from Antiquities of the Jews (Book 20, Chapter 9). …Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned… Side-Note: Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria both agree on the account of James but, they disagree with Josephus. I believe this passage was mostly written by Josephus, minus who was called Christ, but, the Jesus of this passage is Jesus, son of Damneus (high-priest) who is mentioned in Chapter 9. …on which King Agrippa took the high priesthood from him [Ananus], when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

Filed by Frank at September 25th, 2008 under Religion

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