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Home | Angels, traditional accounts | Gospel of Philip | SIMON MAGNUS & OTHER INSPIRED WORKS | THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH THE CARPENTER | The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs--Ebionite | THE JESUS INTERPOLATION IN JOSEPHUS | The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary | MARTIN LUTHER'S WRITINGS | ACTS OF ST. BARNABAS THE APOSTLE | Hyppolitus--Against All Heresies | THE INFANCY GOSPEL OF MATTHEW | WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT TALES | VATICAN DEED, ANOTHER FORGERY | STORIES ABOUT OUR ADAM'S APPLE | COMMENTARY ON GOSPEL OF THOMAS & NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY | GOSPEL OF THOMAS | INFANCY GOSPEL OF THOMAS--Latin text | DEATH OF PILATE

ANCIENT SACRED WORKS OF THE CHRISTIANS

THE JESUS INTERPOLATION IN JOSEPHUS

 

Information on Flavius Josephus

Josephus is an invaluable source for the history of Judaism in the Second Temple period.

Louis H. Feldman offers the following comments on Josephus (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, pp. 981-982):

Josephus was born in 37 C.E. and was given the Hebrew name Joseph ben Mattathias. His mother was a descendant of the Hasmonean family that had ruled Jerusalem a century earlier, and by birthright he was a priest. In Jerusalem he received a superb education, and at the age of 27 (in 64 C.E.) he led a delegation to the court of the Roman emperor Nero. Two years later he was pressed to serve as the general of the Jewish forces in Galilee in the revolt against Rome. He was captured and afterwards became a Roman citizen and pensioner of the Flavian emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. He is most widely known by the Roman name he then acquired, Flavius Josephus (or simply "Josephus").

THE INTERPOLATION:
 
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 over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ . And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst 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 ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
 
 

One need not be immersed in details to reject a position.  In the case before, though the language and the supposed event are a fit, the report thereof isnt.  And G.A. Wells explains why  "[T]he Jesus passage occurs in a context which deals exclusively with the misfortunes of the Jews (only some of which are attributed to Pilate) and that Jesuss condemnation by Pilate at the behest of the Jewish leadership has no connection with such misfortunes except from the standpoint of a Christian, who would naturally regard this crime as the greatest misfortune ever to have befallen the Jews." (Who Was Jesus, G.A. Well, Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1989, p. 22).  One translator, at the end of the 19th stated the Josephus was an Ebonite (converted Jewish sect of Christians); however, there is nothing in the tone of Josephus' two histories to suggest that he was even sympathetic towards the Christians, or even knew of them.  Josephus' tone in his two histories is that of the Pharisee that he is. 

Comment above by JK

 

Josephus on Jesus

Josephus is the first non-Christian writer to mention Jesus. He does this in Books 18 and 20 of his Antiquities, from about 93 AD. It is worth giving the reference in Book 18 in full.

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 over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ . And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst 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 ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

For two centuries no Christian used this passage, although many of them quoted Josephus. For example, Origen quoted Josephus when writing 250,000 words against the pagan writer Celsus, but he never uses this passage even when it would have been most useful. In Chapter 6 of Book 1 of 'Contra Celsum', Origen wrote ' ..."Many shall say to Me in that day, In Thy name we have cast out devils, and done many wonderful works." Whether Celsus omitted this from intentional malignity, or from ignorance, I do not know..." Would not Origen have loved to show Josephus as writing that Jesus performed wonderful works?

In chapter 67 Origen quotes Celsus as follows '...this Jew of Celsus.... continues: "The old mythological fables, which attributed a divine origin to Perseus, and Amphion, and Aeacus, and Minos, were not believed by us. Nevertheless, that they might not appear unworthy of credit, they represented the deeds of these personages as great and wonderful, and truly beyond the power of man; but what hast thou done that is noble or wonderful either in deed or in word?' Wouldn't Origen have loved to answer Celsus's taunt by pointing out that the renowned Jewish historian Josephus said Jesus performed wonderful works.

It is admitted that the passage of Josephus was tampered with by Christians. Strictly speaking, this rules it out altogether as evidence. If a prosecution lawyer in a court case tried to introduce evidence that had been tampered with by prosecution witnesses, that evidence would be rejected. However, let us examine the claim that we can tell in this short paragraph by looking at the style, which phrases are Josephan and which are Christian interpolations. In passing I note that many Christians deny that we can tell by looking at the style that Paul did not write 1 or 2 Timothy, Titus or Ephesians, although there we have whole letters to work with, not just a few phrases.

It is worth pointing out that any Christian scribe who had just copied out 17 books of Josephus would be familiar with his style and easily able to express Christian thoughts in Josephan language.

Josephus only uses the phrase 'a wise man' about Solomon and Daniel. Would a first-century Pharisee bracket a crucified criminal with legendary kings and prophets? It was Christian writers who compared Jesus to Solomon (Matthew 12:42) and praised the wisdom of Jesus (Luke 2:46-52)

Josephus only used the phrase wonderful works about Elisha. As your email pointed out it was Christians who saw parallels between Jesus and Elijah and Elisha.

In Mark 6:2 , Jews praise the wisdom and mighty works of Jesus. Can we be sure that Josephus's 'wise man' and 'wonderful works' must be genuine as no Christian interpolator would have had any motive to portray Josephus the way the Gospels say Jews regarded Jesus? I doubt it.

Josephus's phrase 'the principal men' (ton proton andron) is mirrored in Luke 19:47 - 'the leaders among the people' (hoi protoi)

The passage of Josephus first appears in 'Ecclesiastical History' by Eusebius in about 320 AD. Eusebius also includes clearly fake letters by Jesus himself. Another quote of Josephus by Eusebius is especially interesting , as we can see how Eusebius would doctor quotes to make them support Christian writings .

Josephus wrote in Antiquities Book 19 Section 346 'But as he presently afterwards looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger (Greek 'Angelos') of ill tidings...' Eusebius in his History (2.10) omits the words 'boubona - epi schoiniou tinos' (ie an owl on a certain rope) and retains only the 'angelos' or messenger. As it stands in Eusebius, the 'quote' of Josephus appears to support Acts 12:23 which mentions an 'angelos', but naturally does not say this messenger was an owl.

Eusebius is the first person to say that Josephus referred to 'the tribe of Christians' . Eusebius also said Tertullian referred to the tribe of Christians. He did not. Eusebius also said Trajan referred to the tribe of Christians. He did not.

To sum up, Josephus's mention of Jesus was unknown for two centuries, is admitted even by Christians to be tampered with and first appears in the work of somebody who produced forged letters of Jesus, doctored quotes of Josephus, and lied about one of the very phrases found in the Testimonium when saying that other ancient writers used it. Almost every phrase expresses Christian, not Jewish, beliefs about Jesus.

There is also a 10th century version of Josephus. This is by a Christian Bishop and is a paraphrase in Arabic, not a quote of Josephus. It also contains clear anti-Islam propaganda. Ten centuries is too long a gap for this to be historical.

To avoid charges of double-standards here, I should point out that I would also reject a Muslim work from 1500 AD which purported to be our first authentic text of what a pagan writer wrote about Muhammad in 650 AD, especially if it contained anti-Christian propaganda and was in a different language. If I were by some chance to find such a work, would you insist that sceptics must take it as genuine?

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ON THE PASSAGE OF JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS

 

Information on Flavius Josephus

Josephus is an invaluable source for the history of Judaism in the Second Temple period.

Louis H. Feldman offers the following comments on Josephus (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, pp. 981-982):

Josephus was born in 37 C.E. and was given the Hebrew name Joseph ben Mattathias. His mother was a descendant of the Hasmonean family that had ruled Jerusalem a century earlier, and by birthright he was a priest. In Jerusalem he received a superb education, and at the age of 27 (in 64 C.E.) he led a delegation to the court of the Roman emperor Nero. Two years later he was pressed to serve as the general of the Jewish forces in Galilee in the revolt against Rome. He was captured and afterwards became a Roman citizen and pensioner of the Flavian emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. He is most widely known by the Roman name he then acquired, Flavius Josephus (or simply "Josephus").

 

James In Josephus

Paul Smith

 

The passage attributed to Josephus in our surviving copies of the Antiquities concerning the martyrdom of James is regarded by some scholars to be a Christian interpolation (E Schurer, H Chadwick) but regarded as genuine by others: J Stevenson, for example, considered it to be primary proof of Jesus Christ's historicity and used the passage as the first entry to his book A New Eusebius documents illustrating the history of the Church to AD 337 (1957; revised and amended by WHC Frend in 1987).

Josephus described Ananus, the High Priest responsible for the death of James in the Antiquities, thus: "...a bold man in his temper, and very insolent."

Josephus did not mention the martyrdom of James in his Jewish Wars and his description of Ananus there is quite different to what is found in the Antiquities, describing him this time as: "...a venerable, and a very just man; and besides the grandeur of that nobility, and dignity, and honour, of which he possessed, he had been a lover of a kind of parity, even with regard to the meanest of the people; he was a prodigious lover of liberty, and an admirer of democracy in government; and did ever prefer the public welfare before his own advantage, and preferred peace above all things; he was thoroughly sensible that the Romans were not to be conquered."

Significantly, Josephus also wrote the following about Ananus in the Jewish Wars: "I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city (Jerusalem), and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city."

So, according to Josephus, the destruction of Jerusalem happened as a consequence of the death of Ananus which casts a very dark shadow over the testimony of Origen of Alexandria, who claimed that Jospehus believed that the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus.

It is entirely possible that Origen originally got the idea for claiming what he did from Hegesippus who wrote in his Memoirs that the destruction of Jerusalem followed the death of James (preserved in the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius) before attributing the same thing to Josephus (in contrast to the real views of Josephus).

It would not be unusual for a Christian like Origen to have done something like this there is for example the "Josephus quotation" given by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History 2:10 in relation to Acts 12:23 (the authentic passage by Josephus existing in Antiquities 19:346).

 

Pasted from earlychristianwrings.com

 

sephus as historian.

Josephus' first work, Bellum Judaicum (History of the Jewish War), was

written in seven books between AD 75 and 79, toward the end of

Vespasian's reign. The original Aramaic has been lost, but the extant

Greek version was prepared under Josephus' personal direction. After

briefly sketching Jewish history from the mid-2nd century BC, Josephus

presents a detailed account of the great revolt of AD 6670. He

stressed the invincibility of the Roman legions, and apparently one of

his purposes in the works was to convince the Diasporan Jews in

Mesopotamia, who may have been contemplating revolt, that resistance

to Roman arms was pure folly. The work has much narrative brilliance,

particularly the description of the siege of Jerusalem; its fluent Greek

contrasts sharply with the clumsier idiom of Josephus' later works and

attests the influence of his Greek assistants. In this work, Josephus is

extremely hostile to the Jewish patriots and remarkably callous to their

fate. The Jewish War not only is the principal source for the Jewish revolt

but is especially valuable for its description of Roman military tactics and

strategy.

In Rome, Josephus had been granted citizenship and a pension. He was

a favourite at the courts of the emperors Vespasian, Titus, and

Domitian, and he enjoyed the income from a tax-free estate in Judaea.

He had divorced his third wife, married an aristocratic heiress from

Crete, and given Roman names to his children. He had written an official

history of the revolt and was loathed by the Jews as a turncoat and

traitor. Yet despite all of this, Josephus had by no means abandoned

his Judaism. His greatest work, Antiquitates Judaicae (The Antiquities of

the Jews), completed in 20 books in AD 93, traces the history of the

Jews from creation to just before the outbreak of the revolt of AD 66

70. It was an attempt to present Judaism to the Hellenistic world in a

favourable light. By virtually ignoring the Prophets, by embellishing

biblical narratives, and by stressing the rationality of Judaic laws and

institutions, he stripped Judaism of its fanaticism and made it appealing

to the cultivated and reasonable man. Historically, the coverage is

patchy and shows the fatigue of the author, then in his middle 50s. But

throughout, sources are preserved that otherwise would have been

lost, and, for Jewish history during the period of the Second

Commonwealth, the work is invaluable.

The Antiquities contains two famous references to Jesus Christ: the one

in Book XX calls him the so-called Christ. The implication in the

passage in Book XVIII of Christ's divinity could not have come from

Josephus and undoubtedly represents the tampering (if not invention)

of a later Christian copyist.

Appended to the Antiquities was a Vita (Life), which is less an

autobiography than an apology for Josephus' conduct in Galilee during

the revolt. It was written to defend himself against the charges of his

enemy Justus of Tiberias, who claimed that Josephus was responsible

for the revolt. In his defense, he contradicted the account given in his

more trustworthy Jewish War, presenting himself as a consistent

partisan of Rome and thus a traitor to the rebellion from the start.

Josephus appears in a much better light in a work generally known as

Contra Apionem (Against Apion, though the earlier titles Concerning the

Antiquity of the Jews and Against the Greeks are more apposite). Of its

two books, the first answers various anti-Semitic charges leveled at the

Jews by Hellenistic writers, while the second provides an argument for

the ethical superiority of Judaism over Hellenism and shows Josephus'

commitment to his religion and his culture.

Since Against Apion mentions the death of Agrippa II, it is probable that

Josephus lived into the 2nd century; but Agrippa's death date is

uncertain, and it is possible that Josephus died earlier, in the reign of

Domitian, sometime after AD 93.

Assessment.

As a historian, Josephus shares the faults of most ancient writers: his

analyses are superficial, his chronology faulty, his facts exaggerated,

his speeches contrived. He is especially tendentious when his own

reputation is at stake. His Greek style, when it is truly his, does not

earn for him the epithet the Greek Livy that often is attached to his

name. Yet he unites in his person the traditions of Judaism and

Hellenism, provides a connecting link between the secular world of

Rome and the religious heritage of the Bible, and offers many insights

into the mentality of subject peoples under the Roman Empire.

Personally, Josephus was vain, callous, and self-seeking. There was not

a shred of heroism in his character, and for his toadyism he well

deserved the scorn heaped upon him by his countrymen. But it may be

said in his defense that he remained true to his Pharisee beliefs and,

being no martyr, did what he could for his people.

[BY JK: This last assessment of Josephus is inaccurate. Since there is

no external source on him, we must turn to the internal character of his

own self-assessment. If we accept that he opposed the rebellion

openly and believed that it was doomed, but was drawn into it by his

high position in the community, then his actions after capture do not

betray a cause he never supported. As for scorn heaped upon him by

his countrymen there is no external source. I assume that the scorn

would not be for his actions during the war, for there is nothing that we

know of that deserves scorn, but rather for being Romanized. The Jews

were divided between those who adopted Greco-Roman ways and the

orthodox. There were riots in Alexandria over this falling away from the

law (of the Torah). As a orthodox leader of the highest station, to

adopt Roman would be the cause of scorn. Finally, Josephuss works

translated into English, during the 17th and 18th centuries was one of

the 4 most widely read books in this country.]

 


Gary William Poole

Copyright © 1994-2002 Encyclopędia Britannica, Inc.

 

Josephus as historian