.Secular and Jewish Historians: Josephus (page 1)

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There are two passage in which first century Jewish historian Jospehus speaks of Jesus of Nazerath. The first passage is known as the Testimonium Flavianum(hence forth "TF").The second passage gives Jesus just a passing mention and it really about the high priest Annas, and his stoning of Jesus' brother James (I'll call it the "James passage"--see Josephus 3).

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 wonders, 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" (Antiquities 18:63-64)(caps=disputed parts)

Fewer changes if tradition is controlled

The Testimony of Josephus is the most important extra Biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus, owing to the fact that he is our most authoritative source for events of the first century in Palestine. For this reason, skeptics are animate about denying the authenticity of the two passages in which Josephus mentions Jesus. Often one will hear skeptics intone some statement to the effect that, "no serious scholar accepts that passage," or "all real scholars know that it was made up." Often they don't even bother with the notion that the passage was "tweeked" to include Christian sentiments. They blithely accept the idea that the whole thing was made up and Josephus never mentioned Jesus at all. It is far from the truth that most scholars agree with that. In fact most scholars now days agree that there is a core passage mentioning Jesus, but that it was added to with Christian phrases such as "if it be lawful to call him a man," and the like.

Even the major atheist armature scholar of the secular web, Jeff Lowder, agrees that the passage is genuine, at least in its core. "In conclusion, I think McDowell is right to appeal to the Testimonium as independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus." He quotes Louis Feldman as saying that the authenticity of the James passage in Josephus "has been almost universally acknowledged."(Louis H. Feldman, "Josephus" Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pp. 990-1.)

As to the major passage, the "TF," Most scholars agree that it at least has a core of authenticity, but has been reworked. Thus most scholars agree that Josephus does at least mention someone named Jesus of Nazareth who probably give rise to the Christian movement. According to Louis H. Feldman in "The Testimonium Flavianum: The State of the Question" in Christological Perspectives, Robert F. Berkley and Sarah A. Edwards (New York: Pilgrim, 1982) there are liberal scholars who leave the entire passage intact! (e.g. A.M. Dubarle, the French scholar). Feldman's count: 4 scholars regard as completely genuine, 6 mostly genuine; 20 accept it with some interpolations, 9 with several interpolations; 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation.[ Feldman, Louis H. Josephus and Modern Scholarship. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984. P. 684-91]

A List of Scholar who accept at least some core passage.

John P. Meier
Raymond Brown
Graham Stanton
N.T. Wright
Paula Fredrickson
John D. Crossan
E.P. Sanders
Geza Vermes
Louis Feldman
John Thackeray
Andre Pelletier
Paul Winter
A. Dubarle
Ernst Bammel
Otto Betz
Paul Mier
Ben Witherington
F.F. Bruce
Luke T. Johnson
Craig Blomberg
J. Carleton Paget
Alice Whealey
J. Spencer Kennard
R. Eisler
R.T. France
Gary Habermas
Robert Van Voorst
Shlomo Pines
Edwin M. Yamuchi
James Tabor
John O'Connor-Murphy
Mark Goodacre
Paula Frederiksen
David Flusser
Steve Mason

Alice Whealy, Berkely Cal.

The TF controversy from antiquity to present

PDF, 9
Twentieth century controversy over the Testimonium Flavianum can be distinguished from controversy over the text in the early modern period insofar as it seems generally more academic and less sectarian. While the challenge to the authenticity of the Testimonium in the early modern period was orchestrated almost entirely by Protestant scholars and while in the same period Jews outside the church uniformly denounced the text's authenticity, the twentieth century controversies over the text have been marked by the presence of Jewish scholars for the first time as prominent participants on both sides of the question. In general, the attitudes of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish and secular scholars towards the text have drawn closer together, with a greater tendency among scholars of all religious backgrounds to see the text as largely authentic. On the one hand this can be interpreted as the result of an increasing trend towards secularism, which is usually seen as product of modernity. On the other hand it can be interpreted as a sort of post-modern disillusionment with the verities of modern skepticism, and an attempt to recapture the sensibility of the ancient world, when it apparently was still possible for a first-century Jew to have written a text as favorable towards Jesus of Nazareth as the Testimonium Flavianum.

Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources

Michael Gleghorn

"Did Josephus really write this? Most scholars think the core of the passage originated with Josephus, but that it was later altered by a Christian editor, possibly between the third and fourth century A.D."

(these next few quotes about scholar's views contributed by researcher Nehemias 8/18/2008 02:16:00 PM)

Prof. Mark Goodacre, Duke University:

"Josephus' text has, of course, been interpolated by Christians, but most scholars think that there is at its base a passage written by Josephus: NB style, context & non-Christian elements that survive".

Prof. Paula Frederiksen, Boston University:

"Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by Christian scribes." (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, page 249).

Prof. David Flusser, Hebraica University:

"Although it is generally recognized that the passage concerning Jesus in the extant greek manuscripts of his Jewish Antiquities (18:63-64) was distorted by later christian hands "the most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote, but that some alterations have been made by a christian interpolator" (The Sage from Galilee - Rediscovering Jesus' Genius, page 12) The leading Josephus Scholar, Steve Mason discusses the two references to Jesus in Josephus' writings in his book Josephus and the New Testament:

about scholarship consensus:

"Taking all of these problems into consideration, a few scholars have argued that the entire passage (the testimonium) as it stands in Josephus is a Christian forgery. The Christian scribes who copied the Jewish historian's writings thought it intolerable that he should have said nothing about Jesus and spliced the paragraph in where it might logically have stood, in Josephus' account of Pilate's tenure. (...) Most critics, however, have been reluctant to go so far." (page 170-171) Josephus' Testimony to Jesus: by Dr. James D. Tabor

Testimonium Flavianum)
Josephus, Antiquities
18. 63-64

"We have only three Greek manuscripts of this section of Josephus, all from the 11th century. These phrases, added rather clumsily, appear to be rather obvious additions even to the modern reader in English. Once restored to its more original reading Josephus offers us a most fascinating reference to Jesus. Indeed, it is the earliest reference to Jesus outside the New Testament, and its rather matter of fact, neutral reporting, makes it all the more valuable to the historian. It is worth noting that in his earlier work, The Jewish War, written shortly after the revolt under the auspices of the Emperor Vespasian, he mentioned neither Jesus, nor John the Baptist, nor James, while in the Antiquities, written in the early 90s C.E., he mentions all three. For an excellent discussion of this text see John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus(Doubleday, 1991), Vol I, pp. 57-88.
Tabor's Version of Josephus' account without the emendations:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man [...,] for he was a doer of wonders[....] 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,[ ...,] and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Antiquities 18:63-64

Tabor's Version of Josephus' account without the emendations:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man [...,] for he was a doer of wonders[....] 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,[ ...,] and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Antiquities 18:63-64

(James D. Tabor is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he has taught since 1989. He previously held positions at the University of Notre Dame (1979-85) and the College of William and Mary (1985-89). His Ph.D. is from the University of Chicago in the area of Christian Origins and ancient Judaism with a specialty in apocalyptic systems of thought, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus and Paul, and related ancient Mediterranean religious movements).

Similarity with Luke's Emmaus Narrative Disproves Idea of Forgery

Mystery of Testamonium Flavian

summarizing a quotation from Josephus Homepage: (1995)G. J. Goldberg correspondences between the TF and the Emmaus narrative of Luke. His conclusion is that these are the result of a common source which is lost to posterity..

These correspondences are not indicative of what we would expect form a forger, and any latter additions would destroy the relationship between the two tests. This means the TF can't be a forgery, but must have been a reliance upon common source..

"The significant variations between the two texts is that the Luke texts have neither the phrase "if indeed he can be called a man" nor "he was the Messiah" at appropriate locations, in accordance with the Arabic version published by Pines (1971) and verifying the speculations of Winter.

However, both texts contain the resurrection and the prophecy in parallel locations and with unusual overlapping vocabulary, again in accordance with the Arabic version, but in disagreement with the speculations of Winter, Meier, and others."
This quotation comes form the author of the Josephus Homepage, who wishes his works not to be quoted, I have to respect his wishes. But I can link to his pages(scroll to bottom). He summarizes an article in a scholarly Journal which uses computer analysis to back up this proposal about the paralells of Luke and Jo disproving forgery. What they prove is that Josephus used a common source with Luke, the "L" source perhaps. "A version of this discussion was originally published in The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995), pp. 59-77."

for everything you've ever wanted to know about Josephus, see the best sight on the net for Jo info: Josephus Homepage

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