Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jesus Outside the New Testament II: Flavius Josephus part 1 of 2

The following material was extracted from a web sight that is no longer available. Most of the scholars that are included are liberal which adds weight and significance to the evidence. I have taken the liberty of trimming it down a bit. The original author is unknown.

References to James, the Brother of Jesus - 94 C.E.In 94 C.E., Antiquities of the Jews written by Josephus in Aramaic was translated to Greek. The document refers briefly to the trial of James, "the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah".
- James H. Charlesworth,
Jesus Within Judaism
"...So he [Albinus the new procurator of Judea] assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ [later translations give the so-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: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done..."
- Flavius Josephus,
Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XX, Ch IX, Sn 1
"In the third century C.E. the Christian writer Origen had expressed his astonishment that Josephus, while disbelieving that Jesus was the Messiah, should have spoken so warmly about his brother. This information from Origen is incontrovertible evidence that Josephus referred to Jesus before any Christian copyist would have had a change to make alterations."
- Ian Wilson,
Jesus, The Evidence
"This James was of so shining a character among the people, on account of his righteousness, that Flavius Josephus, when, in his twentieth book of the Jewish Antiquities, he had a mind to set down what was the cause why the people suffered such miseries, till the very holy house was demolished, he said, that these things befell them by the anger of God, on account of what they had dared to do to James, the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ; and wonderful it is, that while he did not receive Jesus for Christ, he did nevertheless bear witness that James was so righteous a man. He says farther, that the people thought they had suffered these things for the sake of James."
- Origen,
Comment. in Matth. (230 C.E.)
"If Josephus knew of, and referred to James as 'the brother of Jesus, him called the Christ,' why does he not refer to James in regard to his membership in any Christian sect, let alone his leadership of it? If James was the head of a Jerusalem church which had spread its tentacles far and wide across the empire (a la Acts), including right into Rome where Josephus lived and worked, would such an organization, such a success story, have been ignored by him?"
- Earl Doherty (CrossTalk)
The Testimonium Flavianum Josephus' reference to Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum may be translated from the Greek as follows. What is thought to be the Christian interpolations are in italics:
"At this time there was Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising works, (and) a teacher of people who with pleasure received the unusual. He stirred up both many Jews and many of Greeks. He was the Christ. And when Pilate condemned him to the cross, since he was accused by the first-rate men among us, those who had been living (him from) the first did not cease (to cause trouble), for he appeared to them on the third day, having life again, as the prophets of God had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him. And until now the tribe of Christians, so named from him, is not (yet?) extinct."
- Flavius Josephus,
Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XVIII, Ch III, Sn 3
Kitab al-'Unwan - 10th c. C.E."An Arabic version of the Testimonium Flavianum has been discovered in Agapius' Book of the Title (Kitab al-'Unwan), which is a history of the world from its beginning until 941/42 C.E. Agapius (or Agapios) was a tenth-century Christian Arab and Melkite bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, in Asia Minor."
- James H. Charlesworth,
Jesus Within Judaism
"Similarly Josephus (Yusifus), the Hebrew. For he says in the treatises that he was written on the governance (?) of the Jews: 'At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders'."
- Agapius,
Book of the Title (translated by Israeli scholar S. Pines in 1971)
Note that in Agapius' version, that there is no mention of "principal men" accusing Jesus. Pilate appears to act on his own initiative.
"What is immediately obvious - when one compares the Arabic and the Greek recensions - is that the blatantly Christian passages are conspicuously absent in the Arabic version. The first two Christian passages in the Greek ('if indeed one ought to call him a man' and 'He was the Christ'') are missing. The third, and final, one is introduced by the words 'They reported that...'
"The final statement is contorted; how could a Jew claim that anyone
'was perhaps the Messiah'?....It is best to assume that what Josephus wrote is not accurately preserved in any extant recension (Greek, Slavic, or Arabic); it has been at least slightly altered by Christian scribes."
- James H. Charlesworth,
Jesus Within Judaism
Context of the Testimonium "The placement of the paragraph [in Jewish Antiquities] is significant. It comes right next to a story about a chaste and devout woman who was tricked into spending the night at a pagan temple and there sleeping with a man under the impression that he was the god of the temple. The connection of the story with the history of the Jews, Josephus's alleged subject, is a bit tenuous, but it makes perfect sense if we suppose that he was using it to introduce the story of a gullible Galilean virgin who was tricked into sleeping with a man under the impression that he was angelic or divine, and whose son grew up to become a wandering faith-healer who was executed by the Romans for claiming to be the Messiah, and whose followers are still disturbers of the peace..."
- James Kiefer
Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the Testimonium directly follows an account of sedition in Jerusalem which was put down by Pontius Pilate with a heavy death toll. If the Testimonium is not the invention of Eusebius (or some other church official), could a Christian copyist have expurgated original wording which implicated Jesus in this or a similar activity?
(Josephus was contemptuous of the Zealot movement with which at least some of Jesus followers may have been associated.
"The neutral, or ambiguous, or perhaps somewhat dismissive tone of the Testimonium is probably the reason why early Christian writers (especially the apologists of the 2d century) passed over it in silence, why Origen complained that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, and why some interpolator(s) in the late 3d century added Christian affirmations."
- John P. Meier,
A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1.

"Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixition, we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus."
- John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography p. 145

In the article which is to follow, I plan to discuss some of the issues and debates with my own thoughts on the matter.

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