Josephus and the Testimonium: Is it Evidence of Jesus?

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Josephus: What's the Deal?

By Rook Hawkins

 

 

Far too often apologists and evangelicals bring up Josephus as a source for a historical Jesus. This is a continuing error among scholars, and it is fueled by secular scholars who are either persuaded by pseudo-scientific evaluations of the texts, or for reasons dealing only in their presuppositions, such as those discussed above. The Testimonium Flavianum is generally brought up by both apologists and historical Jesus questers more than any other document. Although other supposed mentions of Jesus exist, the subject, so as to not seem as if an Argument from Silence is the only means at which one can attain the position held in this book, will be limited to the Testimonium due to its importance and scope of usage. For this reason, included here in this section is a specific refutation towards the use of this passage, as will be provided ample evidence for its entire dismissal as an interpolation.

Arguments for the interpolation of this passage consist of the following: (1) Problems of textual conformity between manuscripts, (2) peculiar placement in the text, (3) odd use of Josephan language, (4) the use of pro-Christian language, (5) lack of mention specifically in any other earlier Christian source including Justin Martyr and Origen, (6) the earliest attestation we have, that of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical Histories, he places the Testimonium after Josephus’ account of John the Baptist, and finally (7) Eusebius has an alternate version of the text himself in another work.

The problems of conformity of the manuscripts are a huge deal, although generally not touched upon by dissenters of the Josephan controversy over the Testimonium. The first attestation to this passage is found in the forth century, and even then it seems to not have been set in stone, as Steve Mason[1] cites that Jerome (p. 230) had a different version of the transcript in his Lives of Illustrious Men, and in the 10th century yet an additional manuscript is found in Agapius (ibid.). But it doesn’t stop there, as Michael, the Patriarch of Antioch quotes another variant text in the 12th century. So many alterations exist. Mason asks, “Where did such equivocal versions of Josephus’ account come from?” (p. 231) And not least of all, the fact that there are alternative translations which exist from Robert Eisler[2] and John P. Meier[3] spark additional questions. Why are there no copies of Josephus before Eusebius in the fourth century for scholarship to adequately translate? Perhaps Christians didn’t feel the need to preserve it beforehand, and that should raise additional red flags.

The peculiar placement of the text is additionally odd. Looking at the text from a distance, without really comparing the accounts of the context around the Testimonium, it may seem possible that it fits. It does deal with Pilate, that is for sure, and certainly it contains accounts of followers of a cult, referred to as a “tribe,” that Josephus didn’t hold to, much like those of the cult of Isis he discusses a section down. But further examination reveals a troubling reality. After Pilate arrives in Judea, Josephus follows with two incidents; (a) Pilate allows the Roman images into Jerusalem during the night, and (b) Pilate’s use of temple funds to build an aqueduct. Immediately following the Testimonium, (c) Josephus discusses the destruction of the temple of Isis and the crucifixion of Egyptian priests, (d) Jews are expelled from Rome because of Jewish troublemakers, and (e) Pilate destroyed the Samaritan movement and their settlement at Gerizim. Mason states that, “Like a tourist negotiating a bustling, raucous Middle-Eastern market who accidentally walks through the door of a monastery, suffused with light and peace, the reader of Josephus is struck by this sublime portrait.” (p. 227) Events (a), (b) and (e) involve incidents that look unfavorably upon Pilate, but the Testimonium blames the fiasco of the crucifixion not on Pilate—who seems more like a puppet being played—but on the “denunciation by the leading men among us.” Every single event save for the Testimonium in Antiquities 18 is described as some form of outrage or uprising, yet there is no tumultuous event here, no uprising to speak of. Overall, Mason makes the observance that “he is pointing out the follow of Jewish rebels, governors, and troublemakers,” (ibid.) yet in the Testimonium, Josephus speaks highly of Jesus and his followers, a stark contrast to the rest of the context. Finally, Josephus starts the section concerning the Isis temple as “another outrage,” for which George A. Wells[4] and others have argued both events (b) and (c) to have originally been adjacent, leaving the probability for the Testimonium to have been inserted later.[5]

The debate over the language of the Testimonium has been all over the place, to say the least. The hard fact is, however, that the passage reeks of Josephus but in a completely bizarre manner and at the same time seems to resemble normal Christian apologia. Mason cites several words and phrases which seem Josephan until considered in context;[6] that being “doer (ποιετες) of wonderful deeds,”[7] “they did not cease,” “he was perhaps the Christ (Χριστος)” and “tribe (Φψλε) of the Christians.” The use and language of these words does not fit into the normal Josephan style, and even in the case that they were Josephan in style they would not fit into how Josephus used the terms,[8] they are missing further explanation, or would make little sense to his intended audience; the Greeks and Romans who would be fully unaware of the meaning behind “Christ.” In the same manner, the high regard in which he holds Christ, even in the regard that our earliest attestation, Eusebius, has him being referred to specifically as Christ is downright ridiculous. Not only is the language reflective of a Christian apologist in the forth century, but it doesn’t sound like something a first century pious Jew would write, especially in the context that Josephus was writing in (Jewish apologetics).

Silence is golden except when one is trying to prove their God existed, and then one should want to be as loud with information as possible. Yet early Christians seemed to be loud on everything except the Testimonium, which would have been completely revolutionary in terms of evidence in the early Christian centuries, especially against Trypho, Celsus and Prophyry. Yet strangely the reader of the polemics against these pagans seems to be missing the Testimonium, even though they cite from Josephus over and over again. Mason writes that “Origen expressed his wonder that the Jewish historian ‘did not accept that our Jesus is Christ’,” (p. 229) which is accurate. But there is more troubling information to consider here. That nowhere does Origen ever cite or attempt to cite anything remotely close to the Testimonium is damning. Instead one only sees reference to James, in which Origen seems to have recalled that Josephus referred to Jesus as “the one called Christ.”[9] It is odd that this appears only in Origen and not before. For example, this passage is never brought up by Justin Martyr in his dialog with Trypho. What else is odd is that out of the blue you have Ananus killing James. The apologist would have one believe that he killed James because Jesus was his brother, but what purpose would that have served? Instead, looking at the context another probability possibility itself, and seems to be the more probable.

The order of Chapter 9 is as follows: (1) Ananus takes the high priesthood away from Josephus by order of Agrippa. (2) Ananus seems to have not been very patient, a member of the sect of the Sadducees, he felt the need to flex his muscles so, (3) while Albinus—the new procurator of Judea sent by Caesar after the death of Festus—was yet enroute, (4) he arrested James and some companions and (5) brought forth accusations against him. (6) He then had them stoned. (7) Citizens who felt James was just and upright sent out for Agrippa while others met Albinus on the road. (Cool Agrippa removed Ananus from the High Priesthood and gave it to Jesus, son of Damneus. James, in the context of the chapter, is said to be “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.”

There seems to be two possible solutions for this, and both seem adequate in light of the evidence. First, it seems more accurate that Josephus is here referring to Jesus, son of Damneus. Among our first solution, consider the passage is authentic with absolutely no tampering; even Mason agrees that the use of Christos in this fashion seems more appropriate as it is a nickname rather than a title. (p. 228) Mason suggests that titles were common among first century Jews because of the lack of common names in use. Jesus here is nicknamed “anointed.” Jesus son of Damneus did in fact get selected to be the High Priest, in which he would have been anointed for the position which the scripture commands in Exodus 29:9 and 1 Samuel 10:1, and thus his nickname would apply. This example gives too much credit to the originality of the text, however, and although it certainly is possible that this section of the text could be authentic, it is still doubtful considering the list of early Christians who would have had no problems tampering with it. In the Greek, the text for Antiquities 20.9.1, 200 is as follows (translated here from the Koine):[10]

“When Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. 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; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”

It is odd that this verse is considered to be authentic completely, especially considering the almost nonchalant nature of Josephus’ discussion of James, as if he wasn’t the subject at all. Instead, it seems that Jesus was the subject of this verse specifically, which is why his name is brought up at all. What other reason would Josephus have to discuss Jesus in relation to James? How does Jesus fit into this discussion, especially if he was already dead which oddly enough is never mentioned in the text? Nowhere does Josephus say “Jesus who was called Christ, who had been crucified by Pilate.” Jesus doesn’t even get discussed in past tense in any way; in fact it could be argued that it seems as if Jesus is still alive when James was put on trial. These oddities lead to the position that Jesus son of Damneus is the Jesus who is the brother of James, who is being tried by Ananus.

This is even more anomalous then, that Origen notes that James is to blame for the fall of Jerusalem instead of Jesus, as he writes (emphasis added):

“Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless--being, although against his will, not far from the truth--that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),--the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure.”

It should be obvious to those who would read this that Origen only knew of this passage in Josephus, and perhaps the only reason why he even considered it to be in regards to Jesus was that he had copies of Luke, and also of Paul which he would have read as being the same James. It does not even appear as though Jesus was called “the Christ” in this passage, but rather Origen simply interpreted it at this time to mean Jesus Christ. This should lead to some consideration as to how much Origen really read of the text in Josephus’ Antiquities. He certainly did not know of the Testimonium, as he never refers to it, where it would have been valuable to do so. Moreso the passage here in Antiquities 20 does not seem to mean what many think it does, and probably didn’t receive its final stature until either right before or immediately after Origen, but certainly before Eusebius. This can be witnessed in that Eusebius himself doesn’t seem to have a completed interpolation either, and perhaps even he had received a slightly reworked text before reading it himself.

Consider that, while returning to the list concerning the Testimonium, Eusebius’ understanding of the text is exactly the next subject to be discussed. For Eusebius quotes the Testimonium as if he didn’t know where it fit. He suggests for example that the passage of Jesus is found after the passage of John the Baptist, which is erroneous to the manuscripts we have today. Mason writes that “even at Eusebius’ time the form of the Testimonium was not yet fixed…in fact...[it] remained fluid.” (p. 230) Not only does it seem to be fluid, but Eusebius seems to have an alternate reading of the text—or perhaps he is altering it even more himself—in Demonstratio Evangelica 3:5 below:

"And Jesus arises at that time, a wise man, if it is befitting to call him a man. For he was a doer of no common works, a teacher of men who reverence truth. And he gathered many of the Jewish and many of the Greek race. This was Christus; and when Pilate (c) condemned him to the Cross on the information of our rulers, his first followers did not cease to revere him. For he appeared to them the third day alive again, the divine prophets having foretold this, and very many other things about him. And from that time to this the tribe of the Christians has not failed."

This is a very damning case for Eusebius and his Testimonium. What is worse is that all seven of these problems, with the addition of the James passage, make Josephus’ testimony hard to take seriously. The Testimonium appears completely nonexistent prior to the forth century, and even then we don’t have any manuscript evidence until after the tenth century. And all the manuscript data we do have conflict with each other in ways you shouldn’t expect to find, especially among the same people! Admitting these problems as well as the fact that many, albeit not near a consensus, in the scholarly community have suggested the complete removal of the Testimonium, Mason suggests that a complete interpolation seems unlikely. It is hard to believe that somebody can truly feel this is the case after looking over the evidence, and one has to wonder if there are any additional motivations in wanting the text to be authenticated. However, suffice from ever gaining that knowledge one can only hope that Mason can provide some sort of sound evidence for his claims. He does put forth a few reasons why such a complete interpolation would not seem likely. (1) He claims that Christian copyists were “quite conservative in transmitting texts.” (p. 232) His evidence for this point is that (a) there seems to be no other suspicious tampering in Josephus and that, (b) no evidence exists in Philo which would also have been helpful to their cause. Mason states, “But in the case of Philo and Josephus…one is hard pressed to find a single example of serious scribal altercation.” (ibid.)

But Mason’s claims here are dubious, and full of pseudo truths. For starters, his final claim that one is hardpressed to locate any “serious” scribal altercations is hard to take seriously, as he is discussions a very serious scribal altercation in his very paragraph! Indeed, the whole reason why Christian scribes were conservative is because to interpolate more would be to cause additional problems. In fact, it is probably the reason why textual critics did not find more than just one paragraph, as had the interpolators used any additional space it would have made copying the rest of the manuscript much more difficult, and perhaps they would have even run out of room. This is why when we see interpolations they are minimal, and not extensive. For example, we do not see the Gospel narratives fully embedded in Josephus precisely because such a thing would be difficult for an interpolator to accomplish while still recalling the other two full books he would have to copy.

Bart Ehrman[11] shows how this is impossible due to scroll length. Papyrus scrolls—basically glued-together sections of papyrus sheets—seldom measured longer than 35 feet in length due to convenience. Thus, authors, and later those copyists who would transmit the texts onto fresh scrolls later—would generally separate long works into “books,” each accommodating one scroll. Josephus’ Antiquities was made up of 20 such books, so the scribal interpolator would need to be conservative in order to avoid running out of space. This is perhaps why textual critics see small interpolations in the Gospels, such as 1 John 5:7, and not whole sections of text, at least not until much later when the cost of codifying made it cheaper to transmit texts.

Indeed, it seems that when Christians started using Codices[12] as opposed to scrolls, it would have become much easier to interpolate a selection of text. It would have cost significantly less than interpolating a scroll—Ehrman[13] recounts that in terms of value one would save up to 44% by having something copied in Codex form as opposed to Scrolls—and even more so when the Christian copyists started using parchment sheets instead of papyrus leaves. Such a change from papyrus to parchment made copying texts onto both sides of a sheet much easier to accomplish than using the sheets of papyri, in which the direction of the fibers made transmission difficult and annoying.

This would explain then why we don’t really see an interpolation until after Eusebius, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Not only was the use of Codices more popular as is discussed by Eusebius concerning the fifty copies of the scripture to be Codified by the order of Constantine, but the fact that there were now whole groups of professional scribes focused on transmitting texts just for Christians, something that probably was state sanctioned if Constantine were commanding it. Prior to this time, it would probably still have been too expensive for the Christian to pay for a copyist to transmit the texts in this great a number, and additionally we know many of the early Christians were slaves, criminals, women and their children,[14] who would probably not have had the means at interpolating any specific passages themselves.

That aside, the notion that Christian scribes were always conservative is truly bunk. Especially when one considers the Old Russian copies of Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, where there seem to be several interpolated passages attesting to Jesus. In refutation of Mason’s claim that “Christian copyists were quite conservative,” George A. Wells[15] writes, “This seems to overlook the considerable interpolations…in the Old Russian translation of The Jewish War, and there are extensive Christian interpolations in other Jewish writings of the period, now known as the OT Pseudepigrapha.” (p. 51-52) For a complete viewing of these manuscripts, Frank Zindler has an informative article on the Old Russian manuscripts in his work The Jesus the Jews Never Knew (2003), p. 60-71.

In the end it must be concluded that there is not a single reason to accept any part of the Testimonium, indeed any reference to Jesus in Josephus should be looked at skeptically and avoided as any use for evidence of a historical Jesus. To accept the Testimonium is to cherry pick the translation, the text variant and the church father one likes the best, and nothing more. This is not the means to attaining honest research and certainly should not be considered good scholarship.



[1] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament; 2nd Edition, (2003)

[2] Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist (1931)

[3] John P. Meier, The Testimonium: Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible, Biblical Review 7/3 (June 1991): 23

[4] G.A. Wells, The Jesus Legend (1997), p. 47-52

[5] Other than Wells and Mason, Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle (2005), p. 206-207; Frank R. Zindler, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew (2003), p. 31-71

[6] Josephus in the New Testament, p. 231

[7] In the Greek, as even Mason agrees (p. 231) that by the time Josephus started writing, the term poie4te4s has become a designation to mean ‘poet’ and not describe ‘doing.’ In fact, according to the Complete Concordance of Flavius Josephus: Study Edition Vol. II, Josephus uses the term poie4te8os to refer to somebody doing or making something. He only ever uses poie4te4s when referring specifically to poets, such as Antiquities 1.3, 16. He uses the term to refer to Theodectes as ‘”the tragic poet” (Antiquities 12.3.14, 113), as well as referring the following people as poets: Cherilus (Against Apion 1.22.172) and Homer (Apion 2.2.14). There is not one other time at which poie4te4s is used to refer to anybody doing something, or as somebody being a ‘doer’ of great deeds. This word is only used in Antiquities 18, in the Testimonium. This smacks of oddities, when had it been Josephus himself, we would see poie4te8os.

[8] Even if Josephus would have used the term Christos, which in itself is odd as the word Christ merely means “anointed” or “wetted” and would have made no sense to the Gentile reader who did not know of the significance of the Jewish tradition of anointing a High Priest with oil, there is no explanation of the tradition following the peculiar use of the term. This should cast doubts as to why the term appears here, at least without any explanation, as Mason suggests that Josephus is usually very sensitive to who he is writing to (p. 228).

[9] Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1, 200

[10] Transliterated from Louis Feldman, Josephus XIII: Jewish Antiquities Book XX, Loeb Classical Library 456 (2004)

[11] The Text of the New Testament, p. 12

[12] Ehrman writes that a codex is papyri sheets bound together in a leather book. Christians are considered to be the first to popularize the use of the Codex, as the differences in Pagan vs. Christian texts transmitted in the second century show a large difference between the amounts of Codices to Scrolls. Ehrman writes that out of 871 pagan manuscripts, 14 are written in Codex form, while 11 Christian texts from the same period—all the textual evidence we have of Christians in this century—are all in Codex form. (ibid. p. 13)

[13] Text of the New Testament, p. 14

[14] Celsus, in his On the True Doctrine, writes that the Christians, “Their injunctions are like this: ‘Let no one educated, no one wise, no one sensible draw near. For these abilities are thought by us to be evils. But as for anyone ignorant, anyone stupid, anyone uneducated, anyone childish, let him come boldly.’ By the fact that they themselves admit that these people are worthy of their god, they show that they want and are only able to convince only the foolish, dishonorable and stupid, and only slaves, women and little children.” Celsus, trans. by R. Joseph Hoffmann, Celsus On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians (1987)

[15] George A. Wells, The Jesus Legend (1997)

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Zombie's picture

Excellent work rook, I'm

Excellent work rook, I'm amusing this is part of your upcoming book?

Archeopteryx's picture

  I'm glad you posted

 

I'm glad you posted this. Until recently, I've mostly been examining the scientific and logical reasons for rejecting Christianity, but lately I've been trying to brush up on my history.

Of course, the things I'm reading would probably be child's play to you, but nonetheless.

Josephus is definitely a name that seems to get dropped often, so I'm glad to know the reasons he should be rejected as evidence for a biblical Jesus. 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Zombie wrote: Excellent

Zombie wrote:
Excellent work rook, I'm amusing this is part of your upcoming book?

 Thanks Zombie, it was originally going to be in my book, but I can't seem to find a place for it anymore.  I will have to write another book in the future to include this information.  For now it is available for everyone.    

 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Archeopteryx wrote:   I'm

Archeopteryx wrote:

 

I'm glad you posted this. Until recently, I've mostly been examining the scientific and logical reasons for rejecting Christianity, but lately I've been trying to brush up on my history.

 You'll find a lot of that in this blog.

Quote:
Of course, the things I'm reading would probably be child's play to you, but nonetheless.

 Perhaps, or maybe not.  I try to include a lot of references in my blogs, even if it is just for the benefit of my readers who might want to read up on particular claim or subject.

Quote:
Josephus is definitely a name that seems to get dropped often, so I'm glad to know the reasons he should be rejected as evidence for a biblical Jesus.

To be clear, this essay explains why we should reject the biblical and historical Jesus, two seperate entities that, through the fallacy of equivocation, are often considered to be one and the same.  In fact there are three seperate Jesus'.  Perhaps I'll write up a blog post on that perspective later on tonight. 

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inspectormustard's picture

Rook_Hawkins

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Archeopteryx wrote:
Of course, the things I'm reading would probably be child's play to you, but nonetheless.

Perhaps, or maybe not. I try to include a lot of references in my blogs, even if it is just for the benefit of my readers who might want to read up on particular claim or subject.

 

Don't forget that some references can also provide a foothold for those of us who want to write our own books on other topics, so of course they're appreciated in turn.

Zombie's picture

Rook_Hawkins wrote: Zombie

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Zombie wrote:
Excellent work rook, I'm amusing this is part of your upcoming book?

Thanks Zombie, it was originally going to be in my book, but I can't seem to find a place for it anymore. I will have to write another book in the future to include this information. For now it is available for everyone.

 

Does this make 3 books you are planning to or in the process of writing? Smiling 

Morte alla tyrannus et dei

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Zombie wrote: Rook_Hawkins

Zombie wrote:
Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Zombie wrote:
Excellent work rook, I'm amusing this is part of your upcoming book?

Thanks Zombie, it was originally going to be in my book, but I can't seem to find a place for it anymore. I will have to write another book in the future to include this information. For now it is available for everyone.

 

Does this make 3 books you are planning to or in the process of writing? Smiling



My friend, I will write dozens throughout my life. =)

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

heretic5's picture

Josephus is moot

Hello RootSmiling

You are absolutely correct to contend that the passage in question is bogus. Although you did a fine job to show that to be a fact, all of that work is moot because Jesus really did exist, albeit not originally testified to by Josephus. No, I am not another Christian. A perusal of my posts will show to the contrary. It is not by accident that my handle is "heretic5". No, not an accident by any stretch. But the fact that Christians rightly consider me to be a heretic, does not mean that I am an atheist, or even an agnostic. I am a theist, from your point of view. But that is an unfortunate way to label me because it seriously mis-informs you. So let me make a new label, simulist. Yes, I think that this "reality" is a simulation, and I also think that the person who made this simulation is the ultimate author of portions of the Bible. As to which portions, please see http://greatriddle.flifree.com/

Being a heretic is not automatically being wrong.

Christopher Price has

Christopher Price has written a terrific essay on this subject here: Bede.org.uk/josephus.htm

but one statement of yours in particular stood out to me: "Yet early Christians seemed to be loud on everything except the Testimonium, which would have been completely revolutionary in terms of evidence in the early Christian centuries, especially against Trypho, Celsus and Porphyry."

That's certainly interesting on 2 points

1: You, in this article, do not offer even a shred of evidence that this would be useful against Celsus, Trypho, or Prophyry. As Christopher Hitchens once uttered, Claims which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

2: Even your friend (I assume you are a friend of his, he is after all a prolific member of the secular web) Jeff Lowder would disagree with you here. as Lowder notes, the reconstructed Testimonium would be of no use to any given that all it does is show that Jesus existed and possibly did miracles. But this was never denied, and a great many pagan and Jewish skeptics (like Celsus) accepted that Jesus did miracles while he was alive.

 

BTW, you misspelled "Porphyry".

"If you can make any religion of the world look ridiculous, chances are you haven't understood it"-Ravi Zacharias

HisWillness's picture

mig_killer2 wrote:BTW, you

mig_killer2 wrote:
BTW, you misspelled "Porphyry".

Funny, so did you, below. (See question #1) It must be easy to misspell.

mig_killer2 wrote:
1: You, in this article, do not offer even a shred of evidence that this would be useful against Celsus, Trypho, or Prophyry. As Christopher Hitchens once uttered, Claims which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

I think I've already pointed out in another thread that Justin Martyr was recounting 100-year-old history, Celsus 150-year-old history, and Porphyry 250-year-old history. While Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho has the best hope of being contemporary, the only manuscripts of that are from the 14th and 16th centuries, and the second is a copy of the first.

mig_killer2 wrote:
as Lowder notes, the reconstructed Testimonium would be of no use to any given that all it does is show that Jesus existed and possibly did miracles.

The historically rigorous way to deal with miraculous claims would be what, exactly? And would you like to address the accusations of interpolation and anachronism in Josephus' work?

mig_killer2 wrote:
But this was never denied, and a great many pagan and Jewish skeptics (like Celsus) accepted that Jesus did miracles while he was alive.

Then naturally we should believe them, and forget historical rigour.

 

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence

Jesus, son of Damneus

I appreciate this thought provoking analysis on the Testimonium.  However, I'm not sure I follow you on the idea about Jesus ben Damneus being the same Jesus referenced as Christos in the Antiquities.  Your argument there seems to rest on the idea that because Jesus ben Damneus became High Priest, that the ordination service would have involved an anointing ceremony, thus making him an anointed one, so to speak.  But you're obviously aware of the significance that the term Christos carries--that it is a term used for, and a direct translation of, the Messiah.  That being the case, it seems to me that if we are to believe that Josephus means to point the reader to Jesus ben Damneus as one and the same as "Jesus, who was called Christ", that the obvious question arises as to how many other High Priests of Israel were termed Christos.  And, indeed, how many other High Priests of Israel does Josephus himself refer to as such in the Antiquities.

 

I'll be overt in saying that I ask these questions in all sincerity, since I myself am not a New Testament or Early Church scholar.  Still, from what I do know, in Jewish culture and theology, Messiah/Christos would have held a very specific connotation--and to the best of my knowledge that term was not associated with one who held the title of High Priest of Israel.

 

Furthermore, there is also the obvious question about James the Just's paternal lineage, and Jesus ben Dameus's maternal lineage.  If we are to believe that Jesus ben Damneus is a blood brother of James the Just, then is that to assert that James is also son of Damneus?  If so, what evidence can be shown to support this claim?  On the other hand, if we were to assume traditional Christian history and equate James the Just with James the Less, and we are to further suppose that James the Less is both son of Mary but also brother of Jesus of Damneus, then what evidence can be shown that Damneus was wed to Mary?  And then of course there is the obvious question that if we were to grant that Jesus the Christ, son of Mary, were brother to James the Just, and James the Just is also brother to Jesus ben Damneus, then why would Mary (or for that matter whoever was the mother of both James and Jesus, and presumably Jesus ben Damneus) have named two sons Jesus (the one who became known as Christ and the son of Damneus)?  Obviously I get that you are arguing that they are one and the same person, but my point is simply that that doesn't seem to jive if High Priests of Israel were never referred to as Christos, and that if they were not then for the argument to make sense one has to subject the brotherly connection between James and JBD to even more scrutiny.

I suppose what I'm saying is this:  Even if we suppose that there are major reasons to consider many parts of the cannon to be either contrived or in error, it seems that we are still making leaps to suppose from this one passage in Josephus's Antiquities--a passage whose ambiguity is the basis of your own argument on this particular point--that James the Just is in fact brother of Jesus ben Damneus and not some other Jesus who for whatever reason had people calling him Christos.  While it is obviously good scholarship to subject Scripture to textual criticism, such an inference from this one ambiguous line in the Antiquities seems to to be far more sketchy than the conclusions that are normally drawn for James the Just's background.  So why would we draw conclusions that Josephus is discussing Jesus ben Damneus as the one "who is called Christ" when the traditional interpretation of that line seems to carry at least as much, if not more weight???

Jeffrick's picture

Casey Nicholson

 

 

                what the...........???   Thats the first time I have seen the name Jesus Ben Damneus. btw it means Joshua the Condemed; which makes no sense.

 

 

                 I use the name Joshua Bar Joseph; which more properly is [in Aramaic] Yeoshuah B'har  Yusuff.  {Joshua son of Joseph}  BUT Jesus is not a real person [ergo NO siblings].  The name Jesu Christos,  is not a name IT IS a TITLE.  The title 'Joshua Messiah'  means "God's annointed savior".  Saul of Tarsus was promoting a mythical 'savior'; St.Paul didn't believe he was promoting a REAL person, so why should anyone else: Paul/Saul was promoting a 'leap of faith' ,  a belief - without proof - in a savior. a MYSTICAL savior.

 

 

                 Josephus never heard of St.Paul  nor Jesu christos. Centurys later;  christian true believers  REDACTED into edited versions of Josephus' stories of J.C.  but none of that is real.

 

 

                 Jesu christos: Jesus Ben Damneus: Yeoshuah Bar Yusuf / which ever title-name you choose, was ficticious;  based on stories of Lord Mithras and maybe a few itinerate roving preachers; plus some pre-ordained prophasys from the Torah.  NONE of this is real.

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