Thursday, 10 September 2009

What Josephus didn't say

One of the most well know and debated references of Jesus outside the bible is from Josephus (37-100 AD). Josephus was a Jewish historian who published some great works in his time. In his Antiquities of the Jews (93 or 94 AD), he set out to publish a fuller history of the Jewish people from the dawn of time to his day. In this volume Jesus is mentioned twice.

Josephus first quote

The first reference to Jesus in the Antiquities of the Jew (18.63-64) we have the following:
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.

The main problem with this quote is that most historians believe this to be tampered with, and with good reason. Jesus rocked the Jewish system too much and proclaimed to be the Christ, which got him killed. A Jew would have never call Jesus the Christ and nor would he have been so neutral about the reports of Jesus resurrection.

To add some confusion an Arabic copy (as opposed to the Greek one above) of the Antiquities of the Jews has Josephus saying "he was perhaps the Christ" and that it was "reported that he appeared to them alive again on the third day". This copy may in fact reflect Josephus sentiment.

In all likely hood an early Christan scribe made adjustments to Josephus's work to paint Jesus in a better picture. Some argue that the scribe might of used text from Luke 24:19-21, 26-27 (but I'm not convinced):
And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened....Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

In the next post we will see what we have left once we remove the suspected doctored comments.


Post a Comment