Dec 092013

josephusFinally rewrote some parts in order to make the article a bit more accurate.

Testimonium Flavianum: Josephus’ Reference to Jesus

Most significantly, I had to write the conclusion again from scratch:

Thus, even though Josephus may not have referred to Jesus, that does not necessarily imply that there was no historical Jesus. While a reference to Jesus would help substantiate the historicity of Jesus, it, by the same token, wouldn’t necessarily settle the question outright, especially when the supposed reference is the subject of such severe textual difficulties. While the appeal to the text of Josephus is often made in the attempt to secure the place of Jesus as a figure in history, the text of Josephus itself is far too insecure to carry the burden assigned to it.

(The old one dodged all the problems involved and concluded that the place of Jesus as a figure of history is therefore secure, period.)

I’ve bumped up my evaluation of the argument that the 20.9.1 reference implies an earlier one:

This argument is important if not singularly decisive. It must be said, however, that Josephus may not have intended this identification to serve as a reference to an earlier passage. The general plausibility of such an identification without any earlier reference is established from the similar example in Wars of the Jews 2.247 (see above). However, it is questionable to attempt to compare Christ to Pallas in the historical context of first century Roman readers. Pallas, with his secular fame, needed no explanation. Josephus, both in his desire to provide the historical backdrop of Judea prior to the revolt and with his need to distance himself and Judaism from messianic movements generally, would have provided an explanation for anybody in his narrative “who is called Christ.”

Added a consideration to the argument that the unexplained, solitary reference to ‘Christ’ is unusual:

Against this counter-argument, David Fitzgerald has replied, “… while [this] suggestion isn’t completely impossible, it is arguable; and in light of all the other factors I don’t find it very convincing. Remember, this is from a book Josephus wrote in 93 or 94. The term ‘Christian’ was not popular at that time, and certainly not by a Roman audience. Even some 16-20 years later, extremely well educated government officials like Pliny have no idea who these cultists are.”

(Update: …and I’ve removed this quote because, while something needs to be said here, this isn’t it exactly.)

Also, I’ve tempered my evaluation of one of the arguments from Meier:

This argument appears to be strong. A search of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, the extracanonical writings, and the New Testament will produce no instance in which James is identified as “the brother of Jesus.” It may not be a likely phrase to come from a Christian pen when identifying James. However, it does nothing to argue against the interpolation of only the words “who is called Christ,” which would allow that the original passage referred to another Jesus, such as the one mentioned in the same passage.

Because I don’t have confidence in my former contention that the solitary reference to Jesus in the 20th chapter was authentic, I’ve had to remove the sentence declaring that the 20.9.1 reference is likely authentic.

I’ve removed the prejudicial comments at the outset connecting doubt about these passages to doubt about the historicity of Jesus. That was part of my first draft of this article and should have come out years ago. It’s been quoted a couple times by people who would like to sidestep consideration of the evidence and worship at the false altar of consensus.

Please let me know if you spot anything else that needs correction or improvement.

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