The Josephus passageApril 18 2010 at 5:34 AM
Vince (Login MoxiFox)
Response to Scant evidence
"Testimonium Flavianum" is OBVIOUSLY an insertion. Josephus never mentioned this fellow before or after, in his narrative and yet he gushes praise in the one passage where Jesus Christ "appears".
[ 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.]
Well, that's one version of the passage...
Joseph Wheless quoted it from the Catholic Encylpedia 8:36 (however that translates) around 1930, this way. He claimed the parenthesis were already in place at that time. (I can't find it presently on the internet):
[ "About this time," quotes CE., "appeared Jesus, a wise man (if indeed it is right to call Him a man; for He was a worker of astonishing deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with joy), and He drew to Himself many Jews (and many also of the Greeks. This was the Christ). And when Pilate, at the denunciation of those that are foremost among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those who had first loved Him did not abandon Him. (For He appeared to them alive on the third day, the holy prophets having foretold this and countless other marvels about Him.) The tribe of Christians named after Him did not cease to this day." ]
Thus, the parenthesis would appear to mark the parts which the Catholic Encyclopedia considered to be later insertions. That, of course, is the argument FOR the passage being genuine but gaudily embellished. Well .... heh ..... that in itself could be a trick too!~
But here's Wheless' argument for its (entire) forged origin ... and I think it's a pretty logical argument too. I'll try to "explain" it because it's a wee bit hard to follow at times ...
But, when and how did this famous passage get into The Antiquities of the Jews? it, is pertinent to ask. The first mention ever made of this passage, and its text, are in the Church History of that "very dishonest writer," Bishop Eusebius, in the fourth century, -- he who forged the Letters between Abgar and Jesus, falsely declaring that he had found the original documents in the official archives, whence he had copied and translated them into his Ecclesiastical History.
CE. admits, and I have the Contra Celsum here before me, -- that "the above cited passage was not known to Origen and the earlier patristic writers,"
Origen wrote a lot of stuff and he lived between 185-254 AD. If Origen never mentioned this Josephus passage -and it existed during his time in the writings of Josephus- it would be extremely strange for him NEVER to have mentioned it.
Wheless goes on, quoting Catholic archives ...
"its very place in the Josephan text is uncertain, since Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., 2: 6) must have found it before the notices concerning Pilate, while it now stands after them" (HE. 1: 2: p. 63)
To explain Eusebius ... he was Constantine's right hand man when it came to scribal work for the new Catholic church. Eusebius lived from 263 - 339 AD and would have been most active for Constantine after 313 AD. Eusebius was evidently quite a blow-hard, a prolific writer ... and was suspected of altering a lot of documents and forging a lot of new material INTO older documents .... to make them more favorable to the church.
Carrying on with Wheless ...
For a clear understanding of this, I will quote the passage of Origen in his work against Celsus; it completely refutes the claim that Josephus wrote the disputed and forged section 3. Origen says:
"I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew accepting John somehow as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now [Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple [said that it was 'to avenge James the Just'], 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." (Origen, Contra Celsum, 1: 47; ANF. 4: 416.)
So the argument Origen makes is that Josephus SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN that the cause for the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple was God's punishment for conspiring to -and putting- Jesus to death .......... NOT ..... to avenge the execution of James the Just. However, Origen says, Josephus DOES mention Jesus, with respect to James being the "BROTHER of JESUS (called Christ)" (this is in another passage of Josephus' writings, often cited as proof #2 from Josephus)
Thus we can deduce that the passage about James being the brother of Jesus called Christ ... was ALREADY in the text when Origen read it but ... the famous testimonium was not yet in the text ... or Origen would instantly have pounced on that one instead of the very weak one he did.
Going on with Wheless ...
Josephus is thus quoted as bearing witness to John the Baptist, not as the Heaven-sent "forerunner" of the Christ, but simply as a Jewish religious teacher and baptizer on his own account; and not a word by Josephus about the Christ, in whom it is admitted that he did not believe as such...
But Origen, in his effort to get some Christian testimony from him, misquotes Josephus and makes him say that John was baptizing "for the remission of sins," whereas Josephus expressly says that the efficacy of John's baptism was not for remission of sin but for the purification of the body, as any washing would be.
Josephus recounts the defeat of Herod by Aretas, king of Arabia Petrea; and goes on to say: --
"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, when many others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly, he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death." (Josephus, Antiq. Jews, Bk. 18: 5: 2.)
The Holy City and temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., which was well after the time of the supposititious James, as his demise is recorded in the suspected passage of Josephus. He related the death of Festus, which was in 62 A.D., the appointment by Nero of Albinus as his successor, and the murder of James at the instigation of the high priest Ananus, before Albinus can arrive. this sentence is to be read in the text of Josephus:
"Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he (Ananus) 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 formulated an accusation against them all breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned." (Jos., Antiq. Jews, Bk. 20: 9: 1.)
The entire story of JTB + the young niece dancing before Herod is also related in the Gospels. Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, was married to Aretas' [King of Arabia] daughter but then he fell in love with his own niece who was also his own brother -Philip Herod's- ex-wife. So Antipas divorced his Arabian wife and married his sister-in-law/niece. His Arabian ex-wife went back home to daddy and Aretas consequently sent an army up against Herod Antipas, licking the pants off of him. The defeat of Herod -according to Josephus- was God's punishment for him having killed John the Baptist
Finally, Wheless sums up his argument ...
The reader may judge of the integrity of these pretended Jewish testimonies to the Baptist and to the brother of the Christ, both suspicious per se, and both falsely cited by Father Origen, who in all this could not find the famous section 3, first found a century later by Bishop Eusebius; and which Origen makes it positive Josephus had not written and could not have written. Is it a violent suspicion, and uncharitable, to suggest that the holy Bishop who forged the Letter of his Christ, and lied about finding it in the Edessa archives, really "found," -in the sense of invented, or forged- the Josephus passages first heard of in his Church History?
So, like ... if that glowing passage of Josephus's was THERE during the time of Origen ... why didn't he CITE it as PROOF that Josephus believed Jesus to be the Christ? Origen stated that Josephus did NOT believe Jesus to be the Christ and yet that passage has him SAYING that Jesus was the Christ!
As for Tacitus?
Yes, Tacitus was born in 56 AD and lived until 117 AD and should have been quite familiar with "recent" historical events. Let's see .... he would have been born 23 years AFTER the alleged crucifixion of Gospel Jesus Christ. So he was writing about stuff that happened maybe 40 - 50 years before. (Josephus was born in 37 AD by comparison).
So you have a fellow who was born in Italy, writing Roman history and writing about Nero -who had expired in 68 AD, when Tacitus was still only 12 years old- recounting the persecution of Christians in Rome, (using them as torches to light up the city at night because there were so blooming many of them in Rome!)
Stop and think about time lapse and possibilities ...
Jesus supposedly died in 33 AD. At the time of his death, ALLEGEDLY the crowds of followers had all turned AGAINST HIM.
The disciples had an uphill battle ALL THE WAY because their leader had been executed in disgrace. Furthermore, the allegedly risen-from-the-dead Jesus then showed himself ONLY to his disciples and closest associates ... so that NONE of the rest of the world had any clue that he'd come back to life -the disciples having to CONVINCE all proselytes of that "fact."
Yet IN SPITE of heavy and brutal persecution, this new religion spread THROUGHOUT the entire Roman Empire in the space of only 30 years so that there were already THOUSANDS of Christian converts in Rome .... way across the Mediterranean in a different culture and language?
Does that add up?
Here's what Tacitus had to say ...
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good but rather to glut the cruelty of one man that they were being destroyed.
"Christus" was a common expression for "Christ" but did not signify any particular person. It could have been "The Just One" .... or "The Teacher of Righteousness" mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It could have been Onias or Joshua Ben Pandera.
What I'm getting at is that "Christus" wasn't any single person but rather a TRADITION of belief in ONE who was going to come. Tacitus wouldn't necessarily have been AWARE of any such subtleties and would probably have relied on REPORTS of what those "Christian" victims had said while under torture. Tacitus wasn't there to hear them, as a personal witness because it all happened when he was just a kid. So he merely wrote down what he heard from his elders.
That Christ tradition had been going on for at least 100 years or more already by the time Tacitus came on the scene. The Dead Sea Scrolls attest to that. Ok, but, so what WAS that tradition?
Well, if you can imagine ourselves living TODAY under total, ruthless, suppressive government and we're TRYING and TRYING to find some way of getting ourselves freed but we don't DARE step out of line and try anything "smart" ... what would we do?
We would do WHATEVER we possibly could that was not illegal. We would try to communicate in some way that would be allowed because of its seeming stupidity and harmless nature, to anyone in power. We would join communes if we could. But if political discussion within communes was forbidden, we'd have to find some way of communicating political intentions WITHOUT actually saying anything political. We would get into some big PRETEND game!
And that's just what they did. They pretended that they had a Messiah who had lived and died and risen from the dead. They worshiped this risen Christ.
To authorities, it was all childish silliness and so they left these goofballs alone. But the goofballs knew EXACTLY what they meant by the things they said in their worship times.
Yet, it wasn't all pretend either .... or maybe after awhile the pretend became SERIOUS- because they actually EXPECTED their imagined Messiah to show up -to appear- and take charge ... throwing off ALL external worldly, corrupted power.
When the right time came and the revealed Messiah showed up, they would ALL suddenly rally behind him and give him their support, and become an instant, effective and VERY powerful army! It would surely have worked that way too ....... if ONLY they could all have AGREED on the precise nature of that Messiah!
They had their coded understandings in place and they had their united intentions in place but .......... they also had too MANY factions. So, while different Messiahs DID spring up, they were thwarted by the other factions' different understandings ... and would fight against each other like bloody cutthroats.
Some of the factions were ...
BECAUSE they needed to operate secretively, much of their written communication also contains "mystery" which the later -Gentile- church completely failed to understand. Our New Testament is some of that correspondence but there must have been a PLETHORA of written material which the church later, had destroyed.
Thus, "Christus" was not some guy but rather, a concept at that time.
- An Insertion? Nope! - Pastor Jack Howell on Apr 18, 2010, 9:24 AM
- Paster Jack...! - Pope Reverend I, BV on Apr 18, 2010, 11:51 AM
- Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny (the Younger), Suetonius etc. - Who I Am? on Apr 18, 2010, 11:58 AM
- So Jack - Vince on Apr 18, 2010, 5:56 PM
- Were you there, Charlie? - Louis Shammah on Apr 18, 2010, 1:41 PM