For a possible hint of Jesus's historicity, Christian authorities relied heavily on a single brief paragraph in the works of the respected Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who was born in 37 AD/CE, served as governor of Galilee and traveled extensively in the very same area where Jesus allegedly lived and taught. If anyone was in a position to report the wonder-workings of a local holy man in his own parents' generation, it was Josephus, a dedicated reporter of minute details. Yet in all his voluminous works, the single paragraph (Ant. 18.3.3)-called the "Testimonium Flavianum" or "TF"-says only that Jesus was
When we see it, it is not very only. It is a very succinct but not misleading testimony. I wish hippies were as correct and only correct about Jesus as this testimonium:
"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."
- teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure - a Socrates then?
- He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. - So, unusually cosmopolitan for a Jewish Socrates since Elishah, Daniel or Jonah? A prophet?
- He was [the] Christ - now that is even a bit more than a prophet.
- and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross - oops, a cross is a less confortable death than a cup of hemlock! And Socrates was only condemned on popular prejudice, Jesus on instigation of the aristocracy taking trouble to collaborate with a detested occupant to do the job. Did that discourage the movement?
- those that loved him at the first did not forsake him - Judas Ischariot is indeed not among the four first called disciples.
- for he appeared to them alive again the third day - resurrection.
- as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him - resurrexit, sicut scripsit then. [sic, vide comment]
- and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day - not unimportant as concerned with the prophecy of Gamaliel, as recorded in Acts: if it is from God, it will remain, if it is from man it will be destroyed.
This means - if the passage is genuine - that Josephus was either Christian or benevolent doubter, or wrote against his grain. As an open Christian, it is not probable he would have ruled Galilea - is it now? A "closet case Christian" a k a Nicodemus type (a phenomenon gay movement has more problems with than Christians) might have vented his conscience just once briefly. So could a doubter, one who had, up till that moment, decided to wait before deciding and who then did not decide. A man admitting inconvenient truth he hated might have used that tactique too.
The problems with this famous passage are many.
To the anti-Christian writer, there is ONE big problem, if he accepts the passage as genuine, he is forced to admit what he tries to deny, that Jesus was historic.
First of all, it is noticeably out of context with the surrounding material.
Which the writer conveniently enough does not quote.
Second, it evidently did not appear in the early copies of Josephus's works, nor in the second-century version quoted by Church father Origen, who would certainly have mentioned it if it had been there.
Absence from handwritten copies is an overrated argument. They neither had copy-paste send and print-out nor even printing press back then.
The TF does not appear in any known works until the beginning of the fourth century
As quoted, that is. In itself it is, if genuine, from Josephus' lifetime.
and is first quoted by Bishop Eusebius, the enthusiastic advocate of what he apparently called "holy lying" for the greater glory of the Church, known to have been responsible for many interpolations, revisions and blatant forgeries.
And therefore all later quotes are quoting Eusebius? Well, that takes the wind out of the sail of people using "reliable" Eusebius' silence about St Helen's discovery of Holy Cross, against that story. It is after all more convenient to be silent about truth than to lie against it.
Moreover, Josephus was a Jew and would hardly have referred to Jesus's ministry as "the truth" or "wonderful things"; nor would he have called Jesus "the Christ."
What kind of Jew? Not a Talmudic one as later known, of whom that description is true.
Neither could he have mentioned "the tribe of Christians," for there were no Christians in his day. Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.
What the anti-Christian writer is trying to prove. Before proving it he cannot use this as a critique of Testimonium Flavianum.
Philo Judaeus (20 BCE-50 AD/CE) was born before the beginning of the Christian era and lived until long after Jesus's time. Philo knew Jerusalem well, and would have known of Herod's massacre of children, plus Jesus's miracles, well-attended preachings, triumphal entry parade and crucifixion, with its attendant earthquake, reanimated corpses and many other wonders. He would have heard about the resurrection before many witnesses.
Probably yes. But considering his role, would he have talked about it? First of all, he was an apologist for Old Testament Jewish religion - I will not say Judaism, since that religion began as known now after him, at Jamnia, after destruction of Jerusalem - and part of his arguments was playing down the bloody parts of Old Testament by claiming it was allegorical (after all the destruction of Pharao's army was a delicate subject in Alexandria, where last diadochian ruler, Cleopatra, had ruled Pharaonic style) and Herod's massacre did not quite fit into that programme. Furthermore such a thing is the kind of work authorities tend to hush up, Philo might have heard a rumor, but an obfuscated one. As was so much the case about Katyn massacre until very recently (recommend the film by Wajda, by the way). As for Resurrection, if he heard of it it was very probably by the men who came to Alexandria as converts and missionaries, and who constituted another community than his own or the one he grew up in. He might have thought them right, but left it up to them to speak up on it.
Neither Flavius Josephus nor Philo Judaeus were Jews as we know them now. Jamnia had not yet condemned Christianity as "minim and goyim". Philo used and Flavius had heard of Septuagint, which the Jews of Jamnia condemned. After the destruction of Jerusalem, that took place in year 70, the Jewish rabbis assembled in Jamnia from years 80 to 90 and took a lot of decisions, anti-Roman and anti-Christian. Only from then on is the word "Jew" incompatible with "Christian", as is also seen in the fact that the enemies of Jesus, in Gospels written before Jamnia (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are enumerated as such and such a theologic clan or sacred profession, but in St John, written after Apocalypse, and that Apocalypse written after Jamnia, as "Jews" - a word which in that connexion is not put in Our Lord's own mouth, until he talks to Pilate. But Philo and Flavius were pre-Jamnia.
Philo celebrated Septuaginta day, the day in which God inspired 70 men to make one and same translation of Torah independently of each other, but from Jamnia on Septuaginta day is a "dies nefastus", a "black day" like the "ides of march" to Romans. Flavius, in the beginning of his Antiquitates Judaeorum gives a genealogy from Adam to Noah agreeing with Gospel of St Luke and Septuaginta, whereas extant Masoretic text and Vulgate agree on a shorter one, omitting Cainaan from the descendants of Seth. Still, Flavius is thought as having used the Septuagint in places, but he claims to be translating himself from Hebrew.
The oldest collection of what is now known as Talmud, Mishna, was unknown to both Philo and Flavius, that is indeed from second century, published on order of "Judah the Prince".
All Souls' Day 2010
Mairie du III Arr.,