Still Waiting…

I see that Stacy Harp responded to my post about the fact that I was still waiting to see some historical proof for the resurrection of Jesus.  She mentions a book I haven’t read yet, so I won’t say anything about it.

However, I can say something about the passage that Stacy gives.  It is a well-known passage from Josephus, a first century Jew who wrote a history called The Antiquities.  In it he mentions Jesus.  Here is the passage (copied from Stacy’s website):

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, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) 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. Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. 18.63-64)


She thinks that despite the evidence, I won’t believe it.  Sorry Stacy, I don’t work that way.  My job is to sift through information and to look for what could be the truth.  The problem comes with the very nature of historical texts and this is a perfect example.  Stacy also says that it is ‘controversial because it is favorable to Jesus.’  That is only partially accurate.  It is controversial for a number of reasons:  1)  because a Jew would call Jesus the Christ and state that he was resurrected on the third day and that the prophets (of the Old Testament) had talked about Him.  The controversy is why would a Jew claim that Jesus was the Messiah and resurrected?  As far as we know Josephus was not a Christian. 2) It is controversial because Josephus was born in 37 AD, after the death of Jesus, so anything he writes is hearsay.  He knows what other people have told him.  This by itself isn’t a reason to reject it as historical proof of the resurrection of Jesus.

3)  But the biggest problem with that passage is that while all the manuscripts of Josephus mention this passage, the oldest text we have is from the 11th century.  That would appear to be good news, but we have to look at other ancient Christian writers to see what they thought about this particular passage.  Many early Christians were also asked to prove historical proof for not only the resurrection, but even the life of Jesus.  I don’t have a problem with believing that a man named Jesus existed.  So the early Christians had to deal with the same issue.  We know that many, many early Christians read Josephus and they used him.  But it wasn’t until the 4th century when someone stated that Josephus said that Jesus was the Christ and was resurrected.  This was found in a church historian named Eusebius of Caesarea.  Not until the 4th century…This is a strong indication that parts of it have been added by later Christians to show that even a Jew like Josephus knew that Jesus was the Christ.  Here is a link to a book that gives the overview of the various arguments.  As this book points out, the strongest evidence that the passages about Jesus being the Christ and that he was resurrected is a later addition comes from the writings of Origen, a Christian who lived between 185-254 AD.  Origen specifically states that Josephus does NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and Origen cites the Antiquities, Chapter 18 five times in his various writings–so he read the chapter that many use to show that Jesus was the Messiah and was resurrected.  The text we have told clearly states that Jesus was the Messiah.  Also, Origen had an opportunity to use this passage in support of Christ doing miracles ("a doer of wonderful works"), but he does not.  There is also evidence found in a Christian called Jerome, who was using the text of Eusebius.  Jerome was an amazing Biblical scholar and knew many languages.  He states that Josephus states that Jesus was believed to be the Christ–that is very different from Josephus stating that Jesus was the Christ (as we have in the passage from the 11th century). 

So the long and short of it is that while this passage today looks like it gives historical truth to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and was resurrected, it appears that this passage did not look like this in the two centuries after the death of Josephus.  This indicates that it was changed by some Christian who wanted to give historical proof to these questions.

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