Friday, August 13, 2010

What did Josephus Really Say about Jesus

A redated post. 

Well, most people are sure that he didn't say everything that the Testimonium Flavium says that he did. The passage was at least doctored. But for years it was thought that the passage was just made up, but more recent scholars think there is a historical core to Josephus' account.

Another account of the issue is to be found here


Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

One thing that needs to be remembered about Josephus is he was synergistic and tried to reconcile Judaism and Greek philosophy to together into one common belief. I do not see anything unlikely in his throwing Christianity into the pot too on a principle of unifying everything together into one common belief where every "good" teacher is respected. I therefore question that this passage should be simply thrown out.

Jason Pratt said...

What's even more interesting, is that there's an Old Slavic version of The Jewish War that contains a very different version of the TF (thus cutely nicknamed "the Testimonium Slavium" by scholars {g}); and when the same principles are applied to it as are normally applied in evaluating the TF from The Antiquities, it results in much the kind of expanded second-or-thirdhand report we could expect Josephus to have gotten (and to be willing to report in a pro-Jewish Roman apologetic).

I've been meaning to post up a series on this for a while over at the Cadre, actually. I hope this reminds me to do it soon. {g!}


Tim said...

It's very nice to see someone writing on this issue who has read both Whealey and Feldman.

R O'Brien said...

Alice Whealey's 2003 book is excellent but have you all read her 2008 article?

Whealey, A. 2008. "The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic". New Testament Studies. 573–590

She argues that the version preserved by Michael the Syrian is closest to the original:

"In fact, much of the
past impetus for labeling the textus receptus Testimonium a forgery has been
based on earlier scholars’ anachronistic assumptions that, as a Jew, Josephus
could not have written anything favorable about Jesus. Contemporary scholars of
primitive Christianity are less inclined than past scholars to assume that most
first-century Jews necessarily held hostile opinions of Jesus, and they are more
aware that the line between Christians and non-Christian Jews in Josephus’ day
was not as firm as it would later become.5 The implication of this is that supposedly
Christian-sounding elements in either the textus receptus or in Michael’s
Testimonium cannot be ruled inauthentic a priori."


"This study thus also implies that it is
Michael’s Testimonium that is much more important as a witness to Josephus’
original text about Jesus than Agapius’ Testimonium. By far the most important
aspect of Michael’s Testimonium in terms of recovering Josephus’ original passage
is its reading ‘he was thought to be the Messiah’, because this reading is independently supported by Jerome’s very early translation of the Testimonium, and
because it can readily explain Origen’s claim that Josephus did not believe in Jesus
as the Messiah. Therefore the most important aspect of Agapius’ text is its reading
that Jesus was ‘perhaps’ the Messiah, because this reading lends weight to the
hypothesis that Michael’s qualification of Jesus’ Messianic status was based on an
older exemplar of the Testimonium rather than being created by Michael ex


"In arguing that Agapius’ Testimonium was closer to Josephus’ original passage
about Jesus than any extant Testimonium, Pines followed a long line of earlier
scholars who assumed that Josephus’ original passage about Jesus must have
been very different from the textus receptus Testimonium, which these same
scholars assumed to have been substantially rewritten by a Christian forger.43 In
contrast, in arguing that Michael’s Testimonium, which is generally close to the
textus receptus Testimonium and which has clearly been taken from a recension
of the Syriac Historia Ecclesiastica, is more authentic than Agapius’ Testimonium,
this study implies that the textus receptus Testimonium is much closer to the passage
that Josephus originally wrote about Jesus than is often assumed. Indeed, the
evidence of Michael the Syrian’s Testimonium, used in conjunction with the evidence
of Jerome’s Testimonium, indicates that the only major alteration44 that has
been made to Josephus’ original passage about Jesus is the alteration of the
phrase ‘he was thought to be the Messiah’ to the textus receptus phrase ‘he was the

R O'Brien said...

Incidentally, it is nice to see a Price commenting on Josephus who is not a crackpot!

Blaise Pascal said...

Interesting read. Thank you.

Jason Pratt said...

Oops! -- I never did post up that series on the Slavium... {lopsided g!}

Mental note to try to get to that this week... (It isn't hugely important, just kind of interesting in an auxiliary way.)


Jason Pratt said...

By "this week" my mind apparently meant "late June 2013". {lopsided g}

First part of the article is now up!