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FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS.

FROM THE “ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS,” BOOK XVIII. CH. III. SECT. III.

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if it be proper to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works,44   παραδόξων ἔργων π9οιητής.—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 Greeks. He was the Christ.55   ὁ Χριστὸς οὖτος ἦν. And when Pilate, at the instigation of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him at first 262did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again on the third day;66   ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν ζῶν. the divine prophets having foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the sect of Christians, so named after him, are not extinct to this day.”

Note.—This remarkable testimony of the celebrated Jewish priest and historian, who flourished in the latter part of the first century, is found in all the known copies of his works, both printed and manuscript; is twice quoted at large by Eusebius, without suspicion of an interpolation; and is therefore received as genuine by many learned divines. It may also be urged in favor of the passage, that Josephus, in a complete history of the Jews, reaching down to A.D. 66, and written about A.D. 93, could not easily pass by Christ, especially as he made honorable mention of John the Baptist and James the Just in other parts of the same work. In speaking of the martyr-death of James (Arch., book xx. chap. 9, sect. 1), he refers to our passage; and there are no good reasons to reject the passage on James, together with that on Christ.

But the majority of recent critics since Lardner reject the testimony in its present form, either in whole or at least in part, as an early interpolation by some Christian hand, for the following reasons:—

1. This paragraph is not noticed by any Christian writer before Eusebius, who died A.D. 340. Justin Martyr, 263Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and other ante-Nicene fathers, might and probably would have made good use of it in their apologetic and polemic works against Jews and Gentiles, if they had known it.

2. The paragraph is not necessary for the connection, but rather interrupts the course of the preceding narrative about a sedition and consequent calamity of the Jews, which occurred under Pilate; and the following narrative about “another sad calamity,”—namely, the banishment of the Jews from Rome by order of Tiberius. Josephus might, however, have reckoned the crucifixion of Jesus among the calamities of the Jews.

3. The disputed passage is inconsistent with the whole character and position of Josephus. He could not have thus written of Christ, without being, at least in theory or in conviction, a Christian, and belying his profession as a Jewish priest and Pharisee. But Josephus, it is urged against this argument, may have been inconsistent in this as he was in other things. Though learned and eminent, he was contemptibly weak in character; and showed in all his positions, as a Jewish priest and magistrate, and as a Roman general and courtier, a worldly mind, and an easy disposition to accommodate himself to different stations and employments, even at the sacrifice of principle.

In view, then, of the great improbability of an absolute silence of Josephus on the history of Christ, and the still greater improbability of such a Christian testimony from his pen, the hypothesis becomes quite plausible, that Josephus, like the Pharisees and scribes in the Gospels and the compilers of the Jewish Talmud, represented Jesus as a pseudo-prophet and magician, who performed 264miracles by Beelzebub, but that a Christian changed the offensive passage at an early time, before Eusebius, into its present shape and form. This is substantially the view recently brought out by the great Oriental scholar, Ewald.

Renan, in his “Life of Jesus,” goes farther, and considers the passage authentic, with the exception of a few changes, as Χριστὸς οὖτος ἦν (he was the Christ), for the supposed original non-cocnmittal sentence, Χριστὸς οὖτος ἐλέγετο (he was called the Christ). Je crois,” he says (Vie de Jésus, Introduction, p. xii.), “le passage sur Jésus authentique. II est parfaitement dans le goût de Josèphe, et si cet historien a fait mention de Jésus, c’est bien comme cela qu’il a dû enparler. On sent seulement qu’une main chrétienne a retouché le morceau, y a ajouté quelques mots sans lesquels il eût été presque blasphématoire, a peut-être retranché ou modifié quelques expressions.”

The literature on this much-disputed passage, see in Haverkamp’s edition of “Josephus,” vol. ii. Appendix; in Hase’sLife of Jesus,” sect. 10, p. 12 (fourth ed.); in Winer’sBibl. Realwörterbuch,” vol. i. p. 558 (third ed.). Comp. also Ewald, “Geschichte Christus,” pp. 104-107; and Paret, art. “Josephus,” in Herzog’s Theol. Encyclop., vol. vii. p. 27 ff.

In many respects, the writings of Josephus contain, indirectly, much valuable testimony to the truth of the gospel history. His history of the Jewish war is undesignedly a striking commentary on the predictions of our Saviour concerning the destruction of the city and the temple of Jerusalem; the great distress and affliction of the Jewish people at that time; the famine, pestilence, and earthquake; the rise of false prophets and impostors, 265and the flight of his disciples at the approach of these calamities. All these coincidences have been traced out in full by the learned Dr. Lardner, in his “Collection of Ancient Jewish and Heathen Testimonies to the Truth of the Christian Religion” (see vol. vi. p. 406 ff. of his works, ed. by Kippis, Lond. 1838).


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