I quoted a Roman history writer from the first century who included Jesus in his 20-volume history of the Jews.
Here’s the quote:
“There was a wise man called Jesus, a good person who could work wonders….He attracted many followers – Jews and non-Jews. Pilate, at the request of our [Jewish] leaders, sentenced him to death by crucifixion.” —Josephus (AD 37-about 100), Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3
Here’s some of the push back. It comes from among the more than 5,000 comments I got in response to the video. You can read them for yourself by searching “Josephus” in the “Comments” section of the YouTube page.
- “You have got to be joking… Josephus is a known forgery. I’ve read some of the comments. You people are not well. Please get help with your delusions.“
- “A warning to all Christians, this guy’s non-biblical sources don’t exist! I’m sorry to say there are no contemporary records of the crucifixion or the events surrounding it. I know he sounds convincing but he’s mixing half-truths and deceiving you, maybe to sell books or elicit other money. Seek out the original documents of his ‘sources’ yourself and you’ll see who’s telling the truth. He and people like him make fools of all Christians—they make you seem ignorant and gullible. Don’t let them do it!”
- “That quote by Josephus is forgery, added later by a Christian.”
- “Bart Ehrman a true bible scholar, listen to him to understand truth about Jesus.”
Jesus of Josephus debunked?
I don’t think I have convinced anyone who doubts Josephus to trust what he says about Jesus. I guess I’m not a good salesman.
These folks have read history writers criticizing one version of the quote that certainly has been debunked. Even Christian scholars agree. It’s a version that makes Josephus sound like a Christian, though he was a Roman citizen and a loyal Jew.
The debunked version, which seems to have been edited by a Christian somewhere along the way, has Josephus suggesting that Jesus was more than a man, and that he was the Messiah.
Other versions of the story simply have Josephus reporting that Pilate crucified Jesus, but that his disciples believed he was the Messiah and that he rose from the dead. This version sounds like an objective reporter telling what he had heard from his sources.
I can’t seem to convince people that the second version is very much in line with what Josephus was reporting about some of the mistakes that Roman governor Pilate made when he ruled the Jewish homeland.
I tell them that most historians accept that Josephus did mention Jesus in some way, though they debate what words he used.
I direct them to Wikipedia for a start: Josephus on Jesus. It reports that scholars debate how much Christians edited the original statement. But it says scholars broadly agree that the core content is authentic.
In addition, “Modern scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the reference… to “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.”
An agnotic weighs in
Several people commenting about this referred me to Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman, who was a former evangelical Christian but now describes himself as an agnostic.
He weighs in on this topic, too.
“I argue that, contrary to what some people have claimed, the bulk of the paragraph probably was indeed written by Josephus, even though a later Christian scribe has clearly inserted some Christian views into it (about Jesus being the messiah who was raised from the dead in fulfillment of the prophets, views that Josephus himself certainly did not have.)
The second reference…Josephus refers to the summary execution of James, whom he calls ‘the brother of Jesus, who is called the messiah.’ …This brief reference to Jesus seems to presuppose that the reader knows whom he is talking about based on what they have already read. In other words, Josephus is indicating which of the many Jesuses he elsewhere discusses he is referring to now, ‘the one who is called the messiah.’ If that reading of him is correct, then it would mean that he did indeed already discuss Jesus. And that would suggest that the passage of book 18 really does go back to Josephus, it is not a later insertion into his writing (even if a scribe altered it in some ways.)” —Ehrman’s blog, July 9, 2016
I’m hoping that if folks won’t believe me, when I tell them that Josephus did, in fact, write about Jesus, that they’ll believe Wikimedia…or a respected agnostic scholar.
So far, I’m getting “no sale.”