Josephus on Jesus.

Evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth external to biblical texts is available in a number of ancient writings including that of Flavius Josephus who was born several years after the Crucifixion in 37 AD.

Josephus is generally considered to be an accurate historian although there is some criticism of his bias towards a Roman view of the world. In Jewish Antiquities Josephus looks back on Jewish history and writes his version, if only to gainsay what he says are inaccuracies in other writers’ accounts. Josephus writes:

The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.”

Most scholars not only accept this as authentic, but acknowledge that ‘brother’ has a fraternal meaning as in, I liked him like a brother. This compelling reference to Jesus Christ affirms His existence in a notable historical source.


There is another passage, however, written by Josephus on Jesus. It is known as the Testimonium Flavianum:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

This is more controversial, if not only because a Roman Jewish historian, who was not a Christian, is most unlikely to have written that ‘Jesus was the Christ’. This is probably an interpolation. Geza Vermes is a noted authority on Jewish and Christian history (especially, The Dead Sea Scrolls) and writes that the original reference in Josephus, ‘he was called the Christ’, is more plausible. Reading into a variety of expert and scholarly opinion on this subject there appears to be a broad consensus that Testimonium Flavianum contains several interpolations yet, as will be seen, this does not invalidate the authentic reference to Jesus. It may be of interest to note how the Testimonium Flavianum reads after some of these suggested interpolations have been removed:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Arguments of partial authenticity are, as far as I can tell, the most convincing. The Testimonium Flavianum is unlikely to be entirely authentic or an entire Christian fabrication. The most reasonable view based on scholarly opinion is that it is a genuine passage written by Josephus, which contains some Christian interpolations. This means that the Testimonium Flavianum is additional evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ external to biblical accounts. Nevertheless, even if one is not persuaded by scholarly opinion, the reference, ‘James the brother of Jesus’ remains most persuasive. I think we can safely assume Jesus existed.



See link.






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