Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Testimonium Flavianum

I've been just trying to understand a bit more about what Josephus offers in NT studies, and today's post is just one small intersection between Josephus and the NT. The title of the blog post is about a passage (which scholars call testimonium flavianum) from Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, which contains the following (at least as the text we have today):

About this time comes Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is proper to call him a man. For he was a worker of incredible deeds, a teacher of those who accept the truth with pleasure, and attracted many Jews as well as many of the Greek. This man was the Christ (ὁ χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν). And when, in view of [his] denunciation by the leading men among us, Pilate had sentenced him to a cross, those who had loved at the beginning did not cease [to do so]. He appeared to them on the third day alive again, for the divine prophets had announced these and countless other marvels concerning him. And even now the tribe of the "Christians"—named after him—has not yet disappeared.
Ant. 18:63-64

What's striking is the sentence in the Greek shown above, a succinct and unqualified assertion that Jesus was the Christ. In all of the Josephus corpus, he only uses the term "Christ" twice (here and in Ant. 20:200). I think most (if not all) scholars would be agreed that Josephus was not a Christian by any means, and therefore, this statement is somewhat at odds with how Josephus normally thought and wrote in the rest of his literature. This then engenders a few questions:

(1) Is this testimonium original to Josephus?
(2) Is this a later whole cloth creation by later Christian scribes?
(3) Did Josephus mention Jesus in some other way that provided the foundation from which later editors were able to create this assertion?
(4) Was Josephus a Christian? (if we were allowed to entertain this as a viable option)

I can understand why most scholars view this as a later redaction (or insertion) by Christian scribes, but I suppose if that was true, why only here and why in such a brief note? I would think that if they wanted to make Jesus available within Josephus' writings, they might as well scatter a few more pieces of information elsewhere (and possibly in larger chunks)...

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