Josephus on Jesus
The extant manuscripts
of the book Antiquities of the Jews
, written by the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus
around 93–94 AD, contain two references to Jesus of Nazareth
and one reference to John the Baptist
The first and most extensive reference to Jesus in the Antiquities
, found in Book 18
, states that Jesus was the Messiah
and a wise teacher who was crucified by Pontius Pilate
. It is commonly called the Testimonium Flavianum
. Almost all modern scholars reject the authenticity of this passage in its present form, while most scholars nevertheless hold that it contains an authentic nucleus referencing the life and execution of Jesus by Pilate, which was then subject to Christian interpolation
or alteration. However, the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear.
Modern scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the second reference to Jesus in the Antiquities
, found in Book 20, Chapter 9
, which mentions "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James." This reference is considered to be more authentic than the Testimonium
Almost all modern scholars consider the reference in Book 18, Chapter 5
of the Antiquities
to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist
also to be authentic and not a Christian interpolation
. A number of differences exist between the statements by Josephus regarding the death of John the Baptist and the New Testament
accounts. Scholars generally view these variations as indications that the Josephus passages are not interpolations, since a Christian interpolator would likely have made them correspond to the New Testament accounts, not differ from them. Scholars have provided explanations for their inclusion in Josephus' later works ...
In the estimation of James Dunn
, there is "broad consensus" among scholars regarding what the Testimonium
would look like without the interpolations. According to Dunn's reconstruction, the original passage likely read:
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.
In this passage, which is based on John P. Meier
's reconstruction, Jesus is called a "wise man", but "lawful to call him a man" and "he was the Christ" are removed, as is the reference to the resurrection. According to Bart D. Ehrman
, Meier's reconstruction is currently the most accepted among scholars.
has performed a detailed analysis of the Testimonium
and modified it to remove what he considers the interpolations. In Vermes' reconstruction "there was Jesus, a wise man" is retained, but the reference to "he was the Christ" is changed to "he was called the Christ" and the resurrection reference is omitted. Vermes states that the Testimonium
provides Josephus' authentic portrayal of Jesus, depicting him as a wise teacher and miracle worker with an enthusiastic group of followers who remained faithful to him after his crucifixion by Pilate, up to the time of Josephus. Vermes's version reads:
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. He was called the Christ. 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.