10 Jan 2013 
#31 Jesus, the uneducated teacher? Part 2: the Testimonium Flavianum

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I'll examine the arguments of Bart Ehrman in his new book 'Did Jesus Exist?' regarding the authenticity of the main Testimonium Flavianum, which describes, among other things, Jesus as a very popular teacher with Jews & Gentiles.

The web is full of arguments against the authenticity of the main Testimonium Flavianum (TF) in Josephus' Antiquities XXIII, III, 3. Some I agree, others I do not. Long ago, well before most of these critiques were published, I made my own studies and concluded on the complete unauthenticity of the main TF. Here are the many reasons why.

Going to Bart Ehrman 'Did Jesus Exist?' (DJE?), p. 60-66, I'll comment briefly on his main points (more details available on my webpage):

BE: After taking out the "Christian" passages (allegedly inserted by an interpolator), the rest of the TF is "rather innocuous".

BM: The (unevidenced) expurgated TF is still way too Christian to have been written by a Jew. Furthermore, the extraction of the three so-called interpolations create discontinuities. For example, "a wise man, ... for he was a doer of wonderful works," is difficult to explain without if it be lawful to call him a man".

BE: If the main TF was not written by Josephus, then "brother of Jesus, him called christ", two chapters later, would also be an interpolation.

BM: The opposite: if the main TF was original, we should expect Josephus to remind the readers he already wrote about "Jesus, the so-called christ, as he did for another character, Judas of Gamala.

BE: The TF, even if considered a digression, fits where it is located now.

BM: I do not agree with that (as explained here)

BE: (understanding the TF was not quoted or even mentioned before Eusebius (early 4th century) Christian apologists would have no use for the expurgated TF.

BM: I am quite sure the reduced TF could have been useful for Justin Martyr, Irenaeus & Origen (the two last ones knew for sure about Josephus' Antiquities), because it was for Eusebius: when he presented the TF (with full quote) for the first time (in 'Evangelical Demonstration'), he commented only on "He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles" and from that concluded "he must manifestly have had something extraordinary, above the rest of mankind; for how otherwise could, unless he performed admirable and amazing works, and used a method of teaching that was not common?".
That would demonstrate some
"rather innocuous" part of the TF would be of great benefit for apologists. And how could early Christians not know about it? the TF would be the only testimony favorable to Christianity written by a non-Christian (a Jewish historian and a protegee of Roman emperors), it has Jesus as "a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure" and popular among Jews and Gentiles: something to shout from the roof tops! 

Let me digress here: Eusebius did not use
"for he was a doer of wonderful works" from the TF in order to prove "he performed admirable and amazing works". It seems to me Eusebius was very cautious by not employing overly favorable "too good to be true" statement. And then why would he quote the TF in its entirety when he used only a small part of it? The answer may be Eusebius displayed the whole TF because it was not known before, and then kept some distance from it in case that TF would be rejected as a fraud.

But that did not happen, because later, in 'History of the Church', he put the TF front and centre in order to describe Jesus' public life and then commented: "When a historian sprung from the Hebrews [Josephus] has furnished in his own writing an almost contemporary record of John the Baptist and our Saviour too, what excuse is there left for not condemning the shameless dishonesty of those who forged the memoranda blackening them both?"

Before the TF quotation in 'Evangelical Demonstration' Josephus is mentioned as "the Jew" and after as "this historian". But in 'History of the Church', Josephus is greatly appreciated as "Of the Jews of that time he was the most famous, not only among his fellow-countrymen but among the Romans too ..." (HC, III, 9)

All of that is very suggestive the TF was new and Eusebius knew it.

BE: "If a scribe (or Eusebius or anyone else) wanted to insert a strong testimony about the virtues of Jesus into the writings of Josephus (so that the Testimonium is a later interpolation), he surely would have done so in a much glowing and obvious way."
BM: Really, let's take the whole TF as a witness:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, 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 Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
Not glowing? not obvious? certainly not, more so if we take in consideration that interpolated TF was meant to be understood as written by a Jew. And it was glowing enough to be used by Eusebius to describe Jesus' ministry in one of the most critical part of 'History of the Church'.

And for these reasons (I got even more on my webpage), I think the TF, even the (unevidenced) expurgated one, is not from Josephus, but from a much later Christian source.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Ehrman} {Eusebius} {historical Jesus} {Josephus} {Testimonium Flavianum} {uneducated teacher}
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