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Why The Mention Of ‘Jesus’ In Josephus Was Not A Later Addition

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

flavius josephus testimonium flavianum

The ‘Testimonium Flavianum’, the mentioning of ‘Jesus Christ’ in the work of ‘Josephus’

(Antiquities 18.3.3) is considered by many to be a later addition, but there are very good reasons to disagree with this argument, as mentions of this appear in his other works as well (examples will be shown later). Josephus or the man who wrote using that name (if you are familiar with my work, you will be familiar with the name Arrius Piso) also had a reason to write a mention or two of “Jesus” for the purpose of ‘historicizing’ him.

It is not only “Jesus” that is historicized, but other fictional characters are too, such as “John the Baptist” and “James, the brother of Jesus”, a better translation is actually “James by name,” which is the same wording “Suetonius” used when mentioning “Josephus”. The case in favor of the mention of Jesus Christ in the works of Flavius Josephus is based upon mere speculation; the main reason used seems to be that the mention of Christ was not found mentioned until the time of ‘Eusebius’ (300 CE). Being able to understand ancient literature is a very complex undertaking, and much more so than traditional scholarship is currently teaching. In my view, there is no motive for anything to be added to the works of ‘Josephus’, as doing so would only bring attention to that work, which, judging by what has been found within that work, would be counterproductive for the Church.

In the textus receptus (Latin for ‘received text’) it reads:

[63] Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς σοφὸς ἀνήρ, εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή. ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων, καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο. ὁχριστὸς οὖτος ἦν.

[64] καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες. ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων. εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀπὸ τοῦδε ὠνομασμένον οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον.

​[63] And there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is necessary to call him a man, for he was a doer of paradoxical works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure, and many Jews on the one hand and also many of the Greeks on the other he drew to himself. He was the Messiah.

[64] And when, on the accusation of some of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first loved him did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, the divine prophets having related both these things and countless other marvels about him. And even till now the tribe of Christians, so named from this man, has not gone extinct.

Here is the ‘Testimonium’ in the Codex Vossianus, Graec. F 72, early 15th century:

testimonium flavianum codex vossianus

The Protestant scholar Lucas Osiander (1534–1604) expressed his doubts regarding this passages’ authenticity, stating:

If Josephus had felt what he asserted in that testimony, he would have been a Christian; however, nothing with even a whiff of Christianity can be found in his writings.’ (Epitomes historiae ecclesiasticae centuriae decimae sextae, 1, Book 2, Ch. 7.17).

The substantial error of the final sentence in the above statement will be shown below. But others of the time likewise doubted its authenticity. Origen’s assertion that Josephus ‘did not believe in Jesus as the Christ’ (Contra Celsus I.47, Commentarius in Matthaeum X.17), and contradicts the Testimonium passage, was pointed out by the reformed French scholar Tanaquilius Faber (1615–1672). Louis Cappel (1568–1658), a French Protestant scholar, held the view that the passage did not seem to fit well into its surrounding narrative. (Historia Ecclesiastica, illustrata notis et observationibus, quibus fontes historicae antiquitatis aperiuntur accedit L. Capelli Historiae Judaicae compendium. Leiden, 1687.)

By the twentieth century, both Jewish and Christian scholars appear to have majorly re-assessed the origins of Christianity, in the context of Second Temple Judaism and the events after. The conclusion reached by scholars and still held to this day by a majority is that although the passage has some clear later Christian additions, it is partially authentic. Some may still hold the view that the style of writing used in this portion of the work may indeed differ slightly from the majority of the work, but for this, there are explanations as of yet not considered.

When the earliest known copies in the original Greek of the works of Flavius Josephus are read, the style of the passage mentioning ‘Jesus’ appears no different than other parts. Differences will be seen in later copies that are not true to the primary sources. It perhaps need not be said here, but there are also style differences in the later translations in Latin and interpolations in later copies made from Latin copies. In the letters of Pliny the Younger, 9.1–3; 8-11, we read:

"You ask me what I think you should study while you enjoy your current vacation? It is really useful—as many propose—to translate Greek into Latin or Latin into Greek. By this kind of exercise you gain the proper and decorative use of words, an abundance of rhetorical devices, a forceful manner of explication, and, importantly, an ability to compose similar works due to the imitation of the best models. The things which escape a reader, moreover, do not evade a translator. From this practice one acquires intelligence and critical judgment."

The translating into Latin is what eventually happened with the New Testament, so people could not see what was originally in the original Greek version. Then, the New Testament was translated from the Latin translation into other languages. But returning to scholar Lucas Osiander’s statement above, his view that ‘not even a whiff of Christianity is to be found in Josephus' writings is incorrect. Presented below are forty correlations between the works of Flavius Josephus and the Gospels:

(1) ‘Jesus, who was called Christ’ (Matt. 27:17; Antiquities, 20.9.1) (2) ‘The Egyptian’ (Acts 21:38; Antiquities, 20.8.6) (3) ‘Punishment of the Jews’ (Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Luke 21:23-24; Jewish War, Preface; Calamities of the Jews, 6.5.4) (4) ‘Binding and Loosing’ (Matt 16:19; Jewish War, 1.5.2 ) (5) ‘The Weaker Sex’ (1 Peter 3:7; Jewish War, 1,18.2) (6) ‘Render unto Caesar...’ (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; Jewish War, 1.13.5) (7) ‘My Father’s house has many Mansions’ (John 14:2; Jewish War, 1.13.5 (Note: same as above) (8) ‘The ‘New’ Testament’ (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb; 9:15; Jewish War, 2.2.6, 2.2.3) (9) ‘Pilate’ (Mark 15:1, 43-46; Matt. 27:1-2, 57-58; Luke 3:1-2, 13.1-5, 23:1, 50-53; John 18:28-40, 19:1, 38-39; Acts 3:13-15, 4:27-31, 13:28-33; 1 Tim. 6:13-16; Jewish War, 2.9.2) (10) ‘Felix, Procurator of Galilee’ (Acts 24:25; Jewish War, 2.12.18) (11) ‘Roman Jews’ (Acts 22:25-29; Jewish War, 2.15.9) (12) ‘King Agrippa’s wisdom on the Jews’ (Acts 26:28; Jewish War, 2.16.4) (13) ‘Public Mourners’ (Matt. 12:17; Jewish War, 3.9.5) (14) ‘Zacharias, son of Baruch’ (Matt. 23:35; Jewish War, 4.5.4) (15) ‘Houses of Prayers’ (Acts 16:13, 16; Luke 6:12; Jewish War, 4.7.2) (16) ‘Blood of Josephus’ (Take my own blood as a reward if it may but procure your preservation, i.e., ‘save you’ (John 6:56, ‘eat of my flesh, and drink my blood’ [to save you.]; Jewish War, 5.9.4) (17) ‘Seven Lamps’ (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1, 5; 11:4; Jewish War, 3.6.7, 7.7; 7.5.5) (18) ‘Seven Heads’ (Rev. 4:5; 13:1; 17:3, 7; Antiquities, 3.7.7) (19) ‘Twelve Stones’ (Rev. 21:16, 19-20; Jewish War, 5.5.7; Antiquities, 3.7.5) (20) ‘John the Baptist’ (Matt. 3:4, Mark 1:6; ‘Banus’ in Vita and Antiquities, 18.5.2) (21) ‘Hairs of your head’ (Matt. 10:30, ...even the very hairs of your head are numbered.; Antiquities, 11.5.3) (22) ‘Eating ‘Common’ things’ (Acts 10:14-15, 28; 11:8-9, Rom. 14:14; Antiquities, 11.2.7) (23) ‘Grace at Meal’ (Mark 8:6, John 6:11, 23, Acts 27:35; Antiquities, 12.2.12) (24) ‘Ointment in an alabaster box’ (Mark 14:3; Matt. 26:7; Luke 7:37; Antiquities, 17.4.2) (25) ‘Judas/Theudas’ (Acts 5:36-37; Antiquities, 17.10.5, 20.5.1) (26) ‘Glad Tidings’, ‘The Gospels’ or ‘Good News’ (Luke 2:10; 1 Th. 3:6; Antiquities, 19.8.2) (27) ‘Only Begotten Son’ - used to say the wrong thing in Antiquities. The phrase, ‘Only-Begotten Son’, was a figure of speech used as a term of endearment, used for a son considered a ‘favorite’ out of more than one, by the father or mother of that son. (John 3:16: For God so love the world that he gave his only-begotten son.; Antiquities, 20.2.1) (28) ‘Famine’ (Acts 11:28; Antiquities, 20.2.5) (29) ‘Simon the Magician’ (Acts 8:9; Antiquities, 20.7.2) (30) ‘Our Father [Abba] who art in Heaven’ (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6; Antiquities, 4.4.7 - Josephus says ‘Aaron’ died in the month called ‘Abba’ by the Hebrews; also, O Father [Abba], why hast thee forsaken me? Josephus: One man will be obliged to hear the voice of his son imploring help of his father, when his hands are still bound. - Jewish War, 7.10.7.) (31) Tomorrow ye shall be with me in heaven (Luke 23:43; Antiquities, 6.14.2 - Tomorrow thou shalt be with me in Hades) (32) ‘Beaten with 40 stripes, save one’ (2 Cor. 2:24; Antiquities, 4.8.21) (33) ‘Gold, Incense, and Myrrh’ (Matt. 2:11; Antiquities, 3.8.3) (34) For we do not follow cunningly devised fables (2 Peter 1:16), And hath not preserved his writings from those indecent fables... and, he might have securely forged such lies – Antiquities, Preface, 4), ‘They followed fables...' - Antiquities, Preface, 4) (35) ‘Babylon the Great’ (Rev. 17:1-18; 18:1-24; Antiquities, 8.6.1) (36) ‘666’ (Rev. 13:18; Antiquities, 8.7.2) (37) ‘False Prophets’ (Mark 13:22; Antiquities, 13.11.2, 8.9.1) (38) ‘Filthy Lucre’ (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:2; Antiquities, 6.3.2, 15.7.9) (39) ‘Age 30’ (Luke 3:23; Vita. 1. 15.1) (40) ‘James, the brother of Jesus’ (Mark 6:3; Matt. 13:55; Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18; 1 Co. 15:7; Gal. 1:19, 2:9, 2:12; Jas. 1:1; Antiquities, 20.9.1)

If the correlations above were removed, it is clear the writings of Josephus would simply not be coherent. Below are several mentions from the list above in the writings of Josephus that would have had to have been added throughout the texts, as they were being written:

  1. Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man... He was (the) Christ... and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities,18.3.3)

  2. ‘Christ’ in Jewish Antiquities (20.9.1), is referring to ‘Jesus son of Damneus’

  3. ‘John the Baptist’ in Jewish Antiquities (18.5.20)

  4. the indirect mention of ‘Christ,’ by speaking of his ‘brother,’... and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ. (Antiquities, 20.9.1)

These works contain phrases that could appear to the literary untrained, which was the entire population, except for the elite, to be referring to the Jesus of the Gospels. Good examples are ‘a certain Galilean’ (Jewish War, 2.12.3); … ‘in order to avenge themselves upon one Galilean only,’ (Jewish War, 2.12.5); note ‘Judas of Galilee’ is ‘the Galilean’ being spoken of here; 'Jesus and his followers' (Life, 67-73). I must also note, albeit at the risk of being trivial, that within the same paragraph above mentioning ‘a certain Galilean’, the word ‘evil’ is used instead of the word ‘bad’, another New Testament connection. I doubt many would argue Josephus’s work is so large, carefully written and detailed, that it shows he had much to say. If the many ‘Christian’ references noted above within that work were removed it would become unreadable, and that is certainly not the way this individual wrote.

If the above information is not considered enough to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that ‘Josephus’/Arrius - see my book and genealogies page - did originally mention “Jesus”, and that he had done so for a specific purpose, there are still the citations in the Appendix of Whiston’s translation of Josephus (p. 639). In this section, it is noted that the writer Origen, in his ‘Contra Celsus’, specifically states that ‘Josephus’ did originally write about “Jesus,” who was called Christ”, ‘Josephus’ is mentioned by name as having mentioned all of the above individuals, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and “Jesus, who was called Christ.” Eusebius also confirms this, and confirmations go on through history until about 1480 CE, interestingly, Eusebius also uses the term, in Greek, “a poet of paradoxical works” as a label for Jesus in Demonstration 3.4.21. (Translated by W.J. Ferrar)

‘Josephus’/Arrius also speaks of others named “Jesus,” mostly those known to us as High Priest ancestors of him, and, as covered in my book, royalty, and the aristocracy could legally use pseudonyms to write under, and other names to invent characters with. An example of the legal use of inherited name/titles and how, when decreed by the Senate, such names and titles could be used even by the person’s future descendants, is found in the work of ‘Josephus’; see the footnote, that refers to Suetonius, on Emperor Claudius’ use of the name “Germanicus”, on page 406 of Whiston’s translation of ‘Josephus’. Even though Arrius was speaking of others named “Jesus,” he, of course, knew of the opportunities available to him regarding inherited name usage, and he made the most of this by making this powerful statement - “Thus spake (spoke) Jesus”... even though this was another “Jesus” who was being spoken of. (War of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter IV, Verse 4).

As mentioned, he makes other references throughout his works - some in the form of joking statements and subtle ‘disclaimers’ - in other places that point to him as deliberately writing “Jesus” into his works for a specific purpose, for example, in “Against Apion” he subtly refers to himself as an “actor”. Though these viewpoints of the writings could be considered as being viewed as out of context, when the rest of the evidence is considered, then I must disagree. If we were only relying on those things that would otherwise appear to have been taken “out of context,” then there might be a case, but what we are doing is only investigating to see more of what ‘Josephus’ himself was deliberately inserting in other contexts, that is an entirely different thing. In regards to Arrius as “Josephus, the Actor,” he wrote “And for the History of the War, I wrote it as having been an actor myself,” which is exactly what was happening within this literature, this man was ‘playing the part’ of ‘Josephus.’ (Against Apion, Book I, Chapter X)

In Against Apion, ‘Josephus’ uses a name that is not seen anywhere else, “Cresus,” which can be seen as a combination of “Christ” and “Jesus”, but it might be a deliberate misspelling, as he is famous for doing, i.e. Stone/Son. ‘Cresus’ might be a deliberate misspelling of an ancient Greek King, “Mithridates Chrestus”, an ancestor of the Piso family, which Arrius was most likely deliberately hinting at. (Against Apion, Book II, Chapter XII) - Note that if a ‘t’ was inserted correctly into the spelling of “Cresus”, it would produce “Crestus”, see Suetonius’s mention of “Chrestus.” Arrius uses phrases associated with “Jesus” throughout his works, for example, “... the light of the world”, he also speaks of “Christ,” for example:

“... and he, in order to fulfill the will of his Father, shall come as judge, whom we call Christ.”

(The Works of Flavius Josephus, p. 638, Whiston translation-an extract from Josephus’ Discourse to the Greeks, paragraph 6, concerning Hades)

josephus’s exhortation to the greeks concerning hades

It cannot be stated enough that there are deliberate ‘hints’ inserted in these works and statements throughout them that appear to serve as excuses for making misleading statements and outright lies. They are made when the subject is apparently dealing with some other subject or “non-subject.” These things are just “added on” here and there, so we can presume that Arrius feels he is admitting the truth of what he is doing, but he places these admissions deliberately “out of context” to their true meaning. Doing this, he probably made the argument, to himself, that if the reader did not understand his admissions, then that was their fault, thereby he could carry on writing knowing that the reader may or may not realize what he has done.

An example of the above is the statement: “and where it must be reproachful to write lies, when they must be known by the reader to be such.” (Wars of the Jews, Preface) He is apparently expressing disappointment that the reader must know the writings are lies, but whether the reader does know is another question. Another example is, “Yet were there fictitious stories added to what was really done...” (Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter IX, Verse 5)

Arrius deliberately tries to confuse the reader by:

1) writing about individuals out of their chronological order, for example, speaking of King Solomon, then Vespasian (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter II, Verse 5)

2) misspelling names, for example, spelling his name as “Josepos”. In places he says, “Josepos said thus...” but to see this in you will need to find the Loeb Classical Library editions of Josephus which have the Greek words spelled as they are in the earliest texts. (Wars of the Jews, Book VII, Chapter II, Verse 1 and Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter XIII, Verse 3)

3) deliberately misleading the reader with ‘half-truths’. For example, “He (King Herod) was by birth a Jew”, this is a half-truth that Arrius knew. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX, Chapter VIII, Verse 7); Herod also being an Hasmonean means he was related to Cleopatra VII, the Greek-Macadonean Pharaoh of Egypt. The ancient Greek Philip II of Macedonia (father of Alexander III the Great) had a son named ‘Lagos’ or ‘Lagus’, who in turn had a son with Arsinoe, that son being Ptolemy I. The great-great grandson of Ptolemy I married Cleopatra I, who was an Antiochian. Their great-great granddaughter was Cleopatra VII (who is associated with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony), her sister, Arsinoe, had a son who married Alexandra Regent (an Hasmonean i.e., Maccabee). Their daughter was Mariamne I (who married King Herod). (For further reading see Lagus and Arsinoe: An Exploration of Legendary Royal Bastardy, Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte, Bd. 62, H. 1 (2013), pages 80-107.)

4) he deliberately perpetuates and invents superstitious notions, ideas, and beliefs:

- he speaks of the “skill” of expelling demons. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter II, Verse 1 and Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter II, Verse 5)

- he is the first to speak of a “laser root,” which in later mythology becomes the “mandrake root.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter XIX, Verse 8 and Wars of Jews, Book VII, Chapter VI, Verse 3)

- he perpetuates the idea of “signs” and omens, for example, the omen of the ‘owl’. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter VI, Verse 7 and Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIX, Chapter VIII, Verse 2)

- the idea of “Ghosts.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book V, Chapter II, Verse 8 and Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, Chapter XI, Verse 2)

- the idea of “Angels.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book V, Chapter VIII, Verse 3)

- the idea of “Evil Spirits and Demons.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter XI, Verse 2)

- the idea of Fortune Tellers and “Mediums” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter XIV, Verse 2)

- the idea of Prophets telling the future and showing “signs,” wonders, and miracles. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter VIII, Verse 5 - Wars of the Jews, Preface, Verse 11)

- the idea of “Witches.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter VI, Verse 3)

- he invented the saying of “Grace.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, Chapter II, Verse 12)

- the idea of “Royal Birthright,” which we as a society, mostly, no longer believe in today. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVI, Chapter VIII, Verse 1)

- an eclipse of the moon as a “sign”, this and other “signs” could be predicted with accuracy by the astronomers and High Priests of the day. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVII, Chapter VI, Verse 4)

- “Some Supernatural Providence” (War of the Jews, Book I, Chapter III, Verse 6), providence (supernatural), ordained, divine (War of the Jews, Book II, Chapter XXXI, Verse 3)

- promoted the phrase “God Forbid.” (War of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter III, Verse 10)

- other “signs,” such as a star resembling a sword and a comet that continued a whole year-note he speaks of these ‘signs’ as appearing before the destruction of Jerusalem. (Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter V, Verse 3)

- he writes of religion as being (for those who know what he means) as the most profitable “business,” by saying, “... to make the altar everyday fat with sacrifices of great value.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book IX, Chapter VIII, Verse 2); The tithes and sacrifices were “divided up” by percent to the High Priests who sent the majority to the King of the location, in Judea, that would have been King Herod, etc., who in turn, sent tribute to the emperor of Rome. Records were kept so they knew how much to expect to come to them in the form of tithes. They knew exactly what they were doing, asking for 10% in tithes, and also receiving revenue of like amount from all citizens from taxes. They were taking great wealth from the populace on a constant and ongoing basis, but when the “zealots” (Pharisees) disrupted this system, the rulers and nobility felt they were being ‘robbed’ of the loot they had been robbing the citizens of, so they called the Sicarii or zealots “robbers” to make them appear to be the “bad guys.” The royals and aristocrats were obsessed with power and greed, even to the point of really pushing the idea of “Daily Sacrifices.” (Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter II, Verse 1)

Further statements by ‘Josephus’ include:

“... a great deal of fictitious blood was shed,” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIX, Chapter I, Verse 13)

Oh, Josephus, art thou still fond of life; and canst thou bear to see ‘the light’ in a state of slavery?” (“Jesus” is considered the light, but the character was also the representative of royalty in the story (the Bible), who saw themselves as ‘the light’ - in other words, those having wisdom and great knowledge as opposed to the common person.) (Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter VIII, Verse 4)

What the above is saying, in a disguised way, is “Josephus (Arrius), you are fond of life (the ‘good life’) and you cannot bear to see this end where the aristocracy is in a state of slavery” - as that is what it would be like for the royals if slavery were abolished. It would be as if the royals were slaves to the common person, as they would lose their power over them and become subject to the masses. In effect, royalty would cease to exist except for family lineage, therefore it was of the utmost importance to the Herodians, Flavians, and Piso families that they accomplish their ‘task’ with ‘Jesus’ and the New Testament, and with the other works produced by the rest of the family and descendents.

Some of them betook themselves to the writing of fabulous narrations.” (Against Appion, Book I, Verse 5)

For references regarding the Greek texts, see the Loeb Classical Library volumes. These are the best references for Josephus, as they also show the misspellings were originally in place and were reconstructed with the aid of many fragments of still extant ancient papyri texts and other archaeological finds.

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