Josephus + Bias

Josephus was a historian of the first century born in the year 37. He wrote four works which are sometimes cited as evidence of the existence of Jesus. Oh, and he was also an egotistical Jewish priest who turned traitor during the Roman War’s siege of Jotapata while his comrades were busy fighting to the death or committing suicide rather than surrendering. In short: he was a biased coward. Yet, people still use his works as evidence for what they want to believe – that being the existence of a divine god-man hybrid (who preformed magic tricks because a talking animal told a woman to eat a piece of fruit and the only way some strange desert totem could forgive people was to send himself to earth in the form of his own son and sacrifice himself unto himself, after which he was supposed to forgive himself and all the Judeo-Christians decided to eat the corpse and drink the blood… that in a nutshell).

One such example people like to use to allow them to more easily assert the existence of Jesus is from The Antiquities and reads as follows:

“He convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.”

The only thing this passage implies is that there seems to have been a man named Jesus who some people thought to be some sort of messiah (definition: deliverer or liberator) or so-called “Christ” (which can also mean “the Anointed One”, meaning he might’ve had oil poured on him at some point). It does not imply that this Jesus character was divine or that he ever preformed any so-called “miracles”. At most it implies that he had some sort of clique in which he was considered to be a member of respectable social status.

This is the Jewish equivalent of Scar Face being called a mob boss (I am unaware as to whether Scar Face himself was also Jewish. Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t care).

Another work by Josephus was the Testimonium Flavianum, which is supposed to be more about Jesus. It is a very disputed work which is believed to have been altered by followers of Jesus at one or more times after its original completion. One such example riddled with interpolations is the following much-debated excerpt:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats 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. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

After removing the interpolations of, “if indeed one ought to call him a man”, “He was the Christ.”, and “On the third day he appeared to them restored to life…”, you are left with something that simply says that there was a man named Jesus, he was considered a wise teacher, and he had followers who loved him.

That statement contains the same amount of gravity as saying Shakespeare was a wise and intelligent playwright whose works were loved at the time and are still loved to this day.

So these passages obviously cannot be used as evidence for the divinity of Jesus no matter how much some people want that to be the case. One might use them as evidence that there could’ve been a man named Jesus, but as Boston University philosopher Michael Martin has said, “If Jesus did exist, one would have expected Josephus… to have said more about him…” before also pointing out the contrast in the amount of details between Jesus and “other Messianic figures and John the Baptist,” which were written about “in greater detail”.

 

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