Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Josephus on Jesus

A woodcut of Flavius Josephus by John C. Winston.In 93, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus published his work Antiquities of the Jews. The extant copies of this work, which all derive from Christian sources, even the recently recovered Arabic version, contain two passages about Jesus. The one directly concerning Jesus has come to be known as the Testimonium Flavianum, and its authenticity has been disputed since the 17th century. The other passage concerns James the brother of Jesus.

Testimonium Flavianum

Greek version

The passage appears in Antiquities of the Jews xviii 3.3, which, in the translation of William Whiston, reads:

3. 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.

As usual with ancient texts, the surviving sources for this passage are Greek manuscripts, all minuscules, the oldest of which dates from the 9th century. It is likely that these all derive from a single exemplar written in uncial, as is the case with most other ancient Greek texts transmitted to the present in medieval copies, and have come down through the hands of the church. The text of Antiquities appears to have been transmitted in two halves — books 1–10 and books 11–20. But other ad hoc copies of this passage also exist. However, other manuscripts existed which did not contain this passage, and one such was known to Isaac Vossius.

There are also citations in other writers of antiquity.


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