Saturday, January 29, 2011

Josephus on Jesus

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 Just (also known as James the brother of Jesus).

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,(9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day;(10) 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. and also in Book XX, 9.1

1. And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent.

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.

The first to cite this passage of Antiquities was Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in about 324, who quotes the passage in essentially the same form. This is evidence that this passage existed in at least some manuscripts of the Antiquities of the Jews at that time, though many scholars believe that Eusebius himself might be the author of the passage. Alice Whealey has demonstrated, however, that a Greek text differing in at least one respect existed in the late 4th century.


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