some Church history…Jesus and the first century historian Titus Flavius Josephus

A Roman portrait bust said to be of Josephus. (Wikipedia)

Josephus (37 – c.100 AD/CE), also Yoseph Ben Mattithyahu in Biblical Hebrew (Joseph son of Matthias) and Titus Flavius Josephus was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded 1st century Jewish history, such as the First Jewish–Roman War which resulted in the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He has been credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus Christ outside of the gospels, this being an item of contention among historians.

Josephus was a law-observant Jew who believed in the compatibility of Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought, commonly referred to as Hellenistic Judaism. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75 AD/CE) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94 AD/CE). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity. (source)

The earliest description of Jesus outside of the Gospels is found in Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities. Yet for centuries scholars have doubted that a Jewish writer could have written an account that contains basic tenets of Christian belief. This conflict is resolved by understanding the source of Josephus’ composition

There are no surviving Roman records of the First Century that refer to, nor are there any Jewish records that support the accounts in the Christian gospels – except one.      In Rome, in the year 93, Josephus published his lengthy history of the Jews. While discussing the period in which the Jews of Judaea were governed by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, Josephus included the following account:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds 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 Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

– Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63
(Based on the translation of Louis H. Feldman, The Loeb Classical Library.)

To read more on Josephus Flavius visit

The Works of Josephus

The Galilee, site of Josephus' governorship, in late antiquity.(source Wikipedia)The Jewish War (460 KB)

Antiquities of the Jews (1,030 KB)
The Life (60 KB)
Against Apion (90 KB)

The Works of Josephus
The Whiston translation online (external link).

The Works of Josephus in Greek
The Greek text of B. Niese at the Perseus Project.

Brill Translations with Commentary

Here are 4 short videos regarding Josephus’ first century writings and references to Jesus:

Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Senior Professor of New Testament,School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary:

Doubts about Jesus and the New Testament from CPX on Vimeo.

Professor John Barclay was appointed Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in 2003, succeeding Professor James Dunn. He is a prolific New Testament scholar who has been widely published in journals and books. He has special expertise on the apostle Paul and Second Temple Judaism. His publications include Obeying the Truth (1986), Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (1996), a guide on Colossians and Philemon (1997), and a commentary on Josephus’ Against Apion (2000).

He is currently engaged in writing a book on Paul’s understanding of grace. A gifted and popular speaker, Professor Barclay brings great historical and theological insight into how divine grace transformed the first-century world.

Josephus: the man and the myths. Part I from CPX on Vimeo.

Part II

Josephus: the man and the myths. Part II from CPX on Vimeo.

Jesus and Josephus, a forgery? Dr Chris Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. His fields of research and teaching focus on New Testament history, Alexander the Great and Hellenistic history, Graeco-Roman History of Ideas and the intersection of early Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture. His current research is in the field of the relationship between religion and philosophy in Graeco-Roman thought. Dr. Forbes teaches at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia where he is senior lecturer since 2001. He is also a member of the Society for Biblical Literature and the Tyndale Fellowship.

10 comentarii (+add yours?)

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  3. Eduardo
    oct. 16, 2011 @ 20:50:22

    Christians form the church of Christ, according to the bible they are the body of Jesus and the head of the church is Jesus. There is only one church that is following the same doctrine that was delivered by Jesus in the 1st century of our era and that church is the church of Christ. They are formed as local churches that are independent one from the other ones. The church of Christ is ruled by Jesus and has not human head as authority, just Jesus is the only one that rule his church by the word of God. The church of Christ has not human titles as other denominations, church OF Christ mean that belong to Jesus an it is not a title as everbody can see in the orignal scripts of Greek of the new testament. He delivered the truth, then the man needs to find the truth church for salvation, since He will come for his church that is following Him by the word of God.

    • rodi
      oct. 16, 2011 @ 22:46:34

      Eduardo, thanks for taking the time to comment on this blog. You are so right when you state that „there is only one Church of Jesus Christ, however due to ‘man’s interpretation’ of the Word of God many heresies abound. Therefore people gravitate to other Christians and denominations with like beliefs. But, there will come a day when the true Church Universal as the bride of Christ, we will be able to say „I am part of the Bride of Christ and am making myself ready of Him.
      Revelations 19:7
      Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

  4. Michael
    mai 28, 2012 @ 07:06:22

    It doesn’t matter the denomination:protestant or non-protestant.It matters the faith in JESUS CHRIST.Jesus didn’t call us to a religion or denomination(these people were who established it),HE called us to follow HIM.

    • rodi
      mai 28, 2012 @ 14:55:54

      Michael, you are right that Jesus called us to follow Him, yet he left us the Gospels, the entire New Testament for that matter, in which He teaches us and shows us what he asked of us, when we decide to follow Him.

      It is not enough just to decide we want to follow Jesus. Jesus gives us actual instructions on how to follow Him (i.e. live our life)
      When some churches decide to pick and choose which parts they will follow, they disregard the Gospel and if you are a believer that God has inspired the Word (in the Bible) you have to choose whether you will listen to men or the Word of God. That is when separation occurs amongst Christians.

  5. paul buttigieg
    iun. 20, 2012 @ 05:16:32

    Mt 10:23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
    Mt 16:28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
    Mt 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. iF JESUS SAID i TELL YOU THE TRUTH wHY DIDN’T PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM?

    • rodi
      iun. 20, 2012 @ 11:21:05

      As you know, even the apostles wrestled with doubt themselves. One must fully trust in God through Christ by faith, and even then we will sometime struggle believing certain things because we certainly know our God is far too complex for the human mind to understand His ways.(Isaiah 55:8-9)

  6. Charlie
    iul. 14, 2012 @ 21:27:17

    Let us not forget the reason for the Holy Spirit in our world. Its purpose is to bring unity to the followers of Christ following the Word of God.

    • rodi
      iul. 14, 2012 @ 21:45:28

      Great point Charlie! Thanks. John 14:26 – But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

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