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 Josephus.org.

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.

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