The Jesus reference in Josephus: its ad hoc doctoring and various manuscript lines

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

The following time line of the evidence for Josephus’s mention of Jesus (The Testimonium Flavianum) was prompted as part of my preparation to address the discussion by Eddy and Boyd in The Jesus Legend. I will save my comments on how this timeline reflects on their evaluation of the evidence of Josephus till I next address their work.

Meanwhile, the following chronological overview of the extant references, variations and omissions may tell their own story for those interested in exploring this topic.

I have taken portions of the dateline from The Flavius Josephus Home Page. But since that only referred to a few of the relevant citations, most of the remainder is from my distillation of Earl Doherty’s comprehensive 2008 discussion of the manuscript and textual evidence, Josephus On the Rocks. (But since my revision on 7th March I have added quite a few more notes to highlight knowledge of Josephus among Church Fathers prior to Eusebius, but without any apparent knowledge of the Testimonium.)

For those new to this topic, the Testimonium Flavianum is the scholarly name given to the passage about Jesus in the writings of the first century Jewish historian, Josephus. Josephus was a famous for his recording of the history of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the events leading to that event, as well as for writing a comprehensive history of the Jewish people with which to impress his Roman patron and audience.

Prior to the latter half of the twentieth century it was widely held by scholars (e.g. Charles Guignebert, Maurice Goguel) that this passage was a complete forgery (but see comment below by Ken Olson here), and that Josephus made no reference to Jesus in any of his works. Since then, there has been a near universal tendency to suggest that at least part of the current passage about Jesus was original to Josephus, and that it had been tampered with by later scribes. I am not convinced that these more recent arguments have overturned the substance of the earlier arguments, but details of the arguments will come in future posts. Those posts will refer back to the timeline below.

93 CE
: The book Jewish Antiquities by Josephus is published in Rome. . . Manuscripts surviving today also contain a description of Jesus. But was this description present in the year 93? Josephus, in deference to the sensibilities of his Roman protectors, is at pains to avoid any mention of Jewish Messianic hopes. The only reference to a Messiah is in the description of Jesus and Christians which first appear with Eusebius.

ca.140’s CE
Justin Martyr
writes lengthy polemics against the unbelief of Jews and pagans and arguments for Christianity. No reference to Josephus. Had Josephus written about Jesus, positive or negative, could such works have remained unknown to Justin?

ca.170’s CE
Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch
writes lengthy polemics against pagan refusal to believe in Christianity. No reference to Jesus in Josephus, although he cites Josephus in his Apology to Autolycus, Bk 3, ch. 23.

ca.180’s CE
writes at length against unbelief without any reference to a work by Josephus. “[I]t is clear that Irenaeus was unfamiliar with Book 18 of ‘Antiquities’ since he wrongly claims that Jesus was executed by Pilate in the reign of Claudius (Dem. ev. ap. 74), while Antiquities 18.89 indicates that Pilate was deposed during the reign of Tiberius, before Claudius” (Wikipedia’s citation of Whealey’s ‘Josephus on Jesus’). Had Josephus discussed Jesus how could Irenaeus have been ignorant of the fact? Surely some knowledge of such a passage in the famous Jewish historian would have reached Irenaeus and others.

Fragment XXXII from the lost writings of Irenaeus, however, does know Josephus — see 32:53.

ca.190’s CE
Clement of Alexandria
wrote extensively in defence of Christianity against pagan hostility. He knew Josephus’ works — see Stromata Book 1 Chater 21. No reference to any mention of Jesus by Josephus.

ca.200’s CE
wrote lengthy apolegetics against unbelief and in justification of Christianity. No reference to a passage about Jesus by Josephus. But he elsewhere knows Josephus’ works — see Apologeticum ch.19.

ca.200’s CE
Minucius Felix
, another apologist, no references to Jesus from Josephus, although he knows and cites Josephus — see chapter 33.

ca.210’s CE
wrote volumes of apologetics but appears to know nothing of a reference to Jesus by Josephus. Fragments of his works — see On Jeremiah and Ezekiel.145 — show he knows Josephus.

ca.220’s CE
Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian historian who is not known to cite Josephus’s passage on Jesus although he did know of Josephus‘s works — see Chatper 17.38 of his Chronography.

ca.230’s CE
Origen knows Josephus
: four citations of Josephus are found here, but none reference a Jesus passage in Josephus.

  1. cites a passage in Josephus on the death of James “the brother of Jesus” (Book 20 of the Antiquities);
  2. states Josephus did not believe in Jesus (Origen in fact notes that Josephus proclaimed the Roman emperor Vespasian as the long awaited world ruler of biblical prophecy).
  3. summarized what Josephus said about John the Baptist in Book 18.
  4. said Josephus attributed destruction of Jerusalem to murder of James the Just (something not found in our copies of the works of Josephus) — (Josephus actually implies the destruction of Jerusalem was punishment for the murder of Ananias).
  5. does not cite any reference to Jesus from Josephus.

ca.240’s CE
(North Africa) prolific apologist with no reference to Jesus in Josephus.

ca.270’s CE
Anatolius, demonstrates his knowledge of Josephus in his Paschal Canon, chapter 3. No reference to Jesus in Josephus.

ca.290’s CE
Arnobius (North Africa) prolific apologist with no reference to Jesus in Josephus.

ca.300’s CE
Methodius, a Church Father who opposed Origen, and cites Josephus (see On the Resurrection — the citation is misplaced at the bottom of the page) but makes no reference to a Jesus passage in Josephus.

ca.300’s CE
(North Africa) prolific apologist with no reference to Jesus in Josephus.

ca.324 CE
Eusebius quotes a reference in Josephus to Jesus that survives today in all manuscripts:

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.

Some expressions in the above are Josephan, but used in a way contrary to how Josephus uses them elsewhere. Some expressions are characteristic of those found in other writings of Eusebius. More on this in a future post.

Eusebius in fact cites this passage three times — in three of his works — to assert a reputable Jewish support for the good character of Jesus:

  1. Demonstratio Evangelica
  2. History of the Church
  3. Theophany

ca.370’s CE
cites Josephus 90 times but cites the Testimonium (the Josephan passage about Jesus) only the once, and that in his Illustrious Men, 13. “It is likely that Jerome knew of the Testimonium from the copy of Eusebius available to him.” (Eddy and Boyd). The silence on the Testimonium outside De Viris Illustribus 13 may well relate to the period prior to his attaining access to the Eusebian text of Josephus.

The one reference of Jerome’s is nearly identical to that of Eusebius except that where Eusebius had “He was the Christ”, Jerome cited Josephus as saying, “He was believed to be the Christ.” From CCEL:

In this same time was Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it be lawful to call him man. For he was a worker of wonderful miracles, and a teacher of those who freely receive the truth. He had very many adherents also, both of the Jews and of the Gentiles, and was believed to be Christ, and when through the envy of our chief men Pilate had crucified him, nevertheless those who had loved him at first continued to the end, for he appeared to them the third day alive. Many things, both these and other wonderful things are in the songs of the prophets who prophesied concerning him and the sect of Christians, so named from Him, exists to the present day.

Jerome, like Origen earlier, also wrote that Josephus interpreted the fall of Jerusalem as punishment for the stoning of James the Just, an interpretation not found in our copies of Josephus.

ca.380’s CE
St John Chrysostom

  1. In his Homily 76 he writes that Jerusalem was destroyed as a punishment for the crucifixion of Jesus.
  2. He discusses Josephus, but makes no reference to any passage about Jesus in Josephus.
  3. In his Homily 13 he writes that Josephus attributed the destruction of Jerusalem to death of John the Baptist.

ca.370’s CE
Latin Pseudo-Hegesippus and the Hebrew Josippon dependent on Ps-Hegesippus, cite free paraphrases of the Josephan reference to Jesus first cited in Eusebius. From Stephen Carlson’s Hypotyposeis:

About which the Jews themselves bear witness, Josephus a writer of histories saying, that there was in that time a wise man, if it is proper however, he said, to call a man the creator of marvelous works, who appeared living to his disciples after three days of his death in accordance with the writings of the prophets, who prophesied both this and innumerable other things full of miracles about him. from which began the community of Christians and penetrated into every tribe of men nor has any nation of the Roman world remained, which was left without worship of him. If the Jews don’t believe us, they should believe their own people. Josephus said this, whom they themselves think very great, but it is so that he was in his own self who spoke the truth otherwise in mind, so that he did not believe his own words. But he spoke because of loyalty to history, because he thought it a sin to deceive, he did not believe because of stubbornness of heart and the intention of treachery. He does not however prejudge the truth because he did not believe but he added more to his testimony, because although disbelieving and unwilling he did not refuse.

ca.400’s CE
(North Africa), another prolific apologist, apparently knew nothing of any reference to Jesus by Josephus.

fifth century CE
Tables of Contents of the works of Josephus were attached to Greek manuscripts, “and there is evidence that such tables were already attached to Latin manuscripts of the work as early as the 5th century.” H. Thackeray as cited, in part, by Doherty:

. . . the chapter headings “are ostensibly written by a Jew,” and “though it is improbable that these more elaborate chapter headings are the production of his [Josephus’] pen, they may well be not far removed from him in date.” The Table of Contents for Book 18 lists 20 topics dealt with in the book, but there is no mention of the Testimonium among them. . . .

ca.870’s CE
Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople, citing Earl Doherty’s Josephus On the Rocks:

[Photius] in compiling his Library (a review of several hundred ancient books, including treatises on the works of Josephus) apparently possessed a copy of Josephus which contained no Testimonium, nor even those interpolations we conclude were introduced to make Josephus say that the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the death of James the Just, or of John the Baptist. As Zindler says,

“Since Photius was highly motivated to report ancient attestations to the beginnings of Christianity, his silence here argues strongly that neither the Testimonium nor any variant thereof was present in the manuscript he read. This also argues against the notion that the Testimonium was created to supplant an originally hostile comment in the authentic text of Josephus. Had a negative notice of a false messiah been present in the text read by Photius, it is inconceivable he could have restrained himself from comment thereon.”

Photius does discuss the Antiquities 18 passage on John the Baptist. To think that he would do so yet pass up one about Christ himself—no matter what its nature—is, as Zindler says, quite inconceivable. Photius at a number of points also seems to quote marginal notes from his copy of Josephus, giving evidence of the ease with which such things could have found their way into the original text and given rise to debates about what was authentic to Josephus’ own writings.

10th Century
The Arab Christian historian Agapius quotes a version of the Testimonium that differs from that of Eusebius.

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and his learning outstanding. And many people from among  the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after the crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders. (translation of Shlomo Pines)

11th-12th centuries
Slavonic Josephus
cites another free paraphrase of the Josephan reference to Jesus first cited in Eusebius. This contains the same variant (He was believed to be the Christ) found in Jerome. The passage below is from Solomon Zeitlin:

At that time also a man came forward—if even it is fitting to call him man (simply).  His nature as well as his form were a man’s; but his showing forth was more than (that) of a man.  His works, that is to say, were godly and he wrought wonder deeds amazing and full of power.  Therefore it is not possible for me to call him a man (simply).  But again looking at the existence he shared with all, I would also not call him an angel.  And all that he wrought through some kind of invisible power, he wrought by word and command.  Some said of him that ‘our first Law-giver has risen from the dead and shows forth many cures and arts’.  But others supposed (less definitely) that he is sent by God.  Now he opposed himself in much to the Law, and did not observe the Sabbath according to ancestral custom.  Yet, on the other hand, he did nothing reprehensible nor any crime, but by word solely he effected everything.  And many from the folk followed him and received his teachings.  And many souls became wavering, supposing that thereby the Jewish tribes would free themselves from the Romans’ hands.  Now it was his custom often to stop on the Mount of Olives, facing the city.  And there also be avouched his curse to the people.

And he gathered themselves to him of servants a hundred and fifty, but of the folk a multitude.  But when they saw his power, that he accomplished everything that he would by word, they urged him that he should enter the city and cut down the Roman soldiers and Pilate, and rule over us.  But that one scorned it.  And thereafter when knowledge of it came to the Jewish leaders, they gathered together with the high priest and spoke: ‘We are powerless and weak to withstand the Romans.  But as withal the bow is bent, we will go and tell Pilate what we have heard, and we will be without distress, lest if he hear it from others, we be robbed of our substance and ourselves be put to the sword and our children ruined.’  And they went and told it to Pilate.

And he sent and had many of the people cut down.  And he had that wonder-doer brought up.  And when he had instituted a trial concerning him he perceived that he is a doer of good, but not an evil-doer, nor a revolutionary, nor one who aimed at power, and let him free.  He had, you should know, healed his dying wife.  And he went to his accustomed place and wrought his accustomed works.  And as again more folk gathered themselves together round him, then did he win glory through his works more than all.

The teachers of the law were (therefore) envenomed with envy and gave thirty talents to Pilate, in order that he should put him to death.  And he, after he had taken the money, gave consent that they should themselves carry out their purpose, and they took and crucified him according to the ancestral law.

For more extracts from the Slavonic Josephus see Mead’s citations on the Sacred Texts website.

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

32 thoughts on “The Jesus reference in Josephus: its ad hoc doctoring and various manuscript lines”

  1. I am, with some caveats and reservations. Hope to post more specific reasons for doing so soon. Would you like to share your reasons for suspecting Pamphilus?

    Meanwhile I have extended the original post above to include a translation of one of the key passages from the Slavonic Josephus.

  2. Neil,

    Thanks for this. I’ll be very interested to see what you have to say about Eusebius’ involvement. There appears to be a problem in part of the post:

    >>Prior to the latter half of the second century it was widely held by scholars (e.g. Charles Guignebert, Maurice Goguel) that this passage was a complete forgery,<<

    I think you meant ‘twentieth century’. Also, while a large number of scholars from the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century thought that he Testimonium was a complete interpolation, Goguel advocated partial authenticity (Jesus and the Origins of Christianity, trans. Wyon, Harper 196o, French original 1932, vol. 1, pp. 75-82).

    1. Thanks for the correction/s.

      Presuming you’re the same Ken Olson who wrote the piece on the Eusebius and the TF, I do have in mind a response to a specific critique that Stephen Carlson made of your article. Nothing major, but I’m sure I don’t have very much to add to what you have already covered. 🙂

  3. I hold Pamphilus as a #2 suspect in the back of my head because of the timing. It’s fairly certain Origen, writing in Caesarea with a copy of the Antiquities at hand, presumably, did not know of the passage. Pamphilus seems to have greatly expanded the library there afterward, both in terms of new Greek manuscripts as well as new copies. It is this expanded library that Eusebius inherits, and I have to wonder if it is more likely that Eusebius had a relatively new copy of the Antiquities with an addition made by Pamphilus or a nameless scribe, or that Eusebius made the alteration himself.

    I presume the change would have taken place when the entire Antiquities was copied to replace an aged manuscript, though I suppose it’s possible that just Book 18 was recopied. Given that the Antiquities is 20 books long, Pamphilus’s zeal for, say, copying all of Origen’s commentaries suggest he had the ability and the timing, if not the motive.

    It is sometimes difficult to tell if Eusebius is being deceitful or just naive, as with the letter to Abgar. So I don’t know – it could have been a nameless scribe with pious forgery in mind, as well.

  4. “ca.140’s CE
    Justin Martyr writes lengthy polemics against the unbelief of Jews and pagans and arguments for Christianity. No reference to Josephus. Had Josephus written about Jesus, positive or negative, could such works have remained unknown to Justin?”

    The cumulative silence in the 2nd century gives weight to the argument that the TF is post 2nd century. To the extent you demonstrate that Christian authors such as Justin were not only familiar with Josephus but referred to it, the silence will have more weight. Can you do that?

  5. From Josephus On the Rocks:

    “In addition to Chrysostom, others of his era fail to mention the Testimonium. Steve Mason observes (op.cit., p.57) that “during the century after Eusebius there are five church fathers, including Augustine, who certainly had many occasions to find it useful and who cite passages from Josephus but not this one.” Augustine lived and worked in North Africa, while Eusebius and Jerome (who do refer to it) were in the Levant, so the interpolation may not have worked its way to more western areas until later in the 5th century.”

    From your list Neil I see:

    1) Chrysostom

    2) Augie Dogma (Augustine)

    Who are the other 3 and did Augustine cite Josephus?

  6. “I don’t have ready access to the Steve Mason work cited here, Singapore not being a major centre of Christian studies. I suggest you consult “Josephus and the New Testament” page 57.”

    It’s not there. Mason never discusses the details of TAFS. He thinks it probable that Josephus wrote something about Jesus based on TAFA.

    I think TAFS is stronger than it is normally given credit for. Analyze the Fathers individually to consider if it was likely that they had heard of Josephus (doesn’t need to be “familiar with”). Justin Martyr:

    1) Philosopher training

    2) Location Rome

    3) Interests – Jesus, 1st century Israel, arguing with Pagan/Jewish philosophers.

    The traditional question is backwards here. It should be:

    Why wouldn’t Justin be aware of Josephus?

    Another specific argument against Eusebius (who the trail clearly leads to) is that he had the AUTHORITY (Constantine) to make a change. While the Pagans were in control it would have been risky for a Christian to claim such a change to Josephus. Note that once the Empire went Christian it would have been risky for a Pagan to claim that Eusebius was lying. This all happens under Eusebius and would have been the time to make the change.

    Not coincidently, Celsus and Porphyry, who would have called Christianity on the forgery, are before Eusebius and there is no such critic of Christian forgery after. It’s all in the TIMING.

  7. Theophilus is clearly using Antiquities of the Jews as a source. Go to:


    Start reading Chapter 3, paragraph 4 and the connection is clear. Whealey asserts that Theophilus is referring to Against Apion here but:

    1) You can get most of the details of Theophilus from Antiquities of the Jews but not Against Apion.

    2) The theme of Theophilus fits Antiquities of the Jews but not Against Apion.

    3) Theophilus uses a related reference of “antiquities” but nothing to refer to the title “Against Apion.”

    Whealey has impeached her credibility and she is useless as a source because everything she asserts needs to be checked.

    Thus you can add that Theophilus shows an early awareness of Antiquities of the Jews specifically in addition to general awareness of Josephus. Now potential guides to the TF for subsequent Fathers has increased exponentially (Josephus and Theophilus). No mention of the TF or TBOTL. Obviously TAFS here works with TBOTL also.

  8. I’ve listed the reasons to think Justin was familiar with Josephus at:


    The General reasons are:

    1) Potential [b]source[/b] for areas of interest to Justin:

    Josephus is the official Roman/Jewish historian for 1st century Israel.

    Polemical need, arguing with Pagan and Jewish philosophers, to be aware of Josephus

    2) [b]Literacy level[/b] of Justin:


    Writings evidence that he was well read

    Audience with Emperor indicates he operated at high level in Roman society

    3) [b]Location[/b] of Justin:

    Rome where Josephus was published and would be easily accessible and well-known.

    4) Patristic [b]neighborhood[/b]:

    Justin’s bookends, “Luke” and Theophilus both seem/are familiar with Josephus. Current and previous Fathers are additionally potential sources of information regarding Josephus.

    5) [b]Fake Justin[/b] assumed that Justin was/would be familiar with Josephus

    6) [b]Themes[/b] of Josephus attractive to the Fathers even without any mention of Christians.

    Josephus chronicles in detail the Jewish willingness to fight Rome which brought on the destruction of the Temple.

    The potential specific references are:



    And hear what part of earth He was to be born in, as another prophet, Micah, foretold. He spoke thus: “And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come forth a Governor, who shall feed My people.” Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judaea.




    And that you may learn that it was from our teachers–we mean the account given through the prophets–that Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world, hear the very words spoken through Moses, who, as above shown, was the first prophet, and of greater antiquity than the Greek writers;

  9. I’ve finished my analysis of whether Theophilus was specifically aware of Antiquities of the Jews @


    I think it’s likely he was. Key points:

    1) General Motive and Opportunity.

    2) The fathers before and after him were familiar with it.

    3) It was likely available in Antioch and he would have had access to others who were familiar with Josephus in Antioch.

    4) Everyone agrees he was familiar with Against Apion which clearly references Antiquities of the Jews at the start.

    5) Applying Clark’s criteria for literary parallels indicates he was familiar with Antiquities of the Jews.

    Thus we have fathers early on who were specifically familiar with Antiquities of the Jews making it likely that most, if not all, subsequent fathers were familiar with it as well.

  10. This is a partial duplicate post but it fits better here:

    Roger Pearce has a copy of PseudoHegisippus posted on his Tertullian web site.

    He shows that PsHegisippus contains material from “Antiquities of the Jews”. Therefore the PsH redactor had access to a copy of “JA” yet he interpolated the TF into the wrong location in his redaction of “Jewish War”. He did not put his paraphrase of the TF next to the passages dealing with Pilate, but at a later section of the text.

    And rather than appearing like an integral part of the text as it sort of does in “JA”, the PsHegisippus version of the TF reads like a gloss or commentary that has been incorporated into the main body of the text.
    Therefore, the PsH redactor apparently had access to a copy of Jewish Antiquities and used material from it in his translation and redaction of the Greek “Jewish War” into Latin. He placed a paraphrase of the TF at the “wrong” place in the narrative, and it reads like commentary rather tan an integral part of his text.
    Is it safe to conclude that the PsH redactor DID NOT SEE the TF in “Jewish Antiquities”, but is quoting it from another source? Did he extract the TF from Eusebius’ Demonstrio or Theophany, which were the only other known TF sources available in the late 400’s.

    How widely distributed were Eusebius’ Demonstrio and Theophany? Did copies of the documents make it into the West or were they confined to the Greek speaking east Med.? This might help place the TF redactor.

    Unlike the mainstream or orthodox contention that PsH proves the authenticity of the TF and its presence in “JewishAntiquities”, PseudoHegisippus is actually a demonstration that the Testamonium Flavianum was NOT present in early copies of the “Jewish Antiquities” and is derived from some other source. The only other known TF source were two works composed by Eusebius: the Demonstrio and the Theophany.


  11. From entry 12: “Whealey has impeached her credibility and she is useless as a source because everything she asserts needs to be checked.”

    Please see “http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/the-testimonium-flavianum-an-additional-clue-from-eusebiuss-against-hierocles/”
    Entry 9: “Alice Whealey is intellectually bankrupt.”
    Also see entry 11.

    For some reason, Alice Whealey is the darling of orthodox christian academics. However, her essays are very difficult to read and if you try to outline or parse them, you end up with something that is virtually incomprehansible.

    She has gotten away with her interpretations based on her analysis of Pseudo-Hegisippus only because up to now the text of PsH was not readily available to the non academic non-Latin speaker. This is no longer the case.

    A draft edition of a modern language translation of PsH is now available. What Alice Whealey says is in the text and what is actually there are tow different things.

    Even if you do not know Latin you can check that the translation is pretty accurate by a side to side comparision of passages of the Ussani Latin text with the English translation, using the aid of a Latin English dictionary. If you know French or Italian often the Latin English dictionary is not needed.

    A close reading of PsH argues against the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum.

    I am glad I am not the only person who does not think much of Whealey’s scholarship.


  12. Neil, the Josephus website says that the Testimonium was not entirely forged.

    “In 1995 a discovery was published that brought important new evidence to the debate over the Testimonium Flavianum. For the first time it was pointed out that Josephus’ description of Jesus showed an unusual similarity with another early description of Jesus. It was established statistically that the similarity was too close to have appeared by chance. Further study showed that Josephus’ description was not derived from this other text, but rather that both were based on a Jewish-Christian “gospel” that has since been lost. For the first time, it has become possible to prove that the Jesus account cannot have been a complete forgery and even to identify which parts were written by Josephus and which were added by a later interpolator.”

    What do you think?

    1. It’s a long time since I studied that Luke/Emmaus Road story and Josephus. It will take me a little time to refresh myself of the details. In the meantime, I seem to recollect nothing here that falsified the Eusebius-done-it hypothesis. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to be alerted to the evidence. If you are more up to speed with the points that would fly in the face of the Eusebius theory, then do let me know before I get to examining that paper once again.

      1. Dr. Goldberg concludes that both Josephus and the author of Luke used a common early source, the former to create the Testamonium, the latter to embellish the Emmaus narrative. Presumably, Eusebius came along later to sweeten what Josephus had written. However, it would seem just as plausible to me for Polycarp to have been the one to add the Emmaus story to Luke while he was editing it (de-Marcionizing it). If so, Polycarp could be the first church father who tinkered with the Testamonium, leaving Eusebius to polish the forgery.

        We’re never going to know for sure, so I still think we have to lay it aside as evidence. An honest historian would have to conclude that we don’t know what Josephus had to say about Jesus of Nazareth, if he said anything at all. The evidence is irrevocably tainted.

  13. Neil,

    Are you (or anyone here) familiar with the observation of G.J. Goldberg that Luke 24:19-27 is very similar to the TF?


    Though the idea has been around since 1995, I’ve never heard of this before now, and I haven’t been able to find much discussion of it online, and I’m not aware of what other scholars make of it. At first glance I have to agree that there is a remarkable similarity between the two passages. I’m not inclined to accept Goldberg’s idea that Josephus used Luke to make the TF, or that Luke and Josephus shared an early Christian source. This just “seems” unlikely to me.

    My first thought is that since Luke seems to have used Josephus (according to Mason and Eisenman), then perhaps this is another example of that, and maybe there was some sort of “TF” (perhaps negative or neutral). But it would be odd that no (other?) Christian ever cited it before Eusebius, even if it was “negative” from a Christian point of view. But it’s also odd that Luke 24:19-27 (of all things) has this close of a connection to the TF, since it does seem likely that Luke used Josephus in other cases. In this light, it would be typical Lukan sleight of hand of source material, on par with the stoning of Stephan, or even this same passage’s possible obfuscation of the first resurrection appeance to James in the Gospel of the Hebrews.

    But my second thought is, maybe Eusebius (or whoever) just happened to use Luke 24:19-27 (of all things) to interpolate entirely (or perhaps only “fix”) the TF, hence the similarity between the two.

    There may be other possibilities I haven’t considered, but I’m surprised to find that I am leaning towards my first thought!

    Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? It’s new to me, so I’m a little caught off guard by it. As someone who was content think that Eusebius interpolated the entire TF, but that “maybe” there had been something else there, this has certainly gotten my attention.

    1. I have read the argument but have never been able to think of it as super-strong. The arguments that Eusebius was responsible for the TF I find much more persuasive. Is it likely that the TF and the Emmaus road were both built out of some sort of generic “catachism” or summary saying about the role or function of Jesus?

  14. This is a very interesting post and follow-up discussion. I had been thru similar research a number of years ago and also concluded that the Testimonium Flavianum is actually the Falsum Eusebii. In support of this there is a comment from Eusebius that I had seen in the past, but have been unable to locate again. He had made a statement to the effect that lying to people was OK, as long the lie served to convert them to Christ. Is anyone familiar with the quote and its source?

  15. Neil’s work on this I find quite compelling. It reminds me of one of the reasons I hold Daniel 9:24-27 (which is perhaps the most significant messianic prophecy in the Bible) to be a forgery, much as the Testimonium Flavianum must also be a forgery, but in the case of Daniel chapter 9 would have been copied into new scrolls by Essenes at Qumran (seemingly somewhat soon after Paul’s time) I think it is logical to suspect for a number of reasons that I try to revisit and refine fairly often. Keep in mind that I’m simply a recovering evangelical, not a scholar like many others are here; but just the same I’m quite determined to find out what really happened which led to the falsehood that Christianity is taking over the minds of so many people. For if a person doesn’t have things like the issue of the TF (or Shroud of Turin) organized to some extent, that religion has a way of gobbling up more and more people, even oneself (or at least myself), including friends and family members which it does not deserve… and its apocalypticism is insanity for a person to actually take seriously, even mental poison that when a person tries to be moral by way of absorbing its theological system many of its believers will embrace that, too, which to invite that aspect in is to embrace a mental sickness. I’m wishing to offer some comments on the TF here but first let me briefly explain a tiny bit more about the Daniel 9 issue.

    In the instance of Daniel 9:24-27, the messianic prophecy is way too remarkable for Paul not to have referred to it in his epistles. Paul did, however refer to the “man of sin”—same as the “little horn” in Daniel 7—in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10, with chapter 7 of Daniel being among the fragments of the of the Dead Sea Scrolls found near Qumran which were written in Aramaic (even as chapters 1-7 are in Aramaic and chapters 8-12 are in Hebrew). I have a working hypothesis for how that, as well the many other odd facts about Daniel, fit together in a way that makes plenty of good sense. Once again, as with the TF here, one piece that helps with the logic for determining Daniel 9:24-27 is a messianic prophecy forgery is that had that chapter existed in Paul’s day he would have referred to it in is epistles. somewhat similarly to how he referred to the “little horn” in Daniel 7 but more so since it’s four verses are packed with New Testament theology in a most potent form. To me, that’s much as how Neil suggests here very credibly that had the TF existed in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews then a good number, if not all, of those notable early Christianity advocates, which Neil lists, would have referred to it since it’s so conspicuous about affirming the religion’s validity, authority, and/or legitimacy; and though most of those Church Fathers did refer to other parts of Josephus’ works they failed to ever refer to the Testimonium Flavianum.

    Something I would like to add here about the TF, which I thank you for the tremendous amount of thought and research put into this so people like myself can find it (even as this page the best I have found so far on this topic), is that Neil’s argument about the TF not being mentioned by all of those Church Fathers also applies to the issue of whether anything even a tiny bit similar to the TF existed in the Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, which apparently another short paragraph is said by some to have been altered or “interpolated” to take on what is its present form. But since the TF so utterly gushes in its praise of Jesus being presented as the Messiah, then what other form would it have had? And wouldn’t an earlier form the TF, which clearly states the author believed Jesus was the Christ and/or Messiah, not also have been mentioned by at least some of those early giants of the Christian Religion mentioned on this page? For if you change it too much, it’s no longer much of anything at all and would serve no useful purpose. But then again, there isn’t even one reference to any TF at all as that has been expertly pointed out here, which comes out the vast amount of research and/or knowledge about what all of those early Christian writings by various authors contain. Then regarding how some claim that the style of the TF is too much like Josephus so that at least some parts of it must have been from him: In my opinion that argument seems to be in favor of clouding this issue since by all of us merely being humans, when we read or hear someone enough it’s all too easy for a slightly above average talented person to begin imitating that person’s writing or speaking manners, which makes that argument completely null and void in my opinion. Perhaps the idea is to try to steer away from ascribing any kind of culpability to any of the founders of this religion, but that is impossible to do since the religion will prove false all day long. Meanwhile a few in the public that I’m hearing from, after posting on this yesterday, have offered a comment or two about how most of the scholarship on this favors the TF having had an early form that was authentically written by Josephus and was later changed, which position, in my view, only helps to cloud thus mitigate what cannot be anything less than an inexcusable breach of what most anyone today would assume should to be a sense of fidelity regarding something like faithfully transcribing historical texts.

    Lastly, as has been well pointed out on this page (or I believe someone on this page pointed this out): Josephus would have endangered his own life and/or standing with Rome had he endorsed Christianity in such a way as the TF does during his time, therefore it cannot be authentic. It also cannot be authentic because I’ve now been repeatedly apprised from those who have either read most or all of Josephus’ texts, that his writings claim that one of the Roman emperors was the real Messiah essentially, which then would have been a competitor with Jesus for that type of coronation—which then also makes it highly unlikely that he wrote anything at all similar to the TF. And while we’re at it, please notice how many false messiahs Josephus wrote about: So why then would he have finally let down his hair with even one of a fairly good number who died as a martyrs in one way or another for their subjugated nation? Moreover, Josephus did not indicate any such endorsement or certainly nothing that’s even remotely similar to the TF in that sense anywhere else in his writings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Vridar

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading