Help me!    Mythicists insist that Josephus’ account of Jesus of Nazareth in BK XVIII of his *antiquities* is a wholesale forgery.   They also insist that the passage about “James the brother of Jesus who was called Messiah” is not, in fact, about Jesus of Nazareth but “Jesus, son of Damneus”   They also insist that the phrase  ” who is called Messiah ” is a Christian interpolation. Therefore, they claim the Jesus in question is the “Jesus, son of Damneus” mentioned a few lines later and not Jesus of Nazareth.  Moreover, David Fitzgerald argues that “the James reference is an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that that passage was never originally about Jesus Christ but Jesus Ben Damneus. He dismisses the references by Origin to the Testimonium Flavium, saying that the James passage doesn’t reflect what Josephus wrote and so can’t be taken as evidence that the phrase “who was called Messiah ” was in Josephus’ text in the mid-third century.
More so, David Fritzgerald says that “the Testimonium Flavianum was either written by Orthodox Jews or by a later forger. He then goes on to say that Christians try to insist that it is only a half forgery, and some monk in the middle Ages made it up…..”  Also, Richard Carrier wrote an article:  “Origin, Eusebius and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200…” In this article, he says that the entire passage is not genuine.  Here I have the link, please read it to see if what the mythicists say are true.  Do these charges by the mythicists have any historical evidence?  Thank you.


First of all, please remember that whether or not Jesus was a real person who really was killed by crucifixion in Jerusalem by the Romans at the instigation of the Jews is not in any way whatsoever contingent on this one witness from Josephus.  There is a mountain of evidence that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, including the witness of the early church itself, which had no reason to lie about this horrifying event!  This argument is coming from people who want you to reject the entire vast array of evidence that Jesus was a real person who really did work miracles and who really was accepted by the early church as the Messiah and the Son of God.  They do not take on the entire range of information relevant to this.  Their tactic is to try to break the evidence down into separate little pieces and to refute each little piece one at a time.  It would be like an event for which there were twenty different very solid eye-witnesses, and the opponent of the truth spends all their time trying to undermine one witness, when what they want to do is to distract you from the fact that there are 19 other completely credible witnesses that they cannot undermine.  That is what this attack on the Testimonium Flavium is about.
Nevertheless, let us talk about this attempt by these people to undermine the witness of Josephus.  No one doubts that Josephus did in fact write the Jewish Wars.  There is evidence that, unfortunately, a Christian writer did in fact add an interpolation to the Testimonium Flavium.  This is very unfortunate, because the original of Josephus does mention Jesus of Nazareth.  I am copying below the full version, including the unfortunate Christian interpolation in italics, but leaving the original without italics.  We know that the unitalicized version is the original because there is another ancient manuscript of the Testimonium Flavium in Arabic which does not include the interpolation.  Notice that the unitalicized version works perfectly in terms of grammatic and narrative flow.  This is not an accident, because this was the original, written by Josephus.  There had to be a mention by Josephus of Jesus in order for the Christian editor to emend it!!!  The argument by Richard Carrier is gratuitious.  It does not even make sense. By the way, the article you quote from that comes from historyforatheists concedes that probably the unitalicized text is original to Josephus.  In fact, this atheist blog pokes fun at the “online enthusiasts” who uncritically and without evidence simply dismiss Josephus altogether.

The “Testimonium Flavium” (Antiquities 18:3.3)

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who wrought surprising feats 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.  When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.  On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.  And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

Agapius, an Arab Christian in 9th century quotes the original, leaving out the parts in italics.  Note the passage reads grammatically well without the parts in italics.

Mythicists say that the original of Agapius is “wholesale forgery.”  This is mere rhetoric.  Where is their evidence that this is a forgery?  They have none.  You can completely discount this unsupported claim.

About the reverence by Josephus to James, the brother of Jesus, it is interesting that the opponents make two arguments: 1. That the Jesus in this passage from Josephus is not actually the Jesus we know.  and 2. That this passage was not in the original of Josephus.  Well, they need to decide which is their argument!!!  If it was not in the original, what is all this talk about it being someone else?  If it is really someone else, then what is all this talk about it not being in Josephus in the first place?  What this does is it points out that the goal of  Richard Carrier and friends is not to discover the truth, but to make a seemingly desperate attempt to undermine the Josephus passages any way they can.  They say “who is called Messiah” is an interpolation.  What is their evidence for this?  I strongly suspect that they are simple saying this as an ad hoc argument.  In other words, they do not like that “who is called Messiah” is there–it goes against their desired conclusion, so they simply make up the argument that it was not in the original out of thin air.  In fact, the article from historyforatheists completely discounts the claim that the mention of Jesus the brother of James is not in the original.  He tells us that no scholar will agree with this.  This gives you an idea of how unreliable Richard Carrier is.  I believe that the article by this atheist group is actually quite balanced.  They certainly have no reason to give unneeded support to the reality of Jesus, but this atheist concludes that the James the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah is in the original.  This proves that these “amateur mythicists” are simply blowing smoke to distract us from what the evidence says. Here is what the evidence says: Josephus was aware of Jesus who was known of as Messiah.  Josephus appears not to accept this designation, but he reports that there were people who did consider him as Messiah.  He reports his death under Pilate, but he almost certainly does NOT support the resurrection or the claim that Jesus was God.  This is what the evidence points to, and you would do well to ignore these uncareful mythicists such as Richard Carrier who are showing evidence of wishful thinking.

John Oakes


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