By David Russell,
Welcome back to the Union blog. It seems like forever since the last article I wrote. I must apologize, I have had technical difficulties which have prevented me from getting this edition out. With that said, let’s introduce our next outside source who lived in Jerusalem and was most likely there when Jesus brother, James, was killed.
In this journey, so far, we have examined hostile sources to refute claims made by the Jesus Mythicist movement. This particular source has had the honor of being disavowed by Mythers just like our previous ones. The claims range, again, from interpolation to forgery. But I have also noticed other arguments that catch my eye. One is an argument from conjecture when it comes to “Jesus the son of Damneus” as being an accidental marginal note added in the main text by later Christians, which is just asserted by speculation, without a justification. Another claim is that the “Testimonium Flavianum” doesn’t meet the criteria of placement, wording, or historical context. In this edition, we are going to examine the first of these claims and see where the evidence falls. In the next addition, we will deal with the Testimonium.
Who is Josephus?
“Titus Flavius Josephus (/dʒoʊˈsiːfəs/; Greek: Φλάβιος Ἰώσηπος; 37 – c. 100), born (Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu; Greek: Ἰώσηπος Ματθίου παῖς), was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.”
Josephus was an interesting character who fought against the Romans and was the military governor of the forces at Galilee. Upon being sieged by Vespasians forces, Josephus defected and joined the Romans becoming close friends with Vespasian’s son Titus. Vespasian would later bestow more favor on Josephus when he claimed to have a divine revelation that Vespasian would become the emperor. Later proving true he was released and became a Roman citizen. Josephus would go on to write his famous works known as “Antiquities of the Jews,” and “The Jewish War.”
There isn’t much debate that he actually wrote in the first century. But the earliest manuscripts that exist in the original Greek come from the tenth and eleventh centuries and some Latin codexes from the fifth century. Josephus Mail states,
“The oldest manuscripts of the works of Josephus in their original language of Greek date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Portions of the works are also quoted in earlier manuscripts by other authors, particularly Eusebius (fourth century). There are also versions in other languages, notably a Latin translation made about the fifth century. These are all codexes, bound books, not scrolls.
As with all ancient texts, variations appear among the manuscripts due to inaccuracies in copying. The two manuscripts considered to have the best texts for the Jewish War are the Codex Parisinus Graecus and the Codex Ambrosianus, both dating from circa 900-1000 CE. The Jewish Antiquities, because of its length, was transmitted in two parts; the best texts for the first half (AntiquitiesBooks 1 to 10) are Codex Regius Parisinus (fourteenth century) and Codex Oxoniensis (fifteenth century); the best texts for the second half (Antiquities Books 11 to 20) are Codex Palatinus (ninth or tenth century) and Codex Ambrosianus; the latter are also the preferred authorities for the Life . The only manuscript for Against Apion is Codex Laurentius, from the eleventh century, which has a large gap in Book II that must be filled by the old Latin version.”
Not only this but we see him quoted by others like Tacitus was, Heinz Schreckenberg states,
“Theophilus uses Against Apion, and he also refers to the Jewish War. “With a probability, bordering to certainty,” Melito of Sardis refers to Jewish War 6:201–213, and his implicit allusion presuppose that his readers would be so familiar with Josephus that they would understand what he alluded to. Irenaeus uses the Antiquities of the Jews 2:238–253. Minucius Felix refers to “the works of Flavius Josephus” in Octavius 33:4–5. Clement of Alexandria knows “the Jew Flavius Josephus”. He refers to both the Jewish Warand the Antiquities of the Jews. Tertullian “uses Josephus here and there” and refers explicit to Against Apion. Hippolytus’ (died c. 235 CE) account of the Essenes in Refutatio Omnium Haeresium 9:18–29 is very similar to what occurs in Jewish War 2:119–166. Julius Africanus uses at least book 12 of the Antiquities of the Jews, but Africanus’ work is mainly lost. Origen knows all of Josephus’ works. Methodius of Olympus (died 337) refers to the Jewish War 6:435–437. Pseudo-Eustathius uses both the Jewish War and the Antiquities of the Jews. (Heinz Schreckenberg, Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christianity, 1992, p. 53–63)”
The only two passages we will cover in this two part blog are the famous Testimonium Flavianum found in Antiquities 18:63 and 20:200-203, a passage that refers to the death of Jesus brother James. What is very interesting is that from what we know about his writings, he was in Jerusalem at the time of James death, making him a possible first hand source. The problem, at this point, for the Mythicists, becomes enormously apparent. If Jesus had a brother, Jesus existed.
So, of course the Mythicists have to do whatever they can to explain this away. Like I stated previously, using conjecture and radical speculation. But before I just assert that, let’s do what they don’t, and give good reasons to why this is authentic. The passage states,
“When, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Messiah (τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου), whose name was James, and some others. 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, 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 Sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”
Again, this passage is enormously problematic for the Mythicist because of this simple phrase they claim to be an interpolation “who or so (depending on translation of “ho legomenus”) called Messiah”. Why? Because there is absolutely no manuscript evidence against it. It is in every version we have. If they state that “well it might have not been there”, then they are begging the question. The textual data is solid.
The Myther doesn’t stop there, they continue, by asserting that this was added in by accident and that the James in question is non other than the ” Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”(Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 20, Number 4, Winter 2012, pp. 489-514, R. Carrier) But does this best explain the evidence? To Carrier, “yes”. He believes it is exactly what one would find if the Copiest thought it was a correction and then added it in.
Carrier just asserts it with no real argument. First, if it is an interpolation, why doesn’t it follow the likes of the Testimonium? “Was called messiah” rather than, “He was the messiah-via the Testimonium.” Second, it doesn’t follow the normal way of interpolation, meaning, it doesn’t portray any theological or apologetic advantage. I would argue it more casts doubt on what Josephus thought. Tim O’neill, an Atheist, offers another argument against Carrier’s assertion,
“No attempt is made to explain, for example, why this (supposedly) marginal note agrees grammatically with the (supposed) main text; with λεγομενου Χριστου in the genitive, so it is in the same case as Ιησους. Surely that alone argues against the idea that this phrase is a marginal or interlinear note to some extent, but Carrier does not bother to even address any alternative ideas – a characteristic of his writing.” ( JESUS MYTHICISM 2: “JAMES, THE BROTHER OF THE LORD”
February 18, 2018 Tim O’Neill)
So my conclusion for this text stands pretty firm. With just an assertion that is easily refuted, we see clear distinction that follows Josephus’s writing style and a distinction between the two Jesus’s. I believe, from what we have, the historical context fits, considering he mentions John the Baptist, Jesus (in the Testimonium), and his brother James. We find another reference to “James the brother of the Lord” in the Pauline Epistles which tighten the lid on further, both being written in the first century. It fits the wording and placement criteria by the argument above and supported by all the manuscript data that exists today.
The biggest take away we have here though, Jesus had a brother, making him a man not a myth.