Answers to scholar's questions

How past puzzles of the Jesus account of Josephus are resolved using the parallels with the Emmaus narrative. See the parallels in the  table.

Was the description of Jesus in Antiquities 18 inserted by a Christian interpolator?
Why does Josephus' account resemble a statement of Christian faith?
Did Josephus write, referring to Jesus, that:
            "He was the Messiah" ?
             one could doubt if he "could indeed be called a man" ?
             "he appeared to them restored to life" ?
Why doesn't Josephus go into greater detail about Jesus':
              "marvelous deeds"?
Why does Josephus uncharacteristically use the first person?

Was the description of Jesus in Antiquities 18 inserted by a Christian interpolator?

    No one has been able to come up with a reason why an interpolator would rewrite excerpts from Luke in order to create an imitation of Josephus. A theory of this sort faces the following difficulties.

    1. As acknowledged even by proponents of the forgery theory, the style and vocabulary of the passage is essentially that of Josephus (cf. the studies employing the Rengstorf concordance and the TLG database). Thus, an imitator must have made a substantial effort to create something Josephus might have written. This effort by the imitator would have been hindered, not aided, by taking passages from Luke as a model, as this would add a foreign voice to the text. Since the proposed imitator wished  people to mistake the passage for a Josephus original, it would have been perverse to employ a text that would undermine this goal -- indeed, it is such foreign elements that have caused scholars to suspect a forgery.

    2. The proposed interpolator would have had to base the creation on the Emmaus narrative as it appears in Luke. But the parallels indicate something different: that the two texts were derived from a common source, a first-century Christian document that is now lost. This is because the Antiquities account cannot plausibly be derived from the form of the text as it appears in Luke. The latter is a literary work with three characters, a conversation, a flashback, and a narrator; the former is a simple record. It is widely agreed by Luke scholars (see., e.g., Fitzmyer) that the Emmaus narrative as we have it was a literary creation of Luke's, derived (at best) from Luke's "special source", which is the material that Luke uses which does not appear in the other synoptic gospels Matthew and Mark. Removing the dramatic devices allows us to come nearer to the original source, and it is this which shows the parallels to the Testimonium.
        To have employed Luke, the proposed interpolator would have had to remove the extensive flashback in the middle of the text (which for Luke serves the purpose of linking this story to a  one he has told previously), lift two quotations out of the mouths of the characters who speak them, combine them into a single unit, change the first person to the third person, making one error in the process, cutting off the rest of the chapter, and adding in a gratuitous comment about the continued existence of the so-called Christians. This an intrinsically implausible procedure, and  there is no precedent for such an interpolation in other ancient texts.

    3 Familiar material.  A Christian forger would have been intimately familiar with the story of Jesus, and so there would have been no need to closely imitate any previous writer in order to construct a brief paragraph. If a forger intended to create a passage in the manner of the speeches of Luke-Acts, then, given the variation of such texts as shown by the statistical studies, it is extremely improbable that it would follow Emmaus as closely as it does (>95% confidence level).

     4. Obscurity. The Emmaus conversation is an obscure text rarely mentioned in ancient Christian literature, employing a character (Cleopas) elsewhere unknown in the Gospels. It is terse in its description of Jesus' deeds and the Greek is in several places awkward or garbled. These points  make it an unlikely model for any sort of literary effort. The speeches of Acts would have provided a far easier source to rework. For the forgery theory to be plausible, one would need to propose a reason why an imitator would choose this section as a model.
     5. Early Jewish-Christian. Interpolations by Christians of the 2nd to 4th century generally reflect the form of Christianity of that period.  The Testimonium passage reflects an early Jewish-Christian point of view rather than that of, for example, their contemporary Paul. The statistical studies show that descriptions of Jesus resemble the Testimonium less as they separate from it in time. The natural form of a Jesus passage by a later Christian does not appear in the Testimonium. It is thus unexplained why and how a later interpolator decided not to present the Christianity he or she knew.

    6. Peculiar phrases. Unique wording occurs in Luke's narrative. An interpolator should have deleted these in order to mimic Josephus' style and to hide the interpolator's source. Most notable here is the unique form "spending a third day." Some reason would have to be found why the proposed forger would retain peculiar phrases while rewriting more innocuous ones.

Why does Josephus' account resemble a statement of Christian faith, in particular, the Lukan kerygma (gospel message)?

    Because the source Josephus used was a Christian explanatory document. It therefore contained the same material as was used in the earliest Christian proselytizing, such as we find in the gospel speeches of Acts. As these speeches were a telling of the story for the benefit of non-Christians it is reasonable to think that Josephus' written source was of the same genre -- that is, he used a document that was composed for just such people as himself and his audience. The difference between Josephus recounting a story versus stating he believed the story rests on the presence of absence of a few words, as discussed previously.

    Upon reflection, any scholar must ask him or her self: "If Josephus wanted to explain who the Christians were, what would he do?" And receive the answer: "As always in his work, unless he was recounting his own direct experience he would employ some reliable, prior source. The proselytizing of Christians would have been more readily available than Roman or Judean records, the latter likely destroyed in the war. So, in fact, the most reasonable thing to expect a priori is that Josephus would have simply rewritten a Christian proselytizing document. And that is exactly what we see -- the same sort of document found repeatedly, with variations, in the Book of Luke-Acts."
    This most logical of possibilities in fact is the solution to the mystery of Josephus' account of Jesus.

    Note, also, that each of the objections to the proposed Christian interpolator discussed previously are, by contrast, confirmatory of Josephus' use of a now lost document. The text would have not been obscure but a readily available Jewish-Christian self-description. The material would not have been so familiar to Josephus that he wouldn't prefer to adhere to a written source. The early Jewish-Christian nature of the text is the form that Josephus would be the Jerusalem form he would have been most familiar with. The peculiar phrases are evidence of the influence of his source, examples of which can be found throughout the Antiquities (compare any of his Biblical sections with the appropriate part of the Bible); the more difficult the phrase is to understand, the more likely it is that Josephus would not have tried to alter it, accounting for "the third day" and other peculiarities.



Did Josephus write, referring to Jesus, that "He was the Messiah?"

    In the table of parallels between the Testimonium and the Emmaus narrative there is no similar phrase in Luke. Under the hypothesis that both texts closely follow a Christian document that is now lost, and that there is no reason to believe Luke was tampered with here, we conclude that "He was the Messiah" did not appear in the original Josephus passage.

    This is confirmed by the Arabic version of Agapius, which also lacks this phrase.

    However, both Luke and Agapius use the word "Messiah" later in the passage. This is evidence for the idea that an original use of the word "Messiah" was moved forward in the passage during transcription by a later Christian copyist.

Did Josephus write, referring to Jesus, that one could doubt if he "could indeed be called a man?"

    There is no such phrase in the parallel location in the Emmaus narrative. So again, by the logic of the previous question, we have evidence allowing us to reject this phrase as contained in the original Josephus passage.

    The version of Agapius also lacks any such phrase, in agreement with the notion that the Agapius version more closely parallels Luke's narrative than does the Greek version of Josephus.


Did Josephus write the sentence: "On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvels about him."?

    There are parallels to all the concepts in this sentence at the parallel location in Luke. Moreover, there are peculiarities of vocabulary that appear both in this Josephus passage and in Luke at this point. Most noteworthy, the odd use of the accusative form of the third day (literally, "having/spending a third day") hat is found in both texts are the only two instances of this usage in Christian literature. With such an amazing grammatical parallel at corresponding locations and conveying the same themes, one can only conclude that the two texts closely follow the same source document. Since there is no reason why a later Christian scribe would so closely follow the Emmaus narrative of Luke, we conclude that this phrase appeared in the original Josephus passage in substantially the form we have it now.

    This is confirmed by the appearance of a similar sentence in the version of Agapius. There is one significant difference in Agapius: the sentence is preceded by "They reported..." This simple phrase takes away any idea that Josephus was expressing Christian beliefs he held himself. As this idea of a report is also fundamental to the Emmaus narrative (the narrative is such a report), we can with good confidence assert that this is the form in which the Josephus passage originally appeared.


Why doesn't Josephus go into greater detail about Jesus' "marvelous deeds," instead of just tantalizing us? After all, in many other places he does not hesitate to recount allegedly fantastic feats.

    Because Josephus is following the source text before him, which does not go into detail. Luke only writes Jesus was "mighty in deed." Perhaps Josephus did not know anything about the deeds of Jesus, but we cannot tell if that is the case, as Josephus often closely follows his sources, allowing only stylistic variation, evidently to prevent charges of distorting the record. His desire to follow his source thus does not preclude the notion that he has reason to trust the source as authentic, as valid as any of the other historians whose work he employed in the Antiquities.

Why doesn't Josephus tell us anything about what Jesus the "teacher" presented as a message, as he does with John the Baptist later in the same book?

    Again, because Josephus is only rephrasing a dependable source document, and that document does not recount the teachings.

Why does Josephus describe Jesus' teaching as "truth"?

    The word "truth" does not appear in parallel in Luke, nor in the Arabic translation of Agapius, which could be garbled at this point. Thus we cannot say with confidence that "truth" appeared in the original passage of Josephus. It may be a later interpolation.

Throughout his history, Josephus talks about "the Jews" in the third person when recounting past events, yet here he talks about "the principal men among us." Does this first person "us" mean this phrase was not written by Josephus, but was added by a later Christian who had a theological agenda?

    The same use of the first person occurs in Luke in the parallel location: "our chief priests and leaders". This is  a peculiar usage in Luke-Acts. The simultaneously appearance of a single odd usage in two corresponding  texts indicates it appeared in the source document from which they were both derived (or, equivalently, that one text copied closely the other). We therefore can conclude with very great confidence that this phrase appeared in the original passage as written by Josephus. There are in fact other instances when Josephus employs peculiar phrases simply because they appeared in his sources, which he was closely adhering to.

    The Agapius translation does not have this phrase, so gives no support,; we recall that nothing from Agapius is conclusive due to the double translation into the Arabic. Taking rather the hypothesis that we consider likely authentic that which appears in two out of the three texts (Luke, Josephus, Agapius), we can accept this phrase as genuinely appearing in the Antiquities.
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