Do the Christian gospels record actual events during the First Century A.D./ C.E., or are they the ecstatic visions of a small religious group?
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
history of the Jews. While discussing the period in which the Jews of
were governed by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, Josephus included
the following account:
Yet this account has been embroiled in controversy since the 17th century. It could not have been written by a Jewish man, say the critics, because it sounds too Christian: it even claims that Jesus was the Messiah (ho christos, the Christ)!
The critics say: this paragraph is not authentic. It was inserted into Josephus' book by a later Christian copyist, probably in the Third or Fourth Century.
The opinion was controversial. A vast literature was produced over the centuries debating the authenticity of the "Testimonium Flavianum", the Testimony of Flavius Josephus.
A view that has been prominent among American scholars was summarized in John Meier's 1991 book, A Marginal Jew.
This opinion held that the paragraph was formed by a mixture of writers. It parsed the text into two categories: nything that seemed too Christian was added by a later Christian writer, while anything else was originally written by Josephus.
By this view, the paragraph was taken as essentially authentic, and so supported the objective historicity of Jesus.
Unfortunately, the evidence for this was
self-contradictory. But it was an attractive hypothesis.
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.
Read about this discovery here!
|1. The Mystery of Josephus' Jesus
An introductory history of the scholarly controversy over Josephus' Jesus account, from 93 CE to the present.
2. The Josephus-Luke Connection
3. The Testimonium-Luke
4. Statistical Analysis of Jesus
5. Quantitative Content Analysis
6. Critique of John Meier's Argument in A Marginal Jew in Light of the New Evidence
7. Conclusions: Answers to
9. Appendix: Robert Eisler on the Testimonium Flavianum