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Is Josephus' passage about Jesus a forgery?

I get lots of responses to these YouTube videos from atheists and skeptics. One of the most common objections to The Real Jesus concerns Myth #1: “The Historical Jesus is different from the Jesus of the Bible.” This briefly mentions the so-called Testimonium Flavianum, the testimony of Flavius Josephus, the first century Jewish historian who mentions Jesus Christ and Christianity a few times in his works.

The common reaction is, “This was a FORGERY!” or “Josephus was a FRAUD!” But most people criticizing the validity this passage – or the reliability of Josephus as a historian – don’t know too much about it. They are repeating the widely accepted conclusion that this passage on Jesus from Josephus’ Antiquities may have been interpolated due to two suspicious phrases that make Josephus sound like a Christian. The consensus is that a Christian scribe may have tried to elucidate Josephus for his Christian audience.

Contrary to what you might hear, the passage is judged authentic by most scholars once the perceived Christian additions are removed. And whether the passage has been altered greatly or with just a few minor words or phrases added, Josephus’ references to Jesus, James and John the Baptist are an authentic witness that validates first century Gospel stories.

I get a more than a little tired of answering this objection in the short 500 character responses allowed on YouTube. Skeptics want to believe the passage is a forgery and don’t want to go and do the research for themselves. So I wanted to briefly deal with this in a short video response. I decided to interview the well-known Internet apologist, J.P. Holding, and ask him some questions.

1. What is an interpolation?
2. Do most (or all) of ancient writings contain interpolations?
3. What is the difference between an interpolation and a forgery?
3. Are there any credible modern scholars who believe that the Josephus passage in question has not been interpolated?
4. Are there any who think it is an outright forgery?
5. What is the consensus of the textual critics on what the passage must have originally read like? How can we be certain of this?
6. What about the other passage containing the phrase “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ”?

And just for fun: I hear a lot of comments about why there are not records of the crucifixion of Jesus in “Roman records.” They think that somehow the argument from silence applies here, even though there is not one existing “crucifixion record” from Judea during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. People don’t know how common an occurrence crucifixion was in the first century. People also don’t know that Josephus’ description of crucifixion closely matches that of the Gospels in recounting what happened with Jesus’ body.

7. How many times does Josephus describe or record crucifixions in his History? Does any of this information corroborate the record of Jesus body being taken from the cross and buried?

Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun” (Josephus Wars 4.5).

Compare this with Gospel account about Joseph of Arimathea.

Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near” (Luke 23:50-54).

My neighbor and Jesus Seminar scholar, John Dominic Crossan, thinks that Jesus’ body must have been eaten by dogs, despite this passage by Josephus and despite having no evidence or documents to back this up.

And on a related note:

8. What about the idea that Luke and Acts were written in the second century and that similar passages in Luke and Acts were based on Josephus (and not vice versa)?

These and other questions are answered in the Real Jesus DVD and you may see a preview of it on The Real Jesus Vlog at YouTube.

Your comments are welcome!

Textile Help

Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.

Running Time: 257 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan

Running time: 85 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information

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