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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!

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

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Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

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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

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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.

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