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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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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

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Martin Luther: Digitally Remastered 1953 Classic (DVD)

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With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.

The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.

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Watch a clip from Martin Luther.

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

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The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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