Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Testimonium Flavianum

Testimonium Flavianum: The reference in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3 of Josephus' Antiquities to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate. The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to Christian interpolation.

Without any interpolations, the original passage would have read like:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.1

1. For more information, see Josephus on Jesus on Wikipedia or this interview with historian Paul L. Maier.


Ex N1hilo said...

Let me anticipate the response of the "mythicist" crowd:

"Josephus' statement is not evidence. He was no eyewitness to these alleged events. His statement would never be admitted into evidence in a modern criminal trial in the USA.

None of the alleged eye-witness testimonies would be; because those who allegedly made them, being dead, could not be cross-examined, to determine that they were lying. How convenient for Christianity!

Face it, there is no evidence Jesus ever existed. None. The first century knows nothing of this mythical figure. The apostles never existed either. Not even Paul. Later authors, inspired by pagan myths conjured up the whole early church and placed it back in the first century. Think about it. Jesus chose twelve apostles. 12. Hello?! How many signs of the zodiac are there? 12! Coincidence? And all the apostles were men. Not one woman among them. Hello?! What does this say about their sexual preference? Or rather, the preference of the third and forth century men who authored the bible? Your faith stands refuted."

Well, this is the sort of irrational, hyper-skeptical sophism that poses as critical thinking in mythicist circles.

LittleGoose said...

couldn't someone say that since everyone admits that this quote has Christian additions in it we shouldn't take any quote from Josephus about Jesus seriously?

_Nate said...

No mention of the (relatively) recently discovered copy that doesn't have the interpolation?

MaryLou said...

Thank you for a giving me a laugh, Ex N1hilo. I'm having a bad day and I really needed it.

You left one thing out though -- Jesus as a zombie. I was on an atheist web site yesterday where they were dismissing him as that.

Andy Kingham said...

That's really helpful, thanks Brian!

LittleGoose said...


"No mention of the (relatively) recently discovered copy that doesn't have the interpolation?"

I don't keep up too well with this sorta thing. Is there a discovered copy that doesn't have the interpolation? And what website can I check it out on.

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