Josephus on Jesus

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This article is part of the Jesus and history series of articles.

Josephus (c.37 – 100 ), also known as Yosef Ben Matityahu (Joseph son of Matthias) and Titus Flavius Josephus, was a renowned 1st-century Jewish historian.[2] Despite being a Roman apologist, his writings are considered authoritative and provide an important historical and cultural background for the era described in the New Testament. Josephus was a contemporary of the birth of early Christianity. Books 18 to 20 of the Antiquities are the most important in this regard.[3] [4]

Josephus writes of a Jewish sect, whose leader was James the Just, the brother of Jesus.[5] Josephus' history includes sections on John the Baptist, the High Priest Annas, Pontius Pilate, and Jesus called the Messiah.

There is broad scholarly consensus that the two passages referring respectively to John the Baptist, and to James the brother of Jesus are genuine. A third passage, the famous Testimonium Flavianum found in the Antiquities of the Jews 18.63-64, in its current form summarises the ministry and death of Jesus; but the authenticity of this passage remains contested by many scholars, and has been the topic of ongoing debate since the 17th century. The most widely held current scholarly opinion is that the Testimonium Flavianum is partially authentic; but that those words and phrases that correspond with standard Christian formulae are additions from a Christian copyist.[6][7][8][9]

In those parts of the Testimonium that are commonly regarded as authentic, Josephus describes Jesus as a teacher and miracle worker, attracting a large following who revered him after his death; but, other than James, Josephus names none of the founders of the Church such as St. Paul, St.Peter or any the Twelve Apostles, nor does he refer to basic Christian doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation or the Atonement, which has led some to suggest that Josephus may have been an Ebionite Christian.[10]


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