Ignorant Christian Mike was the only individual during the Facebook Christian Debate who had at least a pedestrian understanding of the history of Christianity. If you remember, this is the man who kept claiming I was condescending while not recognizing it was in response to his lack of knowledge. I strongly desired to keep a dialogue with Mike but he backed out. Much of the remainder of this series will focus on his arguments. It is unfortunate that Christians don’t delve too deep within their own faith–a faith that is supposed to be the most important thing–to see if what they believe is true. The following is a perfect example of how a Christian will find something to support their belief and run with it without looking further into the evidence. In support of the historical Jesus, Mike had this to say:
Mike: “There is also the manuscript of Josephus, a first-century historian from the Roman community who also corroborates with great accuracy the Jesus story.”
Here is the passage that Mike is referring to:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Jewish Antiquities 18.3.3
This is known as the Testimonium Flavianum aka TF. Nearly all historians agree that this was a fabrication snuck into Josephus’ text by a later Christian scribe. It would seem that the Christian scribe was upset that Josephus didn’t mention Jesus so he thought he could plop in a paragraph and no one would be the wiser. Even the scholars who think that Josephus did write something about Jesus agree that the paragraph above was in fact elaborated by a later Christian scribe, adding the lines that are underlined. Simply put, “something is fishy” (pun intended). Christians were the ones who preserved and copied Josephus work. It isn’t a stretch to accept that Christians forged this paragraph, which was a practice in ancient times. If most scholars believe that the entire paragraph is a forgery and the rest believe that some of it is, than I think the paragraph in question is too sketchy to consider a reliable source and should be thrown out as evidence for the historical Jesus.
I love what author Dr. Richard Carrier, who holds a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University and is an all-around cool cat, has to say about this speaking at Skepticon 2:
“You generally don’t have to add paragraphs to other people’s history books for a guy who actually existed. Pretty much, if you are inserting a guy into history who wasn’t there before, usually that means he really wasn’t there before.”
Let’s learn a little about this cat, Josephus.
- He was a well-educated Jewish man.
- He lived in Roman Palestine and Rome just after the lifetime of Jesus (37-100 CE).
- He fought against the Romans during the first Jewish Revolt
- He was captured but made a lucky prediction that came true so the Romans let him live and financed his writing.
- Since he sold out to the Romans, the Jews weren’t too happy with him and weren’t fans of his work.
- He never converted to Christianity. He knew of the Jewish belief of a Messiah and he never thought Jesus was it.
- Although, according to the New Testament, some crazy shit went down at the crucifixion (The whole world went dark, an earthquake and zombies roamed the Earth), Josephus never mentioned any of this. Surely, living just after the death of Christ people would have been talking about that weirdness. Nobody did.
- He wrote a lot of shit. Isn’t it strange that in all his tomes he dedicates only one paragraph to a guy who allegedly was turning Judea on its ear and was the Messiah?
If you take this account out of the equation, we are only left with New Testament sources for the historical Jesus during the first century, which I believe are not to be trusted. But this blog is about Josephus. We will get to the others in future blogs.
In summary, Mike, like so many desperate Christians, jumped on the Josephus bandwagon to support their faith. And like so many Christians, their belief is refuted by serious scholars. If those who study and make a living in this field believe it is a fraud, I’m betting on them to be correct.
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Happy Friday. I will be back on Monday with the continuing saga of the Facebook Christian Debate.