Posts Tagged With: Historical Jesus

Why Exactly Will I not Accept Josephus as Evidence.

Why you ask? I mean, everyone knows he mentions Jesus Christ in his writing, right? Right? I mean, I was told by some who was told by someone, who might have been told by their preacher that Josephus mentions Christ. Or, wait! I read it on the internet somewhere.

Ask yourself this, What do you really know about Josephus and his writings? What if I told you that the Josephus text is not only a known forgery, but an acknowledged one by major church fathers? Would you then quit using it as evidence of Jesus’ existence?

Let’s start at the beginning; let’s start with Josephus himself.

The Man in Question.

Flavius Josephus was born sometime in 37 AD and died sometime around 97 AD. (I’m using AD vs CE just for confusion sake). This would have prevented him from being eye-witness to any of Christ or John the Baptist’s miracles. He was however a contemporary to the Christian Evangelicals who were, at that time, polishing up the books that would become the New Testament of today [1].

Josephus was a well know writer of his time, a historian who wrote on the history of the Jews in several books. Of note are Wars of the Jews and Antiquities. Time wise, Wars of the Jews was written 20 years earlier then the Antiquities, and this is important to know because there is no mention of James the Just, John the Baptist, or Jesus of Nazareth in Wars of the Jews. This is particularly perplexing because Wars of the Jews covers the time period when these men were supposed to have lived [1]. Josephus had access to living eyewitness of the time, his own father was a well-known Rabbi and well aware of the major events of his time. So why no mention of three men who would have been very noticeable?

A Few Quick Notes.

First, we need to understand that Antiquities is a very well planned and organized book. It has a table of contents associated with it, one of the oldest known. We are lucky to have it survive, many of these don’t make it to modern times. What this gives us is an outline of the document, how it was originally written and laid out by the author [1].

Secondly, we need to know that Eusebius Pamphili (c264-340 AD), and early church father, advocated the use of fraud and deception as long as it furthered the mission of the Church [2].

Antiquities.

It’s in Antiquities that things begin to get weird. The passage often quoted is known as the Testimonium Flaviannum, or the Testament of Josephus. (We’ll stick with Testimonium, cause it sounds cooler.) This is actually a single paragraph (called Paragraph 3, or P3) where Josephus begins exalting Christ, for no apparent reason. The paragraph before this (P2) talks about the mistreatment of the Jews at the hands of Pontius Pilate, and the paragraph afterwards (P4) says “About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder” [3].

Without knowing anything about P3 you might think this is a natural progression, but it’s not. P3 is pretty upbeat, it talks briefly of the miracles of Jesus, calls him ‘Messiah’ by name, mentions the crucifixion, and then mentions that the Christians live on to this day. The only commonalty between P3 and P2 is Pilate [3].

Scholars have looked over this paragraph and its relation to the others around it, and have found it to be an interloper. Not only is the tone mismatched, the words used are out of context for the writer. Jospehus was a Jew, born, raised,  and died. There is no record of him ever converting to Christianity, so his use of the word ‘Messiah’ is very suspicious. Also, if you remove P3 and read from P2 to P4 you’ll find the flow of words uninterrupted and the message of the stories intact [1].

Remember that Table of Contents I mentioned earlier? This passage is not listed in the original Table of Contents. I know that seems a little nit-picky but keep in mind that Josephus outlined this document for us, telling us what he was going to mention and where. To have this paragraph just stuck in here like this is unusual in the context of the document [1].

Dating is also an issue here. Using the events mentioned in P2 and P4 we can date these two paragraphs to be talking about 19AD. P3 jumps ahead about 11 years to 30AD. If we read the three paragraphs in their supposed correct order we move from year 19 to year 30 and back to year 19 again. Not the best way to relate events, especially events meant to be related to each other [1].

Eusebius.

This is probably the most damming bit of information I can offer against the Testimonium. The Testimonium fist appeared in the writings of Eusebius, who was a known forger. He advocated the use of forgery in the early church. The translations of Antiquities that and the copies made there from are traceable back to Eusebius. I can go on a list other early church fathers that never mentions or apparently knew about the Testimonium. Men like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria [4]. Can I say without doubt that Eusbius is the actual forger, no, but I can say that his version, and only his version, of Antiquitieshas a forged paragraph in it.

Modern Use of the  Testimonium.

Even the more dogged evangelicals today have stopped using the Testimonium as historical evidence of Jesus’ existence. If the damming knowledge that Eusebius advocated and forged other documents wasn’t enough to draw it into question, the more scholarly methods I provided would be. It’s hard to continue to use flawed evidence against a well informed opponent, unless you never got the memo.

[1] Zindler, Frank. The Jesus the Jews Never Knew. (Cranford, New Jersey: American Atheist Press) Chpt. 2.

[2] Eusebius Pamphili, “How it may be Lawful and Fitting to use Falsehood as a Medicine, and for the Benefit of those who Want to be Deceived.” From Praeparatio Evangelica, Vol 12, Chpt 32.

[3] Whiston, William, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981), Antiquities, XVIII, 3.            

[4] Remsburg, John E., The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence (New York: The Truth Seeker Company, 1909) Pg 30-31

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Those Who Never Knew Jesus – but Should Have.

I’m learning a lot from Frank Zindler. Mainly about people I’ve never had any reason before this to know anything about. I’m also learning quite a bit about the evolution of religion, specifically the evolution of Christianity. I’m always fascinated with how things change and morph into other things, especially when it’s a process of borrowing and altering other sources.

Now to be fair, I am only through the first chapter of the book “The Jesus the Jews Never Knew” but it’s a dense book. The first chapter mainly covers two men named Philo Judaeus and Justus of Tiberius. Both were Jewish authors that lived during the same time that Jesus of Nazareth was said to have live.

Now Justus was a well know writer who lived in, well, Tiberius. Though it’s true that Justus’ writings were lost sometime in the 9th or 10th century, we know a very important tid bit about his writings. We know they never mentions anyone like Jesus, or any of the events attributed to him despite having lived near Galilee during Jesus’ miraculous acts.

Philo of Judaeus aka Philo of Alexandria was a prolific writer and rather important to the early Christian founding fathers; Eusebius, Jerome, and Photius. This one is a little more convoluted as to why Philo is so significant.

Philo’s surviving works fill 900 modern pages, and who knows how much we’ve lost. In all those 900 pages he never mentions Jesus, St. Paul or anyone really associated with Christ or Christianity. He does mention a monastic cult known as the Therapeutae who appear to be the predecessors to Christian monks and nuns, but aren’t Christians themselves. Also, Philo appears to be the originator of the ideas of Logos (The Word) and Pneuma which became Hogion Pneuma (The Holy Ghost).

The weirdest part of Philo comes from his niece-in-law, Bernice, who is mentioned in Acts [chpt 26 & 27]. According to Acts, Bernice and her brother Herod Agrippa II, met and were witnessed to by St. Paul. This presents a major problem because, again, Philo never mentions St. Paul. It seems unrealistic to believe someone as prolific as Philo wouldn’t have:

  1. Noticed and wrote about something as awesome as Jesus’ miracles
  2.  Have talked to his own family and found out about St. Paul

Keep in mind that Philo lived during the entire span of Jesus’ life and lived in or near Jerusalem his whole life. He never mentions Herod’s massacre of babies, or the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, or the miracles associated with Jesus, or the earthquakes and zombie walk associated with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Still, Eusebius, Jerome, and Photius all try and force his writing into the Christian mold by making things up and using wording that makes things ambiguous. They also try and morph the Therapeutae into some kind of Christian group even though they existed long before Christ.

Even as Philo shows no signs of supporting Jesus as a historical figure, he does support a hypothesis that Zindler mentions early in his first chapter. He suggests that Christianity isn’t a new, sudden religion brought to us by a single teacher. He suggests that Christianity is natural evolution of older religions, borrowing and changing the older myths and stories to fit their needs. This is very common, and looking at the way Logos and Pneuma became part of the Christian doctrine, it’s also very convincing.

I’ll go into the Evolution of Christianity as I progress thorough the Historical Jesus series. They kind of go hand in hand. So my next post will start to lay the foundation for the Evolution of Christianity, just so we all have a similar starting point. Till Then!

Categories: Evolution of Christianity, Historical Jesus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Proving a Negative.

Honestly, when it comes down to it, you can’t prove a negative. So why am I doing this? Ah…

Well I am caving a bit to my fans on You Tube. They’ve been asking for me to focus more on biblical archaeology, and there is a lot of that to do. There are lots of ways that archaeology is abused to move a creationist agenda forward or to simply validate lies. However, it also opens me to a huge argument I wasn’t sure that I wanted to join in on. I mean, people take their religion really seriously, and they get offended really easily when it comes to religion. There really isn’t a way to avoid talking religion if I touch on biblical archaeology, so I guess I need to bite the built.

So why Jesus?

I listen to Point of Inquiry regularly, and a few weeks ago Dr. Robert Price interviewed a man named Frank Zindler who is a biblical scholar of sorts. He’s recently published a book named “The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest for the Historical Jesus”. I have always asserted that there is no evidence of a historical Jesus, despite what Mr. Jacobovici might fabricate. When I heard Mr. Zindler talk about his research into the historical record I was interested at how much of a lack of evidence there was.

I’ve had a few arguments with zealots over the years that have tried to use bad archaeology to ‘prove’ that there was a Jesus. Problem is, all their ‘evidence’ has long been debunked by people more informed than I. Those arguments are also half formed, usually by something they’ve half heard or been told by someone they view as an authority. Zindler goes even more in-depth by examining Jewish literature and thoroughly removes that leg of the argument. Or as I call it, debunking the Jesus myth.

Still, A Negative?

We’ll never really be able to say there is no ‘Jesus’. I mean, I have Jesus that lives down the road from me. We can say there is no Jesus of Nazareth, and I think Zindler does this pretty effectively. So armed with Zindler, Dr. Price, and of course archaeology, I feel prepared to venture into the world of examining the Jesus myth myself.

My first act will be to confront Mr. Jacobovici’s claims of finding the Tomb of Jesus, starting with his newest claim of the Crucifixion Nails. Not only was this apparently shoddy archaeology, but his conclusions are completely out of left field.

This will also let me set a foundation for later debates I’m sure I will be having. I’m actually looking forward to this. I think it will be fun and all arguments aside, very informative.  See you then!

Categories: Historical Jesus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Crucifixion Nails Found? I Smell a Movie Deal.

This one caught my attention because I’m gearing up to investigate the Historical Jesus.

Basically, Simcha Jacobovici, the guy who brought us Jesus’ tomb, claims that he found nails that are from the crucifixion, providing further proof that the tomb is Jesus’.

My issues, let me number them…

  1. He provides absolutely no evidence in his very brief interview as to why the nails are authentically crucifixion nails.
  2. He claims that he’s working with an Archaeologist, but doesn’t name them or their institution.
  3. He’s working from the assumption that this is Jesus’ tomb, but that was never made clear either.

Not to mention he’s got another movie due out soon on…the nails….

I have to hand it to the author of the Omaha World-Herald, they’re having none of this crap. The skeptical tone they manage to keep is admirable. They point out the controversy around the nails; the fact that Jacobovici claims the nails were there in the original 1990 excavation, but were never photographed or recorded, then disappear for 20 years, and then magically reappeared in a Tel Aviv University lab in Jerusalem. If this is a true recounting, then this is a case of really crapy archaeology.

My guess is, that he’s making all this up for some free publicity. Normally, I ignore blatant cries for attention, but in this case, I am intrigued to see how he’s going to butcher the world of archaeology in order to fulfill his false claims. So yah, keep an eye out for his “documentary” on the discovery of the nails, and then wait for my rebuttal. Should be interesting.

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