Sunday, September 12, 2010

First-century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus confirms essential elements of the Apostles' testimony regarding Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus declared that if someone won't believe Moses, they won't believe even if Someone rises from the dead. For those who care about the truth and question honestly, the Prophets' foretelling and the Apostles' reporting should be enough; but if you need more, below is an authoritative, non-Christian, Jewish, Roman, extra-biblical historical reference to Jesus. Note that all three versions of the passage (one "reconstructed" -- that's scholar-speak for "I made stuff up!") confirm what the first Christians reported regarding Jesus.

Here's the first version of the passage from a Greek translation in which Josephus describes Christ as "wise," "a doer of wonderful works," "a teacher of men who receive the truth," attracting "many" Jews and Gentiles, and that "he appeared to them alive again the third day" (end notes in the original):
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 amongst 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.
Next is the same passage from an Arabic translation. This one adds "virtuous" to the descriptors. Even though a bit less personal in tone, it confirms the fact that His "many . . . disciples . . . reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive":
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.
And for those who don't mind impugning the integrity of the Christian scribes who preserved Josephus' works, here is a "reconstruction" of the passage in a much more hostile tone. Even when mocking Christ and His followers, the same basic facts regarding Jesus are admitted: His miracles ("wizard of a man," "if indeed he may be called a man," "most monstrous of men," "having done wonders such as no man has ever done," "astonishing tricks"), His being called "Son of God" and "Messiah," His many followers ("seduced many Jews and many also of the Greek nation"), and His resurrection from the dead ("it seemed to them . . . he had appeared to them alive again"). Note also that even this fictional, antagonistic version of Josephus admits that the "divinely-inspired prophets had foretold -- these and ten thousand other wonderful things -- concerning him."

R. Eisler's "scholarly reconstruction":
Now about this time arose an occasion for new disturbances, a certain Jesus, a wizard of a man, if indeed he may be called a man, who was the most monstrous of men, whom his disciples call a son of God, as having done wonders such as no man has ever done.... He was in fact a teacher of astonishing tricks to such men as accept the abnormal with delight.... And he seduced many Jews and many also of the Greek nation, and was regarded by them as the Messiah.... And when, on the indictment of the principal men among us, Pilate had sentenced him to the cross, still those who before had admired him did not cease to rave. For it seemed to them that having been dead for three days, he had appeared to them alive again, as the divinely-inspired prophets had foretold -- these and ten thousand other wonderful things -- concerning him. And even now the race of those who are called 'Messianists'[*] after him is not extinct.
*"Christ" is Greek for the Hebrew "Messiah."