Does Antiquities 18.3.3. sound non-Christian?

“Yes, after all…
  • Sounds non-Christian: “Jesus” by itself

    Christians were disinclined to identify Jesus simply as “Jesus” (rather than “Christ” or Jesus with “Christ” appended).

    1. Consider:

      Christopher Price (Christian Apologist): “For example, in all of Bishop Ignatius' seven authentic letters (written around 110 AD) he refers to 'Jesus Christ' 112 times, 'Christ Jesus' 12 times, 'Christ' 4 times, and 'Jesus' only 3 times. Another example is the second-century bishop Polycarp. In his letter he ten times refers to 'Jesus Christ' and never once to 'Jesus'. In later Christian writings the practice is much the same. In the first book of Proof of the Gospel, Eusebius refers to 'Jesus Christ,' 'Savior Jesus,' or 'Jesus the Son of God', seven times but does not refer to simply 'Jesus.' So too in Eusebius' first book of Preparation of the Gospel, where he refers to 'Jesus Christ' three times but never to simply 'Jesus.' In his second book of The History of the Church , Eusebius refers to 'Christ' over ten times, but never to 'Jesus' (except when citing other sources). Thus the unelaborated use of the name 'Jesus,' seems more likely to come from the hand of Josephus than a pious Christian scribe.” [Shattering the Christ Myth (Xulon Press, 2008), 27.]

  • Sounds non-Christian: “A wise man”

    Christians are disinclined to refer to Jesus simply as a wise man.1 This is relevant because, on the other thand, the phrase is characteristically Josephan

    1. Christians felt that identifying Jesus as "a wise man" was egregiously inadequate. (i) Given their high view of Jesus, they would see it as inadquate. (ii) Confirming this, they rarely/never describe Jesus in such a way.

      John Meier: “A Christian scribe would not deny that Jesus was a wise man, but would feel that label insufficient for one who was believed to be God as well as man.” [A Marginal Jew (Doubleday, 1991), 60.]

      Michael Wilkins, J. P. Moreland:“…it is less than one would expect from Christians” [Jesus Under Fire (Zondervan) 213.]

      Robert van Voorst (NT prof. at Western Theological):: “…while complimentary [this] is not what one would expect a Christian interpolation to say, because the label was not at all a common Christian one” [Jesus Outside the New Testament (Eerdmans), 83.]

  • Sounds non-Christian: “a doer of _wonderful works_”

    Christians almost never refer to Jesus' miracles as “astonishing deeds,” but exactly the same expression is used by Josephus elsewhere (twice of Elisha's miracles).2

    1. Regarding this phrase (παραδόξων έργων),

      Robert van Voorst (NT professor at Western Theological): “…the wording is not likely to come from a Christian. The phrase 'amazing deeds' itself is ambiguous; it can also be translated 'startling/controversial deeds,' and the whole sentence can be read to mean simply that Jesus had a reputation as a wonder-worker.” [Jesus Outside the New Testament (Eerdmans), 89.]

      Christopher Price (Apologist): "…this term is nowhere used in the New Testament to describe Jesus' miracles. Nor is it used in early Chrisitan literature prior to its citation by Eusebius." [Shattering the Christ Myth (Xulon Press, 2008), 28.]

    2. Steve Mason (Josephus scholar, prof. at Aberdeen): “Josephus often speaks of 'marvels' and 'incredible' things in the same breath, as the testimonium does. He even uses the phrase rendered 'incredible deeds' in two other places, once of the prophet Elisha (Ant. 9.182; cf. 12.63).” [Josephus and the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2002), 171.]

  • Sounds non-Christian: “He drew over... _Greeks_”

    Few Christians would say the historical Jesus won over Greeks.

    1. Christians knew that Jesus's Earthly ministry was simple "to the Jews"; he had little contact with Gentiles and certainly did not win many over.

      Robert van Voorst (NT professor at Western Theological): “The statement that Jesus won over "both Jews and Greeks" represents a misunderstanding perhaps found among non-Christians like Lucian. However, aanyone remotely familiar with the Gospel tradition knows that Jesus himself did not win over "many Greeks" to his movement, even though "Greeks" here means Gentiles. While Jesus had a certain appeal to Gentiles, he certainly did not win them over in the same proportion as Jews, as the "both ... and" (καί μεν... καί δέ) construction and the repeated "many" (πολλούς) suggest. This statement naively reads back the situation of Christianity at the end of the first century, when Christianity had many adherents from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. .” [Jesus Outside the New Testament (Eerdmans), 90.] [See Meier, Marginal Jew, 1:64-65]

  • Sounds non-Christian: “receive truth with _pleasure_”

    (a) The phrase here in 18:3.3 appears eight times in this book of Antiquities and the two books sandwiching it.[1]

    Robert van Voorst (NT professor at Western Theological):: “Christian writers generally avoid a positive use of the word "pleasure" (ηδονή), with its connotation of "hedonism," and it is difficult to imagine a Christian scribe using it here about Jesus' followers..” [Jesus Outside the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans, ), 102. (see 90.)]

    Louis Feldman: “[The] notion that the text as we have it has a substratum of authentic material seems increasingly confirmed by stylistic studies of it. In particular, [Henry Thackery]… noted that the phrase 'such people as accept the truth gladly' is characteristic of the scribe in this part of the Antiquities, since the phrase appears eight times in books 17-19” [“Flavius Josephs Revisited” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (Walter de Gruyter & Co, 1984), 826.]

  • Sounds non-Christian: “tribe [of Christians]”

    Michael Wilkins, J. P. Moreland: “Most scholars would agree that the word phylon 'tribe,' is not a typically Christian expression.” [Jesus Under Fire (Zondervan), 213.]

    Robert Van Voorst (NT professor at Western Theological):: “That Christians are called a "tribe" is Josephan but not Christian.” [Jesus Outside the New Testament (Eerdmans, ) 102.]

    1. And the description of Christians as a "tribe" (phylon) occurs nowhere in early Christian literature, while Josephus uses the word both for the Jewish "race" and for other national or communal groups. "

    [The Greek word for "tribe" is not a typical Christian expression (Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, 91-92; Yamauchi, Jesus Under Fire, 213). Still, the three laudatory parts saying "if indeed one should call him a man," "he was the Messiah," and "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" may be the additions of a later Christian editor.]

“No, after all…
  • It only says nice things about Jesus

    Josephus had only nice things to say of Jesus.1 This is relevant because he seems to critique “every other would-be messiah or popular leader opposed to or executed by Rome”2 and Christians were especially ripe for his critique.3

    But, so what? Couldn't it simply be that he had reason to be neutral?4

    1. Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? (Canadian Humanist Publications, 1999).

    Doherty continues:

    “Indeed, he condemns the whole movement of popular agitators and rebels as the bane of the century. It lead to the destruction of the Temple, of the city itself, of the Jewish state. And yet the 'authentic' Testimonium would require us to believe that he made some kind of exception for Jesus." [210-211.]

    (a) He called Jesus a “wise man” (sophos aner), a phrase he elsewhere only used as praise for King Solomon (Ant. 8.53) and Elisha (Ant. 9.182). Steve Mason: “If Josephus said it, it was a term of high praise.” [Josephus and the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2002), 171.] By way of response however, this is not a large sample size, and Joseph may have well respected Jesus.

    1. Earl Doherty: “To judge by the Christians' own record in the Gospels and even some of the epistles, 'the tribe of Christians' toward the end of the first century was still a strongly apocalyptic one. It expected the overthrow of the empire and established authority, along with the transformation of the world into God's kingdom. What would have led Josephus to divorce this prevailing Christian outlook - for which he would have felt nothing but revulsion - from his judgment of the movement's founder?” [p. 212]
    2. Crossan notes that Joseph's take on Jesus was “carefully and deliberately neutral, [indicating] prudent impartiality” [Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, 162-163]. But, this was unnecessary.

    Doherty : “His readers were primarily Roman, some Jewish. What reason would he have had for being, in Meier's phrase, ‘purposely ambiguous’? He had nothing to fear from Christians, and no reason to consider their sensibilities. Regardless of what he may have thought about the character of Pilate, if Pilate had executed Jesus, then there had to have been - in official Roman and Flavian eyes - a justification for doing so. Crucifixion was a punishment for rebels, and Jesus' crucifixion would have been seen as part of Rome's ongoing campaign to deal with the problems of a troubled time in a troubled province.” [p. 213]