Josephus’ Testimony to Jesus
Josephus, Antiquities 18. 63-64
The words in ALL CAPS are likely interpolations added by Christian copyists over the centuries in an attempt to make Josephus support faith in Jesus as the Christ. We have only three Greek manuscripts of this section of Josephus, all from the 11th century. These phrases, added rather clumsily, appear to be rather obvious additions even to the modern reader in English. Once restored to its more original reading Josephus offers us a most fascinating reference to Jesus. Indeed, it is the earliest reference to Jesus outside the New Testament, and its rather matter of fact, neutral reporting, makes it all the more valuable to the historian. It is worth noting that in his earlier work, The Jewish War, written shortly after the revolt under the auspices of the Emperor Vespasian, he mentioned neither Jesus, nor John the Baptist, nor James, while in Antiquities, written in the early 90s C.E., he mentions all three. For an excellent discussion of this text see John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Doubleday, 1991), Vol I, pp. 57-88.
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 wonders, A TEACHER OF SUCH MEN AS RECEIVE THE TRUTH WITH PLEASURE. He drew many after him BOTH OF THE JEWS AND THE GENTILES. HE WAS THE CHRIST. 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 THEN THOUSAND OTHER WONDERFUL THINGS ABOUT HIM, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day (Antiquities 18:63-64).
Professor Shlomo Pines found a different version of Josephus testimony in an Arabic version of the tenth century. It has obviously not been interpolated in the same way as the Christian version circulating in the West:
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 their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders.