Does Secular Historian Josephus Give Historical Corroboration to the New Testament?
by Glenn Smith
Flavius Josephus was a historian in first century Rome. Of Jewish heritage, he was commissioned by the Romans to write a history of the Jewish people. Josephus mentions Jesus in two passages, one very brief and a second in more detail.
The first passage merely mentions that the Jewish officials brought to trial “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.” (Antiquities 20.9.1). This passage corroborates the facts that Jesus existed, James existed, they were brothers, and Jesus was called Christ.
The second passage is longer and more detailed. It speaks of Jesus being “a doer of wonderful works,” “he was the Christ,” Pilate had condemned him to the cross, and “he appeared to them alive the third day.”(Antiquities 18.3.3)
This second passage is so detailed, in fact, that skeptics and critics are motivated to claim it is a forgery inserted into Josephus’ text by Christians in later years after Josephus died. Other than the fact that the passage is so strongly in favor of the historicity of Jesus, the skeptics have little evidence. All manuscripts of Josephus include this passage in some form.
One support for this passage is that church historian Eusebius quotes it in his history of the church. For the claim of forgery to hold, the writings of Josephus would have to have been corrupted very early, earlier than Eusebius, who wrote in the 300’s, and some early manuscripts of Eusebius exist from the 400’s and 600’s AD. The burden of proof lies with the skeptic, who is saddled with presenting more evidence than merely claiming it is too good to be true.
Even if we delete the longer passage in Josephus, his writings contain a strong corroboration for the New Testament…
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