This is the reply I got from the foremost scholar on
Josephus today (apart from Louis Feldman). Steve Mason is editor-in-chief
of EJ Brill’s multi-volume on the works of Josephus:
On 18-Feb-09, at 8:27 PM, Harry McCall wrote:
I have several volumes in the Brill series Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary of which you are the editor. I’ve noticed that Volume 8 edited by P. Bilde and T.P. Wiseman was due out in ’08, but according to Brill it is either not completed or in the press.
Do you know how they will treat the Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. XVIII. 63 - 4) concerning Jesus?
Many scholars seem to think the Testimonium is an interpolation as based on the reading of John Meier in his Anchor Bibles Supplements “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus” (1991, p.61) in which he re-edits it by leaving out the claim that Jesus was the Messiah and the part on the Jesus’ resurrection on the third day ending with him doing “…other wondrous things…”.
Without hard facts as to exactly which parts are Christian interpolations, it appears to me that Prof. Meier’s editing and reconstruction is purely subjective. That is, he simply removed any early Christian creedal confessions (Messiah / Resurrection / Wondrous deeds) and then claims the remaining Testimonium is convincingly authentic!
I’ve noticed a shift in Dr. Feldman’s thinking as seen in the below statement in a lecture.
“It's very interesting that there is one other account which, if it is authentic, does deal with the crucifixion. And that is by the Jewish historian Josephus. The question is whether Josephus really wrote it. And I've written about that, and I've come to the conclusion that he couldn't have written it, certainly in the form that we have it, because Origen, the Christian church father, at one point says that Josephus didn't recognize that Jesus was the Christos.http://www.tzemachdovid.org/israel/fe...
When I consider the subjectivity of John Meier’s re-editing and the above view by Dr. Feldman, I find myself more in line with Dr. Feldman in that Josephus “couldn't have written it”.
Do you find John Meier’s re-editing or Dr. Feldman’s view more convincing?
Thanks for your time and any comments.
Dear Mr. McCall:
Thanks for your email. I'm travelling for research but will try to answer your questions compactly. First, Per Bilde had to withdraw from the project because of a very serious illness, which had him hospitalized for nearly a year and recuperating long after. That section is now in the hands of Prof Daniel Schwartz of the Hebrew University. It won't appear for another three years or more.
On the testimonium there are many things to say, but the short answer is that I expect Schwartz will handle it responsibly, as both Meier and Feldman do. I'm not sure where you see the difference between them. They agree that Josephus could not have written the TF as we have it in our manuscripts. Feldman says that much and Meier agrees, but goes on to make some reasoned proposals about the original form that Josephus did write (not the one that we have).
By 1863 (this is not a typo) there were already hundreds of studies of the TF in existence -- so many that a writer of that year despaired of saying anything new on the subject. Since then a few new arguments have emerged in thousands of studies.
I don't know why you think that Meier is being particularly subjective, but here is the situation in brief. (If you want to read about it seriously, I recommend Alice Whealey, Josephus on Jesus : the testimonium Flavianum controversy from late antiquity to modern times.
External evidence makes it nearly impossible to imagine that Josephus wrote what we have, especially the line 'He [Jesus] was the Christos." The problem is that Origen, who knew the later volumes of Ant. quite well and stretches even Jos's discussion of James in a Christian direction, clearly knew nothing of this. He didn't mention it and also lamented that Jos. was an unbeliever. Later the Christian author who wrote Ps-Hegesippus vehemently denounced Josephus' unbelief, and rewrote his works in a Christian way. He obviously didn't know this line either. And Jerome, who knew Jos's works very well, quotes him here as saying only that Jesus was believed to be the Christos (by his followers), which is a very different thing. It is extremely difficult to explain this and other evidence in the Christian use of Josephus if he had simply written what we have in our mss.
Internal evidence is the other kind that needs to be considered. There, on the one hand, there are at least half a dozen phrases that are characteristic of Josephus, characteristic of Antiquities, and even characteristic of the unusual style that Josephus adopts in Ant. 17-19. This all strongly suggests that Josephus wrote something here in this passage about Jesus. Ancient forgers were not, on the whole, clever enough (or better: did not have the tools) to make such fine imitations. On the other hand, there are a few oddities (e.g., in the use of poihths), and there is even what seems to be one Eusebianism (i.e., distinctive style of the fourth-cent. Eusebius, who used Jos. extensively). The biggest problem of all would be Josephus' unparalleled use of a label such as Christos without any concern for his (Roman) audience's lack of understanding of the term.
So we end up with the near-consensus position, shared by Feldman, Meier, myself and many others (cf. my discussion in Josephus and the New Testament, 2003): that Josephus wrote something about Jesus, but not what we have in the manuscripts, which date from the 10th cent. at earliest (possibly late 9th), and which seem to have been influenced to some degree by their Christian transmitters. But that degree might be very slight indeed -- perhaps only 'believed to be' has dropped out of the Christos line. Most people think a little more has been changed, and there are dozens or hundreds of proposals about what exactly. We can't know with any confidence. But the reasons for all this are far from arbitrary: they have to do with evidence that needs explaining, both internal and external.
I hope that this is helpful. Sincerely,
Steve Mason, Professor of History and Graduate Humanities
Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction
Lead Investigator, Project on Ancient Cultural Engagement (PACE)
Department of History, 2140 Vari Hall
[Office: N837 Ross Building]
York University, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
416-736-2100 ext. 44514; FAX 416-736-5836; firstname.lastname@example.org
www.yorku.ca/smason Project site: pace.cns.yorku.ca
In : Religion
Tags: "testimonium flavianum" josephus
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