Jesus in Josephus

Now that the world has ended, my peer reviewed article on Josephus just came out: “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies 
(vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2012), 
pp. 489-514.

The official description is:

Analysis of the evidence from the works of Origen, Eusebius, and Hegesippus concludes that the reference to “Christ” in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200 is probably an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that the passage was never originally about Christ or Christians. It referred not to James the brother of Jesus Christ, but probably to James the brother of the Jewish high priest Jesus ben Damneus.

My proof of that is pretty conclusive. But this article also summarizes a sufficient case to reject the Testimonium Flavianum as well (the other, longer reference to Jesus in Josephus), in that case as a deliberate fabrication (see note 1, pp. 489-90, and discussion of the Arabic quotation on pp. 493-94). And I cite the leading scholarship on both. So it’s really a complete article on both references to Jesus in Josephus.

Further evidence that the longer reference is a Christian fabrication lies in an article I didn’t cite, however, but that is nevertheless required reading on the matter: G.J. Goldberg, “The Coincidences of the Testimonium of Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative of Luke,” in the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha (vol. 13, 1995), pp. 59-77. Goldberg demonstrates nineteen unique correspondences between Luke’s Emmaus account and the Testimonium Flavianum, all nineteen in exactly the same order (with some order and word variations only within each item). There are some narrative differences (which are expected due to the contexts being different and as a result of common kinds of authorial embellishment), and there is a twentieth correspondence out of order (identifying Jesus as “the Christ”). But otherwise, the coincidences here are very improbable on any other hypothesis than dependence.

Goldberg also shows that the Testimonium contains vocabulary and phrasing that is particularly Christian (indeed, Lukan) and un-Josephan. He concludes that this means either a Christian wrote it or Josephus slavishly copied a Christian source, and contrary to what Goldberg concludes, the latter is wholly implausible (Josephus would treat such a source more critically, creatively, and informedly).

That, combined with the arguments I assemble in my article for JECS, spells the final death knell for any hope of restoring any part of the Testimonium Flavianum. It is 100% Christian fabrication.

The Goodacre Debate

One of the many things I did when I was in England was go on a radio show that then aired in London just this last weekend (Saturday, December 15th, 2012), called Unbelievable with Justin Brierley, for Premiere Christian Radio. There, I had a cordial and informal debate with professor Mark Goodacre on the merits of the theory that Jesus didn’t exist (but is instead as mythical as Hercules or King Arthur).

Photo of Justin Brierley Speaking at a Podium Justin was an excellent host, and we both mused over the irony of the fact that he had an American in England debating an Englishman in America. I had stopped by the studio in person while I was in London; Goodacre was kind enough to phone in from his office at Duke University, North Carolina, where he’s an Associate Professor of the New Testament. So we were both at a disadvantage, he by being on the phone (having been there myself, I can testify to how difficult it is to carry on a conversation that way), and me by having almost literally just landed after a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles, which had immediately followed a six hour drive by car, and after which we had just enough time to get our bags and drive to the city and drop me off at a tube station en route to Premiere. Fortunately, I’m pretty resistant to jet lag. But it definitely felt weird. I had that “wired” feeling one gets after being awake for far too long.

If you want to listen to the show, it’s available online (for just this week it’s the featured show but after that it will be in their archives; and if that link doesn’t work properly try this) and via iTunes. I will comment on the show here. So if you’re keen to hear my thoughts on it, read on.

[Read more…]

And Paul Fidalgo!

Somehow in last week’s post on our new bloggers I blanked on our fourth great addition! So I am remedying that right now. We have a quarto, not a trio, of new bloggers at FtB.

So please also welcome Paul Fidalgo at Near Earth Object, communications director for the Center for Inquiry with diverse skills and interests and skeptic cred. My favorite sample…

I don’t imagine that Bob-Fucking-Dole would feel that he had to wheel his ailing carcass to the floor of the Senate to plead with his own freaking party to back the treaty if he thought the obstacle to ratification was just how spooked Jim Inhofe might be about U.N. boogeymen. I bet you Dole knew that his real adversary was going to be the giant sacks of cash strewn about the halls of the Senate office buildings.

(from My Own Conspiracy Theory about the Disability Treaty)

He kinda might be right. Meanwhile, I’m so rocking the last chapter of my book that I’ve decided to put off further blogging again until next week. I so want to complete by end of week and I’m really close to doing that. In the meantime, go read some Paul Fidalgo!

The Latest New Bloggers at FtB!

We’ve recently recruited to our network some infamous folk of web renown. If you are curious, check them out! (Yes, I’m behind on current events…still haven’t caught up on things since my return from England and my birthday and sundry unexpected chores like replacing my streetside sewer lateral cleanout cap, which someone stole…who steals a three dollar sewer pipe cap? Anyway…)

The trio (no, quarto!) of the new includes the notorious Non Stamp Collector, of You Tube prominence, an Australian in Japan. Welcome to the 21st century global economy. My favorite sample…

What Christians bringing up this issue and this example [of the holocaust and moral relativism] fail to realise is that with a Christian view of objective morality, you are forced to do exactly the thing that you’re suggesting would make someone appear to be a brainwashed sicko at complete odds with civilised society. You can’t imagine living in a world in which genocide could be considered moral, and you make up an analogy pointing out how misguided excusing such a massive slaughter would be, yet in the next breath, you will excuse genocide carried out by an Old Testament hero (probably Joshua) who was simply Hitler with a different ideology and less effective weaponry!

(from What if Hitler Had Won?)

Did I mention the 21st century global economy? Because next up is Avicenna, a british ex-hindu atheist and medical student studying in India, whose blog A Million Gods is now hosted in our golden cradle. My favorite sample…

Just because something ends doesn’t mean that it has no meaning. Why do you have pets? Unless you are an avid tortoise hobbyist (I like to call them Cheloniaks) most of your pets will die before you. You may as well shoot them right now.

(from Doubts About Atheism? Fifteen Questions for Atheists Answered)

And almost last but not least is Miriam Mogilevsky, author of the activist blog Brute Reason. My favorite sample is actually in effect her description…

I’m a psychology student, a Russian Israeli immigrant, an ethnically Jewish atheist, a queer sex-positive feminist, a bleeding-heart but skeptical progressive, and a proud and unashamed survivor of a few mental illnesses. In other words, I’m pretty much everything your mom warned you about.

(from Hellooooo FtB!)

And actual last but not least (I somehow left him out of my original post!) is Paul Fidalgo, at Near Earth Object, communications director for the Center for Inquiry with diverse skills and interests and skeptic cred. My favorite sample…

I don’t imagine that Bob-Fucking-Dole would feel that he had to wheel his ailing carcass to the floor of the Senate to plead with his own freaking party to back the treaty if he thought the obstacle to ratification was just how spooked Jim Inhofe might be about U.N. boogeymen. I bet you Dole knew that his real adversary was going to be the giant sacks of cash strewn about the halls of the Senate office buildings.

(from My Own Conspiracy Theory about the Disability Treaty)

So there you go. More are to come, but these four are the latest!

Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging more serious deep thought stuff myself next week.

Miracles & Historical Method

Fan photo of Dr. Carrier in shadow before stage screen showing slide that says 'Conclusion: Christians Were Big Ass Liars'Video of my talk for this year’s Skepticon is now available on YouTube. See Miracles and Historical Method. Description:

Carrier talks about how to think critically about history generally, using miracles as an entertaining example. Builds on his talk last year on Bayes’ Theorem, but this time it’s more about method than math, and surveys a lot of real-world examples of miracles from the ancient world (pagan, Jewish and Christian). Summarizes some of what is covered in much more detail in his book.