Skip to main content

Josephus on the Ressurection: Why Should We Want It?

A preacher I heard the other day alluded to the fact that non-Christian historians also recorded the resurrection of Jesus.  As far as I am aware the only non-Christian historian of that era to make any possible reference to the resurrection is Josephus in Antiquities, 3:63-64.  Whiston translates the passage,

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 wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ.  And 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 ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.

Now, generally those Christians who want to defend the authenticity of this paragraph, over and against the assertion that this is a Christian insertion or at least shows signs of Christian editing, do so because such independent testimony would be important corroboration of the Christian accounts (leaving aside for the time being the manifold serious issues with Josephus as a historian).  But if this really were Josephus' unedited words then the fact that a 1st c. Jew could calmly relate the fact of the resurrection and Jesus' status as messiah and yet not be himself a follower of the way actually does more to undermine Christian apologetics than help, because it would show that 1st c. Jews, even educated ones, really were credulous about such things.

It is surely more important to argue, from an apologetics perspective, that 1st c. Jews were not easily impressed by such claims and so the fact that so many of them were convinced, even to the point of martyrdom, suggests that something really did happen.  If Josephus believed the account but felt it to be less than earth shattering ( it certainly had little or no impact on his understanding of the divine will in contemporary world events) then it actually weakens rather than enforces the testimony of the Christians.

As I've warned before, apologetics is a messy business with often unintended and unfortunate consequences, most of those practising it would be better off spending their time doing what Jesus commanded instead of arguing the point.

Comments

  1. Oh, and for what it is worth, I realy don't see how this can be original to Josephus, although I think it is probably a Christianized version of an original paragraph, it wouldn't take many words difference to change the tone significantly.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I write in the morning after the USA 2016 Elections, which featured the historic election of Donald Trump. Apart from my personal interested as a resident of planet Earth at this time, it is interesting to note some of the apocalyptic language emerging in discussions of what this means. Even archaeologists are turning to the medium of prophecy. Hear the word of Tobias Stone,
So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover and move on.  Stone suggests that future historians will be able to draw clear lines from Brexit to Trump to the 3rd World War, or something equally bad. Mind you, just because historians can draw those lines doesn't mean they are here.

Then there is the word of Thom Hartman who is more interested in the domestic fallout than the fallout shelter. 
The last …