The Jesus Passages in Josephus – a Case Study, part 3b – ”The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”: The James passage, earlier identification

Part 1
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Part 2a Part 2b Part 2c Part 2d
Part 2e Part 2f Part 2g Part 2h
Part 2i Part 2j Part 2k Part 2l
Part 2m Part 2n Part 2o Part 2p
Part 2q Part 2r Part 2s Part 2t
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Part 3a Part 3b Part 3c Part 3d
Part 3e Part 3f Part 3g Part 3h
Part 3i Part 3j
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Part 4
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Excursus

This is part 3b of the translation of my treatise Jesuspassagerna hos Josefus – en fallstudie into English.

Den svenska texten.

III. The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James

The James passage in Josefus

Identification in earlier reference

Furthermore, it is not like Josephus to only once – and then only in passing – refer to an individual, without explaining who this was. Josephus would normally not write this way and this fact therefore tells against authenticity. His style was on the contrary thorough and he was careful with the logical consistency of his statements. Stephen Carr gives a few samples of how Josephus normally identified individuals – the first time he mentioned them as well as the subsequent times. Judas the Galilean may serve as an example. Josephus writes about him in book 18 and book 20 of the Antiquities of the Jews, accidentally the books where also Jesus is mentioned. In book 18 he writes:

”Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator … had been consul, and … came himself into Judea … to take an account of their substance … Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:1:1)[211]

Josephus continues his description of Judas for a while. When he again mentions the same Judas in Book 20, he writes the following:

“… the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:5:2)[212]

Josephus thus normally informed his readers both at length and in detail, so they would know who he had in mind. Especially in cases where the last reference occurred much earlier, such as in an earlier book, Josephus would make an effort to remind the reader by at least superficially summarize the episode and, as in this case, he might also indicate that the previous account was in an earlier book. The fact that the text neither provides an adequate description of who Christ is (if this is the first time he is mentioned), or there is an in-depth feedback made to a previous description of this Christ (if this is the second time he is mentioned; i.e. after the Testimonium), suggests that Josephus is not the author. As Carr says, there was obviously no need for a Christian interpolator “to supply such detailed back-references”.[213] And one might add that there perhaps was not yet a Testimonium to refer back to at the time the amendment was made – then probably before Origen wrote in the 240’s.

To my knowledge there is only one additional example in the extant Josephus literature which resembles the identification of James and Jesus. In the Jewish War 2:247 Josephus tells about “Felix, the brother of Pallas”.[214] This Pallas is not mentioned elsewhere in the Jewish War, and Josephus consequently does not identify him. Josephus probably made no mistake as he later in the Antiquities of the Jews 18:7:1 also talks about the same Pallas without identifying him. But through other authors we know quite a lot about this Marcus Antonius Pallas. He was a Greek freedman of “royal blood” who became an esteemed secretary during the reigns of Emperor Claudius and Emperor Nero. The latter, however, had him executed. He is said to have been one of the richest men in Rome at the time.[215]

Obviously Josephus regarded him as such a “celebrity” that he felt no need to explain to his readers who this Pallas was. In any case, this is a rare exception and it of course throws a shadow of doubt on also the reference to Jesus in the James passage; that a rare exception happens to coincide with precisely the passage which is suspected to be forged.

Accordingly, we are supposed to believe that Josephus in precisely the two passages about Jesus has departed from his normal practice of linking passages together, by 1) not referring back to the right paragraph in the sentence immediately following upon the Testimonium, and 2) not identifying the person by refraining from informing the reader who this Christ in the James passage was.

Roger Viklund, 2011-03-27


[211] Flavius Josephus writes:

”Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to he a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Beethus, and high priest; so they, being over-pesuaded by Joazar’s words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it. Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:1:1)

[212] Flavius Josephus writes:

“And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:5:2)

[213] Stephen Carr writes:

“How does Josephus refer back to people he has previously mentioned in those days when books had no indexes? Here he is going back two books, so readers will need more than a casual reference.

Judas of Galilee was first mentioned in ’Wars of the Jews’ Book 2 Section 118 ’Under his administration, it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt ; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords.’

Josephus refers to him again in Book 2 Section 433 as follows ’”In the meantime one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Quirinius, that after God they were subject to the Romans )” – considerable detail is included.

In Wars, Book 7 Section 533 we read about Judas again – ”… Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it. He was a descendant from that Judas who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation when Quirinius was sent into Judea to make one; …’. So a change of book causes Josephus to say ’as formerly related’.

Judas was also in Antiquities 18 ’Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty’.

Josephus referred back to Judas in Antiquities 20 ’the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Quirinius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have shown in a foregoing book .’

So Josephus usually put in detail and when he referred back from Ant. 20 to Ant. 18, he reminded the reader that it was in a different book. None of these factors apply to Josephus’s reference to Jesus in Antiquities 20. A Christian interpolator would naturally […] not need to supply such detailed back-references. His readers would know exactly who Jesus called the Christ was.” (Stephen Carr, First Response by Steven Carr [to Dr. Paul Marston]).

[214] Flavius Josephus writes:

“After this Caesar sent Felix, the brother of Pallas, to be procurator of Galilee, and Samaria, and Perea, and removed Agrippa from Chalcis unto a greater kingdom; for he gave him the tetrarchy which had belonged to Philip, which contained Batanae, Trachonitis, and Gaulonitis: he added to it the kingdom of Lysanias, and that province [Abilene] which Varus had governed. But Claudius himself, when he had administered the government thirteen years, eight months, and twenty days, died, and left Nero to be his successor in the empire, whom he had adopted by his Wife Agrippina’s delusions, in order to be his successor, although he had a son of his own, whose name was Britannicus, by Messalina his former wife, and a daughter whose name was Octavia, whom he had married to Nero; he had also another daughter by Petina, whose name was Antonia.” (Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2:247–249)

[215] Pallas is perhaps best known from the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius. Pliny the Elder lists him as one of the richest men of the time.

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