The Jesus Passages in Josephus – a Case Study, part 3d – ”The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”: Origen’s knowledge; On Matthew and Against Celsus

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 3d 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

Origen’s knowledge of another James passage

On Matthew and Against Celsus

The matter is however complicated by the fact that the above-mentioned Origen (c. 185–254 CE) knew of a similar passage on James and Jesus, which he claims was written by Josephus. Origen refers to this three times in two books written in the period 244–249 CE.[218] He claims that Josephus had written that “the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple” was the Jews’ punishment for having killed “James the just, who was a brother of Jesus who is called Christ”. Note that the passage in Josephus referred to by Origen, contrary to what often is claimed, is not the same passage as the one previously analyzed and which is present in all extant manuscripts of the Antiquities of the Jews. It is nowhere in the Antiquities of the Jews said that James’ death would have been the cause of the Jews’ misfortune. I reproduce all three passages by Origen in the order they probably were written:

“And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.” (Origen, On Matthew, 10:17 [my bolding])[219]

“For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),-the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ”. (Origen, Against Celsus 1:47 [my bolding])[220]

“Now in these [the Gospels] it is recorded, that ‘when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then shall you know that the desolation thereof is nigh.’ But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” (Origen, Against Celsus 2:13 [my bolding])[221]

Two factors are of utmost importance for our understanding of the things Origen writes. He uses the same expression, with “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ” found in Antiquities of the Jews 20:200, but he claims that this was part of a completely different context than the corresponding expression in the Antiquities of today. He further says that Josephus did not accept or believe in Jesus as the Christ; that is the Messiah. In the extant version of the Testimonium it is explicitly said that Jesus was the Messiah. Let us begin with the latter.

Roger Viklund, 2011-03-30


[218] In Ecclesiastical History 6:36, Eusebius writes in the time of Philip the Arab (Marcus Julius Filippus), Origen “composed a work of eight books in answer to that entitled True Discourse, which had been written against us by Celsus the Epicurean, and the twenty-five books on the Gospel of Matthew”. Marcus Julius Filippus was emperor between 244 and 249 CE, and Origen accordingly wrote these two works during this time.

[219] Origen, On Matthew, 10:17; The original Greek text followed by two English translations:

”Ἰάκωβος δὲ ἐστιν οὗτος ὃν λέγει Παῦλος ἰδεῖν ἐν τῆ πρὸς Γαλάτας ἐπιστολῇ, εἰπών· Ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον δὲ διέλεμψεν οὖτος ὁ Ἰάκωβος ἐν τῷ λαῷ ἐπὶ δικαιοσύνη ὡς Φλάβιον Ἰώσηπον ἀναγράψαντα ἐν εἴκοσι βιβλίοις τὴν Ἰουδαϊκὴν ἀρχαιολογίαν, τὴν αἰτίαν παραστῆσαι βουλόμενον τοῦ τὰ τοσαῦτα πεπονθέναι τὸν λαὸν ὡς καὶ τὸν ναὸν κατασκαφῆναι, εἰρηκέναι κατὰ μῆνιν θεοῦ ταῦτα αὐτοῖς ἀπηντηκέναι διὰ τὰ εἰς Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν τετολμημένα. καὶ τὸ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν ὅτι, τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἡμῶν οὐ καταδεξάμενος εἶναι Χριστόν, οὐδὲν ἧττον Ἰακώβῳ δικαιοσύνην ἐμαρτύρησε τοσαύτην. λέγει δὲ ὅτι καὶ ὁ λαὸς ταῦτα ἐνόμιζε διὰ τὸν Ἰάκωβον πεπονθέναι.” (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, On Matthew 10.17)

“But James is this one whom Paul says that he saw in the epistle to the Galatians, saying: But I did not see any of the other apostles except James the brother of the Lord. And in such a way among the people did this James shine for his justice that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Judaic Antiquities in twenty books, wishing to demonstrate the cause why the people suffered such great things that even the temple was razed down, said that these things came to pass against them in accordance with the ire of God on account of the things which were dared by them against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wondrous thing is that, although he did not accept our Jesus to be Christ, he yet testified that the justice of James was not at all small; and he says that even the people supposed they had suffered these things on account of James.” (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, On Matthew 10.17)

“And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.” (Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, Book X by Origen, translated by John Patrick, Chapter 17)

[220] Origen, Against Celsus 1:47; The original Greek text followed by two English translations:

”Ἐν γὰρ τῷ ὀκτωκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς Ἰουδαϊκῆς ἀρχαιολογίας ὁ Ἰώσηπος μαρτυρεῖ τῷ Ἰωάννῃ ὡς βαπτιστῇ γεγενημένῳ καὶ καθάρσιον τοῖς βαπτισαμένοις ἐπαγγελλομένῳ. ὁ δ᾿ αὐτός, καίτοι γε ἀπιστῶν τῷ Ἰησοῦ ὡς Χριστῷ, ζητῶν τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων πτώσεως καὶ τῆς τοῦ ναοῦ καθαιρέσεως, δέον αὐτὸν εἰπεῖν ὅτι ἡ κατὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐπιβουλὴ τούτων αἰτία γέγονε τῷ λαῷ, ἐπεὶ ἀπέκτειναν τὸν προφητευόμενον Χριστόν, ὁ δὲ καὶ ὥσπερ ἄκων οὐ μακρὰν τῆς ἀληθείας γενόμενός φησι ταῦτα συμβεβηκέναι τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις κατ᾿ ἐκδίκησιν Ἰακώβου τοῦ δικαίου, ὃς ἦν ἀδελφὸς Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ, ἐπειδήπερ δικαιότατον αὐτὸν ὄντα ἀπέκτειναν. τὸν δὲ Ἰάκωβον τοῦτον ὁ Ἰησοῦ γνήσιος μαθητὴς Παῦλός φησιν ἑωρακέναι ὡς ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου, οὐ τοσοῦτον διὰ τὸ πρὸς αἵματος συγγενὲς ἢ τὴν κοινὴν αὐτῶν ἀνατροφὴν ὅσον διὰ τὸ ἦθος καὶ τὸν λόγον. εἴπερ οὖν διὰ Ἰάκωβον λέγει συμβεβηκέναι τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις τὰ κατὰ τὴν ἐρήμωσιν τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ, πῶς οὐχὶ εὐλογώτερον διὰ Ἰησοῦν τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦτο φάσκειν γεγονέναι”. (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, Against Celsus 1:47)

“For in the eighteenth volume of the Judaic Antiquities Josephus testifies to John as having been a baptist and promised cleansing to those who were baptized. But he himself, though not believing in Jesus as Christ, in seeking the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these things happening to the people, since they killed the prophecied Christ, even says, being unwillingly not far from the truth, that these things befell the Jews as vengeance for James the just, who was a brother of Jesus who is called Christ, since they killed him who was most just. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he saw this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood or of their common upbringing as on account of his ethics and speech. If, therefore, he says that the things surrounding the desolation of Jerusalem befell the Jews on account of James, how is it not more reasonable to say that it happened on account of Jesus the Christ?” (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, Against Celsus 1:47)

“For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),-the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ”. (Origen, Contra Celsus 1:47, translated by Frederick Crombie)

[221] Origen, Against Celsus 2:13. The original Greek text followed by two English translations:

”Τοῦτο γὰρ ἤρξατο μὲν ἔτι Νέρωνος βασιλεύοντος, παρέτεινε δὲ ἕως τῆς Οὐεσπασιανοῦ ἡγεμονίας, οὗ ὁ υἱὸς Τίτος καθεῖλε τὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ, ὡς μὲν Ἰώσηπος γράφει, διὰ Ἰάκωβον τὸν δίκαιον, τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ, ὡς δὲ ἡ ἀλήθεια παρίστησι, διὰ Ἰησοῦν τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.” (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, Against Celsus 2.13)

“For this [siege] began while Nero was still being king, and it lasted until the leadership of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, as Josephus writes, on account of James the just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but, as the truth demonstrates, [actually] on account of Jesus the Christ of God.” (Ben C. Smith, Text Excavation, Origen on Josephus, Against Celsus 2.13)

“Now in these it is recorded, that ‘when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then shall you know that the desolation thereof is nigh.’ But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” (Origen, Contra Celsus 2:13, translated by Frederick Crombie)

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