The Jesus Passages in Josephus – a Case Study, part 3g – ”The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”: Origen’s knowledge; Church Father Eusebius

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
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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 3g 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

Church Father Eusebius

Church Father Eusebius was convinced that the passage on James’ death and the Jews’ misfortune referred to by Origen, was a different passage than the one about the dismissal of Ananus as a consequence of him having executed James. In the early fourth century in his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius is you see referring to two passages in Josephus. In the 23rd chapter of book two he first recounts what Hegesippus in a now lost work wrote about James, and then what Josephus said of James’ death. It may be appropriate to here reproduce a long quotation from Eusebius after he first has told about how James was preaching from the pinnacle of the temple.

”The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, – – – So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said, ‘I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, ‘Cease, what do ye? The just one prayeth for you. And one of them, who was a fuller,[226] took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them. These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says: These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man. And the same writer also records his death in the twentieth book of his Antiquities in the following words: But the emperor, when he learned of the death of Festus, sent Albinus to be procurator of Judea. But the younger Ananus, who, as we have already said, had obtained the high priesthood, was of an exceedingly bold and reckless disposition. He belonged, moreover, to the sect of the Sadducees, who are the most cruel of all the Jews in the execution of judgment, as we have already shown. Ananus, therefore, being of this character, and supposing that he had a favorable opportunity on account of the fact that Festus was dead, and Albinus was still on the way, called together the Sanhedrin, and brought before them the brother of Jesus called Christ, James by name, together with some others, and accused them of violating the law, and condemned them to be stoned.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:23:12, 16–22)[227]

After Eusebius has reported on Hegesippus’ view, that Jerusalem’s fate was sealed because of the martyrdom of James, he points out that also Josephus testified the same thing: “These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ.” This is accordingly the same information as given by Origen, and apart from a variation on the opening words also verbatim as in Against Celsus 1:47. Directly after this Eusebius says that Josephus “records his death also in the twentieth book of his Antiquities”, after which Eusebius reproduces the story about Ananus which now is found in book 20. For this reason there is no doubt that Eusebius considered Origen’s references to the things Josephus would have written about James, as yet another passage in Josephus and not the same as the existing James passage.

These circumstances lead to three possible scenarios: 1) That Eusebius had access to manuscripts of Josephus in which both references to James occurred; 2) That his manuscripts contained only one reference to James, and that Eusebius, referring to Origen, assumed that there also must be an additional one elsewhere; 3) That his manuscripts did not contain anything at all about Jesus, and that Eusebius took the information from Origen and made up the second story of James himself.

Since neither Origen nor Eusebius says where Josephus should have written that Jerusalem was destroyed because of the murder of James by the Jews, it is reasonable to assume that Eusebius on the basis of the things Origen wrote took for granted that something similar was found in Josephus and that he therefore quoted this as if it came from Josephus without knowing from where.

If he really had known where this passage occurred in Josephus, he should have said so, precisely as he did with the passage on Ananus. The fact that the wording is identical in Eusebius and Origen also supports that Eusebius quoted Origen. Around the year 400, Jerome claims that the passage Origen referred to occurred in the eighteenth book of the Antiquities of the Jews:

“In the eighteenth book of his Antiquities he most openly confesses that Christ was slain by the Pharisees on account of the greatness of his miracles, that John the Baptist was truly a prophet, and that Jerusalem was destroyed because of the murder of James the apostle.” (Jerome, De Viris Illustribus 13)[228]

This piece of information is however uncertain because it may be a failure in wording by Jerome, which makes it seem as if he meant that also the information “that Jerusalem was destroyed because of the murder of James the apostle” appeared in book eighteen. Jerome may in fact have meant that only the first two – the Testimonium and John the Baptist – were found in book eighteen. This latter approach is supported by the fact that Jerome on the whole is rather careless with his information, which should cast a shadow of suspicion on also his “he was believed to be the Messiah” in De Viris Illustribus. When he in the same book recounts the same story about James as the one quoted in Eusebius above, he claims that Josephus, as well as Clement of Alexandria, among other things have written that Ananus “tried to force James to deny that Christ is the son of God”, that James was “cast down from a pinnacle of the temple”, broke his legs, prayed for his executioners, and then a fuller beat him to death with his club.

It is evident that these are Christian legends. If one should believe the things Jerome says, he had access to a manuscript of the Antiquities of the Jews in which obvious Christian legends about James was recorded. If one does not believe this, one instead must distrust Jerome as informant. Since Jerome relies on Eusebius in De Viris Illustribus, and Eusebius attributes this information to Hegesippus and Clement, Jerome probably just made it appear as if Josephus had written this.[229]

The most likely scenario is consequently that Origen in the mid third century had a manuscript of the Antiquities of the Jews, which said that the fall of Jerusalem was a consequence of the Jews having killed James. If so, this was an addition to a particular line of manuscripts which eventually became extinct. Another possibility is that Origen took the information from memory and his memory simply was at fault; that he simply thought that this was in Josephus.

Since Origen does not quotes Josephus or give any details of in which book the information occurred (compare this to the passage on John the Baptist, which Origen says occurred in the eighteenth book), he may have taken the information from memory and mixed up Josephus’ testimony with Hegesippus’ depiction, or with whatever he had heard someone else tell.

Roger Viklund, 2011-04-07


[226] A fuller is a worker who cleanses wool by fulling. In ancient time this often meant pounding the cloth with a club.

[227] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:23:12–24:

”ἔστησαν οὖν οἱ προειρημένοι γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι τὸν Ἰάκωβον ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ναοῦ, καὶ ἔκραξαν αὐτῶι καὶ εἶπαν· δίκαιε, ὧι πάντες πείθεσθαι ὀφείλομεν, ἐπεὶ ὁ λαὸς πλανᾶται ὀπίσω Ἰησοῦ τοῦ σταυρωθέντος, ἀπάγγειλον ἡμῖν τίς ἡ θύρα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο φωνῆι μεγάληι· τί με ἐπερωτᾶτε περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, καὶ αὐτὸς κάθηται ἐν τῶι οὐρανῶι ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς μεγάλης δυνάμεως, καὶ μέλλει ἔρχεσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ; καὶ πολλῶν πληροφορηθέντων καὶ δοξαζόντων ἐπὶ τῆι μαρτυρίαι τοῦ Ἰακώβου καὶ λεγόντων· ὡσαννὰ τῶι υἱῶι Δαυίδ, τότε πάλιν οἱ αὐτοὶ γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔλεγον· κακῶς ἐποιήσαμεν τοιαύτην μαρτυρίαν παρασχόντες τῶι Ἰησοῦ· ἀλλὰ ἀναβάντες καταβάλωμεν αὐτόν, ἵνα φοβηθέντες μὴ πιστεύσωσιν αὐτῶι. καὶ ἔκραξαν λέγοντες· ὢ ὤ, καὶ ὁ δίκαιος ἐπλανήθη, καὶ ἐπλήρωσαν τὴν γραφὴν τὴν ἐν τῶι Ἡσαΐαι γεγραμμένην· ἄρωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν. τοίνυν τὰ γενήματα τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν φάγονται. ἀναβάντες οὖν κατέβαλον τὸν δίκαιον. καὶ ἔλεγον ἀλλήλοις· λιθάσωμεν Ἰάκωβον τὸν δίκαιον, καὶ ἤρξαντο λιθάζειν αὐτόν, ἐπεὶ καταβληθεὶς οὐκ ἀπέθανεν· ἀλλὰ στραφεὶς ἔθηκε τὰ γόνατα λέγων· παρακαλῶ, κύριε θεὲ πάτερ, ἄφες αὐτοῖς· οὐ γὰρ οἴδασιν τί ποιοῦσιν. οὕτως δὲ καταλιθοβολούντων αὐτόν, εἷς τῶν ἱερέων τῶν υἱῶν Ῥηχὰβ υἱοῦ Ῥαχαβείμ, τῶν μαρτυρουμένων ὑπὸ Ἱερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου, ἔκραζεν λέγων· παύσασθε· τί ποιεῖτε; εὔχεται ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ὁ δίκαιος. καὶ λαβών τις ἀπ’ αὐτῶν, εἷς τῶν γναφέων, τὸ ξύλον, ἐν ὧι ἀποπιέζει τὰ ἱμάτια, ἤνεγκεν κατὰ τῆς κεφαλῆς τοῦ δικαίου, καὶ οὕτως ἐμαρτύρησεν. καὶ ἔθαψαν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῶι τόπωι παρὰ τῶι ναῶι, καὶ ἔτι αὐτοῦ ἡ στήλη μένει παρὰ τῶι ναῶι. μάρτυς οὗτος ἀληθὴς Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν γεγένηται ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν. καὶ εὐθὺς Οὐεσπασιανὸς πολιορκεῖ αὐτούς». ταῦτα διὰ πλάτους, συνῷδά γε τῷ Κλήμεντι καὶ ὁ Ἡγήσιππος οὕτω δὲ ἄρα θαυμάσιός τις ἦν καὶ παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἅπασιν ἐπὶ δικαιοσύνῃ βεβόητο ὁ Ἰάκωβος, ὡς καὶ τοὺς Ἰουδαίων ἔμφρονας δοξάζειν ταύτην εἶναι τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὸ μαρτύριον αὐτοῦ πολιορκίας τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ, ἣν δι᾿ οὐδὲν ἕτερον αὐτοῖς συμβῆναι ἢ διὰ τὸ κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ τολμηθὲν ἄγος. ἀμέλει γέ τοι ὁ Ἰώσηπος οὐκ ἀπώκνησεν καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἐγγράφως ἐπιμαρτύρασθαι δι᾿ ὧν φησιν λέξεων· «ταῦτα δὲ συμβέβηκεν Ἰουδαίοις κατ᾿ ἐκδίκησιν Ἰακώβου τοῦ δικαίου, ὃς ἦν ἀδελφὸς Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ, ἐπειδήπερ δικαιότατον αὐτὸν ὄντα οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀπέκτειναν». ὁ δ᾿ αὐτὸς καὶ τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐν εἰκοστῷ τῆς Ἀρχαιολογίας δηλοῖ διὰ τούτων· «πέμπει δὲ Καῖσαρ Ἀλβίνον εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν ἔπαρχον, Φήστου τὴν τελευτὴν πυθόμενος. ὁ δὲ νεώτερος Ἄνανος, ὃν τὴν ἀρχιερωσύνην εἴπαμεν παρειληφέναι, θρασὺς ἦν τὸν τρόπον καὶ τολμητὴς διαφερόντως, αἵρεσιν δὲ μετῄει τὴν Σαδδουκαίων, οἵπερ εἰσὶ περὶ τὰς κρίσεις ὠμοὶ παρὰ πάντας τοὺς Ἰουδαίους, καθὼς ἤδη δεδηλώκαμεν. ἅτε δὴ οὖν τοιοῦτος ὢν ὁ Ἄνανος, νομίσας ἔχειν καιρὸν ἐπιτήδειον διὰ τὸ τεθνάναι μὲν Φῆστον, Ἀλβῖνον δ᾿ ἔτι κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ὑπάρχειν, καθίζει συνέδριον κριτῶν, καὶ παραγαγὼν εἰς αὐτὸ τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰησοῦ, τοῦ Χριστοῦ, λεγομένου Ἰάκωβος ὄνομα αὐτῷ, καί τινας ἑτέρους, ὡς παρανομησάντων κατηγορίαν ποιησάμενος, παρέδωκεν λευσθησομένους.”

”The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: ‘Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, forasmuch as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.’ And he answered with a loud voice, ‘Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven. And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, ‘We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him. And they cried out, saying, ‘Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, ‘Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’ So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said, ‘I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, ‘Cease, what do ye? The just one prayeth for you. And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them. These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says: These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man. And the same writer also records his death in the twentieth book of his Antiquities in the following words: But the emperor, when he learned of the death of Festus, sent Albinus to be procurator of Judea. But the younger Ananus, who, as we have already said, had obtained the high priesthood, was of an exceedingly bold and reckless disposition. He belonged, moreover, to the sect of the Sadducees, who are the most cruel of all the Jews in the execution of judgment, as we have already shown. Ananus, therefore, being of this character, and supposing that he had a favorable opportunity on account of the fact that Festus was dead, and Albinus was still on the way, called together the Sanhedrin, and brought before them the brother of Jesus called Christ, James by name, together with some others, and accused them of violating the law, and condemned them to be stoned.”

[228] Jerome, De Viris Illustribus 13; The Latin text followed by Roberts’ and Donaldson’s English translation:

”hic in decimo octavo antiquitatum libro manifestissime confitetur propter magnitudinem signorum Christum a Pharisaeis interfectum, et Ioannem baptistam vere prophetam fuisse, et propter interfectionem Iacobi apostoli dirutam Hierosolymam.”

“In the eighteenth book of his Antiquities he most openly confesses that Christ was slain by the Pharisees on account of the greatness of his miracles, that John the Baptist was truly a prophet, and that Jerusalem was destroyed because of the murder of James the apostle.”

Some manuscript has the eighth (Vaticanus, V, octavo) and some the thirteenth (Bernensis, B, tertio decimo) instead of the eighteenth (decimo octavo). Given that he refers to the Testimonium and John the Baptist; passages which are found in Book 18, this is obviously copying errors from the Latin (8, 13, 18 – VIII, XIII, XVIII). (Ben C. Smith at Freeratio.org)

[229] In De Viris Illustribus 2, where Jerome otherwise relies heavily on Eusebius, he renders approximately the same things that Eusebius told about, albeit with one significant difference. He first describes the things Hegesippus is supposed to have written about James’ piety (the same as in Eusebius), after which he immediately writes:

”He [Hegesippus] says also many other things, too numerous to mention. Josephus also in the 20th book of his Antiquities, and Clement in the 7th of his Outlines mention that on the death of Festus who reigned over Judea, Albinus was sent by Nero as his successor. Before he had reached his province, Ananias the high priest, the youthful son of Ananus of the priestly class taking advantage of the state of anarchy, assembled a council and publicly tried to force James to deny that Christ is the son of God. When he refused Ananius ordered him to be stoned. Cast down from a pinnacle of the temple, his legs broken, but still half alive, raising his hands to heaven he said, “Lord forgive them for they know not what they do.” Then struck on the head by the club of a fuller such a club as fullers are accustomed to wring out garments with—he died. This same Josephus records the tradition that this James was of so great sanctity and reputation among the people that the downfall of Jerusalem was believed to be on account of his death.” (Jerome, De Viris Illustribus 2)

The fact that Jerome at the end writes that “this same Josephus records the tradition …” indicates that Josephus also would have written everything accounted for earlier. But that information is found in Eusebius (on whom Jerome relies) and are then said to have come from Clement and Hegesippus.

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