Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Discussion' started by Aidan, Sep 21, 2017.
im interested in finding out which contemporaneous non-Christians wrote of Jesus
Josephus and Pliny the Younger and the consular records of Roman executions are some of the non-Christian sources.
Josephus made a few mentions of Him in his writings. One of them is troubling, however, since it seems that it had been edited. It reads:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
Critics claim that a Jew couldn't have written these things, since he seems to accept the Resurrection as fact, hints at Jesus' divinity, etc. It's possible that Josephus wrote this as it is, but it's more likely that Josephus wrote about Jesus to some extent, and someone edited it later to try and help prove Jesus' divinity and such. This would have happened before the time of Eusebius the historian, since he references this writing as it's written here. I think that leaves about a two hundred year window for someone to have altered the text.
Which is quite silly because the early Apostles were all Jews, and for the early part of its history was a predominantly Judaic faith. St Peter's actually name? Simon bar Jonah. St Paul was Saul. Etc. Jesus was Jewish and came to preach to the Jews predominantly, and most of his time was spent among the Jews. While some disliked him others adored him as Messiah and the Son of God. Many others were in the middle, intrigued. There is nothing improbable in Josephus being the latter, especially since Christians were persecuted during the Roman Empire and no one was in a position to edit the scrolls of a famous Jewish Historian.
I'm aware of this. When the critics of the passage say "Jew", they don't mean it in the same way that one might say St. Peter was a Jew. While Peter was Jewish, he was also a Christian. There's no reason to believe that Josephus became a Christian, which is why critics claim that he couldn't have written such things as, "He was the Messiah" or "He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life". So, while he may have been intrigued, that doesn't account for the way the passage is worded. His original text probably went something like this:
About this time lived Jesus, a wise man. He was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accepted the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
It's possible that some variation of the sentences I didn't include were in place, but as I said, one couldn't really profess that Jesus was the Messiah without becoming a Christian. That's why it seems more likely to me that the scrolls were interpolated here. There is at least one other reference to Jesus, though, and my understanding is that the whole thing is considered legitimate. It makes mention to the "brother of Jesus" and how he was executed, I believe.
We should realize that stating those things did not necessarily mean he was a full blown Christian. There were in fact many claimants to being Messiah in the ancient Hebrew world. Judah Maccabee claimed to be a messiah in the Maccabean wars of the 2nd century BC.
Simon bar Kokhba was considered by many to be the messiah during the reign of Hadrian.
The way that Hebrew theology worked at the time, you could even accept multiple messiahs existing at once. That's why even after the Apostles considered Jesus to be the messiah they still did not believe in his uniqueness or divinity.
So Josephus says Jesus was a messiah or was claimed to be a messiah, it's all the same. It doesn't confer on Jesus a divine status or make Josephus a Christian. But Josephus also wasn't weaponized against Christianity like later Jews became; he saw no harm in according to Iesus the status that many Jews gave him at the time.
I'm not saying that labeling Jesus as a Messiah suggests His divine status- Josephus' earlier comment, "if indeed one ought to call him a man" would suggest it.
There were a few "Jewish hopes" for the Messiah. One of them was that the Messiah would destroy the Roman Empire- or at least restore Israel's independence. Another was that the Messiah would be a "new Moses" and lead a new Exodus. I'm sure there were several others that I simply can't remember right now, but "the" Messiah (as opposed to "a" messiah) was expected to be different from any of the judges in the Hebrew Bible. I suppose we would have to know what Josephus' own beliefs were about what the Messiah would be before determining what he meant to suggest by saying this (if we assume that these are truly his words).
As for your comment that "the Apostles [...] still did not believe in his uniqueness or divinity"- what makes you say that?
Basically, right. But since we can't ask him what he thought, just going by the general Jewish consensus at the time is what we can go by. As an average Jew of that era he'd have no problem in seeing a messiah in a major a Jewish leader, or even accepting several Messianic claimants simultaneously.
Simply from the fact that Simon bar Jonah (Peter) denied him three times. The other Apostles did as well. Plus they were completely depressed at his crucifixion and death, as if their journey had come to an end. And if nothing else, he had not claimed divinity yet, revealed it yet at the Transfiguration.
On the visible plane he was just a Jewish teacher, a rabbi, who later seemed like a Messiah until he was killed and it was over. Everybody was completely unprepared for his resurrection and signs of divinity in the last chapter of each Gospel.
Okay, I get what you're saying. I disagree that events such as Peter's denial would mean they didn't get the idea, but I can understand how the crucifixion could cast doubt.
I was worried you were saying that the Apostles were unaware at all.