The Testimony Of Josephus Concerning Jesus -- By: Herbert W. Magoun

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:274 (Apr 1912)
Article: The Testimony Of Josephus Concerning Jesus
Author: Herbert W. Magoun


The Testimony Of Josephus Concerning Jesus

Herbert W. Magoun, Ph.D.

Flavius Josephus, otherwise known as Joseph ben Matthias, was born about seven years after the crucifixion of Christ. He did not survive his sixty-third year apparently, for he died not far from 100 a.d., possibly by violence, soon after or near the close of the reign of Domitian. Of priestly descent and related to the Maccabees, he was intimately acquainted with Jewish traditions and beliefs, but he was also an admirer, and seemingly an honest one, of Rome and her institutions. Loyalty to his own people led him to oppose the Roman power, however, until he sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of Vespasian. Accepting the inevitable, he then went over to the standard of his conqueror and remained faithful to the end.

His youth was spent in Jerusalem, so far as is known, but at the age of twenty-six he went to Rome and remained there for a time. He returned deeply impressed by what he had seen, but still loyally Jewish. Soon after this he was intrusted with important missions in Galilee by the authorities at Jerusalem, with whom he seems to have been on intimate terms, and he thus became familiar with all the peculiarities of that turbulent province. His experiences there were many and varied, and he had ample time and opportunity to learn all that was to be known of the region and its people.

His later years were devoted to writing, and his histories are remarkable both for their fullness of detail and for their comprehensiveness. They form, indeed, the most important source of information concerning his times that the world now possesses. Personally, he appears to have been by nature deeply religious; and one of the reasons which he gives for undertaking a history at all, is the habitual perversion of the truth concerning these things, displayed by others in their writings. He thus binds himself in advance to be fair and accurate in his statements, and he professes to have set forth the facts without bias in all that he has to say. He even asks indulgence for such lamentations over the misfortunes of his people as he has admitted into his account of the wars, on the ground that those parts of his work are to be regarded as personal rather than as historical elements.

In his “Antiquities of the Jews” he has this to say concerning Jesus: —

“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 amongst us, had...

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