Josephus

 Josephus: His Reference to J’shua (Jesus), “The  Wonder Worker”

 

Much debate, sometimes very heated, surrounds the fact (or as some would say otherwise) of the historical Jesus.

The controversy took on new impetus in the 17th Century, when individuals and groups with vested interests to promote, used their not inconsiderable influence to promote the idea that the Jesus of the Bible was a myth of the making of the early Church, and not worthy of serious consideration by ‘serious’ people!

Others had much more serious motives for disputing Jesus, such as many Jewish groups, who only wished/wish to adhere to the ‘Torah’.

Leaving aside the fact that the present ‘Torah’ is not the original up to the time of Ezra, the Jewish lobby has become one of the most vociferous voices against Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament (NT). 

That is not surprising, as John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostle Paul berated the Jewish Hierarchy of the day for adhering to the Pharisaic writings, instead of the Originals given to Moses etc.  It is recorded and well known by the Jews that the Pharisees in particular were "very flexible" in their interpretations of Torah, and this is confirmed by the Qumran Scrolls.  Of the main 'schools', or Groups of the day, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essens; the Pharisees became dominant, and at the time of the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, only the "Judaism of the Pharisees", known as "Rabbinic Judaism" prevailed! 

The Scrolls record that at the very time of the visitation by Jesus, the religion of the Jews was in transition from the Judaism of the Bible, to that of the Judaism of the Rabbi's, as expounded in the "Mishnah", a 3rd cent. AD compilation of Jewish laws and customs, on which modern Judaism is based! 

The Original Torah, witnessed to the Advent of The Messiah of Almighty God, and the ‘evidential’ Miracles that He would perform, these are well described in Isa. 29:18, 35:4-6, and 61:1-3. 

As is well known, as the Bible relates, the Jewish Hierarchy rejected both Jesus, and His ‘works of wonder’! 

Others, such as Richard Montague, Bishop of Chichester, and latterly Norwich, in attempting to find a middle road between Roman Catholics and Calvinism; in the polemics of the time, also seemed to cast doubt on the comments of Josephus re. Jesus. 

The reference in point is Antiquities 18:63. (Approx. AD 80).

 

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly.  He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.  He was the Messiah.  When he was indicted by the principle men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvellous things about Him.  And the tribe of Christians, so named after Him, has not disappeared to this day”.

 

It is argued that Josephus as a non Christian Jew, and as an educated Pharisee, could not have written thus, and that the wording was corrupted by later Christian copyists. 

However, it is well known that many reputable Writers and Historians starting with Cornelius Tacitus, have taken the words of Josephus, after consideration, to be his unadulterated words, and have referred to them as fact.  This process started approx. AD 100 up to approx. AD 1600; and the main point of discussion is "did Josephus mean "is" the Christ, or is "called" The Christ"?  The majority concluding that as Josephus was known as "the seeker of truth", and was/is of high standing as an Historian, that his account was to be trusted.

The resistance however continues, especially from Orthodox Jewry, as it does not suit their theology in their "later writings"; which exclude all reference to the Prophecies of Messiah being interpreted as Jesus of Nazareth; which Josephus' account challenges; especially as he was a Pharisee! 

In 1972, a Jewish Professor, Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered an Arab manuscript of the 10th century historian Agapius in which the disputed Josephan passage is expressed so exactly as above, that he concluded that the western copy is authentic after all, and gave again more credence to Josephus. 

This of course does not satisfy many people, especially the Jews, but, academics specialising in the history of the subject are agreed to at least 75% consensus that the Josephus account is authentic.

The fact is also that the published agreement of ‘approx. 75%’, is certainly conservative, and the probable ‘real’ consensus is nearer 90%!

This is backed up by the 'Academic Criterion', which relates to the number of manuscripts extant, and acceptable as 'authentic copies' within the 'Academic Criterion'.

In the case of the above quote from Josephus, there are more than 24,000 New Testament (NT) manuscripts which correlate to the authenticity of the statement, which would normally be more than enough to produce academic agreement!  However, because of the delicate nature of the subject, and its importance to all mankind in the eternal sense, so called 'normal' rules of academic approval are bypassed!

For example, the Iliad by Homer has only just over 600 documents to confirm, and is not apparently challenged! 

There is also ongoing work on the so called ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ from Qumran, and some fragments seem at present to confirm controversial points; however more work has yet to be done before academia is prepared to concede to full support of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. 

These Scrolls were almost certainly produced by the 'Essenes' who were a Sect of Jews existing between BC 200 and AD 100.  They separated themselves from the mainstream of Judaism of the day, because they disagreed with the corruption as they saw it of the Original Torah by particularly the Sect of the Pharisees, whose writings conflicted with the original Torah, and were started at some time after the death of Ezra, and well developed by the 1st Advent of Jesus.  See: Changes Made To The Old Testament 

The conflict between the two Groups over the veracity of observance of the "original Tanach", was probably brought to a head, by the First Advent of Jesus, and it is speculated by Dr. Ginsburg (the famous Hebrew Scholar of Massorah fame: Dr. David Ginsburg: ), that by AD 40, "the Essens had probably become followers of Jesus"!

That, “we hear very little of them (the Essenes) after A.D. 40; and there can hardly be any doubt that the Essenes as a body must have embraced Christianity" Dr. Christian David Ginsburg, The Essenes, 1864.

This interesting observation is emphasised, as the Essens would have experienced the death and Resurrection of Jesus, in AD 30, and their writings ended by AD 50! 

Some say that Jesus of Nazareth was of their Group, and that is because He condemned the Jewish Hierarchy of His day, along with John the Baptist on the same grounds as the Essenes.  The idea is given prominence because of ref. in the Scrolls to "the teacher of righteousness".  It is unlikely that is the case, as Jesus always claimed His Inspiration and Words as directly from His Father, Jehovah Zebaoth!  Also, He chose His own disciples (which was not the practice of the day, the reverse was the case) and was not separated from the mainstream of life, as were the Essenes.  That being the case, they could have joined Jesus, but not the reverse.  That would explain, as per Dr. Ginsburg's comment, the "disappearance" of the Essens. 

It is important to examine the work on the Scrolls, as this is where the focus of the sceptics and academics is currently.

For nearly 50 years after the discovery of the Scrolls in 1947 in the Dead Sea area of what is now Israel; the release for general consumption of the work on the Scrolls by the academics in Jerusalem was held back.  After concerted pressure by interested parties, in 1991 some of the results were released. These have caused considerable excitement, and are still controversial. 

Bearing in mind that all the scrolls were written prior to AD 68, and were buried up to that date, after which the Romans destroyed and disbanded all they could of Judaism's establishment; that date makes the findings in the scrolls of critical importance to the date context of the 4 Gospels, and other of the writings of the New Testament (NT).  The fact that they are so close to the life of Jesus, means that if they were not true accounts of His life and happenings, many would have stated such at the time.  As it is, doubt has been cast only relatively recently on their authenticity, mainly by Jewish lobbyists, as they state that in Rabbinical Judaism, the Messiah will be a human figure, not related to God. 

It is of great interest to note that 'Cave 4' produced all the Old Testament (OT) books with the exception of the book of Esther.

It was found that the scrolls were almost identical (except for small spelling differences) to the Hebrew manuscript copies that exist, the LXX (Septaugint), leading to the Greek N.T. and Textus Receptus, or Received Text; used for the KJV of the Bible!  The fact of this accuracy, with a time span difference of approx. 1,500 years lends great credibility to any further findings and conclusions. 

One of the later releases (4Q246) looks to confirm Luke 1:32 & 35, referring to Messiah as "the Son of God", and "Son of the Most High"!  These are the words used by Luke!  Also, the same reference would imply and confirm the early writing of Luke's Gospel as an eyewitness, which has considerable bearing on the above quoted Academic Criterion!  The same fragments refer to Deut. 6:4, and the three "manifestations" of Almighty God, which the Roman Church called the "Trinity"!  Reference is also made to the "feeding of the 5000" in Mark 6:52 & 53. 

Eight sections of Cave 7 Scroll (7Q5) refer to the New Testament, including Mark 6:52-53, referring to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  Also quoted; Mk. 4:28, 6:48, 12:17, Acts 27:38, Rms. 5:11-12, 1Tim. 3:16 and James 1:23-24.  The fact of their late writing by these conclusions, gives credence to the claim of "eye witness" by the Gospel writers, although the powerful Atheist and Jewish lobby are attempting to deny this.  There is general academic agreement that these writings date between BC 50-AD 50! 

There are yet 400 more Scrolls to be released.  This should happen in the next few years, and there is considerable pressure from the various lobbies for this to be a transparent process! 

It is understandable that especially the Jews are concerned that Jesus be not established as an historic certainty, as they have been looking for their Promised Messiah for generations, but will not accept that they have got their interpretation of Scripture wrong, and especially the "Pharisaic writings", the so called "Wisdom Writings"!  See: Jewish Scriptures:    

They have been fighting especially the Apostle Paul’s interpretation of the OT Scriptures, because his message goes against the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus day, and Rabbinical Judaism, the ‘Wisdom’ writings since Ezra, which have been incorporated into the official ‘Torah’.  See: Apostle Paul: and  Apostle Paul's Accusers.  

There are many articles to be referred to under Google listing, some by distinguished academics discussing this issue. 

The fact is that when read and correlated, the consensus is as stated above, or very close.  Most of the contributors are serious men of learning, without an apparent agenda to maintain.

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