Josephus On the Historicity of 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 condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, have not disappeared to this day. –  Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.3.3

This quote is perhaps, the most famous passage in all the works of the first century historian Josephus. The reason it is so is because it provides an extensive account of Jesus that doesn’t exist in almost any other ancient non-Christian text in the world, and is amazingly early as well. The attestation of Josephus is perhaps the nail in the coffin for mythicism. Mythicism is laughed at by all respected historians in the world, but it must still be crushed as internet populists tend to believe whatever they are told. This single phrase in the works of Josephus perhaps can single handedly dismiss the entire nausea of mythicism… But is it authentic?

Historians in fact believe that this passage is not fully authentic. The reason is quite simple. Josephus, in this passage, recounts Jesus as the literal Messiah (Christ), say that He rose from the dead, was prophesied and did many miracles, and in the phrase “a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man” — we have an implication of Jesus being more then just a man. This would be an impossible saying of Josephus, because not only was Josephus not a believer in Jesus, Josephus was the very type of Jew condemned in the New Testament, a Pharisee! But it also obviously isn’t fully forged, either. Historians have already figured out that the passage in question is only partially interpolated and in its original form does mention Jesus, in fact, as we will see, we probably know what the original form of this passage was later on.

As I mentioned earlier, the passage of Josephus here is obviously not a forgery and that is because it is simply filled with Josephan language.

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 condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day. –  Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.3.3

The phrase in the beginning of this passage says “Now there was about this time..” — this phrase is used hundreds of times in the writings of Josephus to introduce new topics, and so is markedly Josephan. Secondly, Josephus references Jesus as a “wise man”, and this title is found nowhere in early Christian texts to refer to Jesus. Rather, Josephus personally uses the phrase “wise man” to refer to several people, such as Solomon and David. Furthermore, Josephus here refers to Christians as a “tribe”, which is a phrase that is not used by Christians to refer to themselves — this term is a term used by Josephus to reference other sects, nations or distinctive groups. In fact, if this was a Christian forgery, one must ask, as the scholar John Meier did, why did it reference Christians as a group that should have gone extinct? Finally, as Tim O’Neill puts it, “with the sole exception of Χριστιανῶν (“Christianon” – “Christians”) every single word in the passage can be found elsewhere in Josephus’ writings” — so the evidence is clearly heavily stacked in favor of partial authenticity, especially considering the fact that this quotation of Josephus is found in all surviving manuscripts of the works of Josephus.

As noted earlier, this is exactly the position that historians take. Louis H. Feldman surveyed 52 scholars between 1937 to 1980 and found that 39 of them favored partial authenticity. After surveying 13 books on this passage since the year 1980 on this passage, Peter Kirby seems to find an increasing trend of favoring partial authenticity when he concludes “In my own reading of thirteen books since 1980 that touch upon the passage, ten out of thirteen argue the (Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.3.4 passage) to be partly genuine, while the other three maintain it to be entirely spurious. Coincidentally, the same three books also argue that Jesus did not exist” — which quite conclusively shows the view of academia on the subject.

So what did the original passage say?

I will now cite the text of Josephus as quoted by the 10th century Arab writer Agapius and the 12th century writer Michael the Syrian.

“Similarly Josephus the Hebrew. For he says in the treatises that he has written on the governance of the Jews: ‘At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.’” (Agapius, Kitâb al-‛unwân 2:15–16)

“The writer Josephus also says in his work on the institutions of the Jews: ‘In these times there was a wise man named Jesus, if it is fitting for us to call him a man. For he was a worker of glorious deeds and a teacher of truth. Many from among the Jews and the nations became his disciples. He was thought to be the Messiah. But not according to the testimony of the principal [men] of [our] nation. Because of this, Pilate condemned him to the cross and he died. For those who had loved him did not cease to love him. He appeared to them alive after three days. For the prophets of God had spoken with regard to him of such marvellous things [as these]. And the people of the Christians, named after him, have not disappeared till [this] day.” (Michael the Syrian, Chronicle 10:20)

In these quotations, I did two things. I bolded the interpolated text and I italicized the text that differs from the standard Josephan text. As you can see, the bolded texts are what scholars consider added on to the original text and not what Josephus originally wrote. However, the more interesting parts of these two quotations is when, although the general text reads that Jesus “was the Christ”, these two quotations from Agapius and Michael render it “was thought to be the Christ” — which likely represents the original, as Josephus would not have declared Jesus as the actual Christ, but simply say in a commentary about him that he was believed to be the Christ. Furthermore, the standard text says “he appeared to them alive after three days”, whereas the quotation of Agapias simply reads “he was reported to have appeared to them” — which also likely represents the original of the text, as Josephus would not have declared that Jesus actually rose from the dead, but mentioned that those who became His disciples reported that He had risen from the dead. Finally, rather than the phrase “he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure” in the standard text, the quotation of Agapias says “And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous” — which is again, much more likely the original text as it removes all miraculous terminology from the phrase we have. In other words, because of these quotations we have of the works of Josephus, it seems that we have even further heavy evidence of partial authenticity, as it seems that we can pinpoint exactly where the interpolations were made. An objection might be made that the quotations of Agapias and Michael are very late (10th and 12th centuryes AD), however the earliest manuscript of Josephus postdates Agapius and hardly predates Michael anyways. All the evidence shows very clearly that the Josephus text is partially authentic, and based on our examination of the text, we can put together a likely original in the following manner;

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.’ And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day. – Authentic Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.3.3

In this text that we reconstructed based on the available evidence we have, there is no sign whatsoever of interpolation or forgery, and the text retains immersed in Josephan language In a summary of all the overwhelming evidence for the partial authenticity of this passage accepted by the majority of modern scholars,

“We can now be as certain as historical research will presently allow that Josephus did refer to Jesus.” – James Charlesworth, PhD, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature

There’s one great thing about Josephus to note, though. Josephus actually references Jesus twice, not once, and he does so the second time in the following passage;

…Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent… – Antiquities of the Jews, XX.9.1

Just to note, I cut off most of the full quotation because it was too long. Aside from that, this passage is held nearly unanimously amongst historians to be completely authentic, as there isn’t a figment of evidence to indicate it is an interpolation or forgery, or any section of this passage for that manner. Edwin Yamauchi says “Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage.” In fact, Origen, an author from 250 AD quotes Antiquities XX.9.1 three times, in Contra Celsum I.4, Contra Celsum II:13 and Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei X.17, so there can be little doubt about the authenticity of this passage considering the overwhelming evidence of its authenticity, and the practical non-existence of evidence to suggest a forgery or interpolation. Apart from the complete debunking of Richard Carrier’s (a mythicist blogger who failed to achieve a career in academia) fanciful attempt to explain away this set-in-stone attestation of Josephus that is supported by all textual evidence, all manuscript evidence and very early quotations from Origen, there is no question regarding the attestation of Jesus in the works of Josephus, and this of course plunges the blade into mythicism. Funnily enough, some internet mythicists like to ignore the works of Josephus because they aren’t contemporary to the lifetime of Jesus, even though Josephus talks about events as early as 40 BC and no one, historian or mythicist alike, doubts the veracity of those passages and subjects in Josephus. As Maurice Casey, whom is an Atheist concludes,

“This view [that Jesus didn’t exist] is demonstrably false. It is fuelled by a regrettable form of atheist prejudice, which holds all the main primary sources, and Christian people, in contempt. …. Most of its proponents are also extraordinarily incompetent.” – Maurice Casey, PhD

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Viewing The Image Of God

Men and women, all people are made in the image of God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and towards the end of His creation process, we are told He finally made us humans. We are also told that we humans are made in His image.

[Genesis 1:26] Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

Indeed, this is a glorious thing about mankind in which we can thank God infinitely for, however with every great teaching of the Bible comes along Satan to attempt to confuse the heathen about. Very recently, I’ve come across some rather hilarious objection to the Bible that seems to seriously lack consideration and thought pertaining to the teaching that humans are made in the image of God. In fact, there are two of them which basically touch up on the same issue. This is how the heathen will invoke them;

  1. If God is spaceless, how can He have an image?
  2. If we are made in the image of God, how come humans all look differently?

Almost instantly, it can be realized that the objections are based on a false premise, and that is that God’s image is a physical depiction of God alike a drawing of Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, this interpretation pertaining to what the Bible means by the ‘image of God’ is flat out wrong and it should be very obvious that it is so. This false interpretation of what the Bible means regarding the phrase ‘image of God’ can be resolved by simply getting to the fifth chapter of Genesis.

[Genesis 5:1-2] These are the family records of the descendants of Adam. On the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; He created them male and female. When they were created, He blessed them and called them man.

In Genesis 1:26, the Bible says we are made in God’s image, and in Genesis 5:1-2 we are told that we are made in God’s likeness. The phrase ‘we are made in God’s image’ means exactly what ‘we are made in God’s likeness’ means. So, what does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God? That does not mean that God made billions of copies of Himself, rather it means that humans bear qualities of the likeness of God. God can become angry, and humans can become angry. God can love, and humans can love. This has nothing to do with the flesh or how someone looks like. This phrase, ‘image of God’ is a symbolic phrase used to show that God made humans to bear qualities that He Himself bears. Therefore, it does not mean or invoke a physical portrait of God, that exists in the dimension of space. This objection to the Bible has been shown to be errorful. The Bible is the true perfect Word of God, so what exactly could we have expected? Hallelujah and amen! Unfortunately however — there is no end to these ridiculous objections to the Bible. Hopefully we can, in time, address all of them and end all these misconceptions.

King David’s Enormous Kingdom

There are many great men throughout the records of the Bible, men such as Moses, Paul, Joshua, Job. But of course, one of them that we will never forget is David, the second king of Israel. David inherited the kingdom from Saul who had went berserk after David several times towards the end of his reign, but was repeatedly unable to defeat David. David became king after Saul, and had in all his life followed the ways of the LORD but once, where we are told that David had murdered a man to acquire his wife. God sent one of His prophets to confront him, and David was forced to bear his sins against God and paid dearly for it with one of his sons. Aside from this one action, David was favored by God and was guided by God since an early age, and God gave David kingship over Israel for forty years, and proceeded to greatly bless Solomon, David’s son with a powerful kingship over Israel that also lasted forty years. Archaeologists have already figured out that the historical reign of Solomon lasted between 970 – 930 BC, meaning David’s reign took place between 1010 – 970 BC (further meaning Saul who was king before David ruled from 1052 BC – 1010 BC).

But did King David even exist? The so-called minimalists answered no, and even if King David did exist, David did not have anything near the enormous kingdom ascribed to him in the Bible. Before the year 1990, there was no record of David outside the Bible, and so minimalist historians viewed David as a fictional figure made up centuries later. This all changed when the Tel Dan Inscription was found. The Tel Dan Stela bore an inscription that dated to the 9th century BC and was found in northern Israel, with about thirteen lines of preserved text that reads the following;

  1. […] and cut […]
  2. […] my father went up [against him when] he fought at […]
  3. And my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors] and the king of I[s-]
  4. rael entered previously in my father’s land. [And] Hadad made me king.
  5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven […-]
  6. s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
  7. riots and thousands of horsemen. [I killed Jo]ram son of [Ahab]
  8. king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
  9. g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
  10. their land into [desolation …]
  11. other [… and Jehu ru-]
  12. led over Is[rael … and I laid]
  13. siege upon […]

Take a look at the  9th line. It references the “House of David”, or in other words, the Davidic dynasty. The Tel Dan Inscription was discovered in the 1990’s, in other words making it a relatively recent archaeological finding, and established attestation of David in the records of Israel, even outside the Bible.

The minimalists still had many ways to attack the historicity of the Bible, though. After King David had been found in the Tel Dan Inscription, David had been proven to exist. If the accusers could not claim David did not exist, they would claim that his power was small and that he did not maintain the enormous kingdom ascribed to him in the Bible. A scholar named Israel Finkelstein tried to date David into an era where he would be considered a regional chieftain, with authority over a small tribe of people in a relatively tiny and poor area at best. According to Finkelstein’s theory, David would hardly control the land just outside of Jerusalem, event though the Bible said he ruled a large and powerful kingdom. This would be insane to a Bible-believer. At the time though, there were no excavations that had found anything dating to David’s time that would show he ruled over a great empire, allowing these accusers to maintain their views for the moment.

Several years ago, archaeological excavations begun at a site that had not undergone much digging before, and this city was named Khirbet Qeiyafa. Now, Khirbet Qeiyafa turned out not to be just any regular city in the region of Israel in the time of David, it ended up being found to be part of the ancient Israelite kingdom. It was also probably the Biblical city of Sharaaim. Shaaraim has a few mentions throughout the Bible, including Joshua 15:361 Samuel 17:52, and 1 Chronicles 4:31. Even if it wasn’t Shaaraim in specific, it had been proven to be a Judahite city, in other words, part of the Davidic empire.

Carbon dating tests found Khirbet Qeiyafa dated to the reign of David (1010 – 970 BC). Findings in this Biblical city would give us knowledge regarding the extent of David’s kingdom, and whether or not he was just the chieftain of an agrarian society or a mighty king who ruled across an empire as the Bible records. Seven seasons of excavations in Khirbet Qeiyafa revealed two enormous finds in specific. One, a second gate was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, whereas all previous sites in the entire world in David’s time and before only had one gate, which would be enormously significant to any archaeologist. The second major finding was an extensive centralized administration that stretched over 10,000 square feet requiring an overwhelming 200,000 tons of stone to construct. The archaeological evidence in Khirbet Qeiyafa showed that David ruled over nothing less than a kingdom, and a kingdom required a king to lead it. In a report titled Qeiyafa’s Unlikely Second Gat, Yosef Garfinkel, Sa’ar Ganor, and Joseph Baruch Silver concluded the following;

“Some scholars view King David’s kingdom as a simple agrarian society, sparsely inhabited, with no fortified cities, no administration and no writing… These scholars find it very hard to accept the new discoveries at Qeiyafa, which have completely dismantled these hypotheses.” (41)

A potentially Hebrew ostracon was found in Khirbet Qeiyafa, which also showed that literacy did exist in the time of David in his enormous kingdom.

A truly unprecedented discovery was made just in 2016, which found foreign linen fabrics that date to the reign of King Solomon, perhaps David, in southern Israel. This is one of those fabrics:

Foreign fabrics dating to the time of Solomon were found in the form of bags, clothing, tents, ropes and cords. According to Vanessa Workman from the Tel Aviv University regarding this discovery, this reveals that Israel at the time had various complex trade network systems. Workman says the following;

“We found linen, which was not produced locally. It was most likely from the Jordan Valley or Northern Israel. The majority of the fabrics were made of sheep’s wool, a cloth that is seldom found in this ancient period… This tells us how developed and sophisticated both their textile craft and trade networks must have been.”

Foreign fabrics found in all these forms in Israel reveal that Israel had a complex trade network system at the time, which shows David’s kingdom was indeed quite advanced, and it maintained complex trading systems with other civilizations at the time, literacy, a great land hold and very powerful cities. Perhaps one of David’s own Psalms can educate us on how we should face attacks against the LORD  and His Word.

[Psalm 3]  Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me. Many say about me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah.  But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. Selah.  I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side. Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God! You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; may Your blessing be on Your people. Selah.

James, the Lord’s brother and Mythicism

Jesus is the worlds most influential man to ever live. Indeed, His message and teachings have become greatly widespread and have won over billions of followers, and in fact the religion Jesus brought forth now  composes the largest religious worldview on Earth. This man is simply beloved of His believers, and even those who do not believe in Him find great respect for Him and what He has done for the world. Historians are amazingly interested by Him, many through their analysis and study of His life have come to the belief that He is God and the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. Thousands of scholarly works have been published on Jesus, and the historicity of early Christianity and the New Testament quantify as the largest and most important field in historic academia. But mythicists will have none of it.

Mythicists are people who don’t believe Jesus ever existed. Apart from mythicism being universally rejected by historians on historical grounds because of the heavy historical attestation of Jesus that these people seem to be ignorant of, one of the larger problems for these trolls is the fact that we have people who literally knew the family of Jesus, which would be impossible if He didn’t exist. Indeed, the mere existence of the family of Jesus is a conundrum for mythicism. Even Paul knew the family members of Jesus, as he notes to us in Galatians.

[Galatians 1:19] But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Paul, as an early Church leader (who was later killed for the faith) knew quite a lot of acquaintances of Jesus, and he tells us a verse earlier that he had first met Cephas (Peter) before seeing James. In fact, it’s so hilariously easy to show the fault in mythicism that one of the worlds prominent historians named Bart Ehrman (who is not a Christian) said this when he was being interviewed by a radio show host (who just so happened to be a mythicist himself):

Paul says things about Jesus that are off-the-cuff comments where he’s not making a point… And see, that’s very important to historians — in other words historians want to find disinterested comments and Paul has disinterested comments, where he says things for example about James, ‘the brother of the Lord’, which is just an off-the-cuff comment because everyone he’s writings to knows who he’s talking about so he just makes the off-the-cuff comment, so that’s very important information… And he makes an off-the-cuff comment about the twelve disciples… So the whole point is that you’ve got a disinterested comment from somebody who actually knew these people!

Earlier in the discussion, Ehrman was having fun pointing out that no serious historian takes mythicism seriously. I’d highly recommend seeing the funny full 7-minute clip here where Ehrman slaps around this host. So, what’s the point of all this about mythicism being false because people like Paul knew the very family of Jesus like His brother James?

Well, in order to get around reality, some mythicists like to completely re-interpret entire passages in order to explain away facts and information that entirely invalidates their position, such as the aforementioned passage in Paul’s epistle Galatians. So, they will say here that when Paul calls James the “brother of the Lord”, he means brother in a spiritual sense, not a brotherly sense. That is to say, all the followers of Jesus were brothers in a spiritual sense. On its face, this response may sound actually coherent, but someone who starts to dig just a little bit realizes why this claim is atrociously false in perhaps every potential manner. So, for this post, we’re going to go over several reasons why we know James was the actual brother of Jesus. When we say brother, that is to say that Mary had not only Jesus, but several other kids — and James was one of them. Mary would have had these children with Joseph, whom the Bible tells us was the husband of Mary. Indeed, the Bible tells us Mary had many children (Jesus was the first).

Let us beat this horse to death and allow ourselves to examine a few evidences why we must understand that Jesus had legitimate brothers, and thus entirely invalidating mythicism from any historical potential, and we wont even go into the historical records on the historicity of Jesus (this will be done in future posts). One thing to point out is that the context of the Galatians quote above allows us to understand that a spiritual brother interpretation of this passage is not valid at all. We shall now take a look at the context.

[Galatians 1:18-19] Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days. But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Here, we see Paul contrast James, who is a brother of Jesus, with Cephas who is a simple apostle of Jesus. Paul is clarifying to us the distinctive position and title that James held by contrasting him with a simple apostle, and thus Paul’s statement that James was the “brother of the Lord” cannot bear an interpretation that this was meant in some spiritual brotherly sense, because Cephas in this passage was also a spiritual brother, yet was contrasted with James who was an actual brother. This contrast Paul makes shows that a spiritual interpretation of the verse is entirely invalid. Anyways, there is another saying in Paul’s letters that throws a boulder at anyone remaining to say that James was not an actual brother of Jesus.

[1 Corinthians 9:5] Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas?

It is almost unbearable to read this and see just how Paul makes it so abysmally evident for all of us to see that the term brother is not to be used in a sense where it is spiritually applied to every apostle, as Paul makes an entire outright distinction between the apostles of Jesus and the brothers of Jesus. So it seems that Paul understood James as an actual brother of Jesus, that is to say he was the son of Joseph and Mary. The horse is dead. But there is one thing I love doing — and that is beating the dead horse (not literally! I promise.. I mean spiritually!)

[Mark 6:3] Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t His sisters here with us?” So they were offended by Him.

The Gospel of Mark (also see Matthew 13:55-56) gives us an understanding of the family of Jesus, which included four sons apart from Jesus and several sisters. That means that Jesus did in fact have actual brothers and sisters that existed within a physical sense. This saying in Mark’s Gospel is shared to us in Matthew’s Gospel. So the Bible makes it very clear that James was the brother of the Lord in a literal manner. There is more evidence as well, though. There are two historical records that we are going to look at now. One very early 1st century historian of Palestine was a man named Josephus, and Josephus tells us something very interesting — a confirmation that is very important that simply cannot be ignored. Josephus’ wrote a work called the Antiquities of the Jews, and he writes the following in Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1.

…Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent… [Emphasis added.]

Just to note, I had to dis-include about half of the quotation of Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 (that’s Book 20, Chapter 9, Line 1) because it was too long of a passage, however if anyone wants to read the full thing then you can either click on the link provided above or click here. Anyways, what is made apparent is that the early historian Josephus tells us that Jesus had a brother whom was named James. What Josephus tells us makes it incontestable that the spiritual interpretation of James in Galatians 1:19 is a crashing attempt at history. This is the first historical record we wanted to see, and now let us discuss the second one. It’s a box.

This isn’t just any box though, it dates to 70 AD at the very latest (likely much earlier). Take a closer look at this box, it has an inscription on it written in the Aramaic language. Do you want to know what the Aramaic inscription says?

James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus

This truly shoots down any doubt at all. This inscription was authenticated by two world-class paleographers named André Lemaire from the Paris-Sorbonne University and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Norman Geisler summed up the data on this inscription very nicely for us all. Only 1.71 people at the time would have been named James with a father named Joseph and a brother named Jesus, as well as the fact that inscriptions like these almost never mention the persons brother unless that figure were very important — making it almost doubtless that this is referring to the Biblical James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. This inscription tells us that James was an actual brother of Jesus, and we know this because we are also told in the inscription that his father is Joseph, so this is talking about family. This shows James was the brother of Jesus, not a regular follower and Paul knew him. As I said earlier in the blog, the mere existence of Jesus’ family is a conundrum for mythicism. Let us sum up why we know James was the brother of Jesus.

1. Paul tells us James and Jesus were brothers, and contrasts James the brother of Jesus with a follower of Jesus who isn’t an actual brother

2. Paul makes a very clear distinction between what we know as an apostle of Jesus and a brother of Jesus

3. Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 say James was a biological brother of JesusnoJesus, and not a mere follower

4. The early historian Josephus verifies James was an actual brother

5. An early Aramaic inscription verifies James was an actual brother

So, the epistles of Paul, two Gospels, the early historian Josephus and even an extraordinarily early Aramaic inscription have all confirmed to us that James was the true, legitimate brother of Jesus. In fact, all these sources are so plenteous that James being the brother of Jesus can be literally considered one of the most historically valid facts of ancient times. Paul knew and met with this person, meaning there is no possible way that Jesus was not a true historical figure if His very family existed and was known — and so as we have just saw with our own very eyes, mythicism was shot down in its entirety. A great thanks to the historian Ehrman for first bringing me to the knowledge of what Paul has to say about this. I also got to go over two very early historical records talking about the life of Jesus, being the first century Jewish historian Josephus and a remarkably early and authentic inscription on an old box, so we truly can have no doubts or issues regarding the historicity of Jesus. I will go into greater lengths regarding the documentation of the historicity of Jesus in future posts — but this should be good for now! Blessings to all readers.

Jesus Claimed To Be God… Again

Since some time ago, one of my first posts on this blog was titled Jesus Claimed To Be God — where I provided a very lengthy post to show that Jesus did in fact put the claim of God upon Himself. However, upon further research, I realized that the debate on this issue was a lot deeper, and a lot further than my initial blog on this topic had entailed to discuss.  For example, I read Tim O’Neill’s objections to this idea (Tim is an atheist historian) as well as watched the debate between Bart Ehrman and Justin Bass (both have a PhD). I’ve already posted a full rebuttal to Tim’s post (and it can be found by scrolling under Tim’s answer), however it’s time for me to fully update this on my blog. This new post will serve as a further defending the claim that Jesus claimed to be God. We will respond to both the arguments of those who deny that Jesus claimed to be God.

Jesus as God in Paul’s epistles?

Believe it or not, some people actually believe Paul did not view Jesus as God. Scholars and textual critics only view seven of Paul’s letters as definitely authentic and were certainly written by Paul — the book of Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon and Phillipians. Although the other six contain obvious references of Jesus as being divine (Titus 2:13, Colossians 2:9), they are argued to be pseudonymous by the majority of Scholars and thus not authentic to Paul’s name and thereby do not reflect Paul’s views. Although I disagree that they are pseudonymous, I will not reference them in discussion of Paul’s views. Here, we will see that Paul obviously viewed Jesus as God.

Let us see that Paul’s texts that clearly establish Jesus as God, and how those who deny this wish to respond are able to respond.

Phillipians 2:5–7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

A very obvious reference to Jesus as God, correct? The dissidents argue otherwise. Here, they say that the Greek word for the word ‘nature’ is μορφῇ (which is correct) — but they also claim that this Greek term does not mean ‘nature’, it merely means ‘shape’. Thus, Paul says the following:

Phillipians 2:5-7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in the very shape of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Then, the claim is put forth that this does not mean Jesus is God, it really (somehow) means that Jesus is taking on human likeness in some pre-existing celestial form. Unfortunately for these people, although they wish to pertain to this rather fanciful interpretation of this obvious verse, they are wrong. The Greek word μορφῇ does not only mean shape, μορφῇ can mean both shape and form. 3444. μορφή (morphé) — form, shape — in other words, translations like the HCSB are correct when they translate Phillipians 2:5-7 to say the following:

Phillipians 2:5–7 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form,

Saying that the phrase “Jesus existed in the form of God” doesn’t actually mean “Jesus existed in the form of God” will always be a rather simple attempt to explain away this clear-cut phrase from Paul here. Paul here very clearly places Jesus as God. It only gets worse from here though. These people that attempt to completely re-interpret these straight forward statements will not like the fact that the Greek word μορφῇ is exercised elsewhere in the Biblical Greek literature, such as Mark 16:12.

Mark 16:12: After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them as they walked along in the country.

The Greek word μορφῇ here is used very obviously, and we can see that this Greek word means taking on a physical form, so when Paul says “Jesus exists in the form of God”, he means that “Jesus literally exists in the physical form of God”. So it seems to me there is no possible way to put forth a plausible view where the text in Phillipians 2:5-7 does not amazingly clearly interpret Jesus as God. This itself can drive the position of these dissidents into the ground, but there is more.

[Romans 9:5] The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.

Another very clear verse, right? It says the Christ (Jesus) is “God over all”, right? Not to the deniers. The deniers rightfully point out that there is great debate over how this verse is to be translated and where the punctuation goes, as punctuation didn’t exist in the first century when Paul wrote Romans. Thus, it is up the modern Greek scholars to determine where the puncutation in Biblical verses are to be placed in light of the verses context. So these are the contending translations of the verse:

” … from their race… is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever”

” … from their race… is the Christ, who is over all. God forever be blessed!”

” … from their race… is the Christ. God who is over all be forever blessed!”

The deniers will tell you that only the first one views Jesus as God, but this is again false. As you can see, the second translation says “Christ, who is over all”. If Paul views Jesus as being over all things, or as being the highest being, then Paul views Jesus as God. So, two translations put Jesus as God and one doesn’t. But is the third translation really plausible? Notice, the translation has the unbearably long phrase “God who is over all be forever blessed!” — is this an accurate translation? No where else in Paul’s literature is such phraseology used, giving us good reason to believe that such a translation is false, it is in error. Therefore, all viable translations clearly put forth that Jesus is God.

Now, we will see other Pauline verses that make it extraordinarily obvious that Jesus is God. Firstly, we see Paul recording that people pray to Jesus.

[1 Corinthians 1:2] To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.

I didn’t know Paul thought people could pray to someone other then God? Now, take a look at this verse which is an elephant in the room to anyone claiming Jesus isn’t viewed as God by Paul:

[Phillipians 2:10–11] so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul tells us that at the return of Jesus, ALL PEOPLES IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE Earth will BOW down to Jesus, and will CONFESS that Jesus is Lord. It gets amazingly worse for these people when the word translated as ‘Lord’ is κύριος, which means one who exercises absolute ownership. 2962. κύριος (kurios) — lord, master — if Jesus wasn’t God, then why does the entire world bow down on the mark of His name? This becomes increasingly more troublesome when we see this phrase in Phillipians 2:10-11 correlate with the following Old Testament text.

[Isaiah 45:23-25] By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said to Me: Righteousness and strength is only in the Lord.” All who are enraged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame. All the descendants of Israel
will be justified and find glory through the Lord.

We now see that what Paul is actually doing in Phillipians 2 is literally correlating an Old Testament text on the almighty Yahweh where Yahweh receives divine homage DIRECTLY with Jesus. This is a type of evidence in the Pauline epistles for the defenders of the idea that Paul portrays Jesus as God fascinates even myself. Seriously. But the problems get much more enormous for anyone continuously denying this. Paul views Jesus and God as the same person. For example, did Paul preach the Gospel of God?

[Romans 15:16] “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Or did Paul preach the gospel of Christ?

[Galatians 1:6–7] I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.

I can give many more examples, such as when Paul first says the churches belong to God (1 Corinthians 11:16) and then says the churches belong to Christ (Romans 16:16), or when Paul says the Spirit is of God in Romans 8:9 but then says the Spirit is of Christ in the exact same verse Romans 8:9. Paul even tells us the only way to be saved is to call on Jesus name (Romans 10:13) and to say that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) ! The Greek word used for ‘Lord’ is κύριος which is used multiple times to reference God the Father. The evidence shows it is amazingly obvious that Paul viewed Jesus is God. There is more to go through, but this should be pretty clear by now. The Pauline epistles do in fact portray Jesus as God, as this is what Paul believed as well as Jesus and the early Christians. Because Paul is the earliest author of any Christian writings we have, his view that Jesus is God says quite an enormous amount regarding the earliest belief of Christians and the earliest theology of Christianity.

Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, divine phrase or Messianic phrase?

Some of these people like Tim O’Neill argue that the phrases Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man being titles of Jesus does not make Jesus as God in any way. Tim says this in his answer:

“Christ”, “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are all titles of the Jewish Messiah and the Messiah was not considered to be God.

Though he is right about ‘Christ’, which simply means the ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew or ‘the anointed one’ in English, he is dead wrong about the other two. There is no evidence found in the Old Testament that the phrase Son of God or Son of Man are mere terms used upon the Messiah that do not invoke divinity or being God in any way. Both terms are used on Jesus, such as Jesus being called the Son of God in Mark 1:1 or being called the Son of Man in Matthew 20:28. Although there is no evidence these terms only refer to a being aside from God, there is undeniable evidence that the phrase Son of Man in the Old Testament refers to God.

[Daniel 7:13-14] I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.

The Son of Man is a figure authority over all peoples of all nations of all languages, whom is forever served by all the world, and possesses an everlasting kingdom in His dominion that will never cease. This figure is obviously God. I have a feeling Tim might go wild about the verses saying that He is given this authority, but this is because God is the Father and Jesus is the Son, and thus authority belongs to the Father by nature. Since when does a regular human control absolute authority over all humanity for eternity? I can find no place in the Old Testament where this is said to be due to anyone but God Himself — but I did find Zechariah 14:9, which tells us that it is Yahweh that is king over all the Earth — so it seems that the Son of Man is… Yahweh? Jesus proclaimed to be the Son of Man, therefore Jesus proclaimed to be Yahweh?

The funny thing that I’ve come to notice is that Tim O’Neill is one of the very only people who seriously believe that the phrase Son of Man does not refer to God. Others like Bart Ehrman fully accept it — but now you may be asking yourself, if Bart Ehrman himself viewed Jesus as not claiming to be God, what does Bart Ehrman do with Jesus’ claims to be the Son of Man if he views it is a term for God? Well, easy! He simply says that the Gospel authors made up every single phrase in the New Testament of Jesus (more than 80) where Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man. More on this later. In fact, if anyone is still denying that Jesus clearly claimed to be God such as in the Synoptic Gospels, perhaps they can take a look at the following few verses:

[Mark 14:60–64] Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

Jesus affirms He is the Messiah, Son of the Blessed One and the Son of Man all at once, and in response the High Priest rips off his robes and declares that Jesus must be put to death because He committed blasphemy. In Jewish Law, you can only commit blasphemy in this context by claiming to be God.

Let’s go back to the term Christ — Jesus claimed to be the Christ, or the Messiah. These people will sometimes say that the Messiah was never to be a God figure according to the Old Testament… But the Old Testament will now challenge them on this.

[Isaiah 9:6–7] For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

The Old Testament tells us that the figure who reigns on the throne of David, a son that will be persecuted and will establish an eternal kingdom (this sounds frighteningly like the Messiah) will also be called Mighty God and Eternal Father. So Jesus claiming to be the Messiah is Jesus claiming to be the one who is called Mighty God and Eternal Father, correct? It seems so. Thus, all three terms — Christ, Son of God and Son of Man establish that Jesus claimed to be God.

Jesus as God in the Synoptic Gospels of Luke, Mark, and Matthew

Remember, in the view of those who claim Jesus did not claim to be God, John’s Gospel when saying Jesus is God doesn’t count because it was written too late! Let’s ignore the fact that John the Elder wrote the Gospel of John, a man who directly knew Jesus. Let’s also ignore all the times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man in the Synoptic Gospels as well, as well as Mark 14:60-64 in which we’ve already made note of. Let’s also put aside Paul’s letters for now. Even aside from all this, Jesus is still clearly shown as God and declares to be God in all the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus says He will literally judge the world on His throne.

[Matthew 25:31–32] “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Who, aside from God alone, is going to sit on their throne and judge the world? We also see the very nice term ‘Son of Man’ appear again. Needless to say, the Old Testament obviously says God judges the world (Amos 5:18–20, Psalm 9:7–8). Anyways, Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath.

[Mark 2:27–28] Then Jesus told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Needless to say, the Old Testament proclaims that the Sabbath belongs to God only (Ezekiel 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12). Jesus says that He is the Lord of David.

[Matthew 22:41–45] While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” “David’s,” they told Him. He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet’? “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?”

Jesus tells us only the Father knows Him, and only He knows the Father and to whom anyone Jesus wishes to reveal the Father to.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.

Jesus tells us He is wherever His followers gather, basically saying He can exist anywhere He pleases.

[Matthew 18:20] For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Peter tells Jesus He is literally God’s Son, and Jesus blessed him for it.

[Matthew 16:13-17] When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.

Jesus is declared to be the “Holy One”, that is called Son of God.

[Luke 1:35] The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.

We can go forwards — Jesus further declares the Father hands Him authority over earth and heaven and so forth. The Gospels contain tens of references to Jesus as the Son of Man in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Jesus is obviously portrayed as God. All this and all these verses together make an overwhelmingly compelling case to Jesus being God as portrayed in the Synoptics. These are not the claims of a mere human being, a human Messiah, or even the mightiest prophet. These are the claims to be put forth onto God and God alone.

Book of Hebrews says Jesus is God?

In discussion on Jesus claim to be God, the Book of Hebrews always seems to be ignored. The Book of Hebrews is an amazingly early text of the New Testament (written 64 AD). This is a very great document in order to understand the earliest interpretation of Jesus amongst the Christians, and lo’ and behold, it says Jesus is God.

[Hebrews 1:7-8] And about the angels He says: He makes His angels winds, and His servants a fiery flame but to the Son: Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.

Finally.. Let’s discuss the Son of Man again.

You’ll recall I said earlier that some people who deny Jesus claimed to be God simply think that Jesus proclaiming Himself to be the Son of Man was ‘made up’ by the Gospel authors. Not only is this the obvious dying breath of someone whom has a failing argument and has to come to terms with the facts that all the Gospels, Pauline letters and earliest Christian texts like the Book of Hebrews and the writings of Ignatius portray Jesus is God — also has absolutely no evidence in support of it. In fact, all the evidence seems to support that Jesus did claim to be the Son of Man based on these sayings. The idea that Jesus historically claimed this passes many historical criterions. For example, it passes the criterion of multiple attestation (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say Jesus said Himself as the Son of Man), it passes the criterion of early attestation, and it also passes the criterion of dissimilarity. You’ll realize the term ‘Son of Man’ appears almost absolutely nowhere in the New testament apart from the sayings of Jesus — perhaps twice at best. This shows that it is not being made up, as the criterion of dissimilarity shows that this saying of Jesus is unique to Jesus’ quotations, and thus Jesus’ quotations are more likely to be His own (as a fictional quote from John would sound a lot like John’s own writing). All the historical evidence seems to clearly favor the authenticity of this saying, and thus we can have no doubt that Jesus claimed to be God.