A Testimonium Flavianum question

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Ramesses1's picture
A Testimonium Flavianum question

If the Testimonium Flavianum was not written by Josephus, how is it explained that is present in all existing manuscripts of Josephus’ ‘Antiquities’ book 18?

Is it scientific to accuse Christians of fabricating some or all of the Testimonium Flavianum, even if we don't have a muscript where the passage is absent ?

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Tomcolumbus's picture
Two points.

Two points.

One, believing that a part of some text was added later isn't the same as believing that the ascribed author didn't write the large bulk of the text.

"Scientific" doesn't appear to have anything to do with your post.
Perhaps you meant "reasonable"?

Sheldon's picture
This is one for OMS, but I

This is one for OMS, but I don't particularly care, as even if the text came with notarised fucking signature from Yeshua, Mary and Joseph, it doesn't evidence any deity, or any of the supernatural claims made in the bible.

Claims are not evidence, and no book can validate it's own claims.

watchman's picture
@Ramesses ….

@Ramesses ….

"how is it explained that is present in all existing manuscripts of Josephus’ ‘Antiquities’ book 18? "...

Well lets see ….. shall we.....

"The earliest secure reference to this passage is found in the writings of the fourth-century Christian apologist and historian Eusebius, who used Josephus' works extensively as a source for his own Historia Ecclesiastica. Writing no later than 324, Eusebius quotes the passage in essentially the same form as that preserved in extant manuscripts. "

So far so good ….. but then comes this ….

" It has therefore been suggested that part or all of the passage may have been Eusebius' own invention, in order to provide an outside Jewish authority for the life of Christ."

well is this just an evidence lite assertion or are there reasons for it ? … it appears so …..

"Some argue that the wording in the Testimonium differs from Josephus' usual writing style and that as a Jew, he would not have used a word like Christos (Χριστός), at Josephus' time being the Greek term for "Messiah".
It is broadly agreed that while the Testimonium Flavianum cannot be authentic in its entirety, it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to interpolation"

link ...…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

"Is it scientific to accuse Christians of fabricating some or all of the Testimonium Flavianum, "

""The passage [Testimonium Flavianum] seems to suffer from repeated interpolations."
– Catholic Encyclopedia.

and then ……

"At face value, Josephus appears to be the answer to the Christian apologist's dreams.

In a single paragraph (the so-called Testimonium Flavianum) Josephus confirms every salient aspect of the Christ-myth:

1. Jesus's existence 2. his 'more than human' status 3. his miracle working 4. his teaching 5. his ministry among the Jews and the Gentiles 6. his Messiahship 7. his condemnation by the Jewish priests 8. his sentence by Pilate 9. his death on the cross 10. the devotion of his followers 11. his resurrection on the 3rd day 12. his post-death appearance 13. his fulfillment of divine prophecy 14. the successful continuance of the Christians.

In just 127 words Josephus confirms everything – now that is a miracle!"

Not a single writer before the 4th century – not Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Arnobius, etc. – in all their defences against pagan hostility, makes a single reference to Josephus’ wondrous words."

link ….. https://www.jesusneverexisted.com/josephus-etal.html

and that I think throws light on both your queries ….. all you need do now is read...

hope that helps.

Cognostic's picture
@Ramesses: "Flavianum (or TF

@Ramesses: "Flavianum (or TF) is entirely a late Christian forgery is now as overwhelming as such evidence could ever get." *Richard Carrier*

"All extant manuscripts derive from the single manuscript of Eusebius; evidently everything else was decisively lost." (This clearly explains why all known manuscripts say the same thing. We have only ONE copy of an ancient manuscript from which all others have been copied.)


At last.... someone with a simple and re-searchable question.

boomer47's picture


"Is it scientific to accuse Christians of fabricating some or all of the Testimonium Flavianum, even if we don't have a muscript where the passage is absent ?"

What an odd question. Not something usually seen when discussing religious/historical writings . Do you perhaps mean 'scholarly 'or 'reasonable' .

In response ,I ask, which forgeries? What material difference will it make if the alleged forgeries were not written by christians ? Or if there are no forgeries? The only thing I can think of is that christian apologists like to claim that Josephus proved the existence of Jesus. He did not.

Bits missing are not necessarily how forgeries are detected in ancient writings**** Forgeries are often later additions, even whole passages or manuscripts. EG historians now generally agree that several of the epistles of Paul are later forgeries ,completely fabricated. I recommend you do a bit of reading about historical method
Christians like to claim that Josephus 'writings prove the existence of Jesus. Is that your concern?. Don't be concerned, nothing in Josephus proves the existence of Jesus.


**** "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why "Bart Ehrman

Bart also has some pretty goof lectures on Youtube. You might like to have a look at a bit of the lecture linked below.


Grinseed's picture


As you describe yourself as an atheist I assume you are seeking information to argue the case for the interpolations in Antiquities. This issue has been investigated for a couple of hundred years and in that time the Christian claim has even been rejected by academic Catholic priests, one of whom suggested all the Jesus interpolations in Antiquities were not just fraudulent but embarrassingly so.

It is estimated Josephus wrote the Antiquities about 93 AD. The earliest existing copy of Books 11-20 of Antiquities is from about the 11th century. The Christian Church had plenty of time to eliminate all other copies produced earlier than Eusebius who was not one to shy from the use of "pious fraud" and was basically a spin merchant for the more peculiar behaviour of the Emperor Constantine.

Just reading the three sections in questions, even in the translation to English from the Greek of the earliest surviving manuscripts, (there are three), the writing style of the Jesus interpolation, section 3, is clearly evident. As one modern commentator has remarked it is like a Brittany Speers concert in the middle of two funerals.

Sections 2 describes a brutal attack on a crowd of protesting Jews on Pilate's orders.
Section 3 is all about Jesus.
Section 4 Begins "About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder," which either suggests that Jesus was a sad calamity or the 3rd section has been forced abruptly into the narrative. This section details a lurid sexual deception involving the priests of the temple of Isis and ends in a couple of crucifixions. Section 5 goes on to explain the events that led to all the Jews in Rome being exiled to Sardinia and forced to be Roman soldiers with mostly unhappy results.

And for the sake of clarity I provide below Sections 2 and 3 and the opening of Section 4. Its not a lot to read, but I find many theists who use the interpolation as 'proof' of an independent reference to Jesus, have never bothered to read it.

From CHAPTER 3. Sedition Of The Jews Against Pontius Pilate. Concerning Christ, And What Befell Paulina And The Jews At Rome. (note the numbering of chapters and sections were added at a much later date, probably after the 1500's)

"2. But Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews 8 were not pleased with what had been done about this water; and many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamor against him, and insisted that he should leave off that design. Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man, as crowds of such people usually do. So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away; but they boldly casting reproaches upon him, he gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not; nor did they spare them in the least: and since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition.

3. 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, 9 those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; 10 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 at this day.

4. About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder, and certain shameful practices happened about the temple of Isis that was at Rome. I will now first take notice of the wicked attempt about the temple of Isis, and will then give an account of the Jewish affairs....."

You can get the whole document from the Gutenberg Project site for free.


Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Ramesses

@ Ramesses

I cannot add to the discussion much as it is in my area of enthusiasm!

Every point seems to be covered, in depth, and with references. I suggest you do some more reading, the point that the OLDEST copy of the Flavium documents is 11th century would cause even the most one eyed apologist to regard it as suspect, never mind the textual analysis which reveals its shortcomings as a reliable source.

Grinseed and Cranky have admirably and clearly pointed out the reasons to doubt the authenticity of that descriptive interpolation.

You have poked a nest of scholars here, be careful.

Tin-Man's picture
The only thing I know about

The only thing I know about all of this is that Original Oriental is my favorite Flavium of Ramesses Noodles. And I usually add a little bit of hot sauce to give it a little extra kick. And a few chow mien noodles on the side give it a nice little crunchy texture..... *room goes eerily quiet*.... *looking around awkwardly*.... Ummmm.... I'm gonna go now... *quickly exits room*...

Cognostic's picture
@Tin: Original Oriental

@Tin: Original Oriental noodles: Holy fuck. The Ramon isle in the supermarket here looks like the breakfast cereal isle in an American supermarket. I will have to take a picture. What the fuck is an original oriental noodle? 20 years in Asia and I have never seen one.

Just for you, the next time I go to the market I will take some pics.

Ramesses1's picture
Pardon me all

Pardon me all

, I should have wrote "is it scholary " instead of "is it scientific.." and thank you all for your responses..

I read lots about the Testimonium Flavianum ,and currently held to the view, that it's ,either came out of nothing ,fully forged.

or josephus wrote offensive account about Jesus ,(similar to his words about those messianic failed movements ) ,hence the angry christians modified it ,and got rid of the original manuscripts ...

my purpose of the topic , seeking an answer to a question that came to my mind...if I ever discuss the passage with a christin , and he tells me ,that the burden of proofs, is on my shoulders to proof interpolations ,by bringing older manuscript that different from all the others ?

Is it scholary valid to claim interpolations on a text without gaining access to its "so called" original form?

Are there any other examples,in the world of textual criticism, of such a thing ?

any other examples of christian interpolations of other works,not by christians writers ,for religious agenda?

What should I say to those christians who say that the burden of proofs is on my shoulder to proof interpolations ,by bringing older manuscript, that has the so called original text?

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Ramesses

@ Ramesses

What should I say to those christians who say that the burden of proofs is on my shoulder to proof interpolations ,by bringing older manuscript, that has the so called original text?

What you do is research the subject and refer, in detail to the vast amount of research and scholarly findings since the 19th Century that hold that the first phrase/paragraph about Jesus is, indeed a FORGERY.

Yes, it means YOU do the leg work. Make google your friend.

If anyone is blind enough to ignore that, Then do ask them for an original copy of Mathew...the earliest complete version we have is 4th Century, yet we KNOW that early forms did not have the birth narrative. Ask them to produce the original to settle the question.

boomer47's picture


"Is it scholarly valid to claim interpolations on a text without gaining access to its "so called" original form?"

Not sure what you're asking. There are no original texts for Christianity. As far as I'm aware, the new testament was first written down between the mid to late first century ce. That alone makes it suspect as anecdotal at best . The earliest surviving texts are copies dating from the fourth century.****

So, from this perspective, the answer to your question is is "yes". A scholar can only use the available evidence.

If you are asking about forgeries, the answer is still 'yes'. Again, a scholar can only use available evidence. That will include
copies of ancient forged documents claimed as real. EG there are I think three of Paul's epistles which today scholars believe to be forgeries.

I urge you to have look at the video clip linked below (or at least part of it) The clip is of a lecture by Professor Bar Ehrman on "Misquoting Jesus .The story Of Who changed thee bible and why". The book is better imo,



****information on the age of various biblical texts;


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