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DISSERTATION I. The Testimonies of Josephus concerning Jesus Christ, John the
Baptist, and James the Just, vindicated. Since we meet with several important testimonies in Josephus, the Jewish historian, concerning John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, concerning Jesus of Nazareth himself, and concerning James the Just, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth; and since the principal testimony, which is that concerning Jesus of Nazareth himself, has of late been greatly questioned by many, and rejected by some of the learned as spurious, it will be fit for me, who have ever declared my firm belief that these testimonies were genuine, to set down fairly some of the original evidence and citations I have met with in the first fifteen centuries concerning them, and then to make proper observations upon that evidence, for the reader's more complete satisfaction.
But before I produce the citations themselves out of Josephus, give me leave to prepare the reader's attention, by setting down the sentiments of perhaps the most learned person, and the most competent judge that ever was, as to the authority of Josephus, I mean of Joseph Scaliger in the Prolegomena to his book, De Emendatione Temporum, p. 17. “ Josephus is the most diligent and the greatest lover of truth of all writers: nor are we afraid to affirm of him, that it is more safe to believe him, not only as to the affairs of the Jews, but also as to those that are foreign to them, thau all the Greek and Latin writers, and this, because his fidelity and his compass of learning are every where conspicuous.” The ancient Citations of the Testimonies of Josephus from his
own Time till the End of the Fifteenth Century. About A. D. 110. Tacit. Annal. lib. xv. cap. 44.—Nero, in order to stifle the rumour [as if he had himself set Rome on fire), ascribed it to those people who were hated for their wicked practices, and called by the vulgar Christians: these he punished exquisitely. The author of this name was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was brought to punishment by Pontius Pilate the procurator.
About A. D. 147. Just. Mart. Dialog. cum Trypho, p. 234.—You [Jews] knew that Jesus was risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, as the prophecies did foretell was to happen.
About A. D. 230. Origen. Comment. in Matth. p. 230.This James was of so shining a character among the people, on account of his righteousness, that Flavius Josephus, when, in his twentieth book of the Jewish Antiquities, he had a mind to set down what was the cause why the people suffered such miseries, till the very holy house was demolished, he said, that these things befell them by the anger of God, on accouut of what they had dared to do to James, the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ: and wonderful it is, that, while he did not receive Jesus for Christ, he did nevertheless bear witness that James was so righteous a man. He says farther, that the people thought that they suffered these things for the sake of James.
About A. D. 250. Contr. Cels. lib. i. p. 35, 36.- I would say to Celsus, who personates a Jew, that admitted of John the Baptist, and how he baptized Jesus, that one who lived but a little while after John and Jesus, wrote, how that John was a baptizer unto the remission of sins : for Josephus testifies in the eighteenth book of Jewish Antiquities, that John was the Baptist, and that he promised purification to those that were baptized. The same Josephus also, although he did not believe in Jesus as Christ, when he was inquiring after the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the deniolition of the temple, and ought to have said, that their machinations against Jesus were the cause of those miseries coming on the people, because they had slain that Christ, who was foretold by the prophets, he, though as it were unwillingly, and yet as one not remote from the truth, says; “ These miseries befell the Jews by way of revenge for James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, that was called Christ, because they had slain him who was a most righteous person. Now this James was he whom that genuine disciple of Jesus, Paul, said he had seen as the Lord's brother, [Gal. i. 19); which relation implies not so much nearness of blood, or the sameness of education, as it does the agreement of manners and preaching. If, therefore, he says the desolation of Jerusalem befell the Jews for the sake of James, with how much greater reason might he have said, that it happened for the sake of Jesus ? &c.
About A. D. 324. Euseb. Demonstr. Evan. lib. iii. p. 124.Certainly the attestation of those I have already produced concerning oar Saviour may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a farther witness; who, in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities, when he was writing the history of what happened under
Pilate, makes mention of our Saviour in these words:--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 had a veneration for truth; 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 among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had spoken of these, and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; whence the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. If, therefore, we have this bistorian's testimony, that he not only brought over to himself the twelve apostles, with the seventy disciples, but many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles also, he must manifestly have had somewhat in him extraordinary above the rest of mankind; for how otherwise could he draw over so many of the Jews and of the Gentiles, unless he performed admirable and amazing works, and used a method of teaching that was not common? Moreover, the scripture of the Acts of the Apostles bears witness, that there were many ten thousands of Jews who were persuaded that he was the Christ of God, who was foretold by the prophets [Acts, xi. 20.]
About A. D. 330. Hist. Eccles. lib. i. cap. 11.-Now the divine scripture of the gospels makes mention of John the Baptist as having his head cut off by the younger Herod. Josephus also concurs in this history, and makes mention of Herodias by name, as the wife of his brother, whom Herod had married, upon divorcing his former lawful wife. She was the daughter of Aretas, king of the Petrean Arabians; and which Herodias he had parted from her husband while he was alive : on which account also, when he had slain John, he made war with Aretas [Aretas made war with him), because his daughter had been used dishonourably: in which war, when it came to a battle, he says
that all Herod's army was destroyed, and that he suffered this because of his wicked contrivance against John. Moreover, the same Josephus, by acknowledging John to have been a most righteous man, and the Baptist, conspires in his testimony with what is written in the gospels. He also relates, that Herod lost his kingdom for the sake of the same Herodias, together with whom he was himself condemned to be banished to Vienna, a city of Gaul. And this is his account in the eighteenth book of the Antiquities, where he writes thus of John verbatim :- Some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment for what he did against John that was called the Baptist, for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and one that commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and
piety towards God, and so to come to baptism, for that by this means the washing (with water] would appear acceptable to him; when they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission) of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body, supposing still that the soul were thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when (many) others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly delighted in hearing bis words, Herod was afraid that this so great power of persuading men might tend to some sedition or other, for they seemed to be disposed to do every thing he should advise them to; so he supposed it better to prevent any attempt for a mutation from him by cutting him off, that after any such mutation should be brought about, and the public should suffer, to repent [of such negligence). Accordingly, he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Machaerus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. When Josephus had said this of John, he makes mention also of our Saviour in the same history, after this manner :-Now there was about this time one 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 also: he was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among 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 still the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. And since this writer, sprung from the Hebrews themselves, hath delivered these things above in his own work, concerning John the Baptist and our Saviour, what room is there for any farther evasion ? &c.
Now James was so wonderful a person, and was so celebrated by all others for righteousness, that the judicious Jews thought this to have been the occasion of that siege of Jerusalem, which came on presently after his martyrdom, and that it befell them for no other reason, than that impious fact they were guilty of against him. Josephus, therefore, did not refuse to attest thereto in writing, by the words following :
-These miseries befell the Jews by way of revenge for James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus that was called Christ, on this account, that they had slain him who was a most righteous person.
The same Josephus declares the manner of his death in the twentieth book of the Antiquities, in these words :-Cæsar sent Albinus into Judea to be procurator, when he had heard that Festus was dead. Now Ananus junior, who, as we said, had been admitted to the high priesthood, was in his temper bold and daring in an extraordinary manner. He was also of the sect of the
Sadducees, who are more savage in judgment than any of the other Jews, as we have already signified. Since, therefore, this was the character of Ananus, he thought he had now a proper opportunity to exercise his authority], because Festus was dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembles the sanhedrim of judges, and brings before them James, the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, and some others (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 those who 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 could not be justified, &c.
About A. D. 360. Ambrose or Hegesippus de Excid. Urb. Hierosolym. lib. ii. cap. 12.-We have discovered that it was the opinion and belief of the Jews, as Josephus affirms (who is an author not to be rejected, when he writes against himself), that Herod lost his army, not by the deceit of men, but by the anger of God, and that justly, as an effect of revenge for what he did to John the Baptist, a just man, who had said to him, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
The Jews themselves also bear witness to Christ, as appears by Josephus, the writer of their history, who says thus:-- That there was at that time a wise man, if, says he, it be lawful to have him called a man, a doer of wonderful works, who appeared to his disciples after the third day from his death, alive again, according to the writings of the prophets, who foretold these and innumerable other miraculous events concerning him ; from whom began the congregation of Christians, and hath penetrated among all sorts of men: nor does there remain any nation in the Roman world, which continues strangers to his religion. If the Jews do not believe us, let them at least believe their own writers. Josephus, whom they esteem a very great man, hath said and yet
hath he spoken truth after such a manner, and so far was his mind wandered from the right way, that even he was not a believer, as to what he himself said: but thus he spake in order to deliver historical truth, because he thought it not lawful for him to deceive, while yet he was no believer, because of the hardness of his heart, and his perfidious intention. However, it was no prejudice to the truth that he was not a believer; but this adds more weight to his testimony, that while he was an uubeliever, and unwilling this should be true, he has not denied it to
About A. D. 400. Hieronym. de Vir. Illustr. in Josepho.Josephus, in the eighteenth book of Antiquities, most expressly acknowledges, that Christ was slain by the Pharisees on account