Today, most do not recognize this very important record of history, known as The Testimonium Flavianum. It is attributed to Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian who lived through and recorded the history of the Jews from the beginning of the intratestimental period (400 BCE – Jesus’ birth) through the end of the first century CE. We’ll examine more about Josephus in another blog. For now, we’ll concentrate on The Testimonium Flavianum.
Josephus witnessed many of the events that occurred in Jerusalem and Palestine during the period of Roman oppression. His accounts of the siege and fall of both Jerusalem and Masada is important, and controversial, in both the history and current culture in Israel.
The Testimonium Flavianum is the only extra-Biblical writing to make a direct reference to Jesus. This alone makes it one of the most important historical records outside of the Bible itself.
What makes The Testimonium Flavianum extremely controversial are the two phrases in italics in the quote above.
Josephus was a Jew, not a converted Christian. For a Jew to make either of these statements raises questions about whether Josephus was their author. In part, because of these two phrases, the Jews pretty much ignored Josephus’ works until the 20th century.
In a 1991 book by John Meier, The Marginal Jew, the author hypothesizes that these two phrases were inserted from margin notes when Josephus’s’ works were translated during the 4th century. While there is supporting evidence, it is inconclusive.
In 1995 a new discovery in another document showed an amazing similarity to Josephus’s’ account. The wording was too close to have been coincidence. It is now thought that both were taken from a Jewish-Christian Gospel that has since been lost.
Controversial as it is, The Testimonium Flavianum is one of the most important extra-Biblical writings.
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