Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Was Jesus Even Crucified? Part 2

Link to Part 1.

Part 2 - The Josephan Record.

In Part 1, I have shown that the Muslims disbelieve in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and that the New Testament record is a shoddy record indeed to establish the certainty of the present-day Canonical Gospel accounts owing to the fact that none of them date back to beyond approximately 350 CE, the dating of the Codices Alexandrius, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Worse is that St Paul, whose epistles predate the four gospels according to scolarly consensus, wrote to the Galatians that "before [their] very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified" (Gal. 3:1 NIV), which calls into the mind a theatrical production. 

Now we go on to Josephus. Only Christian apologists will tell you the whole paragraph is authentic. A minority of scolars assert the whole anecdote was a Christian forgery from the early 4th Century, and I am partial to that view. Most scholars will tell you, that Josephus’s “Testimonium Flavianum” was partially interpolated but has a Josephan core. In other words, Christian forgers doctored the thing, but not too much. I will put my own personal opinions aside and use the assumption that the scholarly consensus is correct. Here is what is in the present day record (Whiston translation) from the extant Greek text of Josephus' Antiquities 18.3.3:

[63] 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. [64] 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 at this day.

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3 [63-64] 1

Now here is what the extant Greek text 2 says:

[63] Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς σοφὸς ἀνήρ, εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή: ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων, καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο: ὁ χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν. [64] καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες: ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων. εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀπὸ τοῦδε ὠνομασμένον οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον.


[63] Ginetai de kata touton ton chronon Iêsous sophos anêr, eige andra auton legein chrê, ên gar paradoksôn ergôn poiêtês, didaskalos anthrôpôn tôn êdonê talêthê dechomenôn, kai pollous men Ioudaious, pollous de kai tou Ellênikou epêgageto: o Christos outos ên. [64] kai auton endeiksi tôn prôtôn andrôn par' êmin staurô epitetimêkotos Pilatou ouk epausanto oi to prôton agapêsantes: epsanê gar autois tritên echôn êmeran palin zôn tôn theiôn prophêtôn tauta te kai alla muria peri autou thaumasia eirêkotôn. eis eti en te nun tôn Christianôn apo toude ônomasmenon ouk epelipe to phulon.

So let us break down this text to see if the Whiston translation is correct:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man” (Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς σοφὸς ἀνήρ (Ginetai de kata touton ton chronon Iêsous sophos anêr)): γίνεται means of persons “came into being, was born;” but more rarely, “came into a new state,” perhaps “came of age.” And σοφὸς ἀνήρ (sophos anêr) does mean “a wise man” but also “a clever man” or "a man skilled in a craft." 3 So an alternative translation of this phrase could be, “Now there came of age about this time a clever, skilled man Yeshua.” The possibilities by what Josephus meant could be a sophist, a sorcerer, or the brains behind the ensign incident of Antiquities 18.3.1 and the aqueduct incident of 18.3.2.

“[I]f it be lawful to call him a man” (εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή (eige andra auton legein chrê)) can also be rendered as “if one has to call him a man,” since the verb, χρή, (chrê) translates as “[it] is necessary.” Most scholars say this is a Christian interpolation (i.e., forgery) but this phrase can cut both ways. In Deuteronomy 23:2 KJV, there is the line, “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” The word “bastard” is in the Hebrew, מַמְזֵר (mamzer) which means “bastard, child of incest, mongrel race. 4 Obviously these disqualifiers would make an offspring of fornication, incest or relations with a foreign race to be less than a “real” man. The Jewish polemic that Jesus was a child of fornication and of mixed race had to come from somewhere and it apparently appeared first in Celsus’ On the True Word, quoted in Origen’s Contra Celsum. 5, 6 So we could leave this the way William Whiston translated it, or translate it alternatively, “if one has to call him a man.”

“[F]or he was a doer of wonderful works” (ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής (ên gar paradoksôn ergôn poiêtês)): “doer” here is ποιητής (poiêtês), meaning “maker, inventor, legislator, poet, author, composer.” Elsewhere in Josephus, it is used to mean poet 7 or [that which is] made by oneself 8. Now wonderful works here are παραδόξων (paradoksôn), “contrary to all expectation, unbelievable, paradoxical, admirable (with regard to athletes, musicians, artists, etc.);” and ἔργων (ergôn), “works, deeds, acts, actions, things, matters, mischiefs, troubles.” Now this phrase appears elsewhere in Josephus only once when as he was recounting the life of the prophet Elijah, he tells of how Elijah “performed wonderful and surprising works by prophecy”9. But here the Jesus that Josephus is talking about is doing these things differently than Elijah: Elijah’s doing the works as ἐπεδείξατο (epedeiksato): “shewed off, made a display of his powers,” whereas this guy seems to be the author or composer of the works, that is, the brains behind them. So here we can translate alternatively the Greek phrase as: “for he was an author of astonishing actions.” Perhaps those actions were the ensign and aqueduct incidents described in Antiquities 18.3.1 and 18.3.2, or maybe he was a sorcerer as the extant Jewish polemic claims. 

Now comes the part about Jesus being a teacher: διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων (didaskalos anthrôpôn tôn êdonê talêthê dechomenôn): “a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.” Now this could hardly have been written by Josephus. The phrase appears to have been written or doctored by a Christian who forgot the line in 2 Timothy 3:4, “lovers of pleasure (φιλήδονοι (philêdonoi) 10) more than lovers of God.” The word ἡδονῇ (êdonê): "enjoyment, sensual, physical or malicious pleasure, delight, pleasant lusts, strong desire, passion" is from whence we get the English term "hedonism." Further, διδάσκαλος (didaskalos) could mean "teacher, master, trainer" (LSJ - of a dithyrambic or dramatic chorus), or "school, producer;" and second, τἀληθῆ (talêthê) certainly means “unconcealed, true, real, truthful, honest, true, unerring, genuine, self-realizing, coming to fulfillment (in an ironic sense in Sophocles and Euripedes)." Yet this passage is in a short paragraph nested in a series of anecdotes (Antiquities 18.3.1 through 18.3.5) about what turned out to be disasters for the Jews! That this paragraph 18.3.3 is followed by anecdotes of two religious scams, one of which also includes an improper seduction of a Roman matron, strongly suggests that if this is not completely forged, Josephus was convinced that Christianity was a scam. It is possible that he used another word with a more negative connotation: ἀνακαλύψας (anakalupsas), “uncovered, open, unveiled, removed a covering, uplifted a veil.” Unconcealed and revealed are excellent synonyms, as in 2 Cor. 3:14. 11 Indeed, in Antiquities, Josephus uses the term in the sense of “uncovered, revealed (i.e., unconcealed).”12, 13, 14 The last reference describes the action of a Roman soldier, charged with guarding the Temple and the assembled masses therein against any possible sedition, who exposed his virile parts. 14 Furthermore, δεχομένων (dechomenôn) returns “taking, accepting, receiving, catching (as in a vessel 15), giving ear, regarding, approving,” etc. So this sentence could be translated as: “a trainer of such men who receive the ‘unconcealed’ with sensual pleasure,” and have a very rude connotation!

Next is the phrase, καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο (kai pollous men Ioudaious, pollous de kai tou Ellênikou epêgageto) “He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles.” This coheres very well not only with the positive Christian sense of “won over,” but also the more neutral “drew over” as is shown in the Whiston translation, and even in the negative Jewish polemic sense of “enticed” – the Jewish polemics said Jesus the Nazorean was a mezit to minuth, that is, an enticer to heresy or apostacy. 16 The Greek word ἐπηγάγετο (epêgageto) returns “won over, brought in over and above, brought to himself, procured for himself, brought on or over to himself, urged on, led on to himself by persuasion, invited, laid / applied on [himself].” Note also that τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ (tou Ellênikou) “of the Greeks” (plural, even though it literally translates, “of the Greek” (singular), i.e., “[originally] from Greece.” This, too, has a Christian flavor, but in the pen of a skeptical or even hostile Jewish writer could imply a negative, even a rude connotation instead. So this can translate alternatively as: “and indeed he enticed many of the Jews and even many of the Greeks.”

Next is ὁ χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν (o Christos outos ên) “He was the Christ," i.e., the Anointed or the Messiah. Clearly Josephus did not write this. He would have qualified it with a word indicating skepticism about Jesus being the Messiah, such as λεγόμενος (legomenos) 17, “being spoken, said, called.” So this would be rendered more logically as, “He was the one called Anointed [or Messiah],” for Christ is a Christian term, not Jewish. A side note here -- in Antiquities 8.5.2 [133], χριστὸν (christon) (accusative of χριστὸς) means "plastered," as in the plastered interior walls of the First Temple. 18 Take that information for what it's worth, and apply it as you will.

This blog post will continue right here.


Now this: “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;” (καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες (kai auton endeiksi tôn prôtôn andrôn par' êmin staurô epitetimêkotos Pilatou ouk epausanto oi to prôton agapêsantes)): this is a long compound sentence and I will have to break it up.

First will be “And when Pilate” (καὶ Πιλάτου (kai Pilatou)). This literally translates as: “And of Pilate.” The word καὶ (kai) can be rendered as, “and, even, also, just, and yet, and where, and how long ago, and indeed, and further, and so, and now,” etc., so “and when” is perfectly valid.

Second is “at the suggestion of the chief men among us” (ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν (endeiksi tôn prôtôn andrôn par' êmin)). This translates well, too: the noun ἐνδείξει (endeiksi) is defined as: “at (with, by) the indication, pointing out, laying of information against, writ of indictment, proof, demonstration.” So the chief men could have issued a writ of indictment after a proper trial, but the meaning of the word implies no trial was necessary – they simply could have passed information along to the Prefect.

Third is: “condemned him to the cross” (αὐτὸν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος (auton staurô epitetimêkotos)). The word for “to the cross” is σταυρῷ (staurô) which could also mean “to the pole” or even “to the impaling stake,” or to the punishment thereof. And this is unusual verbiage for Josephus to use. It sounds Christian; because if Josephus went by his usual nomenclature 19, he would have used the infinite passive of ἀνασταυρόω (anastauroô), which is ἀνασταυρῶσαι (anastauroôsai): “to be impaled, crucified, [or otherwise suspended on a wooden instrument of death by torture].” Also ἐπιτετιμηκότος (epitetimêkotos) which is related to the English word epithet, returns “having laid a value on, having showed honor to, having increased in price; having laid a penalty on, having censured.” So we see here that Pilate is described as simply sentencing Jesus to a death by a suspension on a pole or an equally tortuous wooden object. So if Josephus wrote this, and is correct, we see that Jesus only had one trial – before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Senate) – if even that, for there could have been no trial; in any case, Pilate summarily ordered him to be executed.

Here’s the important part: “those that loved him at the first did not forsake him” (οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες (ouk epausanto oi to prôton agapêsantes)). The verb ἐπαύσαντο (epausanto), meaning, “cease, stopped, left off rested, put an end to, blunted, made to cease, brought to an end, checked, made an end of, left off from, ceased, stopped doing so, abated.” So Josephus is not saying those that loved him at the first did not forsake him (although that is definitely implied), he’s saying they did not leave off doing so, i.e., they kept on doing whatever they were doing with him, which was loving him. Or was it? For the word for “loved” is ἀγαπήσαντες (agapêsantes) -- from the Greek noun ἀγαπή (agape) – which verb actually means “greeted with affection, treated with affection, caressed, loved, sexually loved [but only rarely], fraternally loved [New Testament], were fond of, were well pleased or contented with.” In the Christian sense it only means “fraternally or unconditionally loved” and Josephus was no Christian! So if one is to believe that Josephus wrote this, a meaning with a negative connotation will be appropriate, and unfortunately, Christians, there is only one: “those who physically / sexually loved him at the first did not leave off [doing so].”

And why did they not leave off doing so? Because he showed up alive after he was allegedly crucified! Says the phrase, “for he appeared to them alive again the third day” (ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν (epsanê gar autois tritên echôn êmeran palin zôn). The verb ἐφάνη (epsanê) returns from the LSJ: the aorist third person indicative passive “came to light, was seen, appeared, came into being, was manifest, was joined with [!], was stripped bare [!].” The plural personal pronoun, αὐτοῖς (autois) is in the dative (of object and/or of agent) so it could mean not just “to them” but also “for them, with them, by them, etc.” Then comes the difficult phrase: τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν (tritên echôn êmeran palin zôn) is literally, “having a third day alive again” or “having a third day in full life and strength again.” So the alternative, in a throroughly negative connotation, could be: “for he was joined with [or stripped bare by] them having a third day in full life and strength again.” There is, of course, no telling how long this took, but it appears that if Josephus is not entirely skeptical of the subject Jesus being crucified in the first place, then he is implying that he actually survived being nailed up to and/or penetrated by a crucifixion tool. 20

The next phrase, “as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him” (τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων. (tôn theiôn prophêtôn tauta te kai alla muria peri autou thaumasia eirêkotôn.)). Now this is just too Christian. Josephus would never have written anything like this, unless he meant “strange, absurd, extraordinary” for θαυμάσια(thaumasia) instead of “wonderful, marvelous, excellent” as a Christian would mean by the Greek adjective. Yet I know of no evidence, save for the assertions of the small modern day Lubavitcher following of the late Rabbi Schneerson, that the Jews ever saw Jesus (either the subject of this paragraph or of the New Testament) as a person who was forseen by the Prophets. On top of that, Origen said that Josephus did not even believe in (the Christian) Jesus as the Messiah. 21 So this phrase is right out.

But the last sentence could have been written by Josephus as is: “And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀπὸ τοῦδε ὠνομασμένον οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον. (eis eti en te nun tôn Christianôn apo toude ônomasmenon ouk epelipe to phulon.)) Since φῦλον (phulon) has meanings other than “tribe,” such as “phylum, race, class of men,” and “swarm,” the last sentence in Josephus’ pen could mean, “And the swarm of Christians have not gone extinct, even unto this day.”

So, after a short statement introducing the paragraph as yet another calamity for the Jews, and perhaps why, here’s how the “Testimonium Flavianum” could have come off to the average educated reader of the day:

[63] Now there came of age about this time a clever, skilled man Yeshua (if one has to call him a man), for he was an author of astonishing deeds, a trainer of such men who receive the ‘unconcealed’ with sensual pleasure. And indeed he enticed many of the Jews and even many of the Greeks. He was the one called Anointed. [64] And when Pilate, at the passing of information by the chief men among us, condemned him to the stauros, those who physically / sexually loved him at the first did not leave off [doing so]: for he was joined with [or stripped bare by] them having a third day in full life and strength again. And the swarm of Christians have not gone extinct, even unto this day.

So there you have it. The “Testimonium Flavianum” with a negative connotation, closer in line with what Josephus would have actually wrote. The problem is, regardless of how it was actually written, or even if it was written at all, it brought none of the ire of the early Church Fathers, especially Origen, whose three quotes from Josephus’ Antiquities where he mentions James, “the brother of the one called Christ” shows he was thoroughly familiar with Books 18 and 20. 22 So it appears we have not just absence of evidence, but also evidence of absence. Either that, or all the Christian writers who knew of it before Eusebius thought it was so blasphemous, that they studiously ignored it. But when Eusebius quotes it, it clearly had become the touched-up “Testimonium Forgianum” that we know of today.

1. Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895. Tufts Perseus Digital Library.

2. Flavius Josephus. Flavii Iosephi opera. B. Niese. Berlin. Weidmann. 1892. Tufts Perseus Digital Library.

3. Word definitions from the LSJ, Middle Liddell, Slater and Autenrieth tabs of the referenced (and linked) words accessed at the Tufts Perseus Greek Word Study Tool.

4. Strong’s Herbrew 4464 מַמְזֵר (mamzer), bastard, child of incest, of mixed population, mongrel i.e., born of a Jewish father and a heathen mother.

5. Origen, Contra Celsum.

6. Wikipedia, Criticism of Jesus, Criticism by Source, Celsus.

7. Josephus Antiquities 12.2.14 [110]: καί πρὸς τὸν Δημήτριον ἤρξατο ποιεῖσθαι λόγους, πῶς οὕτως θαυμαστῆς οὔσης τῆς νομοθεσίας οὐδεὶς οὔτε τῶν ἱστορικῶν αὐτῆς οὔτε τῶν ποιητῶν ἐπεμνήσθη (kai pros ton Dêmêtrion êrksato poieisthai logous, pôs outôs thaumastês tês nomothesias oudeis oute tôn istorikôn autês oute tôn poiêtôn) “And he began to discourse with Demetrius, "How it came to pass, that when this legislation was so wonderful, no one, either of the poets or of the historians, had made mention of it." Cf. 12.2.14 [113]: ἐδήλου δὲ καὶ περὶ Θεοδέκτουτοῦ τῶν τραγῳδιῶν ποιητοῦ ἀναφέρεσθαι (edêlou de kai peri Theodektoutou tôn tragôdiôn poiêtou anapheresthai) “Moreover, he informed him of Theodectes, the tragic poet”

8. Josephus, Antiquities 18.6.2 [147]: ὥστε ἀπορίᾳ τῶν ποιητέων καὶ αἰσχύνῃ τῇ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς (ôste aporia tôn poiêteôn kai aiscêunê tê ep’ autois) “for shame of his present condition” (lit.: inasmuch as a difficulty of the [things] made by himself and the shame concerning them”). This is about Agrippa fleeing to his tower at Malatha in Idumea.

9. Josephus, Antiquities 9.8.6 [182]: θαυμαστὰ γὰρ καὶ παράδοξαδιὰ τῆς προφητείας ἐπεδείξατο ἔργα (thaumata gar kai paradoksadia tês prophêteias epedeiksato erga) “He also performed wonderful and surprising works by prophecy”

10. Strong’s Greek 5369 φιλήδονος (philêdonos), “loving pleasure. From φίλος (philos), ‘friend, dear, lover, beloved’ and ἡδονή (êdonê) ‘pleasure, lust, strong desire, sensuous pleasure’ from where we get the word hedonism.

11. 2 Corinthians 3:14, ἀλλὰ ἐπωρώθη τὰ νοήματα αὐτῶν. ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης μένει, μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον ὅτι ἐν Χριστῷ καταργεῖται• (Alla epôrôthê ta noêmata autôn, achri gar ths sêmeron êmeras to auto kalumma epi th anagnôsei tês palaias diathêkhs menei, mê anakaluptomenon oti en Christô katargeitai. ) “But the minds of them were hardened, indeed until the present day the same veil at the reading of the Old Covenant remains, not revealed, which in Christ is being annulled”

12. Josephus, Antiquities 6.11.4 [218] ἐλθόντες δὲ καὶ ἀνακαλύψαντες τὴν κλίνην καὶ τὸ σόφισμα τῆς γυναικὸς εὑρόντες ἀπήγγειλαν τῷ βασιλεῖ. (elthontes de kai anakalupsantes tên klinên kai to sophisma tês gunaikos eurontes apêggeilan tô basilei.) “now when they came and uncovered the bed, and found out the woman’s contrivance, they told it to the king”

13. Josephus, Antiquities 7.7.3 [151] ἀνεκάλυπτε δ᾽ αὐτῷ καὶ παρεγύμνου τὴν ὀργὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ποιήσαντος μὲν αὐτὸν βασιλέα πάσης τῆς Ἑβραίων δυνάμεως (anekalupte d’ autô kai paregumnon tên orgên tou theou poiêsantos men auton basilea pasês tês Ebraiôn dunameôs) “He also revealed to him, and laid before him, the anger of God against him, who had made him king over the army of the Hebrews”

14. Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.3 [108] τετάρτῃ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἑορτῆς στρατιώτης τις ἀνακαλύψας ἐπεδείκνυε τῷ πλήθει τὰ αἰδοῖα (tetartê de êmera tês eortês stratiôtês tis anakalupsas epedeiknue tô plêthei ta aidoia) “But on the fourth day of the feast [of Passover], a certain soldier let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude” (lit.: “but on the fourth day of the feast, one soldier uncovered and exhibited to the crowd [his] private parts”)

15. Josephus, Antiquities 3.8.3 [197] μέτρον δ᾽ ἐστὶ τοῦτο ἐπιχώριον δύο χόας Ἀττικοὺς δεχόμενον (metron d’ esti touto epichôrion choas Attikous dechomenon) “an hin is our own country measure, and contains [or ‘catches’] two Athenian choas, or congiuses”

16. Wikipedia, Heresy in Judaism; Cf. Wikipedia, Jesus, “Religious Perspectives / Jewish Views;” Wikipedia, Judaism’s View of Jesus; and Wikipedia, Jesus in the Talmud. Nota bene: the Talmudic accounts with the name Yeshu יֵשׁוּ may refer to the Christian Jesus. He is referred to as a mesit (an enticer to apostasy or heresy).

17. This word is used in Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1 [200]: ἀδελφὸν Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ, Ἰάκωβος ὄνομα αὐτῷ (adelphon Iêsou tou legomenou Christou, Iakôbos onoma autô) “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James.”
18. Josephus, Antiquities 8.5.2 [137]: τὸ δὲ ἄλλο μέχρι τῆς στέγης χριστὸν ἦν (to de allo mechri tês stegês christon ên) “But the other part, up to the roof, was plastered over.”

19. Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.2 [102]: Ἰάκωβος καὶ Σίμων, οὓς ἀνασταυρῶσαι προσέταξεν Ἀλέξανδρος. (Iakôbos kai Simôn, ous anastaurôsai prosetacen Alexandros) “The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.” (lit.: “Jacob and Simon, those Alexander ordered to be crucified / impaled.”)

20. Josephus, Life 75 [420b, 421]: ὡς ἐκεῖθεν ὑποστρέφων εἶδον πολλοὺς αἰχμαλώτους ἀνεσταυρωμένους καὶ τρεῖς ἐγνώρισα συνήθεις μοι γενομένους, ἤλγησά τε τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ μετὰ δακρύων προσελθὼν Τίτῳ εἶπον. ὁ δ᾽ εὐθὺς ἐκέλευσεν καθαιρεθέντας αὐτοὺς θεραπείας ἐπιμελεστάτης τυχεῖν. καὶ οἱ μὲν δύο τελευτῶσιν θεραπευόμενοι, ὁ δὲ τρίτος ἔζησεν. (ôs ekeithen upostrephôn eidon pollous aichmalôtous anestaurômenous kai treis egnôrisa sunêtheis moi genoumenous, êlgêsa te tên psuchên kai meta dakruôn proselthôn Titô eupon.o d’ euthos ekeleusen kathairethentas autous therapeias epimelestatês tuchein. Kai oi men duo teleutôsin therapeuomenoi, o de tritos ezêsen.) as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician's hands, while the third recovered.

21. Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 10.17: “Flavius Josephus, who wrote the "Antiquities of the Jews" in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James." Cf. Contra Celsum 1.47: “For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless— being, although against his will, not far from the truth— that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),— the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine.” Cf. also Contra Celsum 2.13: “For they will not maintain that the acquaintances and pupils of Jesus Himself handed down His teaching contained in the Gospels without committing it to writing, and left His disciples without the memoirs of Jesus contained in their works. Now in these it is recorded, that “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then shall you know that the desolation thereof is near.” But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

22. Ibid.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Was Jesus Even Crucified? Part 1.

It is a staple of Muslim understanding that the same Jesus whom the Christians and Jews maintain was crucified, most certainly was not. As it says in their Qur’an in these two translations:

…and for their boast, “Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, [who claimed to be]an Apostle of God!” However, they did not crucify him, but it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so, and verily those who hold conflicting views thereon are indeed confused, having no real knowledge thereof, and following mere conjecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay him.

Surah 4,156 (Muhammad Asad) 1

…and their saying, “It is we who killed the Christ Jesus son of Mary, the messenger of God” – they killed him not, nor did they crucify him, but so it was made to appear to them. Those who disputed concerning him are in doubt over the matter, they have no knowledge thereof but only follow conjecture. Assuredly they killed him not.

Women (Surah 4), 156 (Tarif Khalid) 2
Indeed, Mr. Asad explains how it seemed to have been so; that it was a matter of legends accreting over time. Indeed, we have already seen how the Roman suspension-torture-execution crux (Priapus stake) transmutated into a tropaeum (victory cross) and then it kept the name crux (votive cross)! For in Christianity, it is no longer the suspended criminal who was the trophy, but the cross itself! But back to Mr. Asad:

The story of the crucifixion as such has been succinctly explained in the Quranic phrase wa-lakin shubbia lahum, which I render as “but it only appeared to them as it had been so.” – implying that in the course of time, long after the time of Jesus, a legend had somehow grown up… to the effect that in the course of time, long after the time of Jesus, a legend had somehow grown up… to the effect that he had died on the cross in order to atone for the “original sin” with which mankind is allegedly burdened, and this legend becomes so firmly established among the latter-day followers of Jesus that even his enemies, the Jews, began to believe it…. This, to my mind, is the only satisfactory explanation of the phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, the more so as the expression shubbiha li, “[a thing] became a fancied image to me,” i.e., “in my mind” – in other words, “[it] seemed to me.” (See Qamus, art. Khayala, as well as Lane II, 853 and IV, 1500. 3 (removal of diacritics mine)
It could have been a matter of diegetic transposition of the exposition of the wax image of Julius Caesar on a tropaeum.4 A clue that this may be so is buried in Galatians, where Paul berates the Galatians for returning to the observance of Torah, wherein he says, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” (Gal. 3:1 NIV) The language of this passage with the use of the word “portrayed” and the phrase “before your very eyes,” of course, implies a theatrical production.4 Perhaps the “Judaizers,” whom Paul berates throughout the entirety of the letter, had said otherwise.

Indeed, Harper’s Bible Dictionary admits that the final days of Jesus’ life and how the political authorities, both Roman and Jewish, decided to have the man executed by torture-suspension, are devoid of detail: “The details of Jesus’ last days or of the political processes that led to his crucifixion are no longer recoverable.”5 Yet, the article puts the onus on the “political authorities, no doubt mistrusting his teaching about the Kingdom [of God] and mistrusting his popularity,” who “decided that Jesus should be put to death,” and goes on to explain the putative details of his arrest, trials and execution at Golgotha “in the presence of other criminals.” The details cited are not dissimilar to those in the Gospels’ accounts.6

Despite admitting that “Originally the ‘cross’ was an upright stake to which the to which the corpse of an executed criminal was bound for public display on which the living body of a condemned person was affixed to await death” 7 (either by nailing the person to the pole’s surface or more likely by impaling him onto one end), Harper’s also has an astonishing amount of detail of Roman crucifixion in general, and of the crucifixion of Jesus himself, some of which comes from the Canonical Gospels, and some of which are, as Gunnar Samuelsson has shown,8 could be from mere conjecture, which go as far back as the German scholar Hermann Fulda, John Pearson and even Justus Lipsius. And the canonical Gospels? The earliest, gMark, dates from 70 CE, with the crucifixion account missing from the 2nd Century and 3rd century papyri.9 Even so, according to gMark, none of the disciples who were with Jesus the night he was allegedly arrested saw him suspended and then tortured to death by the instrument of his own suspension:

And they all forsook him, and fled.

(gMark 14;50, KJV)
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

(gMark 15:40-41, KJV)

So the male disciples were not there, and the women were allegedly looking at the Crucifixion of Jesus from afar off (NIV: from a distance); the literal meaning of the Greek adverb μακρόθεν is “from a (long) distance, afar.10 So unless they were looking at a long distance from some height somewhere, they scarcely could have gained a clear view, and even if they were they still could have mistaken somebody else for Jesus!

Worse is gMark 16, of which most serious New Testament scholars will tell you that verses 9-20 are a later tackon by some medieval scribes. Basically, the earliest version has verses 1 through 8 only, which describes the women going to the tomb, in order that they may anoint him.11 When they get there, a young man dressed all in white, says that he has risen, just as he had said, and is going ahead to meet the disciples that he is going to meet him in the Galilee, as he had also said. The women, of course, fly off and don’t tell anybody, “for they were afraid.”12 So what are we to make of this? The only logical conclusion is that gMark, when it first appeared, even though Paul’s letters were supposed to have been circulating for up to twenty years at this time, must have been the first time anyone ever heard of the life and times and even the events of the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, because reportedly the women didn’t tell anybody anything!

In conclusion, the Muslims have a very valid reason to disbelieve the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, because the New Testament record is very, very iffy.


1. Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an. Bristol, England: The Book Foundation,, 2003, pp. 153-4
2. Tarif Khalid The Qur’an: A New Translation. New York: Penguin Books, 2008, p. 80.
3. Asad, p. 154, n. 171.
4. Francesco Carotta, Jesus Was Caesar, Ch. III, “Crux.”
5. Paul A. Achtemeier, Gen. Ed. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper and Row, 1985, pp. 475-87, “Jesus Christ,” p. 487.
6. Ibid.
7. Harper’s, pp. 194-5, “Crucifixion,” p. 195.
8. Gunnar Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, Tubigen, Mohr Siebeck, 2010. The publisher’s blurb at reads as follows:
Gunnar Samuelsson investigates the philological aspects of how ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts, including the New Testament, depict the practice of punishment by crucifixion. A survey of the ancient text material shows that there has been a too narrow a view of the "crucifixion" terminology. The various terms are not simply used in the sense of "crucify" and "cross," if by "crucifixion" one means the punishment that Jesus was subjected to according to the main Christian traditions. The terminology is used much more diversely. Almost none of it can be elucidated beyond verbs referring vaguely to some form(s) of suspension, and nouns referring to tools used in such suspension. As a result, most of the crucifixion accounts that scholars cite in the ancient literature have to be rejected, leaving only a few.

The New Testament is not spared from this terminological ambiguity. The accounts of the death of Jesus are strikingly sparse. Their chief contribution is usage of the unclear terminology in question. Over-interpretation, and probably even pure imagination, have afflicted nearly every dictionary that deals with the terms related to crucifixion as well as scholarly depictions of what happened on Calvary. The immense knowledge of the punishment of crucifixion in general, and the execution of Jesus in particular, cannot be supported by the studied texts.
9. Wikipedia, List of New Testament Paryri. Cf. Wikipedia, Paryrus P-45. The earliest listed manuscript (fragment) or papyrus that contains content from gMark is P-45 dated around 250 CE +/- 50 years. This papyrus contains gMark 4-9 and 11-12. It also contains gMatthew 20-21 and 25-26, Luke 6-7 and 9-14, and John 4-5 and 10-11. Nota bene: None of the Crucifixion accounts are present in this papyrus or any other listed prior to 350 CE.

10. Strong’s Greek 3113 μακρόθεν (makrothen): from a distance or afar, afar off, from far. and Tufts Perseus Greek Word Study Tool (click on LSJ and Middle Liddell tabs).

11. Strong’s Greek 218 ἀλείψωσιν (aleipswsin) more properly, to rub, smear, massage olive oil on a body – this is a poor choice of a word. Did Jews ever massage dead bodies on the third day? The very idea of it is ludicrous! and Tufts Perseus Greek Word Study Tool (click on the LSJ, Middle Liddell and Autenrieth tabs).

12. Mark 16:1-8, KJV