In extant manuscripts of the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, three passages contain references to Jesus. Two are in his history entitled Jewish Antiquities. One is a passing reference to Jesus that almost all scholars regard as authentic. The second, a longer passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum, is the focus of the accompanying article.
The third passage appears in The Jewish War, an account of the Jewish revolt against Rome that culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The passage referring to Jesus does not appear in the early Greek manuscripts of this work, but only in translations of part of it into Slavonic that date to about the 10th or 11th century. Almost all scholars regard the passage as a late Christian interpolation, not only because of its absence in the Greek manuscripts, but for several other reasons including its content. The passage is nevertheless interesting if only because it helps us understand how scholars conclude that a passage is an inauthentic interpolation and it serves as an illustration of how ancient texts were altered.
The following translation is from the Loeb Classical Library edition, translated by H. St. John Thackeray.—H.S.
The Ministry, Trial and Crucifixion of “The Wonder-worker” (Jesus)
At that time there appeared a man, if it is permissible to call him a man. His nature and form were human, but his appearance (was something) more than (that) of a man; notwithstanding his works were divine. He worked miracles wonderful and mighty. Therefore it is impossible for me to call him a man; but again, if I look at the nature which he shared with all, I will not call him an angel. And everything whatsoever he wrought through an invisible power, he wrought by word and command. Some said of him, “Our first lawgiver is risen from the dead and hath performed many healings and arts,” while others thought that he was sent from God. Howbeit in many things he disobeyed the Law and kept not the Sabbath according to (our) fathers’ customs. Yet, on the other hand, he did nothing shameful; nor (did he do anything) with the aid of hands, but by word alone did he provide everything.
And many of the multitude followed after him and hearkened to his teaching; and many souls were in commotion, thinking that thereby the Jewish tribes might free themselves from Roman hands. Now it was his custom in general to sojourn over against the city upon the Mount of Olives; and there, too, he bestowed his healings upon the people.
And there assembled unto him of ministers one hundred and fifty, and a multitude of the people. Now when they saw his power, that he accomplished whatsoever he would by (a) word, and when they had made known to him their will, that he should enter into the city and cut down the Roman troops and Pilate and rule over us, he disdained us not.a
And when thereafter knowledge of it came to the Jewish leaders, they assembled together with the high-priest and spake: “We are powerless and (too) weak to withstand the Romans. Seeing, moreover, that the bow is bent, we will go and communicate to Pilate what we have heard, and we shall be clear of trouble, lest he hear (it) from others, and we be robbed of our substance and ourselves slaughtered and our children scattered.”
And they went and communicated it to Pilate. And he sent and had many of the multitude slain. And he had that Wonder-worker brought up, and after instituting an inquiry concerning him, he pronounced judgement: “He is a benefactor, not a malefactor, nor a rebel, nor covetous of kingship.” And he let him go; for he had healed his dying wife.
And he went to his wonted place and did his wonted works. And when more people again assembled round him, he glorified himself through his actions more than all. The teachers of the Law were overcome with envy, and gave thirty talents to Pilate, in order that he should put him to death. And he took (it) and gave them liberty to execute their will themselves. And they laid hands on him and crucified him contrary to the law of their fathers.