The witness of Josephus

Josephus Flavius (38-100 A.D.) was a Jewish historian and wannabe general. He was given a rabbinic education and joined the sect of the Pharisees.

When the Jews revolted against Rome in 64 A.D., he was placed in charge of the Jewish garrison in Galilee. When his forces were overwhelmed by the Roman general Vespasian, he was captured and brought before the gritty general. He impressed Vespasian by predicting he would one day become Caesar. Apparently not immune to flattery, the Roman general spared the life of Josephus and made him an intelligence officer.

From a biblical standpoint, Josephus’ importance lies in his writings, the “Jewish Histories,” which give scholars an excellent image of Judaism in the first century.

In his “Antiquities of the Jews” (Chapter III verse 3) he mentions the life of Christ. It should be emphasized that Josephus was a Jew, both ethnically and spiritually. He did not believe that Jesus was the messiah, still less the son of God. Yet he could not avoid including the life of Jesus in his histories because, please note, Jesus was an historical figure!

Josephus’ description provides an independent account of Jesus’ life. Josephus calls him a “wise man” and a “teacher,” and further describes his trial and execution under Pilate. What this demonstrates, once again, is that there is no reasonable way to doubt the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan began preaching in 1976, and worked in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He served as preacher with the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He was Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He was married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He authored five books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs; Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song; Equipping the Saints for Ministry; and Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation. Stan passed away 19 Feb. 2019.

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