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Eusebian fabrications: the Testimonium Flavianum

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  • Ken Olson
    INTRODUCTION I am going to argue here that the _Testimonium Flavianum_, the passage about Jesus found in all of our surviving manuscripts of Josephus
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 28 9:09 PM

      INTRODUCTION

      I am going to argue here that the _Testimonium Flavianum_, the passage about Jesus found in all of our surviving manuscripts of Josephus' _Antiquities of the Jews_ (18.63-64) is in fact the work of Eusebius of Caesarea. Josephus either said nothing about Jesus at this point in his text, or what he said is so completely overwritten by Eusebius that no authentic Josephan substratum of the _Testimonium_ can be recovered. As it is the nearly unanimous verdict of modern scholarship that the _Testimonium_ is at least partially a Christian interpolation, I do not intend to waste time establishing that fact. Instead, I will examine the argument most commonly made in favor of the partial authenticity of the _Testimonium_, (i.e., that it contains Josephan language and non-Christian content) and try to show that the data are better explained on the theory that Eusebius is the author of the entire text.

      LANGUAGE

      The claim that the _Testimonium_ is written in Josephus' style is difficult to analyze. What is Josephus' style? Thackeray based his claim largely on a single characteristically Josephan phrase (Thackeray, 141-42). Using Rengstorf's concordance of Josephus, Meier did a comparison between the vocabulary of the _Testimonium_ and that of Josephus on the one hand and the NT on the other. He found that, with the single exception of the word CRISTIANWN, every word found in the _Testimonium_ is also found in Josephus, while the same cannot be said with regard to the NT. Meier himself gives several caveats about his method: the works of Josephus are a much larger corpus than the NT and what he shows is that if a Christian author wrote the _Testimonium_, then that author is not taking his vocabulary solely from the NT (Meier, 80-83, n. 41).

      While no concordance of Eusebius works is available (and I do not claim to have read all of Eusebius' works), it is possible to say that every word in the _Testimonium_ is also found elsewhere in Eusebius. On the level of basic vocabulary, it is difficult to say whether the _Testimonium_ is more likely to be from Josephus or Eusebius. A comparison of groups of words used together, such as a noun or verb with its modifiers, showed that there are three such groups found in the _Testimonium_ that are not paralleled elsewhere in Josephus but are found in Eusebius, and two such groups found elsewhere in Josephus but not (so far as I can tell) in Eusebius. The Eusebian phrases are: PARADOXWN ERGWN POIHTHS, EIS ETI TE NUN, and TWN CRISTIANWN... TO FULON. The Josephan phrases are: hHDONHi DECOMENWN and PRWTWN ANDRWN (when used in the sense of "leaders"). Clearly, the hapax legomena alone will not decide who is/are the author(s) of this passage, but any theory on the origin of the _Testimonium_ must be able to explain them all coherently.

      EUSEBIUS' APOLOGETIC WORKS

      Eusebius quotes the _Testimonium_ in three of his works: the _Demonstratio Evangelica_, the _Historia Ecclesiastica_, and the _Theophany_. His purpose in quoting it in each case is to use Josephus as a witness to Jesus' good character in order to refute Jewish and pagan accusations against Jesus. In particular, Eusebius is concerned to refute the charge that Jesus was a GOHS, a term that can be translated as "charlatan" or "wizard" or "deceiver." Eusebius also answered this charge in his _Adversus Hieroclem_, which was written earlier than any of the three works previously mentioned. The _Demonstratio_ and the _Historia_ are difficult to date, particularly since modern scholarship holds that the latter was published in four editions. Most scholars consider the _Demonstratio_ to be the earlier work. It is likely that Eusebius worked on both texts simultaneously, but I take the reading of the _Testimonium_ in the _Demonstratio_ to be the earlier of the two. The _Theophany_ was one of Eusebius' latest works and has come down to us only in Syriac.

      ADVERSUS HIEROCLEM

      In the _Adversus Hieroclem_, the earliest of the works under consideration, Eusebius is concerned to refute the unfavorable comparison that Hierocles made between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana in his _Lover of Truth_. Hierocles' work does not survive, but from what Eusebius says of it, Hierocles major source appears to have been Flavius Philostratus’ _Life of Apollonius_.

      According to Mendelson’s analysis, Philostratus placed Apollonius in a category of intermediate beings between gods and men, and terms him a "sage" (SOFOS) or DAIMWN (Mendelson, 512). Eusebius rejects these categories. He tells us,

      I … used to regard the man of Tyana having been, humanly speaking, a kind of sage [SOFON TINA], and I am still freely disposed to adhere to this opinion… Not so if anyone ventures… to overleap the bounds of humanity and transcend philosophy, and while repelling the charge of wizardry [GOHTEIAN] bind it in act rather than in name upon the man, using the mask of Pythagorean discipline to disguise what he really was. For in that case his reputation for us as a philosopher will be gone… and we shall detect in him a sophist in the truest sense… and a wizard [GOHS], if there ever was one, instead of a philosopher. (A.H. 5).

      Mendelson observes that:

      In Eusebius estimation, Apollonius was a good, but ordinary, man. Apollonius’ followers have mistakenly raised him above his true terrestrial station. As Eusebius asserts, "Apollonius was not fit to be classed, I will not say among philosophers, but even among men of integrity and good sense." (AH 4). For Eusebius the status of Apollonius amounts to a simple disjunction, "whether we ought to rank him among divine and philosophic men or among wizards." Since only one man, Jesus, can correspond to the first category, Eusebius is forced to conclude that Apollonius belongs to the class of "wizards and falsely wise men" (GOHTON KAI YEUDOSOFON, AH 38). [Mendelson, 519].

      Thus we can distinguish three categories in Eusebius’ thought: the divine man, which includes Jesus alone; the wise man (SOFOS), which includes prophets and philosophers, and the wizard (GOHS) or false man. Eusebius says he would be willing to accept that Apollonius is a SOFOS, unless one insists on crediting the stories about him which claim he has a divine nature, in which case Eusebius concludes he must be a GOHS.

      DEMONSTRATIO EVANGELICA

      At the end of chapter four and the beginning of chapter five of the third book of the _Demonstratio Evangelica_, Eusebius promises to refute those who the either deny that Jesus worked any miracles at all or that, if he did, it was by wizardry (GOHTIXA) and deception (D.E. 109). Near the end of chapter five, Eusebius produces the _Testimonium_, which encapsulates the arguments he has made in the chapter, or elsewhere in the book, and attributes them to Josephus. As it appears in the _Demonstratio_, the _Testimonium_ reads:

      GINETAI DE KAT’ EKEINON TON CRONON IHSOUS, SOFOS ANHR, EIGE ANDRA AUTON LEGEI XRH. HN GAR PARADOXWN ERGWN POIHTHS, DIDASKALOS ANQRWPWN TALHQH SEBOMENWN, KAI POLLOUS MEN IOUDAIKOU, POLLOUS DE KAI hHLLHNIKOU EPHGAGETO. hO CRISTOS hOUTOS HN, KAI AUTON ENDEIXEI TON PAR’ hHMIN ARCONTWN STAURWi EPITETIMHKOTOS PILATOU, OUK EPAUSANTO hOI TO PRWTON AGAPHSANTES. EFANE GAR AUTOIS TRITHN hHMERAN PALIN ZWN, TWN THEIWN PROFHTWN TAUTA TE KAI ALLA MYRIA PERI AUTOU EIRHKOTWN. hOQEN EISETI NUN APO TOUDE TWN CRISTIANWN OUK EPELIPE TO FULON.

      About this time arose Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man, for he was a maker of miraculous works, a teacher of men who revere the truth, and he won over many of the Jewish and even many of the Greek [nation]. He was the Christ; and although Pilate, upon an accusation from our rulers, condemned him to the cross, nevertheless those who had loved him earlier did not stop, for he appeared to them alive again on the third day, the divine prophets having foretold these and also myriads of other wonders about him. From that time to this the nation of Christians has not failed. (D.E. 124).

      In what follows, I will examine the _Testimonium_ line by line and attempt to show how the entire passage fits Eusebius’ apologetic strategy.

      "About this time arose Jesus, a wise man;" as we have seen, the "wise man" is for Eusebius the opposite of the GOHS, "wizard" or "deceiver." In _Adversus Hieroclem_ Eusebius argued that if he had to accept the supernatural feats attributed to Apollonius, he must regard him as a GOHS rather than a wise man (A.H. 5); here he has Josephus call Jesus a "wise man" and thus, implicitly, not a GOHS.

      "if indeed one should call him a man, for he was a maker of miraculous works;" most modern scholars consider the first part of this quotation a Christian interpolation because it presupposes Jesus’ superhuman nature. For Eusebius, both Hebrew prophets and Greek philosophers can be wise men or sages. Even Porphyry, the critic of Christianity, is an ANHR SOFOS (D.E. 105). Jesus himself is "the prince of philosophers and the teacher of holy men" (D.E. 127). Unlike other wise men, however, Jesus alone has a divine or superhuman nature. The term PARADOXWN ERGWN POIHTHS is markedly Eusebian. POIHTHS never occurs in Josephus in the sense of "maker" rather than "poet," and the only time Josephus combines forms of PARADOXOS and POIHW it is in the sense of "acting contrary to custom" (A.J. 12.87) rather than "making miracles." Combining forms of PARADOXOS and POIHW in the sense of "miracle-making" is exceedingly common in Eusebius, but he seems to reserve the three words PARADOXOS, POIHW, and ERGON, used together, to describe Jesus (D.E. 114-115, 123, 125, H.E. 1.2.23)

      "a teacher of men who revere the truth;" Eusebius wants to show that Jesus’ disciples, like their master, were not deceivers. They were men who revere the truth.

      "and he won over many of the Jewish and even many of the Greek [nation]." It is sometimes argued that a Christian author would have known that Jesus did not attract many gentile followers during his ministry, but this is contradicted by Eusebius’ testimony. Elsewhere he reports of Jesus that "by teaching and miracles He revealed the powers of His Godhead to all equally whether Greeks or Jews" (D.E. 400). The paired opposition of Jews and Greeks is especially common in the first two books of the _Demonstratio_, where Eusebius claims, "Christianity is neither a form of Hellenism nor a form of Judaism" (D.E. 11). It is, in fact, the re-establishment of the religion of the patriarchs, who worshipped the one God but did not have the restrictions of the Mosaic law, and thus was "that third form of religion midway between Judaism and Hellenism" (D.E.: Ferrar 8, Migne 25a). The MEN… DE construction used in the _Testimonium_ situates the "nation" founded by Jesus nicely between the two other religions.

      "He was the Christ;" few or no modern scholars accept that this is Josephan as it stands. This is almost universally admitted to be an interpolation by a Christian writer, although it is not necessarily Eusebian.

      "and although Pilate, upon an accusation from our rulers, condemned him to the cross, nevertheless those who had loved him earlier did not stop;" following a suggestion in Meier, I have translated the genitive absolute as a concessive, rather than a temporal, clause (Meier, 78, n. 35). Meier does not go on to explain why the author of this passage should choose to highlight Jesus’ followers in the main clause and relegate Jesus’ crucifixion to a subordinate position. The mention of the crucifixion in this sentence establishes under what conditions Jesus’ followers did not abandon him. This is Eusebius’ central argument in D.E. 3.5. Eusebius’ opponents were not denying that Jesus was crucified by the Roman and Jewish authorities; this was probably a main part of their argument that Jesus was a GOHS. Eusebius, however, cleverly inverts this argument. If Jesus had been a deceiver, and his followers had been deceivers, would not self-interest have compelled them to abandon his teachings after they had witnessed the manner of his death at the hands of the authorities? The fact that they did not abandon Jesus after witnessing the punishments he had brought upon himself can only mean that the disciples had recognized some greater than normal virtue in their teacher. This argument is developed at great length in D.E. 3.5, but I shall quote only a part of it here, "Perhaps you will say that the rest were wizards no less than their guide. Yes – but surely they had all seen the end of their teacher, and the death to which He came. Why then after seeing his miserable end did they stand their ground?" (D.E. 111).

      "for he appeared to them alive again on the third day, the divine prophets having foretold these and also myriads of other wonders about him." Nearly all modern scholars consider this a Christian interpolation. It is typical of Eusebius’ apologetic arguments, especially in the first two books of the _Demonstratio_, which are primarily directed at Jesus’ Jewish critics. As Norris observes, "[Eusebius] follows both Justin and Origen in suggesting that ancient prophecy, specifically Jewish prophecy, had indicated who Jesus would be and what he would do. His miracles are not to be set aside as based on magic but are to be accepted as predicted by the prophets" (Norris, 526).

      "From that time to now the nation of Christians has not failed." In _Adversus Hieroclem_, Eusebius asks that those who consider Apollonius "a divine being and superior to a philosopher, in a word as one superhuman in his nature" to point out any of his effects that have lasted "to this day" (EISETI NUN; A.H. 7). Jesus according to Eusebius, has left such effects (EISETI KAI NUN; A.H. 4 x2). The word "Christians" is not found anywhere in Josephus, but "nation (FULON) of Christians" is found in Eusebius (H.E. 3.33.2, 3.33.3). In the first book of the _Demonstratio_, Eusebius argues that the Christians are the "nation" (EQNOS) promised to Abraham (D.E.: Ferrar 10, Migne 25c). He uses the terms FULON, EQNOS, and LAOS, pretty much interchangeably, to describe Christianity.

      The _Testimonium_, then, corroborates many of the points Eusebius made in the first three books of the _Demonstratio Evangelica_. Norris observes that when Eusebius found the _Testimonium_, "it surely would have appeared too good to be true – as indeed it was" (Norris, 533). I will go farther than Norris and say that the _Testimonium_ follows Eusebius’ line of argument in the _Demonstratio_ so closely that it is not only very unlikely that it could have been written by Josephus, but it is unlikely it could have been written by any other Christian, or even by Eusebius for another work. There is nothing in the language or content of the _Testimonium_, as it appears in the _Demonstratio Evangelica_, that suggests it is anything other than a completely Eusebian composition.

      HISTORIA ECCLESIASTICA

      Eusebius cites the _Testimonium_ again in the _Historia Ecclesiastica_, in order to refute the pagan _Acts of Pilate_ (H.E. 11.9). As it appears in the _Historia_, the _Testimonium_ reads:

      GINETAI DE KATA TOUTON TON CRONON IHSOUS, SOFOS ANHR, EI GE ANDRA AUTON LEGEI XRH. HN GAR PARADOXWN ERGWN POIHTHS, DIDASKALOS ANQRWPWN TWN hHDONHi TALHQH DECOMENWN, KAI POLLOUS MEN TWN IOUDAIWN, POLLOUS DE KAI APO TOU hHLLHNIKOU EPHGAGETO. hO CRISTOS hOUTOS HN, KAI AUTON ENDEIXEI TON PRWTWN ANDRWN PAR’ hHMIN STAURWi EPITETIMHKOTOS PILATOU, OUK EPAUSANTO hOI TO PRWTON AGAPHSANTES. EFANE GAR AUTOIS TRITHN ECWN hHMERAN PALIN ZWN, TWN THEIWN PROFHTWN TAUTA TE KAI ALLA MYRIA PERI AUTOU QAUMASIA EIRHKOTWN. EIS ETI TE NUN TWN CRISTIANWN APO TOUDE WNOMASMENON OUK EPELIPE TO FULON.

      I will comment on a few of the differences between the two versions of the _Testimonium_.

      hHDONHi DECOMENWN, "receive with pleasure," replaces SEBOMENWN, "revere" (or "revering"), and PRWTWN ANDRWN, "first men," replaces ARCONTWN, "rulers." Both hHDONHi DECOMENWN and PRWTWN ANDRWN are phrases found in Josephus for which I have been unable to find other parallels in Eusebius' writings. Are they signs of an authentic Josephan substratum lying beneath our present _Testimonium_?

      I do not think so. For the reasons given above, it would be difficult to argue that our version of the _Testimonium_ does not show Eusebian influence. Further, the Eusebian version of the passage was originally composed for the _Demonstratio_, not the _Historia_. The _Demonstratio_ is the earlier text, and the _Testimonium_ is an encapsulation of arguments found in it that receive relatively little attention in the _Historia_. In particular, the main argument of D.E. 3.5, that the disciples continued affection for Jesus after his death is proof of his and their good character, is missing from the _Historia_. This means that Eusebius added the two Josephan phrases to his own version of the _Testimonium_. But if Eusebius is capable of isolating these two phrases in Josephus and adding them to his work, there is no special reason to believe he took them from a passage about Jesus. The phrases themselves have no necessary connection with Jesus and could have been taken from elsewhere in Josephus writings ( e.g., hHDONHi DECASQAI from A.J. 18.59). These two phrases are not a sufficient basis on which to infer an authentic Josephan version of the _Testimonium_.

      "Still to this time the nation of Christians, named for him, has not failed." The first phrase, EIS ETI TE NUN, occurs nowhere in Josephus, but is found elsewhere in Eusebius (H.E. 2.1.7). EIS ETI NUN is a very common phrase in the _Historia Ecclesiastica_. The observation that the Christians take their name from Christ is fairly commonplace (D.E. 80, 131, H.E. 1.3.9-10), occurring also in Tacitus (_Annals_ 44). In its present context, however, it suits Eusebius’ argument well, "Then, moreover, let him who supports the contention opposed to mine, inform me if any enchanter (TIS TWN… GOHTWN) that ever existed has ever taken into his head to institute a new nation (NEOU EQNOUS) called after his own name?" (D.E. 131).

      CONCLUSION

      The agreements between the version of the _Testimonium_ found in _Antiquities_ 18 and that found in the _Historia Ecclesiastica_ against the version found in the _Demonstratio Evangelica_ show that it was the _Historia's_ version that Christian scribes interpolated into our texts of Josephus. They accepted on Eusebius' authority that the _Antiquities_ ought to contain such a text and "corrected" their texts according to the reading found in the _Historia Ecclesiastica_. The version of the _Testimonium_ found in our texts of the _Antiquities_ is the Eusebian version, and, if there ever was a Josephan version, that fact remains to be demonstrated.

      BIBLIOGRAPHY

      (Ancient works are cited according to their modern editors. All translations are taken from the English texts listed here, with the exception of my translations of the _Testimonium_.  Translations within direct quotations are those of their authors').

      Attridge, Harold W. and Gohei Hata, eds., _Eusebius, Christianity and Judaism_ (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992).

      Coneybeare, F. C, ed. and trans., _Philostratus The Life of Apollonius of Tyana and the Treatise of Eusebius Against Hierocles_ (2 vols.; LCL; London: Heinemann; Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1912. Reprinted 1969). The second volume contains Greek-English text of Adversus Hieroclem (a.k.a. Contra Hieroclem).

      Feldman, Louis H., ed. and trans. _Josephus_, vol. 10: Jewish Antiquities XVIII-XX (LCL; London: Heinemann; Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1965). Greek and English texts.

      Ferrar, William John, ed. and trans. _Proof of the Gospel_ (2 vols.; London: S.P.C.K., New York: MacMillan, 1920. Reprinted 2 vols. In 1; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981). English translation of the _Demonstratio Evangelica_.

      Lake, Kirsop, and J. Oulton, eds and trans., _Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History_ (2 vols.; LCL; London: Heinemann; Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1926, 1932). Greek-English text.

      Meier, John P., _A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus_ (2 vols.; AB Reference Library; New York: Doubleday, 1991) 1. 56-88.

      Mendelson, Alan, "Eusebius and the Posthumous Career of Apollonius of Tyana," in Attridge and Hata, _Eusebius, Christianity and Judaism_, 510-22.

      Migne, J. P., _Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca_, vol. 22 (Paris, 1857). Contains Greek text of the Demonstratio Evangelica.

      Norris, Frederick W., "Eusebius on Jesus as Deceiver and Sorcerer," in Attridge and Hata, _Eusebius, Christianity and Judaism_, 523-40.

      Rengstorf, Karl H., _A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus_ (4 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1973-1983).

      Thackeray, Henry St. John, _Josephus: the Man and the Historian_ (New York: Jewish Institute of Religion, 1929).

       

      Kenneth A. Olson
      Teaching Assistant
      Department of History
      2115 Francis Scott Key Hall
      University of Maryland
      College Park, MD 20742
      kaolson@...

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