Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fact #4-James Conversion Part2, Josephus on James

I want to turn now to some of the extra biblical sources that Habermas and Licona mention regarding the supposed conversion of the skeptic James, starting with Josephus.

As was the case regarding the Testimonium Flavianum, Licona and Habermas confidently assert that James, the brother of Jesus Christ, is mentioned by Josephus. No mention of the questions associated with this text are made.

The text can be read here, but I'll offer my own summary of it.

The context of this passage is the machinations that occurred between rival factions regarding the appointment of the high priest. A man named Ananus had been high priest, and he was succeeded by his own son, also called Ananus. This younger Ananus was an insolent person. Apparently he decided that it was advantageous to have a person named James, brother of Jesus (who was called the Christ) killed. This killing outraged the esteemed Jewish citizens, who appealed to authorities. As a consequence Agrippa stripped Ananus of the high priesthood and gave it to Jesus, son of Damneus.

First, let's note the obvious problem here. Why in the world are Jewish authorities upset that James, the leader of a heretical sect of Christians who in their mind deserved death, has been killed? And even if this unlikely event did happen, why is it that Josephus, an orthodox Jew, would not even bother to comment on the outrageous nature of these events?

Finally, notice the punishment inflicted on Ananus for what he has done. The high priesthood passes to Jesus, son of Damneus. Is James in fact the brother of Jesus, son of Damneus? Was he killed because he was part of a rival faction vying for the high priesthood? The addition of the text "who was called Christ" by a later Christian interpolater would make perfect sense of all of these features. It explains why the Jews became enraged at these events. Because James was not the leader of a heretical Christian sect, but in fact was part of a rival orthodox sect vying for the priesthood. It explains why Josephus doesn't comment on what would be very unusual; orthodox Jews are upset that a heretical individual has been killed. He doesn't comment because in fact it wasn't written this way originally.

Of course it is not out of character for Christian copyists to modify texts. We've already seen this with Josephus, as even Christians admit. This is unfortunate for those that would wish that we can obtain certainty from these questionable ancient sources.


MrFreeThinker said...

//The addition of the text "who was called Christ" by a later Christian interpolater would make perfect sense of all of these features.//
You guys have any textual evidence of this interpolation? Do any extant copies of Josephus omit this phrase?Do any Josephan scholars think it is interpolated/

Jon said...

The earliest Greek manuscripts of Josephus are from the Middle Ages from what I've heard. I think I heard this claim from Hector Avalos in an interview he did on the Infidel Guy radio show. So I'm not certain on that, but that's what I've heard. There have been cases where interpolations have been suspected even without any manuscript evidence at all, then come to find out from the Dead Sea Scrolls we find a text that omits the disputed passage, just as the scholars had suspected. So it's not like interpolations cannot be suspected without manuscript evidence.

At the Wikipedia link that I provide it does indicate that there is dispute that "who was called Christ" is authentic.