One of the critics’ recurring claims is that Jesus may not have actually existed because hardly anybody outside of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote about Him. In other words, according to such critics, Jesus is a mythical character invented by early Christian writers.
But then, when somebody points out that the widely accredited ancient Jewish historian Josephus mentions Jesus in two different passages, passages that seem to confirm major details reported by the four Gospel authors, these critics argue that later Christian writers must have rewritten Josephus.
This can seem like a boring argument among pedantic scholars and linguists, but in fact, it’s an important point in gaining an accurate understanding of ancient history, including especially what was written and known about Jesus.
Erik Manning is the guy behind the Is Jesus Alive? blog and a Christian apologist who became one when he realized he was being asked questions by skeptics that he couldn’t really answer. So he did the research and now is a widely published defender of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here’s his summary of who Josephus was and why he is a significant figure in the evidence about Jesus:
- He was born to an aristocratic Jewish family and lived between the years 37-100 AD.
- He was actively involved in the political and military affairs of the Jews in Palestine.
- He was the general of Jewish troops in the northern part of Palestine before defecting to the Roman side.
- He wrote extensive histories, including The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities. These histories give us great insight into the social, political and religious climate of 1st-century Palestine.
- He mentions Biblical figures like Pilate, Tiberius, the family of Herod, Claudius, Felix, Festus, John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus. (Mythicists will dispute the James passage, however. We’ll talk about it in a bit.)
Manning takes up the questions surrounding Josephus and Jesus in the following video. It’s 7:38 long and well-worth the small investment of time and mental energy: