At the website StrangeNotions.com, a blog post I had written about the Testimonium Flavianum (a mention of Jesus in the writings of the ancient Jewish historian, Jospehus) was re-posted there. It originally appeared on my personal blog. In the comment section under the blog, several people there questioned the reliability of my post based on my credentials.

To clear the air on this subject, my degree is in visual communications and marketing. I am not a scholar of Greek, early Roman history, or anything else. I am just a “lay person” with a deep interest in the beginnings of Christianity and the surrounding cultures of the time. That said; I generally post on information I have gathered from people who are scholars and experts in those fields, and I usually go out of my way to provide references so people know I am not pulling what I write out of thin air. In fact, more often than not, I try to provide references from non-Christian scholarly sources to avoid being accused of confirmation bias.

Apparently, in my post about Josephus and the authenticity of his mention of Jesus in Antiquities, I did not provide sufficient references. One person responded:

My issue with this article is that it asks us to take Mr. Sorensen at his word when states that this or that is the “scholarly consensus.” Why should we? He has no academic credentials pertaining to the field of study in question. He is employed by Catholic Answers, an unscholarly and even contra-scholarly website.

The claim that Catholic Answers is un-scholarly is unfair and not true. Many of our contributors are experts in their fields, and they write for us in our magazine or discuss issues in those fields on our radio program.

As to my own credentials, the question is fair. This is what I wrote about the Testimonium Flavianum in the original piece:

The majority of scholars of early Judaism and experts on the writings of Josephus believe this was likely touched-up by Christian scribes at a later time. Instead, the passage probably read like this:

“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first ceased not so to do; and the race of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct even now.” (J. Klausner,Jesus of Nazareth, pg 55)

I didn’t come up with this myself. It’s something I have read from a number of scholars. In fact Professor Bart Ehrman (a popular self-professed agnostic with atheist leanings) wrote the same thing in his book, Did Jesus Exist?:

The Majority of scholars of early Judaism and experts on Josephus think that it was the former—that one or more Christian scribes “touched up” the passage a bit. If one takes out the obviously Christian comments, the passage may have been rather innocuous, reading something like this:

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. He was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. When Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.

If this is the original form of the passage, then Josephus had some solid historical information about Jesus’s life: Jesus was known for his wisdom and teaching; he was thought to have done remarkable deeds; he had numerous followers; he was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate because of Jewish accusations brought against him; and he continued to have followers among the Christians after his death.

Professor Ehrman is just one example.  There are others. It’s the opinion of the vast majority of scholars that there exists in the Testimonium Flavianum a core nucleus of text to which later interpolations were added. This is nothing new or controversial, and it is primarily what I wanted to convey to other Catholics should they encounter the claim that the entire passage from Josephus is a  forgery. This generally comes from mythicists like Dan Barker, who I quoted in the article as an example.

One last point; I think it’s slightly over-the-top to expect short blog posts to act as exhaustive scholarly treatments on any subject, even when they’re written by actual scholars.