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Author Topic: Is Josephus Reliable  (Read 8043 times)

Joanne

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Is Josephus Reliable
« on: January 30, 2005, 05:08:51 AM »

Was Josephus a credible historian? I have heard both sides of this issue, and was wondering what you thought of the historian Josephus. Is he a reliable witness to the crucifixion of Christ and to the history of the early Church. Some christians say he is and others say that he is not. It does tend to get very confusing when there is no consensus. Does anyone have information on this?

judykanova

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2005, 05:56:07 AM »
joanne,

I haven't personally read anything by Josephus.... I feel no need, because whatever 'His-story' Josephus has written, would need to be checked against our only authority -- the Bible.  Don't make the mistake of of some, in thinking it's the other way around.

Isa 29:13-14
13  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14  Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.



judy
'For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.'   Ps 119:89

Baerchild

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2005, 08:07:29 PM »
Joanne,

Josephus is well worth reading.  But only believe him when he agrees with The Word of God; if for no other reason than it's an historic fact that Josephus was a traitor to his country, National Israel...that is a fact. Nonetheless, his account absolutely destroys the Preterist position regarding the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD...it's a GREAT read, imo. But as an historic document, it is not in the same league as The Bible, not even close, obviously.

Jim
 

Kenneth White

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2005, 06:19:36 AM »
Was Josephus a credible historian? I have heard both sides of this issue, and was wondering what you thought of the historian Josephus.

I would have to agree with Judy that we should not make the mistake of thinking history can prove the bible. The bible is our authority and we cannot look to Josephus or any other secular historian to prove anything about it.

But I have done a little research on the topic before, and if you ever look through Josephus’ massive works (assuming you have that amount of time to waste), you will find that not only is he wrong in so many instances and sloppy in his writings, but he is often clearly biased and contradictory concerning both known facts and the bible. For example,

Josephus Antiquities Book 8 chap. 3 v.1

Solomon began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, on the second month, which the Macedonians call Artemisius, and the Hebrews Jur, five hundred and ninety-two years after the Exodus out of Egypt.

Again in Antiquities Book 7 chap. 3 v. 2

Now the whole time from the warfare under Joshua our general against the Canaanites, and from that war in which he overcame them, and distributed the land among the Hebrews, (nor could the Israelites ever cast the Canaanites out of Jerusalem until this time, when David took it by siege,) this whole time was five hundred and fifteen years.

They add the 4 years of Solomon, and get another reference for 519 years. But is Josephus really a reliable historian. No he is not, because like other of his writings, he seems to forget what he's written previously and contradicts himself. Here he gives a different timespan for the same period.

Antiquities Book 20 chap. 10 v. 1

Now the number of years during the rule of these thirteen, from the day when our fathers departed out of Egypt, under Moses their leader, until the building of that temple which king Solomon erected at Jerusalem, were six hundred and twelve.

Here he says it's 612 years, and repeats that information in Contra Apion.

Contra Apion Book 2 v. 2

Solomon himself built that temple six hundred and twelve years after the Jews came out of Egypt.

clearly Josephus is not reliable as a historian. But this is what we would expect from records from outside of the bible. You cannot depend upon them to be true. Though some christians would swear by them. Particularly Preterists for obvious reasons.


Quote
It does tend to get very confusing when there is no consensus.

Actually there is a consensus by good, that is to say, objective historians, that Josephus was biased and not really reliable concerning facts. But they usually agree that he can give us some insight on history, even though his witness is not unbiased. I don't know anyone who claims he is totally reliable. In other words, take whatever he says with a grain of salt. The problem is that there are so many christians trying to prove the bible, that they are quick to accept anything written that is favorable to showing it historically accurate. They do this just so they can say history proves the bible is true. But this also often gets them into hot water where they have to backtrack once something is proven inaccurate. It's better to be cautious. Because Christians live by the bible and by faith, not by the writings of men.

A word of caution. Especially don't get bogged down in this debate about 70 ad with the witness of Josephus becoming the validating authority. Because most historians say Josephus was playing both sides against the middle in those days, and was obviously not totally forthcoming and unbiased in his writings. And there is even some question as to whether some over-zealous Christians tampered with his writings. We'll never know. But we do know that the bible is true, and that's all we need to know.

Proverbs 1:5-6 "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings."

Tony Warren

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2005, 10:11:56 AM »
>>>
Was Josephus a credible historian? I have heard both sides of this issue, and was wondering what you thought of the historian Josephus. Is he a reliable witness to the crucifixion of Christ and to the history of the early Church.
<<<

Flavius Josephus' was not at the crucifixion of Christ, he wasn't even born, was not God inspired to know anything about it, and so how could he be a reliable witness to it? Hearsay? As for the history of the church, Flavius was not a Christian, on the contrary, he was Jewish and not only biased against Christians, but defected from the Jewish people to the Roman side. The Jews consider him a traitor. And so to use him as a historian for the early church is quite foolish, to say the least. It would be like using Democrats to write the history of Republicans (or vice versa). Do you think you'd get an accurate portrayal in such a case? That's why God inspired the Bible written, so we wouldn't have to look to secular history or men like Josephus for truth.

As for his historical work, Josephus has been shown to not be reliable"at all." Despite the excuses and murmurings from some quarters that corrigendum was typical for his era (as if that excuses it), his errors and inaccuracies cannot be blamed on the writing styles of the day. It is a known fact that he frequently lied or exaggerated (whatever you wish to call it), embellished, and commonly overstated. That is not the M.O. of a historian that a faithful Christian looking to understand scripture would want to put any faith in his writings. The inconsistency even between his own words at different times is proof enough, since his witness often doesn't even agree with itself.

Mark 14:58-59
  • "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
  • But neither so did their witness agree together."

The only two witnesses that agree together is the "two witnesses" of the church coming with the "divine authored authority" of the word of God. Not a secular historian and humanist, who I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw him. How do you put any trust in a man that wrote gloriously about his exploits, inconsistently between written works in order to enhance his image?

Kenneth has given some examples of his inaccuracies, and indeed there are enough of them to convince anyone not predisposed to making excuses for him. He recorded that Mount Tabor was "thirty stadia" (about 18,200 feet/i]) high, when in truth the mountain is only about 1,920 feet high. I've heard of people making errors, but that's pretty ridiculous, wouldn't you say. And in describing the events of Jerusalem, he made the outrageous claim that there was so much blood shed in the city of Jerusalem that streams of gore extinguished the fires that burned. How anyone calling themselves "scholars" could view such a man's testimonies as an accurate portrayal of anything occurring in AD 70 is beyond my comprehension. Especially considering that his bias is "recognized" even by those who tout him as an acceptable historian. It's just that some people, (particularly professing Christians) are just predisposed to justifying and rationalizing away his exaggerations so that they can have support for their own extra-biblical doctrines concerning prophecy.

The bottom line is, if you like reading ancient writings just for the cultural value, entertainment value, and the small insights you can get into the time period, then fine. But if you are looking to the writings to get some true historical Christian truth from it, my advice would be not to waste your time.

nosce te ipsum"
 
Peace,
Tony Warren
"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. -Psalms 32:5"

Pearson

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2005, 04:00:27 PM »
Agreed Tony, Just read Josephus' "Jewish War" and you will have to conclude that no one is as good at making things up as he is. The scholarly consensus is that when you are dealing with what Josephus wrote, you need other corroboration for it to be sustained. Josephus is more famous for generous embellishment and doctoring rather than accurate historical accounting.


Just My two cents


Dave Taylor

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2005, 09:53:34 AM »
Josephus is mostly only reliable and useful in one way.

He seems to be a valued treasure to the Preteristic camp; inwhich they have hinged alot of their marbles upon.

However,
Josephus, if carefully studied and compared to the scriptures; is found to be extremely anti-Preteristic; and causes much more damage and destruction to the Preteristic view than he gives any aid.

Josephus' most useful contribution to us today; is in his strong stance against Preterism; much to the Preterists who misuse him to deceive the naive and gullible who have not spent the time to read and study his writings; to see how anti-Preteristic they are.


Peng Bao

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2005, 03:14:36 AM »
Well I don't want to jump on poor old Josephus when he's down, but Here is an interesting link showing how terribly wrong his chronologies are.

http://www.layittoheart.com/josephus.html

Now I have a better understanding of why this site frowns upon secular proofs to try to support prophecy. What I don't understand is why so many Christians swear by Josephus. And I'm not talking about just Preterists.  :(

andreas

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2005, 07:19:02 PM »
For the fans of fossilised Josephus, here is the home page,

http://members.aol.com/FLJOSEPHUS/home.htm

andreas. 8)
kai ean diabainhs di˘ udatos meta sou eimi kai potamoi ou sugklusousin se kai ean dielqhs dia puros ou mh katakauqhs flox ou katakausei Isaiah 43:2

Baerchild

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2005, 09:47:20 PM »
However,
Josephus, if carefully studied and compared to the scriptures; is found to be extremely anti-Preteristic; and causes much more damage and destruction to the Preteristic view than he gives any aid.

Josephus' most useful contribution to us today; is in his strong stance against Preterism; much to the Preterists who misuse him to deceive the naive and gullible who have not spent the time to read and study his writings; to see how anti-Preteristic they are.

Dave,

I'm in agreement with you.  And according to Josephus, it was Caesar who ordered that a very large section of a wall and two [or was it three?] towers remain standing inorder to show the world the character of the enemy and their fortification. It wasn't just a few stones here-and-there, as the preterists always claim. 

Preterism is a pernicious, satanically inspired doctrine and it doesn't even level with an author named Josephus who is considered by many people to be a traitor.

Jim

Frank Mortimer

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2005, 05:11:29 AM »
Personally, I don't think that any serious Bible believing Christian can get much of anything concerning doctrine, theology or eschatology from reading Josephus. We cannot trust what he says, so what then is the point of wasting all that time reading his record? I don't see any benefit from it from a Christian perspective. From a "killing some time" perspective maybe, and it may get you some credits if you are in college. But from a real Christian beneficial point, or as far as helping with the Bible, the man is flat out useless.

 2 Tim. 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

The Bible's historical accounts are "useful for correcting and training in righteousness," while Josephus is not. This I see as a continuing problem. Because it seems that many do claim that Josephus' writings are not only useful for correcting and training in righteousness, but many hang their doctrines upon it.

While I will agree that the scripture is not the only thing useful for teaching and training people, it is the only authority for teaching, correction, instruction, and training in history that can be trusted. It holds a special place in our hearts and over Josephus' teachings because it is our supreme authority.

Kenneth White

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2005, 04:01:41 AM »
Personally, I don't think that any serious bible believing christian can get much of anything concerning doctrine, theology or eschatology from reading Josephus. We cannot trust what he says, so what then is the point of wasting all that time reading his record? I don't see any benefit from it from a Christian perspective. From a "killing some time" perspective maybe, and it may get you some credits if you are in college. But from a real Christian beneficial point, or as far as helping with the bible, the man is flat out useless.
Tony, Peason Dave, Frank, I'm with you guys. I found the quotes of one Professor James Riscinti, B.A., M.A. to be very helpful in showing the foolishness of using Josephus as a biblical historian or in exegesis of scripture. Here is part of what he said.


  • Hebrews 10:7 also answers the question concerning the overall theme of the Bible, declaring the Bible as an encyclopedia concerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God."

    To gain a better understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ one would not dare consider looking into any secular historical book, such as the volumes of the historian Josephus, whose writings contain approximately seventy pages concerning Jesus. Yet many readily look to these secular sources to gain greater insight into the Word of God! Keep in mind the Bible defines Jesus as the Word of God made flesh: (John 1:1, 14) {1} In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {14} And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

    Therefore, let us heed the admonition of Matthew 22:29, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." Notice that the Bible nowhere insinuates that one is in error because they are missing some type of secular historical information. Many scholars justify their utilization of secular historical information to understand difficult Bible passages by rationalizing that, "many scholars rely on such resources," however, when such a path is followed in the absence of Biblical validation, one should keep in mind Romans 3:4, "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." Let us rather follow the Biblical example of the Bereans of Acts 17:11, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

    If the hermeneutical use of secular history to interpret the Word of God is void of biblical validation, then what must be its origin? Again we must search the Scriptures for our answer, looking for examples of those who wanted more than what God has sufficiently provided. Most would agree that the Scriptures clearly teach that God has included in His Word all that should be included and has excluded all that should be excluded. The first example (Gen. 3:1-7) is the coveting of the forbidden fruit of "knowledge" which resulted in spiritual death (Gen. 2:17). Another example (Num. 11:4-6, 13) of the discontent of man with what God has provided is the lustful weeping for something more than Manna "This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat." (Ex. 16:15b) which resulted in physical death (Num. 11:33-34). In both instances, a desire for more than what God has declared as sufficient resulted in judgment because God includes what should be included and excludes what should be excluded (Deut. 2:7; Psa. 34:10; Prov. 30:6)

That's the way that I believe that we, as faithful christians should look at this issue. Certainly we wouldn't let any other unsaved man define interpretation for us, and the only reason Josephus is allowed this privilege is because his writings agree with things some people believe. If they disagreed, these same people would scream that there was no reason to read him because he's not a credible witness.
Proverbs 1:5-6 "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings."

Hammerle Labinowic

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2005, 03:29:55 AM »
I'm not saying Josephus was reliable, accurate or even honest. But in his defense, it must be understood that a lot of his defects were widely shared among ancient historians of his day.

You have to understand that few of them brought critical tools to their craft in the way that modern historians do. You can pretty much say that whenever Josephus is not referring to himself, his material is basically 90 percent reliable. There is much we can learn from him.

Halle

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2012, 07:09:51 AM »
You can pretty much say that whenever Josephus is not referring to himself, his material is basically 90 percent reliable.

I can't pretty much say that!


Quote
There is much we can learn from him.

 Yes. We learn never to learn from him. Stick with the Bible or at least Believers.


Melanie

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Re: Is Josephus Reliable
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2019, 07:35:45 AM »
Because I read so much from "Reformed" sites that depend upon the writings of Josephus to make their claims about prophecy (like 70 AD), and Tony Warren's debunking of the Temple and city stones falling, I thought I'd revisit the accuracy of Josephus. Apparently, a lot of Christians choose to overlook when he is wrong, his inaccuracies and unreliable testimonies about himself. That's ok for world history, it is not OK for Bible history or interpretation. To ask is Josephus reliable is like asking if someone who lies is a reliable witness in court. The answer is always no. a Christian should always have corroborating testimony. That's why in Bible times, two witnesses were required.

http://www.josephus.org/archMasadaPBS.htm

https://regardingdavidmyatt.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/flavius-josephus-unreliable-witness/

 


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