Anointing in Josephus

03 Feb

I’ve noted a couple of times that it’s incredibly suspicious that the only two times that Josephus writes the word “Christ” is when he just so happens to be refering to the Jesus of Christianity. One person at FRDB claimed that by the time Josephus wrote, he didn’t know what “christ” meant. I countered that Josephus had to have known what “christ” meant: it means “anointed one”, and Josephus uses the word “anoint” many times in Greek.

So here (from here) are all of the instances in Antiquities where Josephus writes the word “anoint” or some other variation of it.

και πασαν την σκηνην χριων

“chrion” – anoint

ο προφήτης χρίει τον Σαουλον

the prophet anointed (chriei) Saul

6.8.1 (x3)
εί χρίσει τω ελαίω τον νεανίσκον

anoint (chrisei) the oil [on] the young one

7.14.5 (x2)
και περιχρίσαντας το αγιον ελαιον αποδειξαι βασιλέα


και τω ελαίω χρίσαντες εισήγαγον εις την πόλιν

and anoint (peri-chrisantas) [with] the holy oil to make [him] king […] and anointed (chrisantes) him with oil, and brought him into the city

7.14.(10 or 11)
και Σολόμωνα δεύτερον εχρισαν τω ελαίω

and Solomon [a] second [time] was anointed (echrisan) [with] the oil

Έλισσαιος δ’ ο προφήτης ενα των αυτου μαθητων δους αυτω το αγιον ελαιον επεμψεν εις Άραμώθα χρίσοντα τον Ιηουν

[But] Elisha the prophet sent one of his students to Ramoth (or Aramotha/Arimathia) with holy oil to anoint (chrisonta) Jehu.

και τω ελαίω χρίσας Ιώδας απέδειξε βασιλέα

and Jodas/Jehoiada anointed (chrisas) [him with] the oil and made him king

χρισάμενος μύροις την κεφαλήν

anoint[ed] (chrisamenos) his head

And here are the two times that Josephus writes what we call “christ”:

ο χριστος ουτος ην
this was the christ


τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομένου Χριστου, Ιάκωβος ονομα αυτω
the brother [of] Jesus called Christ, his name Jacob

Of course, I think both of these passages are interpolated, since Josephus in “Jewish War” 6.5.4 says that the one predicted in Jewish scripture to be declared ruler of the world was Vespasian. Yet Josephus doesn’t use that title (christ) for Vespasian while it’s pretty obvious that Josephus has already established that the word “anoint” has a connection to Jewish leadership.


Posted by on February 3, 2010 in early Christianity, jesus myth, josephus


2 responses to “Anointing in Josephus

  1. beowulf2k8

    February 4, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Its doubtful that Josephus wrote these two passages about Jesus. But if he did, how do we know he didn't actually say “the brother of Jesus who is called Chrestos” — We know earlier Christian groups spelled Christ and Christian with an e, especially the Marcionites with their view of Jesus being the 'Good One' rather than 'Anointed One.' Tacitus spells it this way in his reference as well, 'impulsore Chresto'

  2. J. Quinton

    February 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    It looks like Josephus uses “chrestw” (χρήστω) or “useful” quite a bit. So who knows – he might have written “Jesus, called useful”, or had some other phrase that had no mention of Jesus but rather some combination of “useful”, “brother” and “James” and a later scribe inserted “Jesus” and corrected “useful” to “anointed one”.

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