Category Archives: testimonium flavinium

Is This A Christian?

I was reading chapter 18 of Josephus’ “Antiquities” and came across this section:


4. About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder [Here Josephus goes on a tangent about members of the temple of Isis being crucified for tricking some noblewoman into sleeping with her stalker]

18.3.5. There was a man who was a Jew, but had been driven away from his own country by an accusation laid against him for transgressing their laws, and by the fear he was under of punishment for the same; but in all respects a wicked man. He, then living at Rome, professed to instruct men in the wisdom of the laws of Moses. He procured also three other men, entirely of the same character with himself, to be his partners. These men persuaded Fulvia, a woman of great dignity, and one that had embraced the Jewish religion, to send purple and gold to the temple at Jerusalem; and when they had gotten them, they employed them for their own uses, and spent the money themselves, on which account it was that they at first required it of her. Whereupon Tiberius, who had been informed of the thing by Saturninus, the husband of Fulvia, who desired inquiry might be made about it, ordered all the Jews to be banished out of Rome; at which time the consuls listed four thousand men out of them, and sent them to the island Sardinia; but punished a greater number of them, who were unwilling to become soldiers, on account of keeping the laws of their forefathers. Thus were these Jews banished out of the city by the wickedness of four men.

Wait, what? Here we have a Jew who apparently transgressed the laws of Moses, fled to Rome, and then started preaching about his interpretation of the laws of Moses. He then instigates a scheme to get some money and as a result of his shenanigans has all of the Jews banished from Rome. This sounds similar to an account in Seutonius: “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” The only problem is that Tiberius (d. 37 CE) is the one who banished the Jews from Rome in Josephus and Claudius (c. 40 CE) is the one who does it in Seutonius.

Could Josephus and Seutonius be relating two different causes to the same event?

Seutonius gives it hardly any mention, whereas it is pretty important to Josephus. I think Josephus might have a more accurate portrayal of this event.

What’s obvious, however, is that the Testimonium is completely spurious. It’s obvious that a Christian interpolator inserted it into this chapter because this chapter speaks about Pilate, crucifixions, and Jews interpreting the laws of Moses and Jews being kicked out of Rome. The TF breaks the flow of this section where Josephus is relating all of the terrible things that happened to the Jews during Pilate’s tenure; its removal does not take anything away from the main point of this section. Its insertion, however, is jarring. Like listening to a music major play parallel 5ths.

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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in josephus, testimonium flavinium

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