About 93 A.D., Renowned Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the “Antiquities of the Jews,” 18.3.
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, …. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles… And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross.”
Josephus was born in 37 A.D. and died in 100 A.D. It is certain that he was aware of the writings of the Gospels which described the scourging, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We know today that by recent discoveries of New Testament papyrus which have been dated from the period of time in which Matthew was still alive, that Matthew and Josephus were contemporaries.
Josephus as a reliable source
If any of the events that Matthew recorded concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus were untrue, Josephus would have certainly rebutted these statements in his writings. Josephus was not a Christian, nor sympathetic to the Christian church. The fact of his silence in having any contradictory testimony regarding what the disciples wrote concerning Jesus is, in my opinion, substantial confirmation that Josephus did not have any facts in evidence which would discredit the claim that Jesus was not only crucified but also resurrected three days later. To the contrary, Josephus describes the followers of Jesus as claiming that He had “appeared to them alive again the third day.”
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a 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. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
Although this text, referred to as “Testimonium Flavianum,” has been found in all of the writings of Josephus, there has been a massive attack regarding the authenticity of this section of the Josephus records. It is claimed by some that the text which describes Jesus alive three days after being crucified, is a Christian interpolation.
Sidebar: Is it really a surprise that any secular record which authenticates the testimony of the four gospels in proving that Jesus rose from the dead, would be vigorously assaulted? Of course, the text of Josephus which confirms the resurrection of Jesus Christ—was inserted by the church after Josephus wrote his record of the Jews (tongue-in-cheek); for if it was not, the matter is settled—Jesus rose from the dead.
If we examine the entire text from where the above statement about Jesus is located, we notice that the complete context of Josephus’ is concerning some apparent trouble that Pontius Pilate was having with the Jews, regarding Jesus Christ. The following is the chapter heading where the text describing Jesus’ resurrection is located:
Chapter 3. Sedition of the Jews against Pontius Pilate concerning Christ, and what befell paulina and the jews at Rome.
One of the most important principles in following a good exegesis of literary sources is in examining the context before and after the statements which are in question. When the subject matter is the same before the questionable text, as well as after, as here in Josephus’ comments regarding Jesus’ Resurrection—we must conclude that the text in question is also valid; otherwise, we must exclude as an interpolation the entire text altogether. This is not possible since the whole text of chapter 3 (including the resurrection) has been part of every extant copy of the Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus.
Scholars have stipulated that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, from the record of Josephus and Tacitus. Although the crucifixion and resurrection text are both a part of the same work by Josephus, only the resurrection is excluded as a Christian interpolation. Irregardless of the evidence that presented to support the resurrection, of which the New Testament is the best and most reliable source, no liberal scholar is ever going to concede the facts of the resurrection.
The reasons for a critical rejection of the resurrection is self-evident—if the resurrection, is established as a firm fact of history, no person could ever intelligently refute Jesus or His claims upon all humanity.
The existence of a secular record by a non-Christian—Jewish historian, who was also a Roman citizen, describing the followers of Jesus Christ, testifying that He had risen from the dead—is totally unacceptable to the opponents of God, His Christ, and His word.
Despite many objections, there is no conclusive evidence that Josephus narrative regarding Jesus crucifixion is not genuine.
I have read every opposing opinion on the text of Josephus which claims that the Christian church added the section describing Jesus as risen from the dead. May I say—they are all lacking incontrovertible proof. At the present time, the evidence for the text being authentic is greater than the evidence against authenticity. Until such time that it can be proven conclusively that Josephus did not write the text which describes Jesus’ disciples declaring that He had appeared alive to them after three days—we must conclude that Josephus did write the text. The burden for proving otherwise rests on those who oppose the authenticity of the text.
This “Testimonium” is found in every extant copy of this chapter of Josephus in the world today. As mentioned previously, Josephus and Matthew were contemporaries. Matthew wrote his gospel around 60 A.D. Josephus recorded his writings from 66 A.D through 94 A.D.
It is likely that Josephus had personally read Matthew’s account of the resurrection and was a source for his own description of the followers of Jesus believing that He had risen from the dead. Josephus was a historian. He was born in Jerusalem around 37 A.D., and lived until approximately 100 A.D. He recorded events that took place during the same period of time when Matthew recorded his gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. During the interval which Josephus wrote “The Wars of the Jews” and the “Antiquities of the Jews,” Paul was also writing his letters to the seven churches in Asia, which were widely read by many Jews and Gentiles during the same period. It is probable that Josephus had read portions of Paul’s letters, as they were distributed over a wide area during the life of Josephus.
Conclusions based on conjecture—not facts
Critics of this text from Josephus consistently report that the entire section describing the Resurrection of Jesus as a forgery, which was added by Eusebius. There is absolutely no evidence to confirm this allegation—except that no earlier copies of this text before Eusebius have be found. Simply because an earlier copy is absent from the record at the present time, we cannot prove conclusively on this basis alone, that Josephus did not write the resurrection text.
Once again, all of the oldest copies of Josephus’ “Antiquities,” 18.3, contain the description of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
A tenth century version of this text from Agapius, also known as “Mahboub of Menbidj,” a Syrian churchman and historian, also contains the statement that Jesus “was perhaps the Messiah and that He was Resurrected.”
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Andreas Köstenberger is the Senior Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina (as of 2013). He writes in the book, “The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament,” that there is very strong evidence that parts of the Testimonium are factual and authentic. When compared with the Greek and Arabic version, discovered in the 70’s by Shlomo Pines, they provide us with proof of the original text.
According to Scholar Robert Eisler, for the first 1200 years of the Christian church, those who were in a position to know whether the Josephus Testimonium was authentic or not—considered the portion which contains a description of Jesus’ resurrection—as authentic and written by Josephus himself—affirmed this conclusion.
“Throughout the eleven long centuries which separate the edict of the toleration of Milan (312) from the disruption of the Occidental Church with the Protestant Reform — in other words, the time lying between the Historia ecclesiastica of Eusebius and that of Cardinal Baronius — not a doubt was cast on the authenticity of Josephus’ precious Testimonium, which was constantly quoted and turned to good account by all Church historians.”
Dr. Eisler has been described by his piers as one of the most astonishing figures in the world of scholarship.
Finally, there is great evidence that Flavius Josephus is in fact, Joseph ben Gurion, the brother of Nicodemus ben Gurion, the Nicodemus who came to Jesus late one night in the Gospel of John, chapter 3. According to Scholar Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Flavius Josephus was born Joseph ben Mattathias during the time when Jerusalem was occupied by the Roman army. He is the son of Matthias ben Gurion, a priest at the temple in Jerusalem, who instructed Josephus in the Hebrew and Greek languages. In 56 A.D., Flavius Josephus became a member of the Pharisees and served the Emperor Nero in A.D. 64. After a prophecy by Josephus in 69 A.D., Emperor Vespasian granted Josephus as a Roman citizenship.
As a matter of fact, Nicodemus being a secret follower of Jesus, it is certain that this belief was known to his older brother, Josephus. The facts of Jesus death and resurrection were undoubtably communicated to Josephus by Nicodemus and remained a part of his understanding of who Jesus was. Though it is clear that Josephus was not a believer in Jesus, nevertheless, in his account of Jesus death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, it is certain that his text was greatly influenced by the first hand testimony of his brother, Nicodemus.
Several respected scholars and well noted commentaries on this subject, are in agreement with this assessment of Josephus. When we examine the entire body of evidence that is available today, we must conclude that the Testimonium Flavianum, was written by Josephus and is a true and accurate account of Jesus crucifixion, not a Christian interpolation.
From these facts we are left with the conclusion that the Testimonium of Josephus has been viewed as authentic and not a Christian interpolation by scholars who are in greater regard—superior to modern scholars today, who state that the Testimonium was not entirely written by Josephus.
It is the opinion of this author, in researching the Testimonium, that since the most credible scholars of prior history have determined that the resurrection portion of Josephus Testimonium was written by Josephus—along with an equal history of the Christian church who also held this document as authentically written by Josephus, and no credible impeachment of these facts existing in evidence—other than conjecture—we must, today, conclude that Josephus wrote the entire text of this chapter, including the statement that the followers of Jesus had declared that He had risen from the dead.
This text is from the book: “The Prophecies of the Messiah,” a 3,000 page treatise on the 365 Hebrew prophecies Jesus fulfilled in the narrative of the New Testament, by Robert Clifton Robinson, available at Amazon for $7.77
 Theissen 1998, pp. 81-83
 “Antiquities of the Jews”, 18.3
 1. Josephus, Flavius (2010-10-07). The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus (Kindle Locations 16454-16459). . Kindle Edition
2. Flavius Josephus, Whiston & Maier 1999, p. 662.
 Josephus, Flavius (2010-10-07). The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus (Kindle Locations 16434-16435). . Kindle Edition
 According to the rules for evidence by Dr. Simon Greenleaf.
 Thiede, Carsten Peter & D’Ancona, Matthew, The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996
 The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70), Louis Feldman, Steve Mason (1999). Flavius Josephus. Brill Academic Publishers.
 Arabic summary, presumably of Antiquities 18.63. From Agapios’ Kitab al-‘Unwan (“Book of the Title,” 10th c.). See also James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/JewishJesus/josephus.html).
 1.S. Pines, An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and Its Implications (Jerusalem: Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1971), 16.
2.Kellum, L. Scott; Köstenberger, Andreas J.; Quarles, Charles L (2009-08-01). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Kindle Locations 4903-4904). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition. Arabic version from the tenth century by Agapius, also know as Mahboub of Menbidj, a Syrian churchman and historian.
 Kostenberger, Andreas J.; Kellum, L. Scott; Quarles, Charles L. (2009). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. ISBN 0-8054-4365-7.
 “The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist according to Flavius Josephus recently rediscovered Capture of Jerusalem” and the other Jewish and Christian sources by Robert Eisler, Originally published in German in 1929, Translated by Alexander Haggerty Krappe (Methuen, 1931).
 1. Gershom Scholem (Hebrew: גרשם שלום) (December 5, 1897 – February 21, 1982), was a German-born Israeli philosopher and historian. He is widely regarded as the founder of the modern, academic study of Kabbalah, becoming the first Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
2. Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (English translation, 1982), p.131.
 Encyclopedia of the Literature of Empire, By Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Pages 156-157.
 1.Of particular interest, is the fact that the Nicodemus The Name Nicodemus is a nickname given to him by the Sanhedrin, meaning: “conqueror of the people,” because of the alleged miracles that resulted from his prayers for people.
2.There are several reliable sources that state that Nicodemus and Josephus, the Historian, were brothers:
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: There was a man of the Pharisees,…. The Syriac version adds, “there”; that is, at Jerusalem; and who was among those that believed in the name of Christ, upon seeing the miracles he did at the feast of the passover, in that place. This man was not a common and ordinary man, but a man of note and eminence, of dignity and figure; and who was of the sect of the Pharisees, which was the strictest sect for religion and holiness, among the Jews; and which, as corrupt as it was, was also the soundest; as having not only a regard to a Messiah, and to all the writings of the Old Testament, but also believed the doctrines of angels and spirits, and the resurrection of the dead, which the Sadducees denied; but yet they were implacable enemies of Christ; and therefore it is the more to be wondered at, that such an one should come to him, and desire a conversation with him:
Named Nicodemus; frequent mention is made of , “Nicodemon ben Gorion”, the brother of Josephus ben Gorion (p), the writer of the Wars and Antiquities of the Jews; and there are some things which make it probable, that he was the same with this Nicodemus; for the Nicodemon the Jews speak so much of, lived in this age; as appears, not only from his being the brother of Josephus, but also from his being contemporary with R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who lived in this time, and until the destruction of the temple; since these two are said (q) to be together at a feast, made for the circumcision of a child. Moreover, he is represented as very rich, and is said to be one of the three rich men in Jerusalem (r), and who was able to have maintained a city ten years (s); and they speak of his daughter, as exceeding rich: they say, that she had for her dowry a thousand thousand golden denarii, or pence; and that her bed was strewed with (i.e. the furniture of it cost) twelve thousand golden denarii; and that a Tyrian golden denarius was spent upon her every week, for a certain kind of soup (t); and the wise men decreed her four hundred golden denarii, for a box of spices every day (u); and it is elsewhere said, five hundred: and this our Nicodemus was very rich, as appears from his liberality at the funeral of our Lord, John 19:39. Moreover, the Nicodemon of the Jews, is said to be a counsellor (x) in Jerusalem; and so was this, as seems evident from John 7:32 and it may be further observed (y), that the right name of Nicodemon, was Boni (z); now Boni elsewhere (a), is said to be one of the disciples of Jesus, as Nicodemus was secretly, and perhaps at, and after his death openly, as his associate Joseph of Arimathea was; to which may be added, the extreme poverty that his daughter is by them said to be reduced unto; for they report, that R. Jochanan ben Zaccai saw her gathering barley corns from under the horses’ hoofs in Aco (b); or as it is elsewhere said, out of the dung of the beasts of the Arabians; when she asked alms of him, and he inquired of her, what was become of her father’s substance. Now to this low estate, the family of our Nicodemus might be reduced, through the persecution of the Christians by the Jews. The name is Greek, as at this time many Greek names were in use among the Jews, and signifies the same as Nicolas; but the Jews give an etymology of it, agreeably to the Hebrew language; and say, that he was so called, because the sun, “shone out for his sake”: the occasion and reason of it, they tell us, were this (c); Nicodemon, upon want of water at one of the feasts, agreed with a certain man for twelve wells of water, to be returned on such a day, or pay twelve talents of silver; the day being come, the man demanded the water, or the money; Nicodemon went and prayed, and a plentiful rain fell, and filled the wells with water; but meeting the man, he insisted on it that the day was past, the sun being set, and therefore required the money; Nicodemon went and prayed again, and the sun shone out; and they add, that there are three persons for whom the sun “was prevented”, detained, or hindered in its course, (a word nearer his name than the former,) Moses, and Joshua, and Nicodemon ben Gorion; for the two former they produce Scripture, and for the latter tradition: hence it is elsewhere said (d), that as the sun stood still for Joshua, so it stood still for Moses, and for Nicodemon ben Gorion: but to proceed with the account of our Nicodemus, he was a ruler of the Jews; not a civil magistrate; for the civil government was now in the hands of the Romans; but an ecclesiastical ruler; he was a member of the sanhedrim, which consisted of the doctors, or wise men, and priests, Levites, and elders of the people; and so was a dignified person, and as afterwards called, a master in Israel.
(p) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 1. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 19. 1.((q) Pirke Eliezer, c. 2. & Juchasin, fol. 23. 2.((r) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 56. 1.((s) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 75. 4. (t) Abot R. Nathan, c. 6. fol. 3. 2. (u) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 66. 2.((w) Echa Rabbati, fol. 49. 2.((x) Echa Rabbati, fol. 46. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 75. 1.((y) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.((z) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.((a) Echa Rabbati, fol. 49. 3.((b) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 66. 2.((c) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.((d) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 25. 1.
3.If Josephus, the historian, who described Jesus crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, and Nicodemus, the Pharisee—are in fact, brothers, this would convey greater evidence to the certainty that Josephus’ account of Jesus death by the Romans, is a true and accurate account of history. Moreover, being in the same family, it is likely that the two brothers often discussed the new sect of believers in Jesus, as well as the events that took place; before, during and after Jesus death and resurrection.
4.Because of the relationship between Nicodemus and Josephus, many critics have sought to discredit—not only Josephus’s account of Jesus crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, additional attacks have been launched against the certainty that these two were brothers. In my research, I have found several well known scholars who have written Bible commentary on the relationship of Nicodemus and Josephus.
5.NICODEMUS nĭk’ ə de’ məs (Νικόδημος, G3773, victor over the people), a Pharisee and later a disciple of Jesus (John 19:38-42). Although the name was common among the Jews of the 1st cent., this is the only man in the NT to bear it (3:1). A Nicodemus ben Gorion, who was a brother to the historian Josephus, a very wealthy member of the Sanhedrin in the 1st cent. has been identified by some with this man in the NT who came to Jesus by night. Nicodemus ben Gorion later lost his wealth and position so that some have attributed this reversal of circumstance to his having become a Christian. https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/nicodemus
6.Pulpit Commentary: The name Nicodemus, if Hebrew in etymology from dam and naki, may have meant “innocent blood;” it Greek, as is more probable, seeing that the plan of bearing Greek as well as Hebrew names was not uncommon, it would signify “Conqueror of the people.” Tradition says that he was baptized by Peter and John, and deposed from his position in the Sanhedrin, but supported by his kinsman, Gamaliel. Each reference to him (John 7:50 and John 19:39) implies a certain timidity, and perhaps unworthy reticence. These are relative terms. Much moral courage must have been required for a ruler of the Jews (a phrase only applicable to a man of high ecclesiastical rank) to have dreamed of doing what he is reported to have done here and elsewhere. The Talmud mentions a Nicodemus ben Gotten, who was also called Bonai, a disciple of Jesus, of great wealth and piety, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem, and therein lost nil his fortune (Lightfoot, in loc.; Delitzsch, ‘Zeitsch. Luth. Theol.,’ 1854). The hint that he was an old man in this year (A.U.C. 781, or A.D. ) renders his survival till A.D. improbable, but not impossible by any means. The identification is not complete. The Talmud does not speak of him as a Sanhedrist, though it gives curious details, which imply that he must have been a priest in the temple, and had the charge of providing the water supply for the pilgrims (Geikie, 1:584; Winer, ‘Real.,’ 2:152).
7.Bible-History.com: NICODE’MUS (nik-o-de’mus; Gk. “victor over the people”).
His family is unknown, though some recognize him as Nicodemus Ben Gorion, the brother of Josephus the historian. This Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin and was counted one of the three richest men of Jerusalem. But it was said that he afterward became poor, and his daughter was seen gathering barleycorn for food from under the horses’ feet. Some have conjectured that this was the result of the persecutions he received for having become a Christian.
Christian tradition has it that Nicodemus was baptized by Peter and John, suffered persecution from hostile Jews, lost his membership in the Sanhedrin, and was forced to leave Jerusalem because of his Christian faith. Further mention is made of him in The Gospel of Nicodemus, an apocryphal narrative of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
8.Douglas Nicholson, : http://www.lasttrumpet.org/flavius_jewish_sects.htm
“Nicodemus, Nakdimon ben Gurion, also known as Buni was a Pharisee and a student of all the sects was the one of the top richest man in all Jerusalem and also happen to be the brother of “Flavius Josephus” Josephus ben Gorion.”
Matthias Curtus (Greek: Ματθαῖος ὁ Κυρτός, Κυρτός was his Greek epithet as his nickname from the Latin word Curtus, meaning the swollen or the humpback; flourished 1st century, born 76 BC) was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.
9.Family line: Simon Psellus—Matthias—Matthias Curtus—Joseph—Matthias—Joseph ben Gurion (Flavius Josephus).
10.Matthias came from a wealthy family who descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the twenty four-orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. He was the son of Matthias Ephlias and the daughter of the High Priest Jonathon. Jonathon may have been Alexander Jannaeus, the High Priest and Hasmonean ruler who governed Judea from 103 BC-76 BC. The paternal grandfather of Matthias was Simon Psellus.
11.Matthias was a contemporary to the last rulers of the Hasmonean dynasty, in particular to Hyrcanus II who served as High Priest from 76 BC-67 BC and 63 BC-40 BC. He followed in the footsteps of his father and paternal grandfather and served as a Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. He married an unnamed Jewish woman through whom he had a son called Josephus. His son would be the paternal grandfather of the Roman Jewish Historian of the 1st century, Flavius Josephus.
12. Josephus mentions Nicodemus in his account of the Jewish Antiquities, Book 14, Chapter 1, verse 37: “In a little time afterward came ambassadors again to him, Antipater from Hyrcanus, and Nicodemus from Aristobulus; which last also accused such as had taken bribes; first Gabinius, and then Scaurus, – the one three hundred talents, and the other four hundred; by which procedure he made these two his enemies, besides those he had before.” E. H. Titchmarsh, (1906–1918). “Nicodemus,”Hastings’ Dictionary of the New Testament.
Categories: Josephus as a credible witness