The Baptist passage is in direct contradiction with Josephus 18.5.1, where it is said that the fortress of Machaerus was then under the command of the Arab king Aretas, against whom Herod lost the war. Renan (Life of Jesus 6) tries to reconcile this contradiction by assuming that the fortress has now come under the control of Herod, but he, as so often, fails to prove it. Just pay close attention to the course of the story told by Josephus (Ant. 18.5.1).
Herod's wife, the daughter of Aretas, learned that her husband wanted to marry his sister-in-law Herodias and fled to the fortress of Machaerus, which was under the command of her father. In the ensuing war between Herod and Areta, Herod lost all his soldiers, and this was supposed to have been a punishment for killing John in the fortress of Machaerus, which he did not yet possess - he could not have conquered it in the meantime, for the war had not succeeded - and for preaching a sermon of punishment for a marriage which he had not yet performed.
It is true that the interpolator of the Baptist passage in Josephus saves apparently himself from the accusation of interpolation by having Herod killer of John not for the latter's preaching against the marriage of Herodias, as the evangelist did, but for mere political reasons, because he feared that a people would revolt as a result of John's sermons, but this because Josephus had already reported earlier about the Samaritan Messiah with Pilate.
Hence the mere presence of the episode about the Samaritan Messiah killed by Pilate, some passages before, can explain why the interpolator changed the true reason of the death of John, from a stupid Gospel-based Torah's observance question to a political reason (fear of sediction). I go even further: the interpolator wanted to distinguish John from the Samaritan Prophet, hence he interpolated the Baptist passage.
The interpolator could be totally able to mask himself forever as Josephus, if only he hadn't made the following two false moves:
- 1) he had John killed in Machareus, fortress that was never herodian, neither before nor after the war with Aretas;
- 2) he had John killed before Herod had married Herodias, hence confuting totally the Gospels. So the Baptist passage in Josephus is totally false, not because it agrees with the Gospels, but the other way round, because it makes the Gospel episode impossible.
I have made my case.
I expect that someone can confute me.
The challenge is thrown.