Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

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Peter Kirby
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Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Peter Kirby »

We have a large body of scholarship regarding the use of "Christos" by Josephus. For example:

Earl Doherty:
Moreover, the entire Jewish tradition of messianic expectation is a subject Josephus seems to avoid, for he nowhere else describes it, not even in connection with the rebellious groups and agitators in the period prior to the Jewish War. (His one clear reference to the messianic "oracles" of the Jews, the object of whom he claims was Vespasian [Jewish War 6.5.4], is in a different book, and is dealt with in very cursory fashion.) This silence and apparent reluctance would seem to preclude the likelihood that Josephus would introduce the subject at all, especially as a simple aside, in connection with Jesus.


Steve Mason:
First, the word "Christ" (Greek christos) would have special meaning only for a Jewish audience. In Greek it means simply "wetted" or "anointed." Within the Jewish world, this was an extremely significant term because anointing was the means by which the kings and high priests of Israel had been installed. The pouring of oil over their heads represented their assumption of God-given authority (Exod 29:9; 1 Sam 10:1). The same Hebrew word for "anointed" was mashiach, which we know usually as the noun Messiah, "the anointed [one]." Although used in the OT of reigning kings and high priests, many Jews of Jesus' day looked forward to an end-time prophet, priest, king, or someone else who would be duly anointed.
But for someone who did not know the Jewish tradition, the adjective "wetted" would sound most peculiar. Why would Josephus say that this man Jesus was "the Wetted"? We can see the puzzlement of Greek-speaking readers over this term in their descriptions of Christianity: Jesus' name is sometimes altered to "Chrestus" (Suetonius, Claudius 25.4), a common slave name that would make better sense, and the Christians are sometimes called "Chrestians."

Then just the other day Ken Olson drops this fact on us all:
Ken Olson wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 3:20 pm As far as I know, all the manuscripts of Josephus Antiquities use a nomen sacrum for the word Christos in the two places in which it occurs (Ant 18.63-64 and 20.200) (I would be interested if anyone knows different).
Have I been thinking about this wrong the whole time?

I get it. If you're reading this, you probably think both references are spurious (as I also have maintained for the last ten years and even now). So put your "counterfactual" hat on (a slight misnomer but what I mean is: just assume for now that it's true, but otherwise everything else is as you'd expect). We need to understand what we're talking about, even if (and especially if) we're arguing against it.

So, for the sake of argument, assume this: Josephus wrote the Ant. 20.200 reference.

(And maybe more, if you think that's implied... remember, it's "counterfactual" time, so you have to follow through on what you think is most likely if Josephus wrote the Ant. 20.200 reference. What's most likely in that case, well that's up for you to decide.)

We have a lot of people (myself included) who have a problem with Josephus writing "Christos." Since you're here, you probably have a passing familiarity with the debates over the text of Josephus, so you probably know that. Josephus doesn't use the word anywhere else, he shied away from the topic (except briefly for Vespasian), etc. This is one of the biggest arguments for interpolation.

So, what if... what if he didn't? What if the reference is authentic, and he didn't use the word "Christos" (iota)? What if he wrote "Chrestos" (eta)?

After all, if we subscribe to this argument for interpolation (as I do), it would also seem to tip the scales in favor of this conclusion: If Josephus refered to Jesus the one called x-----u in Ant. 20.200, it's more likely that Josephus wrote, Jesus, the one called Chrestos.

That's just on the basis of Josephus avoiding this term and avoiding messianism as a topic.

But wait, there's more. If you're following the accumulation of data, there's a lot more than Steve Mason's one very questionable reference to support the idea that non-Xians were calling them Chrestians (followers of Chrestos / Chrestus). We've been documenting this on this forum, abundantly. No matter how you slice that data, you have to agree that Tertullian and Lactantius are telling us that the non-Xians are calling them Chrestian. You have to know that documentary papyri from non-Xians, from the mid third century, confirm that.

That's two (count 'em: two) strong arguments in favor of the idea that the reference would make more sense -- if coming from Josephus -- as Chrestos. The first argument (from Doherty) is that Josephus avoids the subject and also avoids the term Christ entirely. The second argument (from Mason) is that Christos, whether a term or a name, would not make sense to Greek ears, making it strange to drop it without skipping a beat.

Then you combine that with the fact that non-Xians called them Chrestos followers anyway ... and that the manuscripts are no real help here. I'm surprised I haven't considered it before.

So, I ask you: if he wrote it, did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrestos?
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by lclapshaw »

If Ken is correct, and I would like to know if there are exceptions as well, that only the NS X_ is used, how would we know what the intended usage might have been? Interpolation or not.

Btw, I have often come across statements by people that assert that Chrestos was a common slave name but as yet I have not found an unambiguous reference in the literature that backes this up. Does anyone have an example of Chrestos being used this way?
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Peter Kirby »

It's not a bad question, but...
lclapshaw wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 11:40 pm Btw, I have often come across statements by people that assert that Chrestos was a common slave name but as yet I have not found an unambiguous reference in the literature that backes this up. Does anyone have an example of Chrestos being used this way?
I am not going to back it up. I'm not even sure what it means.

I'm not trying to be contentious. I just need to be completely clear because I have been through pretty painful, harrowing, and frustrating threads on the topic (when I was completely clear then, too, but such is life).

I do know that Chrestos was a common name.

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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Peter Kirby »

lclapshaw wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 11:40 pm how would we know what the intended usage might have been?
To try to answer this question, where would you start?
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by DCHindley »

For those interested, here is a list of uses of various forms of the verb "to anoint": or a noun "anointed one," from BibleWorks 8 (for Rhalf's LXX/Josephus), and Perseus (for classical use):

CRIW, CHRISTOS, CRISM

CRIW (to touch on the surface: to rub or anoint)

LXX/OG:
• Exod. 28:41; 29:2, 7, 29, 36; 30:26, 30, 32; 40:9f, 13;
• Lev. 4:3; 6:13; 7:36; 8:11f; 16:32;
• Num. 6:15; 7:1, 10, 84, 88; 35:25;
• Deut. 28:40;
• Jda. 9:8, 15; Jdg. 9:8, 15;
• 1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 11:15; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12f;
• 2 Sam. 1:21; 2:4, 7; 5:3, 17; 12:7; 19:11;
• 1 Ki. 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15; 19:15f;
• 2 Ki. 9:3, 6, 12; 11:12; 23:30;
• 1 Chr. 11:3; 14:8; 29:22;
• 2 Chr. 23:11; 36:1;
• Jdt. 10:3;
• Ps. 26:1; 44:8; 88:21; 151:4;
• Sir. 45:15; 46:13; 48:8;
• Hos. 8:10;
• Amos 6:6;
• Isa. 25:6; 61:1;
• Jer. 22:14;
• Ezek. 16:9; 43:3;
• Dan-Theodotion 9:24

Josephus:
• Ant. 2:220 (to daub Moses' ark of bulrushes with slime);
• 3:198 (to anoint a priest);
• 4:200 (to white over with mortar);
• 6:83 (to anoint Saul with holy oil), 157 (to anoint a son of Jesse to be the
• Israelite king in place of Saul), 159 (to anoint
• a specific youth as above);
• 7:357 (the high priest and Nathan the prophet anoint Solomon with oil as king
• David's designated successor), 382 (repeat of
• Solomon's anointing with oil after David's death);
• 9:106 (a disciple of Elisha the prophet is given holy oil to anoint Jehu as
• king), 149 (7 yr old Jehoash is anointed king by
• the high priest Jehoiada); 19:239 (Agrippa the Jew anoints his head with oil
• before visiting the Roman Senate to mediate
• Claudius' appointment as emperor)

Perseus Project:
• Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (4)
• Apollodorus: Library and Epitome (5)
• Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica (1)
• Appian: The Foreign Wars (1)
• Aretaeus: The Cappadocian (15)
• Callimachus: Hymns and Epigrams (2)
• Diodorus Siculus: Library (1)
• Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers (1)
• Euripides: Medea (2)
• Herodotus: The Histories (6)
• Hesiod: Works and Days (1)
• Hippocrates: De diaeta in morbis acutis (3)
• Homer: Iliad (4), Odyssey (16)
• Homeric Hymns (2)
• Pausanias: Description of Greece (3)
• Pindar: Odes (1)
• Plutarch: Agesilaus (1), Alexander (1), Aristides (1), Cimon (3), De Pythiae oraculis (1), Quaestiones Convivales (4), Quaestiones Naturales (1)
• Sophocles: Trachiniae (4)
• Strabo: Geography (3)
• Theocritus: Idylls (1)
• Xenophon: Anabasis (2), Cyropaedia (2), Minor Works (2), Works on Socrates (2)


CRISTOS (to be rubbed on, of persons, anointed)

LXX/OG:
• Lev. 4:5, 16; 6:15; 21:10, 12;
• 1 Sam. 2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 16:6; 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16, 23;
• 2 Sam. 1:14, 16; 2:5; 19:22; 22:51; 23:1;
• 1 Chr. 16:22;
• 2 Chr. 6:42; 22:7;
• 2 Ma. 1:10;
• Ps. 2:2; 17:51; 19:7; 27:8; 83:10; 88:39, 52; 104:15; 131:10, 17;
• Odes 3:10; 4:13; 14:14, 27;
• Sir. 46:19;
• Ps. Sol. 17:32; 18:1, 5, 7;
• Amos 4:13;
• Hab. 3:13;
• Isa. 45:1;
• Lam. 4:20;
• Dan-OG 9:26;
• Dan-Theodotion 9:25

Josephus:
• Ant. 8:137 (anointed with plaster);
• 18:63 (called Christ);
• 20:200 (called Christ)

Perseus Project:
• Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (1, ointment)
• Euripides: Hippolytus (1, ointment)

CRISMA (anything smeared on)

LXX/OG:
• Exod. 29:7; 30:25; 35:12, 19; 40:9, 15;
• Sir. 38:30;
• Dan-OG 9:26;
• Dan-Theodotion 9:26

Josephus:
• Ant. 3:197 (priests anointed with a sweet ointment)

Perseus Project:
• Aretaeus: The Cappadocian (4)
• Theophrastus: Characters (1)

DCH (Sorry boss man, typed up before work and forgot to send, just hit the button to complete the send now).
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Ken Olson
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Ken Olson »

I don't have time to address this fully at the moment.

Roger Pierce has list of all the manuscripts of Josephus, based on Heinz Schreckenberg (footnoted at the end) here:

https://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manu ... us_all.htm

The manuscripts that contain Antiquities books 11-20 are marked with the Roman numeral III. IIRC there are ten manuscripts of books 18-20, which contain the two mentions of Christ in 18.63-64 and 20.200.

In his critical edition of Josephus (upon which nearly all subsequent work is based), Benedict Niese used three of these manuscripts, which he designated AM and W. Following a standard procedure of classical textual criticism, he eliminated the other 7 manuscripts as he considered them to be copied from those 3. The theory is that a manuscript will not contain better readings than the manuscript from which it was copied. So if you have the ancestor, you don't need to consider the descendants.

In the case of one manuscript, Escorialensis gr. 307, Schreckenberg contests whether we really know that it was descended from another manuscript we have, as Niese had assumed. As far as I know, no one has re-checked this. I believe all the criticisms of Niese's edition on the page are from Schreckenberg.

The oldest known manuscript containing books 18-20 of the Antiquities is this one, from the 11th century:

A (III) Ambrosianus 370 (F 128 sup. ; Niese in vol. IV p. III erroneously calls it "F 128 inf."). Parchment, 11th century, 389 (379) pp. Contains Ant. Jud. Buch 11-20 and the Vita. Damaged at the beginning. It lacks Ant. Jud. 16, 18-30. The missing part 11, 184-280 has been added in a younger hand (according to Niese from L). In the third pentad of Antiquitates Judaicae it shows a very close relation in the group AMW to AM, especially to Acorr M, while Aante corr (A1) is closer to W.There is also a connection between A and the usually opposed group PF(L)V, and particularly P. In the fourth pentad the commonality of AMW loosens, in that a three-way split becomes noticeable: Aante corr (A1), MW, and Acorr, so that A moves still closer to P than in the third pentad. Acorr often offers a longer text, raising the suspicion of interpolation. In the Vita the quality of A diminishes by comparison with MW. Naber (Flavii Josephi opera omnia, Leipzig 1888-1896) III p. IV differs from Niese in preferring A before P, not without reason, and prefers MW to either. The Josephus-exemplar, that Eusebius used during the composition of the Church History, supports this positive evaluation of A, and through some agreements with MW also supports their value.

It is online here:

https://digitallibrary.unicatt.it/vener ... 82800acbda

I haven't gone through it to find Ant. 18.63-64 and 20.200. If anyone else wants to do that, or look up the readings in the other manuscripts of Antiquities 18-20, be my guest.

I suspect that the manuscripts will turn out to be completely unhelpful in finding pre-Eusebian readings of Ant. 18.63-64 and 20.200 and that the question of whether Josephus might have originally written chrestos in Ant. 20.200 (I take it Peter Kirby is not asking about 18.63-64) would have to be decided on intrinsic probability (i.e., on internal rather than external grounds).

Best,

Ken
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Ken Olson »

Here is a photoplate of the page containing the Testimonium Flavianum from Codex Ambrosianus 370. You can see the nomen sacrum Chi Sigma with overline near the end of the first line after the break (the eighth line overall). The image is from Robert Eisler's book The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist (1931) between pages 58 and 59. I have posted the image on this forum previously, though I think I misidentified it as Niese's manuscript M rather than A.

https://digitallibrary.unicatt.it/vener ... 82800acbda

I don't know of anyplace where an image of a manuscript containing Ant. 20.200 is published (not counting where the manuscripts are themselves online, of course).

Best,

Ken
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Last edited by Ken Olson on Wed Feb 07, 2024 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by rgprice »

Well, to me if it is written with nomina sacra then that is even more evidence in favor of interpolation. My argument has long been that it originated as a marginal note. It makes sense then that a Christian writing it as a marginal note would have used nomina sacra. Obviously Josephus himself wouldn't have used nomina sacra. If every copy has nomina sacra, then this has to be explained as all of these copies having been created by Christians, who then made the decision to change the original text of Josephus to substitute the nomina sacrum for Christ where Josephus had written something else.

Again, the simplest answer here is that the passage uses nomina sacra because it was originally written with nomina sacra, because it was originally written by a Christian making a marginal note.
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Ken Olson »

rgprice wrote: Wed Feb 07, 2024 7:48 am Well, to me if it is written with nomina sacra then that is even more evidence in favor of interpolation. My argument has long been that it originated as a marginal note. It makes sense then that a Christian writing it as a marginal note would have used nomina sacra. Obviously Josephus himself wouldn't have used nomina sacra. If every copy has nomina sacra, then this has to be explained as all of these copies having been crated by Christians, when then made the decision to change the original text of Josephus to substitute the nomina sacrum for Christ where Josephus had written something else.

Again, the simplest answer here is that the passage uses nomina sacra because it was originally written with nomina sacra, because it was originally written by a Christian making a marginal note.
I believe the question Peter Kirby is asking us to consider in the OP is: if the manuscripts of Antiquities 20.200 contain a nomen sacrum instead of the word Christos written out, might it be plausible, or even most plausible, to think that Josephus originally wrote Chrestus, but this was changed by the Christian scribes who copied the text to the nomen sacrum following the common Christian practice of using nomina sacra? Might this answer the doubts about Josephus using the term Christos ('the Anointed") in Antiquities 20.200?

Best,

Ken
Last edited by Ken Olson on Wed Feb 07, 2024 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Did Josephus say that Jesus was called Chrēstos?

Post by Peter Kirby »

Ken Olson is correct. I'm not trying to argue for authenticity. In the OP, I'm trying to understand what we're arguing against. What's the most plausible interpretation of the data, if the passage were authentic? And, how does that change the discussion of the passage, given that a reading of Chrestos has generally not been considered?
rgprice wrote: Wed Feb 07, 2024 7:48 am My argument has long been that it originated as a marginal note.
Mine too.
rgprice wrote: Wed Feb 07, 2024 7:48 am passage uses nomina sacra because it was originally written with nomina sacra
Is that a general rule of evidence, for you, or are you applying it to passages in Josephus, in particular?

If it's a general rule: why? If it's for the Antiquities in particular (and other particular cases): also, why?
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