Then just the other day Ken Olson drops this fact on us all:
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?