(Slightly) Refining Eusebius's claims about Josephus on John the Baptist

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Paul the Uncertain
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(Slightly) Refining Eusebius's claims about Josephus on John the Baptist

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

In the third part of its series on Eusebius, Josephus, and major New Testament figures, the Uncertaintist tries to sort out what Eusebius claimed to have read about John in Antiquities 18.116-119 (18.5.2 in Whiston's system.)

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/202 ... e-baptist/

Although Eusebius is the earliest known witness to the wording of the John passage, Origen, too, remembers reading something about John in Book 18 of Antiquities (Against Celsus 1.47). This reduces suspicion that "maybe Eusebius simply made it all up."

Origen's memory is not a constant friend, however. He thinks Josephus supported John's baptism being for the remission of sins (a Gospel notion, e.g. Mark 1:4). Eusebius reports the opposite. It is unclear whether Eusebius is correcting Origen on this point or simply reciting what he read. Modern punctuation could sort that out, but that hadn't been invented yet.

Otherwise, though, between an "in the following words" introduction, and a remark near the end about a castle previously mentioned (as Josephus but not Eusebius had done), the block reference in Church History (I.11.4-6) seems plausibly to be offered as nearly a block quote. Paraphrase along the way cannot be ruled out, of course.

If that is his claim, then Eusebius would be reporting a version of the John story which displays noteworthy independence of the "Gospel" story (especially in having no juicy Herodias-Salome elements). That, and the relatively low density of suspected Christian apolgetics within the relevant block, distinguishes the "Testimony about John" from the "Flavian Testimony of Jesus."
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