Josephus and Luke:
Parallels Between the Emmaus Narrative and the Testimonium
1. Gary J. Goldberg, “The Coincidences of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus” The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995), 59-77. Online: http://www.josephus.org/GoldbergJosephusLuke1995.pdf
2. Goldberg compares the Testimonium Flavianum in Antiquities 18.3.3 to a section in the Gospel of Luke—the Emmaus Narrative = Luke 24.19-21, 25-27.
3. He notes coincidences of structure between the two texts.
A computer search of the New Testament on the vocabulary cluster “Jesus, man, deed” (Ιησοὺς, ανήρ, εργ*), which are the first three major nouns of the Testimonium, reveals that only this passage of Luke shares this cluster. Upon closer examination, one finds this to be only the first indication of a series of location correspondences, nearly synonymous phrases occurring in analogous positions in each text. One can best experience this sequence by reading the text of Luke, halting at each noun or each verb of action, and then looking to the Josephus text for a corresponding phrase at the same location.
Using this method with the Greek texts shown in Figure 1, the following phrase-by-phrase outline of coincident points is produced:
[Jesus][wise man / prophet-man][mighty/surprising][deed(s)][teacher / word][truth / (word) before God] [many people][he was indicted][by leaders][of us][sentenced to cross][those who had loved/hoped in him][spending the third day][he appeared/spoke to them][prophets][these things][and numerous other things][about him]
Each of the nineteen brackets represents a location correspondence and contains the words or summarizes the meaning at each such point. The order of the brackets strictly corresponds to the order that the phrases appear in the texts; it is only within each bracket that the order of two or more words may differ between the two texts. This strictness of order of sometimes even minor phrases forms what I call the coincidences of structure. (p. 6)
4. In light of this Goldberg notes: “Most interesting is that the two passages of the Testimonium that are often regarded as inauthentic, ‘if indeed one ought to call him a man’ and ‘He was the Messiah,’ do not have parallels in the Emmaus passage at analogous locations.” (p. 6)
5. Goldberg compares the structure to two other benchmark texts: Justin Martyr’s First Apology 31 and Acts 10.38-43. Goldberg notes: “the Emmaus narrative more closely resembles the Testimonium in the phrase-by-phrase outline of content and order than any other known text of comparable age.” (p. 8)
6. How do we explain this similarity of structure? Goldberg answers:
Since Luke probably drew the Emmaus narrative from an existing tradition, its outline suggests the possibility that Josephus, if he was indeed the author of Testimonium, drew his passage from a similar or even identical source. Consider the two possibilities for Josephus’ construction of the Testimonium.
(1) Josephus created his own description of Jesus from information he had collected. The description is dominated by his selection of facts, as determined by his opinions and reactions to stories about Jesus.
(2) Josephus rigidly adhered to a pre-existing text that described Jesus, making alterations only to suit his written style. His text is dominated by a historian’s motivation to faithfully record a primary source that had come to his attention.
The coincidences with the Emmaus passage tend to support the second possibility. It seems less probable that two authors working independently would coincide to this extent, in light of the benchmark texts; as the Acts speeches demonstrate, even passages by a single author can take a variety of forms. (p. 8)
7. Goldberg also notes coincidences of “textual difficulties”—unique features that are common to both Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative.
a. “third day”
b. “our leaders”
c. Terse presentation of both texts yet similarities of presentation and vocabulary
8. Coincidences of the Arabic Testimonium
a. Quoted in 10th century work by Agapius (Arab Christian)
b. Shlomo Pines’ translation:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and his learning outstanding. 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 their discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after the crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders. (p. 13)
c. Goldberg notes the following correspondences:
There are four points that bear directly on this question of authenticity. Let us examine how these appear in the Greek Testimonium (abbreviated GT in the following), the Arabic Testimonium (AT), and the Emmaus narrative of Luke (L).
1. The GT “if indeed one can call him a man” has no parallel in either AT or L.
2. The GT “he was the Messiah” has no location parallel with either AT or L.
3. The AT has “They reported that he had appeared to them”, instead of the GT assertion that Jesus did appear to them. L here is indeterminate, since
it itself is a dramatization of the report; compare, a few verses later,
Luke 24:35, “they related the things in the highway.”
4. The AT “accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah:”
(a) The doubtful “perhaps” has no parallel anywhere in GT. Oddly enough, L does frame a doubt, albeit rhetorically, at this point: according to the prophets, “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?”
(b) In the GT, the word “the Messiah (ο χριστὸς)” appears earlier, not at this location in the text. But L does employ it here, and nowhere else. This seems quite a surprising coincidence.
In regard to these four points, then, the Arabic Testimonium is actually closer to Luke than it is to the Greek Testimonium. This tends to support the theory that Luke’s narrative resembles the original version of the Testimonium, a resemblance that a later editor disrupted with interpolations. (pp. 13-14)
a. Coincidences: structural, linguistic, and Arabic Testimonium
b. Explaining the coincidences:
Three explanations for these coincidences have been considered.
(1) They could be due to chance. But this would seem to gainsay the three independent forms of evidence listed above. In particular, it is difficult to ignore that the only two known examples of the ”third day” as a participial phrase appears in texts with so many other structural resemblances. Some common literary milieu seems mandatory; the question is the form it took.
(2) The coincidences may be due to a Christian interpolator who altered the Testimonium, or forged it entire, under the influence of the Emmaus narrative. This proposal has the weakness of supposing that a writer capable of imitating Josephus’ style and daring enough to alter his manuscript would at the same time employ non-Josephan expressions and adhere rather closely to a New Testament text. A forger of the required skill should have been able to shake free of such influences.
(3) Josephus and Luke may have used similar or identical sources in composing their passages. This explanation appears to be the simplest. It not only explains the series of coincidences, but it also goes a long way toward solving a number of mysteries that have bothered commentators of the Testimonium. What does Josephus mean by calling Jesus a wise man? What was the nature of the accusation by the leaders? If the passage is authentic, why does it approximate to a Christian creed? All these questions fall away if it were true that Josephus did little but rewrite a concise narrative that had, so to speak, crossed his desk. He may have known more about Jesus, or he may have known nothing but what was in his source; in either case, when it came to composing his own passage, it would have been easier and more accurate for him to adhere to a reliable source rather than to piece together secondhand knowledge. (p. 15)
10. Goldberg’s proposal for what the original Testimonium said:
[T]he original form of the Testimonium as written by Josephus, without the later interpolations, may now be more identifiable. If Luke indeed is similar to Josephus’ source, and if the Arabic Testimonium of Agapius is not too corrupt, then we should be able to approximate the original by a simple “Majority Rule” methodology: accept as authentic those elements that appear in two out of the three texts, Josephus, Luke, and Agapius. Here is one proposal for the authentic text derived using this Rule:
About this time there was Jesus, a wise man. He was a performer of many Jews and many of the Greeks. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to death on a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. They reported he appeared to them spending a third day alive again, and accordingly, that he was perhaps the Messiah, for the prophets of God had prophesied these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the sect of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
This reconstruction differs from that of many commentators in that it retains the entire sentence describing Jesus’ resurrection appearance and the declarations of the prophets. That sentence had been doubted because it was a core Christian belief that seemed impossible for Josephus to assert. Yet it is found in all three of our texts; when cast in the above form, as a report not an assertion, it is not implausible; and, furthermore, it explains why the Christians “did not cease” and have still “not disappeared.” (pp. 15-16)
· For more details and defense see: http://www.josephus.org/testimonium.htm