Tag Archives: Saint Paul

Josephus and Jesus IV: How Origen gave James a new brother

historic steps - use at own riskThis is the latest installment of the series on Josephus’ Antiquities. We examine the brief mention of a man named James who is described as the “brother of Jesus called Christ.” Those few words, found at, are, if authentic, the only known non-Christian mention of Jesus Christ securely dated from the First Century, except for Josephus’ much-garbled Testimony which was discussed in the previous installments.

Of Josephus’ two possible mentions of Jesus, this shorter one is arguably the more important. If authentic, it would be the only extant writing about a key Christian character featured in the epistles of Paul authored by a non-Christian contemporary who lived nearby. If what it asserts is reliable at face value (i.e. that “brother” refers to some robust face-to-face relationship during natural life which Josephus was justifiably confident to report, independently of church traditions), then that would largely extinguish doubts about the existence of a historical Jesus.

The story in which James briefly appears would make fine sense if its James had been identified as the brother of either of two other Jesuses who figure in the same storyline. Given the evident lapses in transmitting the longer Testimony, how can there be any confidence that this James wasn’t the brother of one of those Jesuses, and the text wasn’t altered by a few words to make him James the Just instead? What possible test could reliably authenticate two or three words of ancient text?

The answer is three remarks by Origen from the mid-Third Century saying that Josephus had written about James the Just in Antiquities. Origen used that same distinctive and otherwise rare “called Christ” phrase as we now read in Josephus (in Greek, legomenos Christos). Some argue that Origen wrote too early for Christian scribal alteration to explain what he reports. This isn’t decisive, since Origen’s library plainly included Christian religious material, probably produced by Chrsitian scribes.¬† However, we shall explore another explanation in this post.

Recall¬† that Jerome told his reader that Jospehus had reported that there were supernatural voices in the Temple during Jesus’ crucifixion, contrary to any known copy of any other work discussing the voices incident. Is it plausible then that Origen, like Saint Jerome, may have grossly misremembered something he’d read?

Continue reading



Filed under Knowable historical Jesus

Practical magic on Main Street, Hallowe’en 1914

Gibson Hallowe'en card

Click images to enlarge

One hundred years ago, while William Butler Yeats conjured in magician’s robes and Carl Jung began to transcribe visions into his Red Book, ordinary middle-class Americans, too, dabbled in magic, or as some prefer to say, explored depth psychology.

One night a year, standing alone before mirrors in dimly lit rooms, our grandparents and great-grandparents, some in jest and some on a dare, pretended to pierce the veil that keeps the waking world apart from the shadow realm. Many of them watched in awe as the veil dissolved before their eyes. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Hallowe'en, Psychology