What arguments can be used against Testimonium Flavianum?

Hi, I am a young atheist. We have a group and we often play a “Devil’s Advocate” where we take the roll of a Christian apologist.

In our last meeting a fellow member brought up the “Testimonium Flavianum.”

What arguments shall we use when dealing with this issue?

I went to www.richarddawkins.net “Debate Points” section but found nothing.

Posted: May 11th 2009

SmartLX www

Great answers here already. I’ll just add that the reason you didn’t find anything on RichardDawkins.net is that the proper name “Testimonium Flavianum” isn’t often used.

It is ultimately the subject of any modern argument over Josephus, so search for “Josephus” instead.

Posted: May 12th 2009

See all questions answered by SmartLX


The authenticity of the passage by Josephus has been widely argued for centuries.

My opinion is that if that is the best evidence you have towards the existence of jesus, you don’t have much evidence. At very best – if it is fully authentic – it’s heresay.

My personal opinion about the authenticity – and I only have a slightly informed opinion – is that when you read it (or the translation of it – I don’t read greek), it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that a Jewish scholar would write. It sounds to me like something a christian believer would write after reading the gospels.

Posted: May 12th 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


The Testimonium Flavianum reputed to be written by Josephus, a Jewish historian, has been used unsuccessfully to buttress both the historicity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. In general, that writing does not suffice conclusively to support either the historicity nor the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Read here to see all the problems with using this bit of writing for Christian apologetics. And here, for a brief response by an atheist responding to the Flavianum challenge.

Moi, I would respond that extraordinary claims (divinity of Jesus) require extraordinary evidence, and a bit of foggy and suspect writing does not constitute extraordinary evidence.

And playing the role of a devil’s advocate is an excellent way to hone one’s debating skills!

Posted: May 12th 2009

See all questions answered by logicel

Reed Braden www

Testimonium Flavianum, eh? Is that where Flavor Flav gives his Jesus-y testimony, therefore God exists?

[Does research…]

Oh… “Jesus is mentioned in two passages of the work The Antiquities of the Jews by the Jewish historian Josephus, written in the late first century AD. One passage, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, discusses the career of Jesus.” – Wikipedia… Not nearly as cool.

I automatically dismiss any argument that mentions Josephus. If the Christians hadn’t, throughout history, screwed with the writings of Josephus, adding and subtracting bits to make it conform to their ideas, I would be more inclined to see them as valid. However, because the Christians screwed with it, it’s tainted evidence and should be dismissed wholesale as such. I would love the irony that Christians rendered the evidence invalid by trying to make it more valid, if not for the fact that people have said just that since the 1500’s and they still quote the goddamn writings!

In fact, it’s the Testimonium Flavianum itself that was quite obviously inserted afterword, quite ham-handedly. The passage is stuck between two paragraphs that obviously go together but not to the Testimonium itself. It’s as if it said this:

Clifford the Big Red Dog went to school one day but couldn’t fit through the door. The kids laughed at him and mocked him. Some of the kids threw sticks and rocks at him.

Summer sausage should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Undercooking sausage will give you Swine Flu.

Clifford the Big Red Dog was very sad. His heart shattered into a billion pieces and he died. The doctors later said that the stress of rejection caused his heart to explode, having been rendered frail by his unfortunate pituitary gigantism (resulting in his unnatural size) and his high iron count and blood pressure (resulting in his unnatural colour). All of the children felt very bad and had to speak to a comfort counselor.

Just like that, really.

Next time someone brings it up, ask them to read the passage in context, with at least two paragraphs before and after the Testimonium, and do a grammatical analysis of the paragraphs surrounding the Testimonium compared to the Testimonium itself in its original Greek.

That should shut them up.

More of my thoughts on the Testimonium Flavianum here.

Posted: May 12th 2009

See all questions answered by Reed Braden


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