Is it possible for people, and even for a whole society, to lose faith in God? ... [If] it happens, [it is] not primarily because something they used to think existed does not after all exist, but because the available language about God has been allowed to become too narrow, stale and spiritually obsolete ... the work of creative religious personalities is continually to enrich, to enlarge and sometimes to purge the available stock of religious symbols and idioms ... (The Sea of Faith, 1984)



... people of different periods and cultures differ very widely; in some cases so widely that accounts of the nature and relations of God, men and the world put forward in one culture may be unacceptable, as they stand, in a different culture ... a situation of this sort has arisen ... at about the end of the eighteenth century a cultural revolution of such proportions broke out that it separates our age sharply from all ages that went before (The Use and Abuse of the Bible, 1976)

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New Testament Parallels
to the Works of Josephus


Matthew 23.1
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their tefillin broad and their tallit long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students." 

Luke 14.1 - 14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely ... He said to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors; for they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. Then you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" 

Antiquities 18.1.2-3 11-13  
(see also War 2.8.14 162-166 and Antiquities 13.171-173
The Jews since antiquity have had three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves, that of the Essenes, of the Sadducees, and the third the philosophy of those called the Pharisees; of which sects, although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I touch a little upon them now.

Now the Pharisees simplify their way of life and give in to no sort of softness; and they follow the guidance of what their doctrine has handed down and prescribes as good; and they earnestly strive to observe the commandments it dictates to them. They also show respect to the elders, nor are they so bold as to contradict them in any thing they have introduced. Although they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since it has pleased God to make a combination of his council-chamber and of the people who wish to approach with their virtue and their vice. They also believe that souls have an immortal power in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments according to whether they showed virtue or vice in this life; the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but the former are allowed an easy passage through and live again. Because of these doctrines they hold great influence among the populace, and all divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices are performed according to their direction. In doing so the cities bear witness to all their virtuous conduct, both in their way of life and in their words. 

The Pharisees have a long and varied history. They became influential during the reign of the Hasmoneans and gained considerable power under Queen Alexandra. There are many references to Pharisees both in the New Testament and in Josephus, as well as in the Talmud.

The passages quoted above demonstrate the agreement in the two works that the Pharisees believe in the resurrection of the virtuous. Moreover, we find in Luke that the key term Jesus uses, the "kingdom of God," is used by the Pharisees to mean the time after the resurrection, the world to come. Whether Jesus means the same thing by this phrase or not is one of the open questions of scholarship. See, for example, Luke 17.20: "Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."

In agreement also is the dependence the people had on the Pharisees to instruct them in doctrine. Jesus agrees with the majority in saying "do what they teach you and follow it."

But Matthew's Jesus varies from Josephus in saying the Pharisees do not conduct their "way of life" as they teach it, nor do they live with complete simplicity. But note the different versions of this passage in Mark 12:38, where it is only the "scribes," and not the Pharisees, who are castigated for their love of long clothing, honors, and the best seats in the synagogues and at banquets. (Compare this to Luke 20:46 and 11:43.) 

Luke 20.27 (Mark 12.18, Matthew 22.23; Acts 5.17, 23.8)

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question. 

Antiquities 18.2.4 16-17  (War 2.8.14 162-166)
But the doctrine of the Sadducees is that souls die with the bodies. Nor do they perform any observance other than what the Law enjoins them. They think it virtuous to dispute with the teachers of the wisdom they pursue. This doctrine is accepted but by a few, but those are of the highest standing. But they are able to accomplish almost nothing, for when they hold office they are unwillingly and by force obliged to submit to the teachings of the Pharisees, because the multitude would not otherwise tolerate them.

The quoted passages agree that the Sadducees do not believe in a resurrection. Otherwise, the gospels have little to say about them, usually lumping them in with the Pharisees, which perhaps indicates how little impact they had on daily life, as Josephus explains.
In Acts, however, Sadducees are somewhat more active. Paul takes advantage of the disagreement on the resurrection after his arrest (Acts 23:6-10), by siding with the Pharisees and creating a debate among the council, thus distracting everyone from the charge against him. 

All things in common: The Essenes  
Matthew 10.5-14 (Mark 6.11, Luke 9.5) 
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town." 

Acts 2.45
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 

War 2.7.4 119-127 (see also Antiquites 18.2.5 18-22)  
The Essenes...are despisers of riches, and so very communal as to earn our admiration. There is no one to be found among them who has more than another; for they have a law that those who come to join them must let whatever they have be common to the whole order, so that among them all there is no appearance of either poverty or excessive wealth. Everyone's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions; as if they were all brothers with a single patrimony ...

They have no one city, but in every city dwell many of them; and if any of the sect arrive from elsewhere, all is made available to them as if it were their own; and they go to those they have never seen before as if long acquaintances. Thus they carry nothing at all with them in their journeys, except weapons for defence against thieves. Accordingly, in every city there is one appointed specifically to take care of strangers and to provide them with garments and other necessities.

In their clothing and deportment they resemble children in fear of their teachers. They change neither their garments nor their shoes until they are torn to pieces or worn out by time. They neither buy nor sell anything to one another, but each gives what he has to whomever needs it, and receives in exchange what he needs himself; and even if there is nothing given in return, they are allowed to take anything they want from whomever they please.

The Essenes are not mentioned by name in the New Testament. The similarities shown above between their organization and that of the apostles - holding possessions in common, simplicity of clothing, traveling from town to town carrying almost nothing and relying on finding welcome in a sympathetic house - has led scholars to theorize that Jesus had his origins in the Essenes.

Bolstering this idea is Jesus' relationship with John the Baptist. The descriptions of John's preaching in the desert and baptising in the Jordan River suggest to some scholars a connection to the Essene community on the Dead Sea. The Essenes are also thought to be the authors of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, although not all scholars are convinced of this; in any case, the scrolls have shown many affinities to the messianic concerns of the New Testament. 

Luke 9.51

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem . When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. 

Ant. 20.6.1 118 (also War 2.12.3-4 232-235)
It was the custom of the Galileans, when they came to the Holy City at the festivals, to take their journeys through the country of the Samaritans. On their route lay a village called Ginea, which was situated on the border between Samaria and the Great Plain, and at this time certain persons fought with the Galileans, and killed a great many of them. When the leaders of the Galileans were informed of what had been done they came to Cumanus and desired him to avenge the murders; but he was bribed by the Samaritans to do nothing. The Galileans, indignant at this, urged the Jewish populace to resort to arms and to regain their liberty, saying that while slavery was a bitter thing but that, when it was joined with direct injuries it was completely intolerable....they entreated the assistance of Eleazar son of Dineus, a robber who had for many years made his home in the mountains, and with his assistance they set afire and plundered many villages of the Samaritans.

The Samaritans had their own scriptures and their own temple. There was an enmity between Samaritans and Jews that sometimes became violent. The forced contact between the groups as Galileans journeyed to festivals appears both in Josephus and the New Testament; in the Luke excerpt, the festival is the Passover at which Jesus planned to make his entrance into the city. The incident described by Josephus took place about 50.

Some other points: In both passages there is a mention of Galileans setting fire to Samaritan villages (or wanting to) as revenge. One of these, Eleazar is a "robber," l�ist�s, of the sort that recur in Josephus, some of whom were anti-Roman guerillas that followed the revolutionary philosophy of Judas the Galilean. Incidentally, this Eleazar is also mentioned in the Mishna, the Rabbinic work compiled about 100 years after Josephus wrote the Antiquities; describing a time "when murderers became many," Mishnah Sotah 9.9 reads: "When Eleazar son of Dinai came (and he was also called Tehinah son of Parishah) they changed his name to 'son of the Murderer.'"

The particular incident recorded by Josephus was extremely serious, resulting in mass crucifixions and beheadings and eventually in an embassy to the Emperor Claudius. As a result Cumanus was deposed as procurator in favor of Felix, and the latter finally captured Eleazar son of Dineus and sent him in chains to Rome (Antiquities 20.8.5 161).

Insurrection in the City under Pilate:
Luke 13.1

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did." 

Luke 23.18
They they all shouted out together..."Release Barabbas for us!" This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection (stasis) that had taken place in the city, and for murder. 

Mark 15.7
And there was one called Barabbas who had been imprisoned with the rebels, who in the insurrection (stasis) had committed murder. 

Mark 15.27; Matthew 27.38 ( Luke 23.32)
And they crucified two robbers with him, one on the right, and one on the left. 

Antiquities 18.3.2 60-62 (War 2.9.4 175-177) (speculative)
Pilate undertook to bring water to Jerusalem using money from the sacred treasury, and deriving the source of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this, and many ten thousands of people got together and made a clamor against him, insisting that he should leave off that design. Some of them also cried insults and abuse at the man, as crowds of such people usually do. So he clothed a great number of his soldiers in the people's garments, under which they carried clubs, and sent them off where they might surround them, he bid the crowd to withdraw. While they boldly cast abuse upon him, he gave the soldiers a prearranged signal. But the soldiers laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded, and equally punished those that were tumultuous and those that were not. Showing no softness, the people were caught unarmed by men prepared for the action, a great number of them were slain, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this insurrection (stasis).

The gospels agree that Jesus was crucified along with two thieves; the Greek word for "thieves" used by Mark and Matthew is li�stai (singular l�ist�s), the same word Josephus uses throughout his works (77 times) to indicate both simple robbers and anti-Roman revolutionaries. There is an implication that these thieves were involved in the recent insurrection in Jerusalem. Barabbas, who was to be crucified at the same time as Jesus, is identified by Mark and Luke as a participant in the insurrection. These suggest that Jesus may have been grouped by the authorities with those involved in an anti-Roman riot.

The quoted passage by Josephus describes one such insurrection in Jerusalem under Pilate. Josephus does not describe an event where the blood of Galileans "is mixed with the sacrifices." Galilee, which wasn't under direct Roman rule, was the origin of the anti-Roman Fourth Philosophy developed by Judas the Galilean, whose descendants were eventually leaders in the revolt against Rome. It's a good possibility, then, that in any insurrection, Galileans were involved.

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