What historical facts can be ascertained from the deleted and altered portions of Josephus’ statement such as those changes made in the Arabic version? (1)Jesus was known as a wise and virtuous man, one recognized for his good conduct. (2)He had many disciples, both Jews and Gentiles. (3)Pilate condemned him to die, (4) with crucifixion explicitly being mentioned as the mode. (5)The disciples reported that Jesus had risen from the dead and (6)that he had appeared to them on the third day after his crucifixion. (7)Consequently, the disciples continued to proclaim his teachings. (8)Perhaps Jesus was the Messiah concerning whom the Old Testament prophets spoke and predicted wonders. We would add here two facts from Josephus’ earlier quotation as well. (9)Jesus was the brother of James and (10)was called the messiah by some.^25
There is nothing really sensational in such a list of facts from a Jewish historian. Jesus’ ethical conduct, his following, and his crucifixion by the command of Pilate are what we would expect a historian to mention. Even the account of the disciples reporting Jesus’ resurrection appearances (if it is allowed), has an especially authentic ring to it. Josephus, like many historians today, would simply be repeating the claims, which were probably fairly well known in first century Palestine. That the disciples would then spread his teachings would be a natural consequence.
21 “New Evidence on Jesus’ Life Reported,” The New York Times, February 12, 1972, pp. 1, 24.
22 Charlesworth, ibid., p. 93.
23 Ibid., pp. 93–94.
24 Ibid., pp. 96–97.
25 Bruce presents a somewhat similar list of facts. See The New Testament Documents, p. 112.
Josephus presented an important account of several major facts about Jesus and the origins of Christianity. In spite of some question as to the exact wording, we can view his statements as providing probable attestation, in particular, of some items in Jesus’ public ministry, his death by crucifixion, the disciples’ report of his resurrection appearances, and their subsequent teaching of Jesus’ message. Thallus