A Clear Look at History Cracks the “Josephus Mirror Code”

Earlier this month, I started a series of responses to another blog author posting a note on our Ratio Christi at Germanna Community college Facebook page. The comment was a promo for his book entitled, The Josephus Mirror Code and the author is Paul Amatucci.[1] His note was a multi leveled attack on the authenticity and the historicity of the life of Jesus and the gospel records.

It is one of the premises from his comment on our wall that I will be addressing in this post. The premise is that “the New Testament documents do not have any contemporary historical evidence written by anyone outside of those documents to prove that Jesus Christ and his followers ever lived” and “there was a 61 year gap between the events of the New Testament and Josephus’ writings.”

This creates just one piece of the puzzle in his book. My purpose for this post is to not some much toward the demand for contemporary documents as much as it is to show the problem with his statement. If there is any relevancy toward a demand for contemporary sources, that will be paled in light of the other problems with his premise.  Let’s first look at the what Mr. Amatucci might be implying as contemporary.

What is Meant by Contemporary?

When the writer of the “Mirror Code” (hereafter) states, there is “no contemporary evidence written by anyone (outside those documents) to prove that Jesus and His followers ever lived,”

 a couple of things I would like to address here. The first is the writer’s understanding of Jesus’ existence in human history. In my first response, I discuss the numerous sources, both external and internal sources to show that his claim has no merit.

But what does the word “contemporary” mean? A basic definition of the word contemporary can refer to something existing, occurring, or living at the same time or belonging to the same time in history or something about the same age or date, or lastly “of the present time or modern.”[2]

Honestly Mr. Amatucci could be making an unreasonable demand within the scope of his lack of understanding of “contemporary” First Century history. I think a legitimate question could be, what he would find as a satisfactory understanding for the usage of “contemporary.” As I mentioned earlier, the issue is not going to be focused on the issue of what is contemporary as much as it will be his scholarship toward the history of Josephus’ writing with reference to the historicity of the gospel records.

Let’s look at the time when Josephus wrote his most popular works referring to Jesus Christ.

When Did Josephus Write His Antiquities of the Jews?

Josephus is known for his major works, Antiquities of the Jews (AD 93/94), War on the Jews (AD 75) and Against Apion (circa. AD 94).  Since Mr. Amatucci is using the writings of Josephus as a standard, it is important to know when Flavius Josephus write his famous works mentioning Jesus? The most famous of his works, which have the most mentions of Jesus is in his work, Antiquities of the Jews. This work was written around AD 93-94.

In that work, Josephus mentions Jesus in what is known as the famous Testimonium Flavianum, in 18.3.3. This posting is not going to deal with the authenticity problems of Amatucci’s source. I will leave that for a later posting in this series. But why is this statement, as a whole, important to mention in this section?

The answer is a matter of dates in history. If Josephus’ works have a gap of 61 years from the time of the completion of the gospels, it would put the penning of the gospels as early AD 31/32. If an honest study of history were engaged, on the part of the author of the “Mirror Code,” Mr. Amatucci would see that this could not be a good premise, as Jesus would be wrapping up his earthly ministry and headed to the cross.  It looks like the Josephus Mirror is developing another “crack.”

So when were the gospels written and will the crack become larger? Let’s see.

When Were the Gospel Writers Done Writing their Good News? 

Since the Mirror Code was written based upon the assumption of a 61 year gap between the completion of the New Testament[3] and Josephus’ writing of  Antiquities, it is apparently clear that Mr. Amatucci has bought the Zeitgeist notion or he does not understand or care about transmission of the text of the gospel record.

I think there is a consensus among evangelical scholarship that the gospel records were completed before the end of the First century.  F. F. Bruce, in this famous work, The New Testament Documents put the completion of the corpus of the entire New Testament before AD 100.[4]  What does this do with Mr. Amatucci’s theory for this book?

Let’s use John’s gospel, since Josephus’ Antiquities (AD 93).

Whether John wrote in the in the late AD 80’s/early 90’s or completed his gospel before the Roman General Titus’s invasion of Jerusalem in AD 70, the author’s statement of a 61 year gap between the gospels and Josephus has many “cracks”, and therefore demonstrates a lack of or blatant disregard for historical scholar toward textual transmission.

Conclusion.

Whenever someone with a shallow faith sees a work like “The Josephus Mirror Code,” or even the Zeitgeist movies, there are bound to be some questions, which could create seeds of doubt to one’s faith. This posting has been one of a few responses to Mr. Amatucci’s theory that is targeted to those with weak faith in the authenticity of the Bible and the historicity of the Christian faith as a whole.

All one has to do is a little bit of research to see that the theory that Mr. Amatucci is trying to push forth is full of holes. No one likes a cracked mirror, but looking into the Josephus Mirror, I now notice that it has another crack in it. As I look into this further, I am quite sure the mirror is not going to be pretty.

If you would like to check out the first response, you may check it out at “The Josephus Mirror Code is CRACKED

Notes

[1] Looking at some of Mr. Amatucci’s profile and likes on his Google+ page, he is a fan of the Zeitgeist conspiracy theory movies, and hence his book would appeal to those who are in that camp.

[2] See the dictionary.com link for “contemporary” found at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/contemporary?s=t

[3] This is not the only assumption, but one of many. If we look at the blog site, we would see that the author has a clearer starting premise which “is to set the record straight and show how and why the Romans invented the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Testament documents, which were specifically used by the Romans as a “literary weapon” to neutralize militant Maccabean Judaism and offer a 5th column replacement – (Christianity).”  http://thejosephusmirrorcode.blogspot.com.

[4] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 5th ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 14.

 

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 13

Moses never existed … or if he did, he was only a minor historical character and most of his life was expanded by legend.

Moses Parting Red SeaWhen I was an atheist I believed Moses never existed. The Jews made him up to bolster their religion. However, if someone by the name of Moses really did live he wasn’t anything like the stories about him in the Bible. No way he called down the wrath of God on the Egyptians. No way Moses raised his hands in the air and a sea of water split in two. No way.

I used the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt as a major proof that the Bible was full of myths and fairy tales. It was a favorite discussion on my radio talk shows in the late 1960s and early 70s. Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham leaving Ur for Canaan, Joseph in Egypt, and Moses leading Israel out of Egypt were stories I threw at Christians whenever they called about the Bible and Christianity being true. There was absolutely no evidence for any of those stories, so why should I believe anything in the Bible. Everything in the Bible was untrue.

That worked pretty well until I met some Christian apologists. They answered my mocking and skepticism with evidence … lots of evidence … so much evidence that I was no longer able to say the Bible was full of myth, fairy tales and lies. I didn’t know where the investigation would lead me, but I knew there was more to the Bible than I thought.

The archaeological finds I had already seen were impressive in supporting some of the historic nature of Genesis. What would I find in archaeology to support the historic nature of  the “Exodus?”

[Read more...]

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 9)

Some Christian friends have asked me why I’m writing a series to answer questions about the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship. Almost every Christian I know personally believes that Paul was an apostle of Christ and that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write letters to 1st century churches (e.g. Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). So, why bother with what appears to be a fringe group of people who call themselves Christians, but do not accept Paul’s apostleship? I am concerned about three important matters.

[Read more...]

The Case for the Reliability of the New Testament (Free Bible Insert)

The Case for the Reliability of the New Testament (Free Bible Insert)I’ve written quite a bit about the reliability of the New Testament eyewitness accounts in Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels and at ColdCaseChristianity.com. I believe there are many good reasons to accept the Gospels as eyewitness accounts, and I’ve focused on four characteristics of reliable eyewitness testimony to demonstrate the trustworthy nature of the Gospels. In an effort to summarize the case for the New Testament in a different way, I’d like to offer the following brief outline:

(1) The New Testament Has Been Faithfully Transmitted
The overarching content of the New Testament Gospels can be tested over time as we examine the writings of those who learned from the apostolic eyewitnesses:

(a) Ancient Sources Confirm the Early New Testament Canon

1. Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 95)
2. Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 115)
3. Polycarp, a disciple of John, (c. A.D. 108)

(b) It Was Recognized in Geographically Independent Areas

1. Irenaeus (in Asia Minor)
2. Origen (in Alexandria, Egypt)
3. Hippolytus (in Rome)
4. Eusebius (in Cæsarea, Palestine)
5. Athanasius (in Alexandria, Eqypt)

(c) The Informational Content of the New Testament is Reflected in the Writings of the Students of the Apostolic Eyewitnesses

(d) The New Testament Documents are Larger in Number and Closer in Proximity to the Events than ANY Other Ancient Record [Read more...]

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 12

Baby Moses and Daughter of PharaohDid pharaoh’s daughter find baby Moses in an ark of bulrushes in the reeds by the bank of the river and raise him as her son? Did Moses become the leader of the slave nation of Israel? Did Moses lead Israel out of Egypt in a great exodus after humiliating the pharaoh through miracles of God?

During my investigation into the claims of theism more than 40 years ago, specifically Christianity, I had learned that many archaeological discoveries during the 19th and 20th centuries AD supported a variety of truth claims in the Bible from the 19th and 20th centuries BC. However, no truth claim of the Old Testament may have been more of a challenge than the supposed exodus of Israel from Egypt. Anyone who had any knowledge of ancient civilizations knew there was not a shred of evidence that the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt was true – including no archaeological discovery.

Or so I thought.

[Read more...]