Contra Feldman – R. Pearse

Scanned from a copy of Josephus' 'The Jewish W...
Scanned from a copy of Josephus’ ‘The Jewish War’ dated 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger concludes,

In short, the argument put forward by Prof. Feldman is interesting but unconvincing.  The data does not require the hypothesis of Eusebian composition in order to explain it.

via Feldman, the Testimonium Flavianum, Eusebius and the TLG at Roger Pearse.

It is an interesting article and one that should be read.

BTW, Origen knew of the section, although we don’t really know what the section said in Origen’s time:

I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless— being, although against his will, not far from the truth— that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),— the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure. (Ad Celsus 1.47)

Anyway, a positive read.

I do not believe Josephus who made his career calling Vespasian God’s chosen person called Jesus Christ. However, the TJ does have some historical foundation… just not sure how much.

On the other issue… would this prove a Historical Jesus? No. In my opinion it wouldn’t prove a historical any more than a lack of the TJ would disprove the historical Jesus. TJ still falls into the realm of historical reporting. Josephus was not an eyewitness — and given his lack of reference to any of the Way/Jesus movement in Wars, I’d say he would have to have it reported to him via several degrees of separation.

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Was Origen an Evangelical?

No. While he espoused some idea of inerrancy, Michael Holmes reminds us that his inerrancy was only in the gnostic, or spiritual sense,

Did Origen, the most influential Biblical scholar in the early centuries of the Church, believe in the “inerrancy” of Scripture? Yes. Does this mean that he may be cited as evidence in support of the thesis that “the Church throughout its history has always held to the inerrancy of the literal sense of the text”?1No. As we shall see in the following pages, Origen did hold a high view of the divine author-ship and inspiration of Scripture, and from this he formulated a theory of the “inerrancy” of Scripture. But for Origen this theory of the full veracity of all Scripture applied only to the spiritual sense of the text, not to the ordinary or literal sense—which in fact, according to Origen, contains numerous errors, impossible statements, and even fictional elements. He held, as it were, to what may be termed the “analogical inerrancy” rather than to the “literal inerrancy” of Scripture. Following a brief discussion of these views of Origen we shall conclude by mentioning some of the implications of these findings for certain aspects of the contemporary “inerrancy debate.”

See here for the rest of his pdf. The issue with taking any of these ancient authors as supporters for the modern, Evangelical view of inerrancy is that you have to first make them Evangelicals. Origen doesn’t really believe in inerrancy of the written text, only in what it can be allegorically made to say. He didn’t advocate plain sense, which is where inerrancy seems to really lie (yes, that word has a double meaning), but supported that Scripture was only useful in a heavily philosophized way.


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Celsus and Orthodoxy?

Origen, a 3rd century proponent of Universal R...
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The blogger makes three points:

  1. Celsus is under the impression that “orthodoxy” preceded heresy. Heresy originated out of selfish desires of Christians.
  2. Celsus implies that there was no diversity among the first Christians, but Origen insists that diversity has been a part of Christianity from its earliest days.
  3. There are many sects of Christians known to Celsus.

via Does Celsus Give Evidence of Early “Orthodox” Primacy? | Earliest Christianity.

But you have to read more to find out why.

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Escapism in Origen

Is there

I admit it – I still enjoy the song ‘I’ll Fly Away‘ although it is generally discredited with the bad theology of escapism, a Platonic/Gnostic notion of what happens in the afterlife. We can pretend that such flights of fancy are new to Christian theology, as we do with most things which aren’t to our liking, but Origen speaks to the fact that he excepted a flight himself.

Origen (c.185-253), priest and theologian
Homilies on Saint Luke’s Gospel, no.15 (trad. SC 87, p. 233 rev.)

«Go in peace»

«A woman touched the tassel on Jesus’ cloak and she was cured.» (cf. Mt 9,20). If this woman gained so many benefits from touching the border of his cloak, what are we to think of Simeon who «took the child in his arms» and, holding him, gave himself up to rejoicing as he perceived that he was carrying the child who had come to «proclaim liberty to captives» (Lk 4,18) and that he himself was about to be set free from the constraints of the body? He recognized that no one could release someone from the prison-house of the body in hope of the life to come except he whom he held in his arms. And it was to him that he spoke, saying: «Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace. For so long as I was not holding Christ, so long as I was not cradling him in my arms, I was held fast and unable to escape from my bonds».

Moreover, not Simeon alone but the whole human race is to be understood by these words. If anyone leaves this world, if anyone is set free from prison and the place of captivity to gain the royal throne, he should take Jesus in his hands and wrap his arms around him; he should draw him wholly to his heart. Then, leaping for joy, he will be able to go wherever he wills.

Sounds pretty familiar to the tune above…

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

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Difficult Verses: 1st Timothy 4:10

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1Ti 4:10 NLT)

I want to follow the same method which I used with John 12.32.

From the start, this verse appeared in Ignatius’ greeting to the church at Philippi, attached to the Lord Jesus Christ:

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God which is at Philippi, which has obtained mercy in faith, and patience, and love unfeigned: Mercy and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, “who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.”

Just as a side note here, Ignatius is writing in the early 2nd century, about 110. This helps us in two areas. First, in authorship and dating of 1st Timothy, it should help to nail down that 1st Timothy was known in Asia Minor widely enough to have the most important church leader of the time, which as a bishop of Antioch followed in Peter’s footsteps, to use it and to use it expecting no controversy. Remember, this is a congregation to which Paul wrote as well and now the blessed Polycarp, a disciple of John, was leading. Secondly, it helps to show Ignatius’ Christianity was one which used not only Petrine and Johannine writings, but Pauline as well and doing so without controversy. Tertullian accused his opponents of using this verse, and others, in such as way as to ‘effeminate’ others, while pandering to God. The Latin writers was not one to shy away from a fight, but this seems to be a case in which he didn’t want people imitating the Scriptures:

“But,” say they, “God is ‘good,’ and ‘most good,’7 and ‘pitiful-hearted,’ and ‘a pitier,’ and ‘abundant in pitiful-heartedness,’8 which He holds ‘dearer than all sacrifice,’9 ‘not thinking the sinner’s death of so much worth as his repentance’,10 ‘a Saviour of all men, most of all of believers.’11 And so it will be becoming for ‘the sons of God’12 too to be ‘pitiful-hearted’13 and ‘peacemakers;’14 ‘giving in their turn just as Christ withal hath given to us;’1 ‘not judging, that we be not judged.’2 For ‘to his own lord a man standeth or falleth; who art thou, to judge another’s servant?’3 ‘Remit, and remission shall be made to thee.’”4 Such and so great futilities of theirs wherewith they flatter God and pander to themselves, effeminating rather than invigorating discipline, with how cogent and contrary (arguments) are we for our part able to rebut,—(arguments) which set before us warningly the “severity”5 of God, and provoke our own constancy? (Tertullian: Part Fourth: On Modesty)

Origen uses it against the ancient opponent, Celsus:

But since he has represented those whom he regards as worms, viz., the Christians, as saying that “God, having abandoned the heavenly regions, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us alone, and to us alone makes His announcements, and ceases not His messages and inquiries as to how we may become His associates for ever,” we have to answer that he attributes to us words which we never uttered, seeing we both read and know that God loves all existing things, and loathes2 nothing which He has made, for He would not have created anything in hatred.  We have, moreover, read the declaration:  “And Thou sparest all things, because they are Thine, O lover of souls.  For Thine incorruptible Spirit is in all.  And therefore those also who have fallen away for a little time Thou rebukest, and admonishest, reminding them of their sins.”3 How can we assert that “God, leaving the regions of heaven, and the whole world, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us only,” when we have found that all thoughtful persons must say in their prayers, that “the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord,”4 and that “the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh;”5 and that God, being good, “maketh His sun to arise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth His rain upon the just and the unjust;”6 and that He encourages us to a similar course of action, in order that we may become His sons, and teaches us to extend the benefits which we enjoy, so far as in our power, to all men?  For He Himself is said to be the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe;7 and His Christ to be the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”8 And this, then, is our answer to the allegations of Celsus.  Certain other statements, in keeping with the character of the Jews, might be made by some of that nation, but certainly not by the Christians, who have been taught that “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;”9 and although “scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”1 But now is Jesus declared to have come for the sake of sinners in all parts of the world (that they may forsake their sin, and entrust themselves to God), being called also, agreeably to an ancient custom of these Scriptures, the “Christ of God.” (Origen: Origen Against Celsus)

In a letter to a contemporary, Origen writes,

If any one sin, we read,2 “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for those of the whole world,” since He is the Saviour of all men,3 especially of them that believe, who4 blotted out the written bond that was against us by His own blood, and took it out of the way, so that not even a trace, not even of our blotted-out sins, might still be found, and nailed it to His cross; who having put off from Himself the principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by His cross. And we are taught to rejoice when we suffer afflictions in the world, knowing the ground of our rejoicing to be this, that the world has been conquered and has manifestly been subjected to its conqueror. Hence all the nations, released from their former rulers, serve Him, because He5 saved the poor from his tyrant by His own passion, and the needy who had no helper. This Saviour, then, having humbled the calumniator by humbling Himself, abides with the visible sun before His illustrious church, tropically called the moon, from generation to generation. And having by His passion destroyed His enemies,

To the same friend, Origen writes about the use in scripture of the phrase ‘of the world.’ Some were using it to mean just the Church, but Origen attempts to write against it, saying,

The reader will do well to consider what was said above and illustrated from various quarters on the question what is meant in Scripture by the word “world”; and I think it proper to repeat this. I am aware that a certain scholar understands by the world the Church alone, since the Church is the adornment of the world,1 and is said to be the light of the world. “You,” he says,2 “are the light of the world.” Now, the adornment of the world is the Church, Christ being her adornment, who is the first light of the world. We must consider if Christ is said to be the light of the same world as His disciples. When Christ is the light of the world, perhaps it is meant that He is the light of the Church, but when His disciples are the light of the world, perhaps they are the light of others who call on the Lord, others in addition to the Church, as Paul says on this point in the beginning of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he writes, “To the Church of God, with all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Should any one consider that the Church is called the light of the world, meaning thereby of the rest of the race of men, including unbelievers, this may be true if the assertion is taken prophetically and theologically; but if it is to be taken of the present, we remind him that the light of a thing illuminates that thing, and would ask him to show how the remainder of the race is illuminated by the Church’s presence in the world. If those who hold the view in question cannot show this, then let them consider if our interpretation is not a sound one, that the light is the Church, and the world those others who call on the Name. The words which follow the above in Matthew will point out to the careful enquirer the proper interpretation. “You,” it is said, “are the salt of the earth,” the rest of mankind being conceived as the earth, and believers are their salt; it is because they believe that the earth is preserved. For the end will come if the salt loses its savour, and ceases to salt and preserve the earth, since it is clear that if iniquity is multiplied and love waxes cold upon the earth,3 as the Saviour Himself uttered an expression of doubt as to those who would witness His coming, saying,4 “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith upon the earth?” then the end of the age will come. Supposing, then, the Church to be called the world, since the Saviour’s light shines on it–we have to ask in connection with the text, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” whether the world here is to be taken intellectually of the Church, and the taking away of sin is limited to the Church. In that case what are we to make of the saying of the same disciple with regard to the Saviour, as the propitiation for sin? “If any man sin,” we read, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world?” Paul’s dictum appears to me to be to the same effect, when he says,5 “Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.” Again, Heracleon, dealing with our passage, declares, without any proof or any citation of witnesses to that effect, that the words, “Lamb of God,” are spoken by John as a prophet, but the words, “who taketh away the sin of the world,” by John as more than a prophet. The former expression he considers to be used of His body, but the latter of Him who was in that body, because the lamb is an imperfect member of the genus sheep; the same being true of the body as compared with the dweller in it. Had he meant to attribute perfection to the body he would have spoken of a ram as about to be sacrificed. After the careful discussions given above, I do not think it necessary to enter into repetitions on this passage, or to controvert Heracleon’s careless utterances. One point only may be noted, that as the world was scarcely able to contain Him who had emptied Himself, it required a lamb and not a ram, that its sin might be taken away.

Gregory of Nyssa writes,

If, then, every good thing and every good name, depending on that power and purpose which is without beginning, is brought to perfection in the power of the Spirit through the Only-begotten God, without mark of time or distinction (since there is no delay, existent or conceived, in the motion of the Divine will from the Father, through the Son, to the Spirit): and if Godhead also is one of the good names and concepts, it would not be proper to divide the name into a plurality, since the unity existing in the action prevents plural enumeration. And as the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe3 , is spoken of by the Apostle as one, and no one from this phrase argues either that the Son does not save them who believe, or that salvation is given to those who receive it without the intervention of the Spirit; but God who is over all, is the Saviour of all, while the Son works salvation by means of the grace of the Spirit, and yet they are not on this account called in Scripture three Saviours (although salvation is confessed to proceed from the Holy Trinity): so neither are they called three Gods, according to the signification assigned to the term “Godhead,” even though the aforesaid appellation attaches to the Holy Trinity.

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Origen on the Necessity of Proclaiming the Crucifixion

It is necessary, therefore, to the proclamation of Jesus as Christ, that He should be proclaimed as crucified; and the proclamation that Jesus was the Christ does not seem to me so defective when any of His other miracles is passed over in silence, as when the fact of His crucifixion is passed over. Wherefore, reserving the more perfect proclamation of the things concerning Him by the Apostles, He commanded His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ; and He prepared them to say that He was the Christ crucified and risen from the dead, “when He began” not only to say, nor even to advance to the point of teaching merely, but “to show”8 to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, etc.; for attend to the expression “show”; because just as sensible things are said to be shown so the things spoken by Him to His disciples are said to be shown by Jesus. And I do not think that each of the things seen was shown to those who saw Him suffering many things in body from the elders of the people, with such clearness as was the rational demonstration about Him to the disciples. – Commentary on Matthew

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Origen on Overthrowing the Tyrant

I am trying Brian LePort’s viewpoint and delving a bit more into Origen (also, I liked this book):

Continue reading “Origen on Overthrowing the Tyrant”

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Review: The Spell of the Logos

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From Amazon:

Origen’s construal of the Bible as a textual incarnation of the Word encourages an assimilationist interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures as a proto-Christian gospel. Although in partial agreement with this thesis, this study suggests a non-assimilationist reading of Origen’s biblical exegesis.

I must admit that this has been one of the most difficult books to read, and before one approaches it, the reader should have some knowledge of linguistics and Greek rhetoric. In this book, the author attempts to take an in-depth examination not so much of Origen, but his pedogogical style and, very much, his goal in discourse. He presents Origen in a much better, and indeed, conservative light than must scholarship, showcasing the ancient preacher as a skilled and masterful orator who carefully choose and investigated words, investing in them the belief that the deliverance of the gospel message was in of itself a saving power.

Continue reading “Review: The Spell of the Logos”

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