A new article just beats this dead horse deader still. Hat tip to Vridar and Peter Kirby. Honestly. The evidence that the Testimonium Flavianum (or TF) is entirely a late Christian forgery is now as overwhelming as such evidence could ever get. Short of uncovering a pre-Eusebian manuscript, which is not going to happen. All extant manuscripts derive from the single manuscript of Eusebius; evidently everything else was decisively lost.
The new article is by Paul Hopper, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University, “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63,” in Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob, eds., Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers (2014: de Gruyter), pp. 147-169 (available at academia.edu).
So in addition to all the evidence I and other scholars have amassed (summarized, with bibliography, in On the Historicity of Jesus, ch. 8.9), including the fact that what was once thought to be an Arabic testimony to a pre-Eusebian version of the text actually derives from Eusebius (as proved by Alice Whealey), and the peer reviewed article by G.J. Goldberg that proved the TF was, as a whole unit, based on the Gospel of Luke (and thus even if Josephan, not independent of the Gospels) and my own peer reviewed article (now reproduced in Hitler Homer Bible Christ, ch. 19) that added even more evidence, including proving the other brief mention of Jesus in Josephus was also fake (an accidental insertion made centuries after Josephus wrote), and the literary evidence produced by Ken Olson that the TF is far closer to Eusebian style than Josephan style, now Paul Hopper shows that grammatical and structural analysis verifies all of this.
For those who want to understand how this new evidence from Hopper works to produce that conclusion, here is a quick summary:
- (1) Hopper shows the author of the TF consistently used finite verbs differently than Josephus does.
We have seen that aorist verbs [in Josephus] typically report single prominent actions associated with the protagonist of the story. They play a crucial role in the event structure of the narrative, and while they cannot alone support the story line, they work to anchor clusters of other kinds of verbs to create episodes. This could hardly be said of the aorists in the Testimonium, however. The aorists here seem to belong in a different genre altogether, one which argues and defends rather than reports.
In other words, the TF is written as apologetics, not history. And Josephus wasn’t a Christian apologist. Indeed, as Hopper points out:
There is an element of protest in the voice of the author of the Testimonium that is impossible to attribute to Josephus, the sober historian: “There must be some truth in all this, because his followers haven’t gone away, in fact they haven’t stopped worshipping him.”
Grammatical analysis and content thus converge to support the same conclusion.
- (2) Hopper shows the author of the TF consistently used oblique and passive language to insert Pontius Pilate into its story, contrary to what Josephus had been doing in the whole Pontius Pilate sequence before that.
As Hopper says,
Pilate, the decisive Roman boss of the other three Pilate episodes, ruthless scourge of the Jews and despiser of their laws, now appears as the compliant puppet of the Jewish hierarchy. … [and a]gain, the grammatical structure of the Testimonium is at odds with that of the sequence of Pontius Pilate, in which the chief protagonist is Pilate himself.
In other words, through a stark and bizarre switch in verb forms, the distinctively Christian apologetic that tried to downplay Pilate’s role in murdering Jesus—characteristic of all the Gospels—suddenly is voiced by Josephus, out of joint with Josephus’s remaining treatment of Pilate, and the whole purpose of Josephus’s Pilate sequence (to portray Pilate as a self-motivated, and thus solely-to-blame, callous agitator against the Jews), as if he were a puppet of a distinctly Christian voice, and forgot why he was narrating these events about Pilate in the first place? Not likely.
- (3) “The time organization in the Testimonium is strikingly different from that of the surrounding text.”
By which Hopper means:
For example, the narrative of [Pilate’s stealing temple money to fund an aqueduct] is filled with particular details—the rioters shouting insults, the Roman soldiers going among the crowd in Jewish dress, the order to the demonstrators to disperse, the overreaction of the soldiers, and the bloody suppression of the riot. At each point we know not only what the actors did, but why they did it, and what the causes and effects of their actions were. [This] episode, like the other episodes involving Pontius Pilate, has an event structure. Time in these episodes is …qualitative time…experienced by individual actors.
By contrast, the temporality of the Testimonium is chronic…that is, it is part of the general temporality of human history. It takes place in a more remote perspective of slow changes and general truths; it is…the time of social movements and social reorganization. It has a bird’s-eye view of its subject, scanning the entire life of Jesus and his influence in no particular order, anachronistically … . In the Testimonium there are happenings but no events, because events in order to qualify as such must be integrated into an eventive frame, that is, a story, and must have sequence and causal interconnections … . So the Testimonium belongs to a different kind of time from the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The temporality of the Testimonium derives from its presumed familiarity to its audience, which in turn is more compatible with a third century or later Christian setting than a first century Roman one.
Yep. In fact, it makes no sense for Josephus to use that kind of temporal narrative style, when he doesn’t anywhere else here, or pretty much anywhere else in the Antiquities at all. This is exactly, however, how Christians would write it.
- (4) Indeed, not just its organization of time, but the absence of plot indicates the same conclusion.
As Hopper explains:
The [aqueduct] story is a narration in which a situation is established and the characters interact, and there is a resolution. It has a plot in the way that recent narrative theorists have stipulated … . The same is true of the other two Pilate episodes, that is, the [legionary standards] episode and the Samaritan Uprising. The careful crafting of emplotment is an essential part of Josephus’s skill as a historian. The Testimonium has no such plot. From the point of view of its place in Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, it does not qualify as a narrative at all. The Testimonium could not be understood as a story except by someone who could already place it in its “intelligible whole”, the context of early Christianity. The Testimonium gains its intelligibility not through its reporting of novel events but by virtue of being a “repetition of the familiar” … [as in] familiarity to a third century Christian readership, not to a first century Roman one. It is not just that the Christian origin of the Testimonium is betrayed by its allegiance to the Gospels, as that without the Gospels the passage is incomprehensible.
Yep. This confirms points I made to the same effect in OHJ (pp. 332-37).
- (5) The TF makes no sense to Josephus’s intended narrative; it only makes sense to Christians who needed it there.
The Testimonium is anchored in a radically different discourse community from that of the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The Testimonium reads more like a position paper, a party manifesto, than a narrative. Unlike the rest of the Jewish Antiquities, it has the same generic ambiguity between myth and history that [has been] noted in the Gospels as a whole. … [And as such i]t serves to validate the Christian claim of the crucifixion of the sect’s founder during Pilate’s administration, and, by positioning its text within that of the genre “history”, with its ethos of truth, to warrant the historical authenticity of the Gospels. But told as a series of new events to a first century Roman audience unfamiliar with it, the Testimonium would have been a bizarre addition and probably quite unintelligible.
He’s right. Again, see my detailed analysis of this very point in OHJ. Hopper finds the TF does not fit the genre of history at all (unlike the rest of Josephus), but rather fits fairly well the genre of Christian creeds. Which is a dead giveaway as to who actually wrote it. Hopper demonstrates this with grammatical commonalities as well as its obvious content similarity.
As Hopper concludes:
[In the TF, both grammatically and thematically, the] responsibility for the death of Jesus lies with Josephus’s fellow-countrymen, the Jews, not with the Romans, and in this too the Testimonium is hard to reconcile with Josephus’s denunciation of Pilate’s crimes against the Jews. The Josephus of the Testimonium is represented as aligning himself with the Christians (versus the Jews) and admitting that the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah lies with the Jews; it need hardly be said that such an admission on Josephus’s part is inconceivable.
Thus, grammatical and narrative analysis establish the TF as entirely a Christian production.
Altogether, I find Hopper’s analysis conclusive. His own summary is spot on:
The narrative grammar of the Testimonium Flavianum sets it sharply apart from Josephus’s other stories of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. The most likely explanation is that the entire passage is interpolated, presumably by Christians embarrassed at Josephus’s manifest ignorance of the life and death of Jesus.
Already both Olson and Goldberg, with their own independent analyses, demonstrated the TF isn’t Josephan from an analysis of its vocabulary (which is more Eusebian and Lukan than Josephan). Goldberg allows the possibility that it isn’t Josephan because Josephus may have copied his source slavishly, but since Josephus never did that with any other source he used, we can dismiss that as so much special pleading; at best, Josephus’s practice elsewhere gives this excuse a very low prior probability. Now Hopper has demonstrated the TF isn’t Josephan from an analysis of its grammar. He shows not only that the TF is a unified passage (and not some layered passage, something that Christians only tinkered with), also demonstrated by Goldberg with completely different yet convergent evidence (that as a unity it too conspicuously aligns with the Emmaus narrative in Luke to have been ginned up that way later), but that it is also unified by grammatical practices too unusual for Josephus to have been written by him. Thus, it definitely wasn’t.
Especially with all the other evidence stacked on: its uncharacteristic narrative style (including its bizarre brevity and naive simplicity); the narrative illogic of its position in the text; its not being known to Origen or anyone else before Eusebius a century later; its containing patently ridiculous and fawning remarks only a Christian would make.
So just get over it already.