Monday, January 29, 2007

Herod Agrippa by Josephus & Luke

Many New Testament critics have pointed to Josephus' lack of mentioning Jesus. While Josephus does mention Jesus in glowing terms, many believe at least part of his statement concerning Christ to be an early Christian forgery. It seems reasonable but if it happened it must have happened before the early 300s since Eusebius quotes it exactly as we have it today. Still, there are some who maintain that the entire quote is authentic.

Regardless of how much is original (I think most scholars consider at least most of the statement to be authentic), there doesn't seem to be adequate attention given to the parts of Josephus' work that affirm the New Testament. I'm just going to brush over a few points very quickly.

First, Josephus speaks of John the Baptist and his relation to Herod and Herodias exactly as portrayed in the gospel of Mark. He may even have used Mark as a source. Josephus also lists the stoning of James the brother of Jesus called the Christ (and Josephus lists Him as such - also known as James the Just or the bishop of Jerusalem). This event is not listed in Acts (however Acts does list the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee, brother of John which occurred earlier under Herod(1))

The death of Herod Agrippa was particularly interesting though. From Josephus:

Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Caesarea [...] There he exhibited shows in honor of the emperor [...] On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful contexture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it. It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him. At that moment, his flatterers cried out [...] that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.'

Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and he fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.'

After he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign.
[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.343-350]
And from Luke:
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
Just thought I'd pass it along for what it's worth.

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