Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus

The “On the Road to Emmaus” pericope is one of my favorite stories. I have studied it and thought about it for a long time. Therefore I read, with interest shortly after it appeared, the article by Gary J. Goldberg, "The Coincidences of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus", The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995), 57-77. Recent discussions on the net about the Testimonium Flavianum caused me to search my memory and notes for this article. Fortunately an online version of this article is available at

Goldberg conducted a computer search of the entire body of ancient Greek and Latin literature[i] in order to find writings that resemble in various ways the Jesus passage from Josephus' Antiquities, the "Testimonium Flavianum." According to Goldberg, this new information that will help us in understanding the origins of the passage. I agree, with Goldberg, “the modern consensus holds that the Antiquities passage was, for the most part, written by Josephus with some later Christian additions.” Goldberg therefore agrees with Louis Feldman that some form of the received text is authentic.[ii]

Goldberg tells us how to exactly pinpoint the interpolations and further how Josephus, a Jewish historian, could “independently compose a text that, by pure chance, so closely matches a passage from a Christian gospel?” Goldberg concludes that Josephus and Luke derived their passages from a common Christian (or Jewish-Christian) source that is a copy of a speech used by early Jesus proselytes of Jerusalem. Goldberg further concludes that this is “independent, Jewish documentation of the speech that is called, many times in Luke/Acts, ‘the word’ and ‘the gospel’”.

[i] Goldberg utilized the Thesaurus Lingua Graecae (TLG) database published by the University of California at Irvine. The TLG database contains "every" Greek and Latin text from the earliest times up to 600 C.E., with new items being continually added to the database as they come to light.
[ii] If you interested in the history of the interpetation, see Josephus on Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Late Antiquity to Modern Times, by Alice Whealey. Studies in Biblical Literature 36. (New York: Peter Lang), 2003. Whealey probably cuts off her study before 1990 and therefore does not discuss Mason or Goldberg.

copyrighted 2005


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