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TorahTimes Messianic Ministry

Teaching Truths about Torah, Time, and Messiah

Josephus’ Unreliableness

We need to consider Josephus’ careless use of sources, by simply repeating the errors they contain, and also his ability to contradict himself, writing one thing at one time, and then in a later book writing another that contradicts the first. It should not be surprising then if he is equally careless with his endpoint arithmetic or in making assumptions about when Herod Antipas really began to reign. Josephus does not cross check the consistency of his figures. He just calculates them or reports them without vetting them. Our Josephus accepts the Septuagint version of the Scripture (LXX), which was the tradition of Greek speaking Jews to do so, but unlike the apostolic authors, he does not correct the Septuagint according to the Hebrew text! And in some cases his figures are even more wrong than the Septuagint.

In Antiquities 1:13 Josephus claims biblical history prior to himself was 5000 years (ἅτε δὴ πεντακισχιλίων ἐτῶν ἱστορίας ἐν αὐτοῖς), […] seeing that now 5000 years of history is in them […]. The true figure must be derived from a creation date of 4139 BC. So it is closer to 4000 years than 5000. Josephus reveals that he is relying of the Septuagint by making this statement, and not the Hebrew text.

In Antiquities 1:83 Josephus says that Adam was 230 years old when Seth was born. This figure comes from the LXX. The Hebrew text says that Adam was 130. Josephus proceeds to produce a host of figures in common with the Septuagint that disagree with the Hebrew Bible, typically adding 100 years to the age of each father at the birth of his son.

In Antiquities 1:257 Rebbecca is said to have become pregnant after Abraham died. But Isaac was born when Abraham was 100, and Issac was 60 years old when his sons were born. This makes Abraham 160 years old then. Abraham died 15 years later at age 175.

In Antiquities 2:196 Jacob is said to have died at 150. But the true figure is 147.

In Antiquities 8:211 Solomon is said to have reigned 80 years and lived 94. Solomon was actually about 19 years old when he became king and he reigned only 40 years. So he died at about 59 years old. The statement of Josephus also casts doubt on the length of the reign of David and the events surrounded his adultery.

The above errors are just a small part of Josephus’ chronological errors. They are just a sampling. Now let us turn to some other errors of fact, keeping in mind that the entire theory that Herod died in 4 BC hangs on the statement of Josephus that 37 years were counted from his appointment in Rome in 40 BC to his death, and the assumption that four years from BC 4 to 1 were factual years of Herod Antipas. In fact these years belong to the co-regent Antipater, who was executed by Herod, and then his years assigned de jure to Herod Antipas in 1 BC. We should be able to appreciate that the level of chronological error in Josephus is so great that we should have no hesitation to dismiss an assertion that disagrees with Scripture. Any theory built on Josephus alone is a theory as reliable as rank speculation. Who is to say that Josephus put 37 when the real figure is 40?

In Antiquities 1:77 he says the ark was four stories high. The correct figure is 3.

In Antiquities 1:142 he says Noah cursed Ham’s prosperity.

Josephus contradicts himself: Wars 1:61. David was the richest of kings (πλουσιώτατος βασιλέων). Antiquities 8:190 he says Solomon was richer.

Ant. 17:345: ten ears. Wars 2:112: nine ears.

Josephus says, And as he [Moses] was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him suddenly, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God. (Ant. 4:326). Josephus here makes God out to be a liar. See Joshua 1:2.

Ant. 11:168: He has Nehemiah come to Jerusalem in the 25th year of Xerxes. The correct date is the 20th year of Artaxerxes according to Scripture.

Ant. 14:488: It is alleged that Josephus erred in his 27 year calculation from Pompey (63 BC) to the taking of Jerusalem by Herod (37 BC). But this allegation is based on simple subtraction: 63 - 37 = 26. Simple subtraction counts exclusively. To count inclusively one has to add 1. 63 - 37 + 1 = 27. I have seen this mistake repeated over and over again. Josephus is including both the consular year 63 BC and 37 BC in his counting.

Ant. 20:250. It is also alleged that Josephus erred when saying the span from Herod’s taking of Jerusalem to Titus was 107 years. The pseudo math is done like this using astronomical years: 70 — -36 = 106. (-36) is the astronomical year for 37 BC. Again the method fails to count inclusively. The proper calculation is 70 — -36 + 1 = 107. One has to add 1 to count inclusively. Another way to prove this is add 70 years AD and 37 years BC: 70 + 37 = 107. Josephus is including both 37 BC and AD 70 in his calculation.

Conclusion: Since Josephus is so careless with the truth, we cannot rely on him to write only what he witnessed nor to write only what he carefully investigated. Luke on the other hand tells us directly that he relied on primary witnesses and carefully investigated everything. (Luke 1:1-2). Modern scholars reject Luke and say the spiritual tradition of Luke is valid, and then substitute their own actual traditions denying the objective truth in Luke. But we see that Josephus, whom they rely on for objective truth, is the one who is actually guilty of preferring his tradition over the objective truth. This misdirection, of accusing Luke of the very thing that Josephus is guilty of is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Liberal Christian scholarship has an unholy alliance with atheist scholars. Let me explain. Atheist scholars attack Scripture directly accusing it of factual error. Liberal scholars say the spiritual value and the traditional value should be retained. But they agree with the Atheists on the point of the facts. Since then there are a great many more liberal Christians and pagans, it is no wonder that tradition and scholarship does not agree with the Scripture. They have no interest in discovering the truth. They love their traditions instead of the truth, and they are hypocritical with their sources.