Philip Davies sent along Lena Einhorn’s paper from SBL and I thought I’d share it with my readers. Dr. Einhorn has been known to me since 2008 when an earlier version of this paper came across my desk, submitted to Thomas Thompson and I to review for inclusion into our volume ‘Is This Not the Carpenter’. While we both enjoyed the paper, we did not see it as a good fit for the volume as a whole. I am pleased to see that Dr. Einhorn has vetted the paper a great deal and fleshed out some of the concepts a little more and has, in fact, produced quite a compelling paper. Here is a snippet:
One of the limitations facing historical Jesus studies has been that the New Testament is the only source of first century texts in which Jesus unequivocally is described. This is in spite of the fact that the period in other respects is fairly well documented. Flavius Josephus wrote De bello Judaico and Antiquitates Judaicae in the 70s and the 90s C.E., respectively. Both works describe personalities mentioned in the Gospels: Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Quirinius, etc. Josephus also describes several Jewish messianic leaders of the first century: Simon, Athronges, Judas the Galilean, Theudas, ‘The Egyptian’, Menahem, etc. But excepting Testimonium Flavianum (A.J. 18.63-64) – by most scholars considered at least a partial later Christian interpolation – Jesus from Nazareth is not visible in the works of Josephus. Nor was he, according to Photius, described in the now lost works of another first century local historian, Justus of Tiberias. Only from the second century do we begin to see more unequivocal extra-biblical references to Jesus.
The fact that the Gospels describe Jesus as someone with a large following, and one whose trial involved two high priests, the tetrarch of Galilee, and the prefect of Iudaea, heightens the discrepancy between sources.
I must admit I had not considered the role of the robbers in the Gospel narratives as particularly odd until I read her paper. I am not entirely convinced of her argument (that Jesus and the Egyptian are the same), since I feel that many of the similarities come from a familiarity between some of the Gospel authors an Josephus (that is to say, they imitated Josephus). But in my humble opinion it is definitely worth a read and should be discussed in greater detail by the community. The concept behind the robbers in both Josephus and the Gospels does have its own implications that have been missed by many an analysis on the subject.