Larry Leupp writes some dispassionate notes on the controversy surrounding the new Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion." Worthwhile, if lengthy, reading.
I take issue with Leupp on only one minor detail:
"We know very little about this man, Yehoshua or Yeshua (Jesus). The Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 55-115) and the Roman-born Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (37-ca. 101), mention him, telling us little except that he was crucified by order of the Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate."
It is pretty clear that at least some of Josephus's references to Jesus are forgeries. For example, take this passage:
"3. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
The immediately following text is:
"4. About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder..."
which seems exceedingly odd, implying as it does that Jesus was "a sad calamity". But it makes perfect sense when you look at the passage immedaitely preceding:
"2. But Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this water; and many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamor against him, and insisted that he should leave off that design. Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man, as crowds of such people usually do. So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away; but they boldly casting reproaches upon him, he gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not; nor did they spare them in the least: and since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition."
So paragraph 3 was obviously inserted after paragraphs 2 and 4 were written, and it was done by someone who didn't have a very good copy editor.