The Testimonium Flavian, a passage from Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, is often cited by apologists as independent, 1st century confirmation of the existence of Jesus. In particular, Josh McDowell cites this passage in Evidence That Demands a Verdict:
"At that time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he may be called a man; for he performed many wonderful works. He was a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many Jews and Gentiles. This was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the instigation of the chief men among us, had condemned him to the cross, they who before had conceived an affection for him did not cease to adhere to him. For on the third day he appeared to them alive again, the divine prophets having foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the sect of christians, so called from him, subsists to this time."
- — Antiquities XVIII, Ch. 3, sec. 3
Although apologists sometimes bring this up in response to claims that there is no independent verification of the existence of Jesus, Josephus was born around 37 CE, which is after the purported life of Jesus. Thus, Josephus was neither a contemporary nor an eyewitness, but was reporting information received from others.
Additionally, this passage is largely considered to be a late Christian forgery or, at best, interpolation.
There are several reasons for considering this passage to be a forgery:
- Although the church fathers were quite fond of quoting passages which supported Christianity, since this passage would seem to be the proverbial "nail in the coffin" for doubters, and since early church fathers were very familiar with the works of Josephus, it's very strange indeed that not a single one mentions this quote until Eusebius does in the fourth century. Eusebius is considered the most likely candidate for the creator of this passage and, indeed, he is well-known as believing that a little white lie was justified if it furthered the cause of Christianity. Furthermore, Origen, the famous early Christian apologist quotes extensively from Josephus' works, yet he never mentions this passage.
- The passage comes in the middle of a collection of stories about calamities that happened to the Jews. The crucifixion of Jesus would not have been considered a Jewish calamity.
- The passage interrupts the normal flow of the text. When the passage is removed, the end of the paragraph before it and the beginning of the paragraph after it merge perfectly.
- Josephus was an Orthedox Jew and remained one his entire life. He would've never said such glowing things about Jesus, indeed, he never would've called him "Christ", and yet remained a Jew his whole life.
- Although Josephus reports the miracles of a number of other "prophets", he never once mentions any of Jesus' miracles. Whenever he writes about other prophets he blames them for famines, disease, wars, etc. and even calls them "false prophets". He never does so with Jesus, even though he should've thought such things seeing as he was a Jew.
- The last line of the passage, "...subsists to this time", implies that the passage was written a long time after the events in question. Josephus himself, who lived so close to the time of Jesus, would've never written such a thing.