I'm breaking this down in separate sentences...or at least convoluted phrases, Ish.
1. AND now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator.
But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus.
Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests.
But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, (23) who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed;
when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority].
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned:
but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent.
(24) Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.
First - Sentence 1 gives us the time. Porcius Festus died and was replaced by Leuccius Albinus in 62 AD.
#2 - If you bother to read Chapter 8 preceding, you would see that Herod Agrippa was constantly changing high priests. Several such changes are noted by Josephus in Ch 8 and, while this might be important to a member of the ruling class like Josephus (who was from a priestly family himself) it is not terribly interesting to us.
#3 So, Ananus son of Ananus is now high priest and Josephus tosses in the interesting biographical tidbit that Ananus' father and brothers had also been high priests. There seem to have been a lot of ex-high priests around.
#4 Josephus was a pharisee...he had no love for the sadduccees and proves it, again.
#5 So Festus is dead and Albinus is on the road....but Josephus has just finished telling us that it is Herod Agrippa who appoints and removes the high priests so it is a bit more difficult to see what this supposed "opportunity" may have been.
#6 Anyway, "before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James
" This is where I think the early christians let their imaginations run wild. We are in the midst of discussion about high priests thanks to Josephus. Without being a Greek scholar I do know that "Jesus" is a latinized reading of the Greek Iesous which was in turn taken from the Hebrew Y'shua, and "James" was derived from the Hebrew "Yakov." Both were exceedingly common names in the first century and in Chapter #5 preceding, Josephus tells us how "James" and "Simon" sons of Judas had been crucified by Philo's relative, Tiberius Alexander. Yet no one ever tries to confuse this "James" with Jesus' supposed brother. But, I digress.
In addition to the names we have to consider that the Greek word "Christos" is a translation into Greek of the Hebrew word Mosiach meaning "the annointed" or "annointed one." But in Jewish circles who was "annointed?" Answer: The high priest and the king. So almost everyone that Josephus is talking about in this entire paragraph....except the deceased Festus and the absent Albinus...are "christoses." I submit that only christian arrogance would allow someone reading this to automatically assume that the "christos" being referred to is "their Jesus". What it says in plain "Greek" is that "James" the brother of Jesus who was called Christ but in the context of the entire passage it would mean that Jesus was a high priest, too....along with almost everyone else. Especially since at the end we find Jesus, son of Damneus being named high priest....and therefore a "christos."
This example of an Ancient Greek inscription shows that not only are there no capitals...or more correctly there are only capitals...there is no punctuation and no spaces between words.
Can we forgive some unknown Christian scribe for coming across the word "christos" in Josephus' writing and thinking, in his own mind that it meant "Christ?" We probably should. People tend to see what they wish to see.
Finally, "he delivered them to be stoned" Note that Josephus never actually says that any of them WERE stoned. Josephus is rarely squeamish about reporting bloodshed.
#7 So here we are in Jerusalem and other citizens who could equally be pissed about "James" being arrested or "James" being stoned...if he were stoned... send delegations to Albinus...still some distance away and the KING who is sitting right in Jerusalem! Moreover,
#8, Albinus sends a "nasty letter" and Herod Agrippa removes Ananus from the high priesthood and promotes yet another Jesus (son of Damneus) to be high priest...(christos.)
Just a gut feeling here that 4th century christian writers, suddenly seeking evidence for the existence of their jesus latched onto anything that remotely helped their case. But if you take the words in the context of which they are written there really seems to be a lot less here than the christian apologists claim. We have a man named "James" with a brother named Jesus who seems to have been a high priest accused of unspecified crimes who was arrested and, perhaps, although it doesn't actually say it, executed by stoning. I don't see anything in there that suggests that "James" was running another church.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.
-- George Carlin