Josephus

Josephus

Overview

Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – A.D. 100), also called Joseph ben Matityahu (Biblical Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu), was a 1st-century Romano
Roman citizenship
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to certain free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance....

-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history
Jewish history
Jewish history is the history of the Jews, their religion and culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Since Jewish history is over 4000 years long and includes hundreds of different populations, any treatment can only be provided in broad strokes...

, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

He has been credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus Christ outside of the gospels 

His most important works were The Jewish War (c.
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Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – A.D. 100), also called Joseph ben Matityahu (Biblical Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu), was a 1st-century Romano
Roman citizenship
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to certain free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance....

-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history
Jewish history
Jewish history is the history of the Jews, their religion and culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Since Jewish history is over 4000 years long and includes hundreds of different populations, any treatment can only be provided in broad strokes...

, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

He has been credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus Christ outside of the gospels 

His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75 AD) and Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

(c. 94 AD). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

.

Biography



Josephus introduces himself in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 as Iōsēpos (Ιώσηπος), son of Matthias
Matthias (father of Josephus)
Matthias was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.Matthias came from a wealthy family and through his father he descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the twenty four-orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. He was the son born to Josephus and his wife, an...

, an ethnic Jew
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, a priest from Jerusalem" in his first book. He was the second-born son of Matthias and his wife, who was an unnamed Jewish noblewoman. His older brother, his full-blooded sibling, was also called Matthias
Matthias (brother of Josephus)
Matthias was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.Matthias came from a wealthy, aristocratic family and through his father he descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the twenty four-orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. He was the first born son of Matthias...

. The mother of Josephus was an aristocratic woman who descended from royalty and of the former ruling Hasmonean Dynasty. Josephus’ paternal grandparents were Josephus
Josephus (grandfather of Josephus)
Josephus was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.Josephus was the son born to Matthias Curtus and his unnamed Jewish wife. He came from a wealthy family and through his father he descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the twenty four-orders of Priests in the...

 and his wife, an unnamed Jewish noblewoman. His paternal grandparents were distant relatives, as they were both direct descendants of Simon Psellus
Simon Psellus
Simon Psellus was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.Simon’s ancestors were contemporary to the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty and Seleucid dynasty over Judea. He was a wealthy man who served as a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Simon belonged to the first of the twenty-four orders of Priests in...

. Josephus came from a wealthy, aristocratic family and through his father, he descended from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib
Jehoiarib
Jehoiarib was the head of a family of priests, which was made the first of the twenty-four priestly divisions organized by King David.- High Priest :...

, which was the first of the 24 orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

. Through his father, Josephus was a descendant of the High Priest Jonathon. Jonathon may have been Alexander Jannaeus
Alexander Jannaeus
Alexander Jannaeus was king of Judea from 103 BC to 76 BC. The son of John Hyrcanus, he inherited the throne from his brother Aristobulus I, and appears to have married his brother's widow, Shlomtzion or "Shelomit", also known as Salome Alexandra, according to the Biblical law of Yibbum...

, the High Priest and Hasmonean ruler who governed Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 from 103 BC-76 BC. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Josephus was educated alongside his brother.

He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

 of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 for the release of several Jewish priests. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces. After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat fell under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands; the survivors committed suicide. According to Josephus, he was trapped in a cave with forty of his companions in July 67. The Romans (commanded by Flavius Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 and his son Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

, both subsequently Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

s) asked the group to surrender, but they refused. Josephus suggested a method of collective suicide: they drew lots and killed each other, one by one, counting to every third person. The sole survivor of this process was Josephus (this method as a mathematical problem is referred to as the Josephus problem
Josephus problem
In computer science and mathematics, the Josephus Problem is a theoretical problem related to a certain counting-out game....

, or Roman Roulette), who surrendered to the Roman forces and became a prisoner. In 69 Josephus was released. According to his account, he acted as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (70)
The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD was the decisive event of the First Jewish-Roman War. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by its Jewish defenders in...

 in 70, in which his parents and first wife died.

In 71, he went to Rome in the entourage of Titus, becoming a Roman citizen and client of the ruling Flavian dynasty
Flavian
Flavian may refer to:* Any member of the Flavian dynasty of three Roman rulers of the late 1st century CE- Religious leaders:** Flavian of Ricina , bishop in Italy** Bishops or patriarchs in Asia:*** Flavian I of Antioch Flavian may refer to:* Any member of the Flavian dynasty of three Roman rulers...

 (hence he is often referred to as Flavius Josephus — see below). In addition to Roman citizenship, he was granted accommodation in conquered Judaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

, and a decent, if not extravagant, pension. While in Rome and under Flavian patronage, Josephus wrote all of his known works. Although he uses "Josephus", he appears to have taken the Roman praenomen
Praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

 Titus and nomen
Roman naming conventions
By the Republican era and throughout the Imperial era, a name in ancient Rome for a male citizen consisted of three parts : praenomen , nomen and cognomen...

 Flavius from his patrons. This was standard practice for "new" Roman citizens.

Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 arranged for the widower Josephus to marry a captured Jewish woman, who ultimately left him. About 71 CE, Josephus married an Alexandrian Jewish woman
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 as his third wife. They had three sons, of whom only Flavius Hyrcanus
Flavius Hyrcanus
Titus Flavius Hyrcanus was an aristocratic, wealthy Roman Jew.Hyrcanus was born and raised in Rome. He was the youngest son born to the Roman Jewish Historian Josephus and from his third wife an unnamed Alexandrian Jewish woman...

 survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife. At around 75 CE, he married as his fourth wife a Greek Jewish
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 woman from Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, who was a member of a distinguished family. They had a happy married life and two sons Flavius Justus
Flavius Justus
Titus Flavius Justus was an aristocratic, wealthy Roman Jew.Justus was born and raised in Rome. He was the first son born to the Roman Jewish Historian Josephus and from his fourth wife, a distinguished unnamed Greek Jewish noblewoman from Crete...

 and Flavius Simonides Agrippa
Flavius Simonides Agrippa
Titus Flavius Simonides Agrippa, also known as Titus Flavius Agrippa was an aristocratic, wealthy Roman Jew.Agrippa was born and raised in Rome. He was the second son born to the Roman Jewish Historian Josephus and from his fourth wife, a distinguished unnamed Greek Jewish noblewoman from Crete...

.

Josephus's life story remains ambiguous. He was described by Harris in 1985 as a law-observant Jew
Torah Judaism
Torah Judaism is an English term applied to a number of Orthodox Jewish groups to describe their Judaism as being based on an adherence to the laws of the Torah's mitzvot as expounded in Orthodox Halakha...

 who believed in the compatibility of Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Graeco-Roman thought, commonly referred to as Hellenistic Judaism
Hellenistic Judaism
Hellenistic Judaism was a movement which existed in the Jewish diaspora that sought to establish a Hebraic-Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism...

. Before the nineteenth century, the scholar Nitsa Ben-Ari notes that his work was shunned like that of converts, then banned as those of a traitor, whose work was not to be studied or translated into Hebrew. His critics were never satisfied as to why he failed to commit suicide in Galilee and, after his capture, accepted the patronage of Romans.

The historian E. Mary Smallwood wrote:


(Josephus) was conceited, not only about his own learning but also about the opinions held of him as commander both by the Galileans and by the Romans; he was guilty of shocking duplicity at Jotapata, saving himself by sacrifice of his companions; he was too naive to see how he stood condemned out of his own mouth for his conduct, and yet no words were too harsh when he was blackening his opponents; and after landing, however involuntarily, in the Roman camp, he turned his captivity to his own advantage, and benefitted for the rest of his days from his change of side.

Significance to scholarship




The works of Josephus provide crucial information about the First Jewish-Roman War and are also important literary source material for understanding the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 and late Temple Judaism.

Josephan scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century became focused on Josephus' relationship to the sect of the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 . He was consistently portrayed as a member of the sect, and a traitor to the Jewish nation — a view which became known as the classical concept of Josephus. In the mid-20th century, this view was challenged by a new generation of scholars who formulated the modern concept of Josephus. They consider him a Pharisee but restored his reputation in part as patriot and a historian of some standing. Steve Mason in his 1991 book argued that Josephus was not a Pharisee but an orthodox Aristocrat-Priest who became part of the Temple Establishment as a matter of deference, and not willing association.

The works of Josephus include material about individuals, groups, customs and geographical places. Some of these, such as the city of Seron
Seron
In Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews Seron was a town built shortly after Noah's Ark rested on the mountains. Josephus relies on Moses Chorenensis, writing that Chorensis "also says elsewhere, that another town was related by tradition to have been called Seron, or, The Place of...

, are not referenced in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority. His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees
Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

, the Hasmonean
Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

 dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

. He refers to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests
Kohen Gadol
The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem...

 of the time, Pharisees and Essenes
Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius
Quirinius
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, Quirinius was appointed legate governor of Syria, to which the province of Iudaea had been added for the purpose of a census.-Life:Born in the neighborhood...

' census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

, Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

, Agrippa I
Agrippa I
Agrippa I also known as Herod Agrippa or simply Herod , King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the...

 and Agrippa II
Agrippa II
Agrippa II , son of Agrippa I, and like him originally named Marcus Julius Agrippa, was the seventh and last king of the family of Herod the Great, thus last of the Herodians. He was the brother of Berenice, Mariamne, and Drusilla...

, John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus
Josephus on Jesus
This article is part of the Jesus and history series of articles.Josephus was a renowned 1st-century Jewish historian...

). He is an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and the context of early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

.

A careful reading of Josephus' writings and years of excavation allowed Ehud Netzer
Ehud Netzer
Ehud Netzer was an Israeli architect, educator and archaeologist, known for his extensive excavations at Herodium, where in 2007 he found the tomb of Herod the Great; and the discovery of the oldest Jewish synagogue, located at Jericho....

, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, to discover the location of Herod's Tomb, after a search of 35 years. It was above aqueducts and pools, at a flattened, desert site, halfway up the hill to the Herodium
Herodium
Herodium or Herodion is a volcano-like hill with a truncated cone located south of Jerusalem, near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Herod the Great built a fortress and palace on the top of Herodium, and may have been buried there...

, 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem — as described in Josephus's writings.

Manuscripts, textual criticism and editions


For many years, the works of Josephus were printed only in an imperfect Latin translation from the original Greek. It was only in 1544 that a version of the standard Greek text was made available, edited by the Dutch humanist Arnoldus Arlenius
Arnoldus Arlenius
Arnoldus Arlenius Peraxylus, , born Arndt or Arnout van Eyndhouts or van Eynthouts, also known as Arnoud de Lens, was a Dutch humanist philosopher and poet....

. The first English translation, by Thomas Lodge
Thomas Lodge
Thomas Lodge was an English dramatist and writer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.-Early life and education:...

, appeared in 1602, with subsequent editions appearing throughout the 17th century. The 1544 Greek edition formed the basis of the 1732 English translation by William Whiston
William Whiston
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism...

, which achieved enormous popularity in the English-speaking world (and which is currently available online for free download by Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

). It was often the book after the Bible that was most frequently owned by Christians.

Later editions of the Greek text include that of Benedikt Niese
Benedikt Niese
Jürgen Anton Benedikt Niese , also known as Benedict, Benediktus or Benedictus Niese, was a German classical scholar....

, who made a detailed examination of all the available manuscripts, mainly from France and Spain. This was the version used by H. St J. Thackeray for the Loeb Classical Library
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each...

 edition widely used today. William Whiston
William Whiston
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism...

, who created perhaps the most famous of the English translations of Josephus, claimed that certain works by Josephus had a similar style to the Epistles of St Paul
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

 (Saul).

The standard editio maior of the various Greek manuscripts is that of Benedictus Niese, published 1885-95. The text of Antiquities is damaged in some places. In the Life Niese follows mainly manuscript P, but refers also to AMW and R. Henry St. John Thackery for the Loeb Classical Library
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each...

 has a Greek text also mainly dependent on P. André Pelletier edited a new Greek text for his translation of Life. The ongoing Münsteraner Josephus-Ausgabe of Münster University will provide a new critical apparatus. There also exist late Old Slavonic translations of the Greek, but these contain a large number of Christian interpolations.

Works



  • (c. 75) War of the Jews, or The Jewish War, or Jewish Wars, or History of the Jewish War (commonly abbreviated JW, BJ or War)
  • (date unknown) Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades
    Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades
    Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades is a short work published in the translation of Josephus by William Whiston. Erroneously attributed to the Jewish historian since at least the 9th century, it is now believed to be the work of Hippolytus of Rome.- Synopsis :This work describes...

    (spurious; adaptation of "Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe" by Hippolytus of Rome)
  • (c. 94) Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

    , or Jewish Antiquities, or Antiquities of the Jews/Jewish Archeology (frequently abbreviated AJ, AotJ or Ant. or Antiq.)
  • (c. 97) Flavius Josephus Against Apion
    Against Apion
    Against Apion was a polemical work written by Flavius Josephus as a defense of Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy, stressing its antiquity against what he perceived as more recent traditions of the Greeks.-Text:Against Apion 1:8 also defines which books he viewed as being in the Jewish...

    , or Against Apion
    Against Apion
    Against Apion was a polemical work written by Flavius Josephus as a defense of Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy, stressing its antiquity against what he perceived as more recent traditions of the Greeks.-Text:Against Apion 1:8 also defines which books he viewed as being in the Jewish...

    , or Contra Apionem, or Against the Greeks, on the antiquity of the Jewish people
    Against Apion
    Against Apion was a polemical work written by Flavius Josephus as a defense of Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy, stressing its antiquity against what he perceived as more recent traditions of the Greeks.-Text:Against Apion 1:8 also defines which books he viewed as being in the Jewish...

    (usually abbreviated CA)
  • (c. 99) The Life of Flavius Josephus
    The Life of Flavius Josephus
    The Life of Josephus , also called the "Life of Flavius Josephus", is an autobiographical text written by Josephus in approximately 94-99 CE – possibly as an appendix to his Antiquities of the Jews The Life of Josephus ("Iosepou bios"), also called the "Life of Flavius Josephus", is an...

    , or Autobiography of Flavius Josephus
    The Life of Flavius Josephus
    The Life of Josephus , also called the "Life of Flavius Josephus", is an autobiographical text written by Josephus in approximately 94-99 CE – possibly as an appendix to his Antiquities of the Jews The Life of Josephus ("Iosepou bios"), also called the "Life of Flavius Josephus", is an...

    (abbreviated Life or Vita)

The Jewish War



His first work in Rome was an account of the Jewish War, addressed to certain "upper barbarians" – usually thought to be the Jewish community in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

—in his "paternal tongue" (War I.3), arguably the Western Aramaic language
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

. He then wrote a seven-volume account in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 known to us as the Jewish War
The Wars of the Jews
The Jewish War , in full Flavius Josephus's Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans , also referred to in English as The Wars of the Jews and The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, is a book written by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus.It is a description of Jewish...

(Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Bellum Judaicum). It starts with the period of the Maccabees
Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

 and concludes with accounts of the fall of Jerusalem, the Roman victory celebrations in Rome, the mopping-up operations, Roman military operations elsewhere in the Empire and the uprising in Cyrene
Cyrene, Libya
Cyrene was an ancient Greek colony and then a Roman city in present-day Shahhat, Libya, the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities in the region. It gave eastern Libya the classical name Cyrenaica that it has retained to modern times.Cyrene lies in a lush valley in the Jebel Akhdar...

. Together with the account in his Life of some of the same events, it also provides the reader with an overview of Josephus' own part in the events since his return to Jerusalem from a brief visit to Rome in the early 60s (Life 13–17).

In the wake of the suppression of the Jewish revolt, Josephus would have witnessed the marches of Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

's triumphant legions leading their Jewish captives, and carrying treasures from the despoiled Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

. He would have experienced the popular presentation of the Jews as a bellicose and xenophobic people.

It was against this background that Josephus wrote his War, and although this work has often been dismissed as pro-Roman propaganda (hardly a surprising view, given the source of his patronage), he claims to be writing to counter anti-Judean accounts. He disputes the claim that the Jews served a defeated God, and were naturally hostile to Roman civilization. Rather, he blames the Jewish War on what he calls "unrepresentative and over-zealous fanatics" among the Jews, who led the masses away from their traditional aristocratic leaders (like himself), with disastrous results. Josephus also blames some of the Roman governor
Roman governor
A Roman governor was an official either elected or appointed to be the chief administrator of Roman law throughout one or more of the many provinces constituting the Roman Empire...

s of Judea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

, but these he represents as atypical: corrupt and incompetent administrators. Thus, according to Josephus, the traditional Jew was, should be, and can be, a loyal and peace-loving citizen. Jews can, and historically have, accepted Rome's hegemony precisely because their faith declares that God himself gives empires their power.

Jewish Antiquities



The next work by Josephus is his twenty-one volume Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

, completed during the last year of the reign of the Emperor Flavius Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

 (between 1.9.93 and 14.3.94, cf. AJ X.267). In expounding Jewish history, law and custom, he is entering into many philosophical debates current in Rome at that time. Again he offers an apologia for the antiquity and universal significance of the Jewish people.

He outlines Jewish history beginning with the creation, as passed down through Jewish historical tradition. Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 taught science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 to the Egyptians
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, who in turn taught the Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

. Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 set up a senatorial priestly aristocracy, which, like that of Rome, resisted monarchy. The great figures of the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 are presented as ideal philosopher-leaders. He includes an autobiographical Appendix defending his conduct at the end of the war when he cooperated with the Roman forces.

Against Apion



Josephus's Against Apion
Against Apion
Against Apion was a polemical work written by Flavius Josephus as a defense of Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy, stressing its antiquity against what he perceived as more recent traditions of the Greeks.-Text:Against Apion 1:8 also defines which books he viewed as being in the Jewish...

is a two-volume defence of Judaism as classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, stressing its antiquity, as opposed to what Josephus claimed was the relatively more recent tradition of the Greeks. Some anti-Judean allegations ascribed by Josephus to the Greek writer Apion
Apion
Apion , Graeco-Egyptian grammarian, sophist and commentator on Homer, was born at the Siwa Oasis, and flourished in the first half of the 1st century AD....

, and myths accredited to Manetho
Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

 are also addressed.

Literature about Josephus

  • The Josephus Trilogy, a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger
    Lion Feuchtwanger
    Lion Feuchtwanger was a German-Jewish novelist and playwright. A prominent figure in the literary world of Weimar Germany, he influenced contemporaries including playwright Bertolt Brecht....

    • Der jüdische Krieg (Josephus), 1932
    • Die Söhne (The Jews of Rome), 1935
    • Der Tag wird kommen (The day will come, Josephus and the Emperor), 1942
  • Flavius Josephus Eyewitness to Rome's first-century conquest of Judea, Mireille Hadas-lebel, Macmillan 1993, Simon and Schuster 2001
  • "The 2000 Year Old Middle East Policy Expert", a chapter from Give War A Chance by P. J. O'Rourke
    P. J. O'Rourke
    Patrick Jake "P. J." O'Rourke is an American political satirist, journalist, writer, and author. O'Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, and frequent panelist on...

  • Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, by Joseph Atwill, Ulysses Press, 2005

See also

  • Josephus on Jesus
    Josephus on Jesus
    This article is part of the Jesus and history series of articles.Josephus was a renowned 1st-century Jewish historian...

  • Josippon
    Josippon
    Josippon is the name usually given to a popular chronicle of Jewish history from Adam to the age of Titus, attributed to an author Josippon or Joseph ben Gorion....

  • Josephus problem
    Josephus problem
    In computer science and mathematics, the Josephus Problem is a theoretical problem related to a certain counting-out game....

    — a mathematical problem named after Josephus.

External links