Josephus : biography
Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – 100), also called Joseph ben Matityahu (Biblical Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu),Josephus refers to himself in his Greek works as Ἰώσηπος :Iōsēpos Matthiou pais (Josephus the son of Matthias). Josephus spoke Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. was a scholar who witnessed the sack of Jerusalem, a first-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.
He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as the head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claims the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome. In response Vespasian decided to keep Josephus as a hostage and interpreter. After Vespasian did become Emperor in 69, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor’s family name of Flavius.
Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian’s son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted—when the Jewish revolt did not surrender—in the city’s destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod’s Temple (Second Temple).
Josephus recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the first century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, including the Siege of Masada, but the imperial patronage of his work has sometimes caused it to be characterized as pro-Roman propaganda.
His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94).Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985). 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 an ostensibly Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity. (See main article Josephus on Jesus).
The works of Josephus provide crucial information about the First Jewish-Roman War and also represent important literary source material for understanding the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls and late Temple Judaism.
Josephan scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century became focused on Josephus’ relationship to the sect of the Pharisees. It consistently portrayed him as a member of the sect, and as a traitor to the Jewish nation—a view which became known as the classical concept of Josephus.Alan Ralph Millard, Discoveries From Bible Times: Archaeological Treasures Throw Light on The Bible, p. 306 (Lion Publishing, 1997). ISBN 0-7459-3740-3 In the mid-20th century a new generation of scholars challenged this view and formulated the modern concept of Josephus. They consider him a Pharisee, but restore his reputation in part as patriot and a historian of some standing. In his 1991 book, Steve Mason 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 by willing association.
The works of Josephus include material about individuals, groups, customs, and geographical places. Some of these, such as the city of Seron, receive no mention 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, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He refers to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius’ census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a centuries-long disputed reference to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus). "In the sixteenth century the authenticity of the text [Testimonium Flavianum] was publicly challenged, launching a controversy that has still not been resolved today", in Alice Whealey, Josephus on Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Late Antiquity to Modern Times (Peter Lang Publishing; 2003). ISBN 978-0-8204-5241-8