Josephus : biography
In the wake of the suppression of the Jewish revolt, Josephus would have witnessed the marches of Titus’s triumphant legions leading their Jewish captives, and carrying treasures from the despoiled Temple in Jerusalem. It was against this background that Josephus wrote his War, claiming to be countering 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 governors of Judea, representing them as atypically corrupt and incompetent administrators. 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.
The next work by Josephus is his twenty-one volume Antiquities of the Jews, completed during the last year of the reign of the Emperor Flavius Domitian (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 taught science to the Egyptians, who, in turn, taught the Greeks.Louis H. Feldman, Josephus’s Interpretation of The Bible, p. 232 (University of California Press, 1998). ISBN 0-520-20853-6 Moses set up a senatorial priestly aristocracy, which, like that of Rome, resisted monarchy. The great figures of the Tanakh 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.
Josephus’s Against Apion is a two-volume defence of Judaism as classical religion and philosophy, 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, and myths accredited to Manetho are also addressed.
Literature about Josephus
- The Josephus Trilogy, a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger
- 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’RourkeO’Rourke, P. J. Give War a Chance. Vintage, 1993.
- Josephus and the New Testament: Second Edition, by Steve Mason, Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.
Josephus introduces himself in Greek as Iōsēpos (Ιώσηπος), son of Matthias, an ethnic Hebrew. He was the second-born son of Matthias. His older full-blooded brother was also called Matthias.Josephus, Flavius Josephus: translation and commentary p.p.12-3 Their mother was an aristocratic woman who descended from the royal and formerly ruling Hasmonean dynasty.Nodet, A search for the Origins of Judaism: From Joshua to the Mishnah p.250 Josephus’ paternal grandparents were Josephus and his wife – an unnamed Hebrew noblewoman, both distant relatives of each other and direct descendants of Simon Psellus., History of the Daughters Josephus’ family was wealthy. He descended through his father from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the 24 orders of priests in the Temple in Jerusalem.Fergus Millar, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ pp.45-6 Josephus was a descendant of the High Priest Jonathon. Jonathon may have been Alexander Jannaeus, the High Priest and Hasmonean ruler who governed Judea from 103 BC–76 BC. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Josephus was educated alongside his brother.Josephus, Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, p.13