Josephus : biography

37 – 100

He fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. Prior to this, in his early twenties, he traveled to negotiate with Emperor Nero 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 and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors) 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, or Roman Roulette),Cf. this example, . who surrendered to the Roman forces and became a prisoner. In 69 Josephus was released.Jewish War IV.622–629 According to his account, he acted as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70, in which his parents and first wife died.

It was while being confined at Yodfat that Josephus claimed to have experienced a divine revelation, that later led to his speech predicting Vespasian would become emperor. After the prediction came true, he was released by Vespasian, who considered his gift of prophecy to be divine. Josephus wrote that his revelation had taught him three things: that God, the creator of the Jewish people, had decided to "punish" them, that "fortune" had been given to the Romans, and that God had chosen him "to announce the things that are to come".Rebecca Gray, Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: The Evidence from Josephus, pages 35-38 (Oxford University Press, 1993). ISBN 0-19-507615-XDavid Edward Aune, Prophecy In Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World, page 140 (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991; first published 1983). ISBN 0-8028-0635-XRobert Karl Gnuse, Dreams & Dream Reports in the Writings of Josephus: A Traditio-Historical Analysis, pages 136-142 (E. J. Brill, 1996). ISBN 90-04-10616-2

In 71, he went to Rome in the entourage of Titus, becoming a Roman citizen and client of the ruling Flavian dynasty (hence he is often referred to as Flavius Josephus — see below). In addition to Roman citizenship, he was granted accommodation in conquered Judaea 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 Titus and nomen Flavius from his patrons.Attested by the third-century Church theologian Origen (Comm. Matt. 10.17). This was standard practice for "new" Roman citizens.

Vespasian arranged for the widower Josephus to marry a captured Jewish woman, who ultimately left him. About 71, Josephus married an Alexandrian Jewish woman as his third wife. They had three sons, of whom only Flavius Hyrcanus survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife. Around 75, he married as his fourth wife, a Greek Jewish woman from Crete, who was a member of a distinguished family. They had a happy married life and two sons Flavius Justus and Flavius Simonides Agrippa.

Josephus’s life story remains ambiguous. He was described by Harris in 1985 as a law-observant Jew who believed in the compatibility of Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought, commonly referred to as Hellenistic Judaism. 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., Target, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2003, pp. 263-301, Quote: "The converts themselves were banned from society as outcasts and so was their historiographic work or, in the more popular historical novels, their literary counterparts. Josephus Flavius, formerly Yosef Ben Matityahu (34-95), had been shunned, then banned as a traitor.", accessed 28 November 2011. 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".Josephus, Flavius: The Jewish War. Translated by G. A. Williamson, introduction by E. Mary Smallwood. New York, Penguin, 1981, p. 24.

Author Joseph Raymond calls Josephus "the Jewish Benedict Arnold" for betraying his own troops at Jotapata. (Tower Grover Publishing 2010) at page 222.