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A Roman portrait bust said to be of Josephus[1]

Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100),[2] also known as Yosef Ben Matityahu (Joseph, son of Matthias) and, after he became a Roman citizen, as Titus Flavius Josephus,[3] was a first-century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 .[4] His works give an important insight into first-century Judaism. Josephus was an important in the Roman world for the Jewish people and culture, particularly at a time of conflict and tension. He always remained, in his own eyes, a loyal and law-observant Jew. He went out of his way both to commend Judaism to educated Gentiles, and to insist on its compatibility with cultured Graeco-Roman thought. He constantly contended for the antiquity of Jewish culture, presenting its people as civilised, devout and philosophical. Eusebius reports that a statue of Josephus was erected in Rome.[5]

Josephus's two most important works are The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94).[6] The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Rome (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective. These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of early Christianity.[6]



Josephus, who introduced himself in Greek as "Iosepos (Ιώσηπος), son of Matthias, an ethnic Jew, a priest from Jerusalem",[7] fought the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73 as a Jewish military leader in Galilee. After the Jewish garrison of Yodfat was taken under siege, the Romans invaded, killing thousands; the survivors committed suicide.

According to Josephus, however, in circumstances that are somewhat unclear, Josephus found himself trapped in a cave with forty of his companions. The Romans asked him to surrender once they discovered where he was, but his companions refused to allow this. He therefore suggested a method of collective suicide: they draw 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 [8]) Josephus and one of his soldiers then surrendered to the Roman forces invading Galilee in July 67 and became prisoners. The Roman forces were led by Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus, both subsequently Roman emperors. In 69, Josephus was released (cf. War IV.622–629) and according to Josephus's own account, he appears to have played a role as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70.

The Galilee, site of Josephus' governorship, in late antiquity.

In 71, he arrived in 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. It was while in Rome, and under Flavian patronage, that Josephus wrote all of his known works. Although he only ever calls himself "Josephus", he appears to have taken the Roman praenomen Titus and nomen Flavius from his patrons.[9] This was standard practice for 'new' Roman citizens.

Josephus's first wife perished, together with his parents, in Jerusalem during the siege and Vespasian arranged for him to marry a Jewish woman who had been captured. This woman left Josephus, and around 70, he married a Jewish woman from Alexandria by whom he had three male children. Only one, Flavius Hyrcanus, survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife and around 75, married his fourth wife, a Jewish woman from Crete, member of a distinguished family. This last marriage produced two sons, Flavius Justus and Flavius Simonides Agrippa.

Josephus's life is beset with ambiguity. For his critics, he never satisfactorily explained his actions during the Jewish war — why he failed to commit suicide in Galilee in 67 with some of his compatriots, and why, after his capture, he accepted patronage from the Romans.

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.[10]

Josephus' credibility as a historian has been questioned — his works are usually dismissed as Roman propaganda or as a personal or Jewish apologetic, aimed at rehabilitating his reputation in history. More recently, commentators have reassessed previously-held views of Josephus. As P.J. O'Rourke quipped:

Reason dictates we should hate this man. But it's hard to get angry at Josephus. What, after all, did he do? A few soldiers were tricked into suicide. Some demoralizing claptrap was shouted at a beleaguered army. A wife was distressed... all of which pale by comparison to what the good men did. For it was the loyal, the idealistic and the brave who did the real damage. The devout and patriotic leaders of Jerusalem sacrificed tens of thousands of lives to the cause of freedom. Vespasian and Titus sacrificed tens of thousands or more to the cause of civil order. Even Agrippa II, the Roman client king of Judea who did all he could to prevent the war, ended by supervising the destruction of half a dozen of his cities and the sale of their inhabitants into slavery. How much better for everyone if all the principal figures of the region had been slithering filth like Josephus.[11]

Significance to scholarship

The romanticized engraving of Flavius Josephus appearing in William Whiston's translation of his works.

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 and post-Second-Temple Judaism. Josephan scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century became focused on Josephus' relationship to the sect of the Pharisees. He was consistently portrayed as a member of the sect, but nevertheless viewed as a villainous traitor to his own 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, still considering him a Pharisee but restoring his reputation in part as patriot and a historian of some standing. Scholarship post-1990 sought to move scholarly perceptions forward by demonstrating 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 (cf. Steve Mason 1991).

Josephus includes information about individuals, groups, customs and geographical places. Some of these, such as the city of Seron, 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, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He makes references 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 pair of disputed and undisputed references to Jesus. He is an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.

A careful reading of Josephus' writings allowed Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, to discover the location of Herod's Tomb, after a search of 35 years — above aqueducts and pools, at a flattened, desert site, halfway up the hill to the Herodium, 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem — exactly where it should have been, according to Josephus's writings.

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 Greek text was made available, edited by the Dutch humanist Arnoldus Arlenius. The first English translation, by Thomas Lodge, appeared in 1602, with subsequent editions appearing throughout the 17th century. However, the 1544 Greek edition formed the basis of the 1732 English translation by William Whiston which achieved enormous popularity in the English speaking world (and which is currently available online for free download by Project Gutenberg). Later editions of the Greek text include that of Benedikt Niese, 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 edition widely used today.


A 1640 edition of the works of Josephus translated by Thomas Lodge which originally appeared in 1602.

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 – in his "paternal tongue" (War I.3), arguably the Western Aramaic language. He then wrote a seven-volume account in Greek known to us as the Jewish War (Latin Bellum Judaicum). It starts with the period of the Maccabees 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. 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).

Rome cannot have been an easy place for a Jew to live, 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. 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 governors of Judea, 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, 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). He claims that interested persons have pressed him to give a fuller account of the Jewish culture and constitution. Here, 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.

Beginning with the creation according to Genesis, he outlines Jewish history. Abraham taught science to the Egyptians, who in turn taught the Greeks. Moses set up a senatorial priestly aristocracy, which, like that of Rome, resisted monarchy. The great figures of the Bible are presented as ideal philosopher-leaders. There is again an autobiographical Appendix defending Josephus's own conduct at the end of the war when he cooperated with the Roman forces.

Against Apion

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'Rourke[12]

See also


  • The Works of Josephus, Complete and Unabridged New Updated Edition Translated by William Whiston, A.M., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-913573-86-8 (Hardcover). ISBN 1-56563-167-6 (Paperback).
  • O'Rourke, P.J. Give War a Chance. Vintage, 1993.
  • Per Bilde. Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: his Life, his Works and their Importance. Sheffield, 1998.
  • Shaye J.D. Cohen. Josephus in Galilee and Rome. His Vita and development as a historian. Columbia Studies in the Classical tradition 8 (1979 Leiden).
  • Louis Feldman. "Flavius Josephus revisited. The man, his writings, and his significance." Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 21.2 (1984).
  • Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (1991 Leiden).
  • Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, 10 vols. in 12 (Leiden, 2000–).


  1. ^ Plagnieux, P. 'Les sculptures Romanes' Dossiers d'Archéologie (January 2001) pg 15
  2. ^ Louis Feldman, Steve Mason (1999). Flavius Josephus. Brill Academic Publishers.  
  3. ^ Josephus refers to himself in his Greek works as Ἰώσηπος :Iōsēpos Matthiou pais (Josephus the son of Matthais). Although Josephus also spoke Aramaic and most probably also Hebrew, no extant sources record his name in these languages. However, his Hebrew/Aramaic name has gone down in Jewish history as יוסף בן מתתיהו (Yosef ben Matityahu) and thus he is commonly known in Israel today.
  4. ^ See also Jerusalem’s Model in the Late 2nd Temple Period
  5. ^ Ecclesiastical History 3.9.2
  6. ^ a b Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985).
  7. ^ Jewish War I.3
  8. ^ Cf. this example, Roman Roulette.
  9. ^ Attested by the third century Church theologian Origen (Comm. Matt. 10.17).
  10. ^ Josephus, Flavius, The Jewish War, tr. G.A. Williamson, introduction by E. Mary Smallwood. New York, Penguin, 1981, p. 24
  11. ^ O'Rourke 104.
  12. ^ O'Rourke, P.J. Give War a Chance. Vintage, 1993.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) was a 1st-century Jewish army captain and later became an author. He was actively involved in the Jewish war with the Romans that climaxed in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. After 70 he went to Rome and dedicated his life to writing. He wrote two history works (de bello judaico and antiquitates judaicae), an autobiography (vita) and a polemic work called contra apionem.


  • And when the book of Daniel was showed to him (Alexander the Great) wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.
    • Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11.8.5, trans. William Whiston
  • I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee.
    • The Jewish War, Book 3.8.3, trans. William Whiston
    • (regarding his defection to the Roman Empire)
  • Antipater, now undisputed heir, had called down on his head the utter loathing of the nation, for everyone knew that all the slanders directed against his brothers had originated with him.
    • The Jewish War, chap. 5, opening, trans. G A Williamson
  • Its literary merits must be left to the judgment of its readers; as to its truth, I should not hesitate to make the confident assertion that from the first word to the last I have aimed at nothing else.
    • The Jewish War, closing words, trans. G A Williamson

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (c. 37 - c. 95 ?), Jewish historian and military commander, was born in the first year of Caligula (37-38). His father belonged to one of the noblest priestly families, and through his mother he claimed descent from the Asmonaean high priest Jonathan. A precocious student of the Law, he made trial of the three sects of Judaism - Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes - before he reached the age of nineteen. Then, having spent three years in the desert with the hermit Banus, who was presumably an Essene, he became a Pharisee. In 64 he went to Rome to intercede on behalf of some priests,. his friends, whom the procurator Felix had sent to render account to Caesar for some insignificant offence. Making friends with Alityrus, a Jewish actor, who was a favourite of Nero, Josephus obtained an introduction to the empress Poppaea and effected his purpose by her help. His visit to Rome enabled him to speak from personal experience of the power of the Empire, when he expostulated with the revolutionary Jews on his return to Palestine. But they refused to listen; and he, with all the Jews who did not fly the country, was dragged into the great rebellion of 66. In company with two other priests, Josephus was sent to Galilee under orders (he says) to persuade the illaffected to lay down their arms and return to the Roman allegiance, which the Jewish aristocracy had not yet renounced. Having sent his two companions back to Jerusalem, he organized the forces at his disposal, and made arrangements for the government of his province. His obvious desire to preserve law and order excited the hostility of John of Giscala, who endeavoured vainly to remove him as a traitor to the national cause by inciting the Galileans to kill him and by persuading the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem to recall him.

In the spring of 67 the Jewish troops, whom Josephus had drilled so sedulously, fled before the Roman forces of Vespasian and Titus. He sent to Jerusalem for reinforcements, but none came. With the stragglers who remained, he held a stronghold against the Romans by dint of his native cunning, and finally, when the place was taken, persuaded forty men, who shared his hiding-place, to kill one another in turn rather than commit suicide. They agreed to cast lots, on the understanding that the second should kill the first and so on. Josephus providentially drew the last lot and prevailed upon his destined victim to live. Their companions were all dead in accordance with the compact; but Josephus at any rate survived and surrendered. Being led before Vespasian, he was inspired to prophesy that Vespasian would become emperor. In consequence of the prophecy his life was spared, but he was kept close prisoner for two years. When his prophecy was fulfilled he was liberated, assumed the name of Flavius, the family name of Vespasian, and accompanied his patron to Alexandria. There he took another wife, as the Jewess allotted him by Vespasian after the fall of Caesarea had forsaken him, and returned to attend Titus and to act as intermediary between him and the Jews who still held Jerusalem. His efforts in this capacity failed; but when the city was stormed (70) Titus granted him whatever boon he might ask. So he secured the lives of some free men who had been taken and (by the gift of Titus) certain sacred books. After this he repaired to Rome and received one of the pensions, which Vespasian (according to Suetonius) was the first to bestow upon Latin and Greek writers. He was also made a Roman citizen and received an estate in Judaea. Thenceforward he devoted himself to literary work under the patronage of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. As he mentions the death of Agrippa II. it is probable that he lived into the 2nd century; but the date of Agrippa's death has been challenged and, if his patron Epaphroditus may be identified with Nero's freedman, it is possible that Josephus may have been involved in his fall and perished under Domitian in 95.

Works. - I. The Jewish War (I Ept Tou'IovIcdKoli 7ro%Egov), the oldest of Josephus' extant writings, was written towards the end of Vespasian's reign (69-79) The Aramaic original has not been preserved; but the Greek version was prepared by Josephus himself in conjunction with competent Greek scholars. Its purpose in all probability was, in the first instance, to exhibit to the Babylonian Jews the overwhelming power of Rome and so to deter them from repeating the futile revolt of the Jews of Palestine. Of its seven books, the first two survey the history of the Jews from the capture of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes to the outbreak of war in 67, and here Josephus relies upon some such general history as that of Nicolaus of Damascus. The rest deals with the events of the war (67-73) which fell more or less within his own knowledge. Vespasian, Titus and Agrippa II. testified (he tells us) to his accuracy. Representatives of the Zealots would probably have protested against his pro-Roman prejudices.

2. The Jewish Antiquities ('Iou5a%ici 'ApxacoXoyia) covers in twenty books the history of the Jews from the creation of the world to the outbreak of the war with Rome. It was finished in the thirteenth year of Domitian (93). Its purpose was to glorify the Jewish nation in the eyes of the Roman world. In the part covered by the books of the Bible Josephus follows them, and that mainly, if not entirely as they are translated into Greek by the Seventy (the Septuagint version). Being a Pharisee, he sometimes introduces traditions of the Elders, which are either inferences from, or embroideries of, the biblical narrative. Sometimes, also, he gives proof of some knowledge of Hebrew and supplements his scriptural authorities, which include I Esdras, from general Greek histories. For the later period he uses the Greek Esther, with its additions, I Maccabees, Polybius, Strabo and Nicolaus of Damascus. But towards the end he confesses that he has grown weary of his task, and his history becomes meagre. The work contains accounts of John the Baptist and Jesus, which may account for the fact that Josephus' writings were rescued from oblivion by the Christians. But the description of Jesus as "a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man," can hardly be genuine, and the assertion "this was the Christ" is equally doubtful, unless it be assumed that the Greek word Christos had become technical in the sense of false-Christ or false-prophet among non-Christian Jews.

3. Josephus wrote a narrative of his own Life in order to defend himself against the accusation brought by his enemy Justus of Tiberias to the effect that he had really been the cause of the Jewish rebellion. In his defence Josephus departs from the facts as narrated in the Jewish War and represents himself as a partisan of Rome and, therefore, as a traitor to his own people from the beginning.

4. The two books Against Apion are a defence or apology directed against current misrepresentations of the Jews. Earlier titles are Concerning the Antiquity of the Jews or Against the Greeks. Apion was the leader of the Alexandrine embassy which opposed Philo and his companions when they appeared in behalf of the Alexandrine Jews before Caligula. The defence which Josephus puts forward has a permanent value and shows him at his best.

The Greek text of Josephus' works has been edited with full collection of different readings by B. Niese (Berlin, 1887-1895). The Teubner text by Naber is based on this. The translation into English of W. Whiston has been (superficially) revised by A. R. Shilleto (1889-1890). Schiirer (History of the Jewish People) gives a full bibliography. (J. H. A. H.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

General and historian; born in 37 or 38; died after 100. He boasts of belonging to the Hasmonean race on his mother's side ("Vita," § 1). His great-grandfather was Simon "the Stammerer." As a boy Josephus was distinguished for his good memory and his ease in learning. He passed through the schools of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes in turn, and then spent three years in the desert with a certain Banus. When nineteen years old he attached himself finally to the party of the Pharisees (ib. § 2). In his twenty-sixth year he had occasion to journey to Rome in the interests of certain priests who had been sent thither in chains by the procurator Felix. Here he obtained the favor of the empress Poppæa.


Appointed Governor of Galilee.

Shortly after the return of Josephus to Jerusalem (66) the great Jewish war broke out, and the defense of Galilee was entrusted to him by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem ("B. J." ii. 20, § 4; "Vita," § 7). Why this most important post was allotted to him is not known. In his autobiography he states that he was sent there in order to tranquilize the province and to keep it faithful to the Romans, for only part of it had revolted ("Vita," § 7; comp. § 14). This is plainly a distortion of the facts, since Galilee was always most inclined to war. He was accompanied by two men learned in the Law, Joazar and Judas, sent by the Sanhedrin to watch over his actions. He sent them back to Jerusalem (ib. §§ 7, 12, 14), and then proceeded to organize the administration of the province; instituting a sanhedrin of seventy members, and governing the cities through a council of seven men, an institution afterward extended throughout Palestine under the title "The Seven Best of the City." He maintained strict discipline among the troops, which numbered about 100,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry; he surrounded himself with 500 guards; and he fortified and provisioned a considerable number of cities (ib. §§ 12-14; "B. J. ii. 20, §§ 5-8).

Though a strict adherent of the Law, he was accused of treachery by some of the zealous patriots and especially by John of Giscala. But the deeds of which Josephus was accused may be interpreted to his honor. Young men from the village of Dabaritta had stolen treasure from the governor of King Agrippa. Josephus had taken it with the intention of restoring it to the king. The report was spread that he was a traitor, and the people were incited against him by John of Giscala and Jesus b. Zappha in Tarichæa. He was in danger of being killed, but he succeeded in making the Taricheans believe that he intended to use the treasure for the fortificationstions of their city. People from Tiberias, however, surrounded his house with the intention of setting it on fire. Their leaders were enticed within and there whipped and mutilated; and the Tiberians thereupon took to flight ("B. J." ii. 21, §§ 3-5; somewhat differently, "Vita," §§ 26-30). Not long afterward John went to Tiberias with the intention of murdering Josephus; but the latter fled to Tarichæa, which city was so devoted to him that war would have ensued between it and Tiberias had he not restrained the inhabitants ("B. J." ii. 21, § 6; "Vita," §§ 16-18).

Antagonism of John of Giscala.

John's next scheme was to have Josephus accused before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. The most influential members, being convinced of Josephus' guilt, sent four of their number with a force of 2,500 men to depose him. He, however, pretended to be occupied with preparations for war; and the delegates could not see him. Several Galileans went voluntarily to Jerusalem to demand the recall of the envoys. The latter then ordained a day for general fasting and prayer in Tiberias, but Josephus fell upon his opponents with his armed guards. A few days afterward messengers from Jerusalem brought letters in which the leaders of the people confirmed him in his position as governor of Galilee. He sent the Sanhedrin delegates back to Jerusalem in chains, and subdued by force the inhabitants of Tiberias, who were in revolt against him ("B. J." ii. 21, § 7; "Vita," §§ 38-64). They, however, still refused to recognize Josephus; but by a ruse he again overcame them ("B. J." ib. §§ 8-10; "Vita," §§ 32-34; comp. §§ 68, 69).

Sepphoris now asked for and received a Roman garrison in order to be safe from the rebels. Josephus, who was obliged to heed the insistence of his followers, tried to punish the city before the Romans arrived; but hearing that the last-named were on the way he beat a retreat. When the troop sent by Cestius Gallus had entered Sepphoris, it was no longer possible for Josephus to storm the city. A few days later the Romans made a sortie, and Josephus was defeated ("Vita," §§ 67-71). He was more successful against Sylla, a lieutenant of King Agrippa, whom he put to flight beyond the Jordan (ib. §§ 72, 73).

In the spring of 67 the Romans under Vespasian and Titus began the war. Josephus was encamped near the village of Garis, not far from Sepphoris; but he was forced to draw back upon Tiberias because his men had fled at the approach of the Romans (ib. § 71; "B. J." iii. 6, §§ 2-3). He demanded of Jerusalem whether or not he should treat with Vespasian, and asked for reenforcements. The Sanhedrin was unable to comply with his request; and Josephus entrenched his troops at Jotapata (May, 67), which place was besieged by Vespasian on the following day. Josephus had recourse to all possible stratagems; but in spite of these and of marvelous deeds of valor performed by the defenders, the Romans, after a siege of forty-seven days, forced their way into the city, which with the fortifications was razed to the ground (July, 67). Josephus escaped into a cistern connected with a cave in which he found forty soldiers. Their hiding-place was discovered; and Josephus, whose life had been assured to him by the Romans through the intervention of a friend named Nicanor, escaped only by playing a trick on his companions. He persuaded them to kill each other after drawing lots, but arranged to be the last, and then surrendered to the Romans with one companion ("B. J." iii. 8, §§ 1-8). Led before Vespasian, Josephus, asserting earnestly that he possessed the prophetic gift, prophesied that that general would become emperor (ib. § 9). According to the Talmud, Johanan b. Zakkai had made the same prophecy, and heathen priests had foretold the accession of Vespasian and Titus to the imperial throne (see Schürer, "Gesch." i. 613). Josephus' actions from this time on do not cover him with glory; and the suspicion of treachery rests heavily upon him.

Wins Favor of Vespasian.

Josephus, when Vespasian gave him his freedom ("B. J." iv. 10, § 7), according to custom adopted Vespasian's family name, "Flavius"; and when Vespasian became emperor, Josephus accompanied him to Alexandria ("Vita," § 75). While still a prisoner he married, at Vespasian's command, a Jewish captive from Cæsarea. She, however, did not remain with him long, but left him when he was in Alexandria. It seems, however, that he had already been married some time before, and that his first wife, as well as his mother and all his aristocratic relatives, remained in Jerusalem during the siege ("B.J." v.9, § 4). Josephus returned to Palestine in the suite of Titus ("Vita," § 75; "Contra Ap." i. 9); and during the siege of the capital he was compelled, at the risk of his life, to call upon the rebellious Jews to surrender. On the one hand, the Jews desired to capture and punish him; on the other, the Romans, whenever they were beaten, held him for a traitor. Titus, however, paid no heed to the accusations of the soldiers ("Vita," § 75). After the capture of Jerusalem, he gave Josephus permission to take whatsoever he chose. The latter took a few sacred books and asked only for the freedom of certain persons. He rescued 190 women and children who had been shut up in the sanctuary. He also begged Titus to rescue three persons whom he found crucified; and one of them actually recovered by careful nursing (ib.). As a Roman garrison was to be placed upon Josephus' estate near Jerusalem, Titus gave him other land in the plain. He returned with Titus to Rome, and there received high honors from Vespasian, including Roman citizenship and a yearly pension. He received also a fine estate in Judea, so that he was able to devote himself to writing without pecuniary anxiety. Josephus was occasionally calumniated by his coreligionists. Thus a certain Jonathan, who had raised a rebellion in Cyrene, claimed that he had received arms and money from Josephus; but Vespasian was not misled by the falsehood (ib. § 76; "B. J." vii. 11, §§ 1-3). The emperor Domitian punished certain Jews who had slandered Josephus; and he freed the Judean estate of his favorite from taxes. Josephus was also in favor with the empress Domitia.

The woman married by Josephus in Alexandria bore him three sons, of whom only one, Hyrcanus, was living at the time that the "Vita" was written. He divorced her and married a Jewess from Crete,who bore him two sons, Justus, in the seventh year of Vespasian, and Simonides, surnamed "Agrippa," two years later. Josephus' autobiography was written after the death of Agrippa II. ("Vita," § 65), which occurred in the third year of Trajan (i.e., 100). The date of Josephus' death is uncertain. It is said that a statue of him was erected in Rome after his death (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iii. 9; Jerome, "De Viris Illustribus," § 13).

Josephus' numerous and comprehensive writings are of value not only for the historical data which they contain, but also as an apology of Judaism. His works are:


"Concerning the Jewish War" (Greek, Περὶ τοῦ Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου), usually cited as "Bellum Judaicum," in seven books ("Ant." xx. 11; "Vita," § 74); in some manuscripts and in Stephan Byzant (s.v. φασαηλίς), Ιστορία Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου Πρὸς 'Pωμαίους, which Niese holds to be correct. Von Gutschmid, however ("Kleine Schriften," iv. 343), accepts the title Περὶ Ἁλώσεως ("Concerning the Capture"), found in most manuscripts; but this title probably originated in Christian circles. The division into seven books belongs to Josephus himself ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6; xviii. 1, § 2), and was known to Porphyry ("Peri Apoches," iv. 11, p. 76). In addition to a long introduction, they cover the period from Antiochus Epiphanes to the minor events that followed the war. Josephus wrote this history originally in Aramaic, in order that it might be read by the Jews in Parthia, Babylonia, Adiabene, Arabia, etc. ("B. J." Preface, § 2). At a later time he decided to publish the history of the war in Greek also, and for this he had to receive help from others in the matter of style ("Contra Ap." i. § 9). The supposition is possible that the original, which is entirely lost, was not as favorable to the Romans as was the Greek version.

The Works of Josephus.

Josephus gives as his reason for writing this history the contradictory reports circulated either to flatter the Romans or to disparage the Jews (ib. § 1). He himself pretends not to have flattered the Romans, though he is distinctly partial to them. He emphasizes his exactness (e.g., "Vita," § 4); but his claim thereto is justified only when he states bare facts. He writes partly as an eye-witness and partly from reports obtained from eye-witnesses ("Contra Ap." i. § 9); and he had already begun to make notes during the siege of Jerusalem. Both Vespasian and Titus, to whom the work was submitted, praised his accuracy. The latter even wrote on the manuscript that it ought to be published ("Vita," § 65). King Agrippa II.testified in no less than sixty-two letters that he found the account accurate (ib.); and similar praise was given by relatives of the king ("Contra Ap." i. § 9). His rival, Justus of Tiberias, wrote his history twenty years later, while Josephus described the war immediately after the events ("Vita," § 65).

The work was presented to Vespasian, and must therefore have been completed before the year 79. The last events mentioned are of the year 73; but the account must have been written after the year 75; for Josephus refers to the Temple of Peace as being already finished ("B. J." vii. 5, § 7). It is necessary to assume a period of a few years between the end of the war and the final composition, other works on the war having already been published, as the introductions to the "Bellum Judaicum" and to the "Antiquitates Judaicæ" show. For the events preceding the war the same sources must be assumed as for the "Antiquities." The events of the war itself he knew exactly except the occurrences in the beleaguered city of Jerusalem, which facts he could get only from deserters. For the events within the Roman camp he doubtless made use of Vespasian's "Memorabilia." The statement of Sulpicius Severus ("Chron." ii. 30, § 6), that the Temple was burned at the express command of Titus, has not the credence possessed by Josephus' account ("B. J." vi. 4, §§ 5-7), which is to the effect that this happened contrary to the will of Titus. Schlatter's supposition, that Josephus is less creditable than Julianus Antonius, is unfounded.


"The Antiquities of the Jews" (Greek, Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία; Latin, "Antiquitates Judaicæ"). This is the most important of his works, and, indeed, one of the greatest of all antiquity. It comprises twenty books, and is so arranged that it might be placed side by side with the Roman history of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, which likewise consisted of twenty books. It was the purpose of Josephus to glorify the Jewish people, so often misunderstood, in the eyes of the Greco-Roman world. He wrote it in the thirteenth year of Domitian (93) and in the fifty-sixth year of his life. It commences with the creation of the world, and carries the history of the Jews down to the outbreak of the war in 66. In this stupendous work the individual books are preceded by an introduction which briefly indicates their contents; but it is doubtful whether these originated with Josephus. The work falls into the following divisions:


Book i. ch. 7 to Book xi. ch. 6, parallel with the books of the Bible from the creation of the world to the rescue of the Jews under Artaxerxes in Persia. Here Josephus desires only to reproduce in Greek what may be read in the Hebrew Scriptures ("Ant." Preface, § 3; x. 10, § 6). He has, however, omitted or endeavored to excuse whatever might give offense. The story of the Golden Calf is wholly lacking; and excuses are found for the murmuring of the children of Israel. The Septuagint is used throughout, and even its style is imitated, though at times he deviates from this source (comp. "Ant." vi. 4, § 1, with I Sam. ix. 22). As a learned Pharisee, Josephus must have known enough Hebrew to make use of the original: this is shown by his explaining numerous Hebrew proper names, as the Hellenist Eupolemus had done before him; see, for example, "Ant." i. 1, § 2 (comp. Gen. iii. 20); i. 4, § 3 (comp. Gen. xi. 9, LXX.); iii. 7, § 3 (comp. Ex. xxviii. 40; xxxi. 2, LXX.); iii. 12, § 3 (comp. Gen. xxv. 10); viii. 5, § 3 (comp. I Kings ix. 13, LXX.).

The myths and legends scattered through this narrative deserve special attention. Eusebius ("Demonstratio Evangelica," vi. 39) had already noticed that the traditions (δεντνρώσεις) of the Rabbis are to be found in Josephus' work; and it is from him that many haggadot came to the Church Fathers. Josephus remarks (see B. M. 86b) that every one of the three angels who appeared to Abraham had aspecial mission. This is also found in Philo ("De Abrahamo," §§ 22, 28) and in Justin Martyr ("Dial. cum Tryph." § 56). The story of the Patriarchs and of Moses is especially rich in such legends. He extols the beauty of Moses and relates how even as a child the latter frightened Pharaoh; and he gives the name of Pharaoh's daughter, all of which is to be found in Talmud and Midrash. The haggadot are told in an attractive manner; and their appearance here shows their antiquity.

Importance for Biblical Exegesis.

Although Josephus' treatment of Biblical data is very free, it is of importance for the history of Biblical exegesis. He gives the number of books in the Bible as twenty-two, whereas the Rabbis count twenty-four. He makes use of Hellenistic allegory; and his symbolization of the Tabernacle and of the priestly garments is similar to that of Philo ("Ant." iii. 7). He is very careful to emphasize the humanity and the high moral contents of the Law (ib. xvi. 2, § 4). He is usually in harmony with the rabbinical Halakah. The blasphemer against God, after having been stoned, is hanged (ib. iv. 8, § 6; comp. Sanh. 45b). The law concerning injury done to a woman with child (Ex. xxi. 22) makes a second fine obligatory, besides the one paid to the woman's husband, because the population has been diminished ("Ant." iv. 8, § 33)—a point of view not taken in the Halakah. Wishing to represent Jewish law as favorably as possible, he states that a judge who accepts a bribe is to be punished with death ("Contra Ap." ii. 27), which is not at all the case. The command in Ex. xxii. 28 is used by Josephus for the following excellent doctrine: "Let no one blaspheme those gods which other cities esteem such; nor may any one steal what belongs to strange temples nor take away the gifts that are dedicated to any god" ("Ant." iv. 8, § 10), which was not in the spirit of the Pharisees toward idolatry. He says that the whole city was interdicted to leprous persons ("B. J." v. 5, § 6), whereas it was only the Temple which they might not enter. Josephus goes farther than the Bible, in order to destroy the fable that Moses was afflicted with leprosy. He teaches that the first-born, not only of an ass, but of all unclean animals, is to be redeemed ("Ant." iv. 4, § 4), in order to remove all grounds for the idea that this animal occupied a peculiar position in Jewish law (see Ass-Worship), an elaboration of the law found also in Philo. In other respects Josephus presents an older stratum than does the rabbinical Halakah; e.g., when he interprets Lev. xxii. 28 to mean that an animal may not be sacrificed on the same day with its mother (ib. xii. 9, § 4), having in view an older period when people ate only the meat of sacrifices. This is also held by Geiger, who sees in it traces of the Sadducean standpoint. In other cases Josephus gives the practise as it obtained in his day; namely, that the high priest, and not the king, read the Law on the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh year ("Ant." iv. 8, § 12).

That Josephus wrote wholly from a Jewish point of view may be seen from his misunderstanding of the use of terms by non-Jewish authorities. This was the cause, for instance, of his placing the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey upon the Day of Atonement ("Ant." xiv. 4, § 3), where really a Sabbath was intended; he does not seem to have known that the Gentile authorities were in the habit of calling the Sabbath a fast-day. Josephus shows himself perfectly familiar with Jewish practical life; and it is wrong to suppose that his knowledge is faulty, or that with the lapse of time he had forgotten much (Olitzki, "Flavius Josephus und die Halacha," pp. 25, 27). He had intended to write a separate work on the laws; and therefore he treats some briefly, while others he does not mention at all.

Non-Biblical Authors Cited.

Josephus wished to confirm the Biblical data wherever they came in touch with the history of other peoples. In the first eleven books the following non-Biblical authors are cited: Berosus, Hieronymus the Egyptian, Mnaseas, Nicholas of Damascus (i. 3, § 6); Manetho, Berosus, Mochus, Hestiæus, Hieronymus, Hesiod, Hecatæus, Hellanicus, Acusilaus, Ephorus, Nicholas (ib. § 9); the "Sibyl" (apparently the pagan Sibyl, as the term οἱ θεοί shows; see Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1895, xv. 161), Hestiæus (i. 4, § 3); Berosus, Hecatæus, Nicholas (i. 7, § 2); Malchus, after a quotation from Alexander Polyhistor (i. 15); Homer (vii. 3, § 2); Nicholas (vii. 5, § 2); Menander, Dion (viii. 5, § 3); Herodotus (ib. 6, § 2; 10, §§ 2, 3); Menander (ib. 13, § 2; ix. 14, § 2); Herodotus, Berosus (x. 1, § 4); Berosus (ib. 2, § 2); Berosus, Megasthenes, Diocles, Philostratus (ib. 11, § 1). Josephus had not read all these authors; but he probably obtained his citations from the great works of Alexander Polyhistor, Nicholas of Damascus, and Strabo (the citations have been collected by Th. Reinach, "Textes d'Auteurs Grecs," Paris, 1895). It may here be noted that just as frequently as in the early parts of his "Antiquities," Josephus refers to ancient authors in his "Contra Apionem"; indeed he quotes the same passage from Herodotus (ii. 104) incorrectly in the former work ("Ant." viii. 10, § 3), while he gives it correctly in the latter ("Contra Ap." i. § 22).

Von Gutschmid (l.c. iv. 562) believes that Josephus follows Herodotus in Egyptian matters only, and that he uses Manetho from a secondary source. This is denied by Sethe ("Sesostris," pp. 3, 5, 19), but is justly affirmed by A. Wiedemann (in "Theologische Litteratur-Zeitung," 1901, p. 186). In the "Contra Ap.," however, Josephus has undoubtedly made use of Manetho. His familiarity with ancient history is evidenced by his information concerning Shalmaneser IV. (Lehmann, "Beiträge zur Alten Gesch." 1902, ii. 125-140).


Book xi. ch. 7 to Book xiii. ch. 7, covering the period from Ezra and Nehemiah to the death of Simon Maccabeus. Here Josephus is very poorly informed. In addition to the canonical Ezra and Nehemiah he had before him an apocryphal Ezra. He uses the Septuagint to Esther together with its addenda, and, for the history of Alexander the Great, some Hellenic account containing legendary material. This is followed by a longer extract from pseudo-Aristeas (xii. 2), and by the history of the Tobiads, which has been variously estimated. On account of the chronological difficulties, it has been held by many to be purely legendary; whereasA. Büchler holds at least the kernel to be historical (see Tobiads). Josephus certainly had it from a written source. For the period 175-135 B.C. Josephus has a reliable authority in I Maccabees. He does not seem to have been acquainted with II Maccabees. he uses Polybius (see xii. 9, § 1) where Jewish history touches that of neighboring peoples; and where Polybius ceases (143 B.C.) he uses other historians. He must also have had access to the genealogy of the high priest; it is known that such genealogies were kept by the Jews.


Book xiii. ch. 8 to Book xvii. ch. 12, from the death of Simon to the accession of Archelaus. For the beginning of this period Josephus must have used a Jewish source—probably the chronicle mentioned at the end of I Maccabees—containing much legendary material, because he praises Hyrcanus highly and credits him with the gift of prophecy ("Ant." xiv. 10, § 7). He relates similar legends concerning Aristobulus I.; and only for the period beginning with Alexander Jannæus did he make use of a good authority. Here a Talmudic narrative (Ḳid. 66a) makes it possible to control Josephus ("Ant." xiii. 10, §§ 5, 6; "R. E. J." xxxv. 28). For the years 137-135 B.C. Josephus had good authorities in Strabo, whom he often quotes, and Nicholas of Damascus, not only where he cites them by name, but also for the general narrative (B. Niese, in "Hermes," xi. 470, and H. Bloch, "Die Quellen des Flavius Josephus," p. 92, to the contrary). Both Strabo and Nicholas go back to Posidonius, whom Josephus once names explicitly ("Contra Ap." ii. § 7). He also cites Timagenes ("Ant." xiii. 11, § 3; 12, § 5), Asinius Pollio, and Hypsicrates (xiv. 8, § 3), the latter two in quotations from Strabo. Livy is mentioned once (xiv. 4, § 3). For the story of Herod, Nicholas is the chief source; perhaps also the "Memorabilia" of Herod (xv. 6, § 3).


Book xvii. ch. 13 to Book xx. ch. 11 (ch. 12 is an epilogue of the whole work), divided into three groups: (1) a meager history of the successors of Herod; (2) a description of events in Rome under Caligula and Claudius, given in much detail, for which Josephus' authority seems to have been Cluvius Rufus ("Ant." xix. 1, § 13); also the history of Agrippa I. from verbal information; and (3) the chronicle of the high priests (ib. xx. 10).

Throughout divisions (b), (c), and (d) Greco-Roman decrees in favor of the Jews are interspersed, which Von Gutschmid (l.c. iv. 351) believes to be the most valuable records that writers have handed down from antiquity. Josephus claims to have seen them in the state archives at the Capitol at Rome ("Ant." xiv. 10, § 26). These, however, can have been only the records of the deliberations of the Senate. The decrees of the cities in Asia Minor must have come from the archives of the Jewish communities there. They are so loosely connected with the main work that Ritschl (in "Rheinisches Museum," xxviii. 599) and Mendelssohn ("Senatus Consulta Romanorum," etc., pp. 112, 156) believe that the later part of the "Antiquities" contains merely a collection of material. Niese, however (in "Hermes," xi. 466), holds that the work is uniform and that the decrees are those collected by Nicholas of Damascus. Willrich ("Judaica," p. 40) considers them to be the decrees collected by Agrippa I. in defense of the Jews (Philo, "Legatio ad Caium," § 28). The following corrections must be made in the dates: "Ant." xiii. 9, § 2, year 122 (not 133); xiv. 8, § 5, year 128 (not 139); xiv. 10, § 22, year 112 (not 133) (Unger, in "Sitzungsberichte der Münchener Akademie," 1895, p. 551).

Josephus uses throughout the Macedonian names of the months (Niese, in "Hermes," 1893, p. 197), commencing with Nisan 1 of the year 311-310 (Unger, l.c. 1896, p. 360). In dating the Maccabean princes, Josephus uses the Egyptian system, in which the governmental and calendric years were harmonized by making the two begin with every first of the month Toth. The Mishnah shows that this system of dating was in use among the Jews (R. H. i. 1). Josephus had taken the system either from Nicholas or from Strabo; with Agrippa I. he ceases to use it. Olympiads and consular dates are found only in accounts which go back to Nicholas and Strabo; the Seleucid era in that period is based upon I Maccabees. Not one of the dates of the Persian kings mentioned in the Old Testament has been converted into its corresponding Olympiad year (Unger, in "Sitzungsberichte," 1896, pp. 360-364).


"Autobiography" (Βίος; "Vita"), chiefly a description of the author's activity as governor of Galilee, written because Justus of Tiberias had placed the blame for the revolt on Josephus. From the beginning the author represents himself as a partizan of the Romans, and therefore a traitor to the interests of his people. He thereby flatly contradicts many things said in the "Jewish War," which latter is more trustworthy. The "Vita" must have been written after the death of Agrippa II. (100 C.E.). From the conclusion of the "Antiquities" it appears that the "Vita" pretends to be merely an appendix; and Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." iii. 10, § 8) cites a passage from it, designating it as occurring at the end of the "Antiquities," which was written in 93 C.E. It seems that Josephus had the plan of the "Vita" in mind when he wrote the concluding words of the "Antiquities," but did not publish it until after the death of Agrippa, when he inserted the remark that Justus had not dared to appear with his history while Agrippa was yet alive.


"Against Apion," or "The Great Age of the Jewish People," directed against the calumnies which were circulated at that time against the Jews, and therefore a valuable apology even to-day. The author's chief aim is to prove the antiquity of the Jewish people; and the real title was therefore Περὶ τῆς τῶν Ἰουδαίων Ἀρχαιότητος ("Concerning the Antiquity of the Jews"); Πρὸς τοὺς "Eλληνας or κατὰ 'Eλλήνων ("Against the Hellenes"). The present title, "Contra Apionem," is first found in Jerome ("De Viris Illust." ch. xiii.). The two books are found intact only in the Latin translation. The work must have been written later than 93 C.E., since the "Antiquities" is cited ("Contra Ap." i. 1, § 10). Like the "Antiquities," the "Contra Apionem" is dedicated to Epaphroditus, who was either a freed-man and secretary of Nero or a grammarian in Rome.

A few other works are incorrectly attributed to Josephus; e.g., the so-called "Fourth Book of Maccabees,"or a work entitled "Concerning the All," cited by Photius ("Bibliotheca," Codex 48).

At the conclusion of the "Antiquities" Josephus says that he proposes to write "Concerning our [the Jewish] doctrine, in four books: concerning God, His nature, and concerning the laws, why, according to them, certain things are permitted and others are forbidden." He refers at times to his intention to treat more fully of some of the laws ("Ant." i. 10, § 5; iii. 11, § 2), which is partially carried out in the "Contra Apionem." This would then stand in the same relation to the "Antiquities" as the "Vita" does to the "Jewish War." He refers also to a more extensive historical work in such terms as "As has already been stated in other works," or "we have stated." Most of these references are in the "Antiquities"; but some are found in the "Jewish War," which can not therefore be the work referred to. Destinon ("Die Quellen des Josephus," p. 21) supposes that Josephus simply copied this formula from his original, perhaps from Nicholas of Damascus (A. Büchler, in "J.Q.R." ix. 318). Unger, however, more properly concludes that Josephus refers to a large work, now lost, and dealing with the history of Syria from the time of Alexander the Great to its incorporation in the Roman empire.

His Biblical Interpretation.

When his people in Galilee wished to compel two Gentiles, who had come to them, to enter the Abrahamic covenant, Josephus would not permit it, saying, "Every one ought to worship God according to his own inclinations, and ought not to be constrained by force" ("Vita," § 23). The Jews were to have one holy city, one temple, and one altar ("Ant." iv. 8, § 5). That he interprets even Biblical subjects freely only to please his Greek readers is seen in his mention of the destruction of Sodom as though it were only a mere incident that people would casually relate ("B. J." iv. 8, § 4). Otherwise, he naturally holds that the Biblical books "are truly reliable" ("Contra Ap." i. 8). He asserts that the Prophets wrote all the old historical Jewish writings, and he ascribed the gift of prophecy to John Hyrcanus and claimed it for himself. He frequently refers to the Divine Providence watching over Israel: but he also knows of the "Fatum" of the Greeks and Romans; and he himself inclines to the teachings of the Stoa ("Vita," § 2). He shows familiarity with the teachings of Plato in regard to the soul and the Pythagorean doctrine of its preexistence ("B. J." vii. 8, § 7). A new and better life beyond the grave is assured to those who preserve the laws and are capable of dying for them ("Contra Ap." ii. 31). He often speaks of the Messianic idea as having caused the revolution; but he never expresses his own opinion in regard to the Messiah, doubtless out of consideration for the Romans. The godless zealots are to blame for the destruction of the Temple ("B. J." iv. 6, § 3); but the people will come again to its senses during its servitude ("Ant." xx. 8, § 5; "B. J." v. 1, § 3); and the reestablishment of the sanctuary may be hoped for ("B. J." l.c.; "Ant." iv. 8, § 46).

Josephus' orthodoxy and piety are thus beyond doubt; but his conduct during the great Jewish war shows him in a very doubtful light. Justus of Tiberias and John of Giscala accuse him of treachery, hypocrisy, and of the perversion of facts. The other witnesses of his deeds, the Rabbis, are silent concerning him. Josephus lost his importance for following generations, which practically ignored him, yet some references to him exist. Although it has not been proved that the Joseph ha-Kohen mentioned in Ḥallah iv. 11 and M. Ḳ. 23a is really Josephus, the story of the four wise men of Jerusalem who sought out a philosopher in Rome (Derek Ereẓ R. v.) may, however, refer to him (Vogelstein and Rieger, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," i. 29). In place of Josephus there appeared in the tenth century a Hebrew pseudo-Josephus (see Joseph ben Gorion). The idea which the later Jewish chroniclers had of Josephus is wholly false (see "Seder ha-Dorot," i. 123, Warsaw, 1903). Isaac Abravanel complains of his distortion of the Biblical narratives in order to curry favor with the Romans. Azariah dei Rossi is the first Jew to value him at his real worth.

Importance for the Christian Church.

The works of Josephus were rescued by the Christian Church, for whom, like Philo, the author occupies the rank of a Church father. The "Antiquities" was of importance because it illuminates the history of the New Testament and on account of the few notes which it contains dealing with Christendom. Josephus mentions John the Baptist; James, the brother of Jesus; and Jesus himself ("Ant." xviii. 3, § 3). In its present form, this passage can not have originated with Josephus (see Jesus). Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." iii. 9, § 2) considers Josephus to have been the most learned man of his day; and Jerome ("Ep. xxii. ad Eustachium") calls him "the Greek Livy." The Byzantine chroniclers based their writings largely upon Josephus; and his "Antiquities" was taken over into many works (see Hegesippus). It can not be denied that he possessed extraordinary literary talents; and his desire to glorify his people ought not to be accounted to his dishonor. It is true that he was disingenuous in his dealings with his people; but he wrote an exemplary apology for them. He was vain and self-seeking; but he also fought and worked much; and his condemnation by such historians as J. Salvador and Graetz is certainly too severe.

Editions and Translations of Josephus' Works:

In the Occident Josephus has become known chiefly through a Latin translation of all his works, with the exception of the "Vita," and through a free Latin redaction of the "Jewish War." Jerome ("Ep. lxxi. ad Lucinium") says that he could not accomplish the difficult task of translation, but that it was generally recognized that a Latin translation was necessary. Cassiodorus ("De Institutione Divinarum Literarum," ch. xvii.) caused a translation of the "Antiquities" and "Contra Apionem" to be made in the sixth century; but one of the "Jewish War," generally ascribed to Rufinus, had existed from about the fourth century. A free Latin translation was made under the name of Hegesippus or Egeosippus. Hegesippus compresses the seven books of the "Jewish War" into five; he shows himself throughout to be a Christian; and has inserted extraneous matter (e.g., concerningSimon Magus, "B. J." iii. 2), especially of a geographical nature. The author, therefore, was probably a pilgrim to Palestine. The first edition of Hegesippus appeared in Paris in 1510, and the work has often been republished. The best edition is that of Weber and Cæsar, Marburg, 1864.

A correct Latin translation appeared first in Augsburg in 1470; the best edition is that of Basel, 1524. A critically correct text of the "Vetus Latinus" exists as yet only for the two books of "Contra Apionem" (ed. C. Boysen in "Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum," vol. xxxvii., Vienna, 1898). Concerning the character of the translation, Boysen observes (p. xlii.) that the translator has neither grasped the meaning of Josephus nor been able to accommodate himself to his style; nor has he understood how to translate the difficult Greek words.

A Syriac translation of book vi. of the "Jewish War" is contained in the Peshiṭta manuscript of the Ambrosianus in Milan, in which it is called "The Fifth Book of Maccabees." The beginning of it was published by Ceriani in 1871; the complete text—a photographic reproduction of the manuscript—was issued by him at Milan in 1876-83, and was republished with German translation by H. Kottek, Berlin, 1886 (see R. Gottheil in "Hebraica," iii. 3, 136, New Haven, 1887).

Syriac and Hebrew.

In consequence of the apologetic character of the "Contra Apionem," a Hebrew translation of it exists, printed together with Abraham Zacuto's "Yuḥasin" (Constantinople, 1566; London, 1857) and also separately under the title "Ḳadmut ha-Yehudim" (Lyck, 1858). The translation was not made by Zacuto, though he often made use of Josephus in his chronicle, but was appended to the "Yuḥasin" by its first publisher, Samuel Shullam. This Hebrew translation is very free, whole phrases of the text being omitted, and was probably made with the aid of the Latin translation.

In Modern Languages.

New Latin translations of most of the works are contained in the editions by Hudson, Havercamp, Oberthür, and Dindorf. A German translation made from the Latin (Strasburg, 1531) appeared even before the first Greek editions, and was later revised after the Greek (ib. 1561). Mention should also be made of the German translations of all the works, by Ott (Zurich, 1735-36), Cotta (Tübingen, 1736), and C. R. Demme (7th ed. Philadelphia, 1868-69); of the translation of the "Antiquities" by K. Martin (Cologne, 1852-53; 2d and 3d eds. by Kaulen) and by Clementz (Halle, 1900). German translations have been made by Jews as follows; books xi. and xii. of the "Antiquities" by Horschetzky (Prague, 1826); book xiii. by the same (Gross-Kanizsa, 1843); the "Vita" by M. J(ost); "Contra Apionem" by the same, both in the "Bibliothek der Griechischen und Römischen Schriftsteller über Judenthum und Juden," Leipsic, 1867; "Contra Apionem," abridged by Z. Frankel (in "Monatsschrift," 1851-52). In English may be mentioned the translation of the "Vita" and of the "Jewish War" by R. Traill (ed. J. Taylor, London, 1862), especially prized on account of its valuable supplements; and Whiston's translation of the entire works, revised by Shilleto (3 vols., London, 1890). In French: "Œuvres Complètes de Flavius Josephe," by Buchon, Paris, 1894. Of a new French translation there have appeared to date: "The Antiquities," by Julien Weill, and "Contra Apionem," by Léon Blum, both under the direction of Th. Reinach. A Hungarian translation of the "Jewish War" from the Latin was made by V. Istóczi, Budapest, 1900. In Italian, the complete works were translated by Frater Angiolini (Verona, 1779; 2d ed. Rome, 1792). There are also Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Bohemian, and Russian translations of Josephus.


The editio princeps of the Greek text of the entire works appeared at Basel in 1544. It was followed by the Geneva editions of 1611 and 1634, and by Ittig's, with learned prolegomena, Leipsic, 1691. The edition by Bernard, Oxford, 1700, based upon manuscripts, remained incomplete. For a long time Hudson's edition (Oxford, 1720), corrected after the manuscripts, was held with that of Havercamp (Amsterdam, 1726) to be the best. The editions of Oberthür (Leipsic, 1782-85) and of Richter (ib. 1826-1827) followed Havercamp's; also that by Dindorf, which is still used (Paris, 1845-47). Bekker's edition (6 vols., Leipsic, 1855-56) was also much used in its day. The "Jewish War," corrected after the manuscripts by Cardwell, appeared at Oxford in 1837. The most painstaking and valuable work has been done by Benedict Niese, who has published the text of Josephus' works in a large edition (Berlin, 1887-94) and also in a small one (ib. 1888-95). The review by Naber (Leipsic, 1888-96) was based upon Niese's works. Niese's labors have done much but by no means all that is necessary for the purification of the text. He committed the mistake of correcting the text independently of any manuscript authority; so that Josephus' works still await philological treatment by a master.

Bibliography: The older literature is given by Fabricius, Bibliotheca Græca, ed. Harles, v. 49-56, and Fürst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 127-132. For a general historical review: Ewald, Gesch. 3d ed., vi. 700, vii. 89-110; Nicolai, Griechische Literaturgesch. ii. 553-559, Magdeburg, 1877; Bärwald, Josephus in Galiläa, etc., Breslau, 1877; Edersheim, in Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christian Biography, iii. 441-460; Gutschmid, Kleine Schriften, iv. 336-384, Leipsic, 1893; Korach, Ueber den Werth des Josephus als Quelle für die Römische Gesch. part i., Leipsic, 1895; Wachsmuth, Einleitung in das Studium der Alten Gesch. pp. 438-449, Leipsic, 1895; Niese, Der Jüdische Historiker Josephus, in Historische Zeitschrift, lxxvi. 193-237; Unger, in Sitzungsberichte der Münchener Akademie (philosophical, philological, and historical class), 1895-97. Concerning the relation of Josephus' works to the Bible, Halakah, and Haggadah: Treuenfels, Ueber den Bibelcanon des Fl. Josephus, in Orient, Lit. 1849, 1850; Bloch, Die Quellen des Flavius Josephus, pp. 8-22, Leipsic, 1879; and the various introductions to the Bible. On his relation to Palestinian exegesis: Siegfried, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1883, iii. 32-35; A. Mez, Die Bibel des Josephus, Basel, 1895; Zunz, G. V. p. 120; Duschak, Josephus Flavius und die Tradition, Vienna, 1864; Tachauer, Das Verhältniss des Flavius Josephus zur Bibel und zur Tradition, Erlangen, 1871; Olitzki, Flavius Josephus und die Halacha, part i., Berlin, 1885; idem, in Berliner's Magazin, xvi.; Grünbaum, Die Priestergesetze bei Flavius Josephus, 1887; Weyl, Die Jüdische Strafgesetze bei Fl. Josephus, Berlin, 1900. On his theology and philosophy: Gfrörer, Philo, ii. 356-367, Stuttgart, 1835; Dähne, Die Jüdisch-Alexandrinische Religionsphilosophie, ii. 240-245, Halle, 1834; Poznanski, Ueber die Religionsphilosophischen Anschauungen des Flavius Josephus, Berlin, 1887; Lewinsky, Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Religionsphilosophischen Anschauungen des Flavius Josephus, Breslau, 1887. On his chronology: Destinon, Die Chronologie des Josephus, Kiel, 1880; Schlatter, Zur Topographie und Gesch. Palästinas,pp. 360-367, Calw and Stuttgart, 1893; Niese, Zur Chronologie des Josephus, in Hermes, 1893, xxviii. 194-229. For the sources: Nussbaum, Observationes in Flavii Josephi Antiquitates Lib. xii. 3-xii. 14, Marburg, 1875; Destinon, Die Quellen des Fl. Josephus in der Jüdische Archaeologie, Buch xii-xvii. Kiel, 1882; Büchler, in R. E. J. xxxii., xxxiv.; idem, in J. Q. R. ix. For the decrees: Mendelssohn, Senati Consulta Romanorum Quœ Sunt in Josephi Antiquitatibus, in Acta Soc. Philol. Lips. ed. Ritschl, 1875, v. 87-288; Rosenthal, in Monatsschrift, 1879, pp. 176-183, 216-228, 300-322; Graetz, ib. 1886; Unger, as above. For geography: Berggren, Flavius Josephus der Führer und Irreführer der Pilger, etc., Leipsic, 1854; Arnold, Die Bibel, Joseph, und Jerusalem, Halle, 1865-66; Boettger, Topographisch-Historisches Lexicon zu den Schriften des Flavius Josephus, Leipsic, 1879. For explanations of the text: Zipser, Des Flavius Josephus Werk Ueber das Hohe Alter des Jüdischen Volkes Gegen Apion, Vienna, 1871; J. G. Müller, Des Flavius Josephus Schrift Gegen den Apion, Basel, 1877; Gutschmid, l.c. iv. 336-589 (commentary on Contra Ap. i. §§ 1-22); and the extensive literature in Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 74-106.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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