Flavius Joephus Much of the Term Paper

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And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out (18.63-64)

This paragraph has also been very controversial, because many believe it would not be likely that Josephus would have written that Jesus "appeared to them on the third day, living again." Some scholars say that Josephus had given up all his Jewish leanings by this time, but others say that this was not the true first edition. Perhaps it was rewritten by a Byzantine monk when copying the Jewish Antiquities. However, this latter argument does not work, since an Arabian copy of the book has been found with identical text. In 1991, Meier suggested that it is true that Josephus mentioned Jesus, but that the text was glossed by a Christian author. He rewrites the text as follows:

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of the people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.

In his Autobiography, which was written in A.D. 90, approximately a decade before he died, Josephus attempts, along with self-embellishment, to justify his position at the beginning of the Jewish rising. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (2009), in design and language this book is most influenced by the writings of Nicholas of Damascus, which Josephus had also followed in the Jewish Antiquities. The first half of the work entitled "Against Apion" consists of a defense of the great antiquity of the Jews and a refutation of the charges that had been brought against them by the grammarian Apion of Alexandria on the occasion of an embassy to the Emperor Caligula. The two volumes of, "Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades," which appeared in A.D. 96, was dedicated to Epaphroditus as an apology of Judaism against all kinds of anti-Semitic slander, which the Alexandrian author Apion compiled in a History of Egypt. It is also known as Against Apion. Here, Josephus provides a thorough explanation about Jewish cult, law, and religion, saying: "I would therefore boldly maintain that the Jews have introduced to the rest of the world a very large number of beautiful ideas. What higher justice than obedience to the laws?"

Before specifically detailing additional problems with Josephus' works, it is important to note that they also have been helpful in providing some historical perspective to what was taking place at that time, especially since so little written works remain from the 1st century. In Josephus and the New Testament, Mason (2003) provides an overview of why these works have been preserved from antiquity by the Christian church. First, they have provided a great deal of helpful background information, a support to the Old Testament, a valuable model for apologetics, in addition to a few references to key figures in the birth of Christianity. However, the one most critical factor was their detailed description of the atrocities that often accompanied the Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of the temple. Josephus' vivid account of the war provided enough proof of the Christian belief that the Jews had become God's enemy by rejecting Christ and persecuting his followers. Eusebius' role in the preservation of Josephus was thus pivotal, for he made him the key "outside" witness for his Christian interpretation of history. Other accounts of Jewish history and Palestinian geography have survived the first century and some have even lasted to the 9th century. However, when decisions were made about which ancient texts should continue to be copied, the recommendation of Eusebius of Josephus secured him a privileged position.

Mason (2009) does stress in his introduction of Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories that he is not saying that Josephus should be used as a "simple window into the past" (2). Josephus writes artistic narratives rather than manuals of factual information that may simply be used as historical facts. Critically, when Josephus is frequently the only available source of a certain occurrence, individuals, intentions and motives, it is necessary to recognize that there is no way to test other theories and claim to know the truth. Due to the few remaining literary and archaeological works that still remain, there is no other alternative. It is important, therefore, to not simply taking Josephus' accounts just as they are, without any review of the issues involved in such usage. To support his argument, Mason studies two of Josephus' works -- the accounts of "Pontius Pilate in the Judean War" and "Caesarea's role in the outbreak of the First Revolt" -- as examples of how Josephus can be misread. He uncovers problems of separating certain historical facts from Josephus' fiction, including the search for core elements and critics of sources. Mason uses the essay, "Contradiction or Counterpoint? Josephus and Historical Method," as an example of Josephus' inaccuracies. This essay is unsatisfactory, according to Mason, because it misunderstands the perspective both of language and of history, each of which inevitably involves a second-order approach to what actually took place and therefore are subject to a critical hermeneutical process. As to Josephus' writings, this means that "there is a fixed chasm between artful portraits of Pilate (e.g.) and the specific questions we might have about his reign" (40).

Broshi (1982) likewise agrees that much of Josephus' works are incorrect, but he also says there are some points that are accurate. Much of the data in Josephus's War can be proved correct, not because of observation or memory. For example, geographical data can be checked, and Josephus appears to be right on the mark. Josephus says that Jerusalem was 150 stadia, or 30 km, from Jericho and Jericho 60 stadia, 12 km, from Jordan. Josephus also said that Jerusalem and Herodium were about 12 km from each other, and Jerusalem to Gibeon. All these figures are quite accurate. In addition, sometimes his population figures were right. His information that Simon son of Giora headed 10,000 warriors and 5,000 Idumeans and that John of Gischala led 6,000 thousand warriors is accurate. On the other hand, Josephus' tendency to exaggerate population figures is well-known. Even he realized that his numbers may be off: In the census carried out under Cestius celebrants at the Passover sacrifices, he writes that there were over 2,700,000. Most likely, the source of much of Josephus's accurate data was the Roman imperial commentaries, the hupomnemata, especially mentioned by him several times in his later works. The point, according to these authors, is that Josephus cannot be read literally, since some of the information is correct and others incorrect. Feldman (1988) adds, "The picture that emerges is that Josephus is very uneven. Generally he is reliable in his geographical descriptions, but his figures as to populations are apparently unreliable" (45).

One prime example of the difference in depiction between Josephus and other historical events is Masada. Today, Masada continues to be a symbol of the Jewish people's perseverance. Soldiers take the oath in Israel: "Masada shall not fall again." Josephus explains that following Rome's destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in A.D. 70, the Great Jewish Revolt ended for all but the remaining patriots, who fled Jerusalem to the Masada fortress near the Dead Sea. It was located on a high, steep hill, had thick walls and many towers for defense. For three years, the Roman troops attempted to take over the fortress. The Jews had most likely thought that the Romans would give up, but this was not to be. The Romans knew very well that the Zealots at Masada were made up of those Jews who had initiated the Great Revolt. Actually, these patriots had been fighting against Rome for several decades. Rome was not going to give up and let Masada grow its strength and once again and start another war. When the Jews realized that the Roman's battering rams and catapults would eventually breach the Masada's walls, the Zealots' leader, Elazar ben Yair, made the decision that all the Jews there would commit suicide, which was very much against the Jewish law. The alternative was to…[continue]

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