Autobiography of Josephus

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Was it because of, or despite, the role of his writings within sacred history, as well as within the classical tradition, and how did early modern authors and readers respond to his status as a Jew? These are some of the questions discussed in the following essays, which are drawn from a seminar held in Oxford in under the auspices of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Josephus was a Jewish priest from Judaea who participated in the Jewish revolt against Rome which culminated in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the emperor Titus in 70 CE. Of his extant literary works, all of which survive only in Greek and translations from the Greek, the first was an account in seven books of the revolt and its aftermath, of which at least the first six books were composed, probably in Rome and primarily for Roman readers, within a decade of the end of the war.

In comparison to most other classical historians, Josephus provided an unusual amount of information about himself, not least in the Vita. Translations and paraphrases of his works into Latin circulated among Christians in late antiquity, as did renderings, in whole or in part, into Syriac and Old Slavonic in the early Middle Ages.

The Bellum Judaicum provided graphic evidence of the destruction of the Temple which Jesus had foretold Matt. Contra Apionem was copied in the medieval manuscripts of Josephus, but apparently little studied.

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This somewhat garbled version of Jewish history from the creation to Masada became a bestseller among Jewish readers, who used it as a guide through the years of the Second Temple period, which were badly charted in the rabbinic tradition on which they otherwise relied. But just as Josephus seems to address different readerships in his works, so, too, his works inspired a variety of readers.

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Life of Josephus: The Autobiography of Flavius Josephus

As an eye-witness to the downfall of Jerusalem and the massive slaughter that followed, Josephus fascinated, horrified and sometimes angered Christian readers of many different kinds. When the Latin Contra Apionem began to attract attention in the fifteenth century, his arguments about the history of the ancient nations, and his description and use of ancient Near Eastern writers who were credible because they were official notaries, brought to the fore questions of historical fides.

Indeed, Villalpando was convinced that a set of original designs drawn by the hand of God was somewhere to be found. According to Villalpando, all classical architecture derived from Jewish models, as did the Vitruvian rules for the orders. In ad 66 the Jews of Judaea, urged on by the fanatical Zealots , ousted the Roman procurator and set up a revolutionary government in Jerusalem. Along with many others of the priestly class, Josephus counselled compromise but was drawn reluctantly into the rebellion.

Despite his moderate stance, he was appointed military commander of Galilee , where if his own untrustworthy account may be believed he was obstructed in his efforts at conciliation by the enmity of the local partisans led by John of Giscala. Though realizing the futility of armed resistance, he nevertheless set about fortifying the towns of the north against the forthcoming Roman juggernaut.

The Romans, under the command of the future emperor Vespasian , arrived in Galilee in the spring of ad 67 and quickly broke the Jewish resistance in the north. Josephus managed to hold the fortress of Jotapata for 47 days, but after the fall of the city he took refuge with 40 diehards in a nearby cave. Josephus, arguing the immorality of suicide , proposed that each man, in turn, should dispatch his neighbour, the order to be determined by casting lots.

Josephus: The Life of Flavius Josephus

Josephus contrived to draw the last lot, and, as one of the two surviving men in the cave, he prevailed upon his intended victim to surrender to the Romans. Led in chains before Vespasian, Josephus assumed the role of a prophet and foretold that Vespasian would soon be emperor—a prediction that gained in credibility after the death of Nero in ad The stratagem saved his life, and for the next two years he remained a prisoner in the Roman camp. From that time on, Josephus attached himself to the Roman cause.

He attempted to act as mediator between the Romans and the rebels, but, hated by the Jews for his apostasy and distrusted by the Romans as a Jew , he was able to accomplish little. Following the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, Josephus took up residence in Rome, where he devoted the remainder of his life to literary pursuits under imperial patronage.

After briefly sketching Jewish history from the mid-2nd century bc , Josephus presents a detailed account of the great revolt of ad 66— He stressed the invincibility of the Roman legions, and apparently one of his purposes in the works was to convince the Diasporan Jews in Mesopotamia, who may have been contemplating revolt, that resistance to Roman arms was pure folly.


  • Josephus Daniels (1862 – 1948).
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In this work, Josephus is extremely hostile to the Jewish patriots and remarkably callous to their fate. The Jewish War not only is the principal source for the Jewish revolt but is especially valuable for its description of Roman military tactics and strategy. In Rome, Josephus had been granted citizenship and a pension. He was a favourite at the courts of the emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian , and he enjoyed the income from a tax-free estate in Judaea. He had divorced his third wife, married an aristocratic heiress from Crete , and given Roman names to his children. He had written an official history of the revolt and was loathed by the Jews as a turncoat and traitor.

Yet despite all of this, Josephus had by no means abandoned his Judaism. Cabinet officers--United States--Historyth century. Daniels family. Daniels, Addie Worth Bagley, Daniels, Jonathan, Daniels, Josephus, Diplomatic and consular service, American--Historyth century.

Journalists--North Carolina--History. Mexico--Description and travel. News and Observer Newspaper : Raleigh, N. Page, Walter Hines, Roosevelt, Franklin D. Franklin Delano , Seabrook family. United States. Navy Dept. Watterson, Henry, Wilson, Woodrow, World War, Naval operations. Josephus Daniels Papers, Library of Congress. Charles C.

Josephus, Flavius

General Corespondence, Selected Correspondence, Autobiographical Writings and Related Materials. Other Writings. Diaries and Diary Notes, Other Materials. Addition of April Acc. Addition of September Acc.

About 1, items. About items. Josephus Daniels was the owner and editor of the Raleigh News and Observer ; secretary of the Navy in the administration of Woodrow Wilson, ; and U.

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