Meet Josephus -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 07:1 (Winter 1978)
Article: Meet Josephus
Author: Anonymous


Meet Josephus

We frequently mention the Jewish historian Josephus in the pages of Bible and Spade. So that you will get to know him a little better, here is a short biography of Josephus.

Born Joseph ben Matthias, he is called Flavius Josephus, the Flavius a later embellishment, taken in deference to his patron and savior, the emperor Vespasian, whose family name it was.

Josephus was born, probably in Jerusalem, in the first year of Caligula (A.D. 37-38). Through his father he was descended from a noble family of priestly Jews and through his mother from the Hasmonean high priest Jonathan. By the time he was 19 he had studied the three principal Jewish sects — Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes — and had spent three years in the desert with the ascetic Bannus. On his return to the city he opted for the Pharisaic way of life.

He was a precocious manipulator, having travelled to Rome at age 26 to intercede for some priestly friends of his and won his suit by currying favor with Nero’s wife Poppaea. After his return from Rome, on the basis of actual experience, he could argue more realistically about Roman power against the views of the revolutionary zealots. In the end he was carried along in the general enthusiasm and joined the great rebellion of 66 as general of the Jewish forces in Galilee. John of Gischala, however, later to become a hero of the resistance, denounced Josephus and his law-and-order regime as traitorous and incited the Galileans to kill him.

This unhealthy state of affairs became unhealthier when the troops Josephus had so sedulously trained fled before the Roman armies of Vespasian and his son Titus, and no reserves were forthcoming from Jerusalem. Josephus and forty followers commandeered a stronghold, fled, when it was taken, to a secret hiding place, and made a pact not to allow themselves to fall into the hands of the Romans. They drew lots to establish the order in which they were to die, each at the hands of his comrade. Josephus, who drew the last lot, persuaded the next to last to surrender with him for survival’s sake, the others all having been killed according to plan. When they were brought to Vespasian, Josephus was suddenly

inspired to announce that Vespasian would become emperor. By this stroke he himself became a prisoner instead of a corpse.

Two years later, upon fulfillment of his prophecy, he was freed, adopted the name of Flavius, and went with Vespasian to Alexandria. He returned to intercede with the Jews who still held Jerusalem to surrender to Titus, but they refused. He watched while the city was stormed by the Roman legions. Titus nevertheless was grateful for his efforts and allowed h...

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