E-Sustainability-The Amazing and True Story of Flavius Josephus. (Information Trends)

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He was born Joseph Ben Matthathias in Jerusalem, in 37 CE. He received the traditional education and intense religious training that was expected for a boy in a devout Jewish family, yet his life could not have taken more unexpected turns. Throughout his life, Josephus, as he was later known, assumed many roles: priest, soldier, commander, prophet, historian, and scholar. Critics, both in his time and since, have labeled him a traitor, liar, and con man. One thing is certain: He was born during interesting times, and his prolific accounts of his life and times provide us with some of our best sources of knowledge, sometimes our only source, for that period of history. His writings were the definitive primary content.

Josephus was born during the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, when Caligula was the emperor of Rome. We know from his writing that Josephus was an extremely intelligent scholar. General dissatisfaction with the Roman occupation of Jerusalem grew stronger throughout Josephus' youth and young adulthood. When some priests he knew were sent in chains to Rome in 64 CE, Josephus decided to follow them and plead with the emperor, Nero, for their release. His powers of persuasion won favor with the emperor's consort, and she supported his cause. His mission was a success; but Josephus was dazzled by the life he saw in Rome and came away convinced that the Jewish revolt against Rome was misguided.

Events conspired against this belief. Unrest in Jerusalem grew, and Josephus found himself commander-in-chief of Galilee. His military career ended in the summer of 67 CE when the Romans took the rebel stronghold in Jotopata. Josephus and his troops had defended the fort known as Masada against all odds, but in the end they were defeated, suffering from exhaustion and lack of food and water. Josephus, realizing that the situation was hopeless, claims to have counseled his men against rash action. Nevertheless, most of the men were prepared to be killed or kill themselves rather than surrender to the Romans, so the siege of Jotopata was a bloodbath.

Amazingly, Josephus survived the attack. He hid in an empty cistern and, once discovered, persuaded his captors that he had a vital prophecy for the Roman general Vespasian. Josephus claimed that he foresaw that both Vespasian and his son, Titus, would be emperor. Vespasian decided to keep Josephus around, in case he did have the power to foretell the future. In 69 CE, Vespasian did indeed become emperor.

Josephus was kept as a hostage until the end of the war, so he was an eyewitness to the destruction and chaos. It must have been a trying time for Josephus. On the one hand, he was alive; on the other hand, he had to watch the decimation of his people. Many people in Jerusalem thought Josephus was a turncoat and totally unscrupulous. Perhaps the many volumes of history he subsequently produced stemmed from a need to explain himself and justify his actions.

After the war, Josephus was taken to Rome, freed, and granted Roman citizenship. He was even provided with an income and a place to live on Vespasian's estates. He latinized his name to Josephus and adopted Vespasian's family name, Flavius, and began his career as a historian.

The first of Josephus' works was The Jewish War, his eyewitness account of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in Jerusalem. Josephus originally wrote in Aramaic, partly so that Syrian Jews could read the account and be warned against similar revolts. As a court-supported Roman citizen, he defended the position of the Roman emperors. A lot of Josephus' work was conflicted in this way. Later his work was translated into Greek.

Josephus also wrote a 20-volume history of the Jews, called Jewish Antiquities. It was modeled on the most valuable book of his time, Roman Antiquities, and based on research of Hebrew scripture, other Jewish writing, and Greek and Roman historians. …