Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian

Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian

Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian

Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian

Excerpt

Non est digna haec Iosephi vita
cui multum operae tribuas.—

S. A. Naber, Mnemosyne n.s 13
(1885) 389.

In 66 CE a war was begun, in 70 a temple was destroyed, and soon explanations were needed. Why did the Jews rebel? Why did the Romans destroy the temple in Jerusalem? Who were these Jews, the cause of so much trouble, and what was their history? Josephus, a Palestinian Jew then residing in Rome, attempted to answer these questions. First was his Bellum Judaicum, a detailed account of the war preceded by a fairly long survey of the history of the Jews in Palestine from the Maccabees until the outbreak of the war. Less than twenty years later he completed his Antiquitates Judaicae, a study of Jewish history from the creation to 66 CE. These two works are now our most important sources for the political history of the Jews in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Before arriving in Rome and embarking on this double career as historian and apologist, Josephus had been a leader of the rebels in Galilee during the war. How did Josephus in Rome explain the actions of Josephus in Galilee? Why did he fight the Romans? Was he any different from the nefarious tyrants who, in his opinion, were responsible for causing the destruction of the temple? Both of Josephus' large works deal with these issues. In BJ Josephus' career is treated as a part—a large and significant part, true, but only a part—of the war effort, while in the Vita, an appendix to AJ, it is the dominant concern. Our main problem is that the two accounts do not agree. Why did Josephus change his story from the first version to the second? What is the relationship of these accounts to each other? After we have studied these questions and have analyzed the apologetic aims of each work, we can attempt to reconstruct the history of Josephus' participation in the war.

This problem has been discussed since the nineteenth century but no consensus has yet been reached, in part because almost all previous studies suffered from a lack of perspective. They treated the V//BJ problem in isolation, as if it were not related to the . . .

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