Louis H. Feldman
PERIOD OF RESTORATION
Amazingly little is known about the period of two centuries from the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity to Alexander; and since Josephus is the only systematic source covering this period, even if briefly, he is particularly important. Hence, it is not surprising that Cross draws heavily upon him in reconstructing these years.1 Grabbe2 very appositely asks whether Josephus had information for the Persian period beyond what is available in the biblical text and in 1 Esdras, and if so what was the nature of this information and how much historical reliance can be placed upon it.
As is well known, Josephus (Ant. 1.17) promises his readers that he will throughout his work set forth the precise details of the Scriptures, each in its place, neither adding nor omitting anything . And yet, in point of fact, Josephus has added to, subtracted from, and modified the biblical account in numerous places, though admittedly these changes are, on the whole, relatively minor.3 In the case of the Persian period, however, these changes are not so minor. Thus, whereas Ezra 4:7–23 (1 Esdr 2:16–30) says that it is to King Artaxerxes that his officials write that the returning Jews are rebellious in rebuilding their city, Josephus (Ant. 11.184), realizing that Artaxerxes, whom he identifies with Ahasuerus of the Esther narrative, lived long after these events, quietly corrects the name to Cambyses, who, indeed, succeeded Cyrus. As to the time of Ezra, whom Ezra 7:1 and 1 Esdr 8:1 date in the reign of Artaxerxes,
1 Frank M. Cross, “A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration,” JBL 94
2 Lester L. Grabbe, “Josephus and the Reconstruction of the Judean
Restoration,” JBL 106(1987) 231–46.
3 See my discussion of this promise in my Josephus's Interpretation of the
Bible (Berkeley: University of California. 37–46.