Josephus and the Jews: The Religion and History of the Jews as Explained by Flavius Josephus

By F. J. Foakes-Jackson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE LIFE OF JOSEPHUS

Four works by Josephus. -- Josephus has left four separate works which posterity has preserved. The two earlier are major efforts, the 'War of the Jews' and the 'Antiquities.' At the end of his life he produced two minor treatises, an autobiography, known as his 'Life,' and two books in defence of Judaism, popularly designated 'Against Apion.'1

The 'Life' and 'Against Apion' compared. -- Dr. St. John Thackeray in his excellent edition and translation of our author, which is appearing in the Loeb series, has done wisely in devoting his first volume to the 'Life' and 'Against Apion,' because they are the best introduction to a proper understanding of Josephus. His judgment of the relative merits of these pamphlets -- for they are little more -- is sound, though open to criticism in one respect.

'The two treatises,' says Dr. Thackeray, 'form a strange contrast; we see our author at his worst and at his best. . . . In style, arrangement and treatment they are so different that one would hardly suppose them to be contemporary productions from the same pen.'2

This is a perfectly just estimate of the relative merits of the 'Life' and the books 'Against Apion.' The 'Life'

____________________
1
Strictly speaking, only the second book should bear this title. Book I. consists of a proof of the antiquity of the Jewish nation.
2
Loeb Classical Library, Josephus, vol. i, p. xiii. Dr. Thackeray points out that Richard Laqueur in his Der jüdische Historiker Flavius Josephus ( Giessen, 1920) has developed a theory that the main part of the Life was anterior to the composition of the Greek edition of the War.

-3-

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