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Flavius Josephus

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Josephus - From William Whiston's translation of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.

Josephus - From William Whiston's translation of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.

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Definition:

Given Name: Yosef ben Matthityahu
Historical Name: Flavius Josephus
Dates: c. A.D. 37- c. 100
Family Home: Jerusalem
Occupation: Historian, Prophet, General

Flavius Josephus was a first century Jewish priest, prophet, military commander, and historian whose writing includes a History of the Jewish War or Bellum Judaicum (75-79) and Antiquities of the Jews or Antiquitates Judaicae (93). The latter includes references to a man named Jesus and includes an autobiographical section known as Josephus' Vita. There are discrepancies in the perspectives of Bellum and Antiquitates and other noted biases, but the Antiquitates Judaicae presents a unique perspective on a subject people of the Romans, earning it the label "the most significant work written in the Roman Empire," according to some [Source: Fergus Millar (via John Curran)]. The surviving Jewish Wars was written in Greek before Vespasian's death in the late 70s, but an earlier version was written in Josephus' ancestral language, which may have been Aramaic, according to "The Presentation of Titus in the "Jewish War" of Josephus: Two Aspects," by G. M. Paul; Phoenix, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 56-66.

Josephus son of Matthias was born to an aristocratic priestly family in Jerusalem who joined the Pharisees. In A.D. 64 Josephus was sent to Rome to try to bring back Jewish priests held as prisoners. There he met Nero's wife, Poppaea Sabina.

In the Jewish revolt of A.D. 66, Josephus was appointed military commander of Galilee (50 miles north of Jerusalem). Josephus held the fortress at Jotapata (10 miles from Nazareth) for 47 days when the future Flavian emperor Vespasian attacked. Unlike many of the Jews at Jotapata, Josephus did not commit suicide. Instead, he allowed himself to be taken prisoner and brought in chains before the general. This led to suspicion about him from both Jews and Romans. Then Josephus predicted Vespasian and his son Titus would become emperor. When his first prophecy came true, Vespasian released Josephus who then attached himself to Vespasian's family and took the family name Flavius.

In A.D. 70, under Titus, Josephus attempted to intercede between the Jews of Jerusalem and the Romans, but the Jews distrusted him for his apostasy and he did no good. Following the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, Josephus returned to Rome. His dates are not known but are thought to have been approximately A.D. 37-100.

Occupation: Historian

Examples:
Flavius Josephus is considered the best non-Christian near-contemporary source on Jesus.

References:

  • "Some Reflections on the Romans in Judaea," by John Curran; Greece & Rome; April 2005, pp. 70-98.
  • "Chapter 14d - Judaea," The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by Edited by Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott.

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