Josephus, Flavius, the celebrated Jewish historian, was born at Jerusalem A.D. 37. His father's name was Mattathias, and in his autobiography (the only source left us to write his history, as the works of his rival, Justus of Tiberias, are unhappily lost) he lays claim to royal and sacerdotal lineage, and alludes to the renown he enjoyed while yet a youth (Life, 1, 1). His early years seem to have been spent in close study of the Jewish traditions and the O.T. writings. Dissatisfied with all of the three principal Jewish sects, while yet a young man he spent three years as the follower of one Banus, an eremite, in the desert, but at last joined the sect of the Pharisees. He was only 19 when he left Banus, and he joined the Pharisees between 19 and 26, when he went to Rome. Soon afterwards, the imprisonment of some Jewish priests by the procurator Felix afforded him an opportunity of pleading his people's cause before the emperor himself at the Roman capital, whither these men had been sent. On the way he was shipwrecked (some have unwarrantably imagined that he was Paul's companion in that disastrous voyage), but, being rescued by a Cyrenian vessel, he made his way to Rome. He there not only secured the object of his mission, but also ingratiated himself in the favor of the empress, and at length returned home loaded with presents. He found the mass of his countrymen determined oh a revolt from the empire, and he anxiously sought to dissuade them from so rash a course. The Jews, however, refused to listen to his advice; and the only alternatives for him were either to follow the popular will, and thus perhaps make himself the leader of his people, or to return to Rome, and there receive the rewards of treachery. In his description of the Jewish insurrection he has given us a graphic account of the numerous plots and perils in which he became entangled during this period of his life. After the disastrous retreat of Cestius Gallus from Jerusalem. and the barbarous massacre of the Jews at Sepphoris (q.v.) and the Syrian cities, the most peacefully inclined of the Jews joined the zealots, and Josephus no longer hesitated as to the best course to be pursued. With great ostentation of patriotism and self devotion, he declared in favor of war '"a outrance," and he soon secured for himself the appointment as general. Together with Joazar and Judas he was sent to Galilee, "the province on which the storm would first break." His two colleagues, however, devoted themselves to their priestly functions, and Josephus became the sole commander (Life, 4- 7; War, 2, 20, 4). Finding the Galilean Jews divided among themselves, SEE JOHN OF GISCHALA, and fearing that his command was too weak to meet the army of the approaching Vespasian, he retired to the Jewish stronghold Jotapata, and there awaited the attack of the Romans. For forty-seven days. he encouraged his soldiers to deeds that immortalized his name. (For an interesting description of this siege, see Weber and Holtzmann, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, 2, 475 sq.; Milman, Hist. of the Jews
[Middleton's edition], 2, 252 sq.) Yet some writers, among them Raphall and Grätz, accuse him even here of treachery and cowardice, alleging that he endeavored to get away from Jotapata on the pretence of desiring to raise an army for its relief, although he could not have left "without either falling into the hands of the Romans or voluntarily joining them." Even after the fall of that fortress he did not surrender to the Romans, but hid himself with forty companions in a cave, and refused to come forth, when his place of refuge was betrayed, until his life was guaranteed him. (See Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. 2, 611, col. 1; Raphall, Post-Bibl. Hist. Jews, p. 427 sq.) After his surrender to Vespasian he was put in chains, with a view to being sent to Rome for trial before Nero. He evaded this danger by predicting (he distinctly claims the gift of prophecy, War, 3, 8, 9) to Vespasian his future elevation to the imperial throne, but was still held in confinement for three years, until, on the realization of his prediction, his chains were cut from him, as a sign that he had been unjustly bound (War, 4, 10, 7). Vespasian had been declared emperor by the Roman soldiers in the East, and he immediately set out for the West, leaving Titus in command, with orders to hasten the conclusion of the war still raging in Palestine. In this expedition on Jerusalem Josephus accompanied Titus. Titus had supposed this task, with the assistance of the "renegade" (so Milman calls him), an easy one; but the Jews braved the attack of the Romans much more obstinately than the latter had expected, and, finally, Josephus was induced to go forth and urge his countrymen to capitulate, and thus to save the place from certain and total destruction. The people, by his account. were touched and ready to yield, but the leaders remained obstinate; but the fact is that they were naturally disinclined to listen to the counsels of a man who had quitted them in the hour of their greatest need. They even sought to kill him, and continued the defense to the last extremity. On the downfall of the city, the most intimate friends and relatives. of Josephus were spared at his request, and, in return for his aid and counsel in the siege, a valuable estate in Judaea was assigned him as a residence. Well aware, however, that among his countrymen he would hardly find a safe refuge, he returned with Titus to Rome to enjoy the honors which Vespasian might bestow upon him. He was received with great kindness by the emperor; but, although the privileges of Roman citizenship were conferred upon him and an annual pension awarded him, he was detested by the Romans no less than by the Jews. It is supposed that his death occurred in the early years of Trajan's reign, perhaps A.D. 103. For other facts of a more directly personal character, such as his three marriages, the names of his sons, etc., see the seventy-six chapters of his life, and the following other passages of his other works: Apion, 1, 9, 10; War, 1; 2, 20, 3 sq.; 21, 2 sq.; 3, 7, 13 sq.; 8, 1 sq.; 9; 6:5; Ant. ed. Havercamp, 1, 5, 228, 536, 545, 682, 982; Suidas, s.v. Ι᾿ώσηπος.
The character of Josephus has been very differently delineated by different writers. From his own works, especially his books against Apion, i t is evident that, though he dealt rather treacherously with his people, he yet felt a pride in the antiquity of the nation and in its ancient glories; and in the description of the misfortunes of the Jews he is by no means wanting in sympathy for them. Thus his account of the miserable fate of Jerusalem is altogether free from that tone of revolting coldness which shocks us in Xenophon's account of the downfall of Athens (Hell. 2, 2, § 3 sq.). Yet the mildest interpretation that his conduct can receive certainly is that he despaired (as earnest patriots never do) of his country, and that he deserted his countrymen in their greatest extremity. Indeed, from the very beginning, he appears to have looked on the national cause as hopeless, and to have cherished the intention of making peace with Rome whenever he could. Thus he told some of the chief men of Tiberias that he was well aware of the invincibility of the Romans, though he thought it safer to dissemble his conviction; and he advised them to do the same, and to wait for a convenient season — περιμένουσι καιρόν (Life, 35; compare War, 3, 5); and we find him again, in his attack on Justus the historian (Life, 65), earnestly defending himself from the charge of having in any way caused the war with Rome. Had this feeling originated in a religious conviction that the Jewish nation had forfeited God's favor, the case, of course, would have been different; but such a spirit of living, practical faith we do not discover in Josephus. Holding in the main the abstract doctrines of a Pharisee, but with the principles and temper of a Herodian, he strove to accommodate his religion to heathen tastes and prejudices; and this by actual commissions (Ottius, Proetermissa a Josepho, appended to his Spicilegium), no less than by a rationalistic system of modification (Smith, Dict. Greek and Rom. Biog. 2, 612). A more favorable opinion is sometimes expressed of Josephus, as by a writer in the Evangelical Quart. Review, 1870, p. 420. Prof. F.W. Farrat (in Kitto, Cyclop. Bibl. Literature, s.v.) has perhaps best summed up the religious character of Josephus as that of "a strange mixture of the bigoted Pharisee and the time serving Herodian," and as "mingling the national pride of the patriot with the apostasy of a traitor." Very different is the opinion of all on the writings of Josephus. Even in his day he was greatly lauded for his literary abilities. Though a Jew by birth, he had so ably acquired the Greek that he could be counted among the classic writers in that language. St. Jerome designates him as the "Graecus Livius" (Epist. sad Eustach.); and, to come nearer our own days, Niebuhr. pronounces him a Greek writer of singular purity (Anc. Hist. 3, 455). But, withal, he is hardly deserving of the epithet. φιλαλήθης, so often bestowed on him (Suid. s.v. Ι᾿ώσηπος; Isidor Pelusiot. 4, Ep. 75: "diligentissimus et φιλαληθέστατος," Jos. Scaliger, De Emend, Temp. Proef., etc.). It is true, he understood the duty and importance of veracity in the historian (Ant. 14, 1, 1; War, 1, 1; c. Apion, 1, 19); nevertheless, "he is," says Niebuhr (Lect. Rom. Hist. 1. c.), "often untrue, and his archaeology abounds in distortions of historical facts, and in falsifications which arise from his inordinate national pride; and wherever he deals in numbers, he shows his Oriental love of exaggeration" (this charge is, in a measure, refuted, however, in Stud. u. Krit. 1853, p. 48). But, even though Josephus may not in all things be implicitly relied upon, his writings are to the theologian especially invaluable, and we may well say, with Casaubon and Farrar, that it is by a singular providence that his works, which throw such a flood of light on Jewish affairs, have been preserved to us. They are of immense service in the entire Biblical department, as may be seen from the frequent references that have been made to his writings throughout this Cyclopaedia, in the elucidation of the history, geography, and archaeology of Scripture. Yet by this it must by no means be inferred that we detract in the least from our former statement, that Josephus was not a man who believed in the inspiration of the Biblical writings. "In spite of his constant assertions (Ant. 10, 11)," says Farrar (in Kitto), "he can have had no real respect for the writings which he so largely illustrates. If he had felt, as a Jew, any deep or religious appreciation of the O.T. history, which he professes to follow (οὐδὲν προθεὶς οὐθ αυ παραλιπών, Ant. 1, procem.), he would not have tampered with it as he does, mixing it with pseudo-philosophical fancies (Apion, 1, 10), with groundless Jewish Hagadcoth or traditions (such as the three years' war of Moses with the Ethiopians, the love of Tharbis for him, etc. Ant. 2, 10, 2), and with quotations from heathen writers of very doubtful authority (Ant. 8, 5, 3, etc.; see Van Dale, De Aristea, p. 211). The worst charge, however, against him is his constant attempt, by alterations and suppressions (and especially by a rationalistic method of dealing with miracles, which contrasts strangely with his credulous fancies), to make Jewish history palatable to Greeks and Romans, to such an extent that J. Ludolfus calls him 'fabulator saepius quam historicus' (Hist. Ethiop. p. 230). Thus he omits all the most important Messianic prophecies; he manipulates the book of Daniel in a most unsatisfactory manner (Ant. 9, 11); he speaks in a very loose way about Moses and Abraham (Ant. 1, 8, 1; Apion, 2, 15); and, though he can swallow the romance of the pseudo-Aristeas, he rationalizes the account of the Exodus and Jonah's whale (Ant. 2, 16, 5; 9, 10, 2)." On the whole subject of his credibility as a writer, his omissions, his variations, and his panderings to Gentile taste, comp. J.A. Fabricius, De Joseph. et ejus Scriptu, in Hudson's ed.; Van Dale, De Aistecd, 10, 11; De Idololatria, 7; Brinch, Examen list. Flav. Josephi, in Havercamp, 2, 309 sq.; Ottius, Spicilegium ex Josepho; Ittigius, Prolegomena; Usher, Epist. ad Lud. Cappelluin, p. 42; Whiston's Dissertations, etc.
Of still greater interest, perhaps to our readers must be the relation which Josephus, living as he did in the age of Christ himself, sustained towards Christianity. Some have gone so far as to assert not only the authenticity of passages in his writings alluding to Christ, etc. (see below), but have even made out of Josephus an Ebionite Christian (Whiston, Dissert. 1). if not a true follower of Jesus the Christ. Prof. Farrar (in Kitto), speaking on this point, says: "Nothing is more certain than that Josephus was no Christian (ἀπιστῶν τῷ Ιησοῦ ὡς Χριστιῷ, Orig. c. Cels. 1, 35); the whole tone of his mind was alien from the noble simplicity of Christian belief, and, as we have seen already, he was not even a good Jew. Whatever, therefore, may be thought about the passages alluding to John the Baptist (Ant. 18, 5, 2), and James, the Lord's brother (ibid. 20, 9, 1), which may possibly be genuine, there can be no reasonable doubt that the famous allusion to Christ (Ant. 18, 3, 3) is either absolutely spurious or largely interpolated. The silence [partial or total] of Josephus on a subject of such importance, and with which he must have been so thoroughly acquainted, is easily explicable; and it is intrinsically much more probable that he should have passed over the subject altogether (as is done also by his contemporary, Justus of Tiberias, Phot. Cod. Bibl. 33) than that he should only have devoted to it a few utterly inadequate lines. Even if he had been induced to do this by some vague hope of getting something by it from Christians like Flavius Clemens, he certainly would not have expressed himself in language so strong (ειγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή), and still less would he have vouched for the Messiahship, the miracles, or the resurrection of Jesus. Justin, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Origen, and even Photius, knew nothing of the passage, nor does it appear till the time of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 1, 2, Den. Evang. 3, 5), a man for whom Niebuhr can find no better name than 'a detestable falsifier,' and one whose historical credibility is well nigh given up. Whether Eusebius forged it himself or borrowed it from the marginalia of some Christian reader cannot be determined, but that Josephus did not write it [at least in its present form] may be regarded as settled. Nay, the very next sentence (Ant. 17, 3, 4) is a disgusting story, wholly irrelevant to the tenor of the narrative, and introduced in all probability for the sole purpose of a blasphemous parody on the miraculous conception, such as was attempted by various Rabbinical writers (e.g. in the Sepher Toledoth Jeshua; see Wagenseil, Tela Ignea Satanoe; SEE JESUS CHRIST ). That Josephus intended obliquely to discredit some of the chief Christian doctrines by representing them as having been anticipated by the Essenes seems by no means improbable (comp. De Quincey's Works, vol. 9, The Essenes)." For a compendium of the abundant literature on these questions, see Gieseler, Eccl. Hist. sec. 34. The chief treatises are, Daubuz, Pro testimonio Fl. Jos. de Jesu Christ (London, 1706); reprinted in Havercamp; Bohmert, Ueber des Fl. Jos. Zeugniss von Christo (Lpz. 1823); Le Moyne, Var. Sacr. 2, 931 Heinichen, Excurs. 1, ad Euseb. H.E. 3, 331; comp. also Langen, Judenthum in Palastina (Freib. 1866), p. 440 sq.; Stud. u. Krit. 1856, 840 sq.
It remains for us only to add a list of the works of Josephus (here we mainly follow Smith [Dict. Gr. and Rom. Biog. s.v.]), which are,
1. A History of the Jewish War, (περὶ τοῦ Ι᾿ουδαϊκοῦ πολέμου ἣ Ιουδαικῆςἱστορίας περί ἁλώσεως), in seven books. Josephus tells us that he wrote it first in his own language (the Syro-Chaldee), and then translated it into Greek, for the information of European readers (War, 1, 1). The original is no longer extant. The Greek was published about A.D. 75, under the patronage and with the especial recommendation of Titus. Agrippa II, also, in no fewer than sixty-two letters to Josephus, bore testimony to the care and fidelity displayed in it. It was admitted into the Palatine library, and its author was honored with a statue at Rome. It commences with the capture of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, B.C. 170; runs rapidly over the events before Josephus's own time, and gives a detailed account of the fatal war with Rome (Josephus, Life, p. 65;
Eusebius. Hist. Eccles. 3, 9; Jerome, Catal. Script. Eccl. p. 13; Ittigius, Prolegomena; Fabricius, Bibl. Groec. 5, 4; Vossius, De Hist. Groec. p. 239, ed. Westermann): —
2. Jewish Antiquities (Ι᾿ουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία), in twenty books, completed about A.D. 93, and addressed to Epaphroditus. The title, as well as the number of books, may have been suggested by the ῾Ρωμαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The work extends from the creation of the world to A.D. 66, the 12th year of Nero, in which the Jews were goaded to rebellion by Gessius Florus. It embraces, therefore, but more in detail, much of the matter of the first and second books on the Jewish War. Both these histories are said to have been translated into Hebrew, of which version, however,. there are no traces, though some have erroneously identified it with the works of the PseudoJosephus. SEE JOSEPH BEN-GORION: —
3. His Life, in one book. This is an autobiography appended to the Antiquities, and is addressed to the same Epaphroditus. It cannot, however, have been written earlier than A.D. 97, since Agrippa II is mentioned in it as no longer living (65): —
4. Κατὰ Α᾿πίωνος (a treatise against Apion), in two books, also addressed to Epaphroditus. It is in answer to such as impugned the antiquity of the Jewish nation on the ground of the silence of Greek writers respecting it. The title, "against Apion," is rather a misnomer, and is applicable only to a portion of the second book (1-13). It exhibits considerable learning, and is highly commended by Jerome. The Greek text is deficient at 2:5-9: —
5. The Fourth of Maccabees (εἰς Μακκαβαίους, ἣ περὶ αὐτοκράτορος λογισμοῦ), in one book. The genuineness of this treatise has been called in question by many (see Cave, Hist. Lit. Script. Eccles. p. 22), but it is attributed to Josephus by Eusebius, Jerome, Philostorgius, and others (see Fabricius, Bibl. Groec. 5, 7; Ittigius, Prolegomena). Certainly, however, it does not read like his works. It is an extremely declamatory account of the martyrdom of Eleazar (an aged priest), and of seven youths and their mother, in the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes; and this is prefaced by a discussion on the supremacy which reason possesses de jure over pleasure and pain. Its title has reference to the zeal for God's law displayed by the sufferers in the spirit of the Maccabees. There is a paraphrase of it by Erasmus, and in some Greek copies of the Bible it was inserted as the fourth book of the Maccabees (Fabricius, 1. c.). There are, besides these, also attributed to him: —
6. The treatise Περὶ τοῦ παντός, which was certainly not written by Josephus. For an account of it, see Photius, Cod. 48; Fabricius, Bibl. Grec. 5, 8; Ittigius, Prolegomena, ad fin.
7. Jerome (Proef. ad Lib. 11 Comm. ad Esaiam) speaks of a work of one Josephus on Daniel's vision of the seventy weeks, but he probably refers to some other Josephus: —
8. At the end of his Antiquities Josephus mentions his intention of writing a work in four books on the Jewish notions of God and his essence, and on the rationale of the Mosaic laws. but this task he never accomplished. At any rate, the works have not come down to us. (See Whistolo's note, Ant. ad fin.; Fabricius, Bibl. Grec. 5, 9.)
The writings of Josephus first appeared in print in a Latin translation, with no notice of the place or date of publication: the edition seems to have contained only a portion of the Antiquities. These, with the seven books of the Jewish War, were reprinted by Schusler (Augsb. 1470) in Latin; and there were many editions in the same language of the whole works, and of portions of them, before the editio princeps of the Greek text appeared at Basel, 1544, edited by Arlenius. Since then the works of Josephus have frequently been printed, both in the Greek and in many other languages. One of the most valuable editions is that by Hudson (Oxf. 1720, 2 vols. fol.). The text is founded on a most careful and extensive collation of MSS., and the edition is further enriched by notes and indices. The principal English versions are those of Lodge (Lond. 1602); one from the French of D'Andilly (Oxford, 1676, reprinted at London, 1683); that of L'Estrange (Lond. 1702), and that of Whiston (London, 1737). The two last mentioned versions have frequently been reprinted in various shapes. See, besides the authorities already noticed, Grätz, Geschichte d. Juden, 3, 399 sq.; Weber and Holtzmann, Gesch. d. Judenth. 2, 467 sq.; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u. s. Sekten, 1, 225, 319, 444; De Wette, Hebr. jud. Archaologie, p. 9; Ewald, Gesch. Christus (1855), p. 104 sq.; Milman, Hist. of the Jews. vol. 2 (see Index in vol. 3); Smith, Dict. Gr. and Rom. Biog. s.v.; Fürst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 2, 117 sq. (J.H.W.)