Biography of Josephus

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100)

In 1927, a London publisher, the Loeb classical library,  published The Jewish War by Josephus. The book was written in Greek and translated into English in three volumes, none of which are very large. Josephus was a member of the Herodian family. Therefore, the book includes the family tree of Josephus at the end, followed by a map of Galilee as well as another map of central and southern  Israel and a map of ancient Jerusalem.

Josephus was a Jewish general who commanded the Jewish forces in the Galil area from 66 to 67, when the Romans defeated the Jews in northern Israel and the garrison at Yodfat surrendered. Josephus then switched sides and accompanied the Romans in their conquest of Israel and Jerusalem. Josephus describes the fighting between the Roman legions commanded by Vespasian and his son Titus. Both became Roman emperors. It was Titus who succeeded in destroying Jerusalem in 70. This allowed Titus the right to parade through Rome as a great victor; Titus erected an arch called the Arch of Titus to this day. The arch depicts the defeated Jews and some of the gold and silver vessels the Romans had stolen from the Temple.

Josephus went to Rome in 71 and became a Roman citizen. He was married four times and had two sons by his fourth wife. Josephus, like so many Jews after him, assimilated and assumed a Roman name and then wrote Jewish Antiquities, also in Greek.

In Wars of the Jews, Joseph disputed the Roman opinion that the Jews were worshiping a defeated god. He wrote that the Jewish fanatics and their followers caused the downfall of the Jewish state.

In 2 volumes, Josephus deals with classical issues and features which became important for a later understanding of that period in Jewish history.

Josephus wrote 21 volumes in his Jewish Antiquities, in which he outlined mankind's existence since the creation, followed by Jewish history since Abraham. He claimed that Abraham taught the Egyptians science, who in turn taught it to the Greeks. Josephus discusses the great people in the Tenach, followed by an autobiography in which he defends his capitulation to the Roman army.

Josephus also wrote a book called Against Apion.  Here he defends Judaism as a classical religion and philosophy, with a rejection of the traditions of Greece.

Josephus' importance in Jewish history lies in the fact that he delivered a history to later generations which was not otherwise available and which is based on an eyewitness account. Josephus was there and saw the destruction of Jerusalem in 70. In fact, he begins his history of these events by saying that there are many accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem by people who were not there and therefore introduced hearsay and legend into history.

Many, many years later, the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) was the first to demand that history be written on the basis of actual occurrences (“wie es eigentlich gewesen ist”) and without the use of rumors, legends, myths, hearsay, and gossip.

Consider that even Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), the author of that monumental History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire included in his description of the numerous emperors all kinds of anecdotal material, despite his reputation as the first historian to write an objective account of his topic.

Josephus therefore should be credited in leaving for us an admonition to the effect that Jerusalem fell to the Romans because of the constant infighting of the Jews against one another.

Today we see that phenomenon again. Once more the so called “liberals” side with the enemies of Israel against the survival of that state. We view with horror how 600 rabbis singed a statement supporting President Obama in his reelection effort, despite his animosity and contempt for Israel and its people. We see how Jewish “liberals” find it important to bolster the “rights” of every so called minority, but never Jewish rights or even Jewish survival. We find that magazines such as Tikkun preach anti Israel propaganda on behalf of the Arab terrorists while denouncing our Christian Zionist friends.

Once more we repeat that oft recited dictum that “the only thing we (Jews) learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Assassination, Anarchy, & Terrorism (2012).

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