Biography of Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.”