). A celebrated Jewish historian, born at Jerusalem in A.D. 37, inheriting
on his father's side the priestly office and being descended through his mother from the
Asmonaean princes. After receiving an excellent education, he was sent to Rome at the age of
twenty-six to plead before Nero the cause of several Jewish priests whom the procurator Felix
had sent there as prisoners. After securing their release, he returned to Jerusalem, which he
found on the eve of a revolt against the Romans. He endeavoured to dissuade his countrymen
from the attempt, but failing in this, he entered into their plans and took the field as one
of their generals. On the approach of Vespasian with a Roman army, Iosephus retired with his
forces into Iotapata, where, for forty-seven days, he sustained a siege, surrendering,
however, in the end. His life was spared by Vespasian through the intercession of Titus.
Iosephus thereupon assumed the character of a prophet, and predicted to Vespasian that the
Empire should one day be his and his son's. Vespasian treated him with respect, but did not
release him from captivity until he was proclaimed emperor nearly three years afterwards (A.D.
70). Iosephus was present with Titus at the siege of Jerusalem, and afterwards accompanied him
to Rome. He received the freedom of the city from Vespasian, who assigned him, as a residence,
a house formerly occupied by himself, and treated him with great regard to the end of his
reign. The same favour was extended to him by Titus and Domitian as well. He assumed the name
of Flavius, as a dependant of the Flavian family. His time at Rome appears to have been
employed mainly in the composition of his works. He died about A.D. 100.
The works of Iosephus are written in Greek of such pleasing style as to win for him the
title of “the Greek Livy.” They are:
A History of the Jewish War (Περὶ τοῦ Ἰουδαϊκοῦ πολέμου ἢ
Ἰουδαϊκῆς Ἱστορίας περὶ Ἁλώσεως
), in seven books, published about A.D.
75. Iosephus first wrote it in Hebrew, and then translated it into Greek. It commences with
the capture of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes in B.C. 170, runs rapidly over the events
before Iosephus's own time, and gives a detailed account of the fatal war with Rome.
On Jewish Antiquities (Ἰουδαϊκὴ Ἀρχαιολογία
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 Π̔ωμαϊκὴ
of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. It gives an account of Jewish
History from the creation of the world to A.D. 66, in which the Jews were goaded to rebellion
by Gessius Florus. In this work Iosephus seeks to reconcile the Jewish religion with heathen
tastes and prejudices. Thus he speaks of Moses and his law in a tone which might be adopted
by any disbeliever in his divine mission. He says that Abraham went into Egypt (Gen. xii.),
intending to adopt the Egyptian views of religion, should he find them better than his own.
He speaks doubtfully of the preservation of Jonah by the fish. He intimates a doubt of there
having been any miracle in the passage of the Red Sea, and compares it with the passage of
Alexander the Great along the shore of the sea of Pamphylia. He interprets Exod. xxii. 28 as
if it conveyed a command to respect the idols of the heathen. Many similar instances might be
quoted from his work.
His own life, in one book. This is a supplement to the Archaeologia
, and is
addressed to the same Epaphroditus. It was not written earlier than A.D. 97, since Agrippa
II. is mentioned in it as no longer living.
A treatise on the Antiquity of the Jews, or 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. (See Apion
.) The treatise exhibits extensive acquaintance with Greek literature and
Εἰς Μακκαβαίους ἢ περὶ Αὐτοκράτορος Λογισμοῦ
in one book. Its genuineness is doubtful. It is a declamatory account of the martyrdom of
Eleazar (an aged priest), and of seven youths and their mother, in the persecution under
Antiochus Epiphanes. The best editions of Iosephus are by Hudson (Oxford, 1720)
Havercamp (Amsterdam, 1726)
, Dindorf (Paris, 1845-47)
, Bekker, 6
vols. (Leipzig, 1855- 1856)
, and Niese (Berlin, 1886 foll.). Excellent
translations into English are those of Maynard (1800)
, Traill and Taylor
, and Shilleto's revision of Whiston, 5 vols. (1889-90)