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JOSEPHUS, FLAVIITS, the well-known historian of the Jews, was born at Jerusalem in the first year of the reign of Caligula ; the precise date is uncertain, but it lies somewhere between September 13, 37, and March 16, 38 A.D. His early advantages were very considerable. His father Matthias belonged to one of the best priestly families in the city, while on his mother's side he was descended from Jonathan, the first Hasmonean high priest. The position of his parents procured for him a careful education, and such was his progress (at least if his own account of himself is to be believed) that at the age of fourteen he was often consulted by the high priests and prominent citizens on difficult points of Jewish law. At sixteen he resolved upon an experimental study of the doctrines of the three leading sects, or schools of philosophy, as he prefers to consider them; and, hearing that Banns, a celebrated Essene, was living in the wilderness with the rigorous asceticism of a hermit, he joined him and remained under his teaching for three years. Returning to Jerusalem at the age of nineteen, he definitively joined the Pharisees, to whom he continued ever after to adhere. In 64 A.D. (int. 26) he undertook a journey to Rome to intercede for some priests of his acquaintance whom Felix the procurator had sent thither as prisoners to be tried on some trifling charges. Landing safely at Puteoli after a narrow escape from death by shipwreck in the Adriatic, lie gained the friendship of Alityrus, a famous Jewish mime of the day, and a favourite of Nero ; by this means he not only obtained the pardon of his friends, but was also loaded with many valuable gifts by the empress Poppina. On reaching Judaea again he found his countrymen bent at all hazards on throwing off the Roman yoke ; knowing well the resources of Rome, and the hopelessness of successfully resisting her power, he (according to his own account, which is not in itself very improbable) did his best to dissuade them from any such attempt. Ultimately, however, after the victory over Cestius Gallus, he yielded to the force of the current, and joined the revolutionary movement in 66, being entrusted with the task of governing and defending the province of Galilee, an appointment for which he was indebted to family influence rather than to any known military skill. Proceeding at once to his province, he set about the execution of plans of political reorganization, at the same time fortifying various military positions, and getting together and drilling an army of 100,000 men. Very soon, however, he had to encounter the opposition of a strong party, headed by John of Giscala, and it was with difficulty that he averted an insurrection at Taricbm, and afterwards saved himself by flight from Tiberias. His enemies actually at one time had succeeded in obtaining his recall ; but the act was afterwards cancelled, through the powerful influence he still possessed in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Vespasian had assembled a large force at Antioch, and in the spring of 67 threw a garrison into Sepphoris, whence (the troops of Josephus not waiting his attack) he made himself master of all Lower Galilee. Josephus himself falling back on Tiberias sent for large reinforcements from Jerusalem; these not being forthcoming, he in May shut himself up in Jotopata, the defence of which he maintained against all the efforts of the Romans for forty-seven days. At the end of that period the place was taken by storm, and such of the garrison as had not perished in the siege were put to death by the conquerors. The governor himself demanded to be led into the presence of the general, and, with great adroitness assuming the role of a prophet, told his captor that he was no chance prisoner, but had been commissioned by heaven to predict that he was shortly to become the sole head of the Roman empire. The plan was so far successful that the prisoner's life was spared ; Vespasian, however, kept him in close confinement for two years, but on attaining the purple liberatedhim. Thenceforward Josephus assumed the family name of his patron (Flavius). After having accompanied Vespasian to Alexandria, he attended Titus to Palestine, and remained in his train until the close of the war. At the risk of his life he was more than once sent to urge his countrymen to yield, but without success. After the fall of the city he accompanied Titus to Rome, where Vespasian assigned him a residence in what had once been his own house, conferred on him the citizenship;-and gave him a yearly pension, to which was afterwards added an estate in Judwa. Under Titus and Domitian he was confirmed in all his privileges, devoting the peaceful remainder of his days to those literary labours with which his name is now so exclusively associated. The precise date of his death is unknown ; he must have survived the first century, for his autobiography mentions the death of Agrippa II., which occurred in 100 A.D.
His extant works are the following. (1) History of the Jewish War (nEpl ToD'Ioadbcoi3 Troa/Aou), in seven books. It was originally written in Aramaic for the benefit of the Jews dwelling beyond the Euphrates, hut was afterwards translated by its author into the Greek, which alone we now possess. Books i.-ii. 14 sketch the whole course of Jewish history from the period of the Maccabees to the beginning of the war. The remainder of the work gives a minute account of the entire struggle from 66 to its complete suppression in 73 A.D. On its completion the whole work was submitted to Vespasiau, Titus, and Agrippa II., who, the author tells us, bore witness to its accuracy. Of its general trustworthiness there can be no reasonable doubt : Josephus had a considerable personal share in much of what he records ; and on other points he seems to have hail access to direct documentary evidence. The speeches which he reports are not of course to be construed by stricter rules than those which occur in the works of Livy or Thucydides ; and apart from this some allowance also must be made for a tendency to exaggeration or false accentuation wherever his vanity judged such a thing to be desirable. (2) Antiquities of the Jews ('lovSaidi cipxamXoyia), in twenty books, a comprehensive Jewish history from the earliest times down to the outbreak of the war in ,66. It was completed in the thirteenth year of Domitian (93-94 A.D.), long after the author's own interest in it had exhausted itself. For the first eleven books, covered by the Scripture Donative, his exclusive authority seems to have been the Bible itself, especially the LXX. translation. He frequently, however, omits or modifies points which seemed to him likely to give offence ; sometimes he supplements with current traditions or uses the works of his predecessors in the same field, Demetrius and. Artapanus ; and occasionally he gives excerpts from profane writers. The remaining nine books are very unequal in merit. The period 'between Alexander the Great and the Maccabees is almost an entire blank. For the Maccabean wars (xii, 5-xiii. 7) he had 1 Mace. to draw upon ; for the reigns of the later Hasmoneans 8-xiv.) he is dependent upon the historians Strabo and l,,Tieolaus of Damascus. The last-named writer is also Ids chief authority for the portion of his narrative which relates to the times of Herod (xiv.- xvii.), but he appears to have had access to some original memoirs. The last three books (xviii.-xx.), relating to the times immediately subsequent to the death of Herod, are more meagre than might have been expected, and by the carelessness of their manner bear witness to the author's confessed fatigue. Book xviii. (chap. iii. sec. 3) contains a remarkable passage relating to Jesus Christ, which is twice cited by Eusebius as genuine (H. E., i. 11; Dew. Er., iii. 3, 105-6), and which is met with in all the extant MSS. It-is, however, unanimously believed to be, in its present form at least, spurious, and those who contend even for its partial genuineness are decidedly in the minority. (3) Autobiography, in seventy-six chapters, all of which, however, except the first six and the last two relate to the occurrences in Galilee in which he had so large a share during 66-67 A.D., written in defence of himself against the representations of a certain Justus of Tiberias. His narrative of these events cannot be regarded as an impartial one, and that in sonic points at least he was led to sacrifice truth to self-interest can be conclusively shown by comparison even with Ids own earlier work, the History of the Jewish War. The Vita, which Contains the allusion to the death of Agrippa II., must have been written at a date subsequent to 100 A.D. (4) Against Apion, in two books. This is the .usual but somewhat misleading title of a general apology for Judaism in which the polemic against Apion occupies only a subordinate place. Porphyry cites it by the title Ilpbs Tobs 'EXAmvas, while Origen and Eusebius call it nepi TC■11, 'IovSaIwv apxaufrnTos. The date of its composition is later than that of the Antiquities. Other works referred to by Josephine, but no longer extant, are (1) nepl Taw vJgav (Ant., iii. 5, 6), which is most probably to be identified with the composition elsewhere cited by the title MO PcZy Kai abrz&v (Ant., iv. 8, 4) ; and (2) nepl Beef Kai Ti.IS okrfas omrrou, in four books (Ant., xx. 11, 2). The so-called fourth book of Maccabees has sometimes, but erroneously, been assigned to Josephus. One or two philosophical treatises are also attributed to him by Photius ; they are, however, obviously of Christian origin, and most probably-are from the pen of Hippolytus of Ostia.
The Greek text of the works of Josephus was first printed at Basel in 1544. The earliest critical editions were those of Hudson (Oxford, 1720) and Havercamp (Utrecht, 1726) ; the text of the latter is that given by Oberthiir (3 vole. Svo., Leipsic, 1782-85) and by Richter (Lcipsic, 1826-27). Further emendations occur in the edition of Dindorf (Paris, 1845-47), which is the basis of Bekker's edition (Leipsic, 1855-56). A new edition based upon fresh collation of MSS. is promised by Niese. The treatise Against Apion was separately edited, with notes, by J. G. Muller, 1877. The translations of Josephus have been very numerous, and his writings are also the basis of the .73e/lum Judaievin which bean the name of Egesippus (corrupted from Josippus), and of the mediaeval Hebrew history ascribed to Josippon ben Go•ion. For the whole subject, biographical and literary, see Schiirer's NTliehe Zritgeschichte (1874) and his exhaustive article " Josephus " in Herzog-Plitt's Rea/-Encyd., vol. vii. (1880).