Gospel of John Study Index

The Gospel of John Main Page

Getting Started
John 1
John 2
John 3
John 4
John 5
John 6
John 7
John 8
John 9
John 10
John 11
John 12
John 13
John 14
John 15
John 16
John 17
John 18
John 19
John 20
John 21

Who was Josephus?

The following is derived from Wikipedia, a condensed version of a quick public article regarding the historian Josephus. The perspectives seem to be fairly balanced. I have cut out a lot of the information that threatens to overwhelm a new reader.

Josephus (37 – c.100 AD/CE) was a 1st-century Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry. He has been credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus Christ outside of the gospels, this being an item of contention among historians. Josephus believed in the compatibility of Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought, commonly referred to as Hellenistic Judaism. His most important works were The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background of early Christianity.

As a young man in his early twenties, Josephus was sent for negotiations with Emperor Nero regarding the release of several Jewish priests. He later returned to Jerusalem and was drafted as a commander of the Galilean forces. After military disaster, Josephus surrendered to the Romans, becoming a prisoner. In 69 AD, Josephus was released and according to Josephus's own account, he appears to have played a role as a negotiator with the defenders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70. Thereafter he became a prominent Roman citizen and apologetic Jewish historian.

Josephus's life is beset with ambiguity. For his critics, he never satisfactorily explained his actions during the Jewish war — why he failed to commit suicide in Galilee in 67 with some of his compatriots, and why, after his capture, he accepted patronage from the Romans.

”(Josephus) was conceited, not only about his own learning but also about the opinions held of him as commander both by the Galileans and by the Romans; he was guilty of shocking duplicity at Jotapata, saving himself by sacrifice of his companions; he was too naive to see how he stood condemned out of his own mouth for his conduct, and yet no words were too harsh when he was blackening his opponents; and after landing, however involuntarily, in the Roman camp, he turned his captivity to his own advantage, and benefitted for the rest of his days from his change of side.”-- Historian E. Mary Smallwood

The works of Josephus provide crucial information about the First Jewish-Roman War and are also important literary source material for understanding the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls and late Temple Judaism. Josephan scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century became focused on Josephus' relationship to the sect of the Pharisees. Josephus includes information about individuals, groups, customs and geographical places. Some of these are not referenced in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority. His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He makes references to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius' census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus. He is an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.




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