(Flavius Josephus)


Josephus is one of the major historians of ancient times, and is an especially good source for the history of Judea during the first century A.D. He was a Jewish noble who distinguished himself as a scholar at a young age.

While still in his twenties he was a respected religious leader and went to Rome to negotiate for the release of some Jewish hostages. On his return in 66 A.D. he found the country on the brink of rebellion. According to his own account, he counseled against the rebellion from Rome from the beginning, but was, nevertheless, inducted into a leadership position, and oversaw the Jewish defense of Jotapata during the siege of 67 A.D. He was taken prisoner when the town was stormed, but was treated well by Vespasian and when the command of the Roman forces passed to Titus in 69 A.D., he was released. From that point on, he aided the cause of the Romans against the Jewish rebels by trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement. After the war he returned to Rome with Titus, and was eventually adopted into the imperial family, becoming Flavius Josephus. He spent the rest of his life writing histories and apologies of the Jewish nation.

Josephus is sometimes considered a traitor to the Jewish cause because of his support for the Romans in this effort, but, to be fair, the rebellion in Judea was largely an uprising of the lower classes against the upper classes, who mainly favored cooperation with the Romans. Josephus was by no means alone in his allegiance to the Romans over the rebel factions of the Jews, and, in fact, had he succeeded in his negotiations, hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives might have been saved.

The major works of Josephus were War of the Jews, a first person account of the Jewish uprising, and subsequent war with the Romans, and Antiquities of the Jews, which explains the history and culture of the Jews. He also wrote three minor works, including his Autobiography, Hades, and Against Apion. His works were not widely read among Romans during his own time, but were read and preserved among Christians, who took a great interest in Jewish history. He is also known as the only contemporary non-Christian historian who gives an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Key events during the life of Josephus:

Became a Pharisee, and a recognized Jewish scholar, when only nineteen.
Sent to negotiate release of priests held hostage by Rome.
Returned to Judea to find country on brink of rebellion.
Led Jews during siege of Jotapata. Josephus captured by Romans.
Titus takes over command from Vespasian. Josephus was released, given Roman citizenship.
Worked as translator and negotiator for Titus during siege of Jerusalem.
Fall of Jerusalem, destruction of temple.
Returned to Rome with Titus, and lived at the Flavian court.
Published The Jewish War
Published Antiquities of the Jews.

Book Links
Last Days of Jerusalem: From Josephus  by  Alfred J. Church

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Of Josephus and the Besieging of Jotapata in  Last Days of Jerusalem  by  Alfred J. Church
Siege of Jerusalem  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Siege of Jerusalem  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris

Short Biography
Titus Second Flavian emperor. Conquered Jerusalem. Reigned with father Vespasian.
Vespasian First emperor of humble origins. Founder of Flavian dynasty.
John of Gischala Leader of the Jewish faction holding Jerusalem, which refused to surrender.