Flavius Josephus was born Joseph ben Mattathias in Jerusalem in 37 CE a few years after the time of Jesus, during the time of the Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland. In his early twenties he was sent to Rome to negotiate the release of several priests held hostage by Emperor Nero. When he returned home after completing his mission he found the nation beginning a revolution against the Romans.
Despite his foreboding that the cause was hopeless, he was drafted into becoming commander of the revolutionary forces in Galilee, where he spent more time controlling internal factions than fighting the Roman army. When the city of Jotapata he was defending fell to the Roman general Vespasian, Josephus and his supporters hid in a cave and entered into a suicide pact, which Josephus oddly survived.
Taken prisoner by Vespasian, Josephus presented himself as a prophet. Noting that the war had been propelled by an ancient oracle that foretold a world ruler would arise from Judaea, Josephus asserted that this referred to Vespasian, who was destined to become Emperor of Rome. Intrigued, Vespasian spared his life. When this prophecy came true, and Vespasian became Emperor, he rewarded Josephus handsomely, freeing him from his chains and eventually adopting him into his family, the Flavians. Josephus thus became Flavius Josephus.
During the remainder of the war, Josephus assisted the Roman commander Titus, Vespasian's son, with understanding the Jewish nation and in negotiating with the revolutionaries. Called a traitor, he was unable to persuade the defenders of Jerusalem to surrender to the Roman siege, and instead became a witness to the destruction of the city and the Holy Temple.
Living at the Flavian court in Rome, Josephus undertook to write a history of the war he had witnessed. The work, while apparently factually correct, also served to flatter his patron and to warn other provinces against the folly of opposing the Romans. He first wrote in his native language of Aramaic, then with assistance translated it into Greek (the most-used language of the Empire). It was published a few years after the end of the war, in about 78 CE. He was about 40 years old.
Josephus subsequently improved his language skills and undertook a massive work in Greek explaining the history of the Jews to the general non-Jewish audience. He emphasized that the Jewish culture and Bible were older than any other then existing, hence called his work the Jewish Antiquities. Approximately half the work is a rephrasing of the Hebrew Bible, while much of the rest draws on previous historians. This work was published in 93 or 94 CE, when he was about 56 years old.
Josephus wrote at least two smaller books, including his autobiography, in which he recounts his life from birth until the writing of the Antiquities. The year he died is unknown.
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The Life Of Flavius Josephus - Autobiography
1. THE family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one, but hath descended all along from the priests; and as nobility among several people is of a different origin, so with us to be of the sacerdotal dignity, is an indication of the splendor of a family. Now, I am not only sprung from a sacerdotal family in general, but from the first of th ...read
An Extract out of Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades
1. NOW as to Hades, wherein the souls of the of the good things they see, and rejoice in the righteous and unrighteous are detained, it is necessary to speak of it. Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region, wherein the light of this world does not shine; from which circumstance, that in this region the light do ...read
Antiquities of the Jews - Table of Contents
1. THOSE who undertake to write histories, do not, I perceive, take that trouble on one and the same account, but for many reasons, and those such as are very different one from another. For some of them apply themselves to this part of learning to show their skill in composition, and that they may therein acquire a reputation for speaking finely: ...read
Flavius Josephus Against Apion: Book 1
1. I SUPPOSE that by my books of the Antiquity of the Jews, most excellent Epaphroditus, (2) have made it evident to those who peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity, and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also, I have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein we now live. Those Antiqui ...read
Flavius Josephus Against Apion: Book 2
1. IN the former book, most honored Epaphroditus, I have demonstrated our antiquity, and confirmed the truth of what I have said, from the writings of the Phoenicians, and Chaldeans, and Egyptians. I have, moreover, produced many of the Grecian writers as witnesses thereto. I have also made a refutation of Manetho and Cheremon, and of certain oth ...read
War of the Jews - Table of Contents
THE WARS OF THE JEWS
THE HISTORY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
1. (1) WHEREAS the war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that ever were heard of; both of those wherein cities have fought against cities, or nations ...read