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Josephus
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Josephus

Josephus, also known as Flavius Josephus (c. 37–c. 100) was a 1st century Jewish historian of priestly ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and settled in Rome. He was originally known as Yosef Ben-Matityahu (Matthias in Greek).

Josephus wrote an account of the war addressed to the Jewish community in Mesopotamia in the Aramaic language. He then wrote a history in Greek covering a broader period - from the Maccabees to the fall of Jerusalem. This book, the Jewish War, appeared by 79. The majority of the book is based on the events of his own life, including those of his own administrative and military experience.

The Jewish Antiquities, (written c. 94 in Greek) is a history of the Jews from the Creation to the outbreak of the war in the late 60s. There is an autobiographical appendix defending Josephus' own conduct at the end of the war when he cooperated with the Roman forces of Vespasian and Titus Flavius. His account, while parallel to the Old Testament, is not identical to it. There has been speculation that the differences are due to Josephus' access to ancient texts (perhaps going back to Nehemiah) which survived the destruction of the Temple. Since Josephus was close to the Roman leaders, he may have received permission to recover and retain some or all of those texts, as he indicates. On the other hand, credible arguments have been made that the Dead Sea scrolls are partially or entirely Temple sacred scrolls from Jerusalem hidden in various sites around the Dead Sea to protect them against possible destruction by the Romans. The two possibilities are not completely mutually exclusive, so both may be (partially) true.

Josephus' Against Apion is a defense of Judaism as classical religion and philosophy, stressing its antiquity against what Josephus pointed out was the relatively more recent traditions of the Greeks. Some anti-Semitic allegations by Apion, and myths as old as Manetho's are exposed there as well.

Jews have had mixed feelings about Josephus. He was unquestionably an important apologist in the Roman world for the Jewish religion, particularly at a time of major upheaval. His history of the Great Jewish Revolt, though questionable, contradictory or self-serving in many places, is an important source of information for the events of that time. Nevertheless, his personal conduct during the war is a point of contention because he abandoned his position as a rebel officer and joined the Roman camp. He was granted Roman citizenship and a pension in Rome and was well accepted at the courts of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. His works are, therefore, suspected by many of being biased in favor of his Imperial patrons, particularly Titus. Later in life he returned to his Jewish roots.

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