By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Bit More on Flavius Josephus

From the Catholic Enclyclopedia at New Advent, the entry on Josephus, Flavius:



Jewish historian, born A.D. 37, at Jerusalem; died about 101. He belonged to a distinguished priestly family, whose paternal ancestors he himself traces back five generations; his mother's family claimed descent from the Machabeans. He received a good education, and association with distinguished scholars developed his intellectual gifts, more especially his memory and power of judgment. He also made himself fully acquainted with and tried the leading politico-religious Jewish parties of his age -- the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.

Impressed by the outward importance of the Pharisees and hoping to secure through them a position of influence, he attached himself to their party at the age of nineteen, although he shared neither their religious nor political views.

I have been trying to get a handle on Josephus. It would help if I had more time to spend reading his works and his life. I get an impression from the above that he was not deeply religious, but rather looked at what would provide the best situation in life for him. Would this make his history less biased and more reliable, do you think? (Of course, now that I think of it, "less biased" toward what?!) Have any of you formed an idea as to whether his history is considered a good source to depend upon?

I have been all over the map with my reading, but find that more and more I am interested in non-fiction, particularly history and religion. Since I am new to Josephus, I will probably ask ignorant questions, but how else can I shed my ignorance?

Edited to add: I did a search at lds.org and found that Josephus has been occasionally quoted throughout the years and the quotes are always treated as a very reliable history. It's been several years since the last quote I could find, though, so what I am asking is have there been any recent findings that seem to question the authenticity of Josephus, or that find him authentic, but of questionable reliability? I am continuing to look around on the internet, but if any of you have studied Josephus, I thought you might give me a hint or two. Thanks!

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4 Comments:

Anonymous kevin said...

Mary,

I have also found myself being drawn to religious history lately. I bought Josephus' history but have yet been able to tackle it. I have been very pleased with three books from BYU professors that are providing me with a primer on Old Testament and New Testament history. I recommend them strongly. They are well written and very informative. They include "The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ" (Volumes 1 and 3 - they have not yet written volume 2) and "From Malachi to Matthew". I have found that they provide a strong foundation for my anticipated tackling of Josephus' history.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

I appreciate your suggestions, Kevin. I will look for those. It's all so interesting!

9:05 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

Mary,

I haven't thought of Flavius since exploring an obscure portion of his works in a philosophy course in college! You've got me interested now!

I've found that it helps to read parallel writings from other countries, religions and generally other sources. You can find much about Flavius if you look him up under "josephus flavius judaism". Here is one such site (albeit not as scholarly as the CE):

http://members.aol.com/FLJOSEPHUS/home.htm

As you read "both sides" of the story, a picture begins to evolve.

For example, I find the Catholic Encyclopedia vs. Islamic studies of the Moorish accounts of the invasion of Spain fascinating. El Cid is glamorized by the Catholics - whereas he is described in quite contrasting moral imagery by Muslims. Such vastly different perspectives!

At the time of Flavius, as he was writing thoughts on non-resistance, Christian religious persecution was emerging. He is sort of the Gandhi of the time in a world that clearly offered up Christ's teaching and a conquering ideology still present with the Romans and Persians. Here is a site that can bring you to some of those ideas to explore:

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Josephus#Significance_to_scholarship

The BYU sources from Kevin look great - and I'll certainly look into them.

Enjoy! And keep us posted on what you find interesting!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Oh, thanks so much, Concierge Services! You've given me some good info and I appreciate the links, too. That sounds interesting.

12:38 PM  

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