Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors Modifying the Text of The War of the Jews. A Guest Post by David Blocker

Vad gäller frågan om huruvida Josefus skrev något om Jesus eller inte,  är den intimt förknippad med frågan om hur mycket man har varit benägen att ändra i de texter av Josefus som genom århundradena har kopierats om och om igen av kanske främsta kristna. David Blocker tar upp berättelserna om Josefus’ kapitulation, hans profetia om att Vespasianus skulle bli ny kejsare och hur detta påverkade dennes uppfattning om Josefus. Blockers tes är att man inte alls dragit sig för att skriva om berättelserna efter eget skön. Över till David Blocker …

The issue of whether or not Josephus wrote anything about Jesus is intimately related to the question: to what extent were people willing to alter the texts of Josephus which during the centuries were copied over and over again by mostly Christians? David Blocker deals with the stories of Josephus’ surrender, his prophecy that Vespasian would become the new Emperor, and how this affected Vespasian’s impression of Josephus. Blocker’s thesis is that people did not hesitate to alter and rewrite the stories their own way, if it suited their purpose. Over to David Blocker …

Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors

Modifying the Text of  The War of the Jews.

By David Blocker

There were late classical and medieval scribes, translators, apologists and authors who had no compunction about modifying the text of the works of Flavius Josephus, either to use the altered text to better support their own arguments, or merely to add drama to the story they were telling.

In the autobiographical section of “War of the Jews”, Josephus recounts how he commanded the Jewish forces besieged by the Romans at Jotapata.  When the Romans breeched the city wall, rather than fight to the death, he fled and hid in an underground cistern with a group of other men.  When their hiding place was discovered, Josephus’ compatriots wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Josephus, their former commander, took charge of the situation and organized a suicide lottery. Josephus survived the mass suicide, surrendered to the Romans, and was taken to Vespasian, the victorious Roman commander.

Josephus survived his encounter with the Flavians, Vespasian and his son Titus.  For the remainder of the Jewish War Josephus assisted Vespasian’s son, Titus by acting as an informant about Judean affairs and by negotiating with the revolutionaries.  After the war, Josephus was rewarded by being made a Flavian client, and was given an estate in Judea, a pension and a house in Rome ([1])

Josephus claimed that Vespasian spared him because he had prophesied that Vespasian would become the Roman Emperor.

Several different versions of Josephus’ account have been preserved (See Appendix 1).

One version presented Josephus as a pious man whose life was preserved by God so that he could become God’s minister to the Romans (or reveal him to be a self serving hypocrite who used religion to justify even his most distasteful actions).   Another version showed him to be a fast thinking trickster, and yet another as a man who preserved his life through the use of intimidation and force.

Other details concerning how Josephus and his compatriots were discovered also underwent alteration; some versions present the Romans in a less favorable light than others.

Finally, there are different versions of the story how the prophecy was delivered to Vespasian.  Some offer an alternative narrative that does not include Josephus (See Appendix 2.5 and 2.6).

If the original text did not survive, then an alteration could either remain undetected, or a suspected alteration could end up the topic of endless unresolved debate.

The changes to Josephus’ story show that his biographical or historical works were not considered fixed or canonical texts by the persons who transcribed, translated, quoted or otherwise transmitted his books.

If critical passages dealing with Josephus’ narrow escape from death, and his subsequent encounter with Vespasian could be altered according to the whim of the redactor, then it is quite probable that other passages in the works of Josephus have also undergone alteration.

David Blocker, 2012/01

Appendix 1:

 

Different versions of Josephus’ account of his escape from death from the hands of his fellow combatants and then the Romans, followed by his prophecy that Vespasian would become the ruler of the known world are presented below.

1) From the standard Greek text of Flavius Josephus’ War of the Jews, Book 3.8 (388 et seq.)

In this version Josephus stated that he had a dream that lead him to believe it was his duty to surrender and “act as God’s minister to the Romans”.  He survived the death lottery thanks to the “providence of God” and through his powers of persuasion; he convinced his fellow survivor that unlike their predecessors in death, they should neither murder, nor be killed by, a fellow country man.

Josephus had been in command of the Judean forces resisting the Roman siege of the city of Jotapata.  After a prolonged siege, the Romans were finally able to break through the city walls, and sack the city.  In particular, they wanted to find Josephus, whose leadership had allowed the city to hold out against them for so long.

Josephus hid from the Romans in a cistern, or underground chamber, with 40 other men.  The Romans captured a woman who revealed their hiding place.

Out of supplies, and with the Romans, threatening to force them out of their hiding place, Josephus’ companions wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.  Josephus, their former commander, unsuccessfully tried to convince them not to kill themselves.  At this point they began to threaten Josephus, and attempted to attack him.

Josephus fended off his 40 irate compatriots.

3.387But in his straits, his resource did not forsake him.  Trusting to God’s protection, he put his life to the hazard, 388and said: “Since we are resolved to die, come, let us leave the lot to decide the order in which we are to kill ourselves; let him who draws the first lot fall by the hand of him who comes next; 389fortune will thus take her course through the whole number, and we shall be spared from taking our lives with our own hands. For it would be unjust that when the rest are gone, any should repent and escape.” This proposal inspired confidence; his advice was taken, and he drew lots with the rest. 390Each man thus selected presented his throat to his neighbor, in the assurance that his general was forthwith to share his fate; for sweeter to them than life was the thought of death with Josephus. 391He, however (should one say by fortune or by the providence of God?) was left alone with one other; and, anxious neither to be condemned by the lot nor, should be left to the last, to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow-countryman, he persuaded this man also, under a pledge, to remain alive. 392Having thus survived both the war with the Romans and that with his own friends, Josephus was brought by Nicanor into Vespasian’s presence. 393The Romans all flocked to see him, and from the multitude crowding around the general, arose a hubbub of discordant voices: some exulting at his capture, some threatening, some pushing forward to obtain a nearer view. 394The more distant spectators clamored for the punishment of their enemy, but those close beside him recalled his exploits and marveled at such a reversal of fortune. 395Of the officers there was not one who, whatever his past resentment, did not then relent at the sight of him.”

Josephus predicted that Vespasian will become emperor:

One of Vespasian’s friends raised the question why Josephus did not predict the fall of Jotapata and his capture.

“To his [Josephus’ prophecy] speech Vespasian, at the moment, seemed to attach little credit, supposing it to be a trick of Josephus to save his life. 404Gradually, however he was led to believe it, for God was already rousing in him thoughts of empire and by other tokens foreshadowing the throne.  He found, moreover that Josephus had proved a veracious prophet in other matters.”

Josephus replied that he had foretold that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.

2)  The next passage is from PseudoHegisippus, a 4th century Latin paraphrase of Jewish War.  Josephus uses his powers of persuasion to escape from the death lottery.

“Also at Iotapata an attack was made at early dawn on the forty eighth day,  … …

Others much wearied by the fight dropped their hands and offered themselves to a wounding, so that by death they would be snatched away from the deadly spectacle of their misfortunes. Deceived by the carelessness of those dying the centurion Antonius asked by a certain one who had taken refuge in caves, that he should give him his right hand a pledge of pardon and safety, heedless of treachery immediately extended it and, woe to the wretched too confident of triumph, but that one strikes him off guard with a javelin and immediately transfixes him, lest the victory be complete for the Romans. That very day all whosoever who were found were killed, on the following days however even from cellars and other underground holes they were brought out or killed on the spot small children and women excepted. Forty thousands were killed through all the days, in the number who were seized two hundred thousand were led into servitude. The city was destroyed and burned up by fire and every redoubt in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero.

Josephus meanwhile in a certain cistern was hiding among the glowing ashes of the city, not all unaware that as the leader of the opposing forces he was being zealously sought for. Having come out on the second day, when he noticed that everything was encircled, he returned into the cistern.

On the third day a certain woman found out (and) revealed to those seeking him that the hiding places of Josephus were known to her.

But in the cistern (there were) also forty men who had fled there (and) were hiding themselves. Who -when they noticed Josephus (was) to be summoned out by Vespasian in the hope of (his) safety (guaranteed) first through Paulinus and Gallicanus, (and) afterwards through Nicanoris, who was bound to Josephus by virtue of ancient friendship, and for that reason sent (to him, so) that he should give a pledge, he willingly carried out the obligation of the assigned task, having surrounded Josephus, they addressed him with words of such kind.”

*   Here follows the lengthy argument they made about why they should kill themselves, rather than allow the Romans to display them in a Triumph, or otherwise take advantage of them once they had surrendered their freedom. See Note below for the complete text ( [2] ).

XVIII. These things (to) Josephus (were) laid out, by which he voided the vindication of voluntary death. But those who had once vowed themselves to death, because they were unable to oppose their words, with their swords stood around the man, as if they were about to strike immediately unless he should think he must acquiesce.

But he, (who was) surrounded, called back one (of them) by the authority of a leader by the consciousness of courage, he approached another with a severe gaze. He withdrew his right hand, he turned aside the wrath of that one, he soothed them with the wholesomeness of his counsel.

By various methods he twisted away the irrational fury of each. And indeed although a last lot had twisted away the dignity of the conquered, he had not completely destroyed their respect. And so gradually their hands were withdrawn, their swords were sheathed, however their purpose persisted.

When he saw himself to be held alone beset by many, he thought that by some chance or plan he should reduce the number of those opposing (him).

‘Let us commit,’ he said, ‘the order of dying to a lottery, so that no one withdraws himself, since the lottery applies to all. The agreement of a lottery of this sort is, that he who will die by chance will be killed by him who follows.’ And therefore it was that the lottery adjudged each to death, not his own will. ‘Let each stand therefore beneath the lottery as the judge without sin and free from captivity, so that he does not quicken his future death by the decision of another or avoid it by his own. No one will be able to refuse the outcome, which either chance will have inflicted or the will of god will have designated.’ An offering established faith and the agreement of everybody assented to the lottery. Each was chosen by chance, he provided death to the man following.

‘And so it happened that all the rest having (been) killed, Josephus with one other remained for death. It necessarily remained that he would either be condemned by the lottery, or certainly if he should survive the slaughter he would be defiled by the blood of a comrade.

He proposes that they should reject the lottery.

Thus he escaped a domestic fight and by Nicanor [p. 221] was escorted to Vespasian.

There was a rush to the sight of his coming almost all the Romans assembling together. Some wished to see him killed, whom shortly before they saw in charge of great affairs in a position of the greatest honor, others struggled to mock the captive, others marveled at such different and changeable turns of human events. Most prudently sighed, who thought that in other circumstances the same thing could happen to them. Titus in view of all the rest was moved by an innate gentleness of spirit, him for so long a proud fighter, suddenly sentenced to the power of the enemy, to await the lottery of an alien nod the shipwreck of life banished from hope uncertain of safety. To exert such great influence in battles, so that in a short time by chance he renders unequal to himself, when the powerful are either thrown out or overthrown are released. And so the better part of them, namely those in positions of honor, give the gentler counsel. Titus was for Josephus, before his father, the greatest portion of his safety. Vespasian ordered him to be kept in custody, lest by chance he should escape.”

3)  I have not been able to obtain either a legible copy of, or modern language translation of the 4th or 5th Century Latin translation of “Jewish War” attributed to Rufinus.  Therefore, I am unable to compare the Latin translation of the passages about Josephus’ surrender to the standard Greek version.

4)  The Josippon (Part III, Leonard Zoll, Dissertation for Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature,, Hebrew Union College, NY, NY,  1965, P 41), a Hebrew recension of Jewish War, with strong affinities to PsuedoHegisippus.

In this text Josephus survives the death lottery by acting deceitfully ([3]).

After the fall of Jotapata to the Romans, Josephus hid in an underground cistern with a large group of his compatriots.  Josephus tried to persuade them not to commit suicide, and instead surrender to the Romans.  The text is inconsistent or corrupt since it has the men stab themselves in the bowels before Josephus makes his speech, and their assent to the lottery driven suicide pact, even though they have apparently already stabbed themselves.

“But the people who were with Josephus during his lengthy comments to them, when he stretched forth his hands to heaven, did not continue listening to him, for they sought to die.

When Josephus saw that he had lost their attention, that it was of no avail, he spoke to them deceitfully, “If you seek death by the sword, it is proper for you to die by lot.  You shall select two, who shall cast lots, and the man to whom the lot falls shall slay his brother with the sword.  And so shall we do until we all perish.  We shall die together, and we shall not witness the disgrace of the Temple of out God, and the exile of our people.”

And the men did as he said.  Two men stood and cast lots before Josephus, and when the lot fell, the one slew the other.

And thus did they, until they all fell by the sword, and none remained except Josephus and one man.

And then this man said to him, “Come let us cast lots, even we, so that we may join our brothers.”

But Josephus replied to his comrade, cajoling him, “why should we impune our souls?  For if I kill you, I shall be considered a murderer, and if you kill me you also shall be considered a murderer, and we shall have destroyed our hope for the future from the Lord, our God, for all these people died without propriety”.

When the man heard Josephus’ words, he did respond to him for he was afraid of him, and in this way was Josephus saved from his comrade’s sword.

At that time, Nicanor, the general arrived. Josephus and his comrade surrendered and they were sent to Vespasian.  When the Roman army saw Josephus they were excited, and sounded the trumpets with a great blast.  Throughout the camp here was great joy because of his capture.  They said to each other, “Out eyes have seen our enemy.”

But throughout the country there was bitter mourning, for they said, “Was this not the most famous warrior in the Jewish army as well as the Roman?  Who instilled his fear in the entire Roman army? And there was heard throughout the land the question, “How was he captured? How was this war-hoer and great general seized??” “And we, what shall we do if a man like this is captured in his own land; in the midst of his own people and his kinsmen? How shall we survive in a strange land?”

But Titus, son of Vespasian, began joking, and tossed his head and said, ”Who knows whether we will be captured as we captured Josephus, the great general, ad expert warrior in battle? Therefore, let us spare his from death by sword?” Afterward, Vespasian and his entire force marched from there and went to Acco.”

(In this text, Josephus does not make any prophecies about Vespasian becoming the emperor.  In the Jewish tradition, this prediction was made by Johanan ben Zakkai, during the siege of Jerusalem.  This is an anachronism, since Vespasian had already departed Judea, by the time of the Siege of Jerusalem.  See Appendix 2, the Talmud version of the prediction)

5) From the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War.

In this text, the woman who revealed Josephus location to the Romans did not willingly betray him.   She revealed his location after the Romans had tortured her.

Vespasian was not impressed by Josephus prophesy at the time it was made.  It was not until his installation as Emperor that he realized that Josephus prediction had come true.  In this version of the text, Josephus’ prophecy was not used as a Flavian policy making tool.

As in the Greek version of Jewish War, Josephus, after the fall of Jotapata, hid from the Romans in an underground chamber with 40 other men.

The Roman’s captured a woman and tortured her until she revealed Josephus’ hiding place.  The Romans then tried to force the men out of their bunker.  Josephus’ compatriots threatened their former commander when he attempted to dissuade them from committing suicide.

“386And still revering, their commander as if in battle line and feeling ashamed, none laid hands on him. 387Then he, trusting his safety to God, his protector, said 388”since God has willed us to die, let us kill ourselves by the count. The one on whom the end of the count falls, let him be killed by the next”. Having said this, he counted the numbers with cunning, and thus misled them all; 390And all were killed by each other, 391except one. And he anxious not to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow countryman, persuaded him and both came out alive. They took him to Vespasian and all the Romans ran to see the spectacle. 393There were various cries, some were pleased with Josephus’s capture; others were threatening;

394others demanded that the enemy be punished and killed, others marveled at the vicissitudes of life.

( text ommitted for brevity)

398Vespasian gave orders to secure him and send him to Nero.

[Josephus predicts Vespasian will become emperor.] …

And Vespasian did not believe him, considering that Josephus had made this speech thinking about his own safety.  But afterwards he began somehow to believe him, when God was installing him as Caesar and handing him the emperor’s scepter.”

(Josephus said that he had predicted that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.)

From: Josephus’ Jewish war and its Slavonic version: a synoptic comparison of the English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray with the critical edition by N.A. Meščerskij of the Slavonic version in the Vilna manuscript translated into English by H. Leeming and L. Osinkina. Brill 2003, p.370 et seq.

6)  From Jacques de Voraigne “The Golden Legend”, Book 67: Saint James the Apostle.

This version has Josephus determine the order the lots were drawn in order to insure his ultimate survival.  He used his strength and agility to overcome the last man standing and thus bring the selection process to an end.  This version also had elements of the Veronica legend, and the “Avenging the Savior” legend incorporated into it.

A relic of Jesus was used to cure Vespasian of an infestation of his nasal worms.  Then,

“Vespasian then went to Rome and obtained Tiberius Caesar’s permission to destroy Jerusalem and Judea.  For years during the reign of Nero, when the Jews were rebelling against the empire, he built up several armies: hence (according to the chronicles) he was acting not out of zeal for Christ but because the Jews were renouncing Roman rule. Vespasian then marched upon Jerusalem with a huge force, and on the day of the Pasch laid siege to the city and trapped the innumerable multitude gathered there for the festal day. Sometime before Vespasian’s arrival the Christian faithful who were in Jerusalem had been warned by the Holy Spirit to leave the city and take refuge in a town called Pella, across the Jordan. Thus, with all her holy men withdrawn, Jerusalem became the place where the vengeance of heaven fell, upon the sacrilegious city and its criminal people.

The Roman’s first assault, however, was against a town of Judea called Jonapata, in which Josephus was both leader and ruler, and he and his people put up a brave resistance, but at length Josephus, seeing that the city’s fall was inevitable, took eleven Jews ([4]) with him and sought safety in an underground room.  After four days without food his associates, though Josephus disagreed, preferred to die there rather than submit to servitude under Vespasian.  They wanted to kill each other and offer their blood in sacrifice to God; and, since Josephus held first rank among them, they thought he should be the first to die, so that by the shedding of his blood God would be the sooner placated.  Or (as another chronicle had it) they wanted to kill each other so as not to fall into the hands of the Romans.

 

Now Josephus, being a prudent man and not wanting to die, appointed himself arbiter of death and sacrifice, and ordered the others to cast lots, two by two, to determine which of each pair would put the other to death, The lots were cast and one man after the other was consigned to death, until the last one was left to draw lots with Josephus. Then Josephus, who was a strong, agile man, took the other man’s sword away from him, asked him which he preferred life or death, and ordered him not to waste time choosing. The man, afraid, answered, promptly: ”I do not refuse to live, if by your favor I am able to save my life.”

 

Josephus now had a talk in hiding with an intimate of Vespasian with whom he himself was on friendly terms: he requested that his life be spared by Vespasian and what he requested he obtained. He was taken before Vespasian, who said to him: “You would have deserved death, if this man’s petition has not secured your freedom!” Josephus [said]: “if anything wrong has been done, it can be set right!” Vespasian: “What can a conquered man do?” Josephus: “I will be able to do something, if what I say wins me a favorable hearing.” Vespasian: “It is granted that you may say what you have to say, and if there is any good in it, it will be listened to quietly.” Josephus; “The Roman emperor [Nero] has died, and the Senate has made you emperor!” Vespasian:  If you are a prophet, why did you not prophesy to this city that it was about to fall under my sway?” Josephus: “I foretold it publicly for forty days!”

Shortly thereafter legates arrived from Rome, affirmed that Vespasian had indeed been elevated to the imperial throne, and took him off to Rome.  Eusebius, too, states in his chronicle that Josephus prophesied to Vespasian both about the emperor’s death and about his own elevation.”

Vespasian left his son Titus in charge of the siege of Jerusalem.

Josephus cured Titus of a paralysis of his leg([5]).

Appendix 2:

Different Versions of the Prophecy About Vespasian Becoming the Emperor.

1)  From Suetonius, The 12 Caesars: Vespasian, 10:

“5 There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome, as afterwards appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took to themselves; accordingly they revolted and after killing their governor, they routed the consular ruler of Syria as well, when he came to the rescue, and took one of his eagles. Since to put down this rebellion required a considerable army with a leader of no little enterprise, yet one to whom so great power could be entrusted without risk, Vespasian was chosen for the task, both as a man of tried energy and as one in no wise to be feared because of the obscurity of his family and name.

…….

6 When he consulted the oracle of the god of Carmel in Judaea, the lots were highly encouraging, promising that whatever he planned or wished, however great it might be, would come to pass; and one of his high-born prisoners, Josephus by name, as he was being put in chains, declared most confidently that he would soon be released by the same man, who would then, however, be emperor.

2)  Tacitus (Instead of Josephus, a priest at Mt Carmel named Basilides predicted that Vespasian would be Emperor.):

“Nor was Vespasian uninfluenced by such superstitions. In later days, when he was master of the world, he made no secret of keeping an astrologer called Selucus to help him by his advice and prophecy.  …

On the frontier of Judea and Syria lies a hill called Carmel.  A god of the same name is there worshipped according to ancient ritual.  There is no image or temple, only an altar where they reverently worship.  Once when Vespasian was sacrificing on this altar, brooding on his secret ambition, the priest, Basilides, after repeatedly inspecting the omens said to him: Whatever it is which you have in mind Vespasian, whether it is to build a house or to enlarge your estate, or to increase the number of your slaves, there is granted to you a great habitation, vast acre and a multitude of men.” (Tacitus, Histories 2.78)

The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.

(Tacitus, Histories 5.13)”

3)  Cassius Dio, From Epitome of Book LXV: (Roman History by Cassius Dio, published in Vol. VIII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925)

“These portents needed interpretation; 4 but not so the saying of a Jew named Josephus: he, having earlier been captured by p261Vespasian and imprisoned, laughed and said: ”You may imprison me now, but a year from now, when you have become emperor, you will release me.”

4) From Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286), Bar Hebraeus’Chronography VIII, The Roman Emperors.

After CLAUDIUS CAESAR, NERO CAESAR [reigned] fourteen years. He sent FESTUS and dismissed FELIX. And he was the first one who set up the persecution of the Christians in which PETER and PAUL testified in ROME and were crowned (i.e. suffered martyrdom). In the thirteenth year of NERO the JEWS rebelled, and NERO sent [against them] VESPASIAN and TITUS his son. And in one year, in the month of HAZIRAN (JUNE), TITUS captured the city of YOTOPATA (IOTOPATA) because he heard that JOSEPHUS, the scribe, the son of MATTAI the priest, who was the captain of the host of the JEWS, was there. And when he was taken he prophesied concerning the death of [50] NERO and who was going to reign after him. Therefore TITUS did not kill him. Now this JOSEPHUS was not KAYAFA (CAIAPHAS), as some men have thought, for CAIAPHAS was also called JOSEPHUS.

And after these things the ROMANS encircled JERUSALEM, and whilst VESPASIAN was occupied in the war against JERUSALEM, the report of the death of NERO arrived, and of the tyrant OTHO, who stood for three months, and he killed him, and of VITALLIANUS, the tyrant, who stood for eight months. Him the ROMANS slew in the middle of the city. Then the Roman troops who were with VESPASIAN proclaimed him king, and he committed the war against JERUSALEM to TITUS his son, who went to ALEXANDRIA and subjugated it, and [then] departed by sea to ROME.

(From Bar Hebraeus’ Chronography, Translated from Syriac, by E. A. Wallis Budge, London, 1932.)

5)  The Talmud.

According to the Talmud it was not Josephus, but Rabbi Yohanan who made an anachronistic appearance to Vespasian (according to other accounts, by the time of the siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian had already left Judea for Rome,  leaving the management of the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus, and his aide Tiberius Alexander.

Rabbi Yohanan escaped from Jerusalem in a coffin carried by his disciples.

“The disciples continued to carry the coffin until they got to Vespasian.  When they opened the coffin R. Yohanan stood up before him and said, “Peace to you, O King! Peace be to you, O King.!” Vespasian replied, “your life is forfeit on two counts.  To begin with you call me king and I am not a king. Moreover, if I am a king, why did you not come to me until now?” R. Yohanan replied, ”As for your saying that you are not a king, you are in fact a king,  If you were not a king, Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hand, for it is written, “And Lebanon shall fall by the mighty one”(Isa., 10:34), and the epithet “mighty one” is applied only to a king.  As for your question, “If I am a king, why did you not come to me till now?”- the Zealots amount us did not let me”.  Vespasian asked. “If there is a jar of honey around which a draco is coiled, would not the jar be broken to get rid of the draco?”  R Yohanan did not respond.

(From The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192.)

6) The Sibylline Oracles (c. 1st to 3rd century C.E.):

Sibylline Oracles 3:652-656:

”And then God will send a King from the sun who will stop the entire earth from evil war, killing some, imposing oaths of loyalty on others; and he will not do all these things by his private plans but in obedience to the noble teachings of the great God.

Sibylline Oracles 4 (A prophesy ex ventu about the death of Nero, the appearence of false Neros or a Nero redivius ([6]), and Vespasian’s, Rome’s foremost man or future emperor destruction of Jerusalem) :

…  ; and there shall also come
150 To Solyma an evil blast of war
From Italy, and God’s great temple spoil.
But when these, trusting folly, shall cast off
Their piety and murders consummate
Around the temple, then front Italy
155 A mighty king shall like a runaway slave
Flee over the Euphrates’ stream unseen,

Unknown, who shall some time dare loathsome guilt
Of matricide, and many other things,
Having confidence in his most wicked hands.
160 And many for the throne with blood
Rome’s soil while he flees over Parthian land.
And out of Syria shall come Rome’s foremost man,
Who having burned the temple of Solyma,
And having slaughtered many of the Jews,
165 Shall (bring) destruction on their great broad land.

(From:  The Sybylline Oracles Translated from the Greek into English Blank Verse by Milton S. Terry,1899.)

150. Solyma.–That is, Jerusalem.

155. Mighty king.–Nero, whose murder of his mother is notorious, and whose flight beyond the Euphrates and expected return as antichrist was a superstitious tradition long maintained.]


[1]) Life of Flavius Josephus, 76 (422 et seq.)

[2])   *  ( XVI.”’Now the great downfall of the Jewish name is tested, now the bitter ashes, which submerge and hide the teaching of our splendid lineage and undermine every distinction, when Josephus a captive is ordered to be saved for the triumph. What do such solicitous inducements of the enemy suddenly wish for themselves? What of this voluntary offer of safety? They did not spare others seeking life: Josephus is sought out, Josephus is asked that he should live. They fear evidently that they may lose the pomp of a triumph, lest he should be wanting, whom Rome would see a captive, whom in chains Vespasian would direct before his chariot. You wish therefore to be saved for this spectacle? And from what will they triumph, if their leader will be lacking that over which the triumph is celebrated? Or what sort of triumph, if an alliance is given to the conquered? Do not believe, Josephus, life is promised you, but worse things than death are being prepared. Roman arms conquered you, do not let deceit capture you. [p. 211] Their gifts are more heinous than wounds, the former threaten servitude, the latter save freedom. You are bowing, Joseph, and broken by a certain weakness of spirit you wish to be a survivor of your country? Where is the teaching of Moses, who sought to be erased from the divine book that he might not outlive the people of the lord? Where is Aaron, who stood in the middle between the living and the dead, so that death should not destroy a living people with a cruel contagion? Where is the spirit devoted to their country of King Saul and Ionathas, and that death bravely borne for the citizens, gloriously received? The son encouraged the father by example, the father did not forsake the son in the purpose of death, who although he was able to live, preferred himself to be killed rather than to be triumphed over by the enemy. He encouraged his weapon bearer saying: Strike me lest these uncircumcised should come and strike me and make sport of me. Because his weapon bearer feared to do this, he transfixed himself with his sword, worthy whom that David in a prophetic spirit would vindicate, because Amalechita had boasted falsely about the manner of his death and had thought to diminish the renown of the man who had saved himself from the enemy, he lied that he had been killed by himself  6, worthy whom that even such a great prophet should praise saying: Saul and Ionathas beautiful and beloved inseparables in their life and in death they were not separated, lighter than eagles, more powerful than lions. David himself also when he saw his people struck by an angel, wished to draw the heavenly vengeance upon himself lest he should be spared with the people perishing. Finally what of the divine law, whose interpreter you have always been, which promised everlasting immortality to the righteous instead of this brief life? When the god of the Hebrews, who teaches the righteous to have contempt for death, [p. 212] to owe it even to escape this earthly dwelling place, to fly back to the heavenly, to that region of paradise where god consecrates pious souls? Now finally you wish, Josephus, to live, when it is not fitting, indeed not permitted, what indeed is more important it is not proper? And you want to snatch at that life, I dare to say, of slavery which is in another’s power? So that a Roman may snatch it away when he wishes? May throw into the dark corner of a prison when he wishes? And you would choose to flee from here and not be allowed to die? And with shame you go to them, from those whom you persuaded to die for their country? What excuse will you have that you have stayed so long? They are awaiting what you might do, they are certainly saying already: Why is Josephus delaying who ought to have come? Why does he come so tardily? Why is he refusing to imitate his followers whom he persuaded to die for freedom? We will permit certainly that you choose to serve a champion of freedom, but that you doom yourself a slave to the Romans, that you put bondage before freedom? But be it that you wish to live, how will you obtain this from them against whom you have fought so many times? How will they look upon you, with what eyes, with what feelings? How will you wish to live with angry masters even if it allowed? And who will not believe you to have been a traitor to your country, who will see to whom the reward of treason was paid? Choose whichever you may prefer, that it be one of these is necessary: your life will be the reward of treachery or the suffering of slavery.”

[3]) The Josephus Problem or Josephus Permutation.

In computer science and mathematics, the Josephus Problem (or Josephus permutation) is a theoretical problem related to a counting out game.

[4]) Other texts have him hiding with 40 other men.

[5] ) The Talmud contains a similar account of how R Johanan cured Vespasian’s swollen feet, after learning that he had been appointed Emperor.  The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192

[6])  There were astrologers and imposters who claimed Nero would or had returned from the dead:  Tacitus, II.8, Dio, LXVI.19.3, Suetonius, LVII.

9 kommentarer

  1. 16 januari, 2012 den 21:31

    There is an English translation of the Latin at tertullian.org additional Fathers

    Gilla

  2. 16 januari, 2012 den 21:45

    Hegesippus Book Three

    XVIII. These things Josephus laid out, by which he voided the vindication of voluntary death. But those who had once vowed themselves to death, because they were unable to oppose their words, with their swords stood around the man as if they were about to strike immediately unless he should think he must acquiesce. But he surrounded called back one by the authority of a leader by the consciousness of courage he approached another with a severe gaze. He withdrew his right hand, he turned aside the wrath of that one, he soothed them with the wholesomeness of his counsel. By various methods he twisted away the irrational fury of each. And indeed although a last lot had twisted away the dignity of the conquered, he had not completely destroyed their respect. And so gradually their hands were withdrawn, their swords were sheathed, however their purpose persisted. When he saw himself to be held alone beset by many, he thought that by some chance or plan he should reduce the number of those opposing. ‘Let us commit,’ he said, ‘the order of dying to a lottery, so that no one withdraws himself, since the lottery applies to all. The agreement of a lottery of this sort is, that he who will die by chance will be killed by him who follows.’ And therefore it was that the lottery adjudged each to death, not his own will. ‘Let each stand therefore beneath the lottery as the judge without sin and free from captivity, so that he does not quicken his future death by the decision of another or avoid it by his own. No one will be able to refuse the outcome, which either chance will have inflicted or the will of god will have designated.’ An offering established faith and the agreement of everybody assented to the lottery. Each was chosen by chance, he provided death to the man following. And so it happened that all the rest having killed Josephus with one other remained for death. It necessarily remained that he would either be condemned by the lottery, or certainly if he should survive the slaughter he would be defiled by the blood of a comrade. He proposes that they should reject the lottery. Thus he escaped a domestic fight and by Nicanor [p. 221] was escorted to Vespasian. There was a rush to the sight of his coming almost all the Romans assembling together. Some wished to see him killed, whom shortly before they saw in charge of great affairs in a position of the greatest honor, others struggled to mock the captive, others marveled at such different and changeable turns of human events. Most prudently sighed, who thought that in other circumstances the same thing could happen to them. Titus in view of all the rest was moved by an innate gentleness of spirit, him for so long a proud fighter, suddenly sentenced to the power of the enemy, to await the lottery of an alien nod the shipwreck of life banished from hope uncertain of safety. To exert such great influence in battles, so that in a short time by chance he renders unequal to himself, when the powerful are either thrown out or overthrown are released. And so the better part of them, namely those in positions of honor, give the gentler counsel. Titus was for Josephus before his father the greatest portion of his safety. Vespasian ordered him to be kept in custody, lest by chance he should escape.

    Gilla

  3. 16 januari, 2012 den 21:58

    Oops

    Gilla

  4. DBlocker said,

    17 januari, 2012 den 05:58

    @Stephan Huller

    No problem.

    Thanks for the input, You fell prey to the same error made by many many commentators since late antiquity, : confusing PseudoHegisippus, with he Rufinus Latin tranlation, and with latin translations of the Yossipon.

    There is a tangle of texts.

    Anyway, the more places PsH is cited the better. In fact have you considered hosting it on your own web site?

    I was the instigator of the translation (but not the translator), and was instrumental in getting it released to the internet.

    What I am looking for was either a transcription into a modern tyepface or a modern language translation of the Latin translation of Jewish War, the one attributed to Rufinus, and the same for the early Latin translation of Jewish Antiquites which was commissioned by Cassiodorus,

    There is currently a dead link from the Tertullian,org site to the UPenn site , where once there supposedly was an English translation of the Latin translation of Josephus.

    PsuedoHegisippus is a reworking of Josephus Jewish Wars, It is an early medieval Christian polemic,rather than a classical period history. The text of Jewish War has been extensively redacted, and turned into an antiJewish tract, and material from Antiquities, some of the Classical historians, and the Acts of Peter have been added to the text. The author of PsH seems to have had access to a pretty decent library at one time or another. However, some odd quotations sugggest he was citing some of his sources from memory rather than having a copy of the text in front of him or working from accurate notes.

    PseudoHegisippus does not claim to be the work of Josephus since Josephus is referred to in the text in the THIRD person. The reason the text is called PseudoHegisippus is that it is in 5 books like the lost text of Hegisippus Memoires, and at one time someone seems to either confuse it with Hegisippus or tried to pass it off as the work of Hegisippus.

    I have found scans of Latin manuscripts of Jewish War and Antiquities,posted on the internet, BUT I cannot read them. I have no training in reading medieval scripts which is why I was wishing for a modern type face transcription of, or a critical edition of the Latin text. The Latin translations of Josephus might represent a better text than the Greek texts. The two surviving Greek manuscripts of Josephus date from after the 10th century, while there are Latin manuscripts that are earlier and their text can be traced back to the 4rth century for Jewish War, and probably the 6th century for the Latin translation of Antiquities. I think there are also some Syriac and Armenian fragments.

    The age and mutability of Josephus manuscripts ultimately has a bearing on the whether or not the so called Testamonium Flavianum is a forgery.

    Roger, our host, addresses this issue in his thesis which is posted on this site,and there is also a brief disscussion of this on the Vridar Web site. PseudoHegisippus provides important clues about the nature of the TF. The literal Latin translations of Josephus, and Josephan citations by Church Fathers who wrote before the Christians destroyed all but a few freagments of the world’s classical literary heritage in 1204, also are of importance in assessing the origin of the TF.

    I find it a sign of the laziness and insularity of modern ”professional scholars” that they have not updated Niesse and translated its commentary into a modern language, (preferably French, or Englsh or even Spanish which are more ammenable to machine translation than German) and not produced a critical text of the Latin manuscripts and fragments of Josephus.

    For an English translation of Josephus one is stuck with the Whiston which is 200 years obsolete, or the hideously expensive Loeb or the expensive and as yet incomplete Brill.

    For Jewish War, there is the Williamson translation,but Feldman in a review says this translation has some lacunae. I have just discovered and started looking at the Traill translation, and so far it looks pretty decent. Even the old Roger L’Estrange translation of Jewish War is better than the Whiston’s kludge.

    For Francophones there is the exceedingly excellent 7 volume translation by the Reinach family,but some of the volmes were published after 1923, and hence are not available as free legal downloads.

    Anyway, thanks for reading my stuff on Roger’s web site, I am sure he would appreciate it if you link to his site from your own website.

    Gilla

  5. Den andre BB said,

    17 januari, 2012 den 13:23

    ”PseudoHegisippus does not claim to be the work of Josephus since Josephus is referred to in the text in the THIRD person.” – Isn’t it so also in the Greek works by Josephus himself? =)
    I guess this is the translation by Rufinus (”in Latinum traductos Ruffino Aquileien[sis] interprete”): books.google.se/books?id=lzMNjdJ0-xUC&pg=PA583#v=onepage&q&f=false (War 3.8 on page 583ff).

    Gilla

  6. DBlocker said,

    18 januari, 2012 den 08:45

    @ Den andre BB

    Thank you so much for the pointer to the post Guttenberg printed Latin Antiquities of Josephus. The only versions I had been able to find on my own were scans of manuscripts whose quill scratch I cannot read.
    I was able to dictionary bash a several passages that had seemed problematic to me in the English translation from the Greek, and found something very interesting.
    Thanks again for the link.

    I think in the works of Josephus it is clear that he is self referring to himself when he uses his name, I am sure there is a term for lending onceself dignity by writing about oneself in the third person : in English it would be considered a ”snooty affectation”, I don’t know if it carries the same onus in Koine Greek. I am sure that Josephus had a good opiion of himself.
    In PseudoHegisippus the comments about Josepus are somewhat critical and at least to me, do not seem to be an attempt to pass them off as a self reference. They seem to be comments written by the books author about one of his literary informants,
    There is an article by Albert Bell that said the PsuedoHegisippus author wrote in the manner of a classical historian, using many unatributed sources, and not as a plagiarist of Josephus, he was writing a new work for a different audience and for a different purpose than what Josepus had intended.

    Gilla

  7. 23 januari, 2014 den 01:34

    Excellent post. It left me with just one doubt:

    ”The changes to Josephus’ story show that his biographical or historical works were not considered fixed or canonical texts by the persons who transcribed, translated, quoted or otherwise transmitted his books.”

    Isn’t this a rather general attitude from scribes, that ocurred randomly at a given point of many handwritten copies of a text? I’m not sure this has to apply only to Josephus or his ideas.

    Gilla

  8. David Blocker said,

    3 februari, 2014 den 06:34

    Ivan:
    Thank you for reading my essay and taking the time to write an excellent comment.
    I wrote the essay to refute a couple of prominent North American Josephus scholars who had implied that unlike other manuscript texts, Josephus’ narrations were treated with special respect and had never been significantly altered.
    I wanted to show that they were not correct.
    There is another place where text of Jewish War seems to have been changed. The physical description of the Masada Fortress in ”Jewish War” may have a lacuna, a missing segment.
    Josephus provided a written walking tour of Masada, but there seems to be missing text where the description of the administrative palace and Herod’s Hanging Palace are abruptly blended together. The description of the central area between the two buildings is missing.
    I have seen two published essays addressing this, I appologize for not being able to find the references in my files.
    It was proposed that the missing block of text could have been due to either scribal error or damaged scroll at early point in text’s transmission history, or that the text was deliberately censored, to hide location where the defenders died. This would prevent Masada from becoming a pilgrimidge site. One of the authors suggested that there may have been significance about location of early Byzantine era chapel located within the walls of Masada.

    Gilla


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