Flavius Josephus Study Archive

During the Middle Ages, Josephus was the most widely read ancient author in Europe.. Josephus’ literary influence had no equal, with the sole exception of the Bible


Flavius Josephus Study Archive
Biography, Credibility, and Importance

“you may perhaps recover when you have reconciled yourself with the deity who destroyed you.”  (War 5.19)

The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus
Administrative | Factional | Military | Theological | Topographical


  • HISTORICAL“During the Middle Ages, Josephus was the most widely read ancient author in Europe.. Josephus’ literary influence had no equals, with the sole exception of the Bible.” /”The Greek-speaking population (in the Byzantine Empire) was familiar with the lengthy Greek version of Josephus. The long scrolls were piously copied and epitomized by countless generations of chronographers and historians..” Steven Bowman (See: Josephus and Judaean Politics)
  • THEOLOGICAL: “The fulfilment of our Lord’s prophecy respecting Jerusalem.. is portrayed in the pages of Josephus with terrible exactness. We may, perhaps, without presumption ascribe the existence of his works to Divine Providence; for there are few persons who have read his narrative that have not felt themselves more deeply impressed than ever with the solemn truths of Scripture, and the tremendous certainty of the Divine judgments.” – representative quote from countless authors (Exhaustive Bibliography)


(Many Additional Works and Quotes Below)


Typically Organized by Author’s First Name

Adam Maarschalk: Josephus and the Book of Revelation – Nine Case Studies (2016)

As we look at these parallels, consider what they mean for the popular idea that John wrote Revelation around 95 AD. Some of the parallels are so striking that a person would basically have to conclude that John borrowed from the earlier writings of Josephus, and then used the language of Josephus to prophesy of a much later war

Allen Baily: Clouds of Judgment and Glory (2003)

The elements of the previous dispensation must give way for a more transcending and glorious kingdom of the Son of God Himself where He now indwells His people by His Own Spirit, and walks in them and dwells in them

Bibliography: 2,000 Years of Josephus

Initially published as a pamphleteer, Josephus’ first work was distributed in Rome prior to the joint triumph of Vespasian and Titus in 71.  This work is, apparently, lost to history.  Since then, Christians have viewed Josephus as ancient Israel’s final light.  Aside from the Bible, no work has been copied with greater consistency over the last 2,000 years than his Wars of the Jews.  Josephus was so respected that church father Ambrose included portions of his work as the climax to his first published Bible.

Charlotte Elizabeth: Judea Capta (1845)

Titus certainly never dreamed of mercy to the Jews ; but of course he wished to capture the city in all its proud beauty ; and to enshrine some of his demon-gods within the magnificent courts of the LORD’S house.

Clement of Rome Study Archive

Most modern critics suppose him to have been the Titus Flavius Clemens, brother of the Emperor Vespasian, and first cousin to the Emperor Domitian

David Curtis: The Law is Fulfilled (2002)

Some questions that we need to ask are, “What is the Law? What is destroy verses fulfill. What is heaven and earth? What does “pass away” mean? What is a jot and tittle?

Dominic Selwood: Two millennia after the sack of Jerusalem (2014)

Joseph, or Josephus as be became known, lived through the most turbulent period of the Jewish-Roman wars, and — to the joy of later historians — loved writing as much as he enjoyed talking about himself… his boastful personality is inextricably linked to the extraordinary life he led, and to his unique closeness to the decision makers on both sides of the war. Whatever one thinks of his character or actions, his eye for detail and his fascination with the politics driving Rome and Jerusalem make him one of the most immediate and exciting writers of the first century.

G.M. Paul: The Presentation of Titus in the Jewish War of Josephus (1993)

Josephus’ claim that the springs miraculously flowed more freely at Titus’ parousia would be to suggest that Titus was at least accompanied by divine favour, and this effect is made explicit by the statement that “the Deity has fled from the holy places and taken His stand on the side of those with whom you are now at war”

Gary DeMar: Flavius Josephus and Preterism (2013)

While the Bible is the best interpreter of itself, it helps to have non-biblical historical sources from the same time period to help flesh out details not found in Scripture and to support what is found in the biblical text. The writings of Josephus are some of those historical works. We would be foolish to ignore them.

Geza Vermes: Jesus in the Eyes of Josephus (2010)

In conclusion, what seems to be Josephus’s authentic portrait of Jesus depicts him as a wise teacher and miracle worker, with an enthusiastic following of Jewish disciples who, despite the crucifixion of their master by order of Pontius Pilate in collusion with the Jerusalem high priests, remained faithful to him up to Josephus’s days.

Hegesippus: On The Ruin of the City of Jerusalem (0370-75)

He has changed the theme of the work from the Jewish War to the destruction of Jerusalem and its significance, and has omitted and adapted sections of the War or included materials from various other sources as it relates to that theme

Jim Bloom: Lion Feuchtwanger and his Josephus Trilogy

I chose therefore to transplant this conflict into the soul of a man, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who, it appeared to me, had experienced it in the same way as so many do today, with the difference that he did so 1860 years ago.

Josephus Works: in Slavonic (1500-1800)

The Old Russian text of the “Histories of the Jewish wars” by Flavius Josephus has come to us in many MSS which can be assigned to the XV-XVIII centuries

Josephus: Flavii Iosephi, Antiquitatum Iudaicarum (Basil, 1544)

This editio princeps of the original text of Josephus’ works, edited by A.P. Arlenius and S. Gelenius, served as the basis for all later editions of the Greek text until the end of the nineteenth century. Indented spaces with small guide-letters have been left for the illumination or rubrication of initial capitals, never executed in this copy.


Judea Capta Coins (71)

Struck in Rome beginning in the year 71 to commemorate the triumph of Vespasian & Titus

Norman Bentwich: Josephus (1914)

Yet did they occasion the fulfilment of prophecies relating to their country. For there was an ancient oracle that the city should be taken and the sanctuary burnt when sedition should affect the Jews.

Ovid Need: King Agrippa’s Speech To the Nationalists (1998)

Had I perceived that you were all zealously disposed to go to war with the Romans, and that the purer and more sincere part of the people did not propose to live in peace, I had not come out to you, nor been so bold as to give you counsel; for all discourses that tend to persuade men to do what they ought to do is superfluous, when the hearers are agreed to do the contrary.

Shlomo Avineri: Josephus the Zionist (2010)

The publication of a new translation of ‘The War of the Jews’ affords an opportunity to look at the motivations underlying the betrayal on the battlefield and the historical writing of a complex Jewish figure.


The Amillennial Preterism of Clement of Alexandria [A.D. 162]

Clement did hold to a future advent of Christ, and like many throughout history, supposed that it would be within his own lifetime. Thus, while Dispensationalists like Thomas Ice use the “immanence” argument to support a “pre-trib” rapture, the only real conclusion that we can draw from this statement is that Clement was wrong.

The Arch of Titus (81)

It is a triple arch erected by the east end of the Circus Maximus by the Senate in 81 AD, in honour of Titus and his capture of Jerusalem in the First Jewish-Roman War.

The New Testament Epistle of James (-0047-48)

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War: Factions

Peace was his real goal.  He knew that Roman power was irresistible, but, when driven to provide for a state of war, he tried to ensure that, if they would not come to terms, the Jews should at least give a good account of themselves.

Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War: Geography

The Siege of Jerusalem began in April, A.D.70, Forty Years to the Week from the Crucifixion of Christ | The temple was burnt August 10, A. D. 70, the exact same day and month on which it had been burnt by the king of Babylon

Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War: Theology

Though most of the Old Testament references were given before the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, it is my opinion that they are intended to foreshadow that by Titus.  Noting that both occurred on the same calendar day supports this conclusion.  Others disagree; so be it.

William Whiston Study Archive

 Dr. Whitby well observes, no small part of the evidence for the truth of the Christian religion does depend upon the ‘completions’ of the prophecies, and it is believed ‘Josephus’ history‘ furnishes a record of ‘their exact completions’

Louis H. Feldman
“As for the impiety of which Josephus accused (John of Gischala), it stems to some extent from the fact that John, like many others, gave a favorable interpretation to the Scriptural prophecies, whereas Josephus saw them as foretelling the ruin of Jerusalem” (Louis H. Feldman, Josephus, the Bible and History, p. 234)

“The significance of Josephus is particularly great in the following areas.  (1) Inasmuch as he presents up with a paraphrase of the Bible, he is an important early witness to the biblical text whose paraphrase can be compared not only with the Hebrew and the Septuagint in its various versions but also with the Dead Sea fragments. (2) He represents one of the earliest extant stages in the history of midrashic tradition, in which his work can be compared with not only the later rabbinic Targumim and Midrashim but also with the writings of Philo, the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Pseudo-Philo’s  Biblical Antiquities, and such a work as the Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon.  (3) He is on of the earliest witnesses to the Jewish Halakhic (legal) tradition, earlier by a century than the rabbinic Mishnah and to be compared with Philo and with such works as the Dead Sea Temple Scroll.  (4) He presents by far our fullest account of the momentous change – one may well call it a revolution – in the history of Judaism, including its enormously successful proselytizing activities, which led from its biblical phase to its rabbinic era.  (5) His works, along with some Samaritan inscriptions and papyri and the Dead Sea Scrolls, are our fullest account of the development of sectarian movements in Judaism – Samaritanism, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the revolutionary Fourth Philosophy.  (6)  The period he covers in such detail is the era just before and during the emergence of Christianity and hence is crucial for an understanding of the infant years of the new religious group.  (7) He is the chief guide for the archeologist in the process of recreating the economic, social, political, and cultural life of Judea, particularlyl for the two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple.  (8) He occupies an important place in the history of Greek and Roman historiography, a link in the joining of the Isocratean and Aristotelian schools.  (9)  He is an important source for much of Greek, Roman, and Parthian political and military history (for example, he gives us a far fuller account of the assassination of the Emperor Caligula and the accession of Claudius than any other writer. (10) He is by far our most important source for the relations between Jews and non-Jews, including, in particular, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  (11) As the author of the first extant autobiography from antiquity, he is important for establishing the canons of this genre, which was to culminate in Augustine’s Confessions.  (12) He is an important source for Greek vocabulary and grammar of the Hellenistic period, notably those of Philo, the New Testament, and papyri.” (Josephus, Judaism and Christianity, pp. 13,14)

Sharon Turner
“Few pieces of history are more interesting, than Josephus’s account of the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem.” (History of the Anglo-Saxons, p. 49)

Paul Volz
“Even Josephus does not completely avoid the national expectations of his people.  In Ant. 4.114 ff. he gives a vivid and rich paraphrase of Bileam’s promise (Num. 24), and in War 5.19 he seeks to keep down his grief caused by Jerusalem’s destruction by the exclamation: ‘you may perhaps recover when you have reconciled yourself with the deity who destroyed you’.  Generally, however, his position is different.  In War, 6.31.2, he changes the ancient oracle, that one from Judea would gain world domination, interpreting it as referring to Vespasian.  With this interpretation he expressly dissociates himself from the messianic zealots, who, according to Josephus, were stirred up to a messianic war precisely by this oracle.  Moreover, it is strange how unclearly he expresses himself in Ant. 10.210 on the stone from Daniel ch. 2.  It is similarly strange that in Ant. 10.267ff., surveying the prophecies in Daniel, in the first place, he does mention Daniel ch. 8, but not ch. 7, and secondly, he does describe the derious visitation prophecied by Daniel, but in his paraphrase he includes nothing about the ‘Son of Man’ in Daniel 7.13 or about the positive prospects of salvation linked to this figure.  Accordingly, Josephus’ personal opinion did not include the eschatological belief and the national expectations, but only the individual belief in an hereafter, where the national redemption and the eschatological salvation have been replaced by the redemption of the soul and its immortality.” (quoted in Understanding Josephus, p. 38)

Eusebius (325)
“If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange.” (Book III, Ch. VII)

From Demonstratio Evangelica (Proof of the Gospel) (AD 314-19):

“..how can we deny that the prophecies of long ago have at last been fulfilled? And these foretold that the Lord would come to Egypt not in an unembodied state, but in a light cloud, or better “in light thickness,” for such is the meaning of the Hebrew, shewing figuratively His Incarnate state.”

“The Holy Scriptures foretell that there will be unmistakable signs of the Coming of Christ. Now there were among the Hebrews three outstanding offices of dignity, which made the nation famous, firstly the kingship, secondly that of prophet, and lastly the high priesthood. The prophecies said that the abolition and complete destruction of all these three together would be the sign of the presence of the Christ. And that the proofs that the times had come, would lie in the ceasing of the Mosaic worship, the desolation of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the subjection of the whole Jewish race to its enemies…

Or who can deny, that concurrently with the appearance of our Saviour Jesus the solemnities of the Jews, their city with its Temple and the worship performed therein, have come to an end, together with their native rulers and governors, and that from that time the hope and expectation of the nations through all the world has been made known, since the things laid up in the Lord have come.” (Book VIII)

Isodore of Pelusium
“If you have a mind to know what punishment the wicked Jews underwent, who ill-treated the Christ, read the history of their destruction, writ by Josephus, a Jew indeed, but a lover or truth, that you may see the wonderful story, such as no time ever saw before since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall  be.   For that none might refuse to give credit to the history of their incredible and unparalleled sufferings, truth found out not a stranger, but a native, and a man fond of their institutions, to relate them in a doleful strain.” (Lib. 3. ep. 75. Vid. et ep. 74.)

Josephus in the Ante-Nicene Fathers: all the citations

By Roger Pearse

Original Digital Custodian of Lee’s Dissertation on Eusebius’ Theophany

The Testimonium Flavianum is really something I do not have time to write much about.  However there seem to be arguments being made about it’s authenticity based upon absence of evidence.  I expressed my doubts about this approach in a newsgroup, and the following reply was made.  I quote it, as the idea seems to be in common circulation: However, there are instances where absence of evidence _is_ fairly strong evidence.  In my opinion, the case of the Testimonium Flavium is one of those. As I understand it,  we have fairly good evidence that church patriarchs from the 2nd to the mid-4th century  knew Josephus well and used him extensively in their dialogues with non-Christian and heretical critics. Yet, not a one mentions the glowing report (or any possible positive expurgated version thereof) contained in the TF, until Eusebius. The silence is deafening and damning.

But is this true?  I can’t see why the  Fathers would normally quote Josephus.  So I investigated.

This page is the product of a search for the word ‘Josephus’ in the Ante-Nicene Fathers at http://www.ccel.org/fathers2.  Results from footnotes or Nicene/Post-Nicene Fathers have been ignored, as the latter will know Eusebius, of course.  After this I read Michael E. HARDWICK, Josephus as a historical source in Patristic literature through Eusebius, Brown Judaic Studies 128, Scholars Press, Georgia (1989).  This covers the same ground, but also looks for possible unattributed references.  Finally the references are discussed by Alice WHEALEY, Josephus on Jesus. Studies in Biblical Literature 36. New York: Peter Lang (2003).

Eusebius says Antiquities was available in Roman libraries. (HE 3.9). Porphyry is only pagan writer to quote Josephus, and does so from the Jewish War (Whealey, p.11) Porphyry does name Antiquities in De Abstinentia 4:11, but it is unclear if he read any of it.  The only papyrus of Josephus is a fragment of the Jewish War.

There are 16 results of which 3 are not relevant:

NB: Two further possible parallels are identified by Hardwick, but will be ignored here as too uncertain.

  • Melito of Sardis: Possible allusion in his Homily on the Passion to Jewish War 6.201-213: although the story of the mother eating her child may be derived from Lamentations 4.10 instead.
  • Lactantius: Possible parallel use of Genesis 6.2 in Divine Institutes 2.15, but no necessary link to Josephus.

This leaves 13 results.  9 of these are as follows, with the work of Josephus cited.

In these 10 citations, there seems to be no reason why the Testimonium would be cited; it is foreign to the purpose of the works in question.

The remaining 4 citations are all from Origen.

These indicate that he knew a text of Antiquities in which Josephus referred to Christ, but one somewhat different from that given by Eusebius.

On the basis of the data, the argument from absence seems very shaky indeed.  There is little use of Antiquities at all.


  1. anf01-64.htm:  Fragments from the lost writings of Irenaeus: XXXII.53
  2. anf02-43.htm: Theophilus to Autolycus:Book III:Chapter XXIII.-Prophets More Ancient Than Greek Writers.
  3. anf02-57.htm:Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book I, chapter XXI.
  4. anf03-05.htm: Tertullian:Apologeticum:Chapter XIX.
  5. anf06-50.htm:Book III.-The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus:Chapter XVII.38:On the Fortunes of Hyrcanus and Antigonus, and on Herod, Augustus, Antony, and Cleopatra, in Abstract.
  6. anf04-55.htm: Origen, Against Celsus, Book I, chapter 16
  7. anf04-55.htm: Origen, Against Celsus, Book I, Chapter 47
  8. anf04-58.htm: Origen, Against Celsus, Book IV, Chapter 11
  9. anf10-46.htm: Origen:Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, Book X:Chapter 17. The Brethren of Jesus.
  10. anf05-17.htm: The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus: Part I.-Exegetical. Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture.On Jeremiah and Ezekiel.145
  11. anf06-57.htm: The Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria:Chapter 3.
  12. anf06-122.htm: Methodius, Book II, Chapter 18.

anf01-64.htm:  Fragments from the lost writings of Irenaeus: XXXII.53

Josephus says, that when Moses had been brought up in the royal palaces, he was chosen as general against the Ethiopians; and having proved victorious, obtained in marriage the daughter of that king, since indeed, out of her affection for him, she delivered the city up to him.

  • Note: Whealey says this is derived from Antiquities 2.238-253.  But Irenaeus can hardly have read book 18 of Antiquities, and in particular Ant. 18:89 which specifies that Pilate was removed in the closing years of Tiberius, as he asserts that Pilate crucified Jesus under Claudius (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 74).

anf02-43.htm:Theophilus to Autolycus:Book III:Chapter XXIII.-Prophets More Ancient Than Greek Writers.

So then let what has been said suffice for the testimony of the Phoenicians and Egyptians, and for the account of our chronology given by the writers Manetho the Egyptian, and Menander the Ephesian, and also Josephus, who wrote the Jewish war, which they waged with the Romans. For from these very old records it is proved that the writings of the rest are more recent than the writings given to us through Moses, yes, and than the subsequent prophets. For the last of the prophets, who was called Zechariah, was contemporary with the reign of Darius. But even the lawgivers themselves are all found to have legislated subsequently to that period. For if one were to mention Solon the Athenian, he lived in the days of the kings Cyrus and Darius, in the time of the prophet Zechariah first mentioned, who was by many years the last of the prophets. Or if you mention the lawgivers Lycurgus, or Draco, or Minos, Josephus tells us in his writings that the sacred books take precedence of them in antiquity, since even before the reign of Jupiter over the Cretans, and before the Trojan war, the writings of the divine law which has been given to us through Moses were in existence. And that we may give a more accurate exhibition of eras and dates, we will, God helping us, now give an account not only of the dates after the deluge, but also of those before it, so as to reckon the whole number of all the years, as far as possible; tracing up to the very beginning of the creation of the world, which Moses the servant of God recorded through the Holy Spirit. For having first spoken of what concerned the creation and genesis of the world, and of the first man, and all that happened after in the order of events, he signified also the years that elapsed before the deluge. And I pray for favour from the only God, that I may accurately speak the whole truth according to His will, that you and every one who reads this work may be guided by His truth and favour. I will then begin first with the recorded genealogies, and I begin my narration with the first man.

  • Note: Whealey says this is a reference to Against Apion.

anf02-57.htm:Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book I, chapter XXI.

Chapter XXI.-The Jewish Institutions and Laws of Far Higher Antiquity Than the Philosophy of the Greeks.

On the plagiarizing of the dogmas of the philosophers from the Hebrews, we shall treat a little afterwards. But first, as due order demands, we must now speak of the epoch of Moses, by which the philosophy of the Hebrews will be demonstrated beyond all contradiction to be the most ancient of all wisdom. This has been discussed with accuracy by Tatian in his book To the Greeks, and by Cassian in the first book of his Exegetics. Nevertheless our commentary demands that we too should run over what has been said on the point. Apion, then, the grammarian, surnamed Pleistonices, in the fourth book of The Egyptian Histories, although of so hostile a disposition towards the Hebrews, being by race an Egyptian, as to compose a work against the Jews, when referring to Amosis king of the Egyptians, and his exploits, adduces, as a witness, Ptolemy of Mendes.

[…many pages of quotes on dates…]

Flavius Josephus the Jew, who composed the history of the Jews, computing the periods, says that from Moses to David were five hundred and eighty-five years; from David to the second year of Vespasian, a thousand one hundred and seventy-nine; then from that to the tenth year of Antoninus, seventy-seven. So that from Moses to the tenth year of Antoninus there are, in all, two thousand one hundred and thirty-three years.

Of others, counting from Inachus and Moses to the death of Commodus, some say there were three thousand one hundred and forty-two years; and others, two thousand eight hundred and thirty-one years.

  • Note: Hardwick says that this is a composite of Jewish War 6.435 ff. and Antiquities 8.61 ff; 7.389.  Whealey agrees.

anf03-05.htm:Tertullian:Apologeticum:Chapter XIX.

Their high antiquity, first of all, claims authority for these writings. With you, too, it is a kind of religion to demand belief on this very ground. Well, all the substances, all the materials, the origins, classes, contents of your most ancient writings, even most nations and cities illustrious in the records of the past and noted for their antiquity in books of annals,-the very forms of your letters, those revealers and custodiers of events, nay (I think I speak still within the mark), your very gods themselves, your very temples and oracles, and sacred rites, are less ancient than the work of a single prophet, in whom you have the thesaurus of the entire Jewish religion, and therefore too of ours. If you happen to have heard of a certain Moses, I speak first of him: he is as far back as the Argive Inachus; by nearly four hundred years—-only seven less—-he precedes Danaus, your most ancient name; while he antedates by a millennium the death of Priam. I might affirm, too, that he is five hundred years earlier than Homer, and have supporters of that view. The other prophets also, though of later date, are, even the most recent of them, as far back as the first of your philosophers, and legislators, and historians. It is not so much the difficulty of the subject, as its vastness, that stands in the way of a statement of the grounds on which these statements rest; the matter is not so arduous as it would be tedious. It would require the anxious study of many books, and the fingers busy reckoning. The histories of the most ancient nations, such as the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, the Phoenicians, would need to be ransacked; the men of these various nations who have information to give, would have to be called in as witnesses. Manetho the Egyptian, and Berosus the Chaldean, and Hieromus the Phoenician king of Tyre; their successors too, Ptolemy the Mendesian, and Demetrius Phalereus, and King Juba, and Apion, and Thallus, and their critic the Jew Josephus, the native vindicator of the ancient history of his people, who either authenticates or refutes the others. Also the Greek censors’ lists must be compared, and the dates of events ascertained, that the chronological connections may be opened up, and thus the reckonings of the various annals be made to give forth light. We must go abroad into the histories and literature of all nations. And, in fact, we have already brought the proof in part before you, in giving those hints as to how it is to be effected. But it seems better to delay the full discussion of this, lest in our haste we do not sufficiently carry it out, or lest in its thorough handling we make too lengthened a digression.

  • Note: Whealey says this is a reference to Against Apion.

anf04-34.htm:Minucius Felix, chapter 33.

Chapter XXXIII.-Argument: that Even If God Be Said to Have Nothing Availed the Jews, Certainly the Writers of the Jewish Annals are the Most Sufficient Witnesses that They Forsook God Before They Were Forsaken by Him.

“Neither let us flatter ourselves concerning our multitude. We seem many to ourselves, but to God we are very few. We distinguish peoples and nations; to God this whole world is one family. Kings only know all the matters of their kingdom by the ministrations of their servants: God has no need of information. We not only live in His eyes, but also in His bosom. But it is objected that it availed the Jews nothing that they themselves worshipped the one God with altars and temples, with the greatest superstition. You are guilty of ignorance if you are recalling later events while you are forgetful or unconscious of former ones. For they themselves also, as long as they worshipped our God-and He is the same God of all-with chastity, innocency, and religion, as long as they obeyed His wholesome precepts, from a few became innumerable, from poor became rich, from being servants became kings; a few overwhelmed many; unarmed men overwhelmed armed ones as they fled from them, following them up by God’s command, and with the elements striving on their behalf. Carefully read over their Scriptures, or if you are better pleased with the Roman writings, inquire concerning the Jews in the books (to say nothing of ancient documents) of Flavius Josephus or Antoninus Julianus, and you shall know that by their wickedness they deserved this fortune, and that nothing happened which had not before been predicted to them, if they should persevere in their obstinacy. Therefore you will understand that they forsook before they were forsaken, and that they were not, as you impiously say, taken captive with their God, but they were given up by God as deserters from His discipline.

  • Note: Whealey says this refers back to Tertullian, and the thesis is that of the Jewish War.  Hardwick questions whether Minucius Felix knew more of Josephus than the name, and points out that many writers may only have had a collection of quotes, rather than the whole work.  Whealey is likewise unsure whether Minucius Felix had actually read Josephus, or simply was aware of the book and that it argued thus.

anf06-50.htm:Book III.-The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus: Chapter XVII.38

At that time also, Josephus, Herod’s brother, died in his command. And Herod coming to Antony …

  • Note: This does not refer to our Josephus.  However passages elsewhere derive from Antiquities 12, 14 and 15.  Whealey says that it is unclear whether Africanus used Josephus, or rather his source for this, Nicolaus of Damascus.

anf04-55.htm:Origen, Against Celsus, Book I, chapter 16

I must express my surprise that Celsus should class the Odrysians, and Samothracians, and Eleusinians, and Hyperboreans among the most ancient and learned nations, and should not deem the Jews worthy of a place among such, either for their learning or their antiquity, although there are many treatises in circulation among the Egyptians, and Phoenicians, and Greeks, which testify to their existence as an ancient people, but which I have considered it unnecessary to quote. For any one who chooses may read what Flavius Josephus has recorded in his two books, On the Antiquity of the Jews, where he brings together a great collection of writers, who bear witness to the antiquity of the Jewish people; and there exists the Discourse to the Greeks of Tatian the younger, in which with very great learning he enumerates those historians who have treated of the antiquity of the Jewish nation and of Moses. It seems, then, to be not from a love of truth, but from a spirit of hatred, that Celsus makes these statements, his object being to asperse the origin of Christianity, which is connected with Judaism. Nay, he styles the Galactophagi of Homer, and the Druids of the Gauls, and the Getae, most learned and ancient tribes, on account of the resemblance between their traditions and those of the Jews, although I know not whether any of their histories survive; but the Hebrews alone, as far as in him lies, he deprives of the honour both of antiquity and learning. And again, when making a list of ancient and learned men who have conferred benefits upon their contemporaries (by their deeds), and upon posterity by their writings, he excluded Moses from the number; while of Linus, to whom Celsus assigns a foremost place in his list, there exists neither laws nor discourses which produced a change for the better among any tribes; whereas a whole nation, dispersed throughout the entire world, obey the laws of Moses. Consider, then, whether it is not from open malevolence that he has expelled Moses from his catalogue of learned men, while asserting that Linus, and Musaeus, and Orpheus, and Pherecydes, and the Persian Zoroaster, and Pythagoras, discussed these topics, and that their opinions were deposited in books, and have thus been preserved down to the present time. And it is intentionally also that he has omitted to take notice of the myth, embellished chiefly by Orpheus, in which the gods are described as affected by human weaknesses and passions.

anf04-55.htm:Origen, Against Celsus, Book I, Chapter 47

I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),-the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure.

anf04-58.htm:Origen, Against Celsus, Book IV, Chapter 11

After this, being desirous to show that it is nothing either wonderful or new which we state regarding floods or conflagrations, but that, from misunderstanding the accounts of these things which are current among Greeks or barbarous nations, we have accorded our belief to our own Scriptures when treating of them, he writes as follows: “The belief has spread among them, from a misunderstanding of the accounts of these occurrences, that after lengthened cycles of time, and the returns and conjunctions of planets, conflagrations and floods are wont to happen, and because after the last flood, which took place in the time of Deucalion, the lapse of time, agreeably to the vicissitude of all things, requires a conflagration and this made them give utterance to the erroneous opinion that God will descend, bringing fire like a torturer.” Now in answer to this we say, that I do not understand how Celsus, who has read a great deal, and who shows that he has perused many histories, had not his attention arrested by the antiquity of Moses, who is related by certain Greek historians to have lived about the time of Inachus the son of Phoroneus, and is acknowledged by the Egyptians to be a man of great antiquity, as well as by those who have studied the history of the Phoenicians. And any one who likes may peruse the two books of Flavius Josephus on the antiquities of the Jews, in order that he may see in what way Moses was more ancient than those who asserted that floods and conflagrations take place in the world after long intervals of time; which statement Celsus alleges the Jews and Christians to have misunderstood, and, not comprehending what was said about a conflagration, to have declared that “God will descend, bringing fire like a torturer.”

anf10-46.htm:Origen:Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, Book X:Chapter 17. The Brethren of Jesus.

And the saying, “Whence hath this man this wisdom, ” indicates clearly that there was a great and surpassing wisdom in the words of Jesus worthy of the saying, lo, a greater than Solomon is here.” And He was wont to do greater miracles than those wrought through Elijah and Elisha, and at a still earlier date through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun. And they spoke, wondering, (not knowing that He was the son of a virgin, or not believing it even if it was told to them, but supposing that He was the son of Joseph the carpenter, ) “is not this the carpenter’s son? ” And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, “Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? ” They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or “The Book of James,” that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,” might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity. And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, “But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the “Antiquities of the Jews” in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James. And Jude, who wrote a letter of few lines, it is true, but filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace, said in the preface, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.” With regard to Joseph and Simon we have nothing to tell; but the saying, “And His sisters are they not all with us.” seems to me to signify something of this nature-they mind our things, not those of Jesus, and have no unusual portion of surpassing wisdom as Jesus has. And perhaps by these things is indicated a new doubt concerning Him, that Jesus was not a man but something diviner, inasmuch as He was, as they supposed, the son of Joseph and Mary, and the brother of four, and of the others-the women-as well, and yet had nothing like to any one of His kindred, and had not from education and teaching come to such a height of wisdom and power. For they also say elsewhere, “How knoweth this man letters having never learned? ” which is similar to what is here said. Only, though they say these things and are so perplexed and astonished, they did not believe, but were offended in Him; as if they had been mastered in the eyes of their mind by the powers which, in the time of the passion, He was about to lead in triumph on the cross.

anf05-17.htm: The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus: Part I.-Exegetical. Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture.On Jeremiah and Ezekiel.145

What were the dimensions, then, of the temple of Solomon? Its length was sixty cubits, and its breadth twenty. And it was not turned to the east, that the worshippers might not worship the rising sun, but the Lord of the sun. And let no one marvel if, when the Scripture gives the length at forty cubits, I have said sixty. For a little after it mentions the other twenty, in describing the holy of holies, which it also names Dabir. Thus the holy place was forty cubits, and the holy of holies other twenty. And Josephus says that the temple had two storeys, and that the whole height was one hundred and twenty cubits. For so also the book of Chronicles indicates, saying, “And Solomon began to build the house of God. In length its first measure was sixty cubits, and its breadth twenty cubits, and its height one hundred and twenty; and he overlaid it within with pure gold.”

  • Whealey says that Hippolytus parallels Jewish War 2:119-266 in his Refutation of All Heresies.  She does not discuss this passage.

anf06-57.htm:The Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria:Chapter 3.

Nor is this an opinion confined to ourselves alone. For it was also known to the Jews of old and before Christ, and it was most carefully observed by them. And this may be learned from what Philo, and Josephus, and Musaeus have written; and not only from these, but indeed from others still more ancient, namely, the two Agathobuli, who were surnamed the Masters, and the eminent Aristobulus, who was one of the Seventy who translated the sacred and holy Scriptures of the Hebrews for Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and dedicated his exegetical books on the law of Moses to the same kings. These writers, in solving some questions which are raised with respect to Exodus, say that all alike ought to sacrifice the Passover after the vernal equinox in the middle of the first month. And that is found to be when the sun passes through the first segment of the solar, or, as some among them have named it, the zodiacal circle.

anf06-122.htm: Methodius, On the Resurrection, Book II, Chapter 18. (Lost: quote is from Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 234.)

XVIII. And, when Origen allegorises that which is said by the prophet Ezekiel concerning the resurrection of the dead, and perverts it to the return of the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon, the saint in refuting him, after many other remarks, says this also: For neither did they obtain a perfect liberty, nor did they overcome their enemies by a greater power, and dwell again in Jerusalem; and when they frequently intended to build (the temple), they were prevented by other nations. Whence, also, they were scarce able to build that in forty-six years, which Solomon completed from the foundations in seven years. But what need we say on this subject? For from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and those who after him reigned over Babylon, until the time of the Persian expedition against the Assyrians, and the empire of Alexander, and the war which was stirred up by the Romans against the Jews, Jerusalem was six times overthrown by its enemies. And this is recorded by Josephus, who says: “Jerusalem was taken in the second year of the reign of Vespasian. It had been taken before five times; but now for the second time it was destroyed. For Asochaeus, king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, next Pompey, and after these Sosius, with Herod, took the city and burnt it; but before these, the king of Babylon conquered and destroyed it.”

Alfred Church (1902)
“IN this story I have followed the narrative of Josephus, making many omissions but no other change of importance. It did not fall within the scope of my work to estimate his veracity and trustworthiness; but I may here say that a close acquaintance with his history will not incline the reader to put much confidence in his narrative on any point where interest or vanity may have tempted him to depart from the truth. In one matter, which is of such interest and importance that an account of it may be given here, he seems to have deliberately falsified history. The ingenuity of a German critic, Jacob von Bernays, detected in the Chronicle  of Sulpicius Severus (a Christian writer, A.D. 350—420) a very slightly disguised quotation from one of the lost books of the History  of Tacitus. The passage may be thus translated.

“Titus is said to have called a council of war, and then put to it the question whether he ought to destroy so grand a structure as the Temple. Some thought that a sacred building, more famous than any that stood upon the earth, ought not to be destroyed. If it were preserved, it would be a proof of Roman moderation; if destroyed, it would brand the Empire for ever with the stigma of cruelty. On the other hand there were some, and among these Titus himself, who considered that the destruction of the Temple was an absolute necessity, if there was to be a complete eradication of the Jewish and Christian religions. These superstitions, opposed as they were to each other, had sprung from the same origin; the Christians had come forth from among the Jews; remove the root and the stem would speedily perish.”

In the interest, doubtless, of his Imperial patrons, the family of Vespasian, Josephus represents the destruction of the Temple as having been accomplished against the will of Titus.” (Last Days of Jerusalem, preface)

C.H. Spurgeon
“The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God.” (Commentary on Matthew, p. 412)

Henry Stebbing
“Valuable as are the remains of classical antiquity, the Works of Josephus may be placed, at least, on a level with the most esteemed monuments of ancient learning.   Josephus was esteemed in the first ages of Christianity as an author deserving a high degree of respect for research and integrity. Pious and learned men of later ages have continued to view him in the same light.” (Introduction to Josephus’ Works)

“The fulfilment of our Lord’s prophecy respecting Jerusalem.. is portrayed in the pages of Josephus with terrible exactness. We may, perhaps, without presumption ascribe the existence of his works to Divine Providence; for there are few persons who have read his narrative that have not felt themselves more deeply impressed than ever with the solemn truths of Scripture, and the tremendous certainty of the Divine judgments.”

John Wesley (1754)
“Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance.” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament)

David Brown
“21. And then, if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo he is there; believe him not–So Lu 17:23. No one can read JOSEPHUS’ account of what took place before the destruction of Jerusalem without seeing how strikingly this was fulfilled. ” (in loc.)

Philip Doddridge
Christian writers have always with great reason represented Josephus’s History of the Jewish war as the best commentary on this chapter; and many have justly remarked it as a wonderful instance of the care of Providence for the Christian church, that he, and eye-witness, and in these things of so great credit, should (especially in such an extraordinary manner) be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this noble prophecy in almost every circumstance.” (Doddridge, An Exposition of the Gospels, I:267, note.)

Jonathan Edwards (1739)
“These things [were] are all related by one of the most prudent historians who lived at that very time and that very place, and he says that many were alive when he wrote and could attest to all this.” (Misc. 972)

G.A. Henty
“In all history there is no drama of more terrible interest than that which terminated with the total destruction of Jerusalem. Had the whole Jewish nation joined in the desperate resistance made by a section of it to the overwhelming strength of Rome, the world would have had no record of truer patriotism than that displayed by this small people in their resistance to the forces of the mistress of the world. Unhappily the reverse of this was the case. Except in the defense of Jotapata and Gamala, it can scarcely be said the the Jewish people as a body offered any serious resistance to the arms of Rome. The defenders of Jerusalem were a mere fraction of its population, a fraction composed almost entirely of turbulent characters and robber bands, who fought with the fury of desperation, after having placed themselves beyond the pale of forgiveness or mercy by the deeds of unutterable cruelty with which they had desolated the city before its siege by the Romans. They fought, it is true, with unflinching courage, a courage never surpassed in history, but it was the courage of despair, and its result was to bring destruction upon the whole population as well as upon themselves. Fortunately the narrative of Josephus, an eye-witness of the events which he describes, has come down to us, and it is the store-house from which all subsequent histories of the events have been drawn. It is no doubt tinged throughout by the desire to stand well with his patrons Vespasian and Titus, but there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of his descriptions. I have endeavoured to present you with as vivid a picture as possible of the events of the war without encumbering the story with details, and except as regards the exploits of John of Gamala, of whom Josephus says nothing, have strictly followed in every particular the narrative of the historian.” (Introduction: For the Temple)

Thomas Lodge (1609)
“To the Right Honourable Father of Arts and Arms, Charles Lord Howard, Baron of Effingham, Early of Nottingham, High Constable of the Castle and Forrest of Windsor, Lord Chief Justice in Eyre in England, Governour and Captain Generall of all her Majesties Forts and Castles, High Admirall of England and Ireland, Lieutenant of Sussex and Surrey, Knight of the most Noble Order of the Garter, and one of her Majesties most Honourable privy Councell..   Vouchsafe therefore to level the eye of your esteem upon the Center of this happy history : and as Themistocles was animated to noble actions by beholding Miltiades trophies, and Alexander, in seeing Achilles tombe, did grievously sigh with an honorable emulation, so let the zeal, magnanimity, and admirable constancy which every where affronteth you in this book (and ravisheth the best minds from the boundless troubles of this world, and draweth them into the contemplation of true perfection) so settle your honourable love and affection to emulate the same, that as for glory in Arms, so for preserving and protecting Arts, you may outstrip your competitors and amaze too curious expectation. ” (Dedication, “The Famovs and Memorable Workes of Iosephus, a Man of Mvch Honovr and Learning among the Iewes, Faithfully translated out of Latin, and Frenchm by Tho. Lodge, Doctor in Physicke.”osephus’ Jewish Wars)

Philip Schaff (1877)
“The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worthy theme for the genius of a Christian Homer. It has been called “the most soul-stirring of all ancient history.” But there was no Jeremiah to sing the funeral dirge of the city of David and Solomon. The Apocalypse was already written, and had predicted that the heathen “shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months.” (p. 397-398)

Daniel Smith (1839)
“Haying been an eye witness of the scenes which he describes, he has given a most authentic account of the miseries as well as of the unparalleled crimes of his nation. Though a Jew, and by no means intending to favor Christianity, and though he suppresses most of what related to its Author, yet his history of facts shows the fulfilment of the predictions of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as those of Moses, to the very letter.” (Preface, Destruction of Jerusalem)

William Whiston (1737)
“Josephus speaks so, that it is most evident he was fully satisfied that God was on the Romans’ side, and made use of them now for the destruction of the Jews, which was for certain the true state of this matter, as the prophet Daniel first, and our Saviour himself afterwards had clearly foretold.”

F.W. Farrar (1882)
“the Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian world, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the Old Dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition – nothing but the manifest coming of Christ – could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled.

It was to this event, the most awful in history – ‘one of the most awful eras in God’s economy of grace, and the most awful revolution in all God’s religious dispensations’ – that we must apply those prophecies of Christ’s coming in which every one of the Apostles and Evangelists fixed these three most definite limitations – the one, that before that generation passed away all these things would be fulfilled; another, that some standing there should not taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom; and third, that the Apostles should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come. It is strange that these distinct limitations should not be regarded as a decisive proof that the Fall of Jerusalem was, in the fullest sense, the Second Advent of the Son of Man which was primarily contemplated by the earliest voices of prophecy” (ibid., Vol. 2, p. 489)

Thomas Newton  (1754)
“As a general in the wars (Josephus) must have had an exact knowledge of all transactions, and a Jewish priest he would not relate them with any favour of partiality to the Christian cause. His history was approved by Vespasian and Titus (who ordered it to be published) and by King Agrippa and many others, both Jews and Romans, who were present in those wars. He designed nothing less, and yet as if he had designed nothing more, his history of the Jewish wars may serve as a larger comment on our Saviour’s prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem.” (Newton, p. 433)

Bishop Porteus
“The fidelity, the veracity, and the probity of the writer are universally allowed; and Scaliger in particular declares, that not only in the affairs of the Jews, but even of foreign nations, he deserves more credit than all the Greek and Roman writers put together. ” (quoted by Farquharson)

Was Flavius Josephus Familiar with Christian Eschatology?
(Olivet Discourse/Apocalypse of John)

there were noises and thundering and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (16:18)

Josephus – “for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming” (“Wars of the Jews” 4:4:5)

John’s Revelation – “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (16:19)

Josephus – “it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of divine justice.” (5:1:1)

John’s Revelation – “And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent.” (16:21)

Josephus –  “Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness;” (5:6:3)

Titus Presents Josephus to Vespasian

The World of Josephus

By Todd Dennis

There is no doubt that Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews” is one of the most electrifying works in ancient historical literature. The author was not only present at the events described, but he was also one of the war’s most central characters. Joseph ben Mattias was a General of the Jewish Army for the beginning of the war with Rome. In the spring of A.D. 67, Vespasian’s forces advanced upon Josephus’ Twelfth Legion, most of which, upon the sight of the Roman army, deserted. He withdrew to the fortress of Jopata, and withstood a siege for six weeks. At last he was forced to surrender to the Romans (July A.D. 67).

Josephus made a remarkable prophecy that Vespasian would one day become Emperor. In itself, this was almost unthinkable, since the Julian line was still occupying the throne, and no Emperor had yet been created outside of Rome. In less than a year, Nero committed suicide, and two years later, Vespasian was named Emperor by his legions. The prophecy seems to have given Josephus a place of privilege, for he was more of a reporter, interpreter, and go-between than a prisoner.

When Vespasian ascended to the throne of the Roman Empire, he freed Josephus, and gave him the family name of Vespasian, Flavius. With the resumption of the Jewish War, Josephus returned to Jerusalem with Titus the son of the Emperor to exhort the Jews to surrender. The content of his “Wars” is the account of what he saw, and his final conclusion that,

“had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed” (VI,V,6).

Most Christians have never heard of nor read Josephus’ account of the event surrounding the seven year Jewish War.    Preterists, no matter of what stripe, believe that his work displays the providential nature of Israel’s desolation. No matter one’s eschatology, historically this work has been seen as  powerful substantiation of Christ’s prophecies.

In addition to relaying the general history of the war, certain sections of the book have long excited special interest.  One such passage is found in Book 6:

Besides these [signs], a few days after that feast, on the one- and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence” (WarsVI-V-3).

Other contemporary historians picked up on the story:

Tacitus (1st Century), the Roman historian, relating the same events, wrote:

“In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure” (Histories, v. 13).

Eusebius (A.D. 325), quoting from the Latin Josephus, in the fourth century:

“For before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities” (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 3, Ch. 8).

The crimes of that people (not the least of which was the killing of their Christ), representing the rejection of Christ among the rebellious even to this day, brought upon Israel the same judgments as fell upon Sodom and Egypt.. scripture even referring to Jerusalem with those names (Rev. 11:8).  God brought desolations and woes upon the head of that apostate nation, showing the power and vengeance of God (Isa. 52:10), as Paul recounted in Romans 9:17,

“Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.”

That Josephus gave an account strikingly similar to all of Christ’s Olivet Prophecies has been appreciated throughout Christian history. Eusebius (325) wrote:

“If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange.” (Book III, Ch. VII)

Thomas Newton
 (1754) and others wrote on the connection :

“As a general in the wars (Josephus) must have had an exact knowledge of all transactions, and a Jewish priest he would not relate them with any favour of partiality to the Christian cause.   He designed nothing less, and yet as if he had designed nothing more, his history of the Jewish wars may serve as a larger comment on our Saviour’s prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem.” (Newton, p. 433)

John Wesley (1754)

“Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance.” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament)

William Whiston (1737)

“Josephus speaks so, that it is most evident he was fully satisfied that God was on the Romans’ side, and made use of them now for the destruction of the Jews, which was for certain the true state of this matter, as the prophet Daniel first, and our Saviour himself afterwards had clearly foretold.”

Philip Schaff (1877)

“The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worthy theme for the genius of a Christian Homer. It has been called “the most soul-stirring of all ancient history.” But there was no Jeremiah to sing the funeral dirge of the city of David and Solomon. The Apocalypse was already written, and had predicted that the heathen “shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months.” (p. 397-398)

F.W. Farrar (1882), Archbishop of the Anglican church, wrote on the account as follows:

“the Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian world, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the Old Dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition – nothing but the manifest coming of Christ – could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled.

It was to this event, the most awful in history – ‘one of the most awful eras in God’s economy of grace, and the most awful revolution in all God’s religious dispensations’ – that we must apply those prophecies of Christ’s coming in which every one of the Apostles and Evangelists fixed these three most definite limitations – the one, that before that generation passed away all these things would be fulfilled; another, that some standing there should not taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom; and third, that the Apostles should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come. It is strange that these distinct limitations should not be regarded as a decisive proof that the Fall of Jerusalem was, in the fullest sense, the Second Advent of the Son of Man which was primarily contemplated by the earliest voices of prophecy” (ibid., Vol. 2, p. 489)


  • Geza Vermes claims Testimonium Flavianum is genuine – “In conclusion, what seems to be Josephus’s authentic portrait of Jesus depicts him as a wise teacher and miracle worker, with an enthusiastic following of Jewish disciples who, despite the crucifixion of their master by order of Pontius Pilate in collusion with the Jerusalem high priests, remained faithful to him up to Josephus’s days. // Reconstruction: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man…For he was one who performed paradoxical deeds and was the teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews [and many Greeks?]. He was [called] the Christ. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him…And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”
  • The Testimonium Flavianum of Eusebius? Ken Olson offers us a brief look at his meticulous work on Josephus’ reference to Jesus (famously titled the Testimonium Flavianium).

Why the Almighty Caused Jerusalem and His Temple to be Destroyed

By G. Goldberg

These excerpts are provided to give the general reader a knowledge of Josephus’ writings on various subjects. I have added my own commentary to provide context. These excerpts are a work in progress and are not meant at any time to include all that Josephus has to say on a subject.

References are given in the form of Book, Chapter, and Paragraph of the Whiston edition together with the Section number of the Greek (Loeb) edition. So “Ant. 18.1.6 23″ indicates Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 6 in Whiston, and in the Loeb edition, Book 18, Section 23.

The burning of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE/AD created a profound dilemma for faithful Jews of the time. Hadn’t religious observance throughout the land reached new heights in the years preceding the war? Wasn’t the revolt against Rome directly the result of zealous people vowing to have “no master except the Lord?” (Ant. 18.1.6  23). Then why did the Lord allow the Romans to crush the revolt and destroy his Temple?

Josephus offered a variety of solutions to this problem. His overall goal was to defend the Jews against the accusation that their Lord had deserted them. A further goal, which he only hinted at, was to pave the way for approval by the Roman authorities, at some future time, for the rebuilding of the Temple.

Death of the High Priest

War 4.5.2 318

I should not be wrong in saying that the capture of the city began with the death of Ananus; and that the overthrow of the walls and the downfall of the Jewish state dated from the day on which the Jews beheld their high priest, the captain of their salvation, butchered in the heart of Jerusalem.
A man on every ground revered and of the highest integrity, Ananus, with all the distinction of his birth, his rank and the honours to which he had attained, had delighted to treat the very humblest as his equals. Unique in his love of liberty and an enthusiast for democracy, he on all occasions put the public welfare above his private interests. To maintain peace was his supreme object.

The revolt in part derived from class warfare. The High Priests had authority over the Temple worship and often acted as representatives of the Jews in dealing with the Roman occupation government. They had an interest in maintaining peace, some of them sincerely for the good of the nation, others no doubt to protect their own wealth and power.
As a result, many revolutionaries, especially the most extreme group, the Zealots,
considered their priests as the enemy. Although some of the younger and poorer priests joined the revolution, others opposed it and, as a result, were assassinated.
In the passage quoted above, Josephus explicitly connects Ananus’ murder by the Zealots to the destruction of Jerusalem. This is one of his major themes, which we might call “The Pollution of the City.” No religious motivation, Josephus is saying, can justify the atrocities that the Zealots committed. Not everything can be done for the Divine Name. The Lord destroyed the Holy City because the people had violated the basic principles of His Law and made the Temple unfit for worship.

The Pollution of the City

War 4.5.2 323

I cannot but think that it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge his sanctuary by fire, that he cut off those who clung to them with such tender affection.

This explicitly states Josephus’ opinion that the city was destroyed because of its transgressions during the war.

Pollution of the Temple with Blood

 Assassins in the Temple
  Antiquities 20.8.5 164-166

Certain of these robbers went up to the city, as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments; and, by thus mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew Jonathan [the high priest]; and as this murder was never avenged, the robbers went up with the greatest security at the festivals after this time; and having weapons concealed in like manner as before, and mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew certain of their own enemies, and were subservient to other men for money; and slew others not only in remote parts of the city, but in the Temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty.
And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred to these men’s wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the Temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery – as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities.

Josephus here seems to make a distinction between two concepts. First, the wickedness of these assassins, some ten years before the war, caused the divine rejection of Jerusalem; but furthermore, the Temple was no longer “pure” enough for the Lord to inhabit. In Jewish Law, ritual uncleanness caused by contact with blood can be removed by purification with fire. So beyond simply abandoning Jerusalem and its people, the area is purified so that it can again become fit for heavenly contact. The people are not rejected, but only made wiser by these calamities.
This may indicate why all the people were punished, and not just the murderers. Ritual impurity needed to be dealt with, regardless of its source. And the people as a whole did not work hard enough to keep the criminals from defiling the Temple – Josephus states the murder of Jonathan “was never avenged,” thus emboldening them –  everyone had a share in the impurity.

The Slaughter of the Guards
War 4.5.1 305-313

The Idumaeans ascended through the city to the Temple. The Zealots were also in great expectation of their coming, and earnestly waited for them. When therefore these were entering, they also came boldly out of the inner Temple, and mixing themselves with the Idumaeans, they attacked the guards; and those that were upon the watch, but were fallen asleep, they killed as they were asleep; but as those that were now awakened made a cry, the whole multitude arose, and in the amazement they were in, caught hold of their arms immediately, and betook themselves to their own defence. So long as they thought they were only the Zealots that attacked them, they went on boldly, as hoping to overpower them by their number; but when they saw others pressing in upon them also, they perceived the Idumaeans were got in; and the greater part of them laid aside their arms, together with their courage, and betook themselves to lamentations. But some  few of the younger guards covered themselves with their armor and valiantly received the Idumaeans, and for a while protected the weaker people. Others, indeed, gave a signal to those that were in the city of the calamities they were in; but when these were also made sensible that the Idumaeans were come in, none of them durst come to their assistance; only they returned the terrible echo of wailing, and lamenting their misfortunes. A great howling of the women was excited also, every one having a relative in the guards who was in danger of being killed.
The Zealots also joined the the shouts raised by the Idumaeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumaeans spare anybody…and acted in the same manner as to those that supplicated for their lives, as to those that fought them, insomuch that they ran those through with their swords who desired them to remember the kinship there was between them and begged of them to have regard to their common Temple. There was no place for flight nor any hope for preservation; they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain. Thus the greater part were driven together by force, as there was now no place of retreat, and the murderers were upon them, and having no other way, they threw themselves down headlong into the city, undergoing a more miserable destruction, in my opinion, than that which they avoided, because it was voluntary. And now the outer Temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it dawned, saw eight thousand five hundred dead there.

This massacre of their countrymen on the part of the revolutionary extremists and their allies occurred within the court of the Temple itself. These and other murders, such as that of Jonathan, are associated by Josephus with the irrevocable pollution of the Temple. In Jewish Law, human blood and corpses cause ritual uncleanness; add to this that the blood was shed in the atrocity of mass murder, and the implication  is that the Temple could never be cleansed.
The Idumaeans were descendants of the Biblical Edomites and had been forcibly converted to Judaism by the Hasmonean kings. The revolutionary party, the Zealots, manipulated them to increase their forces during the revolt.

The Murder of Zacharias
    War 4.5.4 335-344

And now these Zealots and Idumaeans were quite weary of simple massacre, so they had the audacity to set up mock trials and courts of justice for that purpose. They intended to have Zacharias, the son of Baris, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain. What provoked them against him was that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him; he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a man that had great power to destroy them.
So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show trial, as if they were real judges, although they had no proper authority. In front of  these citizens Zacharias was accused of a design to betray their city to the Romans and to have traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was, and desired that such their affirmation might be taken for sufficient evidence.
Now when Zacharias clearly saw that there was no way remaining for his escape from them, as having been treacherously called before them and imprisoned, but with no intention of a legal trial, he took great liberty of speech in that despair of life he was under. Accordingly he stood up, and laughed at their pretended accusation, and in a few words confuted the crimes laid to his charge; after which he turned his speech to his accusers, and went over distinctly all their transgressions of the Law, and made heavy lamentations upon the confusion they had brought public affairs into.
In the meantime the Zealots grew tumultuous, and could scarce refrain from drawing their swords, although they designed to preserve the appearance and show of judicature to the end. They were also desirous, on other accounts, to try the judges, whether they would be mindful of what was just at their own peril.
Now the seventy judges brought in their verdict, that the person accused was not guilty — choosing rather to die themselves with him, than to have his death laid at their doors.
Hereupon there arose a great clamor by the Zealots upon his acquittal, and they were all indignant at the judges for not having understood that the authority that was given them was but in jest. So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the Temple, and slew him. And as he fell down dead they bantered him, and said, “Now you have our verdict also, and a surer release.” They then threw him down out of the Temple into the valley beneath it.

The Zealots add the sin of bearing false witness to the crime of murder in the Temple.
As a side note: This passage has an intriguing parallel with the Book of Matthew: “…upon you [is] all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.” (Matt. 23:35) Can this last victim,  murdered in the Temple, be the same as the “Zecharias son of Baris” referred to above?
If so, it would be counted either as a prophecy that became fulfilled or a confusion on the part of  Matthew. However, in this case, the resemblance seems to be mere coincidence. As Thackeray points out in his translation (Loeb edition), Matthew can be read as referring to Zecharias son of  Jehoiada, who was stoned to death in the Temple court (2 Chronicles 24:21); Matthew had confused his name with Zechariach son of Berechiah. This is a reasonable explanation; still, the coincidence is quite curious.

The Lamentation of Josephus

War 5.1.4 19-20

The darts that were thrown by the engines [of the seditious factions] came with that force, that they went over all the buildings and the Temple itself, and fell upon the priests and those that were about the sacred offices; insomuch that many persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place, which was esteemed holy by all mankind, fell down before their own sacrifices themselves, and sprinkled that altar which was venerable among all men, both Greeks and barbarians, with their own blood. The dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves.
Oh most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy internal pollutions! For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God, nor couldst thou longer survive, after thou hadst been a sepulchre for the bodies of thine own people, and hast made the Holy House itself a burying-place in this civil war of thine. Yet mayst thou again grow better, if perchance thou wilt hereafter appease the anger of that God who is the author of thy destruction.
But I must restrain myself from these passions by the rules of History, since this is not a proper time for domestic lamentation, but for historical narrations.

The revolt fell apart into factions vying for power. The actions of the Jews against the Temple during this civil war, Josephus here asserts, were more terrible than that inflicted by the Romans. Again emphasizing the unclean blood in the Temple, Josephus laments that the later destruction by the Romans was necessary, and that these conquerors were acting as agents of the Lord — almost as priests — in their role as purifiers.
There is also a hint here, hidden in the form of an emotional outburst, that the Temple should be allowed to be rebuilt. “Mayst thou again grow better,” he asks, pointing toward a return to its former state, and expects this after the Jews “appease” the author of their destruction, indicating that they act peacefully both toward heaven and its agents of destruction, the Romans. But it is too soon after the war, which greatly angered the Roman populace, for Josephus to make an explicit appeal to the Emperor that the Temple be rebuilt.

The Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecies

War 4.6.3 381-388

But these Zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made  an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, an, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked action, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrify under the sun.
…These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of man, and laughed at the Laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers. Yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning virtue and vice, by the transgression of which these Zealots occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their country.
For there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews and their own hands should pollute the Temple of God. Now, while these Zealots did not disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.

This passage segues into a different explanation of the destruction: that it had been prophesied in advance. The theme of prophecy is quite important to Josephus — indeed, he owed his life to one — and throughout his work he stresses that the observable fulfillment of  prophecy is proof of the truth of the Jewish Bible.
Yet the idea that Jerusalem was destroyed as the fulfillment of a prophecy is not manifestly the same as stating it was destroyed because of the sins of the people. In the above passage, Josephus tries to link the two concepts. The prophecy is not that the Temple is destined to be destroyed, but that it would be destroyed due to a war started by the Jews that would pollute the Temple. This is an interesting sliding between two concepts. If it was ordained in advance that the Jews would pollute the Temple, how can they be held accountable? Did the Lord cause the destruction to fulfill a pre-ordained plan or instead  to punish contemporary sins?
Josephus either wants it both ways, or else oscillates between them as events dictate. In a similar fashion, he notes elsewhere that the Pharisees, with whom he aligned himself, believed in free will but also that some things, although not all, were decreed by fate (War 2.8.14).  The two concepts of the destruction pose the old question, are humans predestined or do they have free will?
Incidentally, the “certain ancient oracle” cited by Josephus in this passage is unknown to present scholars.


The Temple is Set on Fire

Introductory Comment
Here is Josephus’ description of the moment when the first flame is put to the Temple. The agent of destruction is an anonymous Roman soldier, acting impulsively against the orders of the commander, Titus — but obeying the orders, Josephus implies, of the highest authority.

War 6.4.5 249-253

So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the Temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the Holy House; but, as for that House, God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of the ages: it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Av,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus’s retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the Holy House fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner court of the Temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the Holy House itself.
At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamour, such as so mighty an affliction required, and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer, nor suffered anything to restrain their force, since that Holy House was perishing, for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard upon it.

We have here all three possible explanations for the Temple destruction: that it was a chance act of war, that it was a Divine response to the murderous actions of the seditious party, or that it was fated according to some vast and mysterious plan.
The aspect of fate is stated by Josephus in saying that “God for certain long ago doomed it to the fire,” and then pointing out that the Second Temple was set on fire by the Romans on the same day that the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. (Thackeray notes that this date accords with Jeremiah 53:12 but not with the seventh of Av in 2 Kings 25:8, and that Jewish tradition memorializes both on the Ninth of Av.) This would seem to indicate a design greater than a direct response to freely committed sin. This was, says Josephus, “according to the revolution of the ages” — again, not due to specific human actions.
Josephus says rather directly that is was the Lord who started the flames by directing the activity of the anonymous Roman soldier. For this soldier set the fire “without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking,” as though he had the authority to do what he was doing. When he put the fire to the golden window he was “being hurried on by a certain divine fury.” The Greek is daimnoioi horme tini chromenos, which can be translated also as in Thackeray’s version “moved by some supernatural impulse.” The soldier is an agent of heaven, and his impulsive attack may reflect divine anger at the people for their pollution of the Temple. The emotional “fury” is different from the cool, mathematical “revolution of the ages” that calendrically pre-determined the fate of the Temple. Josephus has jumped from one explanation to the other. Can they be joined into one?

A Comforting Thought

War 6.4.8 267-268

Now, although any one would lament the destruction of such a work as this was, since it was the most admirable of all the works that we have seen or heard of, both for its curious structure and its magnitude, and also for the glorious reputation it had for its holiness; yet might such a one comfort himself with this thought, that it was fate that decreed it so to be, which is inevitable, both as to living creatures and as to works and places also.
However, one cannot but wonder at the accuracy of this period thereto relating; for the same month and day were not observed, as I said before, wherein the Holy House was burnt formerly by the Babylonians.

Josephus finds comforting the idea that “fate had decreed” the destruction, that it was “inevitable.” In this way he counters the idea that the deity of the Jews had abandoned them or had been defeated by the Romans and their deities. Everything the Romans did was at the behest of, not in spite of, divine will.
Why had fate decreed the destruction? Again Josephus points out the identity of the date with that of the Babylonian destruction. So even though he wants to teach that the people were being punished — the Pharisaic view that humans had free will — yet here he again oscillates to the  concept that everything is ordained in advance. The First Temple destruction was also the product of divine will, Josephus states elsewhere, as it was foretold by Jeremiah (Antiquities 10.8.3 142).
In the excerpts that follow we will see how Josephus attempts to reconcile these views by saying that fate can be avoided if people would only heed the heavenly warnings and cease from their foolishness.

Omens of Destruction

Introductory Comment
The third paragraph of the fifth chapter of  Book 6 of the War contains a fascinating series of omens that foretold the fall of the Temple well in advance of the beginning of the revolt. Josephus stresses the theme that the destruction had to was predestined. This destiny seems detached from the sins of the people, for these omens are not connected to any particular evil. They are:

Star and Comet
Light Around the Altar
Cow Gives Birth to Lamb
The Eastern Gate
Miraculous Phenomenon of Chariots in the Air
Sound of a Great Multitude
Jesus son of Ananias: A Voice from the East

Does this mean the war and destruction could not be helped, but were only parts of a predestined and mysterious plan? In a comment on these signs Josephus gives his view: these were warnings from the Deity, and if only the omens had been heeded, disaster could have been averted. I discuss this further below.
This paragraph follows immediately upon Josephus’ description of the burning of the Temple. It is the means by which he steps back from the awesome drama he has been relating and puts it in the context of world history and the philosophy of human folly.

War 6.5.3 288-309

Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.


Star and Comet

Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.


Light Around the Altar

Thus also before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, [Nisan, April, about a week before Passover] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.


Cow Gives Birth to Lamb

At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.


The Eastern Gate

Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner  temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again.
This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them.


Miraculous Phenomenon of Chariots in the Air

Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Iyar, May or June] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.


Sound of a Great Multitude

Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”


Jesus son of Ananias: A Voice from the East

But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple [Sukkot, autumn, 62 CE], began on a sudden to cry aloud,

“A voice from the east,
a voice from the west,
a voice from the four winds,
a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy House,
a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides,
and a voice against this whole people!”

This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city.
However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before.
Hereupon the magistrates, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was,

“Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”

And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him.
Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow,

“Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”

Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come.
This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force,

“Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the Holy House!”

And just as he added at the last,

“Woe, woe to myself also!”

there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.

These astounding tales apparently circulated among Jews after the war and were then collected by Josephus. They show the need of the populace to make sense of the destruction as well as Josephus’ own interest in prophecy, which he uses here to indicate to his non-Jewish readers that the Temple  and the City were not burned at the whim of the conquering Romans but were deliberately allowed, if not destined, to be destroyed by the Deity.
The omens fall into interesting groups. The star and comet always accompany momentous events; one recalls the comet presaging the death of Julius Caesar and the star at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.The other omens are associated with Jewish festivals. The next six signs that are described occur within days of each other, in an unspecified year, but probably in the early 60s. Just before the Passover celebration three of these signs occur together, and just after it the chariots in the air appear. Fifty days after this same Passover, on Shavuot (Pentecost), the earthquake and strange sounds occur. And Jesus ben Ananias first makes his appearance at the festival of Sukkot.
One notes that Passover is a spring festival, and Sukkot an autumn one, suggesting that these all occurred within the same year, which, by the clues given (Albinus as procurator, the duration of Jesus’ lamentation), would have been 62. As it happens, Josephus was most likely in Rome in that year, not in Jerusalem (see the Chronology), so he is forced to report these signs at second hand.
Students of the New Testament cannot fail to have noticed parallels in these passages with events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth. The fantastic events occurring at the Passover bring to mind those related at the death of Jesus thirty years earlier, also at a  Passover, when the curtain of the Temple was split in two, and the earth shook (Matthew 27:51). At the following Pentecost the apostles have a vision of Jesus and begin to speak in tongues, while at Josephus’ Pentecost sounds and voices are heard — there are auditory miracles  in both texts.
The sad story of Jesus son of Ananias related by Josephus has a number of parallels with the New Testament, the first of which is the coincidence of a man named Jesus prophesying against the Temple. As the name “Jesus” (Joshua) is one of the most common held by men in Josephus’ works, it should not be taken as significant in itself. But one wonders if the tales of the two Jesuses became intertwined by their tellers, with elements of one story creeping into the narrative of the other. For this hypothesis one notes several parallels.

  •     Woe to the people – Matt. 23 “Woe to you, scribes and pharisees!” (The Greek word translated as “woe” is “aiai” in Josephus, “ouai” in Matthew.)
  •     Prediction of the Temple Destruction – Matt. 24:2, which is associated with the “woes”.
  •     The leaders of Jerusalem bring the doomsayer to the Roman governor – Matt. 27:2. As an aside — Whiston mistranslates this section to refer to “our rulers,” not “the rulers.”  Readers who have studied my article on Josephus’ account of Jesus will recognize this important point. Josephus does not use the first person here, despite Whiston (why did he do this?); see rather the Loeb edition for the Greek “hoi archontes” and Thackeray’s correct translation.
  •   The governor interrogates him, but the accused says nothing to defend himself. (Matt. 27:13-14)
  • The accusation as unclear in Josephus’ story as in the New Testament.  The grounds here are simply said to be ” supernatural impulse.” What crime is that for the leaders?

The major difference is that the nonresponding Jesus ben Ananias is let free in Josephus, and allowed to continue his woes against the city; Jesus of Nazareth was not set free, although Pilate was supposedly inclined in that way.  What is the difference between the cases?  Was it due to additional claims the earlier Jesus made about himself?
An odd coincidence was that Jesus ben Ananias arose near the beginning of Albinus’ governorship, very soon after the death of James the brother of Jesus of Nazareth.

Prophecy of the Square Temple

War 6.5.4 310-311

Now if any one consider these things, he will find that God takes care of mankind, and by all ways possible foreshows to our race what is for their preservation; but that men perish by those miseries which they madly and voluntarily bring upon themselves; for the Jews, by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their Temple four-square, while at the same time they had it written in their sacred oracles, — “That then should their city be taken, as well as their Holy House, when once their Temple should become four-square.”

The source for this prophecy is unknown today.
Josephus repeats once more his theme that the prophecies and omens are meant as warnings. This leaves the paradox: a prophecy that is a warning is not a prophecy, for it would never come to pass if the warning were heeded. Obeying divine warnings would thus remove the proof of the truth of divine speech. Then people who do good by their own accord would never find reason to have faith in holy writings. Perhaps this is the ultimate, if unintended, direction of Josephus’ interpretation of history.

Date: 13 Mar 2006
Time: 13:50:14

Re: Footnote No. 14, Josephus’ Jewish War and its Slavonic Version. You may like to know that the editor of this volume is not Bernard Orchard (see also the Amazon UK website) and that it was not published in 1999. Orchard’s project was greatly delayed; and when he learnt in June 2000 of the German Slavist Ernst Hansack’s review of Meshcherskij’s edition from which the English translation had been made by H. Leeming, Orchard wound up his Slavonic Josephus project — intended for scholarly research in Josephus and New Testament era studies — and agreed with Brill to cancel the publishing contract. He also circulated his reason for doing so to the several Josephus scholars with whom he had been in contact concerning his Slavonic Josephus project. In view of Leeming’s poor health (he has since passed away) Orchard decided to permit him to do with his English translation as he pleased, in case Leeming considered it of value in his own specialist field of Slavonic studies

Date: 09 Aug 2012
Time: 06:07:45

Greetings! I am doing research on Josephus. Why do you think that William Whiston [an odd and interesting man!] translated Josephus in 1732 [his was 70 at the time!]. What was Whiston’s motive??

God Bless You! P.S. This is a great web page!

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Isaacs >>> ziegenfussu @ juno.com

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