Josephus Flavius: Traitor or Hero?: The life of Josephus, his defection
to the Romans, and the detailed story of the destruction of Jerusalem.
One of Jewry’s most famous and controversial historians, Josephus Flavius, a complex and multifaceted individual, left us a rich but often biased record of Jewish history from Creation to the years immediately following the destruction of the Second Temple. In addition to his love and dissemination of Jewish history, Josephus was also an impassioned defender of Judaism and the Jewish people, especially in his classic work, “Against Apion”. Having been intimately acquainted with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Romans, and also with the political and military turmoil that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple, Josephus’ works, especially the “War of the Jews”, in which he played a significant role, serve as the major historical source of the period. Josephus was also, it is argued by historians, a traitor to his people, having given himself over to the Romans, who used his services in their efforts to defeat the Jews and destroy the Temple.
His great admiration of his patron, the Romans emperor Vespasian, and his son Titus, the general who destroyed Jerusalem and killed or enslaved the vast majority of its surviving inhabitants, calls into question both his integrity and his loyalty to the historical ideals of Judaism. In his words (The Life of Flavius Josephus Par. 76), “When [Titus] was going away to Rome, he chose me to sail along with him, and paid me great respect. When we were to come to Rome, I had great care taken of me by Vespasian, for he gave me an apartment in his own house, which he lived in before he came to the empire. He also honored me with the privilege of a Roman citizen and gave me an annual pension and continued to respect me to the end of his life, without any abatement of his kindness to me.” The story of Josephus, in his own words, and his place in history is the subject of this lecture.
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