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Josephus Flavius

a.d. 37-post 100. The Roman name of Joseph ben-Matthias, a Jew of aristocratic family and Pharisaic adherence, author in Greek. Religious ascetic for a time in youth, he was later a priest, and in a.d. 64 member of a mission to Nero. After the outbreak of the Jewish revolt in a.d. 66 he became commander in Galilee, eventually capitulating to Vespasian at Jotapata. Prophesying his captor's imperial destiny, he became his protégé and attempted to urge surrender upon his compatriots. He accompanied Titus to Rome where he lived in literary activity, having taken Roman citizenship and the Flavian name.

Devious and self-centered, he wrote from a mixture of motives: sycophancy, self-defense, and patriotism. Between a.d. 75 and 79 appeared his Jewish War, addressed first in Aramaic to races prone to trouble Rome on her borders (still extant in Greek). In six books it draws upon personal reminiscence, that of Herod Agrippa II also, and official records, for the events of a.d. 66-70, for which period it is a valuable historical source. The Archaeology (or Antiquities) of the Jews, in twenty books, appeared in a.d. 93-94: an apologia for his people, it follows the Septuagint order, and later draws upon Nicolas of Damascus, Herod's secretary, for recent events. In book XVIII is found the renowned passage (“Testimonium Flavianum”) about Jesus, which modern scholarship confirms as basically authentic, though some alteration of Josephus's style and/or interpolation by Christians is generally admitted. Other passages deal with John the Baptist and James the Just. The Life was an appendix to the Antiquities; Contra Apionem is written against a contemporary anti-Semite.

Edition: Loeb Classical Library in nine volumes with translation and notes (1926-65), by H. St. J. Thackeray et al.; H. St. J. Thackeray, Josephus the Man and the Historian (1929); L.H. Feldman, Studies on Philo and Josephus (1937-62) (1963); H. Schreckenberg, Bibliographie zu Flavius Josephus (1968).