The Religion of Flavius Josephus

Originally appeared in Jewish Quarterly Review XI (1920-1921): 277-305.
by James A. Montgomery, University of Pennsylvania

Josephus is known to the world as the Jewish historian. His histories are a mine of facts for the period in which Christians: are interested as the birth-age of the Church, but his theology has not concerned them, except so far as he has served at times as another horrible example of Pharisaism. The Jews have neglected him, as they have Philo, but with the further animus that he stands forth as an apostate to the nation in the hour of its greatest crisis. Yet while, with the exception of Philo, we must rest content with the fragments of the poets and prophets and historians of the Old Testament, and with the dicta and occasional anecdotes of the rabbis of later ages, until we reach the opera of the mediaeval philosophers, in the case of Josephus we possess extensive works proceeding from the ripe experience of a stirring political and intellectual life, in sum a very considerable pile of literature, and that from the generation that marks the dividing point in Judaism's history. In one of these works, his Life, he gives his own apology as a Jew, and in his Contra Apionem a positive statement of the Jewish faith and practice; in his Antiquities he is perforce bound to present his own religious interpretation of the sacred history he narrates. Of that holy story he is by no means ashamed, but is its doughty defender in theory and fact, and it matters not whether our own interpretation, Jewish or Christian or rationalistic, be otherwise, his interpretation is of supreme value as a reflection of the Judaism of the first century from the soul and mind of a very remarkable man. It is at first sight difficult to understand Josephus as exemplary of the Pharisaism which he affected, and prima facie he may be regarded with suspicion as a Hellenizer and so unfit to speak for Jewish orthodoxy. But he is nevertheless a sincere and genuine product of the Jewish religion, and if we put aside our preconceptions of what a Pharisee must have been in his day, we have to allow that he may represent in fact a much larger class of the Jewish illuminati than we might gather from the scanty and one-sided survivals of the thought of the age. Before we launch into the vast Rabbinic unification of Judaism we may well ask whether such writers as Koheleth and Philo and Josephus and the author of Wisdom were not something more than self-representative, and whether such sporadic writers as these now appear do not light up what Friedländer calls 'the religious movements within Judaism in the age of Jesus Christ'.1

Josephus himself is fully conscious of his own religious interest and of the responsibility which his studies lay upon him of expounding the faith that is in him. So in the Preface to his Antiquities (§ 4) he thus makes apology for his much theologizing: 'Those that read my works may wohder how it comes to pass that my discourse which promises an account of laws and historical facts contains so much philosophy of causation (φυσιολογια).2 The reader is therefore to know that Moses deemed it necessary that he who would conduct his own life well and give laws to others, in the first place should consider the divine nature,' &c. Josephus then proceeds in the climax of his argument to the presentation of his history as really a divine philosophy of history, for, as he says, it will appear that 'in this whole undertaking there is nothing disagreeable to the majesty of God or his philanthropy'. That is, Josephus recognizes his duty as a theologian, and by consequence as a moral teacher, even as he sets forth to be his people's historian, And wherein he fails as historian, he can be all the more taken as a religious exponent of his age and people, one who speaks not as an ignoramus but as well furnished with his religion's theory.

In the opening of his Life Josephus gives the natural grounds of his theological interest. He was born a priest and of the best of the stock, for he belonged to the first of the priestly courses. Indeed, he was descended from the great Jonathan, the Maccabaean high priest, and so was of royal as well as of sacerdotal blood. Theology runs with the blood, and according to Josephus this was particularly true of the divinely appointed Jewish priesthood those, as he says, who 'had the main care of the Law' (Apion. 2, 21 [22]). To this inheritance he attributes one divine energy he himself possessed, that of interpreting the omens of the future, for he tells that in the emergency when he was caught in the cave at Jotapata by the Romans he had a dream and was able to give its interpretation, being 'not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books as being a priest himself and of the posterity of the priests' (Wars, 3, 8. 3).

The blood of his fathers had its fruits in his youthful development. He boasts of his early love for learning which brought the rabbis about him at an early age to learn his opinions (Life, 2). More attractive than this bit of conceit is the ensuing account of his religious Wanderjahre. He started out at the age of sixteen to taste (pace the Scotticism) the various schools (αιρεσεις3) of his religion, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. These were to his youthful mind so many schools of philosophy, and he might flatter himself in after years that he had passed like a butterfly over the various pastures of wisdom until in maturity he lighted upon that which pleased him best. At the age of nineteen he made his choice and became a convinced Pharisee according to his own mind, nor have we any reason to doubt his sincerity and acceptability to that 'heresy'. But he always retained a warm memory of his experiences among the Essenes, whom he compares with the Pythagoreans (Ant. 15, 10. 4). Too practical, too much of a worldling, too rationalistic to remain a member of that separatistic sect of monks, he never forgot his youthful admiration of their holy asceticism, of their community life of love and labour, and he never became so sophisticated as to lose his tender reminiscence of their mysteries and spiritualistic practices (e.g. Wars, 2, 8). Perhaps some of his subsequent psychological experiences, which he details with so great empressement, such as his ecstasies (e.g. Wars, 3, 8. 3) and his dreams and prophecies (e.g. § 9), had their original cultivation in that mystical society of adepts. He even carried his religious experience one step further and became for a period of years (although his chronology is self-contradictory) the disciple of a certain anchorite Banus, who lived in the desert and used no other clothing than grew upon trees and ate only such food as grew of itself and bathed in cold water night and day to preserve his chastity, 'in which things I imitated him' (Life, 2).

It would be interesting to learn all his reasons for his choice of Pharisaism. As a priest and one who held that the conduct of religion lay in the hands of his caste, we might think of him as rather inclined to Sadduceeism. Perhaps political convenience may have swayed him (cf. Ant. 18, 1. 4), but his conviction was a genuinely religious one, and his adherence throws light upon the liberalism of the Pharisaism of his day. The Pharisaic theology, that of the divine providence, appealed to his instincts, as did also its mystical tenets of belief in angels, the resurrection, and so forth, although he actually makes little use of some of these doctrines.4 Some personal reactions may have taken place, as appears from his comment that 'the Pharisees are friendly to one another and stand for the exercise of concord and regard for the public; whereas the behaviour of the Sadducees to each other is somewhat rude and their conversation with their fellow-partisans is as barbarous as if they were strangers to tjhem' (Wars, 2, 8. 14). The conventional, snobbish Sadducees did not appeal to the bright-witted man. The greatest mutual affection he finds among the Essenes (ibid., § 2). At the same time he admits that the Sadducees held strictly to the letter of the Lawgiver Moses, that 'divine man', while the Pharisees added to it with their tradition (Ant. 13, 10. 6). And while admiring the conviction and pertinacity of the Pharisees he is open-minded enough to blame them when they are open to censure.5 Doubtless as a statesman he appreciated most highly in the genius of the Pharisees their work in unifying the people in one religious practice and one social polity. Herein he may have seen the future salvation of his people, and indeed, as Jews have ever since recognized, this objective could be the sole basis of their existence. This amazing orthodoxy is to his mind one of the proofs of the divinity of the Mosaic Law (Apion. 2, 19 ff. [20]). It is this unity, based on the sublime perfection of the Law, which explains why the Jews have never been inventive in thought or works of art (§ 20 [21]): the character of the Law as a fixed tradition excludes all innovations.6 As an apology to the Greeks this was a sorry defence, but it is a fair example of the insight with which Josephus, without always marking the implications of his logic, could hit the point on its head.

Josephus had a thoroughly religious, and so genuinely Jewish, habit of mind towards life.7 For him religion came first, and despite the Hellenizing temptation to regard religion as an ethic or a handmaid to the ethical, he stoutly insists that the excellence of Judaism lies in this, that religion in that system is prior and superior to ethics. 'The reason why,' he says in Apion. 2, 16 [17]), 'the constitution of this legislation was ever better directed to the utility of all than all other religions is this, that Moses did not make religion (ευσεβεια) a part of virtue, but he saw and ordained the other virtues to be parts of religion—I mean justice and fortitude and temperance,8 and the common agreement of the citizens in all things; for all our actions and studies are related to piety towards God, for he has left none of these things indefinite or undetermined.' For him reason does indeed agree with that revelation, although never in the moralizing terms of 4 Maccabees, but it is merely the endorser and exegete of what is given through God's revelation by Moses. Judaism is a rational religion based on authoritative revelation. None could better express than Josephus has so capitally done in the words quoted the relation of religion and ethics for the religious mind, and accordingly the credit should be given him of a true sense of religious values.

For a survey of Josephus's faith, or 'persuasion ' as he would call it,9 one can follow his four great unities, the One God, the One Law, the One Temple, the One People.10 To these points we have to add his Pharisaic eschatology of the individual, so that, barring Messianism, he strikes the great notes of Jewish orthodoxy.

Upon the doctrine of God Josephus uses the common-places of monotheism, but he puts these simply and strongly. God 'is Father and Lord (δεσποτης11) of all things and supervises all things (παντα επιβλεπων)', (Pref. Ant. 4). He presents Moses' doctrine (Apion. 2, 16 [17]) as ascribing the rule and power to God, who is the cause of all good things, and from whom nothing in deed or thought can be hidden. 'He is unbegotten and unchangeable for eternity, exceeding in beauty every mortal concept, known to us by his power, but unknowable as to his essence.' In his commentary on the First Commandment (Apion. 2, 22 [23]), Josephus maintains that 'God is wholly absolute (τα παντα παντελης) and happy (μακαριος), sufficient for himself and all things, the beginning and mean and end of all. He is manifest in works and benefits, more apparent than anything whatsoever, but most unapparent as to form and size', hence no material art is worthy for his representation. We may observe too his description of God as πολυν και πανταχου κεχυμενον (Ant. 6, 11. 8), and the expression of God's spirituality put in Solomon's mouth, Ant. 8, 4. 2. In one passage alone Josephus takes a step into theosophy, when he makes Rehoboam declare the doctrine that 'God is his own work' (ος εργον εστιν αυτου) (Ant. 8, 11. 2, end). A deistic form of expression appears in Josephus's frequent use of το θειον for the Deity, for which he might have excuse in the abstract Elohim of the Hebrew.12

The practical extension of this doctrine of the one God, Father, and Creator, lies for Josephus in his theory of the Divine Providence. Here he rings true to the religion of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to Chronicles. For him history is the philosophy of the divine activity, and in great things and small our author never wearies in pointing out the care of God over all his works. This capital doctrine, Josephus repeatedly relates, was the distinguishing characteristic of the Pharisees as distinguished from the Sadducees, the former he accordingly compares with the Stoics, and the latter he might have; aligned with the. Epicureans.13 The constant word he uses for providence is irpovoia, 'forethought', and the word or idea appears in almost every leading narrative. This providence is universal, not only for God's people. From the anecdote of Titus's remarkable escape from the surprise attack made upon him when advancing upon Jerusalem, Josephus deduces that ' both the crises of war and the perils of kings are a care (fieXouTai) to God ' (Wars, 5, a. 2). He observes this providence in the history of Joseph : ' God exercised such a providence over him and such a care of his happiness as to bring him the greatest blessings even out of what appeared to be the most sorrowful condition ' [Ant. 1, 1. 1). He might indeed have regarded his illustrious namesake as a type of himself, for he is constant in his expression of the divine providence over his own life, a belief that is not to be too readily attributed to his particular conceit, for it is the characteristic of all piety. Thus in the shipwreck in the Adriatic he, with some eighty others, was saved on a Cyrenian ship 'by the providence of God' (Life, 3)—an interesting parallel in circumstances and religious theory to the story of Paul's shipwreck. In another imminent danger, from his enemies, he describes how he was saved by the report of the approach of friends, and adds, 'God perhaps (ταχα) also taking forethought of my safety' (Life, 58). And at the end of his life, looking back with a clean conscience upon the many malicious accusations that have been brought against him, some of them threatening his ruin, he concludes that 'by God's providence I escaped them all' (Life, 76).

But along with this most religious theory goes another point of view that sounds most pagan. In the story of his amazing escape from the hole where he had taken refuge after the fall of Jotapata, his companions, much against his own will, resolved to kill one another by lot so as not to fall alive into the hands of the Romans; but he 'not being resourceless and trusting in the guardian God hazards his safety (πιστευων τω κηδεμονι θεω την σωτηριαν παραβαλλεται)' and accepts the lottery. He and one other remained to the last and the two decided not to carry out the compact to the end; 'so he survived', he says, 'whether we must say by chance (υπο τυχης), or whether by the provijdence of God' (Wars, 3, 8. 7). And this doctrine of fate plays a considerable part in his notion of the administration of the universe.

That he discovered nothing alien to his Judaism in this element appears from his repeated classification of the Pharisees as those who believed in a providence or fate, wherein he says, they resemble the Stoics (Life, 2). He several times distinguishes the three schools of the Jews by their position towards determinism. According to Ant. 13, 5. 9 the Essenes are absolute determinists, the Sadducees do away with fate and take no account of it, while 'the Pharisees say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate (ειμαρμενη, the word used through the section), but some are in our own power, both as to occurrence and non-occurrence.' Similarly, but with different proportion of language, according to Wars, 2, 8. 14: 'The Pharisees . . . ascribe all to fate and God (ειμαρμενη τε και θεω), and hold that doing right, or the opposite, lies for the most part in the power of men, although fate co-operates (βοηθειν) with each one.' Again in Ant. 18, 1. 3, the Pharisees, 'while holding that all things are done by fate, do not take away from man the freedom of impulse to the doing of them, for God thought well to make a composition between the purpose of fate and that of man, and the result is, as the case may be, virtue or evil'.14

In these statements Josephus is ambiguous, as every one must be in dealing with such recondite themes of theology, unless indeed he be a Calvin or Spinoza. Is his fate the same as the divine will, or are they distinct? In general, the affirmative answer is to be given on the supposition that fate was the Hellenistic affectation for the providence of the Hebrew religion. Yet at times he distinguishes the two. This appears in the passage cited above from Wars, 3, 8. 5, where he is uncertain whether his miraculous preservation was due to chance or God. Or is this a bit of religious modesty? In Wars, 2, 8. 14, he speaks of fate and God. Are the terms epexegetical? That apart from the field of ethics the notion of an arbitrary or at least unintelligible fate was cherished by Josephus appears in his comment upon Josiah's refusal to let Necho pass through his realm, which resulted in his untimely death: 'fate (της πεπρωμενης), I suppose, urging him on to this' (Ant. 10, 5. 1). If ever there was a case in the sacred history which lay beyond human understanding, it is the tragic death of that good king, and Josephus was speaking as a man speaks in the face of a blind purpose. He cannot here preach his favourite doctrine of the divine forethought. And in the region where theologians fail we cannot blame Josephus's natural comment. Another example of his doctrine of fate appears in the laboured discourse over the share of blame in the tragic misunderstanding between Herod and his two sons, which led to the execution of the latter (Ant. 16, 11, 8). He balances the faults of the two parties, and then asks whether chance (τυχη) has not greater power than wise reason; and this necessity (αναγκη), he says, 'we call fate (ειμαρμενη), as nothing takes place except through it. And this was long before us the philosophy of the Law'. In commenting upon the death of the bold but rash centurion, Julian, at the attack upon Antonia, he says that 'he was pursued by fate, which he could not escape, being mortal' (Wars, 6, 1. 8).

In conclusion, it may be said that Josephus was technically untrue to his Judaism in his use of the word 'fate'; but that word stands for doctrines found in the Bible, and expressed his own experience before the divine inscrutability. Moreover, his Stoic phraseology was a captatio ad benevolentiam in his attempt to claim his religion as the world religion. Paul yields to the same tendency in his arguments with the Greeks. His quotation from the Greek poet, 'We are also His offspring,' can hardly be said to be Biblical in phraseology.

For Josephus history is a drama of theodicy, and he follows the suit of his Biblical copy in pointing out God's judgements. When he passes beyond the Scriptures less of this note appears. He records the divine punishment inflicted upon Herod the tetrarch and his sister Herodias for their specific sins (Ant. 18, 7. 2), and also the judgement of God upon the crimes of the Zealot partisans (see below). To his personal satisfaction he notes the divine penalty befalling his calumniator Catullus, who 'became as great a proof as ever was of the providence of God, how he inflicts penalty upon the wicked' (Wars, 7, 11. 4). To his mind the death at the moment of success of one of the Jewish defenders of Jerusalem exhibited 'in the acutest way possible the nemesis (νεμεσις) which befalls those who have good fortune without good cause' (Wars, 6, 2. 10).

This divine providence implies exact foresight and can be communicated to men in prophecies, dreams, and portents. This view is natural to one who believed unboundedly in the predictive character of Biblical prophecy, but for him it is corroborated by many experiences outside of the sacred history, as for instance in the omens which preceded the fall of Jerusalem (Wars, 6, 5. 3), and: to his own personal satisfaction in the dreams and prophecies of which he professed to be the medium and object. His prophecy of Vespasian's mounting the throne of the Caesars (Wars, 3, 8. 7) is famous. At the end of the section he gives Vespasian an anecdote corroborative of his prophetic powers. In an earlier section of the same chapter (§ 3) he records the spiritual experiences he had when in the cave hiding from the Romans; he had had a number of dreams of late, and being able to put together the things obscurely spoken by the Deity, and moreover as acquainted with the prophecies and being himself a priest, he became ecstatic (ενθους) and was given to understand that 'the power of the Jewish nation had gone over to the Romans'. He accordingly prays that as a prophet of the truth his life may be spared! The claim of a priestly right to the interpretation of dreams is of interest; he may have derived it from the powers claimed by the Hasmonaeans, notably Hyrcanus. His 'ecstasy' may have been learnt from the Essenes, who were past masters in spiritualistic practices. It is to be observed that he held the later suspicion against prophets as such and regarded the Urim and Thummim as a corrective to 'the evil practices of prophets' (Ant. 3, 8. 9).

Josephus naturally expatiates upon and expands the miracles of the sacred history. The prayer put by him in Moses' mouth at the brink of the Red Sea is a worthy piece of religious sentiment. 'Thine is the sea, thine the embracing mountain, so at thy bidding this can be opened or the ocean become a continent. Or we can escape even through the air, if it be thy will to save us in this fashion' (Ant. 2, 16. 1). Withal Josephus feels constrained to make some apology for these miraculous stories. After narrating the act of salvation at the Red Sea he proceeds (ibid. 5): 'For my part I have communicated every one of these things as I have found them in the sacred books,' and he then gives as a corroboration of that wonder the story of Alexander's passage through the Pamphylian Sea. Upon the account of the wonders at Sinai he comments: 'Each of my readers may think as he will, but I am under the necessity of narrating these things as they are written in the holy books' (Ant. 3, 5. 2).15

Faith for Josephus seems to be primarily the right doctrine about God, e.g. η περι του θεου πιστις (Apion. 2, 16 [17]),16 but this faith is proved by the commensurate practice of the divine Law. He believes devoutly in prayer, as in his own emergencies, e. g. Wars, 3. 8. 3, and is convinced that God hears the prayers of the pious (Ant. 14, 2. 1; cf. Ep. James 5. 17 ff.). His expressions concerning prayer in the cult are beyond reproach: 'At the sacrifices we must pray first for the common welfare, then for ourselves; for we are constituted for fellowship (επι κοινωνια γεγοναμεν), and he who prefers this to his selfish interests is most pleasing to God. Let supplication and petition be made to God in prayer, not that he give good things—for he has given them voluntarily and made them common to all—but that we may be able to receive them and receiving them to keep them' (Apion. 3, 23 [24]). Compare in the New Testament, Matt. 5. 45; 1 Tim. 2. 1 ff., &c.17 He is a devout believer in the divine co-operation (συνεργια) for those who faithfully seek it; for example, in the story of Samson, Ant. 5, 8. 9, this faith is contrasted with the hero's preceding faith in his own virtue (aper?;).18

None is a stouter champion than Josephus for the One God as against the gods of heathenism, but he appears, whether from a natural liberality or for policy, to have respected other people's religions as well as their opinions—which after all was the only possible modus vivendi in the Empire. In his digest of the Mosaic laws (Ant. 4, 8. 4 ff.), the first of the Jewish digests, he thus (§ 10) interprets Exod. 22. 27 (28): 'Let no one blaspheme gods whom other states regard as such, nor steal things which belong to temples of other religions, nor take away any votive gift to any god.' We naturally recall Romans 2. 22, ο βδελυσσομενος τα ειδωλα ιεροσυλεις; also according to Apion, 2. 33 [34]: 'Our Legislator has forbidden us to laugh at or blaspheme those who are considered gods by others on account of the very name of God given to them.' He holds with the Christian apologists that Moses' notion of God was shared in by the Greek philosophers, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Plato, and the Stoics, but that these were afraid to disclose these opinions to more than a few because of the prejudices of the masses (Apion. 2, 16 [17]). Indeed these philosophers were followers of Moses (εκεινω κατηκολουθησαν) (ibid., § 39 [40]), but Josephus never claims, like some Christian apologists, that they stole the doctrine.

For Josephus the Law is the perfect, complete, and final expression of the will of God. This is demonstrated absolutely by the fact that God gave that Law with his own voice which could be heard by all (Ant. 3, 5. 4), and empirically by the evidence he gives that no other people possesses so divine a law (Apion. 2, 15 [16] ff.). Also, intrinsically, this Law is the best possible, for it places religion (ευσεβεια) as the climax of the virtues, and because it combines, as no other legislation has ever effected, both precept and practical exercise (ibid., § 16 [17]). Further, its own unity and the orthodoxy of the Jewish people prove its worth. These characteristics of the Jewish religion are inculcated and enforced by an education that begins with earliest childhood (ibid., § 16 [18]), including the 'appointment of every one's diet', and by the rigour of the execution of the laws, which allows neither favour nor excuse against the drastic penalties that are ordained. This discipline, he says, it is which 'first of all has created in us our wonderful consensus (ομονοια), and that harmony of the Jews, the most perfect to be found among men, is due to their having the same opinion (δοξα) about God and entire identity in life (μηδεν αλληλων διαφερειν)' (Apion, 2, 19 [2c]). Accordingly there is no conflict among the Jews and also no contradictions in their views about God such as the philosophers insolently indulge in.

The Law, this supreme revelation of God, is distinctly a legislation, the written rule of life. Josephus uses constantly the terms νομος, νομοι, νομοθεσια (also νομιμα πατρια), and Moses is the Lawgiver (ο νομοθετης). He glories in the word nomos, for he can prove that the Jews are law-abiding and the Gentiles lawless or lawbreakers. In fact he makes the shrewd remark—for he is quite a philologist—that νομος is a word not to be found in Homer, thus indicating that the early Greeks had no idea of law, the people being governed merely by wise saws and the prescriptions of their kings, which were always changing (Apion. 2, 15 [16]). It cannot be denied that Josephus's position is one of Nomism, a position which, as we have seen, does not deny the elements of spiritual religion. Compare the expression in Apion. 1, 12 that the Jews 'consider it the most necessary business of life to keep the laws (φυλαττειν τους νομους) and the piety (ευσεβειαν) handed down by tradition'.19 But for Josephus this Law is not a yoke of burden but of direction. For him, as for Paul, it was just and holy and good, but unlike Paul and in the spirit of the 119th Psalm, 'its reward is not silver or gold . . . but each one believes having his conscience as witness' (Apion. 2, 30 [31]). The Law has its divine energy which facilitates and executes it in men of good conscience. Herein is untainted Pharisaism. Moses provided the whole equipment of the spiritual life of his people, persuaded them (ibid., § 16 [17]) to receive it, and took measures that it should be guarded effectively by those entrusted with it.

The Law has its social complement in a political body (πολιτεια, πολιτευμα),20 a definite corporation, founded by a statesman legislator, and existing with the same rights as does any other nation. But it differs from all other polities in being—and Joseph consciously invents the term—a theocracy.21 This theocracy has God himself for its invisible governor, while the corporate administration lies in the hands of the priests and of the high priest supremely (την των αλλων ιερεων ηγεμονιαν, Apion. 2, 21 [22]). Under this hierarchy the body of the people functions as a wholly religious community, 'the whole polity being ordered as a sacred rite' (ωσπερ δε τελετης τινος, ibid., §22 [23]).

This functioning of the whole people is constant, unlike the broken rites of the Gentiles (ibid.). Thus, on the one hand, the Jews are a nation with all the rights and advantages thereof, on the other a church-state of divine authority and sanction. Its members are its citizens, its practice is a body of laws, the success of which is due in part to the people's unfailing obedience, in part to the unfailing severity of their execution (§§ 17 f. [18 f.]). The Jewish polity is comparable to Plato's Republic (§ 36 [37]). But its characteristic is religion, not politics.

Josephus never questions the divine election of Israel.22 God was peculiarly their Creator (ο κτισας, Wars, 5, 9. 4). And yet, as Bertholet points out, 'he stands, in one word, at the height of Jewish universalism'.23 He cites Josephus's expressions about that religion as the ευσεβεια αληθεστατη (Apion. 2, 41 [42]) and the κοσμικη θρησκεια (Wars, 4, 5. 2) as proofs of Josephus's implicit belief in Judaism as the one true religion.24 Our author takes an intense pride in the spread of the Diaspora over the world, for, as he maintains, there is no city of the world where the Jewish customs of Sabbath and fasts and lighting of lamps and prohibitions of foods have not come and provoked imitation, and all men try to imitate us in our concord and charity and diligence in trade and fortitude in persecutions (Apion. 2, 39 [40]). He concludes the paragraph with the triumphant and noble remark that it is 'most remarkable that the Law, without any inducement of pleasure and bare of seductions, has prevailed by itself, and as God pervades all the world so the Law has progressed among all men'.25 In the preceding section he breaks out in a strain of ringing enthusiasm; for though, he says, we be deprived of our wealth and cities and other advantages, 'the Law remains for us immortal' (ο γουν νομος ημιν αθανατος διαμενει). He would fain see the One Law of the One God becoming the One Religion of the whole world.

But despite this catholic ideal of the Jewish religion no infringement of its Pharisaic character is even suggested.20 Josephus was no trimmer in religion whatever he was in politics. The chief formal obstacle to the spread of Judaism, the rite of circumcision, is stoutly championed by Josephus. His particular argument against Apion, who (ridiculed the Jews for their animal sacrifices, their rite of circumcision, and abstention from pork (Apion. 2, 13 [14]), is of interest. He asserts against him that the Egyptian priests themselves practise these rites, and adds the humorously malicious note that Apion himself died from the effects of an operation of circumcision performed upon him as a medical measure. In the opus magnum on Jewish theology and cult which he prospected (Ant. 20, 12), he planned to give among other things the reason (αιτια) for circumcision (Ant. 1, 10. 5). In individual instances he extols the virtue of those who became circumcised, for example, of King Izates, son of Queen Helena, who, despite the political embarrassment involved, accepted the rite and was rewarded for his piety by the special providence of God as shown in his fortunate life (Ant. 20, 2. 4).27

For the equal stringency required by Josephus for the laws of Sabbath, foods, purity, &c, I refer to previous discussions.28 He does not consider the question whether these ordinances were an obstacle to the diffusion of Judaism as the world religion. On the negative side, that the Jews should be allowed to follow their own rites in their own way without interference or ridicule, the more so that similar rites were practised by all other peoples, and each nation had its own religion (e. g. Apion. a, 36 [37]), he is most reasonable, but he avoids the objections which might be made to many of the principal points of the Jewish law. It would be interesting if he had written his magnum opus theologicum, in which doubtless he would have displayed the reasons for circumcision and similar rites. Doubtless he would have given such 'symbolical' explanations as appear, for instance, in Pseudo-Aristeas, where the laws of foods and purity are so treated, although circumcision is ignored.

This question leads on naturally to the discussion of Josephus's 'Alexandrianism' and his allegorizing tendencies. He is of peculiar interest in regard to that trend of early Judaism, for in him we observe, as in a full-length portrait, a Palestinian and Rabbinic Jew, who was nevertheless au fait with the Hellenistic philosophies.20 So far as we know he never went out of Palestine except for a voyage to Rome in his young manhood until his exile after the fall of Jerusalem. After his release by Titus he paid a visit to Alexandria and married a wife there (Life, 75, cf. Apion. 1, 9). Some scholars would make much of his Alexandrianism, for example, Gfrörer and Dähne,30 but Poznariski's position is much more reasonable, that this tendency was not a part of Josephus's principled theology.31 However, he was well enough read, or informed, and ingenious enough to be able to use the Alexandrian schemes, as for instance in his allegorical interpretation of the equipment of the tabernacle (Ant. 3, 7. 7). But for him, the sober historian ('der nüchterne Historiker', so Poznanski), this was more a jeu d'esprit, thrown out in apology to the Greek world. In fact there was no other way of making the minutiae of the Jewish law attractive to the poetic and philosophic Greeks. Nevertheless, it is of interest to observe a pre-Talmudic Jew of rabbinical status and Palestinian origin recognizing and using this arm of propaganda, and the observation should caution us against drawing too fast a line between 'Palestinian' and 'Hellenistic'. The educated Jew at home or abroad was even then a good deal of a cosmopolitan in his intellectual equipment.

Josephus was enough of a dilettante to have a taste for the mysteries of religion, and he shared this with some of the most reputable founders of the Talmudic system. For him there was a secret Kabbala or Tradition which it was unlawful (ου θεμις, αθεμιτον) to reveal. Of course he dares not pronounce the Name of God (Ant. 2, 12. 4), and with absurd affectation he says he may not declare publicly what was written on the two tables of stone (Ant. 3, 5. 4), although he proceeds at once (§ 5) to repeat the Ten Commandments. There is evidently hovering over him the notion of an esoteric tradition such as Rabbinism held to. The interpretation of these laws is the work of the priests (e.g. Apion. 21 f. [22f.]), and he lays no stress on the authority of the doctors of the Law.

In his doctrine of the temple Josephus reveals himself as a philosophic historian in his fine expression concerning it, at once a sufficient statement of its solity and a noble apology for its unique purpose: 'One God, one temple (εις ναος ενος θεου), a temple common to all of the common God of all, for,' he adds, 'everything demands congruity for itself' (φιλον γαρ αει παντι το ομοιον) (Apion. 2, 23 [24]). With this we may compare the similar assertion in Ant. 4, 8. 5, in the rendering of Moses' injunction to build but one temple: 'Let there be neither temple nor altar in another city, for God is one and the Hebrew race is one.' The temple is the visible capstone of the Theocracy. There, despite any rationalism or Hellenism which may have lurked in his mind, as he makes Solomon pray at the dedication (μοιραν τινα του σου πνευματος εις τον ναον αποικισαι), some part of the divine Spirit dwells, 'so that thou mayest appear to us on earth' (Ant. 8, 4. 3). This presence was exhibited in the Solomonic temple by the descent of a cloud (§ 2), even as God made his presence visible in the tabernacle (Ant. 3, 8. 5) in a cloud dropping a sweet dew, so 'revealing the presence (παρουσια) of God to those desiring and believing in it'.32 God is spatially unbounded, He may have His 'epiphanies' when and where He will throughout the world, for example, at the Red Sea (Ant. 2, 16. 2), but the Biblical doctrine of the peculiar presence of Deity in the temple, sensible to believers, is unquestionably accepted by Josephus.33

The tragic dénouement of the history of that holy place is the most engrossing point in Josephus's revelation of his experiences. In the camp of the attacking army, a renegade to the mind of its valorous defenders, he saw it destroyed. We possess one Biblical parallel of an eyewitness's memoirs of a destruction of the Holy City and its temple, Jeremiah, and far apart as he and Josephus are in personality and character, we cannot avoid the comparison. Josephus remained a convinced Jew to the end, and his philosophizing is of equal interest with all other Jewish testimonies.

In Wars, 5, 9. 4, he retails to us the speech which he says he made to the defenders on the walls. It is a survey of the past history, quite on the lines of the Deuteronomic historians: the nation's and Jerusalem's fate has ever depended upon the will of God according to the people's righteousness or wickedness. The present calamity has come as divine punishment, although it is not too late to recognize their sins and surrender to the Romans. But things have come to such a pass that 'I think that God has fled from the sanctuary and stands with those who fight against you'. One is reminded of a certain prophet's vision of the dramatic departure of the Glory of the Lord from His temple (Ezek. 10). In the preceding paragraph (§ 3) he pictures how invincible is the dominion of the Romans, a manifest token of the will of God and how 'fortune (τυχη) has on all sides gone over to them, and God, having passed the dominion about among the nations, is now in Italy' (νυν επι της Ιταλιας ειναι). It was a Jeremiah who bade his people pray for the peace of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, and while here we have no Jeremiah weeping over the ruins of Jerusalem nor the pathetic outpourings of the writer of 4 Esdras, it is the opinion of a philosophic Jew, a student of the philosophy of his people's history. A certain pathos appears in Josephus's attribution elsewhere of the destruction of the temple to a certain divine fate, as though the tragedy lay beyond human computation (Wars, 6, 4. 5), and I think it is the human factor we should observe in this thought of despair rather than its gross philosophic expression. The temple was set on fire against Titus's express orders. But on the very anniversary of the day on which it was burnt by the king of Babylon and according to the doom of God (του δε αρα κατεψηφιστο μεν το πυρ ο θεος παλαι), 'the fated day came round again' (παρην δε η ειμαρμενη χρονων περιοδος).34 The soldier who started the conflagration was seized with 'an inspired fury' (δαιμονια ορμη),35 as though proving that this was the work of God. It was a deserved purging of the city by fire36 (e.g. Ant. 20, 8. 5). Yet there is hope in the future for the miserable city: 'Oh, mayest thou grow better again, if ever thou canst propitiate the God who destroyed thee!' (Wars, 5, 1. 3). With these words he rings down the curtain on the future of his nation. The temple and its cult were destroyed, he had no Messianic hope,37 there was left for him but the practice of his religion as the Jews had learned to practise it in their wide dispersion through the world. We leave him settled in comfortable quarters in the Caesar's palace (Life, 76), making and unmaking his marriages according to Jewish law (§ 75), with his tax-free property rights in Palestine (§ 76), in the possession of a copy of the Holy Books given him by Titus (§ 75), one who marks the termination of the old order for the Jewish people, leaving the future which he cannot pry into in the hands of the school of Jamnia and the obscure Christian sect which he does not deign to notice.38

For the future he looked forward with a Pharisee's sure hope in a blessed immortality. This is the confidence of the martyrs (for example, Eleazar's speech at Masada, Wars, 7, 8. 5), as equally the caution against those who would despise this body (see his own speech against suicide, Wars, 3, 8. 5, and compare 1 Cor. 6. 18 ff.). Every one has the witness of conscience within him that those who die for the Law will live again and enjoy a better life (Apion. 2, 30 [31]). The souls of the pure will be allotted the holiest place in heaven, whence after the revolution of ages they will be housed again in pure bodies, but the souls of the wicked blackest Hades will receive (Wars, 3, 8. 5).39 There is no idea of the resurrection of the physical body; it is the Pharisaic opinion, he says (Wars, 2, 8, 14), that every soul is immortal and that only the souls of the good pass over into other (ετερον) bodies, while those of the wicked are punished eternally.40

Josephus is no mere chronicler, nor is he only a Midrashist, although Midrash he could write at tiresome length.41 He was a convinced Jew, schooled in the learning of Judaism, if not a rabbi in the later sense of the word; a man of distinguished parts, able to sum up and express pithily his judgements of facts rather than of persons. A philosopher of religion rather than a theologian, his business was that of an apologist for his people and his religion. His Contra Apionem is logically one of the finest of all Jewish and Christian apologies, and his Antiquities as well was written under the impulse of the loyal defence of the faith. He is worthy of more attention than has been paid to him, for, as it may justly be said, he is the only personality preserved to us who speaks sympathetically at length and at large for the Judaism of the first century. Apart from the anonymous documents which have passed into the Christian Apocrypha, we possess three personalities from the Judaism of that age who are technically qualified to speak for it and whose writings we possess at any length: Philo, a philosopher of the chair, Paul, the militant combatant of the Rabbinism he was born in, and Josephus. If for no other reason than that of pis aller we are bound to consider his very human and personal aspect of Judaism and to weigh his sympathetic testimony in appreciating its religion.

1 This paper is the fruit of an independent reading of Josephus, and my comparison of the pertinent literature was subsequent to my plotting out of its argument. Reference to the other treatments has given some points for amplification of my subject, and still more has shown what I might avoid as already adequately handled.

I cite the following literature bearing on Josephus's theology: Bretschneider, Capita theologiae Iudaeorum dogmaticae e Flavii Iosephi scriptis collecta, Wittenberg, 1812; Gfrörer, Philo, 2, 356-67; Dähne, Jüdisch-alexandrinische Religionsphilosophie, 2, 240-5; Paret, 'Ueber den Pharisäismus des Josephus', Theol. Stud. u. Kritiken, 1856, p. 800; Graetz, Geschichte d. Juden, vol. 3, note 10; A. Poznanski, Ueber die religionsphilosophischen Anschauungen des Flavius Josephus, Breslau, 1887; A. Schlatter, 'Wie sprach Josephus von Gott?' Beiträge zur Förderung christlicher Theologie, 1910, Heft 1; B. Brüne, Flavius Josephus u. seine Schriften in ihrem Verhältnis zum Judentume, zur griechisch-römischen Welt, u. zum Christentume, mit griechischer Wortkonkordanz zum Neuen Testamente u. I. Clemensbriefe, Gütersloh, 1913; also the articles on Josephus in Hastings's Dict. of the Bible, extra vol. (by Thackeray) and Jewish Enc. (by S. Krauss), the latter a most impartial brief statement; also Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums (passim, see Index). Of these I would name especially Poznanski, Schlatter, and Brüne. Schlatter's monograph is admirable, both for its philological studies and its comparisons with Palestine Judaism. Brüne's book (over 300 pages) is the most encyclopaedic and also the most pretentious of all. It contains an immense amount of philological material, and its comparisons with the classical and early Christian literatures are most useful; but the work is diffuse, badly put together, and a hopeless wilderness for lack of a good index. A selected vocabulary of Josephus is a desideratum. N. Bentwich, Josephus, Jewish Pub. Soc, 1914, is too unsympathetic towards Josephus to give any treatment of his religion.

2 The use of φυσιολογειν at the opening of Ant. 1, 2, where Moses is said to have begun to φυσιολογειν in Gen. 2, is interesting. It is the first appearance of the notion of a distinction between the two Creation stories. Compare Whiston's quaint remark, who holds it 'probable that he understood the rest of the second and the third chapters in some enigmatic or allegorical or philosophic sense'.

3 Generally so; also φιλοσοφιαι, Ant. 18, i. 2; cf. Wars, 2, 8. 14, end: περι των εν Ιουδαιοις φιλοσοφουντων. So also he speaks of the Stoic αιρεσις.

4 For his slighting of the doctrine of angels see Schlatter, pp. 32 ff.

5 Josephus's impartiality as an historian appears in the occasional and doubtless justified criticisms of his own party, e.g. Ant. 17, 2. 4 (n.b. their influence with the palace harem, η γυναικωνιτις). See Paret, pp. 817 f.; Friedländer, Die religiösen Bewegungen innerhalb des Judenthums im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, p. 90.

6 Josephus is possessed with a congenital dislike to all innovations in Church and State; his objection to the Zealots was therefore principled. See Brüne, pp. 27, 112, 234.

7 Cf. Krauss, Jew. Enc., 7, p, 275: 'Josephus's orthodoxy and piety are thus beyond doubt.'

8 i. e. the four cardinal virtues, ευσεβεια replacing φρονησις, and καρτερια ανδρεια; see Poznanski, p. 39.

9 Josephus's use of the verb πειθεσθαι might have been noticed by Brüne. It is quite parallel to πιστευω: cf. Apion. 2, 16 οι γαρ πιστευσαντες επισκοπειν θεον with § 41 πεπεισθαι τον θεον εποπτευοντα διεπειν. Cf. the New Testament use, e.g. Rom. 8. 38; 2 Tim. 1. 12; Heb. 11. 13 (text. rec.). Πιστις and πιστευω are not common words in Josephus, and deserve a fuller treatment than Brüne has given them (see his Index). See also Schlatter, p. 27. We may note the sentence in Apion. 2, 30 [31]: 'Every one, having his own conscience as a witness to himself believes, on the prophecies of the Lawgiver and God supplying the strong ground of faith (την πιστιν ισχυραν), that [to those who die a martyr's death] God gives a revivification and a better life.' Faith is generally objective and dogmatic with Josephus, but his use has many parallels in the New Testament. Nevertheless, he uses the word in its fullest spiritual sense, as in his praise of Izates and others likeminded: τοις εις αυτον (θεον) αποβλεπουσι και μονω πεπιστευκοσιν, Ant. 20, 2. 4, end.

10 I might add, following a thought of Schlatter's (p. 78), Josephus's idea of the unbroken unity of Jewish history from creation down to the destruction of the temple.

11 Brüne makes quite too much of this term to prove that the Pharisees were therefore 'Gottes Sklaven' in the most slavish sense of the word (p. 52) and ignores the Septuagintal and early Christian use of both δ. and δουλος. See also Schlatter, pp. 8 ff. Josephus's interchangeable use of δ. and κυριος in private life is shown by a citation of Brüne's, p. 48.

12 e. g. Wars, 2, 8. 5; 3, 8. 3; Ant. 1, 11. 1; 12, 6. 3.

13 He politely avoids the comparison. For his polemic against the Epicureans see Ant. 10, 11. 7, and, for a personal comment, 19, 1. 5.

14 See the collocation of these passages in Schürer, History of the Jewish People, § 26, 4th German ed., vol. 2, p. 449. Graetz polemicizes against Josephus's theological distinction of the parties. But, divesting Josephus of his affected Stoicism, his practical use of determinism is in general fully consistent with the Scriptures. Compare Bretschneider, pp. 31 ff.; Paret, pp. 812 ff.; Poznanski, pp. 10 ff.; Schlatter, pp. 49 ff. For the various uses of τυχη see Brüne, pp. 186 ff., and of ειμαρμενη, μεμοιραμενη, πεπρωμενη, χρεων, pp. 122 ff., 205. It has not been noticed in these discussions that there was in the Jewish ethics the unsolved mystery of the Good or Evil Yeser. What this meant as a problem in that generation can be seen from Paul and the author of 4 Esdras. Only Josephus takes philosophically and in the terms of the scholasticism of his day what those deeper souls wrestled over.

15 For other cases of similar expression see Poznanski, p. 37.

16 See above, note 9.

17 For his terminology of prayer see Schlatter, pp. 76 ff., Brüne, pp. 99 ff.

18 See Paret, p. 822.

19 Schechter, in Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, chap. 8, opposes the identification of nomos and thorah. But the Greek-speaking Jews, Palestinian quite as well as the Diaspora, deliberately adopted nomos as the sufficient expression, gloried in the term, and, as we learn from Josephus, carried out all its implications. See Paret, p. 825, Brüne, pp. 54 ff. Josephus only rarely uses the singular νομος, for which he prefers νομοθεσια, but generally the plural—the reverse of Paul's use.

20 See Brüne, pp. 57 ff.

21 He, at various points in the history, describes the polity as actually a monarchy, an aristocracy, a democracy, as the case may be, but his ideal is that of the theocracy, with the high priest as God's representative.

22 See Schlatter, pp. 67 ff., for his doctrine of the God of Israel.

23 Die Stellung der Israeliten u. der Juden zu den Fremden, p. 294.

24 Josephus frequently lays his finger, somewhat artlessly, upon the main count in the current anti-Semitism, that of unsociability. He takes pains to deny the grounds of such calumny, e.g. Ant. 8, 4. 3; Apion. 2, 28 f. [29 f.], 41 [42]. He himself was animated by a cosmopolitan friendliness; cf. Bertholet, p. 291.

25 See Paret, pp. 838 ff., for Josephus's missionary enthusiasm, and for his propagandism, Brüne, pp. 215 ff.

26 For Josephus ευσεβεια is the practice of the cult; see Schlatter, p. 76; Brüne, p. 98.

27 This story is instructive as to the variety of opinion concerning the necessity of circumcision for proselytes. Izates' first teacher, one Ananias, excused him, against his own desire from the rite on the ground that the worship of God (το θειον σεβειν) was more obligatory than circumcision (κυριωτερον του περιτεμνεσθαι). But a Galilaean, Eleazar, came on the scene, who reproached Izates for his neglect: 'Read thou and see that irreligion (ασεβεια) would consist in just such avoidance. You must not only read the laws but practise them!' However, Josephus took the humane attitude in objecting to forcible circumcision, in an instance which came under his official purview in Galilee (Life, 23). Despite Paret's remark to this effect, p. 837, he gives no approbation to Aristobulus's enforced circumcision of the Ituraeans (Ant. 13, 11. 3).

28 Paret, pp. 827 ff.; Brüne, § 35.

29 See Brüne, §§ 52-4.

30 Gfrörer, pp. 656 ff.; Dähne, pp. 240 ff. For Josephus's possible acquaintance with Philo's writings see Thackeray in Hastings's Dict., p. 471 ; Schürer, Gesch. d. jüd. Volkes,4 I, p. 81, n. 10.

31 Poznanski, pp. 33 ff. Brüne goes much too far on the other hand in pressing Josephus's antimystical rationalism (e.g. p. 115) and ignoring his natural hospitality of mind.

32 I may refer to a suggestion of mine in Journ. Bib. Lit. 29, 39 ff., that Ps. 68 is a Dedication hymn; the reference to the rains accompanying the theophany in verses 8-10 may then be connected with this mystical belief in the dewy presence of God in his sanctuary.

33 Schlatter, p. 72, has some pertinent remarks concerning Josephus's dominating interest in the temple, that it was a religious interest as over against the political nationalism of many of his people. 'Die Freiheit der Gemeinde, für die die Zeloten kampften, bildet für J. nicht ein mit Leidenschaft begehrtes Ziel; er ist zufrieden mit dem Recht zur Ausübung des Kultus, das der römische Staat der Judenschaft gewährt. Den Verlust des Tempels hat er dagegen schvver beklagt. Dadurch unterscheidet er sich von den Zeloten, die bei ihrem Kampf vor allem die Befreiung der Gemeinde anstrebten . . .'

34 Cf. § 8 θαυμασαι δ αν τις εν αυτη της περιοδου την ακριβειαν, and in the same paragraph he remarks that 'one can take comfort from fate (την ειμαρμενην), which is unescapable, as for animate things, so for things made and places'.

35 For δαιμονιος cf. Brüne, p. 122.

36 As Brüne notes, a Stoic theologumenon, pp. 107, 205 f.

37 See Poznanski, pp. 28 ff. The nearest approach to a Messianic theme is his reference to the meaning of 'the stone' in Dan. 2, 'which I do not think proper to relate' (Ant. 10, 10. 5). It was a perfectly logical development of Pharisaism for him to apply the popular prophecy that 'some one from the land of the Jews should rule the world' to Vespasian (Wars, 6, 5. 4). Cf. John 19. 15.

38 Brüne maintains, pp. 218 ff., that there is a covert polemic against the Christians throughout Josephus's writings, but without proof.

39 See Poznanski, pp. 25 ff.; Brüne, pp. 94 ff.

40 For the diversity of orthodox opinion about the resurrection see Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums,1 pp. 255 ff., especially p. 259, and M. Hughes, The Ethics of Jewish Apocryphal Literature, pp. 309 ff.

41 I doubt if there is any better example in all literature of absurd homiletics, of unfortunately most common type, than his moral reflections on Saul and the witch of Endor in Ant. 6, 14. 4. It looks as if he wished to kick up the dust about Saul's rather scandalous end.