lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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Especially for [livejournal.com profile] miss_whiplash, some initial comments on Flavius Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.


In his preface, Josephus declares:
there were a vast number of other matters in our sacred books. They, indeed, contain in them the history of five thousand years
This is interesting, as it tells us he had a different tradition to ours of the age of the word, as in ours, the world was only 3853 years old at the time he was writing. (This is according to the Jewish tradition, in which three hundred years of Persian occupation got lost down the back of the sofa; followers of Archbishop Ussher will naturally disagree.) He also talks about Moses as having lived three thousand years before his time. In chapter 1 is the unexplained passage:
Now he says that this flood began on the twenty-seventh [seventeenth] day of the forementioned month; and this was two thousand six hundred and fifty-six [one thousand six hundred and fifty-six] years from Adam, the first man
The Living Torah gives the date of the flood as 1658 A.M.; this agrees, give or take a couple of years, with the figure in the square brackets, so the discrepancy must have come in later. Hopefully, I'll find out nearer the time.

Book I, Chapter 1:

Much of Josephus' history, it transpires, overlaps with the Bible's account, though he is an important for the post-Biblical [Christian readers read: intertestamental] period, and I already know of one fascinating tidbit during the Biblical period, which is that Josephus quotes the Phoenician historian Menander of Ephesus to the effect that the three year drought which the Bible credits the prophet Elijah's prayers with ending, Menander credits rather the prayers of King Ahab's father-in-law the king of Tyre.

Anyhow, to the opening of the Bible, and Antiquities:

Genesis 1:1-1:5 בראשית א א-ה
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר׃ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד׃
This raises a number of questions: Firstly, if G-d had just created the heavens and the earth in verse 1, how come the earth is unformed and void in verse 2? The traditional Jewish explanation is to translate it rather:
In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form and void, and darkness upon the face of the deep. The spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; God said, "Let there be light", and there was light.
Josephus gives a quite different explanation:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. But when the earth did not come into sight, but was covered with thick darkness, and a wind moved upon its surface, God commanded that there should be light: and when that was made, he considered the whole mass, and separated the light and the darkness; and the name he gave to one was Night, and the other he called Day.
A second question the above passage raises is: why is the first day referred to as "one day" rather than "the first day" or "a first day". Josephus maddeningly says:
This was indeed the first day. But Moses said it was one day; the cause of which I am able to give even now; but because I have promised to give such reasons for all things in a treatise by itself, I shall put off its exposition till that time.

This is a reference to the work he says in the preface he will write after Antiquities, but which we do not have. (Presumably he did not live to complete it.)

Curiously, Josephus says:
This man was called Adam, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies one that is red, because he was formed out of red earth, compounded together; for of that kind is virgin and true earth.

I.e. he derives אָדָם ādām (Adam, man) not just from אֲדָמָה ădāmā (ground) as the Bible does, but also from אָדֹם ādom (red).

Hmm, well I've got lots else I want to say about the opening pages of Josephus, but I think this post is long enough now, and if I blog everything, it'll take me years to get through it, so this will do for now. More if I get feedback that it would be appreciated.

[Josephus] Josephus notes

Date: 2011-11-24 08:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-whiplash.livejournal.com
This reminds me so much of what I no longer am able to do. I used to read in greater context, based ion what I had been taught. Now I would be reading again with new eyes and I'm finding your insight really interesting.

On "without form and void" I had always understood that there was cloud, mist, whatever you will and so that gave rise to the without form part of it. I have heard speculation that the first rains were not until the time of the flood. Separating seas and skies would give definition to give form.

Oddly I see the darkness as a totally separate issue that was dealt with, not addressing the lack of form. Light and darkness seem to have been addressed before without form and void.

Void is harder, to me it conveys empty. As a chemist void means the space between, but there are other types of void.

Date: 2011-11-24 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
It's worth noting that the phrase rendered "without form and void", תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ, is very difficult to translate. The Wikipedia page about it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tohu_wa-bohu) says only the first element has any independent meaning, being used twenty times in the Bible, to mean "vain" or "waste"; the second element is only ever used here, and twice more where this verse is quoted, so we don't really know what it means.

Fit the first - trivial question

Date: 2011-11-24 08:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-whiplash.livejournal.com
"Fit the first" - did that come from the intro to the radio version Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? It's a phrase I've never seen elsewhere?

Re: Fit the first - trivial question

Date: 2011-11-24 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Nope, from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carroll/lewis/snark/index.html). I wanted to be able to enumerate my posts in a way that would not be confused with the book, chapter and paragraph numbering of Antiquities.

Re: Fit the first - trivial question

Date: 2011-11-24 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-whiplash.livejournal.com
I have that somewhere in "The Complete Illustrated works of Lewis Carroll". I think I got diverted from reading it by the syllogism section and never quite got back.

Date: 2011-11-24 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] awful-dynne.livejournal.com
Thank you for posting this. It reminds me of some of the readings from college, and makes me want to find a copy of this work and read it.


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