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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Moving temporarily out of chronological sequence, I mentioned earlier that there are passages pertaining to Jesus in Josephus that bear evidence of later, Christian tampering. There's also longer passages in the Slavonic version of War, which are now thought to be ninth-century interpolations. However, they're interesting to read anyway, given that they're the product of a Christian arguing pro-Christianity but supposedly from the pen of a Jew:

It was at that time that a man appeared—if "man" is the right word—who had all the attributes of a man but seemed to be something greater. His actions, certainly, were superhuman, for he worked such wonderful and amazing miracles that I for one cannot regard him as a man; yet in view of his likeness to ourselves I cannot regard him as an angel either. Everything that some hidden power enabled him to do he did by an authoritative word. Some people said that their first Lawgiver had risen from the dead and had effected many marvellous cures; others thought he was a messenger from heaven. However, in many ways he brkoe the Law—for instance, he did not observe the Sabbath in the traditional manner. At the same time his conduct was above reproach.
And so on in that vein. Later:
It is also stated that after his execution and entombment he disappeared entirely. Some people actually assert that he had risen; others retort that his friends stole him away. I for one cannot decide where the truth lies. A dead man cannot rise by his own power; but he might rise if aided by the prayer of another righteous man. Again, if an angel or other heavenly being, or God Himself, takes human form to fulfil his purpose, and after living among men dies and is buried, he can rise again at will. Moreover it is stated that he could not have been stolen away, as guards were posted around his tomb, thirty Romans and one thousand Jews.

Half of this reads convincingly as an intelligent and sceptical but not prejudiced observer; the other half is blatant Christian apologetic. Why on earth would a Jew even consider the possibility of G-d taking human form, especially given that the Torah takes pains (Deut. 4:12) to say that G-d did not have form (albeit that it also uses some anthropomorphic imagery)? And why on earth would the Romans and Jews both have posted so many guards around his tomb? It's to counter the anti-Christian argument that the body was spirited away by his friends... though Williamson, ever the believer, and who considers these passages to be genuine, comments here (adducing it as evidence of Josephan authorship), "The exaggerated numbers are in the best Josephan style".

I was surprised to see in VII.5 an early version of the mystical river Sambatyon, beyond which the ten lost tribes were exiled, and which is impassable on account of the ferocity of its waters and the boulders they carry with them, except on Shabbos, when it is calm but the Israelites may not travel. In Josephus's version, the river's behaviour is the other way around:

Now Titus Caesar tarried some time at Berytus [Beirut], as we told you before. He thence removed, and exhibited magnificent shows in all those cities of Syria through which he went, and made use of the captive Jews as public instances of the destruction of that nation. He then saw a river as he went along, of such a nature as deserves to be recorded in history; it runs in the middle between Arcea, belonging to Agrippa's kingdom, and Raphanea. It hath somewhat very peculiar in it; for when it runs, its current is strong, and has plenty of water; after which its springs fail for six days together, and leave its channel dry, as any one may see; after which days it runs on the seventh day as it did before, and as though it had undergone no change at all; it hath also been observed to keep this order perpetually and exactly; whence it is that they call it the Sabbatical River, that name being taken from the sacred seventh day among the Jews.
Martin Goodman claims in his book Rome and Jerusalem that Roman and later Christian antisemitism had its origins in the Destruction of the Temple, and Vespasian and Titus's need to use that victory to prop up their imperial claims. Josephus, however, argues otherwise. When Titus passed through Antioch after the Destruction, the citizens clamoured for the expulsion of the Jews, however Titus would have none of it (VII.5):
[The people of Antioch] also, among all the acclamations they made to him, besought him all the way they went to eject the Jews out of their city; yet did not Titus at all yield to this their petition, but gave them the bare hearing of it quietly. However, the Jews were in a great deal of terrible fear, under the uncertainty they were in what his opinion was, and what he would do to them. [...] And when the senate and people of Antioch earnestly entreated him to come upon their theatre, where their whole multitude was assembled, and expected him, he complied with great humanity; but when they pressed him with much earnestness, and continually begged of him that he would eject the Jews out of their city, he gave them this very pertinent answer: "How can this be done, since that country of theirs, whither the Jews must be obliged then to retire, is destroyed, and no place will receive them besides?" Whereupon the people of Antioch, when they had failed of success in this their first request, made him a second; for they desired that he would order those tables of brass to be removed on which the Jews' privileges were engraven. However, Titus would not grant that neither.

[Josephus] Josephus notes         Jewish learning notes index


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