--- In email@example.com
, Peter Kirby <kirby@e...> wrote:
> I have heard this before, and I wanted to see if it is true for
myself, so I set myself to reading the first book of Josephus'
_Wars_. Here are examples I found where Josephus, for whatever
reason, does not include an identifying remark when the names are
mentioned for the first time.
I won't respond to every single example you offer, but I would argue
that several do have Josephus providing some kind of identification
for the reader.
> Wars 1.6.6. But Pompey did not give him time to make any
preparations [for a siege], but followed him at his heels; he was
also obliged to make haste in his attempt, by the death of
Mithridates, of which he was informed about Jericho.
> Josephus does not tell us who Mithridates was.
Mithridates was a king, and famous enough in his own right to need no
further elaboration to help the readers identify him.
> Wars 1.6.6. Yet did not he perform any of the conditions he had
agreed to; for Aristobulus's party would not so much as admit
Gabinius into the city, who was sent to receive the money that he had
> The identity of Gabinius is not explained.
Well, in Wars 1.8.2 Josephus does tell us that Gabinius "was sent as
successor to Scaurus into Syria..." On this basis it seems
reasonable to accept that Josephus was assuming that his readers were
familiar with this person, or at least with his title.
> Wars 1.7.4. Now he that first of all ventured to get over the
wall, was Faustus Cornelius the son of Sylla; and next after him were
two centurions, Furius and Fabius; and every one of these was
followed by a cohort of his own, who encompassed the Jews on all
sides, and slew them, some of them as they were running for shelter
to the temple, and others as they, for a while, fought in their own
> Sylla is not identified earlier. Furius and Fabius are completely
The latter are identified as centurions, and as for Sylla, he is the
father of Faustus Cornelius. In each of these cases we have more
information than merely saying that they were "a certain" Furius or
Fabius or Faustus, which would be analogous to what we would have in
Antiquities 20 if we consider "brother of Jesus the one who was
called Christ" to be an interpolation.
> Wars 1.8.3. However, Gabinius sent before him Marcus Antonius, and
followed himself with his whole army; but for the select body of
soldiers that were about Antipater, and another body of Jews under
the command of Malichus and Pitholaus, these joined themselves to
those captains that were about Marcus Antonius, and met Alexander; to
which body came Oabinius with his main army soon afterward; and as
Alexander was not able to sustain the charge of the enemies' forces,
now they were joined, he retired.
> Josephus doesn't tell us who Malichus and Pitholaus are, nor is
Marcus Antonius identified, nor is Oabinius.
Once again we have Roman names, all connected with the more famous
Gabinius, not to mention the extremely famous Mark Antony. These
alone would serve as sufficient identifiers for Josephus' Roman
> Wars 1.8.8. In the mean time, Crassus came as successor to
Gabinius in Syria.
> Josephus seems to assume we know who Crassus was.
Yes. As he is identified as a governor of Syria, this seems to be
> Wars 1.8.9. But now Cassius, after Crassus, put a stop to the
Parthians, who were marching in order to enter Syria.
> The identity of Cassius is not explained.
Again, he doesn't need much additional identification, being one of
Rome's most famous historical figures.
> Wars 1.9.1. NOW, upon the flight of Pompey and of the senate
beyond the Ionian Sea, Caesar got Rome and the empire under his
power, and released Aristobulus from his bonds.
> We know who Caesar was.
> Wars 1.9.2. But Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, who was then ruler of
> Who's Menneus?
The father of Ptolemy. ;^)
Speaking seriously, it is not unusual to identify individuals as
"A" son of "B". In fact, this was the norm. In such cases it matters
little if "B" is known or not. In such cases "B" serves as the
surname for "A".
I hope that the point is now sufficiently made. The giving of a name
without any context or qualifier (either by the name of a father, or
some other famous person associated directly with him) is extremely
rare, and with good reason. Just as we use modern conventions to
identify one another (i.e. surnames, titles, ect.), so too did the
ancients. One could be identified by means of one's position
(governor of "X", centurion, praetor, ect.), by one's father's name
("A" son of "B"), or as the ally (or enemy) of some famous Roman
general. In the case of Antiquities, telling the reader that "a
certain James" was executed would be meaningless without further
elaboration. Connecting him with his brother would be much more
helpful, especially if that brother was already known to the readers
from an earlier account. Finally, from Josephus' point of view, that
may have been all that he knew of James, not knowing his father's
name, or any other useful identifier to work with.
> > Many of the people mentioned in Antiquities were not famous in
Rome (at least until Josephus tells them about these people. The
purpose of the identification appears to be to help explain the fall
of Ananus, and his replacement with Jesus ben Damneus.
> I take it, then, that you assume that Josephus had earlier
described Jesus called Christ and expects his audience to remember
the passage from the eighteenth book.
> > This one looks obvious. Origen made the connection by reading
intoJosephus' words, and uses his works to attack the Jews.
> Not obvious to me! How did Origen read such a thing into Ant.
20.9.1 that the execution of James was the cause of the destruction
This is an interesting argument to make, given that many proponents
of the theory of interpolation of this passage use Origen's reference
as their justification. Obviously, on such a theory, the supposed
interpolator saw this as the best fit for Origen's reference, but as
you note the connection is rather vague. More realistically, Origen
is merely reading anachronistically into the account, and using it to
explain why God would have punished the Jews for not only killing the
Messiah, but also for killing his brother unjustly. Granted, Origen
does not have much to work with here (there is no reference to James
as "known as the just" or as a righteous man unjustly condemned in
Josephus' account), but if read in the context of Origen's (and
others') understanding of Jewish history and Scripture, fitting a
pattern of disobedience by the Jews, followed by God's punishment for
that disobedience. This allows Origen to connect the story of James'
death with earlier ones of prophets unjustly killed, not to mention
that of Jesus, Stephen, and others.
> Do you assume that Josephus used the word "Christ" in chapter 18?
> Why would Josephus introduce a Jewish term to which he has a
general aversion at this point only and not give an explanation of
its meaning, particularly as Josephus is sensitive to his audience
and explains the meaning of the Jewish concepts that he mentions?
> Wouldn't it have been more attractive for Josephus to use "the one
crucified by Pilate" if he had a general aversion to the term Christ
and did not use it in the context of Vespasian or those rebels who
put on the diadem?
I typically shy away from speculating on motives for why anyone
writes what he or she does, as we simply cannot know motivations for
people so long dead. If I did have to make a guess, however, my
reading of this passage indicates that Josephus sees Ananus as the
bad guy, who is acting rashly and without justification, overstepping
his authority, and thereby demonstrating his unfitness for office as
High Priest. The Romans (i.e. Albinius), on the other hand, come off
rather well in this episode. If Josephus had reminded his readers
that Ananus was executing someone that had been the brother of a
man "crucified by Pontius Pilate" this may have lessened the impact
of Ananus' "scandalous" behaviour, and even given him, some political
cover in the minds of the readers. After all, if the brother was a
criminal killed by Pilate, maybe this James character was too, and
deserved what he was getting! Ananus' actions may have been a bit
hasty, and even rash, but justifiable, given the family history
involved here. Since this obviously did not serve Josephus' polemical
agenda, he would have wanted to downplay the history of Jesus'
execution, and focused instead on the outrageousness of Ananus'
> And even if Josephus decided to use this politically charged term,
how could he not give an explanation or rationalization of its
meaning at some point?
Suetonius did not feel the need to elaborate on the name/title
chrestus when he wrote of this trouble maker (in all likelihood he
didn't know it had any). Nor did it seem to bother Nero much to dig
into its dubious character. It was sufficient to know that the word
meant troublemaker (worse still, a Jewish troublemaker!), and leave
it at that. One rarely needs to know the origins of a durogatory
name in order to understand its connotative meaning (one need only
think of a few racial slurs to see this).
> And given its negative connotation to Romans, would the relatively
positive reconstruction of the Testimonium proposed by Meier et al.
be believable, as though Josephus would approve of one called Christ
I am not defending Meier's reconstruction. In my view, referring to
Jesus as the "so called christ" or "the one called the christ" would
have been sufficient. It connects him with a group of mysterious
troublemakers (the Christians), making him the presumed founder of
this nefarious group.
Calgary, AB, Canada