Saturday, August 27, 2005


I think Josephus is a fairly good historian of Jewish culture and Jewish-Roman relations in the first century. I believe he is mostly trustworthy, even though scholars frequently debate whether he was prejudiced in favor of the Romans or Jews, or in favor of Sadducees or Pharisees. Definite answers can be given on a case by case basis.

But for centuries, it was mainly Christians who studied him because they used his material as evidence that God was punishing the Jews for rejecting Christ. No wonder Jews did not want to look at his writings at all. Some of this has changed for Jews since the discovery of Masada in Israel. But I wonder if Christian attitudes have changed. I recently met a very evangelist type Christian who happened to mention that his church had a copy of a book by or about Josephus. I did not get a clear answer as to what his interest in Josephus was. He said it was to learn about ancient Jewish culture, but I was suspicious because he had a firm belief that Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah and were wrong to do so.

So I am curious why Christians study Josephus today. Is it still for theological purposes? Or do they have more respect now that Jewish history belongs to Jews?

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