Josephus, Flavius

, the celebrated historian of the Jews, was born at Jerusalem, of parents who belonged to the illustrious Asmonean family, about the year 37. He soon discovered great acuteness and penetration, and made so quick a progress in the learning of the Jews, that he was occasionally consulted by the chief priests and rulers of the city, even at the age of sixteen. For the purpose of studying the history and tenets of the several Jewish sects, he became for three years a pupil of Banun, a hermit, who had acquired great fame for wisdom; and with him lived a recluse and abstemious life. After this he became of the sect of the Pharisees, of which he was a very great ornament. In the year 63, he went to Rome, where a Jew comedian, who happened to be in favour with Nero, served him much at court, by making him known to Poppaea, whose protection was very useful to him, and enabled him to procure liberty for some of his countrymen. Upon his return to his country, where he found all things in confusion, he had the command of some troops, and distinguished himself at the siege of Jotapata, which he defended seven weeks against Vespasian and Titus, but was taken prisoner. A short time after, Vespasian granted him his life, | at the intercession of Titus, who had conceived a great esteem for him. He now visited Egypt, and took up his residence at Alexandria, where he doubtless studied the Grecian and Egyptian philosophy. His patron, Titus, carried him with him to the siege of Jerusalem, after the taking of which, he attended Titus to Rome, where Vespasian gave him the freedom of the city, and settled a pension upon him. At Rome he cultivated the Greek language, and began to write his History. He continued ta experience favour under Titus and Domitian, and lived beyond the 13th year of Domitian, when he was fifty-six for his books of “Antiquities” end there and after that period he composed his books against Apion. In what year he died is uncertain.

His “History of the Jewish War and the Destruction of Jerusalem,” in seven books, was composed at the command of Vespasian first in the Hebrew language, for the use of his own countrymen, and afterwards in the Greek. It is singularly interesting and affecting, as the historian was an eye-witness of all he relates. With the very strong colouring of an animated style and noble expression, he paints to the imagination, and affects the heart. National vanity and partiality, however, led him to imagine that all knowledge and wisdom had originated in Judea, and had flowed thence through all the nations of the earth; a notion which, says Brucker, gave rise to many errors and misrepresentations in his writings. The authenticity of the celebrated passage in Josephus, respecting our Saviour, is ably vindicated by our learned countryman Jacob Bryant, in his “Vindiciae Flavians.

Josephus’s “Jewish Antiquities,” in 20 books, written in Greek, is also a very noble work; their history is deduced from the origin of the world to the 12th year of Nero, when the Jews began to rebel against the Romans. At the conclusion of the “Antiquities,” he subjoined the “History of his own Life,” although in the editions of his Works it has usually been considered as a distinct production. He wrote also two books against Apion, a grammarian of Alexandria, and a great adversary of the Jews. These contain many curious fragments of ancient historians. We have also a discourse of his “upon the Martyrdom of the Maccabees,” which is a master-piece of eloquence; but its authenticity has been doubted, and Whiston would not admit it in his translation. | The works of Josephus, with Latin versions, have been often published but the best editions are those of Hudson, Oxford, 1720, 2 vols. fol. and of Havercatnp, at Amsterdam, 1727, in 2 vols. folio. They have also been translated into modern languages; into English by L’Estrange, and again by Whiston, in 2 Vol$. fol. 1


Life in Worki.- —Lardner’s Works.Cave, vol. I. —Saxii Onomast. Brocket.