1st Cent. Jewish Messianism
firstname.lastname@example.org (Gregory Jordan (ENG)) writes:
>Josephus seems to speak highly of the Pharisees'
>character, but I would hesitate to call him a Pharisee - I thought he was
>generally considered to be a superstitious agnostic.
There is obviously room for difference of opinion regarding Josephus'
*true* convictions since he, chameleon-like, seems to have adapted his
expressions depending on the political environment. But I think it is the
general consesus of specialists on him and his work that he did try, in his
writings, to favor the Pharisees and their political positions. In the
summation of his article on Josephus in the Encyclopedia Britannica (15th
ed., s.v. "Josephus"), Gary William Poole writes:
Personally, Josephus was vain, callous, and self-seeking.
There was not a shred of heroism in his character, and for his
toadyism he well deserved the scorn heaped upon him by his coun-
trymen. But it may be said in his defense that he remained true
to his Pharisee beliefs and, being no martyr, did what he could
for his people.
What seems to be "supersticious agnosticism" could be Josephus's
penchant for political pragmatism. In writing for his Roman sponsors, he
gives the messianic aspect of Judaism short shrift, probably to avoid
suspicion and so stave off further imperial action against the Jews. (Cf.
Seutonius, X:4.) When he writes about John the Baptist, for instance
(Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII:116-119), The messianic aspect of John's
message (Cf. Mat. 3:3, 10-13.) receives no mention. And when Josephus speaks
directly of the messianic hope of Israel, he does it in these terms:
But what more than all else incited them to the war was an
ambiguous oracle, likewise found in their sacred scriptures, to
the effect that at that time one from their country would become
ruler of the world. This they understood to mean someone of their
own race, and many of their wise men went astray in their
interpretation of it. The oracle, however, in reality signified
the sovereignty of Vespasian, who was proclaimed Emperor on Jewish
soil (Josephus, War, VI:312-13).
When writing of other messianic movements of the time, he plays down or
ignores the messianic pretentions of their protagonists, and in his only
uncontested reference to Jesus, calls Him "the so-called Christ (IHSOU TOU
LEGOMENOU CRISTOU) (Antiquities, XX:200)."
David L. Moore