« PreviousContinue »
THE character of Josephus, as an historian, is entitled to very particular consideration, and the testimonies which he affords in support of Christianity have an especial claim to regard.
This eminent man appears to have been raised up by Providence for purposes equally remarkable and important. He stands on a distinct ground between Sacred and Heathen writers, and his works afford most valuable illustrations of the Divine Authority of the Scriptures, and of the truth of many facts on which the claims of religion rest.
Flavius Josephus was the son of Matthias, of sacerdotal extraction, and of royal descent, on the mother's side, she being of the Asmonean race; he was born at Jerusalem, A. D. 37, and died in 93. He seems to
have been educated in strict adherence to the Mosaic law.
Whiston maintained that he was a Nazarene, or Ebionite Jewish Christian. We shall, however, agreeably to the common opinion, consider him only as a believer in the Divine authority of Moses and the prophets.
He appears, indeed, to have entertained some apprehension of the approaching termination of the Jewish dispensation, as he combated the opinions of his countrymen with respect to the necessity of circumcision, maintaining that every man should be left to serve God in his own way, and he seems to have expected the fall of Jerusalem.
Whatever his religious persuasions were, he certainly established a high character by his judgment and attainments, so as to have been consulted at a very early age by those who had the direction of the public affairs.
He obtained also stations of considerable authority, and was employed in many undertakings of great moment and enterprize, in which he displayed much activity and courage. His distinguished talents enabled him to record his own actions, and to trans
mit the memorial of them, with that of the history of his country, to after ages.
He went to Rome in the 26th year of his age, A. D. 6S, and having been introduced by Aliturus, an Hebrew comedian to Poppæa, the empress, he experienced much favour from her. On his return to his country, he was appointed to the command of some forces in Galilee, and distinguished himself in the defence of Jotapata against Vespasian and Titus. When the place was reduced, he was not only pardoned at the intercession of Titus, but received into much. confidence and favour with Vespasian. He appears, indeed, to have deluded himself into a belief, or to have artfully persuaded Vespasian that he was authorized by a Divine commission, to assure him that he should fulfil the Jewish prophecies, and succeed to the Empire *. Josephus was taken by Vespasian to the siege of Jerusalem, whence after beholding the accomplishment of the ever memorable predictions of Christ in the siege and destruction of the city, he accompanied Titus to Rome, and obtained the privileges of a Roman citizen, with an
* De Bell. Jud. lib. iv. (5) c. 10. p. 1205. Edit. Hudson.
allowance from Vespasian, which he enjoyed many years, employing his time in the study of the Greek language and in the composition of his works.
The productions of Josephus consist of the Jewish Antiquities, the War of the Jews, his own Life, and two books against Apion. The authenticity of the principal works though assailed by Harduin, is fully established. Some smaller pieces are ascribed to him, particularly a work entitled the "Maccabees," or a Discourse on the "Em
pire of Reason," in which is related the martyrdom of Eleazer, and of a woman and her seven sons for refusing to abjure their faith. It has been doubted whether this, be the work of Josephus, and though the history is related with solemnity as real, and is assigned to the time of Antiochus, it seems to be considered by Grotius as a fiction, or as embellished at least with many fictitious circumstances *.
Josephus wrote his history of the Jewish war at the command of Vespasian. Some think that it was first composed in Hebrew; and Hebrew nts either of this
* Grot. 1
original, or of a subsequent version are occasionally mentioned, in particular one which was in the Vatican. The history which was finished about A. D. 76. was presented to Vespasian in the Greek language *, and the Emperor with his own hand wrote an order for its being published. It afterwards obtained the approbation of Julius Archelaus†, a distinguished Jew, of Herod, and of King Agrippa. It was deposited in the public library at Rome, and a statue was erected in honour of the author §. The work must have attracted great attention at Rome, at the time when the Jewish nation was brought greatly into notice by their obstinate rebellion, and by the distinguished victories and triumph of Vespasian and Titus to whose honour an arch was erected at Rome, on which are still to be seen the sculptured representations of the vessels and ornaments of the temple of Jerusalem. The golden table, and the candle
See Willes's First Discourse prefixed to L'Estrange's Translation of Josephus; and Ant. lib. x. c. 10. p. 458. + Fabricius de Joseph.
Cont. Apion, lib. i. § 9. et de Vit. Joseph.
§ Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 9.