« PreviousContinue »
and their principles, the manners of the Jewish people, and likewise concerning the Samaritans, greatly confirms and illustrates the history of our Evangelists.”
Dr. W. Wotton says of Josephus, “ He is certainly an author very justly to be valued, notwithstanding all his faults. His history of the Jewish war is a noble demonstration of the truth of the Christian religion ; by showing, in the most lively manner, how the prophecies of our blessed Lord, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, were literally fulfilled in their fullest extent.” Preface to Miscellaneous Discourses relating to the Traditions and Usages of the Scribes and Pharisees, p. 49.
In reference to the account Josephus gives of the destruction of Jerusalem, Archbishop Tillotson says, “We have this matter related, not by a Christian, (who might be suspected of partiality and a design to have paralleled the event with our Saviour's prediction,) but by a Jew, both by nation and religion, who seems designedly to have avoided, as much as possibly he could, the very mention of the Christian name, and all particulars relating to our Saviour, though no historian was ever more punctual in other things.” Vol. ii. p. 563. Serm. 186.
Similar to this is the testimony of M. Tillemont. “God has been pleased to choose for our information in this history, not an apostle, nor any of the chief men of the church, but an obstinate Jew, whom neither the view of the virtue and miracles of the Christians, nor the knowledge of the law, nor the ruin of his religion and country, could induce to believe in and love the Messiah, who was all the expectation of the nation. God has permitted it so to be, that the testimony which this historian gave
to an event, of which he did not comprehend the mystery, might not be rejected either by Jews or Heathens; and that none might be able to say, that he had altered the truth of things to favour Jesus Christ and his disciples.” Ruine des Juifs. Art. I.
Dr. Doddridge, in his notes on Matt. xxiv, says, “ Christian writers have always with great reason represented Josephus's History of the Jewish War, as the best commentary upon this chapter. And many have justly remarked it, as a wonderful instance of the care of Providence for the Christian Church, that he, an eye-witness, and in these things of so great credit, should (especially in so extraordinary a manner) be preserved to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this noble prophecy in almost every particular circumstance.”
Isidore of Pelusium, who flourished about the year 412, in one of his epistles, has these expressions ; " if you have a mind to know what punishment the wicked Jews underwent, who ill-treated the Christ, read the history of their destruction, written by Josephus, a Jew indeed, but a lover of truth, that you may see the wonderful story, such as no time ever saw before since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall see. For that none might refuse to give credit to the history of their incredible and unparalleled sufferings, truth found out, not a stranger, but a native, and a man fond of their institutions, to relate them in a doleful strain.”
Eusebius often quotes Josephus, and, in his Ecclesiastical History, has transcribed from him several articles at large. Having rehearsed from the gospels divers of our Lord's predictions of the evils then coming upon Jerusalem, and the Jewish people,
he adds, “Whosoever shall compare these words of our Saviour with the history of the whole war, published by the above-mentioned writer, must admire our Lord's great wisdom, and acknowledge that his foresight was divine.”
In his Chronicle, as we have it from Jerom in Latin, Eusebius says, “ In subduing Judea, and overthrowing Jerusalem, Titus slew six hundred thousand people: but Josephus writes, that eleven hundred thousand perished by famine and the sword, and that another hundred thousand were publicly sold and carried captives; and he says that the occasion of there being so great a multitude of people at Jerusalem was this, that it was the time of the Passover: for which reason the Jews, having come up from all parts to worship at the temple, were shut up in the city, as in a prison. And indeed it was fit they should be slain at the same time in which they crucified our Saviour.”
The following general character of Josephus from the pen of Dr. Lardner, concludes his observations on his works. “ Josephus was a man of great eminence and distinction among his people: but we do not observe in him a seriousness of spirit becoming a Christian, nor that sublimity of virtue which is suited to the principles of the Christian religion. Nor do we discern in him such qualities as should induce us to think he was one of those who were well-disposed, and were not far from the kingdom of God, Matt. xii. 34. He was a priest by descent, and early in the magistracy: then a general, and a courtier: and in all showing a worldly mind, suited to such stations and employments; insomuch that he appears to be one of those, of whom, and to whom, the best judge of men and things said, How can ye believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? John v. 44."
The utility of the works of Josephus as a companion to the Sacred History must now be obvious. A careful perusal of them cannot fail to illustrate and corroborate many facts of the inspired volume. On this principle they are strongly recommended to the attention of the religious public. In the present edition, the translation of Mr. Whiston is retained as the most valuable which has yet appeared. The notes also which he originally added to explain his author are here preserved. But as room remained for farther explanation than he has given, a considerable body of information is added, in a selection of notes by the Editor, which are distinguished from those of the translator by the letter B. at the close of each. It is hoped therefore, on the whole, that this edition of the Genuine Works of Josephus will be an acceptable and useful work, and contribute to the enlargement of knowledge on subjects, which are connected with the dispensations of religion, and the interest of the visible church of God upon earth.
SAMUEL BURDER. London, OCTOBER 1, 1811.
THOSE* who undertake to write histories, do not, I perceive, take that trouble on one and the same account; but for many and various reasons. For some apply themselves to this part of learning to show their great skill in composition; and that they may therein acquire a reputation. Others write histories in order to gratify those who happen to be concerned in them; and on that account spare no pains, but rather exceed their own abilities, in the performance. But there are others who of necessity are driven to write history, because they were concerned in the facts, and so cannot excuse themselves from committing them to writing, for the advantage of posterity. Nay, there are not a few who are induced to draw their historical facts out of darkness into light, and to produce them for the benefit of the public, on account of the great importance of the facts themselves, with which they had been concerned. Now of these several reasons for writing history, I must profess the two last were my own. For since I was myself interested in that war which we Jews had with the Romans, and knew myself its particular actions and conclusion, I was forced to give the history of it, because I saw that others perverted the truth of those actions in their writings.
Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greekst worthy of their study: for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew} scriptures. And indeed, I did formerly intend when I wrote of the war, to explain who the Jews originally were; what fortunes they had been subject to; and by what legislator they had been instructed in piety and the exercise of other virtue; what wars they also had made in remote ages, till they were unwillingly engaged in this last with the Romans. But
* This preface of Josephus's is excellent in its kind, and highly worthy the repeated perusal of the reader, before he set about the perusal of the work itself.
+ That is, all the Gentiles, both Greeks and Romans.
| Josep never followed the Septuagint, nor any other Greek version, in these his Antiquities, or other works, but only the Hebrew original; and this so punctually through all his known writings, as to make use of none of the sacred books but those that were written in Hebrew, and belonging to the Jerusalem catalogue.
§ Josephus wrote his seven books of the Jewish War, long before he wrote his Antiquities. Those books of the War were published about A. D. 75, and these Antiquities A. D. 93, about eighteen years later. See Fabricius apud Havercamp, page 58, 59.
because this work would take up a great compass, I formed it into a distinct treatise, with a beginning of its own, and its own conclusion. But in process of time, as usually happens to such as undertake great things, I grew weary and went on slowly; it being a large subject, and a difficult thing to translate our history into a foreign, and, to us, unaccustomed language. However, there were some persons who desired to know our history, and exhorted me to go on with it, and above all the rest Epaphroditus,* a man who is a lover of all kinds of learning, but is principally delighted with the knowledge of history, and this on account of his having been himself concerned in great affairs, and many turns of fortune, and having shown a wonderful vigour of an excellent nature, and an immovably virtuous resolution in them all. I yielded to this man's persuasions, who always excites such as have abilities in what is useful and acceptable, to join their endeavours with his. I was also ashamed to permit any indolence of disposition to have a greater influence upon me than the delight of taking pains in such studies as were very useful. I therefore stirred up myself, and went on with my work more cheerfully. Besides the foregoing motives, I had others, which I greatly reflected on; and these were, that our forefathers were willing to communicate such things to others; and that some of the Greeks took considerable pains to learn the affairs of our nation.
I found, therefore, that the second of the Ptolemies was a king who was extraordinarily diligent in what concerned learning and the collection of books; that he was also peculiarly ambitious to procure a translation of our law, and of the constitution of our government therein contained, into the Greek tongue. Now Eleazar the highpriest, one not inferior to any other of that dignity among us, did not envy the king the participation of that advantage, which otherwise he would certainly have denied him; but that he knew the custom of our nation was, to hinder nothing of what we. esteemed ourselves from being communicated to others. Accordingly, I thought it became me, both to imitate the generosity of our high-priest, and to suppose there might even now be many lovers of learning like the king. For he did not obtain all our writings at that time: but those who were sent to Alexandria as interpreters, gave him only the books of the law. While there were a vast number of other matters in our sacred books. They indeed contains the history of five thousand years. In which time happened many strange accidents, many chances of war, and great actions of the commanders, and mutations of the form of our government. Upon the whole, a man that will peruse this history may principally learn from it, that all events succeed well, even to an incredible degree, and the reward of felicity is proposed by God; but then it is to those that follow his will, and do not venture to break his excellent laws; and that so far as men any way apostatize from the accurate observation of them, what
* This Epaphroditus was certainly alive in the third year of Trajan, A. D. 100. Who he was, we do not know. For as to Epaphroditus, the freedman of Nero, Tacit. Annal. XV. 55, Nero's and afterwards Domitian's secretary, who was put to death by Domitian in the fourteenth or fifteenth year of his reign, he could not be alive in the third of Trajan.
+ That Josephus's chronology agreed neither with the Masorete Hebrew nor with the present Septuagint, but almost always with that of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and contained not less than 5000 years; see Essays on the Old Testament, page 195, 203, which is here recommended by Fabricius to the consideration of the reader, ap. Havercamp,
| Josephus here plainly alludes to the famous Greek proverb, Oeš wagovi @ vāv äropov sögumov. If God be with us, every thing that is impossible, becomes possible.
was practicable before, becomes impracticable; and whatsoever they set about as a good thing, is converted into an incurable calamity. And now I exhort all those that peruse these books to apply their minds to God; and to examine the mind of our legislator, whether he hath not understood his nature in a manner worthy of him, and hath not ever ascribed to him such operations as become his power, and hath not preserved his writings from those indecent fables which others have framed, although, by the great distance of time when he lived, he might have securely forged such falsehoods. For he lived* two thousand years ago. At which vast distance of ages, the poets themselves have not been so hardy as to fix even the generations of their gods; much less the actions of their men, or their own laws. As I proceed, therefore, I shall accurately describe what is contained in our records, in the order of time that belongs to them. For I have already promised so to do throughout this undertaking; and this without adding any thing to what is therein contained, or taking away any thing therefrom.
But because almost all our constitution depends on the wisdom of Moses our legislator, I cannot avoid the saying somewhat concerning him beforehand, though I shall do it briefly. I mean because otherwise those that read my books may wonder how it comes to pass, that my discourse, which promises an account of laws and historical facts, contains so much of philosophy. The reader is therefore to know, that Moses deemed it exceedingly necessary, that he who would conduct his own life well, and give laws to others, in the first place should consider the divine nature; and, upon the contemplation of God's operations, should thereby imitate the best of all patterns, so far as it is possible for human nature to do, and to endeavour to follow after it; neither could the legislator himself have a right mind, without such a contemplation, nor would any thing he should write tend to the promotion of virtue in his readers : I mean unless he be taught first of all, that God is the father and lord of all things, and sees all things, and that thence he bestows a happy life upon those that follow him; but plunges such as do not walk in the paths of virtue into inevitable miseries. Now when Moses was desirous to teach this lesson to his countrymen, he did not begin the establishment of his laws after the same manner that other legislators did : I mean upon contracts, and other rights between one man and another; but by raising their minds upwards to regard God, and his creation of the world : and by persuading them that men are the most excellent of the creatures of God upon earth. Now when once he had brought them to submit to religion, he easily persuaded them to submit in all other things. For as to other legislators, they followed fables; and by their discourses transferred the most reproachful of human vices unto the gods, and so afforded wicked men the most plausible excuses for their crimes. But as for our legislator, when he had once demon
• Of Josephus's chronology both here and hereafter, the reader is not to expect much account in these Notes. However, he is to observe, that though the numbers at the beginning of every book are translations from the last editions of Josephus, and so imperfect; yet all those in the margin are my own numbers, as they are more perfectly discovered and stated in the chronology, and my chronological table, published A. D. 1721. Josephus often corrected tås own chronology, and for want of Ptolemy's Canon, and of the knowledge of the years of Jubilee, which are sure guides to me in this matter, was often mistaken; I choose rather to give the reader in the margin the true chronology than to perplex him with such an one as we know to be often very erroneous.