Page images


Printed ty J. Sf C, Muirhead. § 1. * 1 Hose who undertake to write histories, do not, I perceive, take that trouble on one and the same account, but for many reasons, and those such as are very different one from another: For some of them apply themselves to this part of learning to shew their great skill in composition, and that they may therein acquire a reputation for speaking finely: others of them there are, who write histories in order to gratify those that happen to be concerned in them, and on that account have spared no pains, but rather gone beyond their own abilities in the performance; but others there are, who of necessity, and by force, are driven to write history, hecause 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 have been concerned. Now of these several reasons for writing history, I must profess the two last were my own reasons also: for since I was myself interested in that war which we Jews had with the Romans, and knew myself its particular actions, and what conclusion it had, I was forced to give the history of it, because I saw that others perverted the truth of those actions in their writings.

2. Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the f Greeks 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 1J wrote of the war, to explain who the Jews originally were; what fortunes they had been subject to; and by what legislator th>y had been instructed in piety, and the exercise of other virtues; what wars also they had made in remote ages till they were unwillingly engaged in this last with the Romans: but because

* This preface of Josephus 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.

J We may seasonably note here, that Josephus wrote his seven books of the Jewish War long before he wrote these his Antiquities. Those books of the War were published about A. D. 75, and these Antiquities, A.D. 93, about eighteen years later.

this work would take up great compass, I separated it into Sp set treatise by itself , 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, some persons there were who desired to know our history, and so exhorted me to go on with it: and above all the rest* Epaphroditus, a man who is a lover of all kind 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 shewn a wonderful vigour of an excellent nature, and an immoveable 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 myself to permit any laziness of disposition to have a greater influence upon me, than the delight of taking pains in such studies as were very useful. 1 thereupon stirred up myself, and went on with my work more cheerfully. Besides the foregoing motives, 1 had others which I greatly reflected on; and these were, that our forefathers were willing to communicate such things to others j and that some of the Greeks took considerable pains to know the affairs of our nation.

3. I found, therefore, that the second of the Ptolemies was a king, who was extraordinary diligent in what concerned learning, and the collection of books: that he was also pe, culiarly ambitious to procure a translation of our law, and of the constitution of our government therein contained, into the Greek tongue. Now Eleazar the high-priest, one not inferior to any other of that dignity among us, did not envy the fore-named king the participation of that advantage, which otherwise he would for certain have denied him, but that he knew the custom of our nation was, to hindernothing of what we esteemed ourselves from being communicated to others. Accordingly 1 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

* This Epaphroditus was certainly alive in the third year of Trajan, A. D. 100. See the note on Antiq. B. 1. against Apion, § 1. Vol. VI. Who he was we do not know; for as tu Epaphroditus, the freedman of Nero, and afterwards Domitian's secretary, who was put to death by Domitian in the 14th or 15th year of his reign, he could not be alive in the third of Trajan.

books of the law, while there was a vast number of other matters in our sacred books. They indeed contain in them 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 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 undt rstood his nature in a manner worthy ot him; and bath 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 lies; 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, 1 shall accurately describe what is 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.

4. But because almost all our constitution depends on the wisdom of Moses, our legislator, I cannot avoid saying somewhat concerning him before-hand, 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 exceeding 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;

* Josephus here plainly alludes to the famous Greek proverb, If God be with us, every thing that is impossible becomes possible.

« PreviousContinue »