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JOSEPHUS FLAVIUS (ca. 37-ca. 105).

Soldier and historian. Born in Jerusalem, Joseph ben Mattathias came from a priestly family and was educated in the schools of the Pharisees. At age 26 he was sent on a mission to Rome where he remained for two years at the court of Nero. Returning home in 65 C.E., Josephus found the country in open rebellion against Roman rule. Entrusted with the command of Galilee, he fortified its cities against Vespasian and his invading Roman legions. From the beginning, Joseph’s loyalty was suspected by Johanan of Gush Halav, leader of the extremist Zeolot party, and the feud between them was bitter. Vespasian invaded Galilee in 67 and conquered the fortresses one by one. In Jotapata, Josephus held out for three months. When the garrison was captured, Josephus saved his life by surrendering. He won his way into Vespasian’s good graces by predicting that he would become emperor of Rome. The prediction came true, Vespasian returned to Rome to mount the imperial throne, and Titus took over command of the war in Judea. During the siege of Jerusalem, Titus used Josephus to urge the Jews to surrender. After the fall of Jerusalem, Joseph accompanied Titus to Rome, and was rewarded by the favor of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian and Titus. In gratitude, he took their name and called himself Josephus Flavius. Josephus appears to have been torn between his inescapable Jewishness and his need to please the Romans. He turned to writing and wrote first The Judean Wars (against Rome). Then he wrote the Antiquities of the Jews, a history glorifying the Jewish people. In Against Apion, a reply to the Alexandrian schoolmaster and antisemite, Josephus passionately defended Jews against slander. Vita is the autobiography that Josephus wrote to answer the charges made against him by another Jewish historian, Justus of Galilee. The writings of Justus on the Jewish revolt have been lost. The books of Josephus have survived, and serve as the only source of knowledge for a good part of the Jewish history of that period.

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