Monday, August 16, 2010

Aren't We All Engaged in 'Picking and Choosing' What We Want to Believe in Josephus?

There are a number of texts which claim to be from 'Josephus' written in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Old Russian, Syriac, Ethiopic and many more languages. We also have testimonies from Ante-Nicene Church Fathers. The evidence presented in these sources is contradictory. As such EVERYONE is 'picking and choosing' what to accept as authentically Josephan. Steve Mason makes decisions as to what he accepts as 'authentic' no less than Smallwood, Flusser etc. It's called 'critical' interpretation of source material and nowhere is more applicable than in the surviving material associated with Josephus.

The safe way of dealing with the confusion is to assume that the MSS preserved in continental European churches dating from the 11th to 14th centuries is all authentic representations of the original first century Josephus who fought on the side of the Jewish revolutionaries and was eventually spared execution by Vespasian. I have presented evidence to suggest that Clement of Alexandria's testimony about 'Josephus the Jew' writing in the 10th year of Antoninus is revolutionary but unrecognized testimony about the transmission of our surviving Josephan corpus. 

The bottom line is that no one has attempted an actual critical comparative analysis of the Hegesippus and the received text of Jewish War. No one. It was just assumed that the Hegesippus 'must' represent a condensation of Jewish War because Jewish War is the authentic original manuscript of Josephus. 

I think I have found a number of arguments which challenge this inherited presupposition ranging from:

1) the testimony of Clement challenges the notion that Jewish War always was told from the perspective of 'first century Josephus.'
2) Eusebius's citation of what he calls the memoirs of 'Hegesippus' (a corruption of 'Josephus' in Greek) supports the implicit assumptions in Clement's testimony
3) Origen's echo of Hegesippus as a testimony found in 'Josephus' further edifies the original Clementine witness and might even argue for an Alexandrian textual tradition.
4) the fact the Pseudo-Hegesippus is told from the perspective of another 'Josephus' living long after 'first century Josephus' carried out the 'acts' described in the Josephan historical narrative supports the idea that there was a tradition - later attributed to a secondary figure named 'Hegesippus' - originally associated with a 'second century Josephus'
5) the fact that Pseudo-Hegesippus cites the original version of the Testimonium Flavianium (or what is generally assumed by most notable authorities) argues that he knows an older version of the Jewish War than our received text (which witnesses the fourth centuries of Eusebius or a parallel figure).
6) the fact that Pseudo-Hegesippus's Testimonium Flavianum resembles Origen's witness of what was in his 'Josephus' once again reinforces the idea that there was not only the so-called Hegesippus tradition (cf Eusebius) but that it was originally part of a literary tradition where the material in Jewish War was narrated by a Christian Jewish convert named 'Josephus.' This tradition is clearly present in Christian circles BEFORE the emergence of a Jewish War narrative told by a 'first century Josephus' (cf our received text). 

This of course doesn't mean that there wasn't an original first person narrative told by first century Josephus but rather that there is no evidence this was ever used by Ante-Nicene Christians. My assumption then has been that the Christianized Jewish War narrative narrated by a 'second century Josephus' was ultimately modified to make it resemble the lost first person narrative of first century Josephus in the manner of Vita albeit STRANGELY still narrated in the third person now by the 'original' witness. 

My assumption is that the reason why 'first century Josephus' appears in the third person in the received Jewish War narrative is because that narrative began life as being narrated by a second century Christian convert also named Josephus.

7) on the question of the historicity of Josephus the thesis I am developing here argues on behalf of the idea that underlying historical Josephus has his identity transformed when the Christian narrator was removed from the narrative. The presence of a Christian believer mitigated some of the inherent repulsive of the historical Josephus - i.e. in spite of the fact that Joseph ben Gorion was a misguided Jewish believer who denied Christ the fact that prominent Christian could still find confirmation of Christian doctrine in that 'Jewish testimony' essentially saved the material from the historical fire. 
Once this 'second century Josephus' was removed from the Jewish War narrative Josephus's original identity as 'Josephus bar Gorion' became problematic especially in the fourth century. As a result the fourth century 'synergoi' transformed 'Joseph bar Gorion' into Joseph bar Matthias.

Medieval Jewry always attested to the true identity of Josephus but they were ridiculed and their arguments were judged by Christians to be self-serving (like the claims of Agrippa being the messiah of Daniel or that there was only one historical 'king Agrippa'). What scholars have never pieced together is that BECAUSE the Yosippon has been universally acknowledged to be dependent on the Pseudo-Hegesippus tradition the identification of 'Josephus' as 'Joseph bar Gorion' CANNOT BE ATTRIBUTED SOLELY to later Jewish manipulations of the Josephan corpus. As I demonstrated in a previous post the identification of Josephus as 'Joseph bar Gorion' is the result of a natural reading of the CHRISTIAN source material at the heart of the Hegesippus textual tradition.

To this end the material in Jewish War 2.20.4 where 'Josephus bar Matthias' is introduced to a common tradition SHARED by Hegesippus i.e.:

[they] appointed a great many generals for the war. also Joseph the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar's money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea,who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

When the narrative goes on to say 'Josephus arrived in Galilee' the introduction of this reference to 'Josephus the son of Matthias' is clearly meant to confuse the reader into thinking that 'Josephus bar Matthias' was the historical 'Josephus.' The original understanding was what is gained from the Hegesippus tradition (including the Yosippon) - i.e. Josephus was the aforementioned Josephus bar Gorion. This necessarily has to be seen as proof that the Joseph bar Matthias idea is itself a later corruption by fourth century editors who wanted to distance their beloved 'Josephus' from his original distasteful 'revolutionary' identity. Moreover this corruption HAD TO TAKE PLACE in order to facilitate the many other corruptions to the narrative to ultimately help rehabilitate his historical identity and make 'Josephus' appear like someone who could have eventually embraced Roman civilization and culture and ultimately emerge as someone who would have attempted to create a Jewish parallel to Dionysius of Halicarnassus's Roman Antiquities.

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