Monday, August 16, 2010

Which 'Josephus' is Closer to the Original? Pseudo-Hegesippus Book 3 Chapter 15,16 or Bellum Judaicum Book 3 Chapter 8?

We continue to go through the parallel chronology of Pseudo-Hegesippus and Jewish War. The passage that follows the last cited in Hegesippus is:

But in the cistern also forty men who had fled there were hiding themselves. Who when they noticed Josephus to be summoned out by Vespasian in the hope of safety first through Paulinus and Gallicanus, afterwards through Nicanoris, who was bound to Josephus by virtue of ancient friendship, and for that reason sent that he should give a pledge, he willingly carried out the obligation of the assigned task, having surrounded Josephus they addressed him with words of such kind, [Pseudo-Hegesippus 15]

The parallel section in Jewish War is generally similar but adds a prayer narrative while emphasizing the connected of 'Joseph bar Matthias' to the priesthood:

Now as Josephus began to hesitate with himself about Nicanor's proposal, the soldiery were so angry, that they ran hastily to set fire to the den; but the tribune would not permit them so to do, as being very desirous to take the man alive. And now, as Nicanor lay hard at Josephus to comply, and he understood how the multitude of the enemies threatened him, he called to mind the dreams which he had dreamed in the night time, whereby God had signified to him beforehand both the future calamities of the Jews, and the events that concerned the Roman emperors. Now Josephus was able to give shrewd conjectures about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, as being a priest himself, and of the posterity of priests: and just then was he in an ecstasy; and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said, "Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since thou hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretell what is to come to pass hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, and am content to live. And I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee." When he had said this, he complied with Nicanor's invitation. But when those Jews who had fled with him understood that he yielded to those that invited him to come up, they came about him in a body, and cried out, [Jewish War 3.8.3,4]

The general similarities aside the Hegesippus material cannot possibly be described as a 'copy' of Jewish War. Yet what is most interesting about the two narratives is that TWO DIFFERENT speeches comes out of the forty Jews who are stuck with Josephus in the cistern. The Hegesippus speech reads as follows:

"Now the great downfall of the Jewish name is tested, now the bitter ashes, which submerge and hide the teaching of our splendid lineage and undermine every distinction, when Josephus a captive is ordered to be saved for the triumph. What do such solicitous inducements of the enemy suddenly wish for themselves? What of this voluntary offer of safety? They did not spare others seeking life: Josephus is sought out, Josephus is asked that he should live. They fear evidently that they may lose the pomp of a triumph, lest he should be wanting whom Rome would see a captive, whom in chains Vespasian would direct before his chariot. You wish therefore to be saved for this spectacle? And from what will they triumph, if their leader will be lacking that over which the triumph is celebrated? Or what sort of triumph, if an alliance is given to the conquered? Do not believe, Josephus, life is promised you, but worse things than death are being prepared. Roman arms conquered you, do not let deceit capture you. Their gifts are more heinous than wounds, the former threaten servitude, the latter save freedom. You are bowing, Joseph, and broken by a certain weakness of spirit you wish to be a survivor of your country? Where is the teaching of Moses, who sought to be erased from the divine book that he might not outlive the people of the lord? Where is Aaron, who stood in the middle between the living and the dead, so that death should not destroy a living people with a cruel contagion? Where is the spirit devoted to their country of king Saul and Ionathas, and that death bravely borne for the citizens, gloriously received? The son encouraged the father by example, the father did not forsake the son in the purpose of death, who although he was able to live, preferred himself to be killed rather than to be triumphed over by the enemy. He encouraged his weapon bearer saying: Strike me lest these uncircumcised should come and strike me and make sport of me. Because his weapon bearer feared to do this, he transfixed himself with his sword, worthy whom that David in a prophetic spirit would vindicate, because Amalechita had boasted falsely about the manner of his death and had thought to diminish the renown of the man who had saved himself from the enemy, he lied that he had been killed by himself,worthy whom that even such a great prophet should praise saying: Saul and Ionathas beautiful and beloved inseparables in their life and in death they were not separated, lighter than eagles, more powerful than lions. David himself also when he saw his people struck by an angel, wished to draw the heavenly vengeance upon himself lest he should be spared with the people perishing. Finally what of the divine law, whose interpreter you have always been, which promised everlasting immortality to the righteous instead of this brief life? When the god of the Hebrews, who teaches the righteous to have contempt for death, to owe it even to escape this earthly dwelling place, to fly back to the heavenly, to that region of paradise where god consecrates pious souls? Now finally you wish, Josephus, to live, when it is not fitting, indeed not permitted, what indeed is more important it is not proper? And you want to snatch at that life, I dare to say, of slavery which is in another's power? So that a Roman may snatch it away when he wishes? May throw into the dark corner of a prison when he wishes? And you would choose to flee from here and not be allowed to die? And with shame you go to them, from those whom you persuaded to die for their country? What excuse will you have that you have stayed so long? They are awaiting what you might do, they are certainly saying already: Why is Josephus delaying who ought to have come? Why does he come so tardily? Why is he refusing to imitate his followers whom he persuaded to die for freedom? We will permit certainly that you choose to serve a champion of freedom, but that you doom yourself a slave to the Romans, that you put bondage before freedom? But be it that you wish to live, how will you obtain this from them against whom you have fought so many times? How will they look upon you, with what eyes, with what feelings? How will you wish to live with angry masters even if it allowed? And who will not believe you to have been a traitor to your country, who will see to whom the reward of treason was paid? Choose whichever you may prefer, that it be one of these is necessary: your life will be the reward of treachery or the suffering of slavery. [Pseudo-Hegesippus 3.16]

The speech in Jewish Antiquities by contrast reads as follows:

"Nay, indeed, now may the laws of our forefathers, which God ordained himself, well groan to purpose; that God we mean who hath created the souls of the Jews of such a temper, that they despise death. O Josephus! art thou still fond of life? and canst thou bear to see the light in a state of slavery? How soon hast thou forgotten thyself! How many hast thou persuaded to lose their lives for liberty! Thou hast therefore had a false reputation for manhood, and a like false reputation for wisdom, if thou canst hope for preservation from those against whom thou hast fought so zealously, and art however willing to be preserved by them, if they be in earnest. But although the good fortune of the Romans hath made thee forget thyself, we ought to take care that the glory of our forefathers may not be tarnished. We will lend thee our right hand and a sword; and if thou wilt die willingly, thou wilt die as general of the Jews; but if unwillingly, thou wilt die as a traitor to them." [Jewish War 3.8.4]

Strangely, Jewish War now appears to be a summary of Hegesippus! How can this be explained?

Indeed the reason why it is so important to bring up the incompatibility of this narrative with the chronology of Vita is that we all know that the story of Josephus alleged capture in Jotapata ends with a Looney Toons cartoon where all forty of his fellow captives stuck in the cistern end up killing one another! In short, there is very good reason to suspect that all of this is unhistorical i.e. none of this ever happened. It is a terribly silly narrative AND interestingly Hegisippus and Jewish War's narratives are completely different.

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