Monday, August 16, 2010

Which 'Josephus' is Closer to the Original? Pseudo-Hegesippus Book 3 Chapter 18 or Bellum Judaicum Book 3 Chapter 8?

The next section in our side by side comparison is again very interesting. The section which follows the last cited in Pseudo-Hegesippus is;

There was a rush to the sight of his coming almost all the Romans assembling together. Some wished to see him killed, whom shortly before they saw in charge of great affairs in a position of the greatest honor, others struggled to mock the captive, others marveled at such different and changeable turns of human events. Most prudently sighed, who thought that in other circumstances the same thing could happen to them. Titus in view of all the rest was moved by an innate gentleness of spirit, him for so long a proud fighter, suddenly sentenced to the power of the enemy, to await the lottery of an alien nod the shipwreck of life banished from hope uncertain of safety. To exert such great influence in battles, so that in a short time by chance he renders unequal to himself, when the powerful are either thrown out or overthrown are released. And so the better part of them, namely those in positions of honor, give the gentler counsel. Titus was for Josephus before his father the greatest portion of his safety. Vespasian ordered him to be kept in custody, lest by chance he should escape. [Pseudo-Hegesippus 18]

The parallel section in Jewish War reads;

But now all the Romans ran together to see him; and as the multitude pressed one upon another about their general, there was a tumult of a various kind; while some rejoiced that Josephus was taken, and some threatened him, and some crowded to see him very near; but those that were more remote cried out to have this their enemy put to death, while those that were near called to mind the actions he had done, and a deep concern appeared at the change of his fortune. Nor were there any of the Roman commanders, how much soever they had been enraged at him before, but relented when they came to the sight of him. Above all the rest, Titus's own valor, and Josephus's own patience under his afflictions, made him pity him, as did also the commiseration of his age, when he recalled to mind that but a little while ago he was fighting, but lay now in the hands of his enemies, which made him consider the power of fortune, and how quick is the turn of affairs in war, and how no state of men is sure; for which reason he then made a great many more to be of the same pitiful temper with himself, and induced them to commiserate Josephus. He was also of great weight in persuading his father to preserve him. However, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept with great caution, as though he would in a very little time send him to Nero. [Jewish War 3.8.8]

Without a doubt the two traditions develop from the same source but then what is so utterly surprising is that Pseudo-Hegesippus does not even retain so much as a mention of what is perhaps one of the most famous stories from Jewish War - Josephus's prophetic announcement that Vespasian would become Caesar LONG BEFORE any other Jew or anyone else. The curious passage reads:

When Josephus heard him give those orders, he said that he had somewhat in his mind that he would willingly say to himself alone. When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said, "Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero's successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God." When he had said this, Vespasian at present did not believe him, but supposed that Josephus said this as a cunning trick, in order to his own preservation; but in a little time he was convinced, and believed what he said to be true, God himself erecting his expectations, so as to think of obtaining the empire, and by other signs fore-showing his advancement. He also found Josephus to have spoken truth on other occasions; for one of those friends that were present at that secret conference said to Josephus, "I cannot but wonder how thou couldst not foretell to the people of Jotapata that they should be taken, nor couldst foretell this captivity which hath happened to thyself, unless what thou now sayest be a vain thing, in order to avoid the rage that is risen against thyself." To which Josephus replied, "I did foretell to the people of Jotapata that they would be taken on the forty-seventh day, and that I should be caught alive by the Romans." Now when Vespasian had inquired of the captives privately about these predictions, he found them to be true, and then he began to believe those that concerned himself. Yet did he not set Josephus at liberty from his hands, but bestowed on him suits of clothes, and other precious gifts; he treated him also in a very obliging manner, and continued so to do, Titus still joining his interest ill the honors that were done him. [Jewish War 3.8.9]

It is only because we accept the contents of Jewish War that we accept this story as genuine. There are so many problems with the narrative not the least of which is the ridiculous statement of Josephus in his proclamation to Vespasian "I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case and how it becomes generals to die." As Whiston rightly confesses "I do not know where to find the law of Moses here mentioned by Josephus, and afterwards by Eleazar, 13. VII. ch. 8. sect. 7, and almost implied in B. I. ch. 13. sect. 10, by Josephus's commendation of Phasaelus for doing so; I mean, whereby Jewish generals and people were obliged to kill themselves, rather than go into slavery under heathens. I doubt this would have been no better than "self-murder;" and I believe it was rather some vain doctrine, or interpretation, of the rigid Pharisees, or Essens, or Herodiaus, than a just consequence from any law of God delivered by Moses." 

Of course Whiston is trying to make sense of an implausible passage. There is no 'law of the Jews' which can be construed to make such a demand and as Schwartz notes the particular phrasing 'the law of the Jews' cannot have been written by Josephus. He would have said 'our Law' or 'the law of the Moses.' 'The law of the Jews' has a curious sense of detachment from Judaism that is more characteristic of material from the Hegesippus tradition. 

I would argue in fact that this bald statement of what is demanded by 'the law of the Jews' seems more like a reaction - or even a correction - of the long section only found in the Hegesippus tradition where Josephus considers surrendering to the Romans cited earlier. The forty Jews tell him that the 'god of the Hebrews' demands that generals die rather than be captured bringing up the example of Saul:

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? Whenthe 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? [Pseudo-Hegesippus 16]

Notice now that the forty Jews see it as nothing short of the command of the 'god of the Hebrews' that a general such as Josephus must die rather than be captured. They are channeling 1 Samuel which declares that Saul, to escape the ignominy of capture, asks his armour bearer to kill him, but is forced to commit suicide by falling on his sword when the armour bearer refuses. 

This HAS TO BE THE SOURCE of the strange statement in Jewish War that has Whiston scratching his head - i.e. Josephus in Jewish War claiming that the 'law of the Jews' (and not 'the law of Moses) commands that generals must die rather than be captured. Josephus for his part goes on to deny this interpretation but the important point we have to see is that the statement Jewish War makes no sense unless you know the argument which is present in the Pseudo-Hegesippus tradition. 

No one would have been understood if they stood up and just said 'the law of the Jews demands that generals die rather than be captured.' The bald statement in Jewish War was developed from the lengthy discussion of the example of Saul WHICH ONLY APPEARS IN PSEUDO-HEGESIPPUS. 

In short, we have demonstrated once again that Jewish War was developed subsequently to the establishment of the narrative in Pseudo-Hegessipus. 

We should also remember that Josephus in Pseudo-Hegesippus goes on to deny that the interpretation of the Jews is correct. He says that:

Truly the precedent of king Saul comes to mind, his certainly who was both chosen king against the divine will and merited the displeasure of god, whence even while he was living he received his successor. An excellent example of a man to whom the favor of god was wanting. Yet also he wanted to die, because he could no longer live. He wanted moreover that his companion should kill him, but the latter thought it a sin, he refused the service. Not therefore making use of his plan but lacking a helper he accomplished, that he should turn his sword upon himself. If fearful he accomplished that he should not bring ridicule upon himself, how do you praise what is the result of fear? If he feared not, why did he first choose another? I do not fear the Romans either speaking mockingly or lying. Saul alone killed only himself, not Ionathas, not anyone else in our scriptures. Is it a wonder if he was able to kill himself, who was able even to kill his son? [Pseudo-Hegesippus 17]

Indeed it is because of his rejection of this interpretation put before him by the Jews that he goes on to surrender himself to the Romans. Nevertheless, Christian editor of the received text of Jewish War must have read the argument of the forty Jews and thought that it agreed with the doctrine of Christian martyrdom and then subsequently put into the mouth of Josephus as part of the invented claim that Josephus predicted Vespasian would go on to be Caesar. 

Again you can't have the argument in Jewish War without the lines of proof or explanation in Pseudo-Hegesippus. I also think that the fourth century editor didn't like having the overt (and lengthy) discussion of scriptural among the Jews in the cistern. It sounded 'too Jewish' and took away from the Thucydidean history he was creating.

The bottom line for our thesis is that we have a clear example that the received text is based on the reworking of a highly theological and 'scripturally oriented' original from the Hegesippus tradition. While the scriptures cited here are not specifically Christian, the subject is 'the law of the Jews.' It is not surprising that 'second century Josephus' doesn't employ the gospels or New Testament material to make his point. In any event, the fourth century editor removed the highly theological and 'scripturally oriented' passage and created something else more palatable for his Gentile readership but - most importantly - retained the underlying logic in a passage which follows a few sentences later. 

As I said, you can't get to 'the law of the Jews says generals must kill themselves rather than be captured' without the original argument of the forty Jews in the cistern in Pseudo-Hegesippus 16. It just doesn't make any sense.

I would have to say this is a very important proof for my thesis!

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