Monday, August 16, 2010

Shaye Cohen on the Relationship Between the Jewish War Tradition and Josephus's Vita

Shaye Cohen’s Josephus in Galilee and Rome: his Vita and Development as a Historian is practically the only study that concentrates on the Jewish War vs. Life dichotomy. The book is quite negative about Josephus as a reliable source and about his character generally. In this aspect, it harks back to what is known as the "classical" view of Josephus derived from late 19th century German source-criticism of Josephus’ corpus. Epitomized by Walter Laqueur’s work in the 1920s, this view neglected the likely socio-political and theological circumstances under which Josephus composed his history. It considered only information meant to support the classical conjecture that Josephus brazenly utilized deceitful forgeries (earlier spurious works) in a way so as to flatter his Roman benefactors and rationalize his own moral weakness. Laqueur and company painted Josephus as only wanting to promote his assumed role as Flavian lackey and gifted author.

I have taken matters to the next degree here noting that there was another 'Josephus' - a name later (deliberately) corrupted to 'Hegesippus' - which undoubtedly stood as the 'grandfather text' to both the received text of Jewish War and what I have called the Hegesippus textual tradition (i.e. all the traditions associated with the Josephus corpus outside of continental Europe which general preserve altered versions of the Pseudo-Hegesippus text, the Yosippon, Slavonic Josephus, the Ethiopic etc.).

The thing which has become plainly evident to us is that it wasn't Josephus who was transforming and ultimately veiling his role in war crimes and rebellion against the Roman state during the Jewish revolt of 66 - 70 CE. The editors of works associated with his originally limited literary output were also attempting to make this illiterate (at least by Greco-Roman standards) Jewish guerilla commander a more palatable historical source. 

I think that my discoveries will eventually help the great number of chronological discrepancies which exist between Jewish Way (BJ) and Vita. Cohen has done a wonderful job laying out the problems in this graph which appears in the aforementioned book cited above which I unfortunately cannot reproduce here.

I have the book in my library but I have no idea how to produce the required columns to illustrate matters here. I think I will just refer people to the link and produce his commentary which follows:

This index shows that V and BJ differ in the order of six episodes. The establishment of a supreme council and the fortification of the Galilean cities are juxtaposed and placed early in the narrative by BJ, but separated and postponed by V. The autobiography has the episode of John at Tiberias before the Darbaritta affair and the repulse of the delegation before the dispersal of John's followers, while BJ has the opposite sequence in both pairs.

V and BJ contradict each other in many other details, large and small. We find variations in proper names and numerals: Noaros has become Varos (BJ 481 //V 50); Annaios has produced Dassion and Iannaios (BJ 597 597//V 131); the names of the fortified cities are transmitted differently (BJ 573-574//V 187-88) as are the names of the members of the delegation from Jerusalem (BJ 628//V 197); either 500 (V 127) or 600 (BJ 595) gold pieces were taken at were taken at Dabaritta; Josephus' house was surrounded by 600 (V 145) or 2000 (BJ 610) soldiers; John received reinforcements from Jerusalem, either 1000 (V 200-201) or 2500 (BJ 628); the ultimatum to John's followers bore a time limit of five (BJ 624) or or twenty (V 370) days ; according to V 371-372, 4000 soldiers deserted John and only 1500 remained, but in BJ 625, 3000 deserted and only 2000 remained. I omit from this list examples of mere variant spellings ... Some of the cases listed here are certainly the result of manuscript corruption but other variations occur too. Was Soemus, the relative of Varus/Noarus, a tetrarch of the Lebanon (V 52) or a king (BJ 481)? 18 How much profit did John make from his sale of Jewish oil (V 75 //BJ 592)? Was the oil for the Jews of Syria or of Caesarea Philippi? Did the brigands of Dabaritta attack Ptolemy (BJ 595) or Ptolemy's wife (V 126)? In V 137 the sole bodyguard who remains with Josephus counsels him to commit suicide. In BJ 600-601, however, four bodyguards remain who counsel Josephus to flee. After the Dabaritta affair did Josephus whip many (BJ 612) or only one (V 147) of the ringleaders?

The most significant contradiction concerns the nature of the mission to assembly to carry on the war against Rome. He recruits a large army and prepares to meet the foe. He fights courageously and sincerely. But V claims that Josephus and two others were sent as emissaries of the Jerusalem aristocracy to maintain peace in Galilee. Instead of recruiting an army Josephus pays the brigands to refrain from any hostile activity. He desires a peaceful Galilee
.[p. 7,8]

There is so much to cite here that I think I would (again) overwhelm the reader but it is worth noting Cohen's paraphrase of Laqueur's understanding of the relationship between Vita and Jewish War for it is very similar to my own (save for his interest in Antiquities):

Laqueur's thesis consists of two parts and runs as follows.

1. Although V was published as an appendix to a second edition of AJ after 100 CE, it contains as its nucleus a work which was utilized by BJ twenty-five years before. This theory was supported by the argument that V is more 'original' and truthful than BJ and, therefore, is anterior to it. Laqueur attempted to show that BJ consistently revises this nucleus (as reconstructed from V) to make it accord with BJ's own motives and goals.

The autobiography was provoked by Justus who had written a history of the Jewish war in good Greek ... Thus, from V and BJ we can trace Josephus' development through five stages: (a) nucleus of V (before BJ), (b) the original BJ, (c) some revisions of V (ie the nucleus) made at the time BJ was written, (d) later revisions of BJ, and (e) the final revision of V. Laqueur claims that he can indicate precisely the boundaries of all five stages and explain the motives of the changes. Moreover, he finds that, although V in its present form is an express retort to Justus, his name appears only in the interpolations of stage (e). Therefore V contains an earlier document, the nucleus (a).

2. This early work was an administrative report (Rechenschafts- bericht] which Josephus submitted to the authorities of Jerusalem in defense of his activities in Galilee. Since there had been complaints (V 190//BJ 2.626), the report is especially concerned to show that Josephus was the paragon of justice tempered with mercy and that all his opponents were worthless scoundrels.
[p 17 - 19]

The point of this lengthy citation is that my theory that Vita served as the source for Jewish War isn't as crazy as it seems. It has some powerful scholars arguing on its behalf. My major point of departure with those who came before me is the introduction of Clement's Josephus the Jew who published a Christian edition of Josephus' work in 147 CE. All of our surviving Josephan manuscripts are descendants of that text rather than the original.

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