Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Which 'Josephus' is Closer to the Original? Pseudo-Hegesippus Book 4 Chapter 12 or Bellum Judaicum Book 4 Chapter 6?

We continue our section by section comparison of two texts claiming to be 'Josephus's take on the Jewish War.' We have noted that there is an especially strong theological reworking of this original narrative in Jewish War. Nowhere is this more evident than in the section we are about to examine. 

So without further ado here is the next section in Pseudo-Hegesippus: 

Nor did his opinion fail Vespasian, for those who were able for a price to ransom themselves that they should be let go fled to the Romans. Every street of the roads was filled with those fleeing, every path. The rich were set free, and the poor, to whom money was lacking for ransoming, were killed. Many even outside the city greatly feared ambushes and high-way robbery and especially those without resources to whom attendants were lacking. And so equal danger was offered to them outdoors and at home, both places dangerous, to most therefore with the hope of burial in their country death among their own was considered most tolerable. [Pseudo-Hegesippus 4.12]

The parallel section in Jewish War reads:

And now the commanders joined in their approbation of what Vespasian had said, and it was soon discovered how wise an opinion he had given. And indeed many there were of the Jews that deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans; yet did he who gave them money get clear off, while he only that gave them none was voted a traitor. So the upshot was this, that the rich purchased their flight by money, while none but the poor were slain. Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death; while he that granted the favor of a grave to another would presently stand in need of a grave himself. To say all in a word, no other gentle passion was so entirely lost among them as mercy; for what were the greatest objects of pity did most of all irritate these wretches, and they transferred their rage from the living to those that had been slain, and from the dead to the living. Nay, the terror was so very great, that he who survived called them that were first dead happy, as being at rest already; as did those that were under torture in the prisons, declare, that, upon this comparison, those that lay unburied were the happiest. These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment. [Jewish War 4.6.3]

Where Pseudo-Hegesippus simply says that people were doing anything they could to get out of Jerusalem, Jewish War AS ALWAYS IN THIS SECTION adds a theological explanation. The first addition in this section just develops familiar themes - the rebels struggle against the laws of God and nature - but the second addition makes a statement that even catches Whiston's eye. He writes:

This prediction, that the city (Jerusalem) should then "be taken, and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade Jews, and their own hands should pollute that temple;" or, as it is B. VI. ch. 2. sect. 1, "when any one should begin to slay his countrymen in the city;" is wanting in our present copies of the Old Testament. See Essay on the Old Test. p. 104--112. But this prediction, as Josephus well remarks here, though, with the other predictions of the prophets, it was now laughed at by the seditious, was by their very means soon exactly fulfilled. However, I cannot but here take notice of Grotius's positive assertion upon Matthew 26:9, here quoted by Dr. Hudson, that "it ought to be taken for granted, as a certain truth, that many predictions of the Jewish prophets were preserved, not in writing, but by memory." Whereas, it seems to me so far from certain, that I think it has no evidence nor probability at all.

I would argue that the author is just loosely paraphrasing Daniel 9:24 - 27. Yet this demonstrates something I have always suspected about this part of the narrative - it is NOT history but rather a pseudo-historical narrative reshaped to 'fit' a unique interpretation of Daniel. The question of who first introduced the theological structure is unclear. I suspect it all goes back to Justus of Tiberias's lost chronicle. If this is accepted then I would argue that that original narrative has been reshaped by our second century editor.

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