"The World of Josephus, Opposite of the Apostles",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,
April 4, 1965,
of a book:
THE WORLD OF JOSEPHUS,
by G. A. Williamson.
Little, Brown & Co.: New York, 1965
"The World of Josephus, Opposite
of the Apostles"
THE WORLD OF JOSEPHUS.
By G. A. Williamson.
Little, Brown & Co. 318 pages. $6.
In recent years, there has been a trend
toward historical works which try to center their story about the life
of some contemporary person. Many of these semi-biographical efforts
have been rather forced. "The World of Josephus," dealing with the
period of the New Testament, is well adapted to this technique, because
Josephus' life (A.D. 37 to about A.D. 101) and his four surviving
writings center on the same period as "The Acts of the Apostles."
Josephus shared the world of the Apostles, but saw all its events from
the other side of the stage. Some of the parallels in ordinary events
were striking. For example, the Jewish historian, voyaging to Rome in
A.D. 64, was shipwrecked in the same area where Saint Paul had been
wrecked on a similar voyage four years earlier.
Yet despite similarity of origin and experiences, the writings of
Josephus and of the Apostles show almost antithetical attitudes toward
the world in which they lived. The Apostles are drenched in religious
fervor, and saw their task to spread their religious truth outward from
the Jewish world into the surrounding Roman Empire. Josephus, on the
other hand, saw religion as an almost personal matter and sought, by his
writings, to justify the spread of Roman civil administration and
secular life into the narrow and rigid world of the Jews.
From such opposing attitudes and value systems, it is possible to
construct a more complete picture of Palestine 1900 years ago than it
would have been if these two major historical sources for the period had
not been so diverse in attitude. Mr. Williamson has already translated
"The Jewish War" of Josephus and "The Church History" of Eusebius for
the Penguin Classics. He writes as a convinced believer in the divinity
of Christ and the basic truth of the New Testament, but he presents "The
World of Josephus" with full knowledge of the varied sources and a
judicious attitude toward the complexities of the age and the personal
foibles of Josephus himself.
Josephus is a puzzle. He faced, in a more personal and dramatic
fashion than most Jews, the problem which all Jews of the time had to
face: What attitude should a Jew adopt when he saw his Jewish culture
and religion being overwhelmed by the power of pagan Rome?
Apologist for Rome
As governor of Galilee in A.D. 66, Josephus was leader of the
defensive forces resisting the Roman invasion of Vespasian. Taken
prisoner early in the war, he lived through the conquest of Palestine
and the sack of Jerusalem. While other captives were tortured and
killed, he saved his life by prophesying to Vespasian that he and his
son, Titus, would both become emperors in. Rome. From that day, Josephus
lived for 30 years as an apologist of the Roman supremacy, supported in
relative affluence by landed estates and slaves given to him by the
Vespasian dynasty. Regarded as a collaborator, even as a "quisling" by
most of his fellow Jews, he wrote three works defending the Roman
supremacy and his own attitude toward it and a final work, "Against
Apion," defending the religion and culture of the Jews. He justified his
position by his belief that all military victory and political supremacy
came from God and that the destruction of the Jews in A.D. 70 showed
that God had shifted his favor from the Jews to the Romans because the
Jews had neglected their religion and culture to support the political
extravagances of the Zealots.
— Carroll Quigley.