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 "The World of Josephus, Opposite of the Apostles",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, April 4, 1965,
of a book:
by G. A. Williamson.
Little, Brown & Co.: New York, 1965


"The World of Josephus, Opposite of the Apostles"


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.

Opposing Attitudes

   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.



Scan of original review



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