What We Can Learn from Josephus

Feb. 24 2015

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus is best known today for his Jewish Wars, which chronicles the great revolt against Roman rule in Judea (in which Josephus himself participated). But, Jacob Feeley points out, he has won the attention neither of experts on ancient Judaism nor of historians of ancient Rome:

Indeed, outside his usual haunts, Josephus appears rather like a strange guest at a dinner party, politely acknowledged with smiles or nods, but rarely approached. This is in part understandable. That Josephus wrote in Greek, an extremely difficult language which takes years if not decades to master, may deter students of Jewish studies in particular. Josephus, moreover, does not speak as readily to the immediate concerns of contemporary Jewry.

When scholars do pay attention to Josephus, Feeley continues, they focus on the Jewish Wars at the expense of his other, equally important and quite fascinating works devoted to explaining Jews and Judaism to a Greek-speaking and largely Gentile audience:

The Jewish Antiquities, completed around 90 CE, is a narrative account of the history of the Jews from creation up until the Roman conquest of Judea. It includes substantial expansions to the Hebrew Bible that only a handful of scholars have investigated. How many are familiar with Josephus’ extended tale of how Moses was picked by Pharaoh to lead a joint army of Egyptians and Hebrews against the Ethiopians, who had previously invaded Egypt, and how Moses also married the Ethiopian princess after successfully defeating the Ethiopians—all well before he liberated the enslaved Israelites? Or his assertion that Abraham was versed in Chaldean science? Or that Solomon was skilled in magical healing rites?

Read more at Ancient Jew Review

More about: Ancient Israel, History & Ideas, Josephus, Judaic Studies, Judean Revolt, Moses


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria