What We Can Learn from Josephus

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

Spain’s Anti-Israel Agenda

What interest does Madrid have in the creation of a Palestinian state? Elliott Abrams raised this question a few days ago, when discussing ongoing Spanish efforts to block the transfer of arms to Israel. He points to multiple opinion surveys suggesting that Spain is among Europe’s most anti-Semitic countries:

The point of including that information here is to explain the obvious: Spain’s anti-Israel extremism is not based in fancy international political analyses, but instead reflects both the extreme views of hard-left parties in the governing coalition and a very traditional Spanish anti-Semitism. Spain’s government lacks the moral standing to lecture the state of Israel on how to defend itself against terrorist murderers. Its effort to deprive Israel of the means of defense is deeply immoral. Every effort should be made to prevent these views from further infecting the politics and foreign policy of the European Union and its member states.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Palestinian statehood, Spain