Josephus’ “Rewritten Bible” as a Non-Apologetic Work

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The apologetic character of Books 1–11 of the Jewish Antiquities, a recapitulation of the biblical narrative, has long been overemphasized in the Josephus scholarship. According to the standard view, Josephus sets the criteria of critical historiography aside in this work and follows a twofold apologetic agenda: on the one hand, he addresses a pagan readership in defence of the Jewish people, and on the other hand, he addresses a Jewish readership to make amends for the Jewish War which is usually considered to be a testimony to his betrayal. This view is based on two assumptions: first that the Antiquities is a badly writ-ten piece of history; and second that Josephus no longer receives financial sup-port from the Roman authorities during its composition. This article argues that these assumptions are unfounded: far from being a defensive work, the Antiquities is a good piece of history, the Sitz im Leben of which is only slightly different from that of the War. The article first summarises the arguments against the apologetic character of Books 1–11 of the Antiquities, then the arguments for their historical character. The third and last section attempts to redefine the aim of Josephus’ “Rewritten Bible” as an endeavour to make the Jewish political constitution and the corresponding philosophy comprehensible to a favourable non-Jewish audience, possibly an opposition elite with aristocratic values in the city of Rome.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques?
Subtitle of host publicationA Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes
EditorsJozsef Zsengeller
Place of PublicationLeiden
ISBN (Electronic)9789004271180
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-26815-9
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2014

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