Flavius Josephus – Who was he?Flavius Josephus was a Jewish-Roman historian living in the first century. Born in Jerusalem, his original name was Joseph ben Matityahu. He fought against the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War, and when he predicted, based on Jewish Messianic prophecy, the rise of Vespasian to the throne, Vespasian kept Josephus as a slave and interpreter in his court. When Vespasian did become Emperor, he set Josephus free, and he added the emperor's family name, Flavius, to his own. Around the same time, he became a Roman citizen.
Josephus is most famous for recording the history of the Jewish people. His most famous work is called Antiquities of the Jews, and provides a great deal of interesting detail by which we can verify the historicity of the Bible. Josephus' own history paints him as an enigmatic figure. He was clearly a brave and intelligent leader in the Jewish army, but there are moments that seem to suggest he was also shrewd and self-serving. Surrounded by the Romans in a cave at Jotapata, Josephus suggested that the men draw lots and kill one another in a collective suicide, rather than being captured. This they did, leaving only two men alive to be captured, one of which was Josephus himself. There is no proof that Josephus engineered this, but historians have been skeptical about his motives, seeing as how he later defected and became a Roman citizen, and have condemned his actions, calling him a traitor, and duplicitous. Despite his ambiguous morality, there is no doubt that God used Flavius Josephus.
Flavius Josephus wrote about the time when Jesus was alive, giving historical account of many of the people and places mentioned in the gospels, including Herod the Great, the Sadducees, the Pharisees and Essenes, the Zealots, Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and Jesus Himself. And there are many other accounts in Josephus of the Jewish people, before the time of Jesus. While to those who have faith, the Bible stands alone, and does not need historical documents to be truthful (John 10:27), it is wonderful to see the truth affirmed in Josephus' writings, and to get a fuller picture of the times and lives of the Jewish people. Bible scholars today still consistently reference Flavius Josephus as a reliable historian.
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