Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Josephus and Luke

One in a series about the relationship between Luke and Josephus.

Luke has repeatedly noted that these events, referring to the crucifixion and the resurrection, happened pursuant to the divine plan and foreknowledge of God, and that the leaders did what God had ordained. Josephus also sees the hand of God in what has happened but according to him, “The Romans did not so much win the war as the Jews, by disobeying God, lost it.”[i]

Luke, in agreement with the rest of the New Testament, understands the salvation event to be bound up with Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In War, the destruction of Jerusalem follows a series of portents that are reported by Josephus.[ii] There is nothing in War that suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem is the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. In Antiquities, however, Josephus states that the destruction of Jerusalem and the rule of Rome are prophesied in the bible.[iii] This blog is a very preliminary conclusion but it is interesting to note that the New Testament does contain the prophecy of Jesus that Jerusalem will be destroyed but nowhere is it reported in the New Testament that this prophecy has been fulfilled. In Antiquities, Josephus does report the fulfillment of this prophecy. By the time Antiquities is published[iv], Josephus living in Rome has had access to the synoptic gospels containing this prophecy. Josephus in 64 CE traveled to Rome on a mission to seek the release of Jewish priests who had been shipped to Rome in chains for trial before the Emperor.[v] On this occasion he may have heard and/or read about Paul and perhaps about Luke and his writings.

There are two qualifications to this conclusion. Josephus does prophecies when he meets Vespasian that Vespasian will become the emperor. Of course, this is a matter of personal expediency of survival although Josephus does tell us God told him about Vespasian in a dream the previous night. As I read Josephus, there is no suggestion that this is the fulfillment of the prophecy, usually applied to Jesus, about a world ruler from Judaea. In another instance in War, Josephus does say that if Jewish hands defile the Temple, God will destroy the Temple. To my knowledge, this statement by Josephus is not based upon a biblical prophecy. As I am only blogging, further research is necessary.

[i] Edwards, “Surviving the Web of Roman Power,” 179-201, in Alexander, Image of Empire, (Sheffield, 1991), 191.
[ii] War 6:312-313.
[iii] Ant. 10:79, 276.
[iv] c. 93-94 CE.

copyrighted 2005
[v] Vita, 13-16.


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