Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Rewriting Sacred History

On Superbowl Sunday, I mentioned that I am organizing a synoptic approach to Antiquities 18-20. I see the synopsis as a valuable tool that will let me see similarities and differences in parallel texts that otherwise are hard to observe. While this project is in progress, I will present my thoughts on Josephus, his methodology and the problem that he is attempting to address and solve.

Initially it should be noted that in the first four books of Antiquities, Josephus has rearranged Pentateuchal material.[i] Feldman and others have discussed the rewriting of the stories of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel with significant modifications. Led by Feldman, other scholars have covered the many issues raised by this rearrangement. Not only has Josephus rearranged and modified, he has changed the emphasis from purity and holiness considerations to the social benefits of the constitution for the Jewish state based on the legal sections of the Torah. Josephus asserted that the Mosaic laws were good and reasonable and that God would provide for those who obey these divine laws.[ii]

Josephus does discuss the cultic laws in detail providing ample clarification for his audience. However in the new scheme of things the emphasis is no longer on the cultic laws.

It is almost as if Josephus has reorganized the structure of the laws in recognition that the cultic laws, which must constitute the bulk of the Mosaic laws, are no longer important in the post-Temple period. Yet nowhere does Josephus tell us the reasons for his substantial reorganization in this manner of the laws that Moses[iii] “learnt from the mouth of God and transmitted in writing to the Hebrews.”[iv]

[i] Feldman, Louis H. "Rearrangement of Pentateuchal Material in Josephus' Antiquities, Books 1-4" available on the internet.
[ii] I plan to read Louis H. Feldman, Josephus's Interpretation of the Bible, (1999).
[iii] Feldman notes that Josephus has omitted any mention of the speech impediment of Moses and the incident of the golden calf and its consequences.
[iv] Ant. 3.286.

copyrighted 2005


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