Josephus also rewrote the traditional view of circumcision. In Judaism the rite of circumcision is the sign of covenant between God and Abraham.[i] In Book One, God charged Abram “that they should be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin.” However according to Josephus the purpose is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”[ii]
Josephus lived the later portion of his life in Rome, in the Diaspora. In Rome, Josephus was permitted to obtain a divorce from his Jewish wife and to marry a Roman. Knowing that Josephus had been permitted to obtain a divorce and marry a non-Jew, which of course violated the priestly marriage rules in Leviticus 21, I was puzzled when I read in Antiquities that the purpose of circumcision is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”
As I see it, Josephus sought to reduce the role of God throughout his narrative. I am undecided whether Josephus also sought to reduce the centrality of the land of Israel. I plan to read Betsy H. Amaru, “Land Theology in Josephus” Jewish Antiquities.[iii]
On March 5, 2005 in Rewriting Joshua 22, I noted that for Josephus, Abrahamic descent carries with it the responsibility to fulfill Mosaic religious duties,[iv] and that this responsibility is not negated by one’s place of residence.[v] Yet as noted above, Josephus apparently does not believe the Mosaic religious duties apply to him.
I guess the debate I postulated was occurring in the Jewish community was occurring between Josephus the Jewish priest who is required to marry a daughter of Aaron and Josephus, the historian residing in Rome.
[i] Genesis 17:10-11.
[ii] Ant. 1.192.
[iii] JQR 71 (1980-1981), 201-229.
[iv] Ant. 5.97.
[v] See also Ant. 5.109.