Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Just War

Just war theory, as a method of evaluating military actions, has been recognized historically by thinkers as varied as Cicero, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Martin Luther and Daniel Webster. This theory has been used to determine if the decision to go to war and the means used to prosecute that war are just. This blog, of the view of Josephus on just war, will continue the examination of the treatment of sources by Josephus in an effort to understand how and why he changed his sources and what this might mean to our understanding of the relationship between Josephus and Luke.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is generally acknowledged as the first to offer a sustained treatment of war in The City of God. I would like to suggest that perhaps Josephus did so several centuries before Augustine. Josephus changed, inter alia, a speech made by Judah, the first military commander of the Maccabees. The changes reflect the attitude of Josephus towards wars and define under what circumstances the people of Israel should go to war and requirements necessary for victory.

1 Macc. 3.16-22
16: When he approached the ascent of Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small company. 17: But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas, "How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today." 18: Judas replied, "It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. 19: It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. 20: They come against us in great pride and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; 21: but we fight for our lives and our laws. 22: He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them."

Ant. 12.289-91
“Having advanced as far as the village of Bet-Horon in Judaea, he encamped there. But Judah, meeting him there and intending to engage him, saw that his soldiers were shrinking from the battle because of their small number and lack of food - for they had fasted - and so he began to encourage them, saying that victory and mastery over the enemy lay not in numbers, but in being pious toward the Deity. And for this they had the clearest example in their forefathers, who because of their righteousness and their struggles on behalf of their own laws and children had many times defeated many tens of thousands; for, he said, in doing no wrong there is a mighty force.”

Gafni[i] explained the significance of the changes made by Josephus to 1 Maccabees:

“Josephus has introduced a totally different nuance into Judah’s speech. Whereas 1 Maccabees places all his trust in God, who can deliver the few from the multitude, for ‘strength comes from Heaven’ and His aid is unconditional, Josephus transfer the focus of deliverance from God to the fighters. Victory is not solely in heaven’s hands, but is also dependent on piety toward God, and thus the fathers were victorious 'because of their righteousness.' To bring this point home, Josephus adds one line with no parallel at all in 1 Maccabees: ‘In doing so there is a mighty force.’”

Gafni presented a number of other examples of how Josephus in Antiquities rewrote 1 Maccabees. From all these examples, Gafni concluded, that according to Josephus, the fighters must be worthy, righteous and willing to die and that the war must be for a just cause, the restoration of Patriarchal Law.[ii] Wars are fought for the preservation of the law and the willingness to die for that law. God does not aid the few and outnumbered but only those “worthy” of assistance. “By adding the motif of God’s alliance with the Hasmoneans, Josephus identified in a stroke the root of their success, and at the same time drew a distinction between the Hasmoneans and the Zealots of his day.”[iii]

According to Gafni, “Josephus had no doubt that the fighters of his day did not fall into that category, for they had defiled the name of God and in a sense had declared war on Him, and not just the Romans (BJ V, 377-78). It was they who had polluted the Temple (BJ V, 280), and in general the whole ‘fourth philosophy’ of the Sicarii was ‘an intrusive ... school’ (A XVIII, 9), an ‘innovation and reform in ancestral traditions’ (ibid). God’s law had been trampled by them, ‘every dictate of religion ridiculed’ (BJ IV, 385).”[iv]

[i] Isaiah Gafni, “Josephus and 1 Maccabees” in Josephus, the Bible, and History edited by Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata, 120.
[ii] Gafni, 124.
[iii] Gafni, 127.
[iv] Gafni, 126.

copyrighted 2005


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