Who was Josephus Flavius? (Jewish Historian)


Josephus Flavius (37 – c. 101 CE), born in Jerusalem to an aristocratic priestly family, was a Jewish priest, scholar, and historian of the first century.

He composed several important works including History of the Jewish War (75–79 CE), The Antiquities of the Jews (93 CE), and Against Apion (c. early second century). These works provide valuable historical information on the Romans, Jewish history, the Jewish revolt, and first-century Christianity.

History of the Jewish War is the main source for the four-year revolt of 66-70 CE and is valuable in its descriptions of Roman military tactics and strategy.

Antiquities of the Jews was Josephus’ means of presenting Judaism to the Hellenistic world and is a compendium of twenty books chronicling the history of the Jewish people from creation to just before the revolt of 66-70 CE. This work is important to historians looking into early first-century Christianity because it mentions biblical figures, the most important of them being Jesus Christ, a first-century Jewish apocalypticist.

One significant reference to Jesus is a later Christian scribal interpolation although many historians reason that it contains a genuine and accessible pre-interpolated historical nucleus. The other reference to Jesus and his brother James is considered genuine.

Against Apion is an apologetic work in which Josephus defends Judaism and Jewish philosophy from Apion, an Egyptian grammarian of the first century CE.

Josephus was a Pharisee demonstrating that he was a devoutly religious Jew who adhered to a strict observance of the Torah. Interestingly, Josephus aligned himself with opposing forces during his life, first siding with Jewish rebels as their head against the Romans.

Josephus defended the fortress of Jotapata until their defeat and surrender to the Romans in 67 CE. Josephus took refuge with forty survivors in a nearby cave and was the last to survive before being captured and taken by the Romans.

During this appearance before Vespasian (9-79 CE / r. 69 to 79), Josephus played the role of a prophet and predicted that Vespasian would soon become Roman emperor, which happened after the death of Nero (37-68 CE / r. 54-68) in 68 CE. This prediction ultimately saved Josephus’ life.

Josephus remained a prisoner in a Roman camp for two years and later, when Vespasian became emperor, chose to align himself with the Romans. He joined them under the command of Vespasian’s son and successor Titus (39-81 CE / 79-81). Josephus was hated by the Jews and viewed as an apostate and he also received some mistrust from the Romans.

After the battle of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Josephus lived in Rome where he was granted citizenship and a pension. There he produced most of his writings.



  1. […] Josephus Flavius (37-101 CE), a first-century historian who composed his work Antiquities of the Jews around 95 CE, is an important writer for historians wishing to gain early insight into the First Jewish-Roman War and early Christianity. He has value to historians wishing to learn about Christ since in his Antiquities one finds two direct references to him. There is also one reference to John the Baptist (who historians are confident baptized Christ) and to Christ’s brother James. […]

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