Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 93
Genre History
Origin Rome
Publisher Loeb Classical Library
ISBN-10 0674992679
ISBN-13 978-0674992672
My Copy library loeb
First Read August 14, 2013

Jewish Antiquities

I was shocked to see this translation use the word 'holocaust' in place of 'burnt sacrifice.' The translation is from 1930 and so predates WWII - but I'd never seen that word used before in that way, or any other way but to describe 'The Holocaust' and events compared with it. But it's right there in the original Greek, ὁλόκαυστος, from ὅλος (holos, “whole”) + καύστος (kaustos, “burnt”).

Noted on August 21, 2013

Josephus is a fascinating dude. For those (like me) with a weak understanding of 1st century politics, here's the setup: Palestine/Israel has been conquered by the Romans for some time, and as always there is an insurrection movement rolling around. (That's the political movement the Zealots wanted Jesus to join, thinking the Messiah would overthrow the Roman yoke.) In the first century, there were three major uprisings of the Jews, and Josephus was a general in the first one, on the Jewish side.

He was defeated in 67AD, and Josephus more or less defected to the Romans. In fact, his given name is something more like Yosef ben Matityahu, and Titus Flavius are adopted names. His most famous work is a book called the Jewish Wars, a history of those conflicts, and it was written to convince the Jews that continuing to fight against the unstoppable force of Rome was a bad idea. That more or less worked, but you can imagine what patriotic Jews thought of Josephus.

At the end of his life, Josephus wrote this book, effectively an apologia for the Jewish religion and culture, explaining to Romans that his people were an ancient race with a noble history, and their traditional religion was particularly respectable. He retells the Old Testament in a way that makes it intelligible to the rest of the ancient world. THe miracles and divinity are all still there, but the Patriarchs especially are recast as pillars-of-wisdom rather than just men-of-faith. As someone who grew up hearing all these bible stories, it's fascinating to read another telling of them that is almost contemporary, relatively speaking.

Noted on August 18, 2013

This is one of those books where there is so much going on in the background that the footnotes are almost at interesting as the book. I'll quote a few below.

Noted on August 18, 2013

Wherefore one need not marvel at what happened then, seeing that to this very day the writings left by Moses have such authority that even our enemies admit that our constitution was established by God himself, through the agency of Moses and of his merits. But on this subject everyone will form his own opinion.

Quoted on August 21, 2013

Here I will but mention some few of the regulations concerning purifications and the ritual of sacrifice, since I have been led to speak of the sacrifices... I will begin by speaking of the first type. An individual who offers a holocaust kills an ox, a lamb, and a kid, these last being a year old...

Quoted on August 21, 2013

Those who essay to crush an enemy's power at the outset show greater sagacity than they who, when it is already far advanced, would prevent its extension.

Quoted on August 21, 2013

[On Moses and the basket]

Then once again did God plainly show that human intelligence is nothing worth, but that all that He wills to accomplish reaches its perfect end, and that they who, to save themselves, condemn others to destruction utterly fail, whatever diligence they may employ, while those are saved by a miracle and attain success almost from the very jaws of disaster, who hazard all but divine decree.

Quoted on August 21, 2013

[Joseph's brothers plead for Benjamin's life]

For great though it be to benefit the needy, yet more princely is it to save those who have incurred righteous penalty for crimes perpetrated upon oneself; for if the pardoning of transgressors for light offences redounds to the credit of the indulgent judge, to refrain from wrath in the case of crimes which expose the culprit's life to his victim's vengeance is an attribute of the nature of God.

Quoted on August 21, 2013

[footnote] Josephus is weak in philology, and it is idle to discuss his text and meaning.

Quoted on August 21, 2013

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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