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The Jewish War

[Penguin Classics - Paperback]

by Flavius Josephus / edited by Betty Radice

Josephus' account of a war marked by treachery and atrocity is a superbly detailed and evocative record of the Jewish rebellion against Rome between AD 66 and 70. Originally a rebel leader, Josephus changed sides after he was captured to become a Rome-appointed negotiator, and so was uniquely placed to observe these turbulent events, from the siege of Jerusalem to the final heroic resistance and mass suicides at Masada. His account provides much of what we know about the history of the Jews under Roman rule, with vivid portraits of such key figures as the Emperor Vespasian and Herod the Great. Often self-justifying and divided in its loyalties, "The Jewish War" nevertheless remains one of the most immediate accounts of war, its heroism and its horrors, ever written.



About the Authors/Editors:

Translated by G.A. Williamson / Edited by Betty Radice

G.A. Williamson was born in 1895 and was a Classical Exhibitioner at Worcester College, Oxford, graduating with a First Class Honours degree. He was Senior Classics Master at Norwich School from 1922 to 1960. He also translated Josephus: The Jewish War (1959) and Procopius: The Secret History (1966) for the Penguin Classics. He died in 1982.

Betty Radice read classics at Oxford, then married and, in the intervals of bringing up a family, tutored in classics, philosophy and English. She became joint editor of the Penguin Classics in 1964. As well as editing the translation of Livy’s The War with Hannibal she translated Livy’s Rome and Italy, Pliny’s Letters, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise and Erasmus’s Praise of Folly, and also wrote the introduction to Horace’s Complete Odes and Epodes, all for the Penguin Classics. She also edited Edward Gibbon’s Memoirs of My Life for the Penguin English Library, and edited and annotated her translation of the younger Pliny’s works for the Loeb Library of Classics and translated from Renaissance Latin, Greek and Italian for the Officina Bodoni of Verona. She collaborated as a translator in the Collected Works of Erasmus, and was the author of the Penguin Reference Book Who’s Who in the Ancient World. Betty Radice was an honorary fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and a vice-president of the Classical Association. Betty Radice died in 1985.

Reviews: Excerpt from Aliens & In-laws

pp. 430-431 Aliens & In-laws

Hfos Over Israel

Just what did the author mean when he said, “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera?” Another account may more clearly answer that question:

This account is told to us by noted historian Flavius Josephus. Josephus was born in 37 A.D.  and actually accompanied the Roman legion prior to their destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  His accounts come from firsthand knowledge, or from individuals who witnessed these events.  Josephus was an impeccable scholar trained by his contemporaries as an ascetic and Sadducee before becoming a loyal Pharisee at the early age of 19. His writings were pronounced “reliable and accurate” by Vespasian and Titus, both who held the highest rank in Roman politics.

Josephus, himself a Jew, tells in his book, The Jewish War, of a strange series of events which lead up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Around 69 A.D.  there had appeared a large star over Jerusalem looking “very much like a broadsword,” or the shape of a cross.32-2 He also mentions a comet, which would indicate an object that trailed sparkling light and transversed the night sky.  He said these objects remained for over a year.32-3

I am reminded of a fairly recent sighting near San Francisco in Petaluma, California. On May 22, 1986, around 4:30 a.m., a radio news director named Arlette Cohen reported spotting an object while on her way to work. The series of green-, white- and orange-colored lights were in the shape of a large cross. “At first I thought it was an airplane, but then it came overhead and I saw that it wasn’t. It seemed almost to stop over the highway,” she said.  Her report was verified by several other witnesses including a California Highway Patrol Officer.32-4

The flying cross incident seen over Jerusalem was followed by another strange occurrence.  Josephus tells us, “Then before the revolt and the movement to war, while the people were assembling for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the 8th day of Xanthicos at 3 a.m.  so bright a light shone round the Altar and the Sanctuary that it might have been midday.  This lasted half an hour.” 

Next, the gigantic East Gate of the inner court of the temple mysteriously “opened of its own accord – a gate made of bronze so solid that every evening twenty strong men were required to shut it; it was fastened with iron-bound bars and secured by bolts which were lowered a long way into a threshold fashioned from a single slab of stone.  The temple-guards ran with the news to the Captain, who came up and by a great effort managed to shut it.”  The opening of the gate was perceived by the learned as “a portent of desolation.” 32-5

A few days later a “supernatural apparition was seen, too amazing to be believed,” according to Josephus.   “What I have to relate would, I suppose, have been dismissed as an invention, had it not been vouched for by eyewitnesses and followed by disasters that bore out the signs. Before sunset there were seen in the sky, over the whole country, chariots and regiments in arms speeding through the clouds and encircling the towns.  Again, at the Feast of Pentecost, when the priests had gone into the inner court of the Temple at night to perform the usual ceremonies, they declared that they were aware, first of a violent movement and a loud crash, then a voice as of a multitude shouted:  ‘Let us go hence (away).’ ”32-6

And so it was that God’s protective angelic army was taken away from Israel and her destruction by the Romans, lead by Titus, happened shortly thereafter, just as had been prophesied by Jesus Christ thirty-seven years earlier.

Endnotes 32-2 thru 6 - Flavius Josephus: translated by G.A. Williamson, The Jewish War, (London, England, Penguin Books, 1970, 1981), pp. 1-13, 360-361.


    -- J. Allen Jackson  
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