Turncoat in a Toga
It is no meager feat to defend a man whose own mother could not bring herself to forgive his sins—but this is the task to which Frederic Raphael sets himself in A Jew Among Romans, his apologia for the classical Jewish historian and arch-turncoat Titus Flavius Josephus.
Little is known about the biography of Josephus, born Joseph ben Mattathias in 37 c.e., other than his claim to priestly and royal lineage. The historical record—largely his own hand—first encounters him as leader of the Jewish rebels of first century Judaea in their Great Revolt against Rome. He offers himself as a pious Jew who is also a pragmatist, resisting the Empire’s petty impositions but equally frustrated by the Zealots who agitate for all-out war. Josephus is dragged into direct conflict with Rome and tasked in 67 c.e. with defending Jotapata, modern-day Yodfat, against Vespasian’s men.
About the Author
Stephen Daisley is a British journalist whose blog is the Eclectic Partisan. He writes regularly for Commentary.