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Josephus: Henry Leeming: Josephus' Jewish War and Its Slavonic Version: A Synoptic Comparison (2003) "This volume presents in English translation the Slavonic version of Josephus Flavius' "Jewish War, long inaccessible to Anglophone readers, according to N.A. Materskej's scholarly edition, together with his erudite and wide-ranging study of literary, historical and philological aspects of the work, a textological apparatus and commentary. The synoptic layout of the Slavonic and Greek versions in parallel columns enables the reader to compare their content in detail. It will be seen that the divergences are far more extensive than those indicated hitherto."

Josephus Pleads Still


Of the Argument for the Truth of Christianity Arising from the fulfilment of our Saviour's predictions concerning the destruction of the Temple, and the City of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews

Flavius Josephus

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Jewish Testimonies on the Desolation of Jerusalem

 By Nathaniel Lardner


From "The works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 3"

It will certainly be worth the while to take a testimony from these writers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple there. I shall therefore transcribe and translate almost word for word a long passage out of the Babylonian Talmud, in the title Gittin, chapter Hannisah:

“'This is the tradition. Rabbi Elieser said: Go. And see how the blessed and holy God helped Bar-kamtza, and he destroyed his house, and burnt up his temple, and made Jerusalem ' desolate.' [Here is inserted an account of a trifling discourse and difference between some rabbins.] ' Whereupon he [Bar-kamtza] went to Rome, and said to the emperor Nero, The Jews have rebelled against thee. Who says this, said the emperor ? Kamtza answered: Send ' to them a sacrifice ; see if they will offer it. Bar-kamtza returned. Nero sent by him an heifer. ' three years old. As he was going he made a blemish in the mouth of it; others say in the pupil of its eye: according to the opinion of others it was no blemish. The rabbins therefore «thought it ought to be offered for preserving the peace of the nation. But Rabbi Zacharias, son ' of Onkelos, said: Shall blemished sacrifices be offered upon the altar ? He that brings ' blemished sacrifices into the sanctuary ought to be put to death. R. Jochanan said: The superstition of R. Zacharias has destroyed our house, and burnt up our temple, and overthrown our city, and caused us to be led captive out of our land. Bar-kamtza therefore sent an account of these things to Nero—Nero said: The great and blessed God has determined by me to destroy his house. And he sent against them Vespasian, who came and besieged Jerusalem three years and a half. In the mean time there came a messenger to him, who ' said: Arise, for the emperor Nero is dead, and the nobles of the Romans have agreed to ' make thee emperor. He went and sent the impious Titus his son—This is the impious Titus, ' who blasphemed the Most High, even God himself. What did he do? He took a harlot into the holy of holies, and there lay with her: and he took a sword and cut the veils ; at the same time there was a miracle, for blood burst out: he thought he had killed God himself—Well, what did he ? He took the veils and made a sack of them, and put into it all the vessels of the ' sanctuary: and then put them in a ship, that he might go and triumph in his city...There stood against him a dragon, that he might drown him in the sea. He said, I think the God of these men has no power but in the sea. Pharaoh arose, and he drowned him in the sea. He has a mind to destroy me in the like manner : if he has power, let him come upon the dry land and make war with me. There went forth a voice and said to him : O impious son of the wicked man, O son of the impious son of Esau, there is a contemptible creature in my world, called a gnat: go upon the dry land, and you shall make war against it. God presently rebuked the sea, and it was calm. He went out upon the dry land, and the gnat came, and entered into ' his nose, and gnawed his brain seven years, and killed him.'”

J. De Voisin, in his notes upon this passage, particularly the last words of it, quotes some Jewish authors, who say, 'the story of the fly is not to be understood literally, but mystically, and allegorically, intending to insinuate in men's minds a persuasion of the power of God, and ' that he is able to abase those who rise up against him, and to punish the proudest of men by ' very contemptible creatures.' Nor is it any wonder that some should be ashamed of this silly story of the fly getting up a man's nose, and dwelling there seven years. But men of true wisdom can find out more cleanly allegories than this, when they are disposed to make use of that kind of instruction.

Nor has Voisin alleged any Jewish authors, who condemn the horrible story of Titus defiling the sanctuary of the temple with lewdness: though Martini has alleged another Jewish writing in great repute, whereby the same story is told with all the same horrible, or yet more horrible, circumstances of filthiness, if such there can be : nor is the concluding part of that narrative of the Talmud there omitted. But I presume the Divine Being never arms his feeble creatures to destroy or annoy men for no fault at all for none, but such as are only imputed to them by those who give a loose to their tongues, to lie and calumniate as they please: for Titus, when he went into the temple at Jerusalem all in flames, neither committed lewdness there, nor did he blaspheme the Deity.

Behold then the temper, the incorrigible temper, of the Jewish people, and their rabbins, the Talmudical writers. Their temple had been burnt up, their city destroyed, their land laid waste, and they carried into captivity: but, instead of repenting, they revile him who, under God, had been the instrument of their chastisement; a prince, who, as good authority says, was as remarkable for the humanity, the compassion, and equity, in his manner of subduing them, as for his military skill and courage. Who then are the men who exalt themselves against God ?

But I may no longer indulge myself in such reflections as these. Let us attend for our own benefit. Here is a testimony to the destruction of Jerusalem from Talmudical writers: they agree very much with Josephus in their account of the origin of the war.

He says that Eleazar, '”then captain at the temple, persuaded those who officiated in sacred things, not to accept the gift or sacrifice of a stranger: which was the occasion of the war.” The Talmudists say the same thing in different words, after their manner. According to this account also, the war broke out near the end of the reign of Nero, who sent Vespasian general into Judea. Whilst Vespasian was there, carrying on the war, Nero died, and he was chosen to succeed him. When he was. chosen emperor at Rome, he sent Titus to carry on the war in Judea : the issue of which was, that the temple was burnt up, their city destroyed, and their whole government overthrown, and they carried into captivity. Moreover, as they here own, Titus was in possession of the veils and sacred vessels of the temple which he took with him to adorn his triumph at Rome. All this (though they relate not particularly the distresses of the siege of Jerusalem) is said, not very differently from Josephus, and more agreeably to him in some respects, than by Josippon, who afterwards wrote at length the history of the war, as we shall see by and by." (pp. 558-560)


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