Hello beloved, I have finally finished this book and could not be more thrilled to review it for you all. In keeping with the early church heretics series on Friday’s I thought it would be appropriate to read and review historical books from the same time period. I had already placed Josephus’ work on my list of needed reading, however I had no idea how beneficial his works would be. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived through the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The Wars of the Jews is believed to have been published in 75 AD, although the original document has not survived. The oldest known codex is a Latin translation believed to have dated back to the fifth century.
I want to make a quick side note here, as you’ll rarely find scholars that will say that we can not be sure Josephus’ works we’re really written by him, even though the closest copy was written five hundred years after the fact, in a different language, the closest dated Greek codex is from the tenth century. However, we do see this accusation constantly repeated by secularists in regards to the Bible. The earliest known manuscript found to date was copied only a few decades after the New Testament was written. A counsel didn’t have to come together and decide these books were Scripture, that was already assumed, as we see Peter referring to Paul’s writings in this very manner (2 Peter 3:16). The counsel, which we’ll be discussing in the Friday series soon, only came together to discuss what was not to be considered Scripture, since some were attempting to add their own preferred books. Scholars in the area of textural criticism will note these two facts, whether they’re Christians or not. Unfortunately the atheists, and Mormons, of the internet don’t know, or don’t care. I wanted to point this out, dear ones, in case you came across these arguments.
The War of the Jews, also known as Jewish Wars, is broken into seven books, beginning with a historical recounting of Jerusalem’s fall to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 BC. Josephus also gives a detailed description of the surrounding areas, rulers, and wars that would eventually impact Israel, or directly lead to its destruction. The books end with the eventual fall of the temple in 70 AD. Josephus was born in 37 AD to a priestly lineage on his fathers side. In 66 AD he would be made commander in Galilee over the Jewish rebellion against the Romans. While they were unable to defeat the Romans, Josephus survived. I want so badly to tell you this part of the story, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it. Needless to say, this is not a historical book that will put you to sleep.
To that point, I have to say that this was a fascinating, page turner, from beginning to end. There is no modern book, whether fiction or nonfiction, that can hold a candle. Throughout the book names and places familiar to us all made the description of each battle come alive. From Mark Antony and Cleopatra to Pontius Pilate, King Agrippa, and Nero, the history right before, during, and after the life of our Lord comes together in this book unlike anything I’ve read on the subject. Before reading this my thoughts on the first century were fragmented, and disconnected, but I now have a better understanding of how it was that the Jerusalem fell.
For starters, without giving too much away, the world around Israel seemed to be in as much chaos as Jerusalem was in within. Robbers had taken over the temple, named themselves rulers and priests, killed or imprisoned anyone who could fight back, then called a neighboring group to come to their defense acting as if they were the innocent ones. They took up the type of debauchery that’s currently being celebrating in our country today, and desecrated the temple. They killed anyone who tried to escape, and refused to allow the dead to be buried. When a worse tyrant came with his army, the Jews welcomed him into their city, hoping he would rid them of the robbers. Rome was also in a state of confusion, as the empire was divided, and more then one man was declared Caesar.
While I can’t recommend this to young audiences, I do recommend all born again believers read this. It will give you a better understanding of the time Christ Jesus lived in, what led up to the fulfillment of His prophecy that the temple would fall, and how believers lived in the decades after His resurrection. It’s a lot like learning about the Holocaust, heartbreaking but important. Perhaps if the world hadn’t forgotten this past, the world wars that mark our modern time wouldn’t have happened. With the graphic nature, I would recommend 16 and up for this one. It’s in the public domain, which means it’s free! You can find the entire book free here, the free audiobook here, a pdf here, Kindle version here, and a hard copy here.