Tuesday, November 3, 2009

From Israelite to Jew: 19: Josephus

Without the works of the historian Josephus (36/37 CE - ca. 95) we would know little about the history of the Jews in antiquity. Yet Josephus, as a historian and a man, was a complex figure: was he a Jewish patriot or a Roman toady?

The episode can be heard here or on the player below. More download options are here. The episode can also be heard on iTunes or iTunesU.


Tom said...


I have enjoyed these podcasts. I have listened to each one, many more than once.

What, if anything, do the great medieval rabbis have to say about Josephus and his historical accounts?

When did Jewish historians start taking an interest in his works?

Michael Satlow said...


Thank you!

This is an excellent question. To my knowledge, medieval rabbis did not know Josephus. They did, however, know a historian called Josippon (Yossiphon), probably written in the tenth century in Italy in Hebrew and based on Josephus. The rabbis sometimes do cite him by name.

Real Jewish historiography begins only in the nineteenth century, and those Jewish historians use Josephus from the beginning. It would be interesting to know (I do not) if any rabbinic writings, anywhere, have used Josephus.