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Against Apion by Flavius Josephus


This first book has a wrong title. It is not written against Apion, as is the first part of the second book, but against those Greeks in general who would not believe Josephus's former accounts of the very ancient state of the Jewish nation, in his 20 books of Antiquities; and particularly against Agatharelddes, Manetho, Cheremon, and Lysimachus. it is one of the most learned, excellent, and useful books of all antiquity; and upon Jerome's perusal of this and the following book, he declares that it seems to him a miraculous thing |how one that was a Hebrew, who had been from his infancy instructed in sacred learning, should be able to pronounce such a number of testimonies out of profane authors, as if he had read over all the Grecian libraries,| Epist.8. ad Magnum; and the learned Jew, Manasseh-Ben-Israel, esteemed these two books so excellent, as to translate them into the Hebrew; this we learn from his own catalogue of his works, which I have seen. As to the time and place when and where these two books were written, the learned have not hitherto been able to determine them any further than that they were written some time after his Antiquities, or some time after A.D.93; which indeed is too obvious at their entrance to be overlooked by even a careless peruser, they being directly intended against those that would not believe what he had advanced in those books con-the great of the Jewish nation As to the place, they all imagine that these two books were written where the former were, I mean at Rome; and I confess that I myself believed both those determinations, till I came to finish my notes upon these books, when I met with plain indications that they were written not at Rome, but in Judea, and this after the third of Trajan, or A.D.100.

Take Dr. Hudson's note here, which as it justly contradicts the common opinion that Josephus either died under Domitian, or at least wrote nothing later than his days, so does it perfectly agree to my own determination, from Justus of Tiberias, that he wrote or finished his own Life after the third of Trajan, or A.D.100. To which Noldius also agrees, de Herod, No.383 [Epaphroditus]. |Since Florius Josephus,| says Dr. Hudson, |wrote [or finished] his books of Antiquities on the thirteenth of Domitian, [A.D.93,] and after that wrote the Memoirs of his own Life, as an appendix to the books of Antiquities, and at last his two books against Apion, and yet dedicated all those writings to Epaphroditus; he can hardly be that Epaphroditus who was formerly secretary to Nero, and was slain on the fourteenth [or fifteenth] of Domitian, after he had been for a good while in banishment; but another Epaphroditas, a freed-man, and procurator of Trajan, as says Grotius on Luke 1:3.|

The preservation of Homer's Poems by memory, and not by his own writing them down, and that thence they were styled Rhapsodies, as sung by him, like ballads, by parts, and not composed and connected together in complete works, are opinions well known from the ancient commentators; though such supposal seems to myself, as well as to Fabricius Biblioth. Grace. I. p.269, and to others, highly improbable. Nor does Josephus say there were no ancienter writings among the Greeks than Homer's Poems, but that they did not fully own any ancienter writings pretending to such antiquity, which is trite.

It well deserves to be considered, that Josephus here says how all the following Greek historians looked on Herodotus as a fabulous author; and presently, sect.14, how Manetho, the most authentic writer of the Egyptian history, greatly complains of his mistakes in the Egyptian affairs; as also that Strabo, B. XI. p.507, the most accurate geographer and historian, esteemed him such; that Xenophon, the much more accurate historian in the affairs of Cyrus, implies that Herodotus's account of that great man is almost entirely romantic. See the notes on Antiq. B. XI. ch.2. sect.1, and Hutchinson's Prolegomena to his edition of Xenophon's, that we have already seen in the note on Antiq. B. VIII. ch.10. sect.3, how very little Herodotus knew about the Jewish affairs and country, and that he greatly affected what we call the marvelous, as Monsieur Rollin has lately and justly determined; whence we are not always to depend on the authority of Herodotus, where it is unsupported by other evidence, but ought to compare the other evidence with his, and if it preponderate, to prefer it before his. I do not mean by this that Herodotus willfully related what he believed to be false, [as Cteeias seems to have done,] but that he often wanted evidence, and sometimes preferred what was marvelous to what was best attested as really true.

About the days of Cyrus and Daniel.

It is here well worth our observation, what the reasons are that such ancient authors as Herodotus, Josephus, and others have been read to so little purpose by many learned critics; viz. that their main aim has not been chronology or history, but philology, to know words, and not things, they not much entering oftentimes into the real contents of their authors, and judging which were the most accurate discoverers of truth, and most to be depended on in the several histories, but rather inquiring who wrote the finest style, and had the greatest elegance in their expressions; which are things of small consequence in comparison of the other. Thus you will sometimes find great debates among the learned, whether Herodotus or Thucydides were the finest historian in the Ionic and Attic ways of writing; which signify little as to the real value of each of their histories; while it would be of much more moment to let the reader know, that as the consequence of Herodotus's history, which begins so much earlier, and reaches so much wider, than that of Thucydides, is therefore vastly greater; so is the most part of Thucydides, which belongs to his own times, and fell under his own observation, much the most certain.

Of this accuracy of the Jews before and in our Savior's time, in carefully preserving their genealogies all along, particularly those of the priests, see Josephus's Life, sect.1. This accuracy. seems to have ended at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, or, however, at that by Adrian.

Which were these twenty-two sacred books of the Old Testament, see the Supplement to the Essay of the Old Testament, p.25-29, viz. those we call canonical, all excepting the Canticles; but still with this further exception, that the book of apocryphal Esdras be taken into that number instead of our canonical Ezra, which seems to be no more than a later epitome of the other; which two books of Canticles and Ezra it no way appears that our Josephus ever saw.

Here we have an account of the first building of the city of Jerusalem, according to Manetho, when the Phoenician shepherds were expelled out of Egypt about thirty-seven years before Abraham came out of Harsh.

Genesis 46;32, 34; 47:3, 4.

In our copies of the book of Genesis and of Joseph, this Joseph never calls himself |a captive,| when he was with the king of Egypt, though he does call himself |a servant,| |a slave,| or |captive,| many times in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, under Joseph, sect.1, 11, 13-16.

Of this Egyptian chronology of Manetho, as mistaken by Josephus, and of these Phoenician shepherds, as falsely supposed by him, and others after him, to have been the Israelites in Egypt, see Essay on the Old Testament, Appendix, p.182-188. And note here, that when Josephus tells us that the Greeks or Argives looked on this Danaus as |a most ancient,| or |the most ancient,| king of Argos, he need not be supposed to mean, in the strictest sense, that they had no one king so ancient as he; for it is certain that they owned nine kings before him, and Inachus at the head of them. See Authentic Records, Part II. p.983, as Josephus could not but know very well; but that he was esteemed as very ancient by them, and that they knew they had been first of all denominated |Danai| from this very ancient king Danaus. Nor does this superlative degree always imply the |most ancient| of all without exception, but is sometimes to be rendered |very ancient| only, as is the case in the like superlative degrees of other words also.

Authentic Records, Part II. p.983, as Josephus could not but know very well; but that he was esteemed as very ancient by them, and that they knew they had been first of all denominated |Danai| from this very ancient king Danaus. Nor does this superlative degree always imply the |most ancient| of all without exception, but is sometimes to be rendered |very ancient| only, as is the case in the like superlative degrees of other words also.

This number in Josephus, that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in the eighteenth year of his reign, is a mistake in the nicety of chronology; for it was in the nineteenth. The true number here for the year of Darius, in which the second temple was finished, whether the second with our present copies, or the sixth with that of Syncellus, or the tenth with that of Eusebius, is very uncertain; so we had best follow Josephus's own account elsewhere, Antiq.;B. XI. ch.3. sect.4, which shows us that according to his copy of the Old Testament, after the second of Cyrus, that work was interrupted till the second of Darius, when in seven years it was finished in the ninth of Darius.

This is a thing well known by the learned, that we are not secure that we have any genuine writings of Pythagoras; those Golden Verses, which are his best remains, being generally supposed to have been written not by himself, but by some of his scholars only, in agreement with what Josephus here affirms of him.

Whether these verses of Cherilus, the heathen poet, in the days of Xerxes, belong to the Solymi in Pisidia, that were near a small lake, or to the Jews that dwelt on the Solymean or Jerusalem mountains, near the great and broad lake Asphaltitis, that were a strange people, and spake the Phoenician tongue, is not agreed on by the learned. If is yet certain that Josephus here, and Eusebius, Prep. IX.9. p.412, took them to be Jews; and I confess I cannot but very much incline to the same opinion. The other Solymi were not a strange people, but heathen idolaters, like the other parts of Xerxes's army; and that these spake the Phoenician tongue is next to impossible, as the Jews certainly did; nor is there the least evidence for it elsewhere. Nor was the lake adjoining to the mountains of the Solvmi at all large or broad, in comparison of the Jewish lake Asphaltitis; nor indeed were these so considerable a people as the Jews, nor so likely to be desired by Xerxes for his army as the Jews, to whom he was always very favorable. As for the rest of Cherilus's description, that |their heads were sooty; that they had round rasures on their heads; that their heads and faces were like nasty horse-heads, which had been hardened in the smoke;| these awkward characters probably fitted the Solymi of Pisidi no better than they did the Jews in Judea. And indeed this reproachful language, here given these people, is to me a strong indication that they were the poor despicable Jews, and not the Pisidian Solymi celebrated in Homer, whom Cherilus here describes; nor are we to expect that either Cherilus or Hecateus, or any other pagan writers cited by Josephus and Eusebius, made no mistakes in the Jewish history. If by comparing their testimonies with the more authentic records of that nation we find them for the main to confirm the same, as we almost always do, we ought to be satisfied, and not expect that they ever had an exact knowledge of all the circumstances of the Jewish affairs, which indeed it was almost always impossible for them to have. See sect.23.

This Hezekiah, who is here called a high priest, is not named in Josephus's catalogue; the real high priest at that time being rather Onias, as Archbishop Usher supposes. However, Josephus often uses the word high priests in the plural number, as living many at the same time. See the note on Antiq. B. XX. ch.8. sect.8.

So I read the text with Havercamp, though the place be difficult.

This number of arourae or Egyptian acres, 3,000,000, each aroura containing a square of 100 Egyptian cubits, [being about three quarters of an English acre, and just twice the area of the court of the Jewish tabernacle,] as contained in the country of Judea, will be about one third of the entire number of arourae in the whole land of Judea, supposing it 160 measured miles long and 70 such miles broad; which estimation, for the fruitful parts of it, as perhaps here in Hecateus, is not therefore very wide from the truth. The fifty furlongs in compass for the city Jerusalem presently are not very wide from the truth also, as Josephus himself describes it, who, Of the War, B. V. ch.4. sect.3. makes its wall thirty-three furlongs, besides the suburbs and gardens; nay, he says, B. V. ch.12. sect.2, that Titus's wall about it at some small distance, after the gardens and suburbs were destroyed, was not less than thirty-nine furlongs. Nor perhaps were its constant inhabitants, in the days of Hecateus, many more than these 120,000, because room was always to be left for vastly greater numbers which came up at the three great festivals; to say nothing of the probable increase in their number between the days of Hecateus and Josephus, which was at least three hundred years. But see a more authentic account of some of these measures in my Description of the Jewish Temples. However, we are not to expect that such heathens as Cherilus or Hecateus, or the rest that are cited by Josephus and Eusebius, could avoid making many mistakes in the Jewish history, while yet they strongly confirm the same history in the general, and are most valuable attestations to those more authentic accounts we have in the Scriptures and Josephus concerning them.

A glorious testimony this of the observation of the sabbath by the Jews. See Antiq. B. XVI. ch.2. sect.4, and ch.6. sect.2; the Life, sect.54; and War, B. IV. ch.9. sect.12.

Not their law, but the superstitious interpretation of their leaders which neither the Maccabees nor our blessed Savior did ever approve of.

In reading this and the remaining sections of this book, and some parts of the next, one may easily perceive that our usually cool and candid author, Josephus, was too highly offended with the impudent calumnies of Manethe, and the other bitter enemies of the Jews, with whom he had now to deal, and was thereby betrayed into a greater heat and passion than ordinary, and that by consequence he does not hear reason with his usual fairness and impartiality; he seems to depart sometimes from the brevity and sincerity of a faithful historian, which is his grand character, and indulges the prolixity and colors of a pleader and a disputant: accordingly, I confess, I always read these sections with less pleasure than I do the rest of his writings, though I fully believe the reproaches cast on the Jews, which he here endeavors to confute and expose, were wholly groundless and unreasonable.

This is a very valuable testimony of Manetho, that the laws of Osarsiph, or Moses, were not made in compliance with, but in opposition to, the customs of the Egyptians. See the note on Antiq. B. III. ch.8. sect.9.

By way of irony, I suppose.

Here we see that Josephus esteemed a generation between Joseph and Moses to be about forty-two or forty-three years; which, if taken between the earlier children, well agrees with the duration of human life in those ages. See Antheat. Rec. Part II. pages 966, 1019, 1020.

That is the meaning of Hierosyla in Greek, not in Hebrew.

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