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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:52772
Doc. No:TL22726
Call number:‭3322937‬
Main Entry:David McClister
Title & Author:Ethnicity and Jewish identity in JosephusDavid McClister
College:University of Florida
Date:2008
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2008
Page No:297
Abstract:Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived in the first century CE. When the First Jewish War began in 66 CE, Josephus was given a leading role in the defense of Galilee in northern Palestine. He was captured by the Roman forces and accompanied them to Jerusalem where he witnessed the fall of the city in 70 CE. After that Josephus was taken to Rome where he wrote an account of the Jewish war with Rome (the Bellum Judaicum ), a history of the Jews (the Antiquitates Judaicae ), a short autobiography (the Vita ), and a defense of the antiquity of the Jews (the Contra Apionem ). All of these works were intended for a non-Jewish audience. Josephus wrote at a time when anti-Jewish sentiments were common, and the recent defeat at the hands of Rome only exacerbated the negative image ascribed to Jews. It is the thesis of this dissertation that Josephus produced his literary works not simply to satisfy the curiosity of interested Gentiles concerning Jewish origins and customs, but to craft and negotiate an ethnicity for the Jews that would portray them as a people worthy of Roman respect. Ethnic identity is a social construct that is shaped in a complex matrix of psychological and social factors, and often in response to a perceived crisis that threatens a person's or group's sense of social belonging. Josephus lived under the kinds of conditions in which groups typically feel the need to adjust and reassert their social identity. I suggest that this lens can provide a useful way of reading Josephus, and can account for the shape and purpose of his works. Josephus' strategy for creating this ethnic portrait was to depict the Jews as having essentially the same qualities of the noble Greeks of the past, whom the Romans respected. In this undertaking Josephus was participating in a long-standing debate within Jewish circles over the limits and extent of Hellenization among them. What was new was that Josephus used the vehicle of Greek historiography to accomplish his purpose. All of his literary works drew heavily on well-known Greek historiographical models for their presentations of the events, their characterizations of the Jewish people, and their refutations of Gentile slanders. The result was a picture of Jewish history and piety in which the Jews are seen to embody well-respected Greek ideals. It is not known how widely Josephus' works circulated in his own day or shortly thereafter, nor do we know how successful they were in their purpose of creating a bold, new picture of Jewish identity. There are indications that Josephus' works did not effect much change in how Gentiles viewed Jews in the Roman empire. However, the success of the project (measured in terms of social acceptance) is not the object of this study, nor is it a criterion for judging the importance of what Josephus wrote. One of the enduring values of Josephus' works is that they demonstrate, in antiquity, an attempt by a marginalized group to negotiate an ethnicity, and thus they provide an important window into the complexities of Jewish life in the Roman empire.
Subject:Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Josephus, Flavius; Ethnicity; Jewish identity; Classical studies; Judaic studies; 0751:Judaic studies; 0294:Classical studies
Added Entry:K. Kapparis
Added Entry:University of Florida