Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

ISBN : 9780190646189

Jonathan Klawans
400 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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Though considered one of the most important informants about Judaism in the first century CE, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus's testimony is often overlooked or downplayed. Jonathan Klawans's Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism reexamines Josephus's descriptions of sectarian disagreements concerning determinism and free will, the afterlife, and scriptural authority. In each case, Josephus's testimony is analyzed in light of his works' general concerns as well as relevant biblical, rabbinic, and Dead Sea texts. Many scholars today argue that ancient Jewish sectarian disputes revolved primarily or even exclusively around matters of ritual law, such as calendar, cultic practices, or priestly succession. Josephus, however, indicates that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes disagreed about matters of theology, such as afterlife and determinism. Similarly, many scholars today argue that ancient Judaism was thrust into a theological crisis in the wake of the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE, yet Josephus's works indicate that Jews were readily able to make sense of the catastrophe in light of biblical precedents and contemporary beliefs. Without denying the importance of Jewish law-and recognizing Josephus's embellishments and exaggerations-Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism calls for a renewed focus on Josephus's testimony, and models an approach to ancient Judaism that gives theological questions a deserved place alongside matters of legal concern. Ancient Jewish theology was indeed significant, diverse, and sufficiently robust to respond to the crisis of its day.


List of Abbreviations
Note on Translations and Editions
Chapter 1: Theology, Josephus, and Understandings of Ancient Judaism
Chapter 2: Fate, Free Will and Ancient Jewish Types of Compatibilism
Chapter 3: Afterlives and Noble Deaths
Chapter 4: Torah, Tradition, and Innovation
Chapter 5: Josephus and Judaism after 70 CE
Appendix: Essenes and Resurrection according to Hippolytus

About the author: 

Jonathan Klawans is Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University. He is the author of Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism and Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism.

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