Josephus: Renegade or Patriot?

S.G.F. Brandon poses the question: was Josephus, the famous Jewish historian of the first century A.D., an arch Quisling of the ancient world? He “could scarcely have given a worse impression of himself than that to be derived from the Jewish War,” whence he emerges as an unscrupulous opportunist whose conduct is rendered even more distasteful by a hypocritical profession of the highest motives.

Probably most people, if asked to name the maiden who danced for the head of John the Baptist, would promptly reply, “Salome.” If questioned further about the source of their knowledge, many would answer, “the Bible.”

Yet in the only account of the celebrated incident—the Gospel of Mark, vi. 14-29—the girl is not named. Her name is known only by inference from the writings of Josephus. This curious little fact serves to attest the enormous influence that Josephus has had in unconsciously moulding our common knowledge of the background of New Testament times.

But this knowledge, it must be recognized, is something we owe to past generations, when the family Bible and Whiston’s translation of the works of Josephus represented the chief reading of many English families.

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