If you have been around the world of history or church for very long, it is very likely that you have encountered the name Flavius Josephus. There are accounts of this man who was a historian who died some time around 120 B.C. when he was 83 years old. The problem is, Josephus Flavius has two reputations.
The first is that of a Jewish intellectual who was valued as a scholar, statesman and ally of Rome, serving during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus and Trajan. While at the same time he was hated, and accused of being a turncoat and scoundrel by the Jewish community.
The Jewish disliked him for surrendering a key city in Israel which lead to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. More than this, he was accused of creating a suicide pact with 40 of that city’s best defenders … and then did not participate in the suicide part of the pact.
Previously Josephus was active in the Jewish cause. In 62 A.D. it is recorded that he led a delegation to free some Jewish priest that had been imprisoned by Nero. Because of this Josephus was placed in charge of the defence of Galilee, but when Rome focused in on crushing the rebellion in Israel … well that lead to the failed defense and suicide pact that was not fulfilled. After the rebellion, not helping his standing in the Jewish community, Josephus moved to Rome.
As a historian Josephus is one who wrote about both John the Baptizer and Jesus Christ. About Jesus he wrote one brief reference only 135 words long. It describes Jesus as “a wise man, if a man at all,”. he also used the term “the Anointed” … which meant Jesus was the Messiah, and he reported that Jesus rose from the dead. On the subject of John the Baptizer he wrote about the forcible preaching and the baptism, not to forgive sins, but to consecrate the body that had already been purified.
Over the years the Christian community has spent more effort to preserve the works of Josephus. Whatever the bias that comes with Josephus, he provides a non-biblical view of the world that Jesus lived in. For that reason in many 18th or 19th century homes the works of Josephus could be found on the bookshelf near to the family Bible.