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THE writings of Josephus, when first published, though highly prized by the wise and good, necessarily called forth the opposition of enemies. His countryman, Justus of Tiberias, attempted to invalidate his history of the Jewish War; and for this attempt we are chiefly indebted for the Memoirs of his Life. His Antiquities of the Jews provoked similar discussion. Many writers, it seems, envying the reputation of the author, and hating the cause which he so powerfully supported, endeavoured either directly or indirectly to impugn his authority.
In reply to such writers he observes, that "Some wicked men have attempted to vilify my writings, representing them as the performances of a school-boy, produced by way of exercise. This representation is indeed strange and calumnious. He, who undertakes to give others a
narrative of true events, ought to be thoroughly acquainted with their truth, either by being himself present when they occurred, or by being accurately informed of those who were. These qualifications I claim in regard to both of my works: for I translated the Antiquities out of our sacred books, which, as being a priest, and having studied the wisdom contained in them, I was well able to do. And as to the History of the War, I was an agent in many, and a spectator of almost all its transactions; nor was there any thing of consequence said or done in its progress, with which I was unacquainted. How impudent then must those men be deemed, who dispute my veracity, or question the truth of my narrative? Against Apion, lib. i. §. 10.
In the number of those who wrote against the Jews and the gospel, was Apion, a scribe of Alexandria, and a man of wit and learning, yet profligate, malicious, and eager to oppose the truth by violence and falsehood. In his book he detailed the common calumnies against the Jews, and blended them with so much scurrility and fiction, that he would have been upworthy of potice, if his wit and buffoonery had not left on many an unfavourable impression. Under the auspices of Epaphroditus, the illustrious friend of the apostle Paul, Josephus undertook the defence of the Jews and their religion against this gram
marian; and he gave to the public a work which has never been equalled, for the solidity of his conclusions, or the profundity and extent of his researches. In his former compositions Josephus shews himself only a plain, ingenious commentator, or an artless but able historian; in his work against Apion, he rises on his readers, and displays in a high degree the united powers of learning, argument, and oratory. Though confined, till a late period, to the language and philosophy of the Hebrews, he soon acquired a wonderful acquaintance with the dialect and literature of Greece. His powerful mind, in a short period, seems to have grasped the whole extent of the Phoenician, Chaldean, Egyptian, and Grecian records; and with the authority of those records overwhelmed all the enemies of the Jews and of the gospel; thus refuting them on their own grounds, and sweeping away their falsehoods and calumnies as with the force of a torrent.
Our author has divided the work into two parts*, and performed far more than is promised
A part of this work is unfortunately lost. For the words of Porphyry imply, that Josephus had inserted an account of the Esseans in the second book against Apion. This is a fact of importance, Josephus is here an apologist of the Jewish Christians, and their cause; and it was na
by the title. For in the first book he refutes the misrepresentations of Manetho, Cheremon, Ly
tural for him to draw a character of these men in the work which he published in their defence. And here it may seem wonderful, that the works of Josephus, who was so obnoxious both to the Jews and to the Christians, should have descended at all, or descended so perfect to us, as they have done. Yet a most daring attempt has been made to set them aside. A Jew who lived in France about the ninth or tenth century, personated our Josephus under the name of Joseph Ben Gorion. From the writings of Josephus he composed a new work full of falsehoods, but adapted to the prejudices of the Jews. From this, as we might expect, the impostor has excluded every thing in the works of Josephus favourable to Christ and his followers. He was aware of the high credit which is due to Josephus. Accordingly, while personating him, he thus speaks of himself: "Thus says Joseph Ben Gorion, the priest, who has written the things which have happened to Israel, and his calamities, to be a memorial and instruction to his posterity. ....From this day and henceforward this book is to be a testimony to other writers who shall come after me, and attempt to write of the same things, and shall allege proofs of what they write. For they will say, So and so has recorded Joseph the priest, who is the prince of all writers." Gagnier has published an edition of this work, and he observes in his Preface, "that all Jewish writers, whether commentators, or historians, or philologers, continually allege it, and 'quote authorities and testimonies from it, as an authentic and fundamental book..... As for the Greek Josephus, they have little regard for him, or rather none at all; but declaim against him as a lying historian, full of falsehoods and flat
simachus, and others; the second only contains his reply to: Apion; but the latter part withal comprehends many interesting reflections on the character and laws of Moses. With matchless
simplicity and energy he evinces the superior excellence of the Jewish, and under the name of Jewish, the Christian Dispensation, holding forth the Almighty for its author, the virtue and happiness of mankind for its end, and the experience of ages for its utility and truth. If Josephus had been a Jew in the modern sense, we could not but admire the love of truth, the diligence and learning displayed in the work; we could not but be thankful to him for his information respecting records of which we should have known little or nothing without him; but our gratitude and admiration will be greatly increased by the reflection, that the champion of
teries. But their Josippon they extol and magnify as true, and almost divine." See Lard. Vol. vii. p. 162.
The hatred of the Jews against Josephus shews clearly that they knew him to be a christian, and a christian writer; and the circumstance that he was not known to have been a christian, or given up as such by all the advocates of christianity in the dark ages, occasioned the imposture of Joseph Ben Gorion. Josephus was not in favour with either party; and this Josippon thought a fine opportunity to supersede a writer, who bears, so formidable a testimony in favour of the gospel, and against his own nation.