293 of 301 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 1999
The value of this volume is threefold, and all are noteworthy.
First, Josephus' account of the historical events and people in Judea during the 1st century A.D. has no peer. Josephus' facts are the most reliable from any secular historian during that period.
Second, Josephus' histories corroborate the Biblical accounts. Josephus, a Jewish general captured by the Romans during Judea's struggle for independence which ended in 70 A.D., mentions John the Baptist, the Herodian rulers of Judea, Pontius Pilate, and Jesus Christ. Josephus "fills in the blanks" by supplying detail not mentioned by the New Testament authors and gives flesh, bone (and blood) to the characters the Gospels and the Book of Acts relates.
Third, the translator, William Whiston, adds insightful and invaluable footnotes throughout the text. Whiston corrects Josephus where necessary or gives the reader more detail in support of Josephus' assertions by reference to other primary sources, many of which are no longer extant. Where Josephus refers to Jewish customs, Whiston explains them for the Gentile reader.
Thus, this book is best used as a reference book, though reading through Josephus' complete works is fruitful. The book is fairly compact for one containing 1000 pages. The pages are thin, which allows for its compact size, but which causes any highlighting or margin notes to "bleed" through to the reverse side of the page. The font size is 10 point, which makes for comfortable reading on the eyes. The appendices contain very helpful charts, including one which lists those excerpts from the Bible which run parallel to Josephus' chapters.
This is a great source book for any historian or Biblical scholar.
173 of 177 people found the following review helpful
Flavius Josephus (about AD 37-101) lived and worked during the first century AD, a time when major events occurred that would impact Judaism forever and the religion known as Christianity was born. He provides us with firsthand information regarding the Jews and Romans, which acts as good background information to the New Testament writings. After all, he lived during the time of the early Church. He also (scholarly debates aside) mentioned Jesus, John the Baptist and James. This edition includes his complete works. They are:
The Life of Flavius Josephus: This allows the reader learn about the life of Josephus from his own pen.
Antiquities of the Jews (20 chapters): It chronicles the history of the Jewish people from the Genesis creation account until the outbreak of revolt in AD 66. This section also includes information on the Roman leaders of the Jewish province, such as the Herods.
The Jewish Wars (7 chapters): This is Josephus' account of Jewish uprisings and wars. It starts with Antiochus Epiphanes. Most of the book, however, chronicles the Jews under the Romans, including the subjugation by Vespasian, the siege and conquest of the temple by Titus and the sedition of the Jews at Cyrene.
Against Apion (2 books): This is a defense of the antiquity of the Jewish people and a refutation of the charges brought against them by the grammarian Apion of Alexandria.
An Extract from the Discourses to the Greeks Concerning Hades: This short document outlines "Josephus'" views on Hades. Many scholars do not think Josephus is the author.
The translations are fairly easy to read, but since they were completed in the middle of the eighteenth century some words may be difficult for certain readers. This edition also includes annotations that illuminate difficult passages in the text. These are very helpful. There is an index of names and themes, a very helpful feature for readers who want to find information on a certain person, place, etc. This edition also contains a table of Jewish weights and measures, a list of Old Testament parallels, and a list of the ancient sources cited by Josephus. There are eight black and white maps too. An appendix with 7 scholarly essays that examine certain issues relating to the writings of Josephus has been included (e.g. the legitimacy of the reference to Jesus). They are old and do not represent modern scholarship. Consequently, they are not too helpful. Still, this book has the complete works of Josephus in an inexpensive package and anyone interested in Christianity, Jewish history, or the ancient world should not be without it.
152 of 157 people found the following review helpful
People spend a great deal of time interpreting scripture, and for good reason. For believers, the Bible is not just a historical document, but the living word of God. Still, as we research scripture, we want to know what life was like in the days of Jesus, and how the people of Jesus' day lived and interpreted scripture so we can better understand scripture in our own day. Perhaps the most important tool for such a task would be the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus.
Josephus himself was an interesting figure. He was born to a well to do Jewish family of the priestly class. He was a religious seeker and studied under the Pharisees and spent some time living an ascetic life. He later developed connections with Rome, and tried unsuccessfully to end the Jewish rebellion. His association with the Romans made him a bit of a turncoat to many people, but his involvement in many spheres of life in the years of the Jewish revolt gave him the opportunity to write a thorough history of his times, understanding the religious, political, and social dimensions of the day. It is largely through the writings of Josephus we understand the world of Jesus' day, and ultimately Jesus himself, even though there is only one questionable reference to Jesus in the writings (modern scholars belive this was probably a patristic insertion or at least a reworking by patristic writers).
This edition of the writings of Josephus is an excellent tool for non-scholarly Biblical study. Whiston's translation has been a standard for years and provides a good translation for preparation for preaching, Bible studies, and people who have an interest in scripture that would be deeper than the interest of a casual reader. I know I have used this volume with Bible study groups over the years, and from time to time research topics in the book for homilies. While there are updates in this edition, this is probably not the best resource for people engaged in scholarly studies, except as a source for background information or a basic familiarity with the historian and his writings. There are newer translations that would be preferred by most instructors on the college level, but for everyday use this volume is a great find at a reasonable price.
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2004
For the student of history what could be more compelling than the statements and opinions of a fellow from almost 2000 years ago who considered himself a historian?
This compilation of his works include a variety of his significant literature. One of his books, 'Antiquities' could be considered his version of a modern Bible a paraphase of the 'old testament' meant for the Greek reader without benefit of typical Judaic upbringing. What is most intriguing is the contemporary commentary that he intersperses (such as Adam being called such because he was 'red' [adom being the color red in Hebrew]).
His heart breaking 'Jewish Wars' gives you a real sense of the carnage inflicted upon Jerusalem by the Roman conquest in 70 AD - and the folly of vicious sectarian fighting while a greater enemy was at the gates.
For a much more scholarly and in depth study of Jewish life at this time see Phillip Sigal's 'Foundation of Judaism' series.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
I don't think anybody's library can be complete without a copy of this on the bookshelf. Although it is a very long text, it is full of supporting documents for the Bible. If you only have a copy for reference, its index is pretty thorough. Or if you choose to read it cover to cover, like I did, you can't help but learn much about Hebraic thought and history.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
As a person who works in the field of New Testament Studies and more specifically 1st century Jewish/Christian liturgy, I can tell you that the complete works of Josephus are almost as indispensable as the Biblical and Talmudic texts themselves. Josephus works as an apologist for the Jews to the Romans, and a dedicated historian. He collects streams of tradition concerning the evolution of the Jewish people that we might not otherwise have. Because of his mentioning of Jesus and some of his disciples (most notably John and James), his work has been under intense scrutiny. However, he does have the benefit of being contemporaneous to the events, something we as modern scholars are not, despite what we may or may not like to think. This is the work of a man who wanted to set the record straight, and he is concerned with records that the Hebrew Bible was too early for, the NT was unconcerned with, and the Talmud missed entirely. If you really want to know what first century Jews, especially the aristocracy, thought about anything, Josephus, along with Philo, is your guy.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2012
Josephus is great - I don't disagree with the other reviewers on that score. His first-hand account of an important historical era is fascinating and informative. My problem, and my reason for 3 instead of 5 stars, is the translation. Whiston's translation has been the standard one for almost 3 centuries, and this is its drawback. The archaic English is almost as much work to translate as the original Latin (assuming, of course, that you can read Latin). While I can still follow the text, it becomes work rather than an enjoyable read.
I think it's high time for somebody to do a new translation into contemporary English
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2003
Flavius Josephus was a first century Jewish historian who recorded Life in Galilee at the time of the Gospels of Christ. It's an excellent research source of insight on Jewish thought, background and ancient history. Josephus' documentation helps one to understand the world of Jesus and the Apostles. A Loeb numbering system makes it easy to locate passages referred to in other reference works. Each period set in an interval of 3,833 years. Josephus draws on his own experiences and the writings and knowledge of other historians. It's a complete chronology of the antiquities of the Jews.
The histories are laid out according to the ancient scriptures, from the Creation to the Jews departure out of Babylon. It consists of a list of ancient testmonies and records of the Old Testament in comparsion to Josephus' histories. These also list the Wars of the Jews from the evils of Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod the Great and Nero to the Besiege of Jerusalem, The Great Extremity, the Taking of Jerusalem and the Sedition of the Jews at Cyrene. This makes an excellent indepth study tool alongside the Holy Bible regarding the ancient Jewish history as witnessed by this foremost authority of his day.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2000
This book is a valuable collection to anyone who wants to study ancient history. It is not for an average reader. It is a collection of all the works of Josephus -- a Jewish historian around the late first century AD. The Antiquities of the Jews is my favorite work by Josephus. He starts from Adam and Eve and follows Jewish history all the way to Josephus's time, all the time quoting other ancient historians (most of whose works are lost).
If you are as enthusiastic about ancient history as I am, you would definitely love this collection. The Jewish Wars are full of very descriptive details (much of which is exageration), which make reading the history alot easier than textbooks, but still a little too hefty for someone who is looking for a simple plot to follow.
The index in the back is most useful in finding out where Josephus talks about Jesus or Pontius Pilate or whatever you are looking for. The essays in the back are also useful for the scholar, but very dry reading.
So, if you want to read some Jewish history or even some Roman history, this book would help in your studies. You will also be surprised to find a whole autobiography of Josephus himself -- you'll find out that he wasn't a very brave fellow.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2004
That statement is found in Josephus' brief autobiography which prefaces, in this edition, both his Antiquities of the Jews and his Wars of the Jews. He was of noble birth, of the priestly, levitical class. Whiston's translation from the Greek, first appeared in English in 1737. I got my copy from a christian bookstore as I had heard many stories about Josephus from friends, people from my church, and I was finally sold on Josephus when our Israeli guide told several stories from Josephus at various sites when I toured Israel with my church in 2000. His greatest claim to fame for christianity is that he wrote a few sentences about Christ which is our only written record that Jesus Christ was a historical person. (Interesting, shows how superior the Romans were in censorship and surveillance; ever wonder why the Apostle Paul always designated the persons bearing his letters to the churches?) He witnessed and wrote about the destruction of the jews' second temple, he fought the Romans in Galilee, he surrendered to Vespasian who later became Emperor of Rome. Some jews probably look at him as a traitor, since he switched sides as he did. He claims that he had had some sort of directive from G-d to do so, and how fortuitous that was, looking back, because he wrote of significant historical events that are found nowhere else in written records.