Monday, April 09, 2012

Josephus (37AD-100):  Dealing with internet rumors ...

Against Apion is a long winded response to a collection of nasty insults that were published by Apion.  In attempting to refute all Apion's claims, Josephus gives opinions on all kinds of subjects:

Hyksos:  Looks like Josephus was a bit ahead of James Cameron and Exodus Decoded:

"This whole nation was styled Hycsos, that is, Shepherd-kings: for the first syllable Hyc, according to the sacred dialect, denotes a king, as is Sos a shepherd; but this according to the ordinary dialect; and of these is compounded Hycsos: but some say that these people were Arabians." Now in another copy it is said that this word does not denote Kings, but, on the contrary, denotes Captive Shepherds, and this on account of the particle Hyc; for that Hyc, with the aspiration, in the Egyptian tongue again denotes Shepherds, and that expressly also; and this to me seems the more probable opinion, and more agreeable to ancient history. [But Manetho goes on]: "These people, whom we have before named kings, and called shepherds also, and their descendants," as he says, "kept possession of Egypt five hundred and eleven years." " - Against Apion, Book I

A puzzle to me from Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary might well be solved here:

"Accordingly, these priests are all circumcised, and abstain from swine's flesh; nor does any one of the other Egyptians assist them in slaying those sacrifices they offer to the gods."  - Against Apion, Book II.

And Voltaire:

"There are customs of pure fantasy. Why did the priests of Egypt imagine circumcision? it is not for health." - Philosophical Dictionary

I had wondered where Voltaire came up with this, since it could only have come from a classical literature source.  Herodotus mentions circumcision and claims it was first practiced by the Egyptians, but does not mention a purpose.  Now I admit that there is a certain pleasure for me to think that circumcision had been a mark of priesthood so that the Jews should have been known as a nations of priests.  

There was a summary of the Jewish laws which should silence some modernists for at least 12 seconds with their novel interpretations.

Regarding the Jewish scriptures, there is a note that conflicts with my impression that Josephus works exclusively with the Greek Septuagint:

"For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death." - Against Apion, Book I

This refers to the Hebrew scriptures which has 22 books.  This is obtained from the Biblical OT count by merging Ezra with Nehemiah, and the three 1st and 2nd series.  Josephus gives a further explanation of his preference for scriptures:

"... for, as I said, I have translated the Antiquities out of our sacred books; which I easily could do, since I was a priest by my birth, and have studied that philosophy which is contained in those writings: and for the History of the War, I wrote it as having been an actor myself in many of its transactions, an eye-witness in the greatest part of the rest, and was not unacquainted with any thing whatsoever that was either said or done in it."

This is noted mainly because it is Josephus in his Antiquities who gives us the story of the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into the Septuagint.

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