A Reappraisal of Contra Apionem 2.145 as an Original Contribution to Political Thought

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For a brief moment in some limited intellectual circles of early modem Europe, Flavius Josephus was considered the most important ancient authority on politics. This may seem odd to contemporary sensibilities since Josephus is now considered a non-entity in terms of political thought. Recent scholarship, however, has brought to the fore a community of early modem theorists for whom Josephus was the crucial figure in understanding the political structure of the divinely ordered “Hebrew republic”.2 These thinkers believed that Josephus’ coinage of the term ‘theocracy’ (θεοκραηα) grasped something important concerning the true nature of political sovereignty, and that Josephus himself held the key to understanding the best-ordered state. It may seem odd that ideas of such magnitude should be credited to a man not often invoked today as a theoretician, but perhaps the fault lies in the bias of contemporary historians where questions of apologetics are concerned. The task of this article will be to reassess Josephus’ possible role as a political theorist, primarily by presenting his attempts to re-imagine the political future of his people in the wake of national catastrophe. Special attention will be paid to his attempt to restructure the relationship between religion and political power in his account of the Jewish constitution (πολιτεια).Τῆε latter will be read against the historical/literary context of its time and place. It is hoped that this method may suggest a new Josephus, one more political and theoretical than has yet been widely acknowledged and one perhaps as innovative as the early modern “political Hebraists” thought him to be, though for very different reasons
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-173
JournalScripta Classica Israelica
StatePublished - 31 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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