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This short book recounts the journey of a gripping war narrative from late antiquity to the present, describing how an eye-witness account of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem & the destruction of the Jewish Temple became a key text for devout Christians and a source of great ambivalence for Jewish readers.

Goodman, Martin

Josephus's The Jewish War

A Biography

Series:Lives of Great Religious Books 45


    40,95 € / $47.00 / £37.00*

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    Publication Date:
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    October 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    An essential introduction to Josephus’s momentous war narrative

    The Jewish War is Josephus's superbly evocative account of the Jewish revolt against Rome, which was crushed in 70 CE with the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. Martin Goodman describes the life of this book, from its composition in Greek for a Roman readership to the myriad ways it touched the lives of Jews and Christians over the span of two millennia.

    The scion of a priestly Jewish family, Josephus became a rebel general at the start of the war. Captured by the enemy general Vespasian, Josephus predicted correctly that Vespasian would be the future emperor of Rome and thus witnessed the final stages of the siege of Jerusalem from the safety of the Roman camp and wrote his history of these cataclysmic events from a comfortable exile in Rome. His history enjoyed enormous popularity among Christians, who saw it as a testimony to the world that gave rise to their faith and a record of the suffering of the Jews due to their rejection of Christ. Jews were hardly aware of the book until the Renaissance. In the nineteenth century, Josephus's history became an important source for recovering Jewish history, yet Jewish enthusiasm for his stories of heroism—such as the doomed defense of Masada—has been tempered by suspicion of a writer who betrayed his own people.

    Goodman provides a concise biography of one of the greatest war narratives ever written, explaining why Josephus's book continues to hold such fascination today.


    200 pages
    8 b/w illus.
    General/trade;Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

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    Martin Goodman is professor of Jewish studies at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Wolfson College. His many books include A History of Judaism (Princeton), Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, and The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies. He lives in Oxford, England.


    "Martin Goodman's unique treatment of the afterlife of Josephus's Jewish War is packed with fascinating and little known information, presented with the author’s trademark vigor and accessibility. This is the rare scholarly book that I devoured in one sitting."—Seth Schwartz, author of The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad

    "Interesting and informative. Even scholars of Josephus and ancient Jewish history will discover something new here."—Daniel R. Schwartz, author of Judeans and Jews: Four Faces of Dichotomy in Ancient Jewish History

    "Martin Goodman has produced a remarkably readable, first-of-its-kind synthesis of the reception and impact of Josephus's book on Jewish and Christian culture over a span of almost two millennia. Scholarly and lay readers will be grateful for how lightly he wears his learning while also anchoring his findings in the best scholarship available today."—Honora Howell Chapman, coeditor of A Companion to Josephus

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