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One also learns briefly of the life of Josephus, and gains an insight as to why Josephus chose to write this lengthy history of the Jewish people. What is most interesting about the reading of Josephus is his reliance on Jewish scriptures for delineating the history of the Jewish people before his time. He departs from this however when discussing the events of his own time. In addition, the reader obtains a discussion of the famous passages in Josephus on the historical authenticity of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, these being questioned by some scholars of Josephus.
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.
As with any account of history, this one bears its own biases and preferences. Begin with a personal study of Josephus and his background and what we know of the production of his historical accounts. From this starting point, however, nothing will prove more satisfying than reading the words of Josephus (in translation) for yourself! This volume begins with the historian's own autobiography and it only gets better as one continues to read.
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This edition of Josephus is helpful, with occasional essays on certain topics (i.e. "Josephus and the Romans" or the family tree of the House of Herod.) The translation is a little stale, but easy enough to understand (and I am assured that the faults in the original Whiston translation have been corrected.) The textual notes are VERY helpful, if a little dated and biased. It is for these negatives that I gave this work 4 stars instead of 5-- though I really am indebted to those who put together this extremely comprehensive, helpful volume of one of the most important historians relating to the history of Israel/Judea.
The content of this work provides a profound sense of history, and extends without an end a greater sense of it. This book acts many times as a supplement to the bible in filling important gaps that biblical history failed to provide.
The benefits of this work are inumerable and unweighable when contrasted with the abundance of historical resources and the give-away price offered.
The "New Complete Works of Josephus" Translated by William Whiston and the commentary by Paul L. Maier, is undoubtably the best edition yet. Buy this one you will not regret it.
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