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«Edited by Mladen Popović LEIDEN • BOSTON © 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV CONTENTS List of Figures and Tables Preface List of Contributors The Jewish ...»

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By contrast we do not hear of any acts of brigandage in Idumea.27 Although Freyne distances appearance from reality, his phrase “we do not hear” seems to mean that Josephus does not say it, and so there is no evidence of it, and so Galilee alone appears to have been the theatre of banditry. The issue is what appears to have been the real past, not the nature of the evidence that is being used to make this determination. But of course Josephus says little about any conditions in Idumaea, and much about Galilee (in both the War and the Life). That is where he held his command and made his mark, not least through an allegedly brilliant manipulation of the bandits there. Why should he talk about other commanders’ brilliance or their areas? He says little or nothing about the districts commanded by his peers: Peraea, Thamna, Gophna, Jericho, Acrabetene, or Lydda (B.J. 2.567–568). Can we draw any conclusions at all from what he did not write about?

Richard Horsley goes the farthest, positively nailing down Josephus’

literary choices as sociological data:

In Galilee banditry was of relatively greater importance in the developing social turmoil, in contrast to Judea, with its diverse types of popular resistance, such as prophetic movements and [NB: Josephus’ characters] ‘dagger men.’28

Writing about Sepphoris in the same volume, Eric Meyers remarks:

Surprisingly, Josephus is silent about the period between the reign of Herod Antipas and the onset of the Great Revolt in 66 c.e.29 But why is this surprising? Where and why should Josephus have described Galilean events in the 40s and 50s, long before his arrival there? What role could that have played in his account of the war?

Should he also have described Samaria, the coastal cities, or the Decapolis during those years? For what purpose and in what contexts?

S. Freyne, “The Revolt from a Regional Perspective,” in The First Jewish Revolt (ed. Berlin and Overman), 43–56 (53).

R. A. Horsely, “Power Vacuum and Power Struggle in 66–7 c.e.,” in The First Jewish Revolt (ed. Berlin and Overman), 87–109 (99).

E. M. Meyers, “Sepphoris: City of Peace,” in The First Jewish Revolt (ed. Berlin and Overman), 110–20 (113).

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV170 steve mason

Where is our justification for burdening him posthumously with a responsibility to provide for our interests?

These last examples illustrate our wish to rely on Josephus’ narrative as some kind of ready-made authority, and often enough to complain when he fails to live up to the bargain we have unilaterally imposed on him. This phenomenon was identified by Horst Moehring in his Chicago dissertation30 and by Per Bilde in his article on the causes of the Judaean war in Josephus. Bilde insisted on the need to distinguish the

interpretation of Josephus from the reconstruction of the actual past:

Generally, the historians of the Jewish war do not explicitly analyse the reasons for the war, stated by Josephus.... they just follow, more or less strictly, the account given by Josephus in the Bell. and The Antiquities (Ant.).31

Nearly a century ago, Collingwood framed the problem in methodological terms:

[I]t is the very ease and success with which the historian interprets his sources that lead him to fancy that he is not interpreting them at all— that they interpret themselves, have their meaning written large on their faces, require, to be understood, nothing but bare inspection. Hence the sources become falsely identified with the history which can be written from them; and when so misconceived, history is regarded as the simple transcription of sources. From this point of view the sources become authorities, or collections of statements which the historian accepts and transplants into his own narrative.... Most histories that are built on a large scale and cover a considerable extent of ground show traces of this defect: the narrative seems to change its key in a curious way when one authority takes the place of another; thus every history of Greece undergoes a change of tone when Herodotus gives way to Thucydides, and it is very difficult to study the history of the early Roman Empire without falling a victim to Tacitean melodrama.32 We might make the same observation about the pre- and post-70 history of Judaea, when it leaves the safety of Josephus’ dramatic configuration.

H. Moehring, “Novelistic Elements in the Writings of Flavius Josephus” (Ph.D.

diss., University of Chicago, 1957); idem, “Joseph ben Matthia and Flavius Josephus:

The Jewish Prophet and Roman Historian,” ANRW 2.21.2:864–917.

P. Bilde, “The Causes of the Jewish War According to Josephus,” JSJ 10 (1979):

179–202 (181).

Collingwood, The Idea of History, 371.

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV what is history? 171


I have said that it is not easy to find historical method articulated in our field. Jacob Neusner’s vast output includes important observations, and no one has done more to pose new questions of the evidence and explore them systematically. But his oeuvre involves many periods, genres, and methods. An impressive example of Neusner-like method applied to our period is Lester Grabbe’s handbook, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian. Rejecting the naive pursuit of simple facts already existing somewhere, Grabbe structures the book in a way that reflects the kind of method I discuss below. He specifies problems within a period, offers a bibliographical guide, surveys and interprets the relevant primary sources, summarizes other studies while highlighting the most significant issues of debate or uncertainty, and finally offers his own attempt at synthesis where possible. With refreshing candour, he often concludes that we lack sufficient material to decide a matter, no matter how important it may seem.33 Especially welcome is his refocusing of attention from conclusions, with few exceptions, to methodological clarity.34 I.2. A Model of History for Studying the Judaean War So we turn to the problem of constructing a robust model for historical work on Roman Judaea. I proceed through three steps: choosing a general direction among various historiographical options; isolating what is most basic to the idea of history; and outlining a programme based on these considerations.

L. L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1992), e.g., 93, 98, 111, 268, 281. See also Grabbe’s Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (London: Routledge, 2000), 7–8, for a concise statement of his historical method.

My only criticism is that Grabbe’s important chapter (8) on “religious pluralism” abandons the general method. There, Grabbe becomes confident about “actual historical incidents,” about the meaning of silences in Josephus’ narrative, and even about an interpretation of Pliny on the Essenes that rests on a misapprehension. See Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 470 (actual incidents), 476 (on the omissions), and 492, 494 on the reading of Pliny, thus (emphasis added): “The approximate location of the Essenes’ habitation is made clear by Pliny’s geographical description.... The statement of Pliny regarding the location of the Essene community seems incompatible with any interpretation other than Qumran and perhaps one or two other sites on the northwest shore.” Yet more forceful is Judaic Religion, 70. For the problems here see my forthcoming essay, “The Historical Problem of the Essenes,” in Celebrating the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Canadian Collection (ed. P. W. Flint and K. Baek; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011).

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV172 steve mason

Because my approach has sometimes been considered odd or simply misunderstood (see Excursus below), I would point out that it has a decent pedigree. I fall in with those who have seen the humanities as seeking knowledge of what is human, including individual thought, who emphasize the need for active inquiry, and who regard specific events and individual actions as part of history’s remit.35 Among philosophers of history I have found Collingwood the most profitable, partly because he was an accomplished archaeologist and historian before becoming a philosopher. His trenchant theoretical reflections are tied to the actual work of the historian, and elegantly expressed.

He died young, and we must be grateful to his student Thomas M.

Knox, more recently to Jan van der Dussen, for bringing his unpublished manuscript pages to light in successive editions of The Idea of History.

Two directions in historical method leave me out in the cold because they exclude the free investigation of particular events and past actors.

On one side is a commitment to a certain kind of social history as the only kind possible or worth doing; on the other is the assumption that history is or requires the construction of a narrative.

In his G. M. Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge in 1961, which quickly became the influential handbook What is History?36 Edward E.g., Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) on the humanities as knowledge of what is produced by humans; Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) on intellectual autonomy (e.g., in What is Enlightenment?) and the principle of active inquiry; Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) on distinguishing the natural from the human sciences; Mussolini’s nemesis Benedetto Croce (1866–1952) on inquiry and the study of the mind; Bloch (1886–1944), victim of the Gestapo, on the essential principles of historical criticism;

Bloch’s contemporary Collingwood (1889–1943), on history as autonomous investigation and intellectual construction; Collingwood’s younger contemporary Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990) on history as a particular kind of knowledge of the past; and Leon J. Goldstein (1927–2002) on history as argument. Among many surveys, cf.

J. R. Hale, ed., The Evolution of British Historiography from Bacon to Namier (London: Macmillan, 1967); Iggers, German Conception, 136–41; C. R. Bambach, Heidegger, Dilthey, and the Crisis of Historicism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 138–51. Accessible surveys include the review in Collingwood, The Idea of History, 14–231; well-chosen excerpts in F. R. Stern, The Varieties of History: From Voltaire to the Present (rev. ed.; New York: Vintage, 1973); summary analysis in M. HughesWarrington, Fifty Key Thinkers on History (2d ed.; London: Routledge, 2008); juxtaposition of modernist historians with post-modernist perspectives in K. Jenkins, On “What is History?” From Carr and Elton to Rorty and White (London: Routledge, 1995). A superb critical overview is Gilderhus, History and Historians.

E. H. Carr, What is History? The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge, January–March 1961 (London: Macmillan, 1961).

© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV what is history? 173

Carr made two propositions that would preclude the kind of history I wish to pursue.

First, he saw only social forces, emphatically not individual actions or thoughts, as history’s proper object. In keeping with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s definition of the great person as the one who embodies and actualizes the spirit of his age, Carr rejects the study of individuals and their actions.37 Here are some representative quotations:38 But I think we are entitled by convention—as I propose to do in these lectures—to reserve the word ‘history’ for the process of inquiry into the past of man in society.

The facts of history are... facts about the relations of individuals to one another in society and about the social forces which produce from the actions of individuals results often at variance with, and sometimes opposite to, the results which they themselves intended.

One of the serious errors of Collingwood’s view of history... was to assume that the thought behind the act, which the historian was called on to investigate, was the thought of the individual actor. This is a false assumption. What the historian is called on to investigate is what lies behind the act; and to this the conscious thought or motive of the individual actor may be quite irrelevant.

What seems to me essential is to recognize in the great man an outstanding individual who is at once a product and an agent of the historical process, at once the representative and the creator of social forces which change the shape of the world and the thoughts of men.

A history of the Judaean war built on Carr’s assumptions might be something like Heinz Kreissig’s study of social factors and class struggle, some of Richard Horsley’s work,39 Neil Faulkner’s quasi-Marxist synthesis,40 or any study that treats the causes of the war in terms of social conditions lasting over many years and spanning various locales.41 Such studies are welcome. At least they have heuristic value, Ibid., 54.

Ibid., 48, 52, 55. Emphasis mine.

E.g., R. A. Horsley and J. S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements at the Time of Jesus (New York: Harper & Row, 1988); R. A. Horsley, Archaeology, History, and Society in Galilee: The Social Context of Jesus and the Rabbis (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity, 1996).

N. Faulkner, Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome AD 66–73 (Stroud:

Tempus, 2004). Faulkner analyzes many specific events in concrete detail, but class struggle remains ever present as interpretative grid.

H. Kreissig, Die sozialen Zusammenhänge des judäischen Krieges: Klassen und Klassenkampf im Palästina des 1. Jahrhunderts vor unserer Zeit (Berlin: Akademie, 1970); Cf. P.

Brunt, “Josephus on Social Conflicts in Roman Judaea,” Klio 59 (1977):


© 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV174 steve mason

suggesting questions to us. The problem lies in finding appropriate data: they tend to borrow items from Josephus’ tragic-literary account and convert them into past facts. This kind of history cannot clearly address Cestius Gallus’ invasion of Judaea, the legate’s personal standing and social connections, or his political and military aims or plans.

Nor can it deal with Titus’ destruction of the temple.

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