I heard you quote something (on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show) from The Complete Works of Josephus but then it seemed like you were saying he was a rebel or something like that. So are his writing creditable?
And one last things that bugs me…the Catholic Bible includes the Apocrypha books (like The First Book of Esdras for example). Are these books part of the Jewish Holy scripture or not?
We think your question and confusion is shared by many. First, to clear up your question about Josephus. During the early years of the common era, Josephus headed the Jewish forces in their revolt against the Romans, who were led in northern Israel by general Vespasian. Josephus then betrayed his people and went to the Roman side. After Vespasian became emperor in 69 CD, Josephus was granted Roman citizenship.
His writings are historical accounts, including The Antiquities of the Jews and Siege of Masada. We approach his writings as we do that of other historians. That is to say, with interest and skepticism. He provides insight into the Jewish community of his day, but he is by no means an unbiased observer. Just as you will get two completely different views of American history by reading Howard Zinn’s account (which unfortunately is the one that most colleges use) or that of Russell Kirk, history is best read from many different approaches. Knowing a historian’s biases and prejudices is very useful. Josephus’ position and safety was dependent on flattering the Romans. This can certainly affect how he depicts the Jews and the events of the day. His writings do not have any sacred echoes.
What is known in Hebrew as the TaNaCH encompasses the entirety of Jewish written Scripture. It is composed of Torah (the Five Books of Moses), Neviim (the Prophets from Joshua through Malachi, and Ketuvim (the Writings – sorry to be confusing here, but the K/CH letter in Hebrew is one letter with one sound at the end of a word like TaNaCH and a different sound at the beginning of a word, like Ketuvim). Ketuvim ranges from Chronicles to Nehemiah and includes, among other things, Psalms, Proverbs and the scrolls of Ruth and Esther.
Even though some books of the TaNaCH, or sections of books, read like history, that is not their function or reality. They may or may not tell of historical incidents, but they are timeless transmissions meant to provide a blueprint for living in all places and at all times, written under God’s direct or prophetic influence. The level of prophetic contact with God necessary for writing something that could be included in Scripture, disappeared after the last book of TaNaCH was written. Anything considered apocrypha may be of interest, but was never considered to have holiness. We, personally, have no knowledge of what Catholic or Christian apocrypha might be.
We hope this clears up some of your questions. Thanks for watching Ancient Jewish Wisdom on TCT,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin