Josep Flavius The Masada Historian

Masada Ruins
Have you ever wondered how we know what happened on Masada during Herod’s reign and later during the Great Jewish Revolution?  Well all of the information we have about Masada comes from one written source (in addition to archaeological findings on the site); the writings of Josep Flavius. Masada is not mentioned in the Bible, so the writings of ancient historian Josep Flavius are all we have to go on.

Flavius was born c. 37AD Joseph ben Matityahu, his father was a Jewish priest and his mother was a descendant of the royal house of Asmoneans. He became a Pharisee, a Jewish sect, then at age 26 he traveled to Rome to aid in the release of priests who were being held under false charges. He returned to the Holy Land to find the Jewish people on the verge of revolution against the harsh rule of procurator Florus.  In 66AD Joseph ben Matityahu was appointed governor of Galilee by the Jewish Temple authorities. He should have been one of the Jews who died during the suicide pact made by the last Jewish defenders of Jodfat, but instead he surrendered to Vespasian, who went on to become Emperor. He played a double game sometimes working for the Romans and at other times seeming to be on the side of the Jews. Under the next ruler, Titus, Flavius acted as a mediator between the Romans and the Jews; he was both hated by the Jews for being a turncoat and not fully trusted by the Romans. After Titus captured Jerusalem he traveled back to Rome, with Flavius as part of his entourage and Flavius was looked upon favorably. At this point Joseph ben Matityahu reinvented himself as Josephus Flavius and became a Roman citizen and successful historian.

Top of Mt Masada

As a historian Favius wrote The Jewish War, a series of 7 books written between 75AD and 79AD; the story of Masada is told in these volumes. The books are an account of the Jewish revolt against the Romans; Favius used his own experience and information from Vespasian and Titus. Favius claimed to have heard an account of what happened to the Jews on Masada from two surviving women. He also wrote Antiquities of the Jews (93/94AD) a series of 20 books which follows the course of history from creation and up until the Roman war. For this work he used a number of sources and relied heavily on the Biblical narrative, the Antiquities of the Jews includes reference to Jesus. Favius attached a biography to the Antiquities of the Jews.

Favius is of major importance as a historical source for 100BC to 100AD, he offers insight into the geography, society, personalities and history of the period. His account of the topography of Masada proved correct and his account of the events which took place on Masada have been confirmed by archaeological findings.


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