Return to main page

Josephus (37 - c. 100 AD) Links and Dates
(See the Essene order of Jesus)

© 2014 by Dylan Stephens

Josephus was a Jewish Zealot commander, who decided not to commit suicide as the Romans advanced on Jerusalem during the Jewish War and became friends with the Roman Emperors of the Flavian Dynasty. He wrote an extensive history of the Jews and in particular of the War. He was careful to portray his benefactors in a favorable light, for instance that Titus tried to protect the Temple from being destroyed which was a fact that was militarily impossible. He also avoided direct information on Christianity. (His direct reference to Jesus may have been added, but the reference to John the Baptist is legitimate.) Being a historian, he offers a somewhat impartial view of the times of Jesus that it is an invaluable source to correlate with the New Testament. (His direct reference to Jesus may have been added, but the reference to John the Baptist is legitimate.) Its other references about the Essenes and the Saduccees and the Herod family support many inductive reasons of the Pesher of Christ.

Dates from Selections from Josephus, Thackeray, H (1919)

Dates of Prefects and Procurators of Judea (source:

Coponius (6 or 7-9 C.E.) During his administration the revolt of Judas the Galilean occurred (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 1, § 1; idem, "B. J." li. 8, § 1).

Marcus Ambibulus (9-12) Ἀμβίβουλος is the correct reading in "Ant." xviii. 2, § 2, according to ed. Niese; the older editions have Ἀμβίβουχος, which was usually read "Ambivius."

Annius Rufus (c. 12-15) During his term of office Augustus died (Aug. 19, 14); and this is the only basis on which to compute the tenure of office of the first three procurators, of whose administration Josephus ("Ant." l.c.) reports almost nothing.

Valerius Gratus (15-26) He was the first procurator who arbitrarily appointed and deposed the high priests (ib.).

Pontius Pilate 26-36) As Josephus expressly states (ib. 4, § 2), he was deposed before the first appearance of Vitellius in Jerusalem, namely, in the spring of 36 (comp. ib. 4, § 3 with 5, § 3)

Marcellus (36-37) A friend of Vitellius (ib. 4, § 2), who appointed him after sending Pilate to Rome to render account. It may be assumed, however, that Marcellus was not really a procurator of Judea, but only a subordinate official of Vitellius. Indeed, this is the only instance where Josephus, in designating the office of Marcellus, uses the expression ἐπιμελητής = "overseer." No official act of Marcellus is reported.

Marullus (37-41)

Herod Agrippa is king of Judea

Cuspius Fadus (44 to c. 46) Claudius appointed him to prevent the Syrian legate Vibius Marsus, who was ill-disposed toward the Jews, from mistreating them ("Ant." xix. 9, § 2). This goes to show that in time of peace the procurator was independent of the Syrian legate.

Tiberius Alexander (46-48) He was sent by the emperor, in the belief that a born Jew would be welcome to the Jews.

Ventidius Cumanus (48-52) His appointment is mentioned in "Ant." xx. 5, § 2. During his administration popular uprisings occurred, and the legate of Syria. Ummidius Quadratus, removed him on the urgent petition of the Jews. (JW II.xii. 5 The leading Samaritans, accordingly, went off to Tyre to see Ummidius Quadratus, the governor of Syria, and urged him to punish the authors of these depredations. The Jewish notables, including the high-priest Jonathan, son of Ananus, also presented themselves, and maintained that it was the Samaritans, by the murder in question, who had originated the disturbance, but that the responsibility for all that ensued lay with Cumanus for refusing to take proceedings against the assassins. JW II.xii. 6 He (Quadratus) He sent up to Caesar, along with two other persons of the highest eminence, the high-priests Jonathan and Ananias Ananus, the son("deputy" because he is his younger brother later a High Priest) of the latter, and some other Jewish notables, together with the most distinguished of the Samaritans. JW II.xii. 8 After this Claudius sent out Felix, the brother of Pallas, as procurator of Judaea, Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea. (Procurator AD 52–60)

Felix (52-60) He was appointed by the emperor at the desire of the high priest Jonathan ("B. J." ii. 12, § 6), which distinctly proves that the central government in Rome was conciliatory toward the Jews, and that the procurators were responsible for the prevailing animosities. Felix was called upon to sit in judgment on the apostle Paul.

Porcius Festus (60-62) A fairly just man ("Ant." xx. 8, § 9; "B. J." ii. 14, § 1), who could not, however, remedy the faults of his predecessors. He was prominent in the proceedings against Paul. Festus died while in office. Until the arrival of the new procurator, the high priest Ananus, son of Annas, exercised a certain power.

Albinus (62-64) Notorious through his extortions.

Gessius Florus (64-66) A contemptible ruler, under whom a revolt of the Jews took place.

Links to Josephus works translated by Thackeray (Far superior to Whiston)

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 1: The Life & Against Apion (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 2: The Jewish War I-III (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 3: The Jewish War IV-VII (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 4: The Jewish Antiquities I-IV (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 5: The Jewish Antiquities V-VIII (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 6: The Jewish Antiquities IX-XI (1926)
Also text

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 7: The Jewish Antiquities XII-XIV (1926)
Also text

*vols. 9-10 Feldman (the ones that cover the time of Jesus are 1981 reprint in two vols. of vol. 9 (1965) and thus Loeb is preventing online referencing

Substituting exerpts:

Selections from Josephus, Thackeray, H (1919) - (The text)
Archelaus pg 66
Pilate pg 66
The Latter Herods pg 79
Scenes from The Jewish War pg 98

The Jewish Sects

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes Vol 2: The Jewish War II Page 369 (1926)

(2) Jewish philosophy, in fact, takes three forms. The followers of the first school are called Pharisees, of the second Sadducees, of the third Essenes.

The Jewish Sects pg 148 (skipping repeat from Vol 2: The Jewish War
(55) Another account of the Three Sects from Antiquities XVIII 1

The Essenes

(See more on the Essenes in Philo's Every Good Man is Free)

The characteristic of the Essene creed is that all things are left in God's hands. They hold that souls are immortal, and that the rewards of righteousness are a prize worth a battle. Although they send dedicatory offerings to the Temple, their rites of purification when sacrificing are peculiar; they are consequently excluded from the precincts of the national shrine and offer their sacrifices apart. In other ways they are most estimable men, whose whole energy is devoted to agriculture. In this particular they deserve more admiration than all professedly virtuous persons, because a habit which has never prevailed, even for a while, in any nation, whether Greek or barbarian, has been with them a long-established and uninterrupted custom. Their goods are in common, and the rich man enjoys no more of his possessions than he who owns nothing at all. This rule is followed by a body of men numbering over four thousand. Marriage and slavery they abjure, the latter as tending to promote injustice, the former as giving occasion for discord; they live by themselves and minister to each other's needs. They elect good men to act as receivers of their revenues and of the produce of the soil, and priests as bakers and cooks. Their manner of life bears the closest resemblance in all points to that of the Dacian tribe known as the Polistae.

The Essenes

The Essenes have a reputation for cultivating a peculiar sanctity. Of Jewish birth, they show a greater attachment to each other than do the other sects. They shun pleasures as a vice and regard temperance and the control of the passions as special virtue. Marriage they disdain, but they adopt other men's children, while yet pliable and docile, and regard them as their kin and mould them in accordance with their own principles. They do not, indeed, on principle, condemn wedlock and the propagation thereby of the race, but they wish to protect themselves against women's wantonness, being persuaded that none of the sex keeps her plighted troth to one man.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.3) Riches they despise, and their community of goods is truly admirable; you will not find one among them distinguished by greater opulence than another. They have a law that new members on admission to the sect shall confiscate their property to the order, with the result that you will nowhere see either abject poverty or inordinate wealth; the individual's possessions join the common stock and all, hke brothers, enjoy a single patrimony. Oil they consider defiling, and anyone who accidentally comes in contact with it scours his person; for they make a point of keeping a dry skin and of always being dressed in white. They elect officers to attend to the interests of the community, the special services of each officer being determined by the whole body.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.4) They occupy no one city, but settle in large Their numbers in every town. On the arrival of any of the sect from elsewhere, all the resources of the community are put at their disposal, just as if they were their own; and they enter the houses of men whom they have never seen before as though they were their most intimate friends. Consequently, they carry nothing whatever with them on their journeys, except arms as a protection against brigands. In every city there is one of the order expressly appointed to attend to strangers, who provides them with raiment and other necessaries. In their dress and deportment they resemble children under rigorous discipline. They do not change their garments or shoes until they are torn to shreds or worn thread- bare with age. There is no buying or selling among themselves, but each gives what he has to any in need and receives from him in exchange something useful to himself; they are, moreover, freely permitted to take anything from any of their brothers without making any return.

Work days
  • Rise at dawn and say a prayer
  • Work at assigned crafts
  • 5th hour (11 AM) bathe in cold water, dress in linen, go to refectory, for breakfast
  • loaves are served in order and one plate of food, priest says grace before eating
  • Priest says grace following the meal, and they change out of the linen clothes
  • Work until evening and attend supper with guests as before

(Josephus Wars 2.8.5) Their piety towards the Deity takes a peculiar form. Before the sun is up they utter no word on mundane matters, but offer to him certain prayers, which have been handed down from their forefathers, as though entreating him to rise. They are then dismissed by their superiors to the various crafts in which they are severally proficient and are strenuously employed until the fifth hour, when they again assemble in one place and, after girding their loins with linen cloths, bathe their bodies in cold water. After this purification, they assemble in a private apartment which none of the uninitiated is permitted to enter; pure now themselves, they repair to the refectory, as to some sacred shrine. When they have Their taken their seats in silence, the baker serves out the loaves to them in order, and the cook sets before each one plate with a single course. Before meat the priest says a grace, and none may partake until after the prayer. When breakfast is ended, he pro- nounces a further grace; thus at the beginning and at the close they do homage to God as the bountiful giver of life. Then laying aside their raiment, as holy vestments, they again betake themselves to their labours until the evening. On their return they sup in like manner, and any guests who may have arrived sit down with them. No clamour or disturbance ever pollutes their dwelling; they speak in turn, each making way for his neighbour. To persons outside the silence of those within appears like some awful mystery; it is in fact due to their invariable sobriety and to the limitation of their allotted portions of meat and drink to the demands of nature.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.6) In all other matters they do nothing without orders from their superiors; two things only are left to individual discretion, the rendering of assistance and compassion. Members may of their own motion help the deserving, when in need, and supply food to the destitute; but presents to relatives are pro- hibited, without leave from the managers. Holding righteous indignation in reserve, they are masters of their temper, champions of fidelity, very ministers of peace. Any word of theirs has more force than and an oath; swearing they avoid, regarding it as worse than perjury, for they say that one who is not believed without an appeal to God stands condemned already. They display an extraordinary interest in the writings of the ancients, singling out in particular those which make for the welfare of soul and body; with the help of these, and with a view to the treatment of diseases, they make investigations into medicinal roots and the properties of stones.

  • One year outside with loin cloth and a mattock for burying excrement
    (after proof of his temperance is given the purer kind of holy water)
  • 1QSa 1:8 - At the age of 20 years he shall be enrolled, performing duties so as to be joined to the holy congregation, having remained celebate. (Lower novice and novice) two years more to test his character, and only then, if found worthy, is he enrolled in the society.
  • (member) becomes a proselyte after swearing oaths of piety towards the Deity, justice towards men, fight for the just, never abuse his authority nor, either in dress or by other outward marks of superiority, outshine his subjects, be forever a lover of truth and to expose liars, keep from stealing and his soul pure from unholy gain, conceal nothing from the members of the sect, and to preserve the books of the sect and the names of the angels. angels. Such are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes.
  • (deacon, presbyter, bishop, archbishop) four grades to advance to according to the duration of their discipline

(Josephus Wars 2.8.7) A candidate anxious to join their sect is not immediately admitted. For one year, during which he remains outside the fraternity, they prescribe for him their own rule of life, presenting him with a small hatchet, the loin-cloth already mentioned, and white raiment. Having given proof of his temperance during this probationary period, he is brought into closer touch with the rule and is allowed to share the purer kind of holy water, but is not yet received into the meetings of the community. For after this exhibition of endurance, his character is tested for two years more, and only then, if found worthy, is he enrolled in the society. But, before he may touch the common food, he is made to swear tremendous oaths : first that he will practise piety towards the Deity, next that he will observe justice towards men : that he will wrong none whether of his own mind or under another's orders; that he will for ever hate the unjust and fight the battle of the just; that he will for ever keep faith with all men, especially with the powers that be, since no ruler attains his office save by the will of God; that, should he himself bear rule, he will never abuse his authority nor, either in dress or by other outward marks of superiority, outshine his subjects; to be for ever a lover of truth and to expose liars; to keep his hands from stealing and his soul pure from unholy gain; to conceal nothing from the members of the sect and to report none of their secrets to others, even though tortured to death. He swears, more- over, to transmit their rules exactly as he himself received them; to abstain from robbery; and in like manner carefully to preserve the books of the sect and the names of the angels. Such are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.8) Those who are convicted of serious crimes they expel from the order; and the ejected individual often comes to a most miserable end. For, being bound by their oaths and usages, he is not at liberty to partake of other men's food, and so falls to eating grass and wastes away and dies of starvation. This has led them in compassion to receive many back in the last stage of exhaustion, deeming that torments which have brought them to the verge of death are a sufficient penalty for their misdoings.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.9) They are just and scrupulously careful in their Their trial of cases, never passing sentence in a court of less than a hundred members; the decision thus reached is irrevocable. After God they hold most in awe the name of their lawgiver, any blasphemer of whom is punished with death. It is a point or honour with them to obey their elders, and a majority; for instance, if ten sit together, one will not speak if the nine desire silence. They are careful not to spit into the midst of the company or to the right, and are stricter than all Jews in abstaining from work on the seventh day; for not only do they prepare their food on the day before, to avoid kindling a fire on that one, but they do not venture to remove any vessel or even to go to stool. On other days they dig a trench a foot deep with a mattock - such is the nature of the hatchet which they present to the neophytes - and wrapping their mantle about them, that they may not offend the rays of the deity sit above it. They then replace the excavated soil in the trench. For this purpose they select the more retired spots. And though this discharge of the excrements is a natural function, they make it a rule to wash themselves after it, as if defiled.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.10) They are divided, according to the duration of their discipline, into four grades; and so far are the junior members inferior to the seniors, that a senior if but touched by a junior, must take a bath, as after contact with an alien. They live to a great age most of them to upwards of a century in consequence, I imagine, of the simplicity and regularity of their mode of life. They make light of danger, and triumph over pain by their resolute will; death, if it come with honour, they consider better than immortality. The war with the Romans tried their souls through and through by every variety of test. Racked and twisted, burnt and broken, and made to pass through every instrument of torture, in order to induce them to blaspheme their lawgiver or to eat some forbidden thing, they refused to yield to either demand, nor ever once did they cringe to their persecutors or shed a tear. Smiling in their agonies and mildly deriding their tormentors, they cheerfully resigned their souls, confident that they would receive them back again.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.11) For it is a fixed belief of theirs that the body is corruptible and its constituent matter impermanent, but that the soul is immortal and imperishable. Emanating from the finest ether, these souls become entangled, as it were, in the prison-house of the body, to which they are dragged down by a sort of natural spell; but when once they are released from the bonds of the flesh, then, as though liberated from a long servitude, they rejoice and are borne aloft. Sharing the belief of the sons of Greece, they maintain that for virtuous souls there is reserved an abode beyond the ocean, a place which is not oppressed by rain or snow or heat, but is refreshed by the ever gentle breath of the west wind coming in from ocean; while they relegate base souls to a murky and tempestuous dungeon, big with never-ending punishments. The Greeks, I imagine, had the same conception when they set apart the isles of the blessed for their brave men, whom they call heroes and demigods, and the region of the impious for the souls of the wicked down in Hades, where, as their mythologists tell, persons such as Sisyphus, Tantalus, Ixion, and Tityus are undergoing punishment. Their aim was first to establish the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and secondly to promote virtue and to deter from vice; for the good are made better in their lifetime by the hope of a reward after death, and the passions of the wicked are restrained by the fear that, even though they escape detection while alive, they will undergo never-ending punishment after their decease. Such are the theological viewsof the Essenes concerning the soul, whereby they irresistibly attract all who have once tasted their philosophy.

(Josephus Wars 2.8.12) There are some among them who profess to foretell the future, being versed from their early years in holy books, various forms of purification and apophthegms of prophets; and seldom, if ever, do they err in their predictions.

The Essene Order of Jesus

(Josephus Wars 2.8.13) There is yet another order of Essenes, which, while at one with the rest in its mode of life, customs, and regulations, differs from them in its views on practice marriage. They think that those who decline to marry cut off the chief function of the propagation of the race, and, what is more, that, were all to adopt the same view, the whole race would very quickly die out.

They give their wives, however, a three years' probation, and only marry them after they have by three periods of purification given proof of fecundity.

This should be corrected to say: "three months of no period thus three months without a miscarriage proving that they will carry to term." (Note that the translators, having an imperfect knowledge of the Essenes, do not take into account that, since menstruation is considered defiling, a pregnant woman or a woman whose periods have ceased due to old age (a widow) is considered to be pure.)
(See Matt 09:20-22 and lo, a woman having an issue of blood twelve years (thus a virgin), having come to him behind, did touch the fringe of his garments, for she said within herself, "If only I may touch his garment, I shall be saved." And Jesus having turned about, and having seen her, said, "Be of good courage, daughter, your faith has saved you," and the woman was saved from that hour. -- Note that Jesus is not horrified by being touched by a defiled (menstruating women), but rather extols her for remaining a virgin for twelve years).

They have no intercourse with them during pregnancy, thus showing that their motive in marrying is not self-indulgence but the procreation of children.
(See Matt 01:25 And (Joseph) did not know her till she brought forth her son -- the first-born, and he called his name Jesus.)

In the bath the women wear a dress, the men a loin-cloth. Such are the usages of this order.

ANOTHER SECT OF THE ESSENI : There is then another order of the Essenes who use the same customs and prescribed method of living with the foregoing sects, but make an alteration from these in one respect, viz., marriage. Now they maintain that those who have abrogated matrimony commit some terrible offence, which is for the destruction of life, and that they ought not to cut off the succession of children; for, that if all entertained this opinion, the entire race of men would easily be exterminated. However, they make a trial of their betrothed women for a period of three years; and when they have been three times purified, with a view of proving their ability of "bringing forth children, so then they wed.

They do not, however, cohabit with pregnant women, evincing that they marry not from sensual motives, but from the advantage of children. And the women likewise undergo ablution in a similar manner (with their husbands), and are them- selves also arrayed in a linen garment, after the mode in which the men are with their girdles. These things, then, are the statements which I have to make respecting the Esseni.
The Jewish Sects pg 148 (repeated in Vol 2: The Jewish War

The Sadducees

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes

(Josephus Wars 2.8.14) The Sadducees, the second of the orders, do away with Fate altogether, and remove God beyond, not merely the commission, but the very sight, of evil. They maintain that man has the free choice of good or evil, and that it rests with each man's will whether he follows the one or the other. As for the persistence of the soul after death, penalties in the underworld, and rewards, they will have none of them.

(55) Another account of the Three Sects from Antiquities XVIII 1

The Sadducees

The Sadducees hold that the soul perishes with the body. They make no pretence of observing any rules whatever except the laws; indeed, they count it meri- torious to dispute with the doctors of their school. Their tenets have but few adherents; but these are persons of the highest reputation. They have hardly any effect on practical life; for whenever any of their number accept office, they, reluctantly indeed, but of necessity, become converts to the Pharisaic creed, because otherwise they would not be tolerated by the masses.

The Jewish Sects pg 148 (repeated in Vol 2: The Jewish War

The Pharisees

Josephus; with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, in nine volumes

(Josephus Wars 2.8.14) Of the two first-named schools, the Pharisees, who are considered the most accurate interpreters of the laws, and hold the position of the leading sect, attribute everything to Fate and to God; they hold that to act rightly or otherwise rests, indeed, for the most part with men, but that in each action Fate cooperates. Every soul, they maintain, is imperishable, but the soul of the good alone passes into another body, while the souls of the wicked suffer eternal punishment.

(55) Another account of the Three Sects from Antiquities XVIII 1

The Pharisees

The Pharisees practise simplicity of life, and give way to no self-indulgence. They take as their guiding motive certain traditional principles which their school has tested and approved, and consider it a matter of the first importance to observe the doctrines which it has deliberately dictated. They show respect and deference to those who have gone before them, nor have they the effrontery to dispute any proposition which they have introduced. While maintaining that all events are the work of Fate, they do not deprive man of free-will in his actions since (as they hold) it has pleased God that the decision should rest both with Fate's council-chamber and with the human will whether a man takes the side of virtue or of vice. They believe that souls have immortal power, and that beneath the earth punishments and awards await those who, during life, have made a practice of vice or virtue : to the former is assigned everlasting imprisonment, the latter are granted facilities to live again. By these doctrines they have gained a very great influence over the masses, and all religious ceremonies in the matter of prayers and the offering of sacrifices are performed according to their directions. Such high testimony do the cities bear to their character, regarding them, both in their manner of life and in their utterances, as patterns of perfection.

The Pharisees

The Pharisees are affectionate to each other and cultivate harmonious relations with the community. The Sadducees, on the contrary, are, even among themselves, rather boorish in their behaviour, and in their intercourse with their peers are as rude as to aliens. Such is what I have to say on the Jewish philosophical schools.

The Jewish Sects pg 148 (repeated in Vol 2: The Jewish War
(55) Another account of the Three Sects from Antiquities XVIII 1

The Zealots

A fourth school was founded by Judas the Galilean. While they agree in all other respects with the Pharisees, its disciples have an ineradicable passion for liberty, and take God for their only leader and lord. In their determination to call no man lord, they make light of enduring death in all manner of forms, and of penalties inflicted on their kinsmen and friends. Since, however, most of my readers have witnessed their unflinching endurance under such tortures, I need not dwell further upon it. My fear is not that anything which I might say of them will be thought incredible, but, on the contrary, that the narrative may fail to do justice to the fortitude with which they meet the agony of pain. It was the madness of this party which was the beginning of the afflictions of our nation, when Gessius Florus, the governor, by wanton abuse of his authority, drove them in desperation into revolt from Rome.

Josephus; with an English translation by Whiston, William corrected by Shilleto, A. R. (Arthur Richard), 1848-1894 Vol 3: The Jewish Antiquities XV-XX(end) (1926)
Also text

End Substitution

Return to main page