Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How the Writings Attributed to Josephus Were Produced (Mason's interpretation is totally wrong)

Gregory Sterling the Dean of Yale Divinity School wrote (see page 104 of Understanding Josephus edited by Steve Mason) some comments on how ancient historians went about their business.  Sterling (taking aim at his foot) says:

1. "The practice of rewriting texts and offering the retelling as an authorial composition was common in antiquity.  Historians of events situated in the distant past often made a virtue out of necessity by rewriting existing literary sources." 

Were the historians fabricating or were they telling downright lies?  Did they quote accurately known authors without their original writings? And who did all the imaginative creative work?  They must have been highly literate people, and have had good contacts with Roman libraries and the Roman elite. Who were some of these historians?  Were they the early Church Fathers?  They certainly had great literary capability.  They beavered away for years at places of education.  and they had one very important tool, the codex by which they could easily modify texts without rewriting a complete bookroll.  In fact they made a virtue of the codex which other historical writers didn't.  I have in mind the early Church Fathers at Caesarea.  They were well connected with Judaism and Rome's elite. 

2. "Imitations of a past author's style or spirit was acceptable: slavish reproductions were open to the charge of plagiarism."  

So imitating a past author's style or spirit was acceptable; really!!  And if you could get away with it so were slavish reproductions or plagiarism.     

3. "Eastern peoples also rewrote texts although not always for the same reasons as their counterparts in the West."  

And even westerners were not innocent! Well!! Well!!  

4. "These traditions converge in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus." 

This is academic speak for its all there in Josephus.  Apparently, Josephus calls his re-tellings a "translation from the Hebrew", would you believe, i.e. Antiquities was not originally written in Greek.  It was translated from Latin. Josephus was not the original writer of Antiquities.  He was a fabricated character.   It did finish up in Greek after the Church Fathers had translated and edited it making numerous interpolations.  It was originally written in Latin for the Roman Court at the request of the emperor Claudius.  Its purpose was to explain the meaning of Judaism at the time.  But the Church Fathers wrote War in Greek from scratch.   

So now you know how the writings attributed to Josephus were produced.  The Christian Gregory Sterling has educated us.  And Steve Mason, another Christian, has given his blessing to what Gregory wrote.  May be they are not blinded by their faith after all.  But it has a modern day ring.  For isn't that how much theological stuff is produced, by professors and their Ph.D students alike, building packs of cards citing one another, just like Eusebius?  
But is the explanation of the lies in Josephus so simple as Gregory Sterling portrays it?   And presumably Steve Mason thinks the same?  Sterling says "these traditions converge in the Jewish Antiquities".  Well why doesn't he show how these 'traditions converge' and what does he mean by that expression?  Neither Sterling nor Mason give any detailed examples. They, like most scholars in the field, brag about how they know Josephus is unreliable, but then ignorantly continue to quote him without further consideration.       

Mason Has Done a Runner (And you have to wonder why)

He has been appointed to the Chair in Ancient Mediterranean Religions and Cultures at the University of Groningen. He says "My move to Groningen is bringing me back to my main career trajectory". The Chair was established by the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Kocku von Stuckrad, and Prof. Mladen Popović, Chair of the Department of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Origins and Director of the Qumran Institute, which Mason became a member of. Mladen Popović says: “Steve is a great addition to the Faculty. He is an international authority and senior scholar in Jewish and Early Christian religion and culture in Judaea and the Roman Empire. With the leading commentary series on Flavius Josephus he makes a fundamental contribution to the unlocking of this uniquely important Jewish historian for the wider study of classical antiquity. Mason builds bridges between different disciplines that are concerned with the ancient Mediterranean, and he is capable of making connections to modern issues of, for instance, politics and international relations. Building bridges around the ancient Mediterranean can be seen as the common thread that runs through Mason’s career; bridges between disciplines and between ancient and modern times. He studied Judaism and Early Christianity at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada). After his Ph.D. (University of St. Michael's College, 1986, by way of the universities of Jerusalem and Tübingen) he worked at The Pennsylvania State University, as Head of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and at Toronto’s York University, most recently as Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction. Since 2011 he has held the Kirby Laing Chair in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen. Mason was the first Dirk Smilde Fellow at the Qumran Institute in Groningen from January through May 2014. Mason explains that his appointment in Groningen is bringing him back to his main career trajectory: the integration of ancient Mediterranean studies: “My recent Chair in New Testament, an accommodation to established disciplinary boundaries, was a departure from my main career trajectory. The move to Groningen is bringing me back to the interdisciplinary study of ancient history, texts, and cultures. I believe that a critical understanding of our shared past, recent and ancient, throws light on our modern identities, including the sources and potential resolutions of conflict. This is a vision that I know I share with my colleagues in Groningen.”  

I am sorry, but you are going to be stuck with your original image of a Josephus expert for a long time.  It's an uncomfortable status to have.

Scholars know an awful lot of Rome's apparent history even though their historical manuscripts that they depend on are usually of a much later survival date than those of Christianity.  Roman history usually survives in the care of a monk in some monastery.  Those manuscripts have more than likely been subject to abuse by the early Church Fathers. The scholars cite each other like there is no tomorrow.  And many like those who write the ERC Project Judaism and Rome know far more about Roman history than they do about Judaism.    

Mason's 'Critical Understanding'

So long as it doesn't contradict his Christian beliefs!  Typically, his beliefs get in the way of truth, as with most Christian scholars.  He has not picked-up on the many fabrications and interpolations in the writings attributed to Josephus presented as history.  Like most other commentators with a faith background he takes events in that literature literally.  He joins Martin Goodman, Barbara Levick and many others.  Mason believes what Josephus wrote.  

When was Antiquities Written? Was there an Earlier Version?   

On page 64 of Understanding Josephus, Mason asks a number of questions, which he rather arrogantly claims he is asking for the first time: "For whom did Josephus write, and what did he mean to tell them?  How can we match what is in his works to the particular social situations in which he wrote? How did his first hearers and readers in Rome understand his lengthy treatise?"

It didn't occur to Mason to ask when Antiquities was written?  Given Gregory Sterling's comments about the way historians rewrote ancient texts, this is a fair question for such a large work.  According to Note 3 to the Preface of Antiquities, it was published in CE 93 about 18 years after War. Mason believes this.  He writes: (Josephus and the New Testament, page 102): "We can decide the matter for Josephus only by asking whether there were Gentiles in Rome at the end of the first century who were eager to learn about Judaism."  He assumes with other scholars that Antiquities was written at the end of the first century.  You don't have to be a Mason to recognise that Antiquities is replete with interpolations (many obvious with no context) and editorial.  These are sure signs of a document that was written earlier and then tampered with.  The 'matter' of Gentiles being interested in Judaism had surfaced in the court of the emperor Claudius, and probably a long time before that. Because of the length of time it would have taken to write, an earlier version (the original) would have been written well before any 'war' with the Romans. This of raises the question of the very existence of Josephus.  The style of the original author of Antiquities has been imitated by the Church Fathers.  

Paul Berry writes extensively in the Christian Inscription at Pompeii, that the Romans regarded the Greek people and language as beneath them.  Berry actually devotes 6 pages of his book  (p.40-45) to the subject.  He says they did not consider fluency in Greek in keeping with the Roman character.  In one of his citations, he quotes the Roman poet Juvenal, who describes the clatter of the back streets: "All that Greek!  When it should be so much the greater shame not to fully command our Latin.  They simply tremble in that lingo -- their ire, their gaiety, their woe -- all poured forth from the inmost soul.  How else?  In that baby-talk Greek.  Permissible maybe in girls, yet even those eighty-six years old still vibrating in Greek?  A deplorable speech for the mature."  So who did produce the Greek version of Antiquities?  The finger of guilt points to the early Church Fathers.  

In the Preface to Antiquities, Josephus says it was "a large subject", and very strangely , "it was "difficult to translate", so the "work went slowly".  Translate into Greek from which language?  Greek was supposed to have been well understood by priests and Jews in general, and they had the Jewish bible in Greek.  And why a translation at all if Josephus was the original writer?   The answer must be that Antiquities was originally written in Latin by a Jew who had lived in Rome for a long time and had mixed with the Roman elite from whom he had learned the language.  I think that Jew was Agrippa I.  

In the short space of the two pages of the Preface, the words law, or lawgiver or legislator occur 12 times.  The writer's aim is clear.  He sees the legislator Moses as the dispenser of Gods' laws which if a person obeys he will have "perfect virtue".  But Moses was not of the tribe of Aaron and therefore not a high priest or priest which Josephus supports.   Moses not only legislated for priests but prophets also.  In his books Understanding Josephus, and Josephus, Judea and Christian Origins, Mason doesn't mention prophets once.  What did happen to the prophets?  Moses said,  "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them" (Num.11.29).   And "he (Moses) took the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again" (Num.11.25).  The footnote has: or, "they prophesied and continued to do so".  "Moses placed the gold altar in the Tent of Meeting in front of the curtain and then burned incense on it." (Ex.40.26).  The prophets have been written out of history, and hence out of Antiquities, by the Church Fathers who became Christian priests, with the mutual agreement of the Romans who had had terrible wars with the prophets and their followers across the Mediterranean world.  The prophetic movement was indeed the early original Christians.  They consisted of Jews and Gentiles, who obeyed the Spirit.  From the time of Judas Maccabeus the priests had been thrown out of the temple.  

In writing his version of Antiquities, 'Josephus' (a Church Father) says in the Preface that he was "imitating the generosity of the high priest Eleazar" who supposedly shared the Jewish laws with the Egyptian king Ptolemy II.  But Eleazar didn't appear that generous, because Josephus says the interpreters that Eleazar supposedly sent to Alexandria gave Ptolemy "only the books of the law" ("while there were a number of other matters in our sacred books").  So this was how 'Josephus' was going to imitate the generosity of "our high priest".  This is inconsistent with the actual story in Antiquities.  It is clear that 'Josephus' (a Church Father) is a supporter of  high priests.  The whole story is a pack of lies.  There were tens of thousand Jews living in Egypt at the time.  Many would have understood Hebrew and Greek, and be able to translate from one language to the other.  Also there was a temple at Leontopolis in Egypt which presumably was different in some way from that in Jerusalem.  It probably did not have animal sacrifice.  There would have been Jews there who were capable translators.  In the text of 'Josephus', it is quite clear that the Jews of Egypt (supporters of prophets) and the priests of Judea were enemies.  

'Josephus' has it that Epaphroditus encouraged him to get on with his Antiquities as he and other Greeks were keen to know the history of "our nation".  I only know one such Epaphroditus. He was Nero's secretary, Tiberias Claudius Epaphroditus.  But that Epaphroditus was earlier than the time 'Josephus' was supposed to have written Antiquities.  And do you think that the secretary to Nero would have known Latin?  Agrippa I was keen for Claudius and the rest of the Roman elite to know about the form of Judaism practiced by the prophets, but it would have to be in Latin.  Agrippa wrote antiquities in Latin in which he had been schooled in Rome.

Does this all sound somewhat suspicious?  Do you think Josephus was a fraudster? 

Larry Loves to Cut and Run 

I wrote to his blog https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/christians-and-the-codex-encore/#comments:
Of course the codex was the principal method of transmitting propaganda. The editing of Antiquities and the writing of War are two prime examples. Never mind that the historians of the day used the codex also to write their histories at the behest of their masters, the Flavians. How else would Josephus have interpolated 13.5.9 to the time of Antiochus (about Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees) into Antiquities. So many witnesses you say to Nero being bad, that they must be believed! Well, I would remind you of a number of a number deaths at the time: Nero, Agrippina, Poppea, Burrus, Epaphroditus and Seneca. I find it much more difficult to accept that these were not murdered by the same elite who mocked Nero. Dirty business and the creation of the codex went together.  

Larry replied:
"I presume that you have some basis for your wild claim about “the codex was the principal method of transmitting propaganda”: Some actual manuscripts, for example? Some textual references to that effect? Or (as I suspect) your own imagination?  
Ancient writers used wooden-frame tablets (wax writing surface) often for making notes, drafting preliminary thoughts, etc., to be sure. But the published version of literary texts was a bookroll. Which we can establish if you care to consult the 14,000 plus items on the LDAB database.  As for your final comments, I have no idea what you mean, “dirty business and the creation of the codex went together,” but, Geoff, it all sounds rather raving loony."

Well Larry, you knew what you were asking for when you wrote "some actual manuscripts, for example?"  It appears that only one fragment of a parchment manuscript from the time of Josephus does exist (See below).  

Then I wrote to a latin Scholar (Professor Mary Beard),an email dated  22/02/2016: "I am interested in the earliest codices used in Rome.  What I am interested in is the possibility that the codex was used by the elite for communicating propaganda. I believe Martial had some of his poems produced in codex form and sold in a shop. It seems to me that the contemporary elite would have spotted an opportunity before the technology was available in a shop."  She replied the same day: "That is certainly a possibility. The whole history of the transition from roll to codex is more complicated than people often imagine." 

My replies to Larry's Blog which he refused to publish

Larry loves to take the mick but won't allow a response - I wrote several replies to his blog but he refused to publish them.  I wrote in effect:  

1. "Larry, I don’t think my comment about Ant.13.5.9 being an interpolation was raving loony. This text sticks out like a veritable sore thumb as an interpolation. I repeat, how else would Josephus or another writer have incorporated that text without having a codex available to edit a page. Remember there were no word processors to rapidly produce large quantities of text. And similar considerations apply to other small areas of the writings attributed to Josephus which must have been in codex form. These writings were the propaganda of Josephus (the second/third century Church Fathers) and the Roman elite, acting together, with purpose. Do you have any evidence of a section of text being sewn into one of your 14000 bookrolls? That is the only other explanation."

2. “Larry, I found this extract in The History of Information.com. It speaks of the development of the codex using parchment at the critical time when Josephus would have been writing.  The papyrus or parchment codex was a Roman innovation. The earliest certain reference to a parchment notebook appears in the Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian composed in the last years of the reign of the Emperor Domitian, the final decade of the first century CE. 2.C.5 About 85 CE, the poet Martial left the first surviving mention of literary works published in parchment codices, emphasizing their compactness, their handiness for the traveller, and providing the name of the shop where such novelties could be bought. From this early period only a single leaf fragment of a parchment codex has survived, with writing on both sides of the parchment–a fragment of an anonymous work entitled De bellis Macedonicis found at Oxyrthynchus (elephantnose fish), Egypt, and acquired by the British Museum in 1900.”

3."Larry, it appears that small codices could be purchased in a shop as a novelty at the time of Martial who refers to them as compact and handy for the traveller. The parchment would have been written on each side. The traveller would no longer have had to carry a bundle of bookrolls written single-sided on papyrus which wore out the text as they were rolled and unrolled. Apparently papyrus from Egypt was in short supply in Rome. Animal skins were easily available.  This suggests to me that the technology of codex production using parchment had filtered down from elite circles to have become common-place in shops. The lesson would not have been lost on the elite who would have recognised the advantages of the codex for spreading information. Of course the climate in Europe didn’t exactly encourage the survival of what must have been a large quantity of Roman manuscripts written in Latin, especially if they had been carried around, and not left in libraries. And Rome had more than its fair share of fires."

4. "Larry, looking at the LDAB database one might easily conclude that most ancient manuscripts were written in Greek, and that Romans must have been illiterate.  Never mind that Egypt where most of the LDAB database originates had a dry climate in sharp contrast to the European climate.

So you see Larry, the Roman elite were ahead of the game."  The codex was in use at the time Josephus was writing.  The fragment of the De bellis Macedonicis codex found in Egypt was written in Latin on both sides and is of the same period at which Josephus was writing. 

Larry's rant about me being ignorant (showing that he read my posts but did not have the grace to publish them)

"The Codex and Ignorance February 5, 2016
One persistent commenter in response to my earlier posting about Christian preference for the codex has confidently posited things that only illustrate his ignorance of the data about ancient manuscripts. I shall, therefore, neither post his comments nor name him. Instead, I take this opportunity to correct his ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant of some specialized subject–we’re all in that situation on this or that one. But it’s passing strange for someone so obviously inadequately informed then to make confident (even arrogant) claims based on his ignorance. That is not acceptable. But now to the corrections."

We are all learning Larry. The ignorance seems to be coming from you.

"First, he incorrectly claimed that people must have used the codex much more regularly than the MSS data indicate, for otherwise how would they have made insertions of material into texts? Several errors here. For one thing, the way ancient texts were altered (by omissions, additions, other changes) wasn’t mechanically by physically adding or cutting out bits. Instead, it was in the copying process. Each time a given text was copied, there was the opportunity of making changes, either accidentally or deliberately. Texts on rolls could be changed just as easily as those on codices."

So Larry reckons that the way documents were changed or edited was by copying them, a process which would have been necessary in the case of a bookroll, but not in the case of a codex, as I show in the section on Turner below.

"The physical book-form had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, as to codices, the earliest form seems to have been “single gathering” construction, a number of sheets laid on top of one another and then folded and stitched together. You couldn’t remove individual leaves, as each leaf was one half of a folded sheet. And on all the sheets, except the most inside one, one leaf had material from the early part of the text, and the other leaf had material from another, later part of the text. So, if you removed one sheet, you made two deletions, not one. And if you added a sheet or removed one, you would have to take the whole codex apart and then re-sew it together again. As for multiple-gathering codices, there also removing or adding leaves wasn’t an easy task. You see? One really needs to study the physical items closely before making claims."

The physical book form had everything to do with it. A codex could be taken apart easily by a skilled craftsman or scribe, as I show in the section on Turner. Leaves could then be exchanged for edited new leaves, whether it was in single gatherings (four pages, double-sided) or multiple gatherings. This would have involved far less work than a rewrite.
"Second, he claimed that, because the data on the Leuven Database of Ancient Books was heavily based on papyri from Egypt (where conditions more readily made for the survival of papyri), we can’t apply these data (particularly the obvious preponderance of the bookroll for literary texts all through the first three centuries AD) generally. In Rome (he claimed), things could be different, and he proposed that there the codex was more heavily used. Well, again, ignorance is the mother of the claim. For we do have data about preferred bookforms in Rome and the West from the early centuries. For example, there is the library found in Herculaneum, which comprised a few hundred papyrus bookrolls of literary texts that were carbonized in the eruption of Mt. Visuvius in 79 AD. So, wrong again. All actual data confirm that the bookroll was the preferred bookform for literary texts in this early period, East or West, Greek or Latin. Martial’s famous Epigrams include mention of what he describes as an experiment of a local bookseller in preparing small, portable leather codices of his poetry for travellers. But it’s clear that this was a rather isolated experiment, and not indicative of any larger pattern. I’ve actually gone through the LDAB listing of all second-century non-Christian codices (there aren’t that many), and confirmed that they largely are workaday collections of recipes, astronomical tables, magical formulas, etc., with a few examples of copies of literary texts."

The manuscripts found at Herculaneum were the charred remains of papyrus bookrolls. They could have been any age. And Herculaneum was not Rome where the development of the codex was taking place. It certainly is not clear that Martial's use of the codex was an isolated experiment. What I am saying is that the codex was being used by the elite (the Flavians) for propaganda purposes. Larry's argument about the LDAB database is misleading. He interprets the data from one place in Egypt as being generally applicable, including in Rome from where no parchment codices have survived from the period. This is unscientific to say the least, particularly, as I have said, that the dry climate of Egypt lent itself to the preservation of manuscripts. The codex was a Roman invention, double-sided on Parchment. The earliest parchment fragment in Latin, probably from Rome, only survived because it was taken to Egypt.

"My illinformed commenter could do well to take the time to do such work before making further claims. So, bottom line: The bookroll was overwhelmingly the preferred book form for literary texts all through antiquity till sometime in the 4th century AD, and continued to be used heavily even after that. E.g., per the LDAB, about 98% of second-century nonChristian copies of literary texts are bookrolls. By contrast, Christians overwhelmingly preferred the codex, with particular fervency for those literary texts that they treated as scripture."

Now I will correct what Larry should have said, if he was being honest. The bookroll was the overwhelmingly preferred bookform till sometime in the 4th century, for manuscripts produced in Egypt.  Ignorance is bliss for Larry.

The Typology of the Early Codex by Eric G Turner

This was one of the books recommended by Larry.   Turner writes on page 2: "The story of the codex in the Latin west of the Empire will not be my concern."  Thus Turner forms general conclusions about codices from his studies of papyrus codices found largely in Egypt.  (See  page 32).  This was Turner's big assumption and a big mistake.                   

Turner almost contradicts himself in a Chapter on The Priority of Parchment or Papyrus. On page 40 he writes: "Points in favor of  the priority of parchment are no doubt the Latin term "membranae" applied to parchment notebooks used for business purposes, as C H Roberts has shown, and then perhaps extended; and the references in Martial to what seem to be early parchment codices (such as the "Livius in membranis").  A stronger argument than any of these may be the consideration that in Egyptian book technique (Turner is back to Egypt) the papyrus roll was so firmly entrenched that a major shock was needed to prompt the experiments that resulted in its eventually being supplanted by the codex. ....There must have been a powerful motive for using the codex form."  The desire to publicize Christianity is often advanced as this motive.  But what was the shock? 

Could a Codex be Changed Easily without Re-writing the Text Completely?
In codex terminology, a sheet is a folded piece of parchment that makes four sides or pages of a manuscript.  A gathering is a number of these sheets sewn together along the folds.  Thus a sheet would have the first two pages as right and left pages written on two sides.  But the next two pages would be out of sequence with the first two.  Then a number of these gatherings would be sewn together to form a codex.  On page 73 at the start of the chapter: The Codex and the Scribe, Turner poses the question: "Did the scribe make up his codex and fasten it together before he copied his text into it?"  Turner says: "We may proceed some way toward an answer by first considering what is implied in the procedure of copying a codex. Palaeographers have assumed in the past that the great vellum codices were written sheet by sheet; that is, in order to be written, the sheets were separated from the gathering into which they had been assembled (and through the whole body of which gatherings they were pricked).  Each sheet was laid by itself in its turn on the scribe's knee or writing desk.  Only when writing was completed were they reassembled and then stitched."  Turner then says: "That this was the procedure is mainly a matter of inference, but it is in itself eminently sensible."

Thus according to Turner, this was the normal way a scribe wrote a codex.  So what might the scribe do if he wanted to change or edit a manuscript?  Using his normal skills, it would be little trouble to remove the stitching and change the text of the sheets that he wished to edit or introduce changes to.  And this could be done without the necessity of re-writing the complete manuscript as he would have to do in the case of a papyrus bookroll, Larry.  This argument is important as it will be used to illustrate the "shock" referred to previously.  It involves what Gregory Sterling referred to: "The practice of rewriting texts and offering the retelling as an authorial composition."  In particular, it involves the re-writing or editing the sheets and pages of an existing Antiquities parchment codex by Josephus. Sterling almost implies Antiquities was treated so.  Thus he wrote: "These traditions (re-writing or editing) converge in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus."     

The Children and Grandchildren of Herod were Educated at Rome 
This was particularly important for my argument.   It meant that the elite of Judea would have known Latin extremely well in both its spoken and written forms.  They would have communicated with their Roman equivalents using the Roman language, not Greek which the Romans regarded as inferior.  The young Jewish students would have shared their history and beliefs with their Roman counterparts.  They would have explained that there were two kinds of priestliness established by Moses, prophets and priests between whom there was great rivalry.  This had boiled over into outright war at the time of Antiochus who supported the priests, and Judas Maccabeus who supported the prophets.  

A few of the children said that they followed the priests.  These had been exiled from the temple since the time of Judas when animal sacrifices were banned.  The priests had continued their work as priests working in the towns and cities, relying on the people for their livelihood.  The majority of the children said that they preferred the prophets with their traditions of bravery, as their ancestors the Hasmoneans had done.  The prophets were hard working in many practical jobs like farming, construction and leather working.   They were basically peaceful but were fearless while under persecution by the priests, bearing all sorts of punishments stoically.  They would give much of their spare time to the study of the bible, and officiating in the temple at the altar of incense.  Now this chatter did not go unnoticed by the Roman tutors and parents of the elite class. 

Claudius was Emperor with a Wife Agrippina and an Adopted Son Nero (See https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=14512636#editor/target=post;postID=8511344089794594531;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=5;src=postname)
At this time Agrippa I had become king of Judea, having inherited the kingdom from his father Aristobulus.  (Josephus has two Aristobulus's existing at the same time).  Claudius and Agrippa were great friends.  Agrippa had been a pupil in Rome and had lived with Claudius.   

Ant.20.2 is really about the great friendship between Agrippa I, Nero, his mother the empress Agrippina, and the emperor Claudius.  When Nero was about sixteen, Agrippa invited Nero to stay in Judea.   Agrippa I gave him some lands that included Ein Gedi.  While Nero was at Ein Gedi, a prophet, James, employed by the king, came and taught him to worship God in the Spirit. There was opportunity for Nero to visit the king and his son in Masada.  Nero was familiar with Masada and its surrounding lands.  The Dead Sea is a fertile place being rich in ammonium salts. His father Claudius requested that Nero went home on different occasions.  James travelled with him.  James met and taught Agrippina to obey the Spirit and join the prophets. That the following text from Ant.20.2 was reconstructed from text that was about Nero, a simpleton could recognise, but apparently some professors do not.   

"About this time it was that [Helena] {Agrippina}, [queen of Adiabene] {the empress}, and her son [Izates] {Nero}, changed their course of life, and embraced the [Jewish customs] {Spirit of God}, and this on the occasion following: [Monobazus] {Claudius} [, the king of Adiabene] {Caesar}, who had also the name of [Bazeus] {Nero}, fell in love with his [sister] {brother’s daughter} [Helena] {Agrippina}, and took her to be his wife, and [begat] {adopted} her [with] child. ...And when his son was [born] {adopted}, he called him [Izates] {Nero}. He had indeed [Monobazus] {Britannicus}, his [elder brother] {son}, by [Helena] {Messalina} also, as he had [other sons] {a daughter Octavia} by [other wives] {her} besides. Yet did he openly place all his affections on this his [only begotten] {adopted} son [Izates] {Nero}, which was the origin of that envy which his other brethren, [by the same father,] bore to him; [while on this account they hated him more and more, and were all under great affliction that their father should prefer Izates before them]. Now although their father was very sensible of these their passions, yet did he forgive them, as not indulging those passions out of an ill disposition, but out of a desire each of them had to be beloved by their father. However, he sent [Izates] {Nero}, with many presents, to [Abennerig] {Agrippa}, the king of [Charax-Spasini] {Judea}, [and that out of the great dread he was in about him, lest he should come to some misfortune by the hatred his brethren bore him]; and he committed his son's preservation to him. Upon which [Abennerig] {Agrippa} gladly received the young man, and had a great affection for him, and... embraced him after the most affectionate manner, and bestowed on him the country called [Carra] {Ein Gedi}; it was a soil that bare amomum in great plenty: there are also [in it] the remains of that [ark] {pillar of salt}, wherein it is related that [Noah escaped the deluge] {Lot’s wife was buried} [, and where they are still shown to such as are desirous to see them.] Accordingly, [Izates] {Nero} abode in [that country] {Ein Gedi} [until his father's death].   ...3.Now, during the time [Izates] {Nero} abode at [Charax-Spasini] {Ein Gedi}, a [certain Jewish merchant] {prophet}, whose name was [Ananias] {James}, [got among the women] that belonged to the king, [and] taught [them] {him} to worship God [according to the Jewish religion] {in the Spirit}...He also, at the earnest entreaty of [Izates] {Nero}, accompanied him when he was sent for by his father to come to [Adiabene] {Rome}; ....and he said that he might worship God without {being circumcised] {sacrifice}; which worship of God was of a superior nature to [circumcision] {sacrifice}.  He added that God would forgive him, though he did not [perform the operation] {sacrifice}....5.But as to [Helena] {Agrippina}, the [king's] {emperor’s} [mother] {wife}, when she saw that [the affairs of Izates's kingdom were in peace, and that] her son was a happy man, and admired among all men, and even among foreigners, by the means of God's [providence] {Spirit} over him, she had a mind to go to the city of Jerusalem, in order to worship at that temple of God which was so very famous among all men, and to offer her thank-offerings there.  So she desired her [son] {HUSBAND} to give her leave to go thither; upon which he gave his consent to what she desired very willingly, and made great preparations for her dismission, and gave her a great deal of money, and she went down to the city Jerusalem[, her son conducting her on her journey a great way].  Now her coming was of very great advantage to the [people] {prophets} of Jerusalem; for whereas [a famine] {the priests} did oppress them at that time, and many [people] {prophets} died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal, [queen Helena] {Agrippina} sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others of them to Cyprus, to bring a cargo of dried figs. And as soon as they were come back, and had brought those provisions, which was done very quickly, she distributed food to those that were in want of it, and left a most excellent [memorial] {remembrance} behind her of this benefaction [, which she bestowed on our whole nation]. And when her [son Izates] {husband Claudius} was informed of this [famine] {persecution}, he sent great sums of money to the principal [men] {prophets} in Jerusalem."