Monday, January 09, 2017

Why did Josephus write Against Apion?

The first book of Against Apion (AA) was directed at Greeks who disagreed with Josephus's account of Jewish history which could only have been his Antiquities.  This we know was heavily edited as I have described.  Josephus knew that the Greeks of Rome were critical of this work and that Jewish history was different.  His Flavian sponsors had read Antiquities and knew of the Greek criticism.  Hence they funded this further propaganda. One Greek who Josephus cynically acknowledges as "most excellent" is Epaphroditus  (AA 1: 1 and 2:1).  He was Nero's secretary.  Needless to say, when Josephus wrote AA, Epaphroditus was already dead, probably killed at the same time as his master for being atheist (not a worshipper of Roman gods). Josephus couldn't have picked a more perfect name to infuriate the Greeks of Rome. 

The Greek Apion appears in the first part of Book 2 followed by Appolonius Molo.  Then Josephus, a priest, seeks to justify the Jewish law as established by Moses, a prophet.  He finishes Book 2 with yet more hollow cynicism (AA 2: 295 and 296): "Let the Apions and the Molons, with all the rest of those that delight in lies and reproaches stand confuted; but let this and the foregoing book be dedicated to you, Epaphroditus, who are so great a lover of truth, and by your means to those that have been in like manner desirous to be acquainted with the affairs of our nation."  Epaphroditus (the Emperor Nero and other Roman elites) were more than interested in the "affairs of our nation".  They had become believers in the way of the Jewish prophets, the CHRISTIANOS as they were known in Italian circles. 

Josephus, a priest, had been captured by Nero's forces in 66 CE, probably at Qumran from one of the caves.  He was imprisoned by Nero but later released by Vespasian to work for him probably towards the end of the five or six years of the so-called revolt.  Josephus hated Nero and the prophets.  Vespasian exploited that hate. The false information put out by the Flavian propaganda machine is similar to that of the Russian intelligence led by Putin today.  One of the fanciful stories Josephus later concocted was about an agreement with 30 Jewish rebels to kill each other. There were two survivors, one of which was him.  He made out that he then surrendered to Vespasian's forces. 

Further proof that Antiochus wasn't interested in the money

For AA 2.83,84,85 Josephus wrote:  "But for Antiochus Epiphanes, he had no just cause for that ravage in our temple that he made; he only came to it when he wanted money, without declaring himself our enemy, and attacked us while we were his associates and his friends; nor did he find anything there that was ridiculous.  This is attested by many worthy writers; Polybius of Megalopolis, Strabo of Cappadocia, Nicolaus of Damascus, Timagenes, Castor the chronologer, and Apollodorus;  who all say it was out of Antiochus's want of money that he broke his league with the Jews, and despoiled their temple when it was full of gold and silver.  Apion ought to have had a regard to these facts, unless he had himself had either an ass's heart or a dog's impudence; for he had no other external reason for the lies he tells of us."  

Note 11:  "It is a great pity that that these six pagan authors, here mentioned to have described the famous profanation of the Jewish temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, should all BE LOST; I mean so far of their writings as contained that description; though it is plain Josephus perused them all as extant in his time."  

How could a scholar write such unbelievable rubbish?  What is plain is that none of the extant writings of these six authors contained a description of the profanation of the Jewish temple by Antiochus Epiphanes.  Josephus was writing propaganda.   Unlike Vespasian who ravaged the temple for its treasure and gold, Antiochus did not go after money.  He supported the priests and wanted to maintain animal sacrifice.  This would have unified his rule.  He persecuted the prophets who wanted to abolish animal sacrifice. Judas Maccabeus, a prophet descended from priests, led a rebellion and defeated Antiochus's generals.  The priests fled from the temple taking all its treasure and recorded where they had hidden it on the Copper Scroll.  (See my posts on the Copper Scroll, and The Source of Christianity). This may be an argument from silence, but there are so many like it in the writings attributed to Josephus that they amount to a scream.    

In Against Apion, the Romans were casting aspersions on the Greeks.  In this case it was to deflect attention from their own greed in ransacking the temple for its wealth.  The Greeks of Rome would not have been fooled.