Religions (Jan 2020)

On Triads, Teleology, and Tensions in <i>Antiquities</i> 18–20

  • Daniel R. Schwartz

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
p. 41


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Josephus liked to organize material in three-part structures, which imparted a sense of completion by indicating to readers that an end had been reached. This study focuses on Books 18−20 of Josephus’s Antiquities, which are organized as such a triad: Book 18 opens Roman rule in Judea and adumbrates the final clash and catastrophe, Book 19 creates some suspense by detailing two possible interruptions that could have changed the course of history but in the end came to nothing, and so Book 20 resumes the story from the end of Book 18 and takes it down to the destruction of Jerusalem. Moreover, all three books, together, form a unit in a larger triad: the story told, in the second half of Antiquities, of Judea’s move from sovereignty under the Hasmoneans (Books 12−14), to nominal sovereignty under Herod (Books 15−17), to subjugation to Rome (Books 18−20). This focus on political history is, however, contradicted in various ways, both by Josephus’s development from a Judean into a Jew of the Diaspora, who focused more on religion than on state, and by various sources used by Josephus, that pulled in other directions.