Josephus’ book War of the Jews and biblical history.
People often have a presumptuous approach towards Bible scriptures. This is typically the case with individuals who have naturalistic views of the world. They are certain that nothing supernatural exists and that the existence of our universe and life can be explained without God. Yet if they are asked a few simple questions about the beginning, they are unable to give rational and scientific answers. These people might get confused or fail to rationally answer these kinds of questions:
• How can anything appear from nothingness or from emptiness, as supposedly happened in the Big Bang? This idea goes against real natural science and practical observations. David Berlinski commented on this mathematical dilemma: ”It is pointless to argue that something comes into existence out of nothing, when any given mathematician understands this to be complete nonsense” (Ron Rosenbaum: ”Is the Big Bang Just a Big Hoax? David Berlinski Challenges Everyone.” New York Observer 7.7.1998)
• How was it possible for hydrogen to transform itself into things like people, rocks, fish, flowers or singing birds? Have we experienced something similar today, where hydrogen becomes a person, animal or a plant? Or is it safe to say these kinds of ideas are closer to science fiction than real science?
• If life came about by itself, why has no one been able to prove it?
• If all the current species stem from one shared original cell, it should mean that we see an abundance of semi developed senses, feet, arms and other organs. Why are all current species, and fossils alike, fully formed then? Even Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has admitted this: ”The reality based on observations is that every species and every organ inside a species that so far has been examined is good at what it does. The wings on birds, bees and bats are good for flying. Eyes are good at seeing. Leaves are good at photosynthesis. We live on a planet, where we are surrounded by perhaps ten million species, which all independently indicate a strong illusion of apparent design. Every species fits well into its special lifestyle.” (Richard Dawkins: Jumalharha (The God Delusion), p. 153)
What can be deduced from the above? The examples clearly illustrate that the standard naturalistic theories about the beginning are products of imagination. They have nothing to do with science, despite some atheist scientists claiming otherwise. Real science has never been able to demonstrate the birth of galaxies, stars or the beginning of life, as admitted by some honest scientists.
What about the history of the Bible? It is true, we cannot prove historical events afterwards. For instance, creation is not provable afterwards – although, the former examples prove it to be a more realistic option than naturalistic origin theories – and such is the case with other biblical events. That is, if other sources also refer to these events, people and places, it is arguably reasonable to assume the Bible is historically accurate. The more there are instances of other sources mentioning the same things as the Bible, the more reliable we can view the Bible to be.
Next, we are going to look at War of the Jews, a work by Josephus. (Josephus also wrote another well-known piece ”Antiquities of the Jews” , which contains numerous references to the events from the Old Testament and figures of the New Testament: high priests Annas and Caiaphas, many rulers, John the Baptist, Jesus and the death of Jesus’ brother Jacob.). It is a fascinating piece, which addresses the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and events that led to such devastation.
This is interesting, because Josephus was a part of these events. As a Jew, he took part in the rebellion, and was one of the leading figures, but later took the Romans’ side, when he was taken captive. After which he tried to influence his fellow countrymen, in order to save Jerusalem and the Temple. He’s pleading did not pay out, however, and in the end, Jerusalem was besieged, and the temple destroyed – events foretold by Daniel and Jesus, among others.
We are going to further investigate the work of Josephus, War of the Jews, below.
Exodus from Egypt and miracles. First, we’ll have a quick glance behind a few millennia. Josephus mentioned the Israelis’ history in Egypt in the preface of War of the Jews. In his speech for his own people he also referred to the miracles of Egypt and the latter exile in Babylon. He might not have brought up these things if they hadn’t been considered real history by the Jews:
Preface 6. To write concerning the Antiquities of the Jews, who they were [originally], and how they revolted from the Egyptians, and what country they traveled over, and what countries they seized upon afterward, and how they were removed out of them, I think this not to be a fit opportunity, and, on other accounts, also superfluous; and this because many Jews before me have composed the histories of our ancestors very exactly
Book 5 / 9:4. While Josephus was making this exhortation to the Jews, many of them jested upon him from the wall, and many reproached him; nay, some threw their darts at him: but when he could not himself persuade them by such open good advice, he betook himself to the histories belonging to their own nation… Shall I say nothing, or shall I mention the removal of our fathers into Egypt, who, (17) when they were used tyrannically, and were fallen under the power of foreign kings for four hundred ears together, and might have defended themselves by war and by fighting, did yet do nothing but commit themselves to God! Who is there that does not know that Egypt was overrun with all sorts of wild beasts, and consumed by all sorts of distempers? how their land did not bring forth its fruit? how the Nile failed of water? how the ten plagues of Egypt followed one upon another? and how by those means our fathers were sent away under a guard, without any bloodshed, and without running any dangers, because God conducted them as his peculiar servants?... You are also acquainted with the slavery we were under at Babylon, where the people were captives for seventy years; yet were they not delivered into freedom again before God made Cyrus his gracious instrument in bringing it about; accordingly they were set free by him, and did again restore the worship of their Deliverer at his temple.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees can be seen appearing in the New Testament several times. For example, Matthew 16:1 tells how these two groups approached Jesus: “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.” Furthermore, the Acts contains references to these groups and to their differences. Paul was accused before the council, and his words caused a dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees:
- (Acts 23:6-10) But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
Below are some mentions Josephus made of the two religious groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who can be seen on numerous occasions in the New Testament, often as opponents to Jesus and the disciples:
Book 1 / 5:2 And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government. These are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately. low Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs: they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [men] at their pleasure;
Book 2 / 8:2 For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essens.
Book 2 / 8:14 But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned, the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect. These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does co-operate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, - but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment. But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men's own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades.
Pentecost, Easter and other Jewish celebrations are familiar to us from the Bible. Josephus also made a reference to these celebrations, which originate thousands of years back all the way to the time of Moses:
Book 1 / 13:3 Now when that festival which we call Pentecost was at hand, all the places about the temple, and the whole city, was full of a multitude of people that were come out of the country, and which were the greatest part of them armed also
Book 2 / 1:3 … And indeed, at the feast of unleavened bread, which was now at hand, and is by the Jews called the Passover, and used to he celebrated with a great number of sacrifices, an innumerable multitude of the people came out of the country to worship
Book 2 / 3:1 Now when that feast, which was observed after seven weeks, and which the Jews called Pentecost, (i. e. the 50th day,) was at hand, its name being taken from the number of the days [after the passover], the people got together, but not on account of the accustomed Divine worship, but of the indignation they had ['at the present state of affairs']. Wherefore an immense multitude ran together, out of Galilee, and Idumea, and Jericho, and Perea, that was beyond Jordan; but the people that naturally belonged to Judea itself were above the rest, both in number, and in the alacrity of the men.
Book 2 / 17:10 …so that the city was filled with sadness, and every one of the moderate men in it were under great disturbance, as likely themselves to undergo punishment for the wickedness of the seditious; for indeed it so happened that this murder was perpetrated on the sabbath day, on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of Divine worship.
Book 4 / 7:2 …But when once they were informed that the Roman army lay still, and that the Jews were divided between sedition and tyranny, they boldly undertook greater matters; and at the feast of unleavened bread, which the Jews celebrate in memory of their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, when they were sent back into the country of their forefathers, they came down by night, without being discovered by those that could have prevented them, and overran a certain small city called Engaddi:
Book 5 / 5:7. …The high priest did also go up with them; not always indeed, but on the seventh days and new moons, and if any festivals belonging to our nation, which we celebrate every year, happened.
Cesar, Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius are well-known in historical literature, and they have also been mentioned by Josephus. He talked about the murder of Cesar, Cleopatras evil nature, and Antonius. Similar themes have been addressed in many films. In the following quotation Josephus refers to Herod, who also appears, e.g., in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 2:1: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,):
Book 1 / 11:1. THERE, was at this time a mighty war raised among the Romans upon the sudden and treacherous slaughter of Caesar by Cassius and Brutus, after he had held the government for three years and seven months. (14) Upon this murder there were very great agitations, and the great men were mightily at difference one with another, and every one betook himself to that party where they had the greatest hopes of their own, of advancing themselves.
Book 1 / 14:2 So when Herod … when he came into the city, he was received by Cleopatra with great splendor, who hoped he might be persuaded to be commander of her forces in the expedition she was now about; but he rejected the queen's solicitations, and being neither aftrighted at the height of that storm which. then happened, nor at the tumults that were now in Italy, he sailed for Rome.
Book 1 / 18:4 Hereupon king Herod distinguished the multitude that was in the city; and for those that were of his side, he made them still more his friends by the honors he conferred on them; but for those of Antigonus's party, he slew them; and as his money ran low, he turned all the ornaments he had into money, and sent it to Antony, and to those about him. Yet could he not hereby purchase an exemption from all sufferings; for Antony was now bewitched by his love to Cleopatra, and was entirely conquered by her charms. Now Cleopatra had put to death all her kindred, till no one near her in blood remained alive, and after that she fell a slaying those no way related to her.
Herod the Great and Archelaus. The former quotations already mentioned Herod. He was an enthusiast developer of construction – he built, e.g., the temple in Jerusalem, the Antonia Fortress, the mountain fortress of Masada and he also founded the city of Caesarea, also known from the Acts – but he was also a ruthless king.
There is no doubt of his cruelty, after he killed his own wife Mariamne and their three sons, among so many others. It has also been told that the king’s son Archelaus (Matt 2: 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:), who became king after Herod, danced, sung and celebrated on the day of his father’s death. This shows the way in which king Herod failed at his own family life:
Book 1 / 33:7 … hereupon the king cried out louder than his distemper would well bear, and immediately sent some of his guards and slew Antipater; he also gave order to have him buried at Hyrcanium, and altered his testament again, and therein made Archclaus, his eldest son, and the brother of Antipas, his successor, and made Antipas tetrarch.
Book 1 33:8 8. So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans. Now as for his fortune, it was prosperous in all other respects, if ever any other man could be so, since, from a private man, he obtained the kingdom, and kept it so long, and left it to his own sons; but still in his domestic affairs he was a most unfortunate man.
Judas the Galilean. In the Acts, in a speech by a law teacher Gamaliel, there is a reference to Judas the Galilean, who was a demagogue and a rebel of some sorts. Gamaliel said the following words before the council: (Acts 5:35-39): ”And said to them, You men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nothing. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God."
This same man, Judas Galilean, is also mentioned a few times in the book of Josephus. Moreover, the latter quotation refers to Cyrenius, the legate governor of Syria (Luke 2:2), as well as to the son of Judas the Galilean, who decades later fought against the Romans:
Book 2 / 8:1. AND now Archelaus's part of Judea … Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans and would after God submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders.
Book 2 / 17:8 In the mean time, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans,) took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod's armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem
Pilate is known for putting in place the execution of Jesus, after being incited by the public. For example, Roman Tacitus includes a mention of Jesus, Pilate and Tiberius in his Annals: ”The name had been given to them because of a certain Christ, whom the procurator Pontius Pilate condemned and nailed on the cross during the reign of Tiberius.”
Josephus has also referred to this ruler, whose name became known through Jesus. Additionally, he also in the same context mentions Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1) and Caesar Tiberius (Luke 4:1), who both appear in the New Testament:
Book 2 / 9:1 But when the Roman empire was translated to Tiberius, the son of Julia, upon the death of Augustus, who had reigned fifty-seven years, six months, and two days, both Herod and Philip continued in their tetrarchies
Book 2 / 9:2 Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem. This excited a very among great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden under foot; for those laws do not permit any sort of image to be brought into the city. Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Cesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell (9) down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights.
Caesar Claudius (Acts 18:2) and prefects Felix and Festus are all figures from the New Testament. The Acts contains a description of how Paul encountered both of these prefects (Acts 24:27-25:1: But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound. Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
Historian Josephus has also referred to Caesar Claudius and to both the prefects. In addition, he mentions the adopted son of Claudius, Nero, who became the leader after the death of his adoptive father.
Book 2/ 12:8 After this Caesar sent Felix, (16) the brother of Pallas, to be procurator of Galilee, and Samaria, and Perea, … But Claudius himself, when he had administered the government thirteen years, eight months, and twenty days, died, and left Nero to be his successor in the empire, whom he had adopted by his Wife Agrippina's delusions, in order to be his successor, although he had a son of his own, whose name was Britannicus, by Messalina his former wife, and a daughter whose name was Octavia, whom he had married to Nero; he had also another daughter by Petina, whose name was Antonia.
Book 2 / 14:1 NOW it was that Festus succeeded Felix as procurator, and made it his business to correct those that made disturbances in the country. So he caught the greatest part of the robbers, and destroyed a great many of them. But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as the other had done; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it.
High priest Ananias was the son of Annas, who had interrogated Jesus. The Acts tell us how Paul encountered this high priest (Acts 23:1-5 and 24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.). Ananias also arrested Jacob, the brother of Jesus, and he was also the one behind his death. This is the reason why king Agrippa II fired high priest Ananias from his duty.
High priest Ananias can also be seen in the work of historian Josephus. In the following quotation Josephus also mentions Caesar Claudius and some cities known from the Bible, such as Jerusalem, Lydda (Acts 9:32) Antioch (Acts 11:26), and Rome.
Book 2 / 12:6 But Quadratus put both parties off for that time, and told them, that when he should come to those places, he would make a diligent inquiry after every circumstance. …but he sent two others of those that were of the greatest power among them, and both Jonathan and Ananias, the high priests, as also Artanus the son of this Ananias, and certain others that were eminent among the Jews, to Caesar; as he did in like manner by the most illustrious of the Samaritans. He also ordered that Cureanus [the procurator] and Celer the tribune should sail to Rome, in order to give an account of what had been done to Caesar. When he had finished these matters, he went up from Lydda to Jerusalem, and finding the multitude celebrating their feast of unleavened bread without any tumult, he returned to Antioch.
King Agrippa and his sister Bernice. Paul the Apostle was interrogated a few times. One of his trials were accompanied by king Agrippa and his sister Bernice. Below you can see how the Acts narrate the events. The latter quotation also refers to Paul’s discussion with king Agrippa:
- (Acts 25:13,14,22) And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to salute Festus.
14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause to the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, you shall hear him.
- (Acts 26:26-32) For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
27 King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe.
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.
29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only you, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
32 Then said Agrippa to Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Caesar.
Historian Josephus also mentions king Agrippa and his sister Bernice, who later became the lover of Caesar Titus:
Book 2 / 15:1 ABOUT this very time king Agrippa was going to Alexandria, to congratulate Alexander upon his having obtained the government of Egypt from Nero; but as his sister Bernice was come to Jerusalem, and saw the wicked practices of the soldiers, she was sorely affected at it, and frequently sent the masters of her horse and her guards to Florus, and begged of him to leave off these slaughters; … Which things Bernice was now performing, and stood barefoot before Florus's tribunal, and besought him [to spare the Jews]. Yet could she neither have any reverence paid to her, nor could she escape without some danger of being slain herself.
Book 2 / 16:3 …But Agrippa, although he thought it too dangerous a thing for them to appoint men to go as the accusers of Florus, yet did he not think it fit for him to overlook them, as they were in a disposition for war. He therefore called the multitude together into a large gallery, and placed his sister Bernice in the house of the Asamoneans, that she might be seen by them, (which house was over the gallery, at the passage to the upper city, where the bridge joined the temple to the gallery,) and spake to them as follows:
Book 2 / 16:5 When Agrippa had spoken thus, both he and his sister wept, and by their tears repressed a great deal of the violence of the people; but still they cried out, that they would not fight against the Romans, but against Florus, on account of what they had suffered by his means.
The Samaritans. One of the most famous tales of Jesus centers around the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The nation of Samaritans also appears several times in the notes of Josephus. Here is one of these accounts:
Book 3 / 7: 32. Nor did the Samaritans escape their share of misfortunes at this time; for they assembled themselves together upon file mountain called Gerizzim, which is with them a holy mountain, and there they remained; which collection of theirs, as well as the courageous minds they showed, could not but threaten somewhat of war; nor were they rendered wiser by the miseries that had come upon their neighboring cities.
References to people of the Old Testament. As mentioned, Josephus was a Jewish historian. That is why he was well aware of the past of his people, i.e., the history of Israel. In his book War of the Jews he brought up people, such as Moses, Joshua, Elisha, David and Solomon. He regarded all of them as real historical figures.
One of the more interesting remarks of Josephus relates to Abraham, who the Jews considered as their ancestor. In one of his speeches, Josephus said the following to his people: “…What was it that his man, our ancestor Abraham, had done then? Did he take revenge with weapons on the abuser?” (4.375.)
The former quotation shows how Josephus and the Jews regarded Abraham, who lived 2000 years before them, as their ancestor. It is a strong indicator to Abraham’s historicalness, because why would anyone make up such remarks.
Regions. Another indication of the historicalness of the Bible and the New Testament comes from the fact that mentions of some biblical places can also be found in other sources. For instance, in his book War of the Jews, Josephus has referred to many areas and regions that are usually known from the New Testament. Josephus brought up, e.g., the following geological locations in his work. The brackets indicate the same regions that are also found in the New Testament:
Judaea (Matt 3:5), Samaria (Luke 17:11), Galilee (Luke 17:11), Jeriko (Matt 20:29), the Lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1), the land of Sodom (Matt 10:15), the mount of Olives (Matt 24:3), the pool of Siloam (John 9:7), Nain (Luke 7:11), Tiberias (John 6:1), Idumaea (Mark 3:8), Emmaus (Luke 24:13), Decapolis (Matt 4:25), Pamphylia (Acts 2:10), Lydda (Acts 9:32), Caesarea (Acts 8:40), Laodicea (Rev 3:14), Antioch (Acts 11:19), Bitynia (Acts 16:7), Cappadocia (Acts 2:9), Lycia (Acts 27:5) Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39), Joppa (Acts 9:36), Neapolis (Acts 16:11), Rome (Acts 19:21)…
Destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. As previously discussed, War of the Jews by Josephus centers around the siege of Jerusalem and how it and the temple got destroyed. Josephus’ work brings up different stages that led to the besiege of Jerusalem and eventually to the destruction of the city and the temple.
What kind of places were Jerusalem and the temple before their demise? Babylonian Talmud (“from tract Tabernacle”) mentions the beauty of the city and its glorious temple: “One, who has not seen Jerusalem in its glory, has never seen a city of dreams. One, who has not seen the finished temple, has never seen a glorious building.”
Josephus, too, referred to the splendor of the temple. He wrote the following:
Book 1 / 21:1 1. ACCORDINGLY, in the fifteenth year of his reign, Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also, and the riches about it were unspeakable. A sign of which you have in the great cloisters that were erected about the temple, and the citadel which was on its north side.
What about the gospels? We can see Jesus and the disciples also talking about the city and the temple. The disciples and others marveled the beauty of Jerusalem and its temple, but Jesus began to talk about the destruction of the temple and the siege of Jerusalem. Although the temple was magnificent, it would end up in ruins.
Jesus was not the first to bring it up, however, since it was already foretold through Daniel 600 years prior, Jesus only added to what Daniel had prophesied. Jesus only directed His message to the current generation (Matt 23:36: Truly I say to you, All these things shall come on this generation.).
These words came true, when Titus, who later became the Caesar of Rome, marched to Jerusalem with his troops, besieged the city, and forced it to surrender by threats of starvation. This all resulted in the burning of the city, eradicating the temple built by Herod. The besiege claimed 1 100 000 of estimated casualties and nearly 100 000 people were captured. It is to this day one of the most devastating decimations.
We are going to look at prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple told by Daniel and Jesus - prophecies that were fulfilled in the year 70 AD:
- (Dan 9:25,26) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26 And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined.
- (Mark 13:1,2) And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
2 And Jesus answering said to him, See you these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.
- (Matt 23:37,38) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate.
- (Luke 19:41-44) And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42 Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hid from your eyes.
43 For the days shall come on you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side,
44 And shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone on another; because you knew not the time of your visitation.
- (Luke 21:5,6,20) And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
6 As for these things which you behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.
20 And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
Accordingly, Josephus told in War of the Jews how Jerusalem and the temple were eradicated. However, despite the siege of Romans, most of the destruction on the city was caused by the actions of rival bandit chiefs. Most notorious of them were John and Simon bar Giora. These two battled against each other, but they also anguished regular citizens. They stole food and supplies from the people; they abused and killed those people and they also prevented the people from fleeing the sieged city. They held people hostage and did not let them on the Roman side. Josephus described the malevolence and tyranny of the bandits as follows. These bandits were also responsible for setting the temple on fire; the Romans were not behind it:
Book 5 / 10:5 It is therefore impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men's iniquity. I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly: - That neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. Finally, they brought the Hebrew nation into contempt, that they might themselves appear comparatively less impious with regard to strangers. They confessed what was true, that they were the slaves, the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation, while they overthrew the city themselves, and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation, by acting gloriously against them, and did almost draw that fire upon the temple, which they seemed to think came too slowly; and indeed when they saw that temple burning from the upper city, they were neither troubled at it, nor did they shed any tears on that account, while yet these passions were discovered among the Romans themselves; which circumstances we shall speak of hereafter in their proper place, when we come to treat of such matters.
Why exactly did the demise of Jerusalem happen during the time of Josephus? He himself came up with a clear reason as to why: it was due the malevolence of the generation of that time. He wrote the following about the insanity of his generation:
Book 5 / 13:6 And here I cannot but speak my mind, and what the concern I am under dictates to me, and it is this: I suppose, that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, that the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom (20) perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.
Book 6 / 8:5 …And truly so it happened, that though the slayers left off at the evening, yet did the fire greatly prevail in the night; and as all was burning, came that eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem, a city that had been liable to so many miseries during this siege, that, had it always enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world. Nor did it on any other account so much deserve these sore misfortunes, as by producing such a generation of men as were the occasions of this its overthrow.
We should also look at what Jesus and the disciples said about this issue. Jesus stated how bad, adulterous and sinful His generation was. In addition, Paul too referred to the corruption of the Jews. His statement is interesting, because it was made a few years prior to the siege of Jerusalem. Hatred had already reached the people of Paul, his generation. God took away His protective hands from the generation that had plunged deeper into wickedness and defied the gospel of Christ. Unfortunately, similar progress can be seen taking place in the Western world today. Our society takes steps towards the same direction that led to the demise of Jerusalem:
- (Matt 12:38,39) Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from you.
39 But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
- (Mark 8:38) Whoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
- (1 Thess 2:15,16) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come on them to the uttermost.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!