My first encounter with Flavius Josephus—the man whom famed Church historian, Eusebius, called the most famous Jew of his time— and Josephus’s epic work, Antiquities of the Jews, was as an undergraduate student browsing my university library.
Twenty dusty (and, it seemed, deservedly, lonely) leather-bound volumes on a top-shelf row in a shadowy corner of the reference section, appearing to have never been touched.
I desperately wanted to read the prodigious work from cover to cover, but I also hoped to finish school, find a job and someday start a family. Reading Josephus, back then, seemed incompatible with life.
Widely credited with providing posterity with details of ancient life not found in any other record, the Antiquities have now been made more accessible than ever by my friend, Miriam Maranzenboim, whose book, Josephus, The History of the Jews is, as its cover claims, Condensed in Simple English.
The first update of the Antiquities in nearly 300 years, it’s easy to read and understand and can also serve as a reference.
The Antiquities were written in the 13th year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian, around AD 93. The first ten volumes follow the historical books of the Hebrew Bible. The second ten continue the history beyond the biblical text, up to the Jewish War. In its preface, Josephus writes:
Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study; for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Almost two millennia later, Maranzenboim’s condensation will appear more than worthy of study to modern readers who lack the time to plow through 20 volumes.