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Re: orion-list Josephus Vita 9-12

Moshe Shulman wrote:
> Bob, I have another question for you. Josephus says his formal training was
> from 16-19. That can be at most 4 years. Three of which was in the desert.
> That means AT MOST he spent a full year learning about THREE groups. How
> much could he know? He later claims to be a very learned Pharisee, but
> whenever I read this, I start to wonder. Any thoughts on this?
> moshe shulman mshulman@NOSPAMix.netcom.com    718-436-7705

I would assume that a person such Josephus wants us to think he was -- and
I suspect him actually to have been (precocious, and from a privileged
priestly class in Jerusalem) -- already knew a great deal about the
"options" before he decided to explore them more closely, probably with a
view to actually joining one or another (he wants to "examine/test" each). 
He was in a position to know Pharisee priests (see, e.g. Vita 189-198!)
and probably he was also well acquainted with Sadducees as a youth (do his
relative distain for them and his brief treatment betray close
familiarity?), and perhaps was in part rebelling against that setting in
his teen-aged search. And at least at the dinner table (or wherever), I
imagine, he learned things to whet his appetite to know more about the
other options.  He seems to have had an early and abiding interest in
matters of Jewish "law" (Vita 9, 198), and he suggests that "full
membership" in the various "sects" may have been quite limited -- only "a
few" Sadducees (Antiq 18.17), about 4,000 Essenes (Antiq 18.20) and 6,000
Pharisees (reference?), in an estimated Palestinian Jewish population of
more than 250,000 (thus perhaps 5% total?!).

He seems to want us to believe that he ultimately decided not to join any
of the groups, in a formal sense, but for practical purposes adapted to a
Pharisaic outlook (see Steve Mason's work on Vita 12, already mentioned in
the earlier discussion, and Antiq 18.17, which may well be
autobiographical!). In his 4 years of exploring, including the lengthy
brush with Bannus (is Antiq 18.10 also autobiographical -- the young
people brought destruction on the people by becoming "zealous" for the
approach of the "fourth philosophy"!?), he apparently satisfied his
curiousity and backed off from his original quest. I think, given the
background from which he came, that he had plenty of time to learn what he
wanted to know and to choose the strategy that, at least in later life,
put him close to the Pharisaic camp. It would be interesting to know
whether, in fact (as perhaps his contemporary detractors were claiming),
the young Josephus made a more radical commitment to rebellious causes
than his extant rhetoric allows us to see.  He was bright, clever, and a
survivor. The exact path he took is less obvious.

Sorry for droning on. It's a way of procrastinating about less pleasant
administrative tasks. (I might have chosen the Therapeutae!) 
Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827
For private reply, e-mail to kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (Robert Kraft)
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