BAR 36:03, May/Jun 2010
ReViews: Was Josephus a Traitor?
Jerusalem’s Traitor: Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea
By Desmond Seward
(Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009) xxii+314 pp., $28 (hardcover)
Josephus’s soul-stirring account of the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 C.E.), titled The Jewish War, has recently been translated from Greek into Hebrew by Lisa Ullman. In a review in Haaretz, Hebrew University political scientist Shlomo Avineri recalls a mock trial in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence in which Josephus was the defendant: Was Josephus a hero or a traitor? For many years such trials of Josephus were common in Israel. The unusual feature of the mock trial that Avineri recalls, however, is that there were two defendants: Josephus and Yohanan Ben Zakkai, the rabbinic leader who fled a besieged Jerusalem to the camp of the Roman Tenth Legion to ask the Roman commander Vespasian to spare Yavneh and its sages, a request that was granted.