Josephus' Against the Greeks

Josephus' Against the Greeks: polemic treatise against the anti-Semitic slander of Apion of Alexandria.

Epaphroditus of Chaeronea
Epaphroditus of Chaeronea

The two volumes of Josephus' Against the Greeks, on the Antiquity of the Jewish people appeared in c.96. Dedicated to Epaphroditus, it is an apology of Judaism against all kinds of anti-Semitic slander, which had been collected by the Alexandrian author Apion in a History of Egypt; it is therefore also known as Against Apion. Josephus explains what Jewish cult, law, and religion are really about. Its conclusion is worth quoting:

I would therefore boldly maintain that the Jews have introduced to the rest of the world a very large number of beautiful ideas. What higher justice than obedience to the laws? What more beneficial than to be in harmony with one another, to be a prey neither to disunion in adversity, nor to arrogance and faction in prosperity; in war to despise death, in peace to devote oneself to crafts or agriculture; and to be convinced that everything in the whole universe is under the eye and direction of God?note

It is a pity that Against the Greeks did not find many readers. A few years after its appearance, the Roman historian Tacitus published his Histories, which is devoted to the civil wars of 'the long but single year' 69 and the siege of Jerusalem. There is not a single instance where Tacitus betrays knowledge of other sources than the anti-Semitic books Josephus had tried to refute.

This page was created in 1997; last modified on 6 May 2019.