The War of the Jews



By Flavius Josephus


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Josephus: The War of the Jews

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7












1. I SUPPOSE that by my books of the Antiquity of the Jews, most
excellent Epaphroditus, 2 have made it evident to those who peruse them,
that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity, and had a distinct
subsistence of its own originally; as also, I have therein declared how we
came to inhabit this country wherein we now live. Those Antiquities
contain the history of five thousand years, and are taken out of our sacred
books, but are translated by me into the Greek tongue. However, since I
observe a considerable number of people giving ear to the reproaches that
are laid against us by those who bear ill-will to us, and will not believe
what I have written concerning the antiquity of our nation, while they take
it for a plain sign that our nation is of a late date, because they are not so
much as vouchsafed a bare mention by the most famous historiographers
among the Grecians. I therefore have thought myself under an obligation to
write somewhat briefly about these subjects, in order to convict those that
reproach us of spite and voluntary falsehood, and to correct the ignorance
of others, and withal to instruct all those who are desirous of knowing the
truth of what great antiquity we really are. As for the witnesses whom I
shall produce for the proof of what I say, they shall be such as are
esteemed to be of the greatest reputation for truth, and the most skillful in
the knowledge of all antiquity by the Greeks themselves. I will also show,
that those who have written so reproachfully and falsely about us are to
be convicted by what they have written themselves to the contrary. I shall
also endeavor to give an account of the reasons why it hath so happened,
that there have not been a great number of Greeks who have made mention
of our nation in their histories. I will, however, bring those Grecians to
light who have not omitted such our history, for the sake of those that
either do not know them, or pretend not to know them already.
2. And now, in the first place, I cannot but greatly wonder at those men,
who suppose that we must attend to none but Grecians, when we are
inquiring about the most ancient facts, and must inform ourselves of their
truth from them only, while we must not believe ourselves nor other men;
for I am convinced that the very reverse is the truth of the case. I mean
this, — if we will not be led by vain opinions, but will make inquiry after
truth from facts themselves; for they will find that almost all which
concerns the Greeks happened not long ago; nay, one may say, is of
yesterday only. I speak of the building of their cities, the inventions of
their arts, and the description of their laws; and as for their care about the
writing down of their histories, it is very near the last thing they set about.
However, they acknowledge themselves so far, that they were the
Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Phoenicians (for I will not now reckon
ourselves among them) that have preserved the memorials of the most
ancient and most lasting traditions of mankind; for almost all these nations
inhabit such countries as are least subject to destruction from the world
about them; and these also have taken especial care to have nothing
omitted of what was [remarkably] done among them; but their history was
esteemed sacred, and put into public tables, as written by men of the
greatest wisdom they had among them. But as for the place where the
Grecians inhabit, ten thousand destructions have overtaken it, and blotted
out the memory of former actions; so that they were ever beginning a new
way of living, and supposed that every one of them was the origin of their
new state. It was also late, and with difficulty, that they came to know the
letters they now use; for those who would advance their use of these
letters to the greatest antiquity pretend that they learned them from the
Phoenicians and from Cadmus; yet is nobody able to demonstrate that
they have any writing preserved from that time, neither in their temples,
nor in any other public monuments. This appears, because the time when
those lived who went to the Trojan war, so many years afterward, is in
great doubt, and great inquiry is made, whether the Greeks used their
letters at that time; and the most prevailing opinion, and that nearest the
truth, is, that their present way of using those letters was unknown at that
time. However, there is not any writing which the Greeks agree to he
genuine among them ancienter than Homer’s Poems, who must plainly he
confessed later than the siege of Troy; nay, the report goes, that even he
did not leave his poems in writing, but that their memory was preserved in
songs, and they were put together afterward, and that this is the reason of
such a number of variations as are found in them. 3 As for those who set
themselves about writing their histories, I mean such as Cadmus of
Miletus, and Acusilaus of Argos, and any others that may be mentioned as
succeeding Acusilaus, they lived but a little while before the Persian
expedition into Greece. But then for those that first introduced
philosophy, and the consideration of things celestial and divine among
them, such as Pherceydes the Syrian, and Pythagoras, and Thales, all with
one consent agree, that they learned what they knew of the Egyptians and
Chaldeans, and wrote but little And these are the things which are
supposed to be the oldest of all among the Greeks; and they have much
ado to believe that the writings ascribed to those men are genuine.
3. How can it then be other than an absurd thing, for the Greeks to be so
proud, and to vaunt themselves to be the only people that are acquainted
with antiquity, and that have delivered the true accounts of those early
times after an accurate manner? Nay, who is there that cannot easily gather
from the Greek writers themselves, that they knew but little on any good
foundation when they set to write, but rather wrote their histories from
their own conjectures? Accordingly, they confute one another in their own
books to purpose, and are not ashamed. to give us the most contradictory
accounts of the same things; and I should spend my time to little purpose,
if I should pretend to teach the Greeks that which they know better than I
already, what a great disagreement there is between Hellanicus and
Acusilaus about their genealogies; in how many eases Acusilaus corrects
Hesiod: or after what manner Ephorus demonstrates Hellanicus to have
told lies in the greatest part of his history; as does Timeus in like manner
as to Ephorus, and the succeeding writers do to Timeus, and all the later
writers do to Herodotus 3 nor could Timeus agree with Antiochus and
Philistius, or with Callias, about the Sicilian History, no more than do the
several writers of the Athide follow one another about the Athenian
affairs; nor do the historians the like, that wrote the Argolics, about the
affairs of the Argives. And now what need I say any more about particular
cities and smaller places, while in the most approved writers of the
expedition of the Persians, and of the actions which were therein
performed, there are so great differences? Nay, Thucydides himself is
accused of some as writing what is false, although he seems to have given
us the exactest history of the affairs of his own time. 4
4. As for the occasions of so great disagreement of theirs, there may be
assigned many that are very probable, if any have a mind to make an
inquiry about them; but I ascribe these contradictions chiefly to two
causes, which I will now mention, and still think what I shall mention in
the first place to be the principal of all. For if we remember that in the
beginning the Greeks had taken no care to have public records of their
several transactions preserved, this must for certain have afforded those
that would afterward write about those ancient transactions the
opportunity of making mistakes, and the power of making lies also; for
this original recording of such ancient transactions hath not only been
neglected by the other states of Greece, but even among the Athenians
themselves also, who pretend to be Aborigines, and to have applied
themselves to learning, there are no such records extant; nay, they say
themselves that the laws of Draco concerning murders, which are now
extant in writing, are the most ancient of their public records; which Draco
yet lived but a little before the tyrant Pisistratus. 5 For as to the
Arcadians, who make such boasts of their antiquity, what need I speak of
them in particular, since it was still later before they got their letters, and
learned them, and that with difficulty also. 6
5. There must therefore naturally arise great differences among writers,
when they had no original records to lay for their foundation, which might
at once inform those who had an inclination to learn, and contradict those
that would tell lies. However, we are to suppose a second occasion besides
the former of these contradictions; it is this: That those who were the
most zealous to write history were not solicitous for the discovery of
truth, although it was very easy for them always to make such a
profession; but their business was to demonstrate that they could write
well, and make an impression upon mankind thereby; and in what manner
of writing they thought they were able to exceed others, to that did they
apply themselves, Some of them betook themselves to the writing of
fabulous narrations; some of them endeavored to please the cities or the
kings, by writing in their commendation; others of them fell to finding
faults with transactions, or with the writers of such transactions, and
thought to make a great figure by so doing. And indeed these do what is of
all things the most contrary to true history; for it is the great character of
true history that all concerned therein both speak and write the same
things; while these men, by writing differently about the same things,
think they shall be believed to write with the greatest regard to truth. We
therefore [who are Jews] must yield to the Grecian writers as to language
and eloquence of composition; but then we shall give them no such
preference as to the verity of ancient history, and least of all as to that
part which concerns the affairs of our own several countries.
6. As to the care of writing down the records from the earliest antiquity
among the Egyptians and Babylonians; that the priests were intrusted
therewith, and employed a philosophical concern about it; that they were
the Chaldean priests that did so among the Babylonians; and that the
Phoenicians, who were mingled among the Greeks, did especially make use
of their letters, both for the common affairs of life, and for the delivering
down the history of common transactions, I think I may omit any proof,
because all men allow it so to be. But now as to our forefathers, that they
took no less care about writing such records, (for I will not say they took
greater care than the others I spoke of,) and that they committed that
matter to their high priests and to their prophets, and that these records
have been written all along down to our own times with the utmost
accuracy; nay, if it be not too bold for me to say it, our history will be so
written hereafter; — I shall endeavor briefly to inform you.
7. For our forefathers did not only appoint the best of these priests, and
those that attended upon the Divine worship, for that design from the
beginning, but made provision that the stock of the priests should continue
unmixed and pure; for he who is partaker of the priesthood must
propagate of a wife of the same nation, without having any regard to
money, or any other dignities; but he is to make a scrutiny, and take his
wife’s genealogy from the ancient tables, and procure many witnesses to
it. 7 And this is our practice not only in Judea, but wheresoever any body
of men of our nation do live; and even there an exact catalogue of our
priests’ marriages is kept; I mean at Egypt and at Babylon, or in any other
place of the rest of the habitable earth, whithersoever our priests are
scattered; for they send to Jerusalem the ancient names of their parents in
writing, as well as those of their remoter ancestors, and signify who are the
witnesses also. But if any war falls out, such as have fallen out a great
many of them already, when Antiochus Epiphanes made an invasion upon
our country, as also when Pompey the Great and Quintilius Varus did so
also, and principally in the wars that have happened in our own times,
those priests that survive them compose new tables of genealogy out of
the old records, and examine the circumstances of the women that remain;
for still they do not admit of those that have been captives, as suspecting
that they had conversation with some foreigners. But what is the strongest
argument of our exact management in this matter is what I am now going to
say, that we have the names of our high priests from father to son set
down in our records for the interval of two thousand years; and if any of
these have been transgressors of these rules, they are prohibited to present
themselves at the altar, or to be partakers of any other of our purifications;
and this is justly, or rather necessarily done, because every one is not
permitted of his own accord to be a writer, nor is there any disagreement
in what is written; they being only prophets that have written the original
and earliest accounts of things as they learned them of God himself by
inspiration; and others have written what hath happened in their own
times, and that in a very distinct manner also.
8. For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us,
disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but
only twenty-two books, 8 which contain the records of all the past times;
which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses,
which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his
death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as
to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of
Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses,
wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining
four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human
life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very
particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the
former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession
of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these
books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many
ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any
thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them;
but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth,
to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them,
and, if occasion be willingly to die for them. For it is no new thing for our
captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to
endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not
be obliged to say one word against our laws and the records that contain
them; whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo
the least harm on that account, no, nor in case all the writings that are
among them were to be destroyed; for they take them to be such
discourses as are framed agreeably to the inclinations of those that write
them; and they have justly the same opinion of the ancient writers, since
they see some of the present generation bold enough to write about such
affairs, wherein they were not present, nor had concern enough to inform
themselves about them from those that knew them; examples of which
may be had in this late war of ours, where some persons have written
histories, and published them, without having been in the places
concerned, or having been near them when the actions were done; but these
men put a few things together by hearsay, and insolently abuse the world,
and call these writings by the name of Histories.
9. As for myself, I have composed a true history of that whole war, and of
all the particulars that occurred therein, as having been concerned in all its
transactions; for I acted as general of those among us that are named
Galileans, as long as it was possible for us to make any opposition. I was
then seized on by the Romans, and became a captive. Vespasian also and
Titus had me kept under a guard, and forced me to attend them
continually. At the first I was put into bonds, but was set at liberty
afterward, and sent to accompany Titus when he came from Alexandria to
the siege of Jerusalem; during which time there was nothing done which
escaped my knowledge; for what happened in the Roman camp I saw, and
wrote down carefully; and what informations the deserters brought [out of
the city], I was the only man that understood them. Afterward I got
leisure at Rome; and when all my materials were prepared for that work, I
made use of some persons to assist me in learning the Greek tongue, and
by these means I composed the history of those transactions. And I was
so well assured of the truth of what I related, that I first of all appealed to
those that had the supreme command in that war, Vespasian and Titus, as
witnesses for me, for to them I presented those books first of all, and after
them to many of the Romans who had been in the war. I also sold them to
many of our own men who understood the Greek philosophy; among
whom were Julius Archelaus, Herod [king of Chalcis], a person of great
gravity, and king Agrippa himself, a person that deserved the greatest
admiration. Now all these men bore their testimony to me, that I had the
strictest regard to truth; who yet would not have dissembled the matter,
nor been silent, if I, out of ignorance, or out of favor to any side, either had
given false colors to actions, or omitted any of them.
10. There have been indeed some bad men, who have attempted to
calumniate my history, and took it to be a kind of scholastic performance
for the exercise of young men. A strange sort of accusation and calumny
this! since every one that undertakes to deliver the history of actions truly
ought to know them accurately himself in the first place, as either having
been concerned in them himself, or been informed of them by such as
knew them. Now both these methods of knowledge I may very properly
pretend to in the composition of both my works; for, as I said, I have
translated the Antiquities out of our sacred books; which I easily could do,
since I was a priest by my birth, and have studied that philosophy which
is contained in those writings: and for the History of the War, I wrote it as
having been an actor myself in many of its transactions, an eye-witness in
the greatest part of the rest, and was not unacquainted with any thing
whatsoever that was either said or done in it. How impudent then must
those deserve to be esteemed that undertake to contradict me about the
true state of those affairs! who, although they pretend to have made use of
both the emperors’ own memoirs, yet could not they he acquainted with
our affairs who fought against them.
11. This digression I have been obliged to make out of necessity, as being
desirous to expose the vanity of those that profess to write histories; and I
suppose I have sufficiently declared that this custom of transmitting down
the histories of ancient times hath been better preserved by those nations
which are called Barbarians, than by the Greeks themselves. I am now
willing, in the next place, to say a few things to those that endeavor to
prove that our constitution is but of late time, for this reason, as they
pretend, that the Greek writers have said nothing about us; after which I
shall produce testimonies for our antiquity out of the writings of
foreigners; I shall also demonstrate that such as cast reproaches upon our
nation do it very unjustly.
12. As for ourselves, therefore, we neither inhabit a maritime country, nor
do we delight in merchandise, nor in such a mixture with other men as
arises from it; but the cities we dwell in are remote from the sea, and
having a fruitful country for our habitation, we take pains in cultivating
that only. Our principal care of all is this, to educate our children well; and
we think it to be the most necessary business of our whole life to observe
the laws that have been given us, and to keep those rules of piety that
have been delivered down to us. Since, therefore, besides what we have
already taken notice of, we have had a peculiar way of living of our own,
there was no occasion offered us in ancient ages for intermixing among the
Greeks, as they had for mixing among the Egyptians, by their intercourse
of exporting and importing their several goods; as they also mixed with the
Phoenicians, who lived by the sea-side, by means of their love of lucre in
trade and merchandise. Nor did our forefathers betake themselves, as did
some others, to robbery; nor did they, in order to gain more wealth, fall
into foreign wars, although our country contained many ten thousands of
men of courage sufficient for that purpose. For this reason it was that the
Phoenicians themselves came soon by trading and navigation to be known
to the Grecians, and by their means the Egyptians became known to the
Grecians also, as did all those people whence the Phoenicians in long
voyages over the seas carried wares to the Grecians. The Medes also and
the Persians, when they were lords of Asia, became well known to them;
and this was especially true of the Persians, who led their armies as far as
the other continent [Europe]. The Thracians were also known to them by
the nearness of their countries, and the Scythians by the means of those
that sailed to Pontus; for it was so in general that all maritime nations, and
those that inhabited near the eastern or western seas, became most known
to those that were desirous to be writers; but such as had their habitations
further from the sea were for the most part unknown to them which things
appear to have happened as to Europe also, where the city of Rome, that
hath this long time been possessed of so much power, and hath performed
such great actions in war, is yet never mentioned by Herodotus, nor by
Thucydides, nor by any one of their contemporaries; and it was very late,
and with great difficulty, that the Romans became known to the Greeks.
Nay, those that were reckoned the most exact historians (and Ephorus for
one) were so very ignorant of the Gauls and the Spaniards, that he
supposed the Spaniards, who inhabit so great a part of the western regions
of the earth, to be no more than one city. Those historians also have
ventured to describe such customs as were made use of by them, which
they never had either done or said; and the reason why these writers did
not know the truth of their affairs was this, that they had not any
commerce together; but the reason why they wrote such falsities was this,
that they had a mind to appear to know things which others had not
known. How can it then be any wonder, if our nation was no more known
to many of the Greeks, nor had given them any occasion to mention them
in their writings, while they were so remote from the sea, and had a
conduct of life so peculiar to themselves?
13. Let us now put the case, therefore, that we made use of this argument
concerning the Grecians, in order to prove that their nation was not
ancient, because nothing is said of them in our records: would not they
laugh at us all, and probably give the same reasons for our silence that I
have now alleged, and would produce their neighbor nations as witnesses
to their own antiquity? Now the very same thing will I endeavor to do; for
I will bring the Egyptians and the Phoenicians as my principal witnesses,
because nobody can complain Of their testimony as false, on account that
they are known to have borne the greatest ill-will towards us; I mean this
as to the Egyptians in general all of them, while of the Phoenicians it is
known the Tyrians have been most of all in the same ill disposition
towards us: yet do I confess that I cannot say the same of the Chaldeans,
since our first leaders and ancestors were derived from them; and they do
make mention of us Jews in their records, on account of the kindred there
is between us. Now when I shall have made my assertions good, so far as
concerns the others, I will demonstrate that some of the Greek writers
have made mention of us Jews also, that those who envy us may not have
even this pretense for contradicting what I have said about our nation.
14. I shall begin with the writings of the Egyptians; not indeed of those
that have written in the Egyptian language, which it is impossible for me
to do. But Manetho was a man who was by birth an Egyptian, yet had he
made himself master of the Greek learning, as is very evident; for he wrote
the history of his own country in the Greek tongue, by translating it, as he
saith himself, out of their sacred records; he also finds great fault with
Herodotus for his ignorance and false relations of Egyptian affairs. Now
this Manetho, in the second book of his Egyptian History, writes
concerning us in the following manner. I will set down his very words, as
if I were to bring the very man himself into a court for a witness: “There
was a king of ours whose name was Timaus. Under him it came to pass, I
know not how, that God was averse to us, and there came, after a
surprising manner, men of ignoble birth out of the eastern parts, and had
boldness enough to make an expedition into our country, and with ease
subdued it by force, yet without our hazarding a battle with them. So
when they had gotten those that governed us under their power, they
afterwards burnt down our cities, and demolished the temples of the gods,
and used all the inhabitants after a most barbarous manner; nay, some they
slew, and led their children and their wives into slavery. At length they
made one of themselves king, whose name was Salatis; he also lived at
Memphis, and made both the upper and lower regions pay tribute, and left
garrisons in places that were the most proper for them. He chiefly aimed
to secure the eastern parts, as fore-seeing that the Assyrians, who had
then the greatest power, would be desirous of that kingdom, and invade
them; and as he found in the Saite Nomos, [Sethroite,] a city very proper
for this purpose, and which lay upon the Bubastic channel, but with
regard to a certain theologic notion was called Avaris, this he rebuilt, and
made very strong by the walls he built about it, and by a most numerous
garrison of two hundred and forty thousand armed men whom he put into
it to keep it. Thither Salatis came in summer time, partly to gather his
corn, and pay his soldiers their wages, and partly to exercise his armed
men, and thereby to terrify foreigners. When this man had reigned thirteen
years, after him reigned another, whose name was Beon, for forty-four
years; after him reigned another, called Apachnas, thirty-six years and
seven months; after him Apophis reigned sixty-one years, and then Janins
fifty years and one month; after all these reigned Assis forty-nine years
and two months. And these six were the first rulers among them, who
were all along making war with the Egyptians, and were very desirous
gradually to destroy them to the very roots. This whole nation was styled
HYCSOS, that is, Shepherd-kings: for the first syllable HYC, according to
the sacred dialect, denotes a king, as is SOS a shepherd; but this according
to the ordinary dialect; and of these is compounded HYCSOS: but some say
that these people were Arabians.” Now in another copy it is said that this
word does not denote Kings, but, on the contrary, denotes Captive
Shepherds, and this on account of the particle HYC; for that HYC, with the
aspiration, in the Egyptian tongue again denotes Shepherds, and that
expressly also; and this to me seems the more probable opinion, and more
agreeable to ancient history. [But Manetho goes on]: “These people,
whom we have before named kings, and called shepherds also, and their
descendants,” as he says, “kept possession of Egypt five hundred and
eleven years.” After these, he says, “That the kings of Thebais and the
other parts of Egypt made an insurrection against the shepherds, and that
there a terrible and long war was made between them.” He says further,
“That under a king, whose name was Alisphragmuthosis, the shepherds
were subdued by him, and were indeed driven out of other parts of Egypt,
but were shut up in a place that contained ten thousand acres; this place
was named Avaris.” Manetho says, “That the shepherds built a wall
round all this place, which was a large and a strong wall, and this in order
to keep all their possessions and their prey within a place of strength, but
that Thummosis the son of Alisphragmuthosis made an attempt to take
them by force and by siege, with four hundred and eighty thousand men to
lie rotund about them, but that, upon his despair of taking the place by
that siege, they came to a composition with them, that they should leave
Egypt, and go, without any harm to be done to them, whithersoever they
would; and that, after this composition was made, they went away with
their whole families and effects, not fewer in number than two hundred
and forty thousand, and took their journey from Egypt, through the
wilderness, for Syria; but that as they were in fear of the Assyrians, who
had then the dominion over Asia, they built a city in that country which is
now called Judea, and that large enough to contain this great number of
men, and called it Jerusalem. 9 Now Manetho, in another book of his, says,
“That this nation, thus called Shepherds, were also called Captives, in
their sacred books.” And this account of his is the truth; for feeding of
sheep was the employment of our forefathers in the most ancient ages 10
and as they led such a wandering life in feeding sheep, they were called
Shepherds. Nor was it without reason that they were called Captives by
the Egyptians, since one of our ancestors, Joseph, told the king of Egypt
that he was a captive, and afterward sent for his brethren into Egypt by
the king’s permission. But as for these matters, I shall make a more exact
inquiry about them elsewhere. 11
15. But now I shall produce the Egyptians as witnesses to the antiquity of
our nation. I shall therefore here bring in Manetho again, and what he
writes as to the order of the times in this case; and thus he speaks: “When
this people or shepherds were gone out of Egypt to Jerusalem, Tethtoosis
the king of Egypt, who drove them out, reigned afterward twenty-five
years and four months, and then died; after him his son Chebron took the
kingdom for thirteen years; after whom came Amenophis, for twenty
years and seven months; then came his sister Amesses, for twenty-one
years and nine months; after her came Mephres, for twelve years and nine
months; after him was Mephramuthosis, for twenty-five years and ten
months; after him was Thmosis, for nine years and eight months; after him
came Amenophis, for thirty years and ten months; after him came Orus,
for thirty-six years and five months; then came his daughter Acenchres, for
twelve years and one month; then was her brother Rathotis, for nine years;
then was Acencheres, for twelve years and five months; then came another
Acencheres, for twelve years and three months; after him Armais, for four
years and one month; after him was Ramesses, for one year and four
months; after him came Armesses Miammoun, for sixty-six years and two
months; after him Amenophis, for nineteen years and six months; after
him came Sethosis, and Ramesses, who had an army of horse, and a naval
force. This king appointed his brother, Armais,, to be his deputy over
Egypt.” [In another copy it stood thus: After him came Sethosis, and
Ramesses, two brethren, the former of whom had a naval force, and in a
hostile manner destroyed those that met him upon the sea; but as he slew
Ramesses in no long time afterward, so he appointed another of his
brethren to be his deputy over Egypt.] He also gave him all the other
authority of a king, but with these only injunctions, that he should not
wear the diadem, nor be injurious to the queen, the mother of his children,
and that he should not meddle with the other concubines of the king; while
he made an expedition against Cyprus, and Phoenicia, and besides against
the Assyrians and the Medes. He then subdued them all, some by his
arms, some without fighting, and some by the terror of his great army; and
being puffed up by the great successes he had had, he went on still the
more boldly, and overthrew the cities and countries that lay in the eastern
parts. But after some considerable time, Armais, who was left in Egypt,
did all those very things, by way of opposition, which his brother had
forbid him to do, without fear; for he used violence to the queen, and
continued to make use of the rest of the concubines, without sparing any
of them; nay, at the persuasion of his friends he put on the diadem, and set
up to oppose his brother. But then he who was set over the priests of
Egypt wrote letters to Sethosis, and informed him of all that had
happened, and how his brother had set up to oppose him: he therefore
returned back to Pelusium immediately, and recovered his kingdom again.
The country also was called from his name Egypt; for Manetho says, that
Sethosis was himself called Egyptus, as was his brother Armais called
16. This is Manetho’s account. And evident it is from the number of years
by him set down belonging to this interval, if they be summed up together,
that these shepherds, as they are here called, who were no other than our
forefathers, were delivered out of Egypt, and came thence, and inhabited
this country, three hundred and ninety-three years before Danaus came to
Argos; although the Argives look upon him 12 as their most ancient king
Manetho, therefore, hears this testimony to two points of the greatest
consequence to our purpose, and those from the Egyptian records
themselves. In the first place, that we came out of another country into
Egypt; and that withal our deliverance out of it was so ancient in time as
to have preceded the siege of Troy almost a thousand years; but then, as
to those things which Manetbo adds, not from the Egyptian records, but,
as he confesses himself, from some stories of an uncertain original, I will
disprove them hereafter particularly, and shall demonstrate that they are
no better than incredible fables.
17. I will now, therefore, pass from these records, and come to those that
belong to the Phoenicians, and concern our nation, and shall produce
attestations to what I have said out of them. There are then records among
the Tyrians that take in the history of many years, and these are public
writings, and are kept with great exactness, and include accounts of the
facts done among them, and such as concern their transactions with other
nations also, those I mean which were worth remembering. Therein it was
recorded that the temple was built by king Solomon at Jerusalem, one
hundred forty-three years and eight months before the Tyrians built
Carthage; and in their annals the building of our temple is related; for
Hirom, the king of Tyre, was the friend of Solomon our king, and had such
friendship transmitted down to him from his forefathers. He thereupon
was ambitious to contribute to the splendor of this edifice of Solomon, and
made him a present of one hundred and twenty talents of gold. He also cut
down the most excellent timber out of that mountain which is called
Libanus, and sent it to him for adorning its roof. Solomon also not only
made him many other presents, by way of requital, but gave him a country
in Galilee also, that was called Chabulon. 13 But there was another passion,
a philosophic inclination of theirs, which cemented the friendship that was
betwixt them; for they sent mutual problems to one another, with a desire
to have them unriddled by each other; wherein Solomon was superior to
Hirom, as he was wiser than he in other respects: and many of the epistles
that passed between them are still preserved among the Tyrians. Now,
that this may not depend on my bare word, I will produce for a witness
Dius, one that is believed to have written the Phoenician History after an
accurate manner. This Dius, therefore, writes thus, in his Histories of the
Phoenicians: “Upon the death of Abibalus, his son Hirom took the
kingdom. This king raised banks at the eastern parts of the city, and
enlarged it; he also joined the temple of Jupiter Olympius, which stood
before in an island by itself, to the city, by raising a causeway between
them, and adorned that temple with donations of gold. He moreover went
up to Libanus, and had timber cut down for the building of temples. They
say further, that Solomon, when he was king of Jerusalem, sent problems
to Hirom to be solved, and desired he would send others back for him to
solve, and that he who could not solve the problems proposed to him
should pay money to him that solved them. And when Hirom had agreed
to the proposals, but was not able to solve the problems, he was obliged
to pay a great deal of money, as a penalty for the same. As also they
relate, that one·Abdemon, a man of Tyre, did solve the problems, and
propose others which Solomon could not solve, upon which he was
obliged to repay a great deal of money to Hirom.” These things are
attested to by Dius, and confirm what we have said upon the same
subjects before.
18. And now I shall add Menander the Ephesian, as an additional witness.
This Menander wrote the Acts that were done both by the Greeks and
Barbarians, under every one of the Tyrian kings, and had taken much pains
to learn their history out of their own records. Now when he was writing
about those kings that had reigned at Tyre, he came to Hirom, and says
thus: “Upon the death of Abibalus, his son Hirom took the kingdom; he
lived fifty-three years, and reigned thirty-four. He raised a bank on that
called the Broad Place, and dedicated that golden pillar which is in
Jupiter’s temple; he also went and cut down timber from the mountain
called Libanus, and got timber Of cedar for the roofs of the temples. He
also pulled down the old temples, and built new ones; besides this, he
consecrated the temples of Hercules and of Astarte. He first built
Hercules’s temple in the month Peritus, and that of Astarte when he made
his expedition against the Tityans, who would not pay him their tribute;
and when he had subdued them to himself, he returned home. Under this
king there was a younger son of Abdemon, who mastered the problems
which Solomon king of Jerusalem had recommended to be solved.” Now
the time from this king to the building of Carthage is thus calculated:
“Upon the death of Hirom, Baleazarus his son took the kingdom; he lived
forty-three years, and reigned seven years: after him succeeded his son
Abdastartus; he lived twenty-nine years, and reigned nine years. Now four
sons of his nurse plotted against him and slew him, the eldest of whom
reigned twelve years: after them came Astartus, the son of Deleastartus; he
lived fifty-four years, and reigned twelve years: after him came his brother
Aserymus; he lived fifty-four years, and reigned nine years: he was slain
by his brother Pheles, who took the kingdom and reigned but eight
months, though he lived fifty years: he was slain by Ithobalus, the priest
of Astarte, who reigned thirty-two years, and lived sixty-eight years: he
was succeeded by his son Badezorus, who lived forty-five years, and
reigned six years: he was succeeded by Matgenus his son; he lived
thirty-two years, and reigned nine years: Pygmalion succeeded him; he
lived fifty-six years, and reigned forty-seven years. Now in the seventh
year of his reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city Carthage
in Libya.” So the whole time from the reign of Hirom, till the building of
Carthage, amounts to the sum of one hundred fifty-five years and eight
months. Since then the temple was built at Jerusalem in the twelfth year of
the reign of Hirom, there were from the building of the temple, until the
building of Carthage, one hundred forty-three years and eight months.
Wherefore, what occasion is there for alleging any more testimonies out of
the Phoenician histories [on the behalf of our nation], since what I have
said is so thoroughly confirmed already? and to be sure our ancestors came
into this country long before the building of the temple; for it was not till
we had gotten possession of the whole land by war that we built our
temple. And this is the point that I have clearly proved out of our sacred
writings in my Antiquities.
19. I will now relate what hath been written concerning us in the Chaldean
histories, which records have a great agreement with our books in oilier
things also. Berosus shall be witness to what I say: he was by birth a
Chaldean, well known by the learned, on account of his publication of the
Chaldean books of astronomy and philosophy among the Greeks. This
Berosus, therefore, following the most ancient records of that nation, gives
us a history of the deluge of waters that then happened, and of the
destruction of mankind thereby, and agrees with Moses’s narration
thereof. He also gives us an account of that ark wherein Noah, the origin of
our race, was preserved, when it was brought to the highest part of the
Armenian mountains; after which he gives us a catalogue of the posterity
of Noah, and adds the years of their chronology, and at length comes down
to Nabolassar, who was king of Babylon, and of the Chaldeans. And when
he was relating the acts of this king, he describes to us how he sent his son
Nabuchodonosor against Egypt, and against our land, with a great army,
upon his being informed that they had revolted from him; and how, by
that means, he subdued them all, and set our temple that was at Jerusalem
on fire; nay, and removed our people entirely out of their own country,
and transferred them to Babylon; when it so happened that our city was
desolate during the interval of seventy years, until the days of Cyrus king
of Persia. He then says, “That this Babylonian king conquered Egypt, and
Syria, and Phoenicia, and Arabia, and exceeded in his exploits all that had
reigned before him in Babylon and Chaldea.” A little after which Berosus
subjoins what follows in his History of Ancient Times. I will set down
Berosus’s own accounts, which are these: “When Nabolassar, father of
Nabuchodonosor, heard that the governor whom he had set over Egypt,
and over the parts of Celesyria and Phoenicia, had revolted from him, he
was not able to bear it any longer; but committing certain parts of his army
to his son Nabuchodonosor, who was then but young, he sent him against
the rebel: Nabuchodonosor joined battle with him, and conquered him, and
reduced the country under his dominion again. Now it so fell out that his
father Nabolassar fell into a distemper at this time, and died in the city of
Babylon, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. But as he understood, in
a little time, that his father Nabolassar was dead, he set the affairs of
Egypt and the other countries in order, and committed the captives he had
taken from the Jews, and Phoenicians, and Syrians, and of the nations
belonging to Egypt, to some of his friends, that they might conduct that
part of the forces that had on heavy armor, with the rest of his baggage, to
Babylonia; while he went in haste, having but a few with him, over the
desert to Babylon; whither, when he was come, he found the public affairs
had been managed by the Chaldeans, and that the principal person among
them had preserved the kingdom for him. Accordingly, he now entirely
obtained all his father’s dominions. He then came, and ordered the captives
to be placed as colonies in the most proper places of Babylonia; but for
himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an
elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt
the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored
Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their
power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he
did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer.
Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick
only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent
manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently, he added a new palace to
that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more
eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require
too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as
prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen
days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone
pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and
replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact
resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen,
because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous
20. This is what Berosus relates concerning the forementioned king, as he
relates many other things about him also in the third book of his Chaldean
History; wherein he complains of the Grecian writers for supposing,
without any foundation, that Babylon was built by Semiramis, 14 queen of
Assyria, and for her false pretense to those wonderful edifices thereto
buildings at Babylon, do no way contradict those ancient and relating, as if
they were her own workmanship; as indeed in these affairs the Chaldean
History cannot but be the most credible. Moreover, we meet with a
confirmation of what Berosus says in the archives of the Phoenicians,
concerning this king Nabuchodonosor, that he conquered all Syria and
Phoenicia; in which case Philostratus agrees with the others in that history
which he composed, where he mentions the siege of Tyre; as does
Megasthenes also, in the fourth book of his Indian History, wherein he
pretends to prove that the forementioned king of the Babylonians was
superior to Hercules in strength and the greatness of his exploits; for he
says that he conquered a great part of Libya, and conquered Iberia also.
Now as to what I have said before about the temple at Jerusalem, that it
was fought against by the Babylonians, and burnt by them, but was
opened again when Cyrus had taken the kingdom of Asia, shall now be
demonstrated from what Berosus adds further upon that head; for thus he
says in his third book: “Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the
forementioned wall, fell sick, and departed this life, when he had reigned
forty-three years; whereupon his son Evilmerodach obtained the kingdom.
He governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner, and had a
plot laid against him by Neriglissoor, his sister’s husband, and was slain
by him when he had reigned but two years. After he was slain,
Neriglissoor, the person who plotted against him, succeeded him in

kingdom, and reigned four years; his son Laborosoarchod obtained the
kingdom, though he was but a child, and kept it nine mouths; but by
reason of the very ill temper and ill practices he exhibited to the world, a
plot was laid against him also by his friends, and he was tormented to
death. After his death, the conspirators got together, and by common
consent put the crown upon the head of Nabonnedus, a man of Babylon,
and one who belonged to that insurrection. In his reign it was that the
walls of the city of Babylon were curiously built with burnt brick and
bitumen; but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign,
Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered
all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus
perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and
joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops
with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. Hereupon Cyrus
took Babylon, and gave order that the outer walls of the city should be
demolished, because the city had proved very troublesome to him, and
cost him a great deal of pains to take it. He then marched away to
Borsippus, to besiege Nabonnedus; but as Nabonnedus did not sustain the
siege, but delivered himself into his hands, he was at first kindly used by
Cyrus, who gave him Carmania, as a place for him to inhabit in, but sent
him out of Babylonia. Accordingly Nabonnedus spent the rest of his time
in that country, and there died.”
21. These accounts agree with the true histories in our books; for in them
it is written that Nebuchadnezzar, in the eighteenth year of his reign, laid
our temple desolate, and so it lay in that state of obscurity for fifty years;
but that in the second year of the reign of Cyrus its foundations were laid,
and it was finished again in the second year of Darius. I will now add the
records of the Phoenicians; for it will not be superfluous to give the reader
demonstrations more than enough on this occasion. In them we have this
enumeration of the times of their several kings: “Nabuchodonosor besieged
Tyre for thirteen years in the days of Ithobal, their king; after him reigned
Baal, ten years; after him were judges appointed, who judged the people:
Ecnibalus, the son of Baslacus, two months; Chelbes, the son of Abdeus,
ten months; Abbar, the high priest, three months; Mitgonus and
Gerastratus, the sons of Abdelemus, were judges six years; after whom
Balatorus reigned one year; after his death they sent and fetched Merbalus
from Babylon, who reigned four years; after his death they sent for his
brother Hirom, who reigned twenty years. Under his reign Cyrus became
king of Persia.” So that the whole interval is fifty-four years besides three
months; for in the seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar he began
to besiege Tyre, and Cyrus the Persian took the kingdom in the fourteenth
year of Hirom. So that the records of the Chaldeans and Tyrians agree
with our writings about this temple; and the testimonies here produced are
an indisputable and undeniable attestation to the antiquity of our nation.
And I suppose that what I have already said may be sufficient to such as
are not very contentious.
22. But now it is proper to satisfy the inquiry of those that disbelieve the
records of barbarians, and think none but Greeks to be worthy of credit,
and to produce many of these very Greeks who were acquainted with our
nation, and to set before them such as upon occasion have made mention
of us in their own writings. Pythagoras, therefore, of Samos, lived in very
ancient times, and was esteemed a person superior to all philosophers in
wisdom and piety towards God. Now it is plain that he did not only know
our doctrines, but was in very great measure a follower and admirer of
them. There is not indeed extant any writing that is owned for his 15 but
many there are who have written his history, of whom Hermippus is the
most celebrated, who was a person very inquisitive into all sorts of
history. Now this Hermippus, in his first book concerning Pythagoras,
speaks thus: “That Pythagoras, upon the death of one of his associates,
whose name was Calliphon, a Crotonlate by birth, affirmed that this man’s
soul conversed with him both night and day, and enjoined him not to pass
over a place where an ass had fallen down; as also not to drink of such
waters as caused thirst again; and to abstain from all sorts of reproaches.”
After which he adds thus: “This he did and said in imitation of the
doctrines of the Jews and Thracians, which he transferred into his own
philosophy.” For it is very truly affirmed of this Pythagoras, that he took
a great many of the laws of the Jews into his own philosophy. Nor was
our nation unknown of old to several of the Grecian cities, and indeed was
thought worthy of imitation by some of them. This is declared by
Theophrastus, in his writings concerning laws; for he says that “the laws
of the Tyrians forbid men to swear foreign oaths.” Among which he
enumerates some others, and particularly that called Corban: which oath
can only be found among the Jews, and declares what a man may call “A
thing devoted to God.” Nor indeed was Herodotus of Halicarnassus
unacquainted with our nation, but mentions it after a way of his own,
when he saith thus, in the second book concerning the Colchians. His
words are these: “The only people who were circumcised in their privy
members originally, were the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the
Ethiopians; but the Phoenicians and those Syrians that are in Palestine
confess that they learned it from the Egyptians. And for those Syrians
who live about the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, and their neighbors
the Macrones, they say they have lately learned it from the Colchians; for
these are the only people that are circumcised among mankind, and appear
to have done the very same thing with the Egyptians. But as for the
Egyptians and Ethiopians themselves, I am not able to say which of them
received it from the other.” This therefore is what Herodotus says, that
“the Syrians that are in Palestine are circumcised.” But there are no
inhabitants of Palestine that are circumcised excepting the Jews; and
therefore it must be his knowledge of them that enabled him to speak so
much concerning them. Cherilus also, a still ancienter writer, and a poet, 16
makes mention of our nation, and informs us that it came to the assistance
of king Xerxes, in his expedition against Greece. For in his enumeration of
all those nations, he last of all inserts ours among the rest, when he says,”
At the last there passed over a people, wonderful to be beheld; for they
spake the Phoenician tongue with their mouths; they dwelt in the
Solymean mountains, near a broad lake: their heads were sooty; they had
round rasures on them; their heads and faces were like nasty horse-heads
also, that had been hardened in the smoke.” I think, therefore, that it is
evident to every body that Cherilus means us, because the Solymean
mountains are in our country, wherein we inhabit, as is also the lake called
Asphaltitis; for this is a broader and larger lake than any other that is in
Syria: and thus does Cherilus make mention of us. But now that not only
the lowest sort of the Grecians, but those that are had in the greatest
admiration for their philosophic improvements among them, did not only
know the Jews, but when they lighted upon any of them, admired them
also, it is easy for any one to know. For Clearchus, who was the scholar of
Aristotle, and inferior to no one of the Peripatetics whomsoever, in his
first book concerning sleep, says that “Aristotle his master related what
follows of a Jew,” and sets down Aristotle’s own discourse with him. The
account is this, as written down by him: “Now, for a great part of what
this Jew said, it would be too long to recite it; but what includes in it both
wonder and philosophy it may not be amiss to discourse of. Now, that I
may be plain with thee, Hyperochides, I shall herein seem to thee to relate
wonders, and what will resemble dreams themselves. Hereupon
Hyperochides answered modestly, and said, For that very reason it is that
all of us are very desirous of hearing what thou art going to say. Then
replied Aristotle, For this cause it will be the best way to imitate that rule
of the Rhetoricians, which requires us first to give an account of the man,
and of what nation he was, that so we may not contradict our master’s
directions. Then said Hyperochides, Go on, if it so pleases thee. This man
then, [answered Aristotle,] was by birth a Jew, and came from Celesyria;
these Jews are derived from the Indian philosophers; they are named by
the Indians Calami, and by the Syrians Judaei, and took their name from
the country they inhabit, which is called Judea; but for the name of their
city, it is a very awkward one, for they call it Jerusalem. Now this man,
when he was hospitably treated by a great many, came down from the
upper country to the places near the sea, and became a Grecian, not only
in his language, but in his soul also; insomuch that when we ourselves
happened to be in Asia about the same places whither he came, he
conversed with us, and with other philosophical persons, and made a trial
of our skill in philosophy; and as he had lived with many learned men, he
communicated to us more information than he received from us.” This is
Aristotle’s account of the matter, as given us by Clearchus; which
Aristotle discoursed also particularly of the great and wonderful fortitude
of this Jew in his diet, and continent way of living, as those that please
may learn more about him from Clearchus’s book itself; for I avoid setting
down any more than is sufficient for my purpose. Now Clearchus said
this by way of digression, for his main design was of another nature. But
for Hecateus of Abdera, who was both a philosopher, and one very useful
ill an active life, he was contemporary with king Alexander in his youth,
and afterward was with Ptolemy, the son of Lagus; he did not write about
the Jewish affairs by the by only, but composed an entire book concerning
the Jews themselves; out of which book I am willing to run over a few
things, of which I have been treating by way of epitome. And, in the first
place, I will demonstrate the time when this Hecateus lived; for he
mentions the fight that was between Ptolemy and Demetrius about Gaza,
which was fought in the eleventh year after the death of Alexander, and in
the hundred and seventeenth olympiad, as Castor says in his history. For
when he had set down this olympiad, he says further, that “in this
olympiad Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, beat in battle Demetrius, the son of
Antigonus, who was named Poliorcetes, at Gaza.” Now, it is agreed by all,
that Alexander died in the hundred and fourteenth olympiad; it is therefore
evident that our nation flourished in his time, and in the time of Alexander.
Again, Hecateus says to the same purpose, as follows: “Ptolemy got
possession of the places in Syria after that battle at Gaza; and many, when
they heard of Ptolemy’s moderation and humanity, went along with him
to Egypt, and were willing to assist him in his affairs; one of whom
(Hecateus says) was Hezekiah 17 the high priest of the Jews; a man of
about sixty-six years of age, and in great dignity among his own people.
He was a very sensible man, and could speak very movingly, and was very
skillful in the management of affairs, if any other man ever were so;
although, as he says, all the priests of the Jews took tithes of the products
of the earth, and managed public affairs, and were in number not above
fifteen hundred at the most.” Hecateus mentions this Hezekiah a second
time, and says, that “as he was possessed of so great a dignity, and was
become familiar with us, so did he take certain of those that were with
him, and explained to them all the circumstances of their people; for he had
all their habitations and polity down in writing.” Moreover, Hecateus
declares again, “what regard we have for our laws, and that we resolve to
endure any thing rather than transgress them, because we think it right for
us to do so.” Whereupon he adds, that “although they are in a bad
reputation among their neighbors, and among all those that come to them,
and have been often treated injuriously by the kings and governors of
Persia, yet can they not be dissuaded from acting what they think best;
but that when they are stripped on this account, and have torments
inflicted upon them, and they are brought to the most terrible kinds of
death, they meet them after an extraordinary manner, beyond all other
people, and will not renounce the religion of their forefathers.” Hecateus
also produces demonstrations not a few of this their resolute
tenaciousness of their laws, when he speaks thus: “Alexander was once at
Babylon, and had an intention to rebuild the temple of Belus that was
fallen to decay, and in order thereto, he commanded all his soldiers in
general to bring earth thither. But the Jews, and they only, would not
comply with that command; nay, they underwent stripes and great losses
of what they had on this account, till the king forgave them, and permitted
them to live in quiet.” He adds further, that “when the Macedonians came
to them into that country, and demolished the [old] temples and the altars,
they assisted them in demolishing them all 18 but [for not assisting them in
rebuilding them] they either underwent losses, or sometimes obtained
forgiveness.” He adds further, that “these men deserve to be admired on
that account.” He also speaks of the mighty populousness of our nation,
and says that “the Persians formerly carried away many ten thousands of
our people to Babylon, as also that not a few ten thousands were removed
after Alexander’s death into Egypt and Phoenicia, by reason of the
sedition that was arisen in Syria.” The same person takes notice in his
history, how large the country is which we inhabit, as well as of its
excellent character, and says, that “the land in which the Jews inhabit
contains three millions of arourae, 19 and is generally of a most excellent
and most fruitful soil; nor is Judea of lesser dimensions.” The same man
describe our city Jerusalem also itself as of a most excellent structure, and
very large, and inhabited from the most ancient times. He also discourses
of the multitude of men in it, and of the construction of our temple, after
the following manner: “There are many strong places and villages (says he)
in the country of Judea; but one strong city there is, about fifty furlongs in
circumference, which is inhabited by a hundred and twenty thousand men,
or thereabouts; they call it Jerusalem. There is about the middle of the city
a wall of stone, whose length is five hundred feet, and the breadth a
hundred cubits, with double cloisters; wherein there is a square altar, not
made of hewn stone, but composed of white stones gathered together,
having each side twenty cubits long, and its altitude ten cubits. Hard by it
is a large edifice, wherein there is an altar and a candlestick, both of gold,
and in weight two talents: upon these there is a light that is never
extinguished, either by night or by day. There is no image, nor any thing,
nor any donations therein; nothing at all is there planted, neither grove, nor
any thing of that sort. The priests abide therein both nights and days,
performing certain purifications, and drinking not the least drop of wine
while they are in the temple.” Moreover, he attests that we Jews went as
auxiliaries along with king Alexander, and after him with his successors. I
will add further what he says he learned when he was himself with the
same army, concerning the actions of a man that was a Jew. His words are
these: “As I was myself going to the Red Sea, there followed us a man,
whose name was Mosollam; he was one of the Jewish horsemen who
conducted us; he was a person of great courage, of a strong body, and by
all allowed to be the most skillful archer that was either among the Greeks
or barbarians. Now this man, as people were in great numbers passing
along the road, and a certain augur was observing an augury by a bird, and
requiring them all to stand still, inquired what they staid for. Hereupon the
augur showed him the bird from whence he took his augury, and told him
that if the bird staid where he was, they ought all to stand still; but that if
he got up, and flew onward, they must go forward; but that if he flew
backward, they must retire again. Mosollam made no reply, but drew his
bow, and shot at the bird, and hit him, and killed him; and as the augur and
some others were very angry, and wished imprecations upon him, he
answered them thus: Why are you so mad as to take this most unhappy
bird into your hands? for how can this bird give us any true information
concerning our march, who could not foresee how to save himself? for had
he been able to foreknow what was future, he would not have come to this
place, but would have been afraid lest Mosollam the Jew should shoot at
him, and kill him.” But of Hecateus’s testimonies we have said enough; for
as to such as desire to know more of them, they may easily obtain them
from his book itself. However, I shall not think it too much for me to name
Agatharchides, as having made mention of us Jews, though in way of
derision at our simplicity, as he supposes it to be; for when he was
discoursing of the affairs of Stratonice, “how she came out of Macedonia
into Syria, and left her husband Demetrius, while yet Seleueus would not
marry her as she expected, but during the time of his raising an army at
Babylon, stirred up a sedition about Antioch; and how, after that, the king
came back, and upon his taking of Antioch, she fled to Seleucia, and had it
in her power to sail away immediately yet did she comply with a dream
which forbade her so to do, and so was caught and put to death.” When
Agatharehides had premised this story, and had jested upon Stratonice for
her superstition, he gives a like example of what was reported concerning
us, and writes thus: “There are a people called Jews, and dwell in a city
the strongest of all other cities, which the inhabitants call Jerusalem, and
are accustomed to rest on every seventh day 20 on which times they make
no use of their arms, nor meddle with husbandry, nor take care of any
affairs of life, but spread out their hands in their holy places, and pray till
the evening. Now it came to pass, that when Ptolemy, the son of Lagus,
came into this city with his army, that these men, in observing this mad
custom of theirs, instead of guarding the city, suffered their country to
submit itself to a bitter Lord; and their law was openly proved to have
commanded a foolish practice. 21 This accident taught all other men but the
Jews to disregard such dreams as these were, and not to follow the like idle
suggestions delivered as a law, when, in such uncertainty of human
reasonings, they are at a loss what they should do.” Now this our
procedure seems a ridiculous thing to Agatharehides, but will appear to
such as consider it without prejudice a great thing, and what deserved a
great many encomiums; I mean, when certain men constantly prefer the
observation of their laws, and their religion towards God, before the
preservation of themselves and their country.
23. Now that some writers have omitted to mention our nation, not
because they knew nothing of us, but because they envied us, or for some
other unjustifiable reasons, I think I can demonstrate by particular
instances; for Hieronymus, who wrote the History of [Alexander’s
Successors, lived at the same time with Hecateus, and was a friend of king
Antigonus, and president of Syria. Now it is plain that Hecateus wrote an
entire book concerning us, while Hieronymus never mentions us in his
history, although he was bred up very near to the places where we live.
Thus different from one another are the inclinations of men; while the one
thought we deserved to be carefully remembered, as some ill-disposed
passion blinded the other’s mind so entirely, that he could not discern the
truth. And now certainly the foregoing records of the Egyptians, and
Chaldeans, and Phoenicians, together with so many of the Greek writers,
will be sufficient for the demonstration of our antiquity. Moreover,
besides those forementioned, Theophilus, and Theodotus, and Mnaseas,
and Aristophanes, and Hermogenes, Euhemerus also, and Conon, and
Zopyrion, and perhaps many others, (for I have not lighted upon all the
Greek books,) have made distinct mention of us. It is true, many of the
men before mentioned have made great mistakes about the true accounts of
our nation in the earliest times, because they had not perused our sacred
books; yet have they all of them afforded their testimony to our antiquity,
concerning which I am now treating. However, Demetrius Phalereus, and
the elder Philo, with Eupolemus, have not greatly missed the truth about
our affairs; whose lesser mistakes ought therefore to be forgiven them; for
it was not in their power to understand our writings with the utmost
24. One particular there is still remaining behind of what I at first
proposed to speak to, and that is, to demonstrate that those calumnies and
reproaches which some have thrown upon our nation, are lies, and to make
use of those writers’ own testimonies against themselves; and that in
general this self-contradiction hath happened to many other authors by
reason of their ill-will to some people, I conclude, is not unknown to such
as have read histories with sufficient care;for some of them have
endeavored to disgrace the nobility of certain nations, and of some of the
most glorious cities, and have cast reproaches upon certain forms of
government. Thus hath Theopompus abused the city of Athens,
Polycrates that of Lacedemon, as hath he hat wrote the Tripoliticus (for he
is not Theopompus, as is supposed bys ome) done by the city of Thebes.
Timeils also hath greatly abused the foregoing people and others also; and
this ill-treatment they use chiefly when they have a contest with men of
the greatest reputation; some out of envy and malice, and others as
supposing that by this foolish talking of theirs they may be thought
worthy of being remembered themselves; and indeed they do by no means
fail of their hopes, with regard to the foolish part of mankind, but men of
sober judgment still condemn them of great malignity.
25. Now the Egyptians were the first that cast reproaches upon us; in
order to please which nation, some others undertook to pervert the truth,
while they would neither own that our forefathers came into Egypt from
another country, as the fact was, nor give a true account of our departure
thence. And indeed the Egyptians took many occasions to hate us and
envy us: in the first place, because our ancestors had had the dominion
over their country? and when they were delivered from them, and gone to
their own country again, they lived there in prosperity. In the next place,
the difference of our religion from theirs hath occasioned great enmity
between us, while our way of Divine worship did as much exceed that
which their laws appointed, as does the nature of God exceed that of brute
beasts; for so far they all agree through the whole country, to esteem such
animals as gods, although they differ one from another in the peculiar
worship they severally pay to them. And certainly men they are entirely
of vain and foolish minds, who have thus accustomed themselves from the
beginning to have such bad notions concerning their gods, and could not
think of imitating that decent form of Divine worship which we made use
of, though, when they saw our institutions approved of by many others,
they could not but envy us on that account; for some of them have
proceeded to that degree of folly and meanness in their conduct, as not to
scruple to contradict their own ancient records, nay, to contradict
themselves also in their writings, and yet were so blinded by their
passions as not to discern it.
26. And now I will turn my discourse to one of their principal writers,
whom I have a little before made use of as a witness to our antiquity; I
mean Manetho. 22 He promised to interpret the Egyptian history out of
their sacred writings, and premised this: that “our people had come into
Egypt, many ten thousands in number, and subdued its inhabitants;” and
when he had further confessed that “we went out of that country
afterward, and settled in that country which is now called Judea, and there
built Jerusalem and its temple.” Now thus far he followed his ancient
records; but after this he permits himself, in order to appear to have
written what rumors and reports passed abroad about the Jews, and
introduces incredible narrations, as if he would have the Egyptian
multitude, that had the leprosy and other distempers, to have been mixed
with us, as he says they were, and that they were condemned to fly out of
Egypt together; for he mentions Amenophis, a fictitious king’s name,
though on that account he durst not set down the number of years of his
reign, which yet he had accurately done as to the other kings he mentions;
he then ascribes certain fabulous stories to this king, as having in a manner
forgotten how he had already related that the departure of the shepherds
for Jerusalem had been five hundred and eighteen years before; for
Tethmosis was king when they went away. Now, from his days, the
reigns of the intermediate kings, according to Manethe, amounted to three
hundred and ninety-three years, as he says himself, till the two brothers
Sethos and Hermeus; the one of whom, Sethos, was called by that other
name of Egyptus, and the other, Hermeus, by that of Danaus. He also
says that Sethos east the other out of Egypt, and reigned fifty-nine years,
as did his eldest son Rhampses reign after him sixty-six years. When
Manethe therefore had acknowledged that our forefathers were gone out of
Egypt so many years ago, he introduces his fictitious king Amenophis,
and says thus: “This king was desirous to become a spectator of the gods,
as had Orus, one of his predecessors in that kingdom, desired the same
before him; he also communicated that his desire to his namesake
Amenophis, who was the son of Papis, and one that seemed to partake of
a divine nature, both as to wisdom and the knowledge of futurities.”
Manethe adds, “how this namesake of his told him that he might see the
gods, if he would clear the whole country of the lepers and of the other
impure people; that the king was pleased with this injunction, and got
together all that had any defect in their bodies out of Egypt; and that their
number was eighty thousand; whom he sent to those quarries which are on
the east side of the Nile, that they might work in them, and might be
separated from the rest of the Egyptians.” He says further, that “there
were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy; but
that still this Amenophis, the wise man and the prophet, was afraid that
the gods would be angry at him and at the king, if there should appear to
have been violence offered them; who also added this further, [out of his
sagacity about futurities,] that certain people would come to the assistance
of these polluted wretches, and would conquer Egypt, and keep it in their
possession thirteen years; that, however, he durst not tell the king of these
things, but that he left a writing behind him about all those matters, and
then slew himself, which made the king disconsolate.” After which he
writes thus verbatim: “After those that were sent to work in the quarries
had continued in that miserable state for a long while, the king was desired
that he would set apart the city Avaris, which was then left desolate of the
shepherds, for their habitation and protection; which desire he granted
them. Now this city, according to the ancient theology, was Typho’s city.
But when these men were gotten into it, and found the place fit for a
revolt, they appointed themselves a ruler out of the priests of Hellopolis,
whose name was Osarsiph, and they took their oaths that they would be
obedient to him in all things. He then, in the first place, made this law for
them, That they should neither worship the Egyptian gods, nor should
abstain from any one of those sacred animals which they have in the
highest esteem, but kill and destroy them all; that they should join
themselves to nobody but to those that were of this confederacy. When he
had made such laws as these, and many more such as were mainly
opposite to the customs of the Egyptians, 23 he gave order that they
should use the multitude of the hands they had in building walls about
their City, and make themselves ready for a war with king Amenophis,
while he did himself take into his friendship the other priests, and those
that were polluted with them, and sent ambassadors to those shepherds
who had been driven out of the land by Tefilmosis to the city called
Jerusalem; whereby he informed them of his own affairs, and of the state
of those others that had been treated after such an ignominious manner,
and desired that they would come with one consent to his assistance in
this war against Egypt. He also promised that he would, in the first place,
bring them back to their ancient city and country Avaris, and provide a
plentiful maintenance for their multitude; that he would protect them and
fight for them as occasion should require, and would easily reduce the
country under their dominion. These shepherds were all very glad of this
message, and came away with alacrity all together, being in number two
hundred thousand men; and in a little time they came to Avaris. And now
Amenophis the king of Egypt, upon his being informed of their invasion,
was in great confusion, as calling to mind what Amenophis, the son of
Papis, had foretold him; and, in the first place, he assembled the multitude
of the Egyptians, and took counsel with their leaders, and sent for their
sacred animals to him, especially for those that were principally
worshipped in their temples, and gave a particular charge to the priests
distinctly, that they should hide the images of their gods with the utmost
care he also sent his son Sethos, who was also named Ramesses, from his
father Rhampses, being but five years old, to a friend of his. He then
passed on with the rest of the Egyptians, being three hundred thousand of
the most warlike of them, against the enemy, who met them. Yet did he
not join battle with them; but thinking that would be to fight against the
gods, he returned back and came to Memphis, where he took Apis and the
other sacred animals which he had sent for to him, and presently marched
into Ethiopia, together with his whole army and multitude of Egyptians;
for the king of Ethiopia was under an obligation to him, on which account
he received him, and took care of all the multitude that was with him,
while the country supplied all that was necessary for the food of the men.
He also allotted cities and villages for this exile, that was to be from its
beginning during those fatally determined thirteen years. Moreover, he
pitched a camp for his Ethiopian army, as a guard to king Amenophis,
upon the borders of Egypt. And this was the state of things in Ethiopia.
But for the people of Jerusalem, when they came down together with the
polluted Egyptians, they treated the men in such a barbarous manner, that
those who saw how they subdued the forementioned country, and the
horrid wickedness they were guilty of, thought it a most dreadful thing; for
they did not only set the cities and villages on fire but were not satisfied
till they had been guilty of sacrilege, and destroyed the images of the gods,
and used them in roasting those sacred animals that used to be
worshipped, and forced the priests and prophets to be the executioners
and murderers of those animals, and then ejected them naked out of the
country. It was also reported that the priest, who ordained their polity
and their laws, was by birth of Hellopolls, and his name Osarsiph, from
Osyris, who was the God of Hellopolls; but that when he was gone over
to these people, his name was changed, and he was called Moses.”
27. This is what the Egyptians relate about the Jews, with much more,
which I omit for the sake of brevity. But still Manetho goes on, that “after
this, Amenophis returned back from Ethiopia with a great army, as did his
son Ahampses with another army also, and that both of them joined battle
with the shepherds and the polluted people, and beat them, and slew a
great many of them, and pursued them to the bounds of Syria.” These and
the like accounts are written by Manetho. But I will demonstrate that he
trifles, and tells arrant lies, after I have made a distinction which will relate
to what I am going to say about him; for this Manetho had granted and
confessed that this nation was not originally Egyptian, but that they had
come from another country, and subdued Egypt, and then went away
again out of it. But that. those Egyptians who were thus diseased in their
bodies were not mingled with us afterward, and that Moses who brought
the people out was not one of that company, but lived many generations
earlier, I shall endeavor to demonstrate from Manetho’s own accounts
28. Now, for the first occasion of this fiction, Manetho supposes what is
no better than a ridiculous thing; for he says that” king Amenophis desired
to see the gods.” What gods, I pray, did he desire to see? If he meant the
gods whom their laws ordained to be worshipped, the ox, the goat, the
crocodile, and the baboon, he saw them already; but for the heavenly gods,
how could he see them, and what should occasion this his desire? To be
sure? it was because another king before him had already seen them. He
had then been informed what sort of gods they were, and after what
manner they had been seen, insomuch that he did not stand in need of any
new artifice for obtaining this sight. However, the prophet by whose
means the king thought to compass his design was a wise man. If so, how
came he not to know that such his desire was impossible to be
accomplished? for the event did not succeed. And what pretense could
there be to suppose that the gods would not be seen by reason of the
people’s maims in their bodies, or leprosy? for the gods are not angry at
the imperfection of bodies, but at wicked practices; and as to eighty
thousand lepers, and those in an ill state also, how is it possible to have
them gathered together in one day? nay, how came the king not to comply
with the prophet? for his injunction was, that those that were maimed
should be expelled out of Egypt, while the king only sent them to work in
the quarries, as if he were rather in want of laborers, than intended to
purge his country. He says further, that” this prophet slew himself, as
foreseeing the anger of the gods, and those events which were to come
upon Egypt afterward; and that he left this prediction for the king in
writing.” Besides, how came it to pass that this prophet did not foreknow
his own death at the first? nay, how came he not to contradict the king in
his desire to see the gods immediately? how came that unreasonable dread
upon him of judgments that were not to happen in his lifetime? or what
worse thing could he suffer, out of the fear of which he made haste to kill
himself? But now let us see the silliest thing of all: — The king, although
he had been informed of these things, and terrified with the fear of what
was to come, yet did not he even then eject these maimed people out of
his country, when it had been foretold him that he was to clear Egypt of
them; but, as Manetho says, “he then, upon their request, gave them that
city to inhabit, which had formerly belonged to the shepherds, and was
called Avaris; whither when they were gone in crowds,” he says, “they
chose one that had formerly been priest of Hellopolls; and that this priest
first ordained that they should neither worship the gods, nor abstain from
those animals that were worshipped by the Egyptians, but should kill and
eat them all, and should associate with nobody but those that had
conspired with them; and that he bound the multitude by oaths to be sure
to continue in those laws; and that when he had built a wall about Avaris,
he made war against the king.” Manetho adds also, that “this priest sent to
Jerusalem to invite that people to come to his assistance, and promised to
give them Avaris; for that it had belonged to the forefathers of those that
were coming from Jerusalem, and that when they were come, they made a
war immediately against the king, and got possession of all Egypt.” He
says also that “the Egyptians came with an army of two hundred
thousand men, and that Amenophis, the king of Egypt, not thinking that
he ought to fight against the gods, ran away presently into Ethiopia, and
committed Apis and certain other of their sacred animals to the priests,
and commanded them to take care of preserving them.” He says further,
that” the people of Jerusalem came accordingly upon the Egyptians, and
overthrew their cities, and burnt their temples, and slew their horsemen,
and, in short, abstained from no sort of wickedness nor barbarity; and for
that priest who settled their polity and their laws,” he says,” he was by
birth of Hellopolis, and his name was Osarsiph, from Osyris the God of
Hellopolis, but that he changed his name, and called himself Moses.” He
then says that “on the thirteenth year afterward, Amenophis, according to
the fatal time of the duration of his misfortunes, came upon them out of
Ethiopia with a great army, and joining battle with the shepherds and with
the polluted people, overcame them in battle, and slew a great many of
them, and pursued them as far as the bounds of Syria.”
29. Now Manetho does not reflect upon the improbability of his lie; for
the leprous people, and the multitude that was with them, although they
might formerly have been angry at the king, and at those that had treated
them so coarsely, and this according to the prediction of the prophet; yet
certainly, when they were come out of the mines, and had received of the
king a city, and a country, they would have grown milder towards him.
However, had they ever so much hated him in particular, they might have
laid a private plot against himself, but would hardly have made war against
all the Egyptians; I mean this on the account of the great kindred they who
were so numerous must have had among them. Nay still, if they had
resolved to fight with the men, they would not have had impudence
enough to fight with their gods; nor would they have ordained laws quite
contrary to those of their own country, and to those in which they had
been bred up themselves. Yet are we beholden to Manethe, that he does
not lay the principal charge of this horrid transgression upon those that
came from Jerusalem, but says that the Egyptians themselves were the
most guilty, and that they were their priests that contrived these things,
and made the multitude take their oaths for doing so. But still how absurd
is it to suppose that none of these people’s own relations or friends
should be prevailed with to revolt, nor to undergo the hazards of war with
them, while these polluted people were forced to send to Jerusalem, and
bring their auxiliaries from thence! What friendship, I pray, or what
relation was there formerly between them that required this assistance? On
the contrary, these people were enemies, and greatly differed from them in
their customs. He says, indeed, that they complied immediately, upon
their praising them that they should conquer Egypt; as if they did not
themselves very well know that country out of which they had been
driven by force. Now had these men been in want, or lived miserably,
perhaps they might have undertaken so hazardous an enterprise; but as
they dwelt in a happy city, and had a large country, and one better than
Egypt itself, how came it about that, for the sake of those that had of old
been their enemies, of those that were maimed in their bodies, and of those
whom none of their own relations would endure, they should run such
hazards in assisting them? For they could not foresee that the king would
run away from them: on the contrary, he saith himself that “Amenophis’s
son had three hundred thousand men with him, and met them at
Pelusium.” Now, to be sure, those that came could not be ignorant of this;
but for the king’s repentance and flight, how could they possibly guess at
it? He then says, that “those who came from Jerusalem, and made this
invasion, got the granaries of Egypt into their possession, and perpetrated
many of the most horrid actions there.” And thence he reproaches them, as
though he had not himself introduced them as enemies, or as though he
might accuse such as were invited from another place for so doing, when
the natural Egyptians themselves had done the same things before their
coming, and had taken oaths so to do. However, “Amenophis, some time
afterward, came upon them, and conquered them in battle, and slew his
enemies, and drove them before him as far as Syria.” As if Egypt were so
easily taken by people that came from any place whatsoever, and as if
those that had conquered it by war, when they were informed that
Amenophis was alive, did neither fortify the avenues out of Ethiopia into
it, although they had great advantages for doing it, nor did get their other
forces ready for their defense! but that he followed them over the sandy
desert, and slew them as far as Syria; while yet it is rot an easy thing for
an army to pass over that country, even without fighting.
30. Our nation, therefore, according to Manetho, was not derived from
Egypt, nor were any of the Egyptians mingled with us. For it is to be
supposed that many of the leprous and distempered people were dead in
the mines, since they had been there a long time, and in so ill a condition;
many others must be dead in the battles that happened afterward, and
more still in the last battle and flight after it.
31. It now remains that I debate with Manetho about Moses. Now the
Egyptians acknowledge him to have been a wonderful and a divine person;
nay, they would willingly lay claim to him themselves, though after a most
abusive and incredible manner, and pretend that he was of Heliopolis, and
one of the priests of that place, and was ejected out of it among the rest,
on account of his leprosy; although it had been demonstrated out of their
records that he lived five hundred and eighteen years earlier, and then
brought our forefathers out of Egypt into the country that is now
inhabited by us. But now that he was not subject in his body to any such
calamity, is evident from what he himself tells us; for he forbade those that
had the leprosy either to continue in a city, or to inhabit in a village, but
commanded that they should go about by themselves with their clothes
rent; and declares that such as either touch them, or live under the same
roof with them, should be esteemed unclean; nay, more, if any one of their
disease be healed, and he recover his natural constitution again, he
appointed them certain purifications, and washings with spring water, and
the shaving off all their hair, and enjoins that they shall offer many
sacrifices, and those of several kinds, and then at length to be admitted into
the holy city; although it were to be expected that, on the contrary, if he
had been under the same calamity, he should have taken care of such
persons beforehand, and have had them treated after a kinder manner, as
affected with a concern for those that were to be under the like
misfortunes with himself. Nor;was it only those leprous people for whose
sake he made these laws, but also for such as should be maimed in the
smallest part of their body, who yet are not permitted by him to officiate
as priests; nay, although any priest, already initiated, should have such a
calamity fall upon him afterward, he ordered him to be deprived of his
honor of officiating. How can it then be supposed that Moses should
ordain such laws against himself, to his own reproach and damage who so
ordained them? Nor indeed is that other notion of Manetho at all probable,
wherein he relates the change of his name, and says that “he was formerly
called Osarsiph;” and this a name no way agreeable to the other, while his
true name was Mosses, and signifies a person who is preserved out of the
water, for the Egyptians call water Moil. I think, therefore, I have made it
sufficiently evident that Manetho, while he followed his ancient records,
did not much mistake the truth of the history; but that when he had
recourse to fabulous stories, without any certain author, he either forged
them himself, without any probability, or else gave credit to some men
who spake so out of their ill-will to us.
32. And now I have done with Manetho, I will inquire into what
Cheremon says. For he also, when he pretended to write the Egyptian
history, sets down the same name for this king that Manetho did,
Amenophis, as also of his son Ramesses, and then goes on thus: “The
goddess Isis appeared to Amenophis in his sleep, and blamed him that her
temple had been demolished in the war. But that Phritiphantes, the sacred
scribe, said to him, that in case he would purge Egypt of the men that had
pollutions upon them, he should be no longer troubled. with such frightful
apparitions. That Amenophis accordingly chose out two hundred and fifty
thousand of those that were thus diseased, and cast them out of the
country: that Moses and Joseph were scribes, and Joseph was a sacred
scribe; that their names were Egyptian originally; that of Moses had been
Tisithen, and that of Joseph, Peteseph: that these two came to Pelusium,
and lighted upon three hundred and eighty thousand that had been left
there by Amenophis, he not being willing to carry them into Egypt; that
these scribes made a league of friendship with them, and made with them
an expedition against Egypt: that Amenophis could not sustain their
attacks, but fled into Ethiopia, and left his wife with child behind him,
who lay concealed in certain caverns, and there brought forth a son, whose
name was Messene, and who, when he was grown up to man’s estate,
pursued the Jews into Syria, being about two hundred thousand, and then
received his father Amenophis out of Ethiopia.”
33. This is the account Cheremon gives us. Now I take it for granted that
what I have said already hath plainly proved the falsity of both these
narrations; for had there been any real truth at the bottom, it was
impossible they should so greatly disagree about the particulars. But for
those that invent lies, what they write will easily give us very different
accounts, while they forge what they please out of their own heads. Now
Manetho says that the king’s desire of seeing the gods was the origin of
the ejection of the polluted people; but Cheremon feigns that it was a
dream of his own, sent upon him by Isis, that was the occasion of it.
Manetho says that the person who foreshowed this purgation of Egypt to
the king was Amenophis; but this man says it was Phritiphantes. As to
the numbers of the multitude that were expelled, they agree exceedingly
well 24 the former reckoning them eighty thousand, and the latter about
two hundred and fifty thousand! Now, for Manetho, he describes those
polluted persons as sent first to work in the quarries, and says that the
city Avaris was given them for their habitation. As also he relates that it
was not till after they had made war with the rest of the Egyptians, that
they invited the people of Jerusalem to come to their assistance; while
Cheremon says only that they were gone out of Egypt, and lighted upon
three hundred and eighty thousand men about Pelusium, who had been left
there by Amenophis, and so they invaded Egypt with them again; that
thereupon Amenophis fled into Ethiopia. But then this Cheremon
commits a most ridiculous blunder in not informing us who this army of so
many ten thousands were, or whence they came; whether they were native
Egyptians, or whether they came from a foreign country. Nor indeed has
this man, who forged a dream from Isis about the leprous people, assigned
the reason why the king would not bring them into Egypt. Moreover,
Cheremon sets down Joseph as driven away at the same time with Moses,
who yet died four generations 25 before Moses, which four generations
make almost one hundred and seventy years. Besides all this, Ramesses,
the son of Amenophis, by Manetho’s account, was a young man, and
assisted his father in his war, and left the country at the same time with
him, and fled into Ethiopia. But Cheremon makes him to have been born in
a certain cave, after his father was dead, and that he then overcame the
Jews in battle, and drove them into Syria, being in number about two
hundred thousand. O the levity of the man! for he had neither told us who
these three hundred and eighty thousand were, nor how the four hundred
and thirty thousand perished; whether they fell in war, or went over to
Ramesses. And, what is the strangest of all, it is not possible to learn out
of him who they were whom he calls Jews, or to which of these two
parties he applies that denomination, whether to the two hundred and
fifty thousand leprous people, or to the three hundred and eighty
thousand that were about Pelusium. But perhaps it will be looked upon as
a silly thing in me to make any larger confutation of such writers as
sufficiently confute themselves; for had they been only confuted by other
men, it had been more tolerable.
34. I shall now add to these accounts about Manethoand Cheremon
somewhat about Lysimachus, who hath taken the same topic of falsehood
with those forementioned, but hath gone far beyond them in the incredible
nature of his forgeries; which plainly demonstrates that he contrived them
out of his virulent hatred of our nation. His words are these: “The people
of the Jews being leprous and scabby, and subject to certain other kinds of
distempers, in the days of Bocchoris, king of Egypt, they fled to the
temples, and got their food there by begging: and as the numbers were very
great that were fallen under these diseases, there arose a scarcity in Egypt.
Hereupon Bocehoris, the king of Egypt, sent some to consult the oracle of
[Jupiter] Hammon about his scarcity. The God’s answer was this, that he
must purge his temples of impure and impious men, by expelling them out
of those temples into desert places; but as to the scabby and leprous
people, he must drown them, and purge his temples, the sun having an
indignation at these men being suffered to live; and by this means the land
will bring forth its fruits. Upon Bocchoris’s having received these oracles,
he called for their priests, and the attendants upon their altars, and ordered
them to make a collection of the impure people, and to deliver them to the
soldiers, to carry them away into the desert; but to take the leprous
people, and wrap them in sheets of lead, and let them down into the sea.
Hereupon the scabby and leprous people were drowned, and the rest were
gotten together, and sent into desert places, in order to be exposed to
destruction. In this case they assembled themselves together, and took
counsel what they should do, and determined that, as the night was coming
on, they should kindle fires and lamps, and keep watch; that they also
should fast the next night, and propitiate the gods, in order to obtain
deliverance from them. That on the next day there was one Moses, who
advised them that they should venture upon a journey, and go along one
road till they should come to places fit for habitation: that he charged them
to have no kind regards for any man, nor give good counsel to any, but
always to advise them for the worst; and to overturn all those temples and
altars of the gods they should meet with: that the rest commended what he
had said with one consent, and did what they had resolved on, and so
traveled over the desert. But that the difficulties of the journey being over,
they came to a country inhabited, and that there they abused the men, and
plundered and burnt their temples; and then came into that land which is
called Judea, and there they built a city, and dwelt therein, and that their
city was named Hierosyla, from this their robbing of the temples; but that
still, upon the success they had afterwards, they in time changed its
denomination, that it might not be a reproach to them, and called the city
Hierosolyma, and themselves Hierosolymites.”
35. Now this man did not discover and mention the same king with the
others, but feigned a newer name, and passing by the dream and the
Egyptian prophet, he brings him to [Jupiter] Hammon, in order to gain
oracles about the scabby and leprous people; for he says that the
multitude of Jews were gathered together at the temples. Now it is
uncertain whether he ascribes this name to these lepers, or to those that
were subject to such diseases among the Jews only; for he describes them
as a people of the Jews. What people does he mean? foreigners, or those of
that country? Why then’ dost thou call them Jews, if they were
Egyptians? But if they were foreigners, why dost thou not tell us whence
they came? And how could it be that, after the king had drowned many of
them in the sea, and ejected the rest into desert places, there should be still
so great a multitude remaining? Or after what manner did they pass over
the desert, and get the land which we now dwell in, and build our city, and
that temple which hath been so famous among all mankind? And besides,
he ought to have spoken more about our legislator than by giving us his
bare name; and to have informed us of what nation he was, and what
parents he was derived from; and to have assigned the reasons why he
undertook to make such laws concerning the gods, and concerning matters
of injustice with regard to men during that journey. For in case the people
were by birth Egyptians, they would not on the sudden have so easily
changed the customs of their country; and in case they had been foreigners,
they had for certain some laws or other which had been kept by them from
long custom. It is true, that with regard to those who had ejected them,
they might have sworn never to bear good-will to them, and might have
had a plausible reason for so doing. But if these men resolved to wage an
implacable war against all men, in case they had acted as wickedly as he
relates of them, and this while they wanted the assistance of all men, this
demonstrates a kind of mad conduct indeed; but not of the men
themselves, but very greatly so of him that tells such lies about them. He
hath also impudence enough to say that a name, implying “Robbers of the
temples,” 26 was given to their city, and that this name was afterward
changed. The reason of which is plain, that the former name brought
reproach and hatred upon them in the times of their posterity, while, it
seems, those that built the city thought they did honor to the city by
giving it such a name. So we see that this fine fellow had such an
unbounded inclination to reproach us, that he did not understand that
robbery of temples is not expressed By the same word and name among
the Jews as it is among the Greeks. But why should a man say any more
to a person who tells such impudent lies? However, since this book is
arisen to a competent length, I will make another beginning, and endeavor
to add what still remains to perfect my design in the following book.
1. IN the former book, most honored Epaphroditus, I have demonstrated
our antiquity, and confirmed the truth of what I have said, from the
writings of the Phoenicians, and Chaldeans, and Egyptians. I have,
moreover, produced many of the Grecian writers as witnesses thereto. I
have also made a refutation of Manetho and Cheremon, and of certain
others of our enemies. I shall now 1 therefore begin a confutation of the
remaining authors who have written any thing against us; although I
confess I have had a doubt upon me about Apion 2 the grammarian,
whether I ought to take the trouble of confuting him or not; for some of his
writings contain much the same accusations which the others have laid
against us, some things that he hath added are very frigid and
contemptible, and for the greatest part of what he says, it is very
scurrilous, and, to speak no more than the plain truth, it shows him to be a
very unlearned person, and what he lays together looks like the work of a
man of very bad morals, and of one no better in his whole life than a
mountebank. Yet, because there are a great many men so very foolish, that
they are rather caught by such orations than by what is written with care,
and take pleasure in reproaching other men, and cannot abide to hear them
commended, I thought it to be necessary not to let this man go off without
examination, who had written such an accusation against us, as if he would
bring us to make an answer in open court. For I also have observed, that
many men are very much delighted when they see a man who first began
to reproach another, to be himself exposed to contempt on account of the
vices he hath himself been guilty of. However, it is not a very easy thing
to go over this man’s discourse, nor to know plainly what he means; yet
does he seem, amidst a great confusion and disorder in his falsehoods, to
produce, in the first place, such things as resemble what we have examined
already, and relate to the departure of our forefathers out of Egypt; and, in
the second place, he accuses those Jews that are inhabitants of Alexandria;
as, in the third place, he mixes with those things such accusations as
concern the sacred purifications, with the other legal rites used in the
2. Now although I cannot but think that I have already demonstrated, and
that abundantly more than was necessary, that our fathers were not
originally Egyptians, nor were thence expelled, either on account of bodily
diseases, or any other calamities of that sort; yet will I briefly take notice
of what Apion adds upon that subject; for in his third book, which relates
to the affairs of Egypt, he speaks thus: “I have heard of the ancient men of
Egypt, that Moses was of Heliopolis, and that he thought himself obliged
to follow the customs of his forefathers, and offered his prayers in the
open air, towards the city walls; but that he reduced them all to be directed
towards sun-rising, which was agreeable to the situation of Heliopolis; that
he also set up pillars instead of gnomons, 3 under which was represented a
cavity like that of a boat, and the shadow that fell from their tops fell
down upon that cavity, that it might go round about the like course as the
sun itself goes round in the other.” This is that wonderful relation which
we have given us by this grammarian. But that it is a false one is so plain,
that it stands in need of few words to prove it, but is manifest from the
works of Moses; for when he erected the first tabernacle to God, he did
himself neither give order for any such kind of representation to be made
at it, nor ordain that those that came after him should make such a one.
Moreover, when in a future age Solomon built his temple in Jerusalem, he
avoided all such needless decorations as Apion hath here devised. He says
further, how he had “heard of the ancient men, that Moses was of
Hellopolis.” To be sure that was, because being a younger man himself, he
believed those that by their elder age were acquainted and conversed with
him. Now this grammarian, as he was, could not certainly tell which was
the poet Homer’s country, no more than he could which was the country
of Pythagoras, who lived comparatively but a little while ago; yet does he
thus easily determine the age of Moses, who preceded them such a vast
number of years, as depending on his ancient men’s relation, which shows
how notorious a liar he was. But then as to this chronological
determination of the time when he says he brought the leprous people, the
blind, and the lame out of Egypt, see how well this most accurate
grammarian of ours agrees with those that have written before him!
Manetho says that the Jews departed out of Egypt, in the reign of
Tethmosis, three hundred ninety-three years before Danaus fled to Argos;
Lysimaehus says it was under king Bocchoris, that is, one thousand seven
hundred years ago; Molo and some others determined it as every one
pleased: but this Apion of ours, as deserving to be believed before them,
hath determined it exactly to have been in the seventh olympiad, and the
first year of that olympiad; the very same year in which he says that
Carthage was built by the Phoenicians. The reason why he added this
building of Carthage was, to be sure, in order, as he thought, to strengthen
his assertion by so evident a character of chronology. But he was not
aware that this character confutes his assertion; for if we may give credit
to the Phoenician records as to the time of the first coming of their colony
to Carthage, they relate that Hirom their king was above a hundred and
fifty years earlier than the building of Carthage; concerning whom I have
formerly produced testimonials out of those Phoenician records, as also
that this Hirom was a friend of Solomon when he was building the temple
of Jerusalem, and gave him great assistance in his building that temple;
while still Solomon himself built that temple six hundred and twelve years
after the Jews came out of Egypt. As for the number of those that were
expelled out of Egypt, he hath contrived to have the very same number
with Lysimaehus, and says they were a hundred and ten thousand. He
then assigns a certain wonderful and plausible occasion for the name of
Sabbath; for he says that “when the Jews had traveled a six days’ journey,
they had buboes in their groins; and that on this account it was that they
rested on the seventh day, as having got safely to that country which is
now called Judea; that then they preserved the language of the Egyptians,
and called that day the Sabbath, for that malady of buboes on their groin
was named Sabbatosis by the Egyptians.” And would not a man now
laugh at this fellow’s trifling, or rather hate his impudence in writing thus?
We must, it seems, fake it for granted that all these hundred and ten
thousand men must have these buboes. But, for certain, if those men had
been blind and lame, and had all sorts of distempers upon them, as Apion
says they had, they could not have gone one single day’s journey; but if
they had been all able to travel over a large desert, and, besides that, to
fight and conquer those that opposed them, they had not all of them had
buboes on their groins after the sixth day was over; for no such distemper
comes naturally and of necessity upon those that travel; but still, when
there are many ten thousands in a camp together, they constantly march a
settled space [in a day]. Nor is it at all probable that such a thing should
happen by chance; this would be prodigiously absurd to be supposed.
However, our admirable author Apion hath before told us that “they came
to Judea in six days’ time;” and again, that “Moses went up to a mountain
that lay between Egypt and Arabia, which was called Sinai, and was
concealed there forty days, and that when he came down from thence he
gave laws to the Jews.” But, then, how was it possible for them to tarry
forty days in a desert place where there was no water, and at the same
time to pass all over the country between that and Judea in the six days?
And as for this grammatical translation of the word Sabbath, it either
contains an instance of his great impudence or gross ignorance; for the
words Sabbo and Sabbath are widely different from one another; for the
word Sabbath in the Jewish language denotes rest from all sorts of work;
but the word Sabbo, as he affirms, denotes among the Egyptians the
malady of a bubo in the groin.
3. This is that novel account which the Egyptian Apion gives us
concerning the Jews’ departure out of Egypt, and is no better than a
contrivance of his own. But why should we wonder at the lies he tells
about our forefathers, when he affirms them to be of Egyptian original,
when he lies also about himself? for although he was born at Oasis in
Egypt, he pretends to be, as a man may say, the top man of all the
Egyptians; yet does he forswear his real country and progenitors, and by
falsely pretending to be born at Alexandria, cannot deny the 4 pravity of
his family; for you see how justly he calls those Egyptians whom he
hates, and endeavors to reproach; for had he not deemed Egyptians to be a
name of great reproach, he would not have avoided the name of an
Egyptian himself; as we know that those who brag of their own countries
value themselves upon the denomination they acquire thereby, and
reprove such as unjustly lay claim thereto. As for the Egyptians’ claim to
be of our kindred, they do it on one of the following accounts; I mean,
either as they value themselves upon it, and pretend to bear that relation
to us; or else as they would draw us in to be partakers of their own
infamy. But this fine fellow Apion seems to broach this reproachful
appellation against us, [that we were originally Egyptians,] in order to
bestow it on the Alexandrians, as a reward for the privilege they had given
him of being a fellow citizen with them: he also is apprized of the ill-will
the Alexandrians bear to those Jews who are their fellow citizens, and so
proposes to himself to reproach them, although he must thereby include
all the other Egyptians also; while in both cases he is no better than an
impudent liar.
4. But let us now see what those heavy and wicked crimes are which
Apion charges upon the Alexandrian Jews. “They came (says he) out of
Syria, and inhabited near the tempestuous sea, and were in the
neighborhood of the dashing of the waves.” Now if the place of habitation
includes any thing that is reproached, this man reproaches not his own real
country, [Egypt,] but what he pretends to be his own country, Alexandria;
for all are agreed in this, that the part of that city which is near the sea is
the best part of all for habitation. Now if the Jews gained that part of the
city by force, and have kept it hitherto without impeachment, this is a
mark of their valor; but in reality it was Alexander himself that gave them
that place for their habitation, when they obtained equal privileges there
with the Macedonians. Nor call I devise what Apion would have said, had
their habitation been at Necropolis? and not been fixed hard by the royal
palace [as it is]; nor had their nation had the denomination of Macedonians
given them till this very day [as they have]. Had this man now read the
epistles of king Alexander, or those of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, or met
with the writings of the succeeding kings, or that pillar which is still
standing at Alexandria, and contains the privileges which the great [Julius]
Caesar bestowed upon the Jews; had this man, I say, known these records,
and yet hath the impudence to write in contradiction to them, he hath
shown himself to be a wicked man; but if he knew nothing of these
records, he hath shown himself to be a man very ignorant: nay, when lie
appears to wonder how Jews could be called Alexandrians, this is another
like instance of his ignorance; for all such as are called out to be colonies,
although they be ever so far remote from one another in their original,
receive their names from those that bring them to their new habitations.
And what occasion is there to speak of others, when those of us Jews that
dwell at Antioch are named Antiochians, because Seleucns the founder of
that city gave them the privileges belonging thereto? After the like manner
do those Jews that inhabit Ephesus, and the other cities of Ionia, enjoy the
same name with those that were originally born there, by the grant of the
succeeding princes; nay, the kindness and humanity of the Romans hath
been so great, that it hath granted leave to almost all others to take the
same name of Romans upon them; I mean not particular men only, but
entire and large nations themselves also; for those anciently named Iberi,
and Tyrrheni, and Sabini, are now called Romani. And if Apion reject this
way of obtaining the privilege of a citizen of Alexandria, let him abstain
from calling himself an Alexandrian hereafter; for otherwise, how can he
who was born in the very heart of Egypt be an Alexandrian, if this way of
accepting such a privilege, of which he would have us deprived, be once
abrogated? although indeed these Romans, who are now the lords of the
habitable earth, have forbidden the Egyptians to have the privileges of any
city whatsoever; while this fine fellow, who is willing to partake of such a
privilege himself as he is forbidden to make use of, endeavors by calumnies
to deprive those of it that have justly received it; for Alexander did not
therefore get some of our nation to Alexandria, because he wanted
inhabitants for this his city, on whose building he had bestowed so much
pains; but this was given to our people as a reward, because he had, upon
a careful trial, found them all to have been men of virtue and fidelity to
him; for, as Hecateus says concerning us, “Alexander honored our nation
to such a degree, that, for the equity and the fidelity which the Jews
exhibited to him, he permitted them to hold the country of Samaria free
from tribute. Of the same mind also was Ptolemy the son of Lagus, as to
those Jews who dwelt at Alexandria.” For he intrusted the fortresses of
Egypt into their hands, as believing they would keep them faithfully and
valiantly for him; and when he was desirous to secure the government of
Cyrene, and the other cities of Libya, to himself, he sent a party of Jews
to inhabit in them. And for his successor Ptolemy, who was called
Philadelphus, he did not only set all those of our nation free who were
captives under him, but did frequently give money [for their ransom]; and,
what was his greatest work of all, he had a great desire of knowing our
laws, and of obtaining the books of our sacred Scriptures; accordingly, he
desired that such men might be sent him as might interpret our law to him;
and, in order to have them well compiled, he committed that care to no
ordinary persons, but ordained that Demetrius Phalereus, and Andreas,
and Aristeas; the first, Demetrius, the most learned person of his age, and
the others, such as were intrusted with the guard of his body; should take
care of this matter: nor would he certainly have been so desirous of
learning our law, and the philosophy of our nation, had he despised the
men that made use of it, or had he not indeed had them in great admiration.
5. Now this Apion was unacquainted with almost all the kings of those
Macedonians whom he pretends to have been his progenitors, who were
yet very well affected towards us; for the third of those Ptolemies, who
was called Euergetes, when he had gotten possession of all Syria by force,
did not offer his thank-offerings to the Egyptian gods for his victory, but
came to Jerusalem, and according to our own laws offered many sacrifices
to God, and dedicated to him such gifts as were suitable to such a victory:
and as for Ptolemy Philometer and his wife Cleopatra, they committed
their whole kingdom to the Jews, when Onias and Dositheus, both Jews,
whose names are laughed at by Apion, were the generals of their whole
army. But certainly, instead of reproaching them, he ought to admire their
actions, and return them thanks for saving Alexandria, whose citizen he
pretends to be; for when these Alexandrians were making war with
Cleopatra the queen, and were in danger of being utterly ruined, these Jews
brought them to terms of agreement, and freed them from the miseries of a
civil war. “But then (says Apion) Onias brought a small army afterward
upon the city at the time when Thorruns the Roman ambassador was there
present.” Yes, do I venture to say, and that he did rightly and very justly
in so doing; for that Ptolemy who was called Physco, upon the death of
his brother Philometer, came from Cyrene, and would have ejected
Cleopatra as well as her sons out of their kingdom, that he might obtain it
for himself unjustly. 5 For this cause then it was that Onias undertook a
war against him on Cleopatra’s account; nor would he desert that trust the
royal family had reposed in him in their distress. Accordingly, God gave a
remarkable attestation to his righteous procedure; for when Ptolemy
Physco 6 had the presumption to fight against Onias’s army, and had
caught all the Jews that were in the city [Alexandria], with their children
and wives, and exposed them naked and in bonds to his elephants, that
they might be trodden upon and destroyed, and when he had made those
elephants drunk for that purpose, the event proved contrary to his
preparations; for these elephants left the Jews who were exposed to them,
and fell violently upon Physco’s friends, and slew a great number of them;
nay, after this Ptolemy saw a terrible ghost, which prohibited his hurting
those men; his very concubine, whom he loved so well, (some call her
Ithaca, and others Irene,) making supplication to him, that he would not
perpetrate so great a wickedness. So he complied with her request, and
repented of what he either had already done, or was about to do; whence it
is well known that the Alexandrian Jews do with good reason celebrate
this day, on the account that they had thereon been vouchsafed such an
evident deliverance from God. However, Apion, the common calumniator
of men, hath the presumption to accuse the Jews for making this war
against Physco, when he ought to have commended them for the same.
This man also makes mention of Cleopatra, the last queen of Alexandria,
and abuses us, because she was ungrateful to us; whereas he ought to have
reproved her, who indulged herself in all kinds of injustice and wicked
practices, both with regard to her nearest relations and husbands who had
loved her, and, indeed, in general with regard to all the Romans, and those
emperors that were her benefactors; who also had her sister Arsinoe slain
in a temple, when she had done her no harm: moreover, she had her brother
slain by private treachery, and she destroyed the gods of her country and
the sepulchers of her progenitors; and while she had received her kingdom
from the first Caesar, she had the impudence to rebel against his son: 7 and
successor; nay, she corrupted Antony with her love-tricks, and rendered
him an enemy to his country, and made him treacherous to his friends, and
[by his means] despoiled some of their royal authority, and forced others
in her madness to act wickedly. But what need I enlarge upon this head
any further, when she left Antony in his fight at sea, though he were her
husband, and the father of their common children, and compelled him to
resign up his government, with the army, and to follow her [into Egypt]?
nay, when last of all Caesar had taken Alexandria, she came to that pitch
of cruelty, that she declared she had some hope of preserving her affairs
still, in case she could kill the Jews, though it were with her own hand; to
such a degree of barbarity and perfidiousness had she arrived. And doth
any one think that we cannot boast ourselves of any thing, if, as Apion
says, this queen did not at a time of famine distribute wheat among us?
However, she at length met with the punishment she deserved. As for us
Jews, we appeal to the great Caesar what assistance we brought him, and
what fidelity we showed to him against the Egyptians; as also to the
senate and its decrees, and the epistles of Augustus Caesar, whereby our
merits [to the Romans] are justified. Apion ought to have looked upon
those epistles, and in particular to have examined the testimonies given on
our behalf, under Alexander and all the Ptolemies, and the decrees of the
senate and of the greatest Roman emperors. And if Germanicus was not
able to make a distribution of corn to all the inhabitants of Alexandria, that
only shows what a barren time it was, and how great a want there was
then of corn, but tends nothing to the accusation of the Jews; for what all
the emperors have thought of the Alexandrian Jews is well known, for this
distribution of wheat was no otherwise omitted with regard to the Jews,
than it was with regard to the other inhabitants of Alexandria. But they
still were desirous to preserve what the kings had formerly intrusted to
their care, I mean the custody of the river; nor did those kings think them
unworthy of having the entire custody thereof, upon all occasions.
6. But besides this, Apion objects to us thus: “If the Jews (says he) be
citizens of Alexandria, why do they not worship the same gods with the
Alexandrians?” To which I give this answer: Since you are yourselves
Egyptians, why do you fight it out one against another, and have
implacable wars about your religion? At this rate we must not call you all
Egyptians, nor indeed in general men, because you breed up with great care
beasts of a nature quite contrary to that of men, although the nature of all
men seems to be one and the same. Now if there be such differences in
opinion among you Egyptians, why are you surprised that those who
came to Alexandria from another country, and had original laws of their
own before, should persevere in the observance of those laws? But still he
charges us with being the authors of sedition; which accusation, if it be a
just one, why is it not laid against us all, since we are known to be all of
one mind. Moreover, those that search into such matters will soon
discover that the authors of sedition have been such citizens of Alexandria
as Apion is; for while they were the Grecians and Macedonians who were
ill possession of this city, there was no sedition raised against us, and we
were permitted to observe our ancient solemnities; but when the number
of the Egyptians therein came to be considerable, the times grew confused,
and then these seditions brake out still more and more, while our people
continued uncorrupted. These Egyptians, therefore, were the authors of
these troubles, who having not the constancy of Macedonians, nor the
prudence of Grecians, indulged all of them the evil manners of the
Egyptians, and continued their ancient hatred against us; for what is here
so presumptuously charged upon us, is owing to the differences that are
amongst themselves; while many of them have not obtained the privileges
of citizens in proper times, but style those who are well known to have
had that privilege extended to them all no other than foreigners: for it does
not appear that any of the kings have ever formerly bestowed those
privileges of citizens upon Egyptians, no more than have the emperors
done it more lately; while it was Alexander who introduced us into this
city at first, the kings augmented our privileges therein, and the Romans
have been pleased to preserve them always inviolable. Moreover, Apion
would lay a blot upon us, because we do not erect images for our
emperors; as if those emperors did not know this before, or stood in need
of Apion as their defender; whereas he ought rather to have admired the
magnanimity and modesty of the Romans, whereby they do not compel
those that are subject to them to transgress the laws of their countries, but
are willing to receive the honors due to them after such a manner as those
who are to pay them esteem consistent with piety and with their own
laws; for they do not thank people for conferring honors upon them,
When they are compelled by violence so to do. Accordingly, since the
Grecians and some other nations think it a right thing to make images, nay,
when they have painted the pictures of their parents, and wives, and
children, they exult for joy; and some there are who take pictures for
themselves of such persons as were no way related to them; nay, some
take the pictures of such servants as they were fond of; what wonder is it
then if such as these appear willing to pay the same respect to their
princes and lords? But then our legislator hath forbidden us to make
images, not by way of denunciation beforehand, that the Roman authority
was not to be honored, but as despising a thing that was neither necessary
nor useful for either God or man; and he forbade them, as we shall prove
hereafter, to make these images for any part of the animal creation, and
much less for God himself, who is no part of such animal creation. Yet
hath our legislator no where forbidden us to pay honors to worthy men,
provided they be of another kind, and inferior to those we pay to God;
with which honors we willingly testify our respect to our emperors, and
to the people of Rome; we also offer perpetual sacrifices for them; nor do
we only offer them every day at the common expenses of all the Jews, but
although we offer no other such sacrifices out of our common expenses,
no, not for our own children, yet do we this as a peculiar honor to the
emperors, and to them alone, while we do the same to no other person
whomsoever. And let this suffice for an answer in general to Apion, as to
what he says with relation to the Alexandrian Jews.
7. However, I cannot but admire those other authors who furnished this
man with such his materials; I mean Possidonius and Apollonius [the son
of] Molo, 8 who, while they accuse us for not worshipping the same gods
whom others worship, they think themselves not guilty of impiety when
they tell lies of us, and frame absurd and reproachful stories about our
temple; whereas it is a most shameful thing for freemen to forge lies on
any occasion, and much more so to forge them about our temple, which
was so famous over all the world, and was preserved so sacred by us; for
Apion hath the impudence to pretend that” the Jews placed an ass’s head
in their holy place;” and he affirms that this was discovered when
Antiochus Epiphanes spoiled our temple, and found that ass’s head there
made of gold, and worth a great deal of money. To this my first answer
shall be this, that had there been any such thing among us, an Egyptian
ought by no means to have thrown it in our teeth, since an ass is not a
more contemptible animal than — 9 and goats, and other such creatures,
which among them are gods. But besides this answer, I say further, how
comes it about that Apion does not understand this to be no other than a
palpable lie, and to be confuted by the thing itself as utterly incredible?
For we Jews are always governed by the same laws, in which we
constantly persevere; and although many misfortunes have befallen our
city, as the like have befallen others, and although Theos [Epiphanes], and
Pompey the Great, and Licinius Crassus, and last of all Titus Caesar, have
conquered us in war, and gotten possession of our temple; yet have they
none of them found any such thing there, nor indeed any thing but what
was agreeable to the strictest piety; although what they found we are not
at liberty to reveal to other nations. But for Antiochus [Epiphanes], he
had no just cause for that ravage in our temple that he made; he only came
to it when he wanted money, without declaring himself our enemy, and
attacked us while we were his associates and his friends; nor did he find
any thing there that was ridiculous. This is attested by many worthy
writers; Polybius of Megalopolis, Strabo of Cappadocia, Nicolaus of
Damascus, Timagenes, Castor the chronotoger, and Apollodorus; 10 who
all say that it was out of Antiochus’s want of money that he broke his
league with the Jews, and despoiled their temple when it was full of gold
and silver. Apion ought to have had a regard to these facts, unless he had
himself had either an ass’s heart or a dog’s impudence; of such a dog I
mean as they worship; for he had no other external reason for the lies he
tells of us. As for us Jews, we ascribe no honor or power to asses, as do
the Egyptians to crocodiles and asps, when they esteem such as are seized
upon by the former, or bitten by the latter, to be happy persons, and
persons worthy of God. Asses are the same with us which they are with
other wise men, viz. creatures that bear the burdens that we lay upon
them; but if they come to our thrashing-floors and eat our corn, or do not
perform what we impose upon them, we beat them with a great many
stripes, because it is their business to minister to us in our husbandry
affairs. But this Apion of ours was either perfectly unskillful in the
composition of such fallacious discourses, or however, when he begun
[somewhat better], he was not able to persevere in what he had
undertaken, since he hath no manner of success in those reproaches he
casts upon us.
8. He adds another Grecian fable, in order to reproach us. In reply to
which, it would be enough to say, that they who presume to speak about
Divine worship ought not to be ignorant of this plain truth, that it is a
degree of less impurity to pass through temples, than to forge wicked
calumnies of its priests. Now such men as he are more zealous to justify a
sacrilegious king, than to write what is just and what is true about us, and
about our temple; for when they are desirous of gratifying Antiochus, and
of concealing that perfidiousness and sacrilege which he was guilty of,
with regard to our nation, when he wanted money, they endeavor to
disgrace us, and tell lies even relating to futurities. Apion becomes other
men’s prophet upon this occasion, and says that “Antiochus found in our
temple a bed, and a man lying upon it, with a small table before him, full of
dainties, from the [fishes of the] sea, and the fowls of the dry land; that
this man was amazed at these dainties thus set before him; that he
immediately adored the king, upon his coming in, as hoping that he would
afford him all possible assistance; that he fell down upon his knees, and
stretched out to him his right hand, and begged to be released; and that
when the king bid him sit down, and tell him who he was, and why he
dwelt there, and what was the meaning of those various sorts of food that
were set before him the man made a lamentable complaint, and with sighs,
and tears in his eyes, gave him this account of the distress he was in; and
said that he was a Greek and that as he went over this province, in order to
get his living, he was seized upon by foreigners, on a sudden, and brought
to this temple, and shut up therein, and was seen by nobody, but was
fattened by these curious provisions thus set before him; and that truly at
the first such unexpected advantages seemed to him matter of great joy;
that after a while, they brought a suspicion him, and at length
astonishment, what their meaning should be; that at last he inquired of the
servants that came to him and was by them informed that it was in order
to the fulfilling a law of the Jews, which they must not tell him, that he
was thus fed; and that they did the same at a set time every year: that they
used to catch a Greek foreigner, and fat him thus up every year, and then
lead him to a certain wood, and kill him, and sacrifice with their
accustomed solemnities, and taste of his entrails, and take an oath upon
this sacrificing a Greek, that they would ever be at enmity with the
Greeks; and that then they threw the remaining parts of the miserable
wretch into a certain pit.” Apion adds further, that” the man said there
were but a few days to come ere he was to be slain, and implored of
Antiochus that, out of the reverence he bore to the Grecian gods, he would
disappoint the snares the Jews laid for his blood, and would deliver him
from the miseries with which he was encompassed.” Now this is such a
most tragical fable as is full of nothing but cruelty and impudence; yet
does it not excuse Antiochus of his sacrilegious attempt, as those who
write it in his vindication are willing to suppose; for he could not presume
beforehand that he should meet with any such thing in coming to the
temple, but must have found it unexpectedly. He was therefore still an
impious person, that was given to unlawful pleasures, and had no regard to
God in his actions. But [as for Apion], he hath done whatever his
extravagant love of lying hath dictated to him, as it is most easy to
discover by a consideration of his writings; for the difference of our laws is
known not to regard the Grecians only, but they are principally opposite
to the Egyptians, and to some other nations also for while it so falls out
that men of all countries come sometimes and sojourn among us, how
comes it about that we take an oath, and conspire only against the
Grecians, and that by the effusion of their blood also? Or how is it
possible that all the Jews should get together to these sacrifices, and the
entrails of one man should be sufficient for so many thousands to taste of
them, as Apion pretends? Or why did not the king carry this man,
whosoever he was, and whatsoever was his name, (which is not set down
in Apion’s book,) with great pomp back into his own country? when he
might thereby have been esteemed a religious person himself, and a mighty
lover of the Greeks, and might thereby have procured himself great
assistance from all men against that hatred the Jews bore to him. But I
leave this matter; for the proper way of confuting fools is not to use bare
words, but to appeal to the things themselves that make against them.
Now, then, all such as ever saw the construction of our temple, of what
nature it was, know well enough how the purity of it was never to be
profaned; for it had four several courts 12 encompassed with cloisters
round about, every one of which had by our law a peculiar degree of
separation from the rest. Into the first court every body was allowed to
go, even foreigners, and none but women, during their courses, were
prohibited to pass through it; all the Jews went into the second court, as
well as their wives, when they were free from all uncleanness; into the
third court went in the Jewish men, when they were clean and purified;
into the fourth went the priests, having on their sacerdotal garments; but
for the most sacred place, none went in but the high priests, clothed in
their peculiar garments. Now there is so great caution used about these
offices of religion, that the priests are appointed to go into the temple but
at certain hours; for in the morning, at the opening of the inner temple,
those that are to officiate receive the sacrifices, as they do again at noon,
till the doors are shut. Lastly, it is not so much as lawful to carry any
vessel into the holy house; nor is there any thing therein, but the altar [of
incense], the table [of shew-bread], the censer, and the candlestick, which
are all written in the law; for there is nothing further there, nor are there
any mysteries performed that may not be spoken of; nor is there any
feasting within the place. For what I have now said is publicly known, and
supported by the testimony of the whole people, and their operations are
very manifest; for although there be four courses of the priests, and every
one of them have above five thousand men in them, yet do they officiate
on certain days only; and when those days are over, other priests succeed
in the performance of their sacrifices, and assemble together at mid-day,
and receive the keys of the temple, and the vessels by tale, without any
thing relating to food or drink being carried into the temple; nay, we are
not allowed to offer such things at the altar, excepting what is prepared for
the sacrifices.
9. What then can we say of Apion, but that he examined nothing that
concerned these things, while still he uttered incredible words about them?
but it is a great shame for a grammarian not to be able to write true history.
Now if he knew the purity of our temple, he hath entirely omitted to take
notice of it; but he forges a story about the seizing of a Grecian, about
ineffable food, and the most delicious preparation of dainties; and pretends
that strangers could go into a place whereinto the noblest men among the
Jews are not allowed to enter, unless they be priests. This, therefore, is
the utmost degree of impiety, and a voluntary lie, in order to the delusion
of those who will not examine into the truth of matters; whereas such
unspeakable mischiefs as are above related have been occasioned by such
calumnies that are raised upon us.
10. Nay, this miracle or piety derides us further, and adds the following
pretended facts to his former fable; for be says that this man related how,
“while the Jews were once in a long war with the Idumeans, there came a
man out of one of the cities of the Idumeans, who there had worshipped
Apollo. This man, whose name is said to have been Zabidus, came to the
Jews, and promised that he would deliver Apollo, the God of Dora, into
their hands, and that he would come to our temple, if they would all come
up with him, and bring the whole multitude of the Jews with them; that
Zabidus made him a certain wooden instrument, and put it round about
him, and set three rows of lamps therein, and walked after such a manner,
that he appeared to those that stood a great way off him to be a kind of
star, walking upon the earth; that the Jews were terribly affrighted at so
surprising an appearance, and stood very quiet at a distance; and that
Zabidus, while they continued so very quiet, went into the holy house,
and carried off that golden head of an ass, (for so facetiously does he
write,) and then went his way back again to Dora in great haste.” And say
you so, sir! as I may reply; then does Apion load the ass, that is, himself,
and lays on him a burden of fooleries and lies; for he writes of places that
have no being, and not knowing the cities he speaks of, he changes their
situation; for Idumea borders upon our country, and is near to Gaza, in
which there is no such city as Dora; although there be, it is true, a city
named Dora in Phoenicia, near Mount Carmel, but it is four days’ journey
from Idumea. 12 Now, then, why does this man accuse us, because we have
not gods in common with other nations, if our fathers were so easily
prevailed upon to have Apollo come to them, and thought they saw him
walking upon the earth, and the stars with him? for certainly those who
have so many festivals, wherein they light lamps, must yet, at this rate,
have never seen a candlestick! But still it seems that while Zabidus took
his journey over the country, where were so many ten thousands of
people, nobody met him. He also, it seems, even in a time of war, found
the walls of Jerusalem destitute of guards. I omit the rest. Now the doors
of the holy house were seventy 13 cubits high, and twenty cubits broad;
they were all plated over with gold, and almost of solid gold itself, and
there were no fewer than twenty 14 men required to shut them every day;
nor was it lawful ever to leave them open, though it seems this
lamp-bearer of ours opened them easily, or thought he opened them, as he
thought he had the ass’s head in his hand. Whether, therefore, he returned
it to us again, or whether Apion took it, and brought it into the temple
again, that Antiochus might find it, and afford a handle for a second fable
of Apion’s, is uncertain.
11. Apion also tells a false story, when he mentions an oath of ours, as if
we “swore by God, the Maker of the heaven, and earth, and sea, to bear
no good will to any foreigner, and particularly to none of the Greeks.”
Now this liar ought to have said directly that” we would bear no good-will
to any foreigner, and particularly to none of the Egyptians.” For then his
story about the oath would have squared with the rest of his original
forgeries, in case our forefathers had been driven away by their kinsmen,
the Egyptians, not on account of any wickedness they had been guilty of,
but on account of the calamities they were under; for as to the Grecians,
we were rather remote from them in place, than different from them in our
institutions, insomuch that we have no enmity with them, nor any
jealousy of them. On the contrary, it hath so happened that many of them
have come over to our laws, and some of them have continued in their
observation, although others of them had not courage enough to persevere,
and so departed from them again; nor did any body ever hear this oath
sworn by us: Apion, it seems, was the only person that heard it, for he
indeed was the first composer of it.
12. However, Apion deserves to be admired for his great prudence, as to
what I am going to say, which is this,” That there is a plain mark among
us, that we neither have just laws, nor worship God as we ought to do,
because we are not governors, but are rather in subjection to Gentiles,
sometimes to one nation, and sometimes to another; and that our city hath
been liable to several calamities, while their city [Alexandria] hath been of
old time an imperial city, and not used to be in subjection to the Romans.”
But now this man had better leave off this bragging, for every body but
himself would think that Apion said what he hath said against himself; for
there are very few nations that have had the good fortune to continue
many generations in the principality, but still the mutations in human
affairs have put them into subjection under others; and most nations have
been often subdued, and brought into subjection by others. Now for the
Egyptians, perhaps they are the only nation that have had this
extraordinary privilege, to have never served any of those monarchs who
subdued Asia and Europe, and this on account, as they pretend, that the
gods fled into their country, and saved themselves by being changed into
the shapes of wild beasts! Whereas these Egyptians 15 are the very people
that appear to have never, in all the past ages, had one day of freedom, no,
not so much as from their own lords. For I will not reproach them with
relating the manner how the Persians used them, and this not once only,
but many times, when they laid their cities waste, demolished their
temples, and cut the throats of those animals whom they esteemed to be
gods; for it is not reasonable to imitate the clownish ignorance of Apion,
who hath no regard to the misfortunes of the Athenians, or of the
Lacedemonians, the latter of whom were styled by all men the most
courageous, and the former the most religious of the Grecians. I say
nothing of such kings as have been famous for piety, particularly of one of
them, whose name was Cresus, nor what calamities he met with in his life;
I say nothing of the citadel of Athens, of the temple at Ephesus, of that at
Delphi, nor of ten thousand others which have been burnt down, while
nobody cast reproaches on those that were the sufferers, but on those that
were the actors therein. But now we have met with Apion, an accuser of
our nation, though one that still forgets the miseries of his own people, the
Egptians; but it is that Sesostris who was once so celebrated a king of
Egypt that hath blinded him. Now we will not brag of our kings, David
and Solomon, though they conquered many nations; accordingly we will
let them alone. However, Apion is ignorant of what every body knows,
that the Egyptians were servants to the Persians, and afterwards to the
Macedonians, when they were lords of Asia, and were no better than
slaves, while we have enjoyed liberty formerly; nay, more than that, have
had the dominion of the cities that lie round about us, and this nearly for a
hundred and twenty years together, until Pompeius Magnus. And when all
the kings every where were conquered by the Romans, our ancestors were
the only people who continued to be esteemed their confederates and
friends, on account of their fidelity to them.16
13. “But,” says Apion, “we Jews have not had any wonderful men
amongst us, not any inventors of arts, nor any eminent for wisdom.” He
then enumerates Socrates, and Zeno, and Cleanthes, and some others of
the same sort; and, after all, he adds himself to them, which is the most
wonderful thing of all that he says, and pronounces Alexandria to be
happy, because it hath such a citizen as he is in it; for he was the fittest
man to be a witness to his own deserts, although he hath appeared to all
others no better than a wicked mountebank, of a corrupt life and ill
discourses; on which account one may justly pity Alexandria, if it should
value itself upon such a citizen as he is. But as to our own men, we have
had those who have been as deserving of commendation as any other
whosoever, and such as have perused our Antiquities cannot be ignorant of
14. As to the other things which he sets down as blameworthy, it may
perhaps be the best way to let them pass without apology, that he may be
allowed to be his own accuser, and the accuser of the rest of the
Egyptians. However, he accuses us for sacrificing animals, and for
abstaining from swine’s flesh, and laughs at us for the circumcision of our
privy members. Now as for our slaughter of tame animals for sacrifices, it
is common to us and to all other men; but this Apion, by making it a crime
to sacrifice them, demonstrates himself to be an Egyptian; for had he been
either a Grecian or a Macedonian, [as he pretends to be,] he had not shown
any uneasiness at it; for those people glory in sacrificing whole hecatombs
to the gods, and make use of those sacrifices for feasting; and yet is not the
world thereby rendered destitute of cattle, as Apion was afraid would
come to pass. Yet if all men had followed the manners of the Egyptians,
the world had certainly been made desolate as to mankind, but had been
filled full of the wildest sort of brute beasts, which, because they suppose
them to be gods, they carefully nourish. However, if any one should ask
Apion which of the Egyptians he thinks to he the most wise and most
pious of them all, he would certainly acknowledge the priests to be so; for
the histories say that two things were originally committed to their care by
their kings’ injunctions, the worship of the gods, and the support of
wisdom and philosophy. Accordingly, these priests are all circumcised,
and abstain from swine’s flesh; nor does any one of the other Egyptians
assist them in slaying those sacrifices they offer to the gods. Apion was
therefore quite blinded in his mind, when, for the sake of the Egyptians, he
contrived to reproach us, and to accuse such others as not only make use
of that conduct of life which he so much abuses, but have also taught other
men to be circumcised, as says Herodotus; which makes me think that
Apion is hereby justly punished for his casting such reproaches on the
laws of his own country; for he was circumcised himself of necessity, on
account of an ulcer in his privy member; and when he received no benefit
by such circumcision, but his member became putrid, he died in great
torment. Now men of good tempers ought to observe their own laws
concerning religion accurately, and to persevere therein, but not presently
to abuse the laws of other nations, while this Apion deserted his own
laws, and told lies about ours. And this was the end of Apion’s life, and
this shall be the conclusion of our discourse about him.
15. But now, since Apollonius Molo, and Lysimachus, and some others,
write treatises about our lawgiver Moses, and about our laws, which are
neither just nor true, and this partly out of ignorance, but chiefly out of
ill-will to us, while they calumniate Moses as an impostor and deceiver,
and pretend that our laws teach us wickedness, but nothing that is
virtuous, I have a mind to discourse briefly, according to my ability, about
our whole constitution of government, and about the particular branches of
it. For I suppose it will thence become evident, that the laws we have
given us are disposed after the best manner for the advancement of piety,
for mutual communion with one another, for a general love of mankind, as
also for justice, and for sustaining labors with fortitude, and for a
contempt of death. And I beg of those that shall peruse this writing of
mine, to read it without partiality; for it is not my purpose to write an
encomium upon ourselves, but I shall esteem this as a most just apology
for us, and taken from those our laws, according to which we lead our
lives, against the many and the lying objections that have been made
against us. Moreover, since this Apollonius does not do like Apion, and
lay a continued accusation against us, but does it only by starts, and up
and clown his discourse, while he sometimes reproaches us as atheists, and
man-haters, and sometimes hits us in the teeth with our want of courage,
and yet sometimes, on the contrary, accuses us of too great boldness and
madness in our conduct; nay, he says that we are the weakest of all the
barbarians, and that this is the reason why we are the only people who
have made no improvements in human life; now I think I shall have then
sufficiently disproved all these his allegations, when it shall appear that
our laws enjoin the very reverse of what he says, and that we very
carefully observe those laws ourselves. And if I he compelled to make
mention of the laws of other nations, that are contrary to ours, those ought
deservedly to thank themselves for it, who have pretended to depreciate
our laws in comparison of their own; nor will there, I think, be any room
after that for them to pretend either that we have no such laws ourselves,
an epitome of which I will present to the reader, or that we do not, above
all men, continue in the observation of them.
16. To begin then a good way backward, I would advance this, in the first
place, that those who have been admirers of good order, and of living under
common laws, and who began to introduce them, may well have this
testimony that they are better than other men, both for moderation and
such virtue as is agreeable to nature. Indeed their endeavor was to have
every thing they ordained believed to be very ancient, that they might not
be thought to imitate others, but might appear to have delivered a regular
way of living to others after them. Since then this is the case, the
excellency of a legislator is seen in providing for the people’s living after
the best manner, and in prevailing with those that are to use the laws he
ordains for them, to have a good opinion of them, and in obliging the
multitude to persevere in them, and to make no changes in them, neither in
prosperity nor adversity. Now I venture to say, that our legislator is the
most ancient of all the legislators whom we have ally where heard of; for
as for the Lycurguses, and Solons, and Zaleucus Locrensis, and all those
legislators who are so admired by the Greeks, they seem to be of
yesterday, if compared with our legislator, insomuch as the very name of a
law was not so much as known in old times among the Grecians. Homer is
a witness to the truth of this observation, who never uses that term in all
his poems; for indeed there was then no such thing among them, but the
multitude was governed by wise maxims, and by the injunctions of their
king. It was also a long time that they continued in the use of these
unwritten customs, although they were always changing them upon
several occasions. But for our legislator, who was of so much greater
antiquity than the rest, (as even those that speak against us upon all
occasions do always confess,) he exhibited himself to the people as their
best governor and counselor, and included in his legislation the entire
conduct of their lives, and prevailed with them to receive it, and brought it
so to pass, that those that were made acquainted with his laws did most
carefully observe them.
17. But let us consider his first and greatest work; for when it was
resolved on by our forefathers to leave Egypt, and return to their own
country, this Moses took the many tell thousands that were of the people,
and saved them out of many desperate distresses, and brought them home
in safety. And certainly it was here necessary to travel over a country
without water, and full of sand, to overcome their enemies, and, during
these battles, to preserve their children, and their wives, and their prey; on
all which occasions he became an excellent general of an army, and a most
prudent counselor, and one that took the truest care of them all; he also so
brought it about, that the whole multitude depended upon him. And while
he had them always obedient to what he enjoined, he made no manner of
use of his authority for his own private advantage, which is the usual time
when governors gain great powers to themselves, and pave the way for
tyranny, and accustom the multitude to live very dissolutely; whereas,
when our legislator was in so great authority, he, on the contrary, thought
he ought to have regard to piety, and to show his great good-will to the
people; and by this means he thought he might show the great degree of
virtue that was in him, and might procure the most lasting security to
those who had made him their governor. When he had therefore come to
such a good resolution, and had performed such wonderful exploits, we
had just reason to look upon ourselves as having him for a divine governor
and counselor. And when he had first persuaded himself 17 that his actions
and designs were agreeable to God’s will, he thought it his duty to
impress, above all things, that notion upon the multitude; for those who
have once believed that God is the inspector of their lives, will not permit
themselves in any sin. And this is the character of our legislator: he was no
impostor, no deceiver, as his revilers say, though unjustly, but such a one
as they brag Minos 18 to have been among the Greeks, and other legislators
after him; for some of them suppose that they had their laws from Jupiter,
while Minos said that the revelation of his laws was to be referred to
Apollo, and his oracle at Delphi, whether they really thought they were so
derived, or supposed, however, that they could persuade the people easily
that so it was. But which of these it was who made the best laws, and
which had the greatest reason to believe that God was their author, it will
be easy, upon comparing those laws themselves together, to determine; for
it is time that we come to that point. 19 Now there are innumerable
differences in the particular customs and laws that are among all mankind,
which a man may briefly reduce under the following heads: Some
legislators have permitted their governments to be under monarchies,
others put them under oligarchies, and others under a republican form; but
our legislator had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our
government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a
Theocracy, 20 by ascribing the authority and the power to God, and by
persuading all the people to have a regard to him, as the author of all the
good things that were enjoyed either in common by all mankind, or by
each one in particular, and of all that they themselves obtained by praying
to him in their greatest difficulties. He informed them that it was
impossible to escape God’s observation, even in any of our outward
actions, or in any of our inward thoughts. Moreover, he represented God
as unbegotten, 21 and immutable, through all eternity, superior to all mortal
conceptions in pulchritude; and, though known to us by his power, yet
unknown to us as to his essence. I do not now explain how these notions
of God are the sentiments of the wisest among the Grecians, and how they
were taught them upon the principles that he afforded them. However,
they testify, with great assurance, that these notions are just, and agreeable
to the nature of God, and to his majesty; for Pythagoras, and Anaxagoras,
and Plato, and the Stoic philosophers that succeeded them, and almost all
the rest, are of the same sentiments, and had the same notions of the
nature of God; yet durst not these men disclose those true notions to more
than a few, because the body of the people were prejudiced with other
opinions beforehand. But our legislator, who made his actions agree to his
laws, did not only prevail with those that were his contemporaries to agree
with these his notions, but so firmly imprinted this faith in God upon all
their posterity, that it never could be removed. The reason why the
constitution of this legislation was ever better directed to the utility of all
than other legislations were, is this, that Moses did not make religion a
part of virtue, but he saw and he ordained other virtues to be parts of
religion; I mean justice, and fortitude, and temperance, and a universal
agreement of the members of the community with one another; for all our
actions and studies, and all our words, [in Moses’s settlement,] have a
reference to piety towards God; for he hath left none of these in suspense,
or undetermined. For there are two ways of coining at any sort of learning
and a moral conduct of life; the one is by instruction in words, the other
by practical exercises. Now other lawgivers have separated these two
ways in their opinions, and choosing one of those ways of instruction, or
that which best pleased every one of them, neglected the other. Thus did
the Lacedemonians and the Cretians teach by practical exercises, but not
by words; while the Athenians, and almost all the other Grecians, made
laws about what was to be done, or left undone, but had no regard to the
exercising them thereto in practice.
18. But for our legislator, he very carefully joined these two methods of
instruction together; for he neither left these practical exercises to go on
without verbal instruction, nor did he permit the hearing of the law to
proceed without the exercises for practice; but beginning immediately from
the earliest infancy, and the appointment of every one’s diet, he left
nothing of the very smallest consequence to be done at the pleasure and
disposal of the person himself. Accordingly, he made a fixed rule of law
what sorts of food they should abstain from, and what sorts they should
make use of; as also, what communion they should have with others what
great diligence they should use in their occupations, and what times of rest
should be interposed, that, by living under that law as under a father and a
master, we might be guilty of no sin, neither voluntary nor out of
ignorance; for he did not suffer the guilt of ignorance to go on without
punishment, but demonstrated the law to be the best and the most
necessary instruction of all others, permitting the people to leave off their
other employments, and to assemble together for the hearing of the law,
and learning it exactly, and this not once or twice, or oftener, but every
week; which thing all the other legislators seem to have neglected.
19. And indeed the greatest part of mankind are so far from living
according to their own laws, that they hardly know them; but when they
have sinned, they learn from others that they have transgressed the law.
Those also who are in the highest and principal posts of the government,
confess they are not acquainted with those laws, and are obliged to take
such persons for their assessors in public administrations as profess to
have skill in those laws; but for our people, if any body do but ask any
one of them about our laws, he will more readily tell them all than he will
tell his own name, and this in consequence of our having learned them
immediately as soon as ever we became sensible of any thing, and of our
having them as it were engraven on our souls. Our transgressors of them
are but few, and it is impossible, when any do offend, to escape
20. And this very thing it is that principally creates such a wonderful
agreement of minds amongst us all; for this entire agreement of ours in all
our notions concerning God, and our having no difference in our course of
life and manners, procures among us the most excellent concord of these
our manners that is any where among mankind; for no other people but the
Jews have avoided all discourses about God that any way contradict one
another, which yet are frequent among other nations; and this is true not
only among ordinary persons, according as every one is affected, but some
of the philosophers have been insolent enough to indulge such
contradictions, while some of them have undertaken to use such words as
entirely take away the nature of God, as others of them have taken away
his providence over mankind. Nor can any one perceive amongst us any
difference in the conduct of our lives, but all our works are common to us
all. We have one sort of discourse concerning God, which is conformable
to our law, and affirms that he sees all things; as also we have but one way
of speaking concerning the conduct of our lives, that all other things ought
to have piety for their end; and this any body may hear from our women,
and servants themselves.
21. And, indeed, hence hath arisen that accusation which some make
against us, that we have not produced men that have been the inventors of
new operations, or of new ways of speaking; for others think it a fine
thing to persevere in nothing that has been delivered down from their
forefathers, and these testify it to be an instance of the sharpest wisdom
when these men venture to transgress those traditions; whereas we, on the
contrary, suppose it to be our only wisdom and virtue to admit no actions
nor supposals that are contrary to our original laws; which procedure of
ours is a just and sure sign that our law is admirably constituted; for such
laws as are not thus well made are convicted upon trial to want
22. But while we are ourselves persuaded that our law was made agreeably
to the will of God, it would be impious for us not to observe the same; for
what is there in it that any body would change? and what can be invented
that is better? or what can we take out of other people’s laws that will
exceed it? Perhaps some would have the entire settlement of our
government altered. And where shall we find a better or more righteous
constitution than ours, while this makes us esteem God to be the
Governor of the universe, and permits the priests in general to be the
administrators of the principal affairs, and withal intrusts the government
over the other priests to the chief high priest himself? which priests our
legislator, at their first appointment, did not advance to that dignity for
their riches, or any abundance of other possessions, or any plenty they
had as the gifts of fortune; but he intrusted the principal management of
Divine worship to those that exceeded others in an ability to persuade
men, and in prudence of conduct. These men had the main care of the law
and of the other parts of the people’s conduct committed to them; for
they were the priests who were ordained to be the inspectors of all, and
the judges in doubtful cases, and the punishers of those that were
condemned to suffer punishment.
23. What form of government then can be more holy than this? what more
worthy kind of worship can be paid to God than we pay, where the entire
body of the people are prepared for religion, where an extraordinary degree
of care is required in the priests, and where the whole polity is so ordered
as if it were a certain religious solemnity? For what things foreigners, when
they solemnize such festivals, are not able to observe for a few days’ time,
and call them Mysteries and Sacred Ceremonies, we observe with great
pleasure and an unshaken resolution during our whole lives. What are the
things then that we are commanded or forbidden? They are simple, and
easily known. The first command is concerning God, and affirms that God
contains all things, and is a Being every way perfect and happy,
self-sufficient, and supplying all other beings; the beginning, the middle,
and the end of all things. He is manifest in his works and benefits, and
more conspicuous than any other being whatsoever; but as to his form and
magnitude, he is most obscure. All materials, let them be ever so costly,
are unworthy to compose an image for him, and all arts are unartful to
express the notion we ought to have of him. We can neither see nor think
of any thing like him, nor is it agreeable to piety to form a resemblance of
him. We see his works, the light, the heaven, the earth, the sun and the
moon, the waters, the generations of animals, the productions of fruits.
These things hath God made, not with hands, nor with labor, nor as
wanting the assistance of any to cooperate with him; but as his will
resolved they should be made and be good also, they were made and
became good immediately. All men ought to follow this Being, and to
worship him in the exercise of virtue; for this way of worship of God is
the most holy of all others.
24. There ought also to be but one temple for one God; for likeness is the
constant foundation of agreement. This temple ought to be common to all
men, because he is the common God of all men. High priests are to be
continually about his worship, over whom he that is the first by his birth
is to be their ruler perpetually. His business must be to offer sacrifices to
God, together with those priests that are joined with him, to see that the
laws be observed, to determine controversies, and to punish those that are
convicted of injustice; while he that does not submit to him shall be
subject to the same punishment, as if he had been guilty of impiety
towards God himself. When we offer sacrifices to him, we do it not in
order to surfeit ourselves, or to be drunken; for such excesses are against
the will of God, and would be an occasion of injuries and of luxury; but by
keeping ourselves sober, orderly, and ready for our other occupations, and
being more temperate than others. And for our duty at the sacrifices 22
themselves, we ought, in the first place, to pray for the common welfare of
all, and after that for our own; for we are made for fellowship one with
another, and he who prefers the common good before what is peculiar to
himself is above all acceptable to God. And let our prayers and
supplications be made humbly to God, not [so much] that he would give
us what is good, (for he hath already given that of his own accord, and
hath proposed the same publicly to all,) as that we may duly receive it,
and when we have received it, may preserve it. Now the law has
appointed several purifications at our sacrifices, whereby we are cleansed
after a funeral, after what sometimes happens to us in bed, and after
accompanying with our wives, and upon many other occasions, which it
would be too long now to set down. And this is our doctrine concerning
God and his worship, and is the same that the law appoints for our
25. But, then, what are our laws about marriage? That law owns no other
mixture of sexes but that which nature hath appointed, of a man with his
wife, and that this be used only for the procreation of children. But it
abhors the mixture of a male with a male; and if any one do that, death is
its punishment. It commands us also, when we marry, not to have regard
to portion, nor to take a woman by violence, nor to persuade her
deceitfully and knavishly; but to demand her in marriage of him who hath
power to dispose of her, and is fit to give her away by the nearness of his
kindred; for, says the Scripture, “A woman is inferior to her husband in all
things.” 23 Let her, therefore, be obedient to him; not so that he should
abuse her, but that she may acknowledge her duty to her husband; for God
hath given the authority to the husband. A husband, therefore, is to lie
only with his wife whom he hath married; but to have to do with another
man’s wife is a wicked thing, which, if any one ventures upon, death is
inevitably his punishment: no more can he avoid the same who forces a
virgin betrothed to another man, or entices another man’s wife. The law,
moreover, enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to
cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any
woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by
destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind; if any one,
therefore, proceeds to such fornication or murder, he cannot be clean.
Moreover, the law enjoins, that after the man and wife have lain together
in a regular way, they shall bathe themselves; for there is a defilement
contracted thereby, both in soul and body, as if they had gone into another
country; for indeed the soul, by being united to the body, is subject to
miseries, and is not freed therefrom again but by death; on which account
the law requires this purification to be entirely performed.
26. Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births
of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess; but it
ordains that the very beginning of our education should be immediately
directed to sobriety. It also commands us to bring those children up in
learning, and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with
the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that
they might be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might
neither transgress them, nor have any pretense for their ignorance of them.
27. Our law hath also taken care of the decent burial of the dead, but
without any extravagant expenses for their funerals, and without the
erection of any illustrious monuments for them; but hath ordered that their
nearest relations should perform their obsequies; and hath showed it to be
regular, that all who pass by when any one is buried should accompany
the funeral, and join in the lamentation. It also ordains that the house and
its inhabitants should be purified after the funeral is over, that every one
may thence learn to keep at a great distance from the thoughts of being
pure, if he hath been once guilty of murder.
28. The law ordains also, that parents should be honored immediately after
God himself, and delivers that son who does not requite them for the
benefits he hath received from them, but is deficient on any such occasion,
to be stoned. It also says that the young men should pay due respect to
every elder, since God is the eldest of all beings. It does not give leave to
conceal any thing from our friends, because that is not true friendship
which will not commit all things to their fidelity: it also forbids the
revelation of secrets, even though an enmity arise between them. If any
judge takes bribes, his punishment is death: he that overlooks one that
offers him a petition, and this when he is able to relieve him, he is a guilty
person. What is not by any one intrusted to another ought not to be
required back again. No one is to touch another’s goods. He that lends
money must not demand usury for its loan. These, and many more of the
like sort, are the rules that unite us in the bands of society one with
29. It will be also worth our while to see what equity our legislator would
have us exercise in our intercourse with strangers; for it will thence appear
that he made the best provision he possibly could, both that we should
not dissolve our own constitution, nor show any envious mind towards
those that would cultivate a friendship with us. Accordingly, our legislator
admits all those that have a mind to observe our laws so to do; and this
after a friendly manner, as esteeming that a true union which not only
extends to our own stock, but to those that would live after the same
manner with us; yet does he not allow those that come to us by accident
only to be admitted into communion with us.
30. However, there are other things which our legislator ordained for us
beforehand, which of necessity we ought to do in common to all men; as to
afford fire, and water, and food to such as want it; to show them the roads;
not to let any one lie unburied. He also would have us treat those that are
esteemed our enemies with moderation; for he doth not allow us to set
their country on fire, nor permit us to cut down those trees that bear fruit;
nay, further, he forbids us to spoil those that have been slain in war. He
hath also provided for such as are taken captive, that they may not be
injured, and especially that the women may not be abused. Indeed he hath
taught us gentleness and humanity so effectually, that he hath not
despised the care of brute beasts, by permitting no other than a regular use
of them, and forbidding any other; and if any of them come to our houses,
like supplicants, we are forbidden to slay them; nor may we kill the dams,
together with their young ones; but we are obliged, even in an enemy’s
country, to spare and not kill those creatures that labor for mankind. Thus
hath our lawgiver contrived to teach us an equitable conduct every way,
by using us to such laws as instruct us therein; while at the same time he
hath ordained that such as break these laws should be punished, without
the allowance of any excuse whatsoever.
31. Now the greatest part of offenses with us are capital; as if any one be
guilty of adultery; if any one force a virgin; if any one be so impudent as
to attempt sodomy with a male; or if, upon another’s making an attempt
upon him, he submits to be so used. There is also a law for slaves of the
like nature, that can never be avoided. Moreover, if any one cheats another
in measures or weights, or makes a knavish bargain and sale, in order to
cheat another; if any one steals what belongs to another, and takes what he
never deposited; all these have punishments allotted them; not such as are
met with among other nations, but more severe ones. And as for attempts
of unjust behavior towards parents, or for impiety against God, though
they be not actually accomplished, the offenders are destroyed
immediately. However, the reward for such as live exactly according to the
laws is not silver or gold; it is not a garland of olive branches or of small
age, nor any such public sign of commendation; but every good man hath
his own conscience bearing witness to himself, and by virtue of our
legislator’s prophetic spirit, and of the firm security God himself affords
such a one, he believes that God hath made this grant to those that observe
these laws, even though they be obliged readily to die for them, that they
shall come into being again, and at a certain revolution of things shall
receive a better life than they had enjoyed before. Nor would I venture to
write thus at this time, were it not well known to all by our actions that
many of our people have many a time bravely resolved to endure any
sufferings, rather than speak one word against our law.
32. Nay, indeed, in case it had so fallen out, that our nation had not been
so thoroughly known among all men as they are, and our voluntary
submission to our laws had not been so open and manifest as it is, but that
somebody had pretended to have written these laws himself, and had read
them to the Greeks, or had pretended that he had met with men out of the
limits of the known world, that had such reverent notions of God, and had
continued a long time in the firm observance of such laws as ours, I cannot
but suppose that all men would admire them on a reflection upon the
frequent changes they had therein been themselves subject to; and this
while those that have attempted to write somewhat of the same kind for
politic government, and for laws, are accused as composing monstrous
things, and are said to have undertaken an impossible task upon them. And
here I will say nothing of those other philosophers who have undertaken
any thing of this nature in their writings. But even Plato himself, who is so
admired by the Greeks on account of that gravity in his manners, and force
in his words, and that ability he had to persuade men beyond all other
philosophers, is little better than laughed at and exposed to ridicule on that
account, by those that pretend to sagacity in political affairs; although he
that shall diligently peruse his writings will find his precepts to be
somewhat gentle, and pretty near to the customs of the generality of
mankind. Nay, Plato himself confesseth that it is not safe to publish the
true notion concerning God among the ignorant multitude. Yet do some
men look upon Plato’s discourses as no better than certain idle words set
off with great artifice. However, they admire Lycurgus as the principal
lawgiver, and all men celebrate Sparta for having continued in the firm
observance of his laws for a very long time. So far then we have gained,
that it is to be confessed a mark of virtue to submit to laws. 24 But then let
such as admire this in the Lacedemonians compare that duration of theirs
with more than two thousand years which our political government hath
continued; and let them further consider, that though the Lacedemonians
did seem to observe their laws exactly while they enjoyed their liberty, yet
that when they underwent a change of their fortune, they forgot almost all
those laws; while we, having been under ten thousand changes in our
fortune by the changes that happened among the kings of Asia, have never
betrayed our laws under the most pressing distresses we have been in; nor
have we neglected them either out of sloth or for a livelihood. 25 if any one
will consider it, the difficulties and labors laid upon us have been greater
than what appears to have been borne by the Lacedemonian fortitude,
while they neither ploughed their land, nor exercised any trades, but lived
in their own city, free from all such pains-taking, in the enjoyment of
plenty, and using such exercises as might improve their bodies, while they
made use of other men as their servants for all the necessaries of life, and
had their food prepared for them by the others; and these good and
humane actions they do for no other purpose but this, that by their
actions and their sufferings they may be able to conquer all those against
whom they make war. I need not add this, that they have not been fully
able to observe their laws; for not only a few single persons, but
multitudes of them, have in heaps neglected those laws, and have delivered
themselves, together with their arms, into the hands of their enemies.
33. Now as for ourselves, I venture to say that no one can tell of so many;
nay, not of more than one or two that have betrayed our laws, no, not out
of fear of death itself; I do not mean such an easy death as happens in
battles, but that which comes with bodily torments, and seems to be the
severest kind of death of all others. Now I think those that have conquered
us have put us to such deaths, not out of their hatred to us when they had
subdued us, but rather out of their desire of seeing a surprising sight,
which is this, whether there be such men in the world who believe that no
evil is to them so great as to be compelled to do or to speak any thing
contrary to their own laws. Nor ought men to wonder at us, if we are more
courageous in dying for our laws than all other men are; for other men do
not easily submit to the easier things in which we are instituted; I mean
working with our hands, and eating but little, and being contented to eat
and drink, not at random, or at every one’s pleasure, or being under
inviolable rules in lying with our wives, in magnificent furniture, and again
in the observation of our times of rest; while those that can use their
swords in war, and can put their enemies to flight when they attack them,
cannot bear to submit to such laws about their way of living: whereas our
being accustomed willingly to submit to laws in these instances, renders us
fit to show our fortitude upon other occasions also.
34. Yet do the Lysimachi and the Molones, and some other writers,
(unskillful sophists as they are, and the deceivers of young men,) reproach
us as the vilest of all mankind. Now I have no mind to make an inquiry
into the laws of other nations; for the custom of our country is to keep our
own laws, but not to bring accusations against the laws of others. And
indeed our legislator hath expressly forbidden us to laugh at and revile
those that are esteemed gods by other people? on account of the very
name of God ascribed to them. But since our antagonists think to run us
down upon the comparison of their religion and ours, it is not possible to
keep silence here, especially while what I shall say to confute these men
will not be now first said, but hath been already said by many, and these
of the highest reputation also; for who is there among those that have been
admired among the Greeks for wisdom, who hath not greatly blamed both
the most famous poets, and most celebrated legislators, for spreading such
notions originally among the body of the people concerning the gods? such
as these, that they may be allowed to be as numerous as they have a mind
to have them; that they are begotten one by another, and that after all the
kinds of generation you can imagine. They also distinguish them in their
places and ways of living as they would distinguish several sorts of
animals; as some to be under the earth; as some to be in the sea; and the
ancientest of them all to be bound in hell; and for those to whom they have
allotted heaven, they have set over them one, who in title is their father,
but in his actions a tyrant and a Lord; whence it came to pass that his
wife, and brother, and daughter (which daughter he brought forth from his
own head) made a conspiracy against him to seize upon him and confine
hint, as he had himself seized upon and confined his own father before.
35. And justly have the wisest men thought these notions deserved severe
rebukes; they also laugh at them for determining that we ought to believe
some of the gods to be beardless and young, and others of them to be old,
and to have beards accordingly; that some are set to trades; that one God is
a smith, and another goddess is a weaver; that one God is a warrior, and
fights with men; that some of them are harpers, or delight in archery; and
besides, that mutual seditions arise among them, and that they quarrel
about men, and this so far, that they not only lay hands upon one another,
but that they are wounded by men, and lament, and take on for such their
afflictions. But what is the grossest of all in point of lasciviousness, are
those unbounded lusts ascribed to almost all of them, and their amours;
which how can it be other than a most absurd supposal, especially when it
reaches to the male gods, and to the female goddesses also? Moreover, the
chief of all their gods, and their first father himself, overlooks those
goddesses whom he hath deluded and begotten with child, and suffers
them to be kept in prison, or drowned in the sea. He is also so bound up
by fate, that he cannot save his own offspring, nor can he bear their deaths
without shedding of tears. These are fine things indeed! as are the rest that
follow. Adulteries truly are so impudently looked on in heaven by the
gods, that some of them have confessed they envied those that were found
in the very act. And why should they not do so, when the eldest of them,
who is their king also, hath not been able to restrain himself in the violence
of his lust, from lying with his wife, so long as they might get into their
bedchamber? Now some of the gods are servants to men, and will
sometimes be builders for a reward, and sometimes will be shepherds;
while others of them, like malefactors, are bound in a prison of brass. And
what sober person is there who would not be provoked at such stories,
and rebuke those that forged them, and condemn the great silliness of those
that admit them for true? Nay, others there are that have advanced a
certain timorousness and fear, as also madness and fraud, and any other of
the vilest passions, into the nature and form of gods, and have persuaded
whole cities to offer sacrifices to the better sort of them; on which account
they have been absolutely forced to esteem some gods as the givers of
good things, and to call others of them averters of evil. They also endeavor
to move them, as they would the vilest of men, by gifts and presents, as
looking for nothing else than to receive some great mischief from them,
unless they pay them such wages.
36. Wherefore it deserves our inquiry what should be the occasion of this
unjust management, and of these scandals about the Deity. And truly I
suppose it to be derived from the imperfect knowledge the heathen
legislators had at first of the true nature of God; nor did they explain to the
people even so far as they did comprehend of it: nor did they compose the
other parts of their political settlements according to it, but omitted it as a
thing of very little consequence, and gave leave both to the poets to
introduce what gods they pleased, and those subject to all sorts of
passions, and to the orators to procure political decrees from the people
for the admission of such foreign gods as they thought proper. The
painters also, and statuaries of Greece, had herein great power, as each of
them could contrive a shape [proper for a God]; the one to be formed out
of clay, and the other by making a bare picture of such a one. But those
workmen that were principally admired, had the use of ivory and of gold
as the constant materials for their new statues [whereby it comes to pass
that some temples are quite deserted, while others are in great esteem, and
adorned with all the rites of all kinds of purification]. Besides this, the first
gods, who have long flourished in the honors done them, are now grown
old [while those that flourished after them are come in their room as a
second rank, that I may speak the most honorably of them I can]: nay,
certain other gods there are who are newly introduced, and newly
worshipped [as we, by way of digression, have said already, and yet have
left their places of worship desolate]; and for their temples, some of them
are already left desolate, and others are built anew, according to the
pleasure of men; whereas they ought to have their opinion about God, and
that worship which is due to him, always and immutably the same.
37. But now, this Apollonius Molo was one of these foolish and proud
men. However, nothing that I have said was unknown to those that were
real philosophers among the Greeks, nor were they unacquainted with
those frigid pretensions of allegories [which had been alleged for such
things]; on which account they justly despised them, but have still agreed
with us as to the true and becoming notions of God; whence it was that
Plato would not have political settlements admit to of any one of the other
poets, and dismisses even Homer himself, with a garland on his head, and
with ointment poured upon him, and this because he should not destroy
the right notions of God with his fables. Nay, Plato principally imitated
our legislator in this point, that he enjoined his citizens to have he main
regard to this precept, “That every one of them should learn their laws
accurately.” He also ordained, that they should not admit of foreigners
intermixing with their own people at random; and provided that the
commonwealth should keep itself pure, and consist of such only as
persevered in their own laws. Apollonius Molo did no way consider this,
when he made it one branch of his accusation against us, that we do not
admit of such as have different notions about God, nor will we have
fellowship with those that choose to observe a way of living different
from ourselves, yet is not this method peculiar to us, but common to all
other men; not among the ordinary Grecians only, but among such of those
Grecians as are of the greatest reputation among them. Moreover, the
Lacedemonians continued in their way of expelling foreigners, and would
not indeed give leave to their own people to travel abroad, as suspecting
that those two things would introduce a dissolution of their own laws: and
perhaps there may be some reason to blame the rigid severity of the
Lacedemonians, for they bestowed the privilege of their city on no
foreigners, nor indeed would give leave to them to stay among them;
whereas we, though we do not think fit to imitate other institutions, yet
do we willingly admit of those that desire to partake of ours, which, I
think, I may reckon to be a plain indication of our humanity, and at the
same time of our magnanimity also.
38. But I shall say no more of the Lacedemonians. As for the Athenians,
who glory in having made their city to be common to all men, what their
behavior was Apollonius did not know, while they punished those that
did but speak one word contrary to the laws about the gods, without any
mercy; for on what other account was it that Socrates was put to death by
them? For certainly he neither betrayed their city to its enemies, nor was
he guilty of any sacrilege with regard to any of their temples; but it was on
this account, that he swore certain new oaths 26 and that he affirmed either
in earnest, or, as some say, only in jest, that a certain demon used to make
signs to him [what he should not do]. For these reasons he was condemned
to drink poison, and kill himself. His accuser also complained that he
corrupted the young men, by inducing them to despise the political
settlement and laws of their city: and thus was Socrates, the citizen of
Athens, punished. There was also Anaxagoras, who, although he was of
Clazomente, was within a few suffrages of being condemned to die,
because he said the sun, which the Athenians thought to be a God, was a
ball of fire. They also made this public proclamation,” That they would
give a talent to any one who would kill Diagoras of Melos,” because it was
reported of him that he laughed at their mysteries. Protagoras also, who
was thought to have written somewhat that was not owned for truth by
the Athenians about the gods, had been seized upon, and put to death, if
he had not fled away immediately. Nor need we at all wonder that they
thus treated such considerable men, when they did not spare even women
also; for they very lately slew a certain priestess, because she was accused
by somebody that she initiated people into the worship of strange gods, it
having been forbidden so to do by one of their laws; and a capital
punishment had been decreed to such as introduced a strange God; it being
manifest, that they who make use of such a law do not believe those of
other nations to be really gods, otherwise they had not envied themselves
the advantage of more gods than they already had. And this was the
happy administration of the affairs of the Athenians! Now as to the
Scythians, they take a pleasure in killing men, and differ but little from
brute beasts; yet do they think it reasonable to have their institutions
observed. They also slew Anacharsis, a person greatly admired for his
wisdom among the Greeks, when he returned to them, because he
appeared to come fraught with Grecian customs. One may also find many
to have been punished among the Persians, on the very same account. And
to be sure Apollonius was greatly pleased with the laws of the Persians,
and was an admirer of them, because the Greeks enjoyed the advantage of
their courage, and had the very same opinion about the gods which they
had. This last was exemplified in the temples which they burnt, and their
courage in coming, and almost entirely enslaving the Grecians. However,
Apollonius has imitated all the Persian institutions, and that by his
offering violence to other men’s wives, and gelding his own sons. Now,
with us, it is a capital crime, if any one does thus abuse even a brute beast;
and as for us, neither hath the fear of our governors, nor a desire of
following what other nations have in so great esteem, been able to
withdraw us from our own laws; nor have we exerted our courage in raising
up wars to increase our wealth, but only for the observation of our laws;
and when we with patience bear other losses, yet when any persons
would compel us to break our laws, then it is that we choose to go to war,
though it be beyond our ability to pursue it, and bear the greatest
calamities to the last with much fortitude. And, indeed, what reason can
there be why we should desire to imitate the laws of other nations, while
we see they are not observed by their own legislators 27 And why do not
the Lacedemonians think of abolishing that form of their government
which suffers them not to associate with any others, as well as their
contempt of matrimony? And why do not the Eleans and Thebans abolish
that unnatural and impudent lust, which makes them lie with males? For
they will not show a sufficient sign of their repentance of what they of old
thought to be very excellent, and very advantageous in their practices,
unless they entirely avoid all such actions for the time to come: nay, such
things are inserted into the body of their laws, and had once such a power
among the Greeks, that they ascribed these sodomitical practices to the
gods themselves, as a part of their good character; and indeed it was
according to the same manner that the gods married their own sisters. This
the Greeks contrived as an apology for their own absurd and unnatural
39. I omit to speak concerning punishments, and how many ways of
escaping them the greatest part of the legislators have afforded
malefactors, by ordaining that, for adulteries, fines in money should be
allowed, and for corrupting 28 [virgins] they need only marry them as also
what excuses they may have in denying the facts, if any one attempts to
inquire into them; for amongst most other nations it is a studied art how
men may transgress their laws; but no such thing is permitted amongst us;
for though we be deprived of our wealth, of our cities, or of the other
advantages we have, our law continues immortal; nor can any Jew go so far
from his own country, nor be so aftrighted at the severest Lord, as not to
be more aftrighted at the law than at him. If, therefore, this be the
disposition we are under, with regard to the excellency of our laws, let our
enemies make us this concession, that our laws are most excellent; and if
still they imagine, that though we so firmly adhere to them, yet are they
bad laws notwithstanding, what penalties then do they deserve to undergo
who do not observe their own laws, which they esteem so far superior to
them? Whereas, therefore, length of time is esteemed to be the truest
touchstone in all cases, I would make that a testimonial of the excellency
of our laws, and of that belief thereby delivered to us concerning God. For
as there hath been a very long time for this comparison, if any one will but
compare its duration with the duration of the laws made by other
legislators, he will find our legislator to have been the ancientest of them
40. We have already demonstrated that our laws have been such as have
always inspired admiration and imitation into all other men; nay, the
earliest Grecian philosophers, though in appearance they observed the
laws of their own countries, yet did they, in their actions, and their
philosophic doctrines, follow our legislator, and instructed men to live
sparingly, and to have friendly communication one with another. Nay,
further, the multitude of mankind itself have had a great inclination of a
long time to follow our religious observances; for there is not any city of
the Grecians, nor any of the barbarians, nor any nation whatsoever,
whither our custom of resting on the seventh day hath not come, and by
which our fasts and lighting up lamps, and many of our prohibitions as to
our food, are not observed; they also endeavor to imitate our mutual
concord with one another, and the charitable distribution of our goods, and
our diligence in our trades, and our fortitude in undergoing the distresses
we are in, on account of our laws; and, what is here matter of the greatest
admiration, our law hath no bait of pleasure to allure men to it, but it
prevails by its own force; and as God himself pervades all the world, so
hath our law passed through all the world also. So that if any one will but
reflect on his own country, and his own family, he will have reason to give
credit to what I say. It is therefore but just, either to condemn all mankind
of indulging a wicked disposition, when they have been so desirous of
imitating laws that are to them foreign and evil in themselves, rather than
following laws of their own that are of a better character, or else our
accusers must leave off their spite against us. Nor are we guilty of any
envious behavior towards them, when we honor our own legislator, and
believe what he, by his prophetic authority, hath taught us concerning
God. For though we should not be able ourselves to understand the
excellency of our own laws, yet would the great multitude of those that
desire to imitate them, justify us, in greatly valuing ourselves upon them.
41. But as for the [distinct] political laws by which we are governed, I
have delivered them accurately in my books of Antiquities; and have only
mentioned them now, so far as was necessary to my present purpose,
without proposing to myself either to blame the laws of other nations, or
to make an encomium upon our own; but in order to convict those that
have written about us unjustly, and in an impudent affectation of
disguising the truth. And now I think I have sufficiently completed what I
proposed in writing these books. For whereas our accusers have pretended
that our nation are a people of very late original, I have demonstrated that
they are exceeding ancient; for I have produced as witnesses thereto many
ancient writers, who have made mention of us in their books, while they
had said that no such writer had so done. Moreover, they had said that we
were sprung from the Egyptians, while I have proved that we came from
another country into Egypt: while they had told lies of us, as if we were
expelled thence on account of diseases on our bodies, it has appeared, on
the contrary, that we returned to our country by our own choice, and with
sound and strong bodies. Those accusers reproached our legislator as a vile
fellow; whereas God in old time bare witness to his virtuous conduct; and
since that testimony of God, time itself hath been discovered to have
borne witness to the same thing.
42. As to the laws themselves, more words are unnecessary, for they are
visible in their own nature, and appear to teach not impiety, but the truest
piety in the world. They do not make men hate one another, but encourage
people to communicate what they have to one another freely; they are
enemies to injustice, they take care of righteousness, they banish idleness
and expensive living, and instruct men to be content with what they have,
and to be laborious in their calling; they forbid men to make war from a
desire of getting more, but make men courageous in defending the laws;
they are inexorable in punishing malefactors; they admit no sophistry of
words, but are always established by actions themselves, which actions we
ever propose as surer demonstrations than what is contained in writing
only: on which account I am so bold as to say that we are become the
teachers of other men, in the greatest number of things, and those of the
most excellent nature only; for what is more excellent than inviolable
piety? what is more just than submission to laws? and what is more
advantageous than mutual love and concord? and this so far that we are to
be neither divided by calamities, nor to become injurious and seditious in
prosperity; but to contemn death when we are in war, and in peace to
apply ourselves to our mechanical occupations, or to our tillage of the
ground; while we in all things and all ways are satisfied that God is the
inspector and governor of our actions. If these precepts had either been
written at first, or more exactly kept by any others before us, we should
have owed them thanks as disciples owe to their masters; but if it be
visible that we have made use of them more than any other men, and if we
have demonstrated that the original invention of them is our own, let the
Apions, and the Molons, with all the rest of those that delight in lies and
reproaches, stand confuted; but let this and the foregoing book be
dedicated to thee, Epaphroditus, who art so great a lover of truth, and by
thy means to those that have been in like manner desirous to be acquainted
with the affairs of our nation.