The Good News According To Josephus

by C.G. Weiss

THE GOSPEL: The Good News According To Josephus

It takes place in the year 95 C.E. (A.D.) at a dinner party in the home of Flavia Sabena—a cousin to Emperor Domitian—on the last night of the Festival of Saturnalia. The hostess has invited eminent Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, as guest of honor, to give readings from his works while they wait up all night in their annual solar vigil celebrating the mid-Winter Solstice. Three great historians are in attendance. 

THE GOSPEL: The Good News According To Josephus simultaneously presents both legend and history. It is a narrative that consists chiefly of a fascinating monologue by Josephus as speaker—alternating with the younger Josephus in flashback, and interrupted at points by his fellow guests. Josephus’ account of his exploits in the Jewish War with Rome presents a retelling from classical histories—primarily the writings of Flavius Josephus: “Antiquities” and “Wars” and “Life”. 

In the story being recounted, the “Good News” heralded Vespasian, the Roman emperor whose forces defeated the religious fanatics who led -- or forced -- the Jews to revolt against Rome. But resonating through the story is a silent theme of a New World coming – one that will be rather more than less Jewish as Romans begin to adopt the “manners” of the Jews. It is one that would replace the Roman pagan world. In the setting of the story, the building blocks of the coming culture lay scattered about, but with different significance attached.

At the same time, The GOSPEL bears the imprint of that other gospel, which was born and transmitted against the backdrop of these events.  Josephus’ Life and Wars, the official account of the Jewish War, together complete a puzzle that shimmers through the outline of The GOSPEL, which the reader is allowed to interpret. Inserts into Josephus’ narrative from other, mostly classical, sources provide a fuller depiction of the times. And Tacitus and Suetonius are present and speak for themselves.