The Flavian Jewish War: A Senecan Tragedy

The very mention of Flavius Josephus raises the hackels of his Jewish compatriots, even after two millennia. He has been commonly known as the traitor to his nation who joined the Flavian Romans in destroying Judaea and the Herodian Temple at Jerusalem. My study shows that in fact Josephus was a loyal Jewish citizen and a secret enemy of the Flavian Romans. More

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About Suresh Shenoy

I had been a secondary school teacher until my retirement in 2000. While planning for life after the gruelling work, I undertook a Masters course in Theology at the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. Graduation in M.Theol. coincided with the beginning of retirement. A course research paper on the Herod Narrative in the Jewish War by Josephus dramatically turned my life around. I'll explain how.

While close reading the Herod Narrative, with my previous acquaintance with Roman literature, I discovered that Josephus had carefully incorporated all the literary conventions of a five-Act tragedy in Seneca's Hercules Furens. That gained for me a high distinction and an invitation to research into the whole of the Jewish War for a Ph.D. That was the year 2000.

I began carefully reading the Jewish War as a history and where it fitted in the spectrum of classical histories. I found that Josephus fell closer to Herodotus than to Thucydides. I also noticed that the Senecan tragedy conventions were also present in the Jewish War side by side with the history. That indeed was an extension of the paper on the Herod Narrative.

The evidence of two texts in one work by Josephus was my discovery. I named it 'Genres Disjunction'. The term explained that it was an example of Quintilian's structual irony. It also clarified that Josephus hid his deep hatred of the Flavian Romans, his benefactors, and secretly asserted his loyalty to the Jewish nation. He made the Flavians the heroes of the history and villains of the tragedy as he changed the Jewish nation from villains of the history into hero-victims of the tragedy.

This is where my life began to change. I was baptized a Roman Catholic and lived a devout life of a Catholic until my reserch began. My curiosity took me from Josephus to the four Evangelists. I found to my utter disbelief that they too had 'Genres Disjunction' in their Gospels. All the Evangelists had the Gospel as the foreground text, but added other texts in the background. Mark had the classical history modeled on Livy's History of Rome. Matthew took Dionysius of Halicarnassus for his. Luke chose the Jewish War of Josephus for his background text and John had Herodotus for his second text.

The more I studied the Gospels the more shocks were in store for me. I found that Mark had a second background text of monomyths in the public life and the passion of Christ. Matthew had the same including the Infancy Narrative. Luke followed Matthew and Mark with three monomyths. Luke also supplied the missing phases in Mark and Matthew.

It was evident for me that what I had considered as genuine and truthful Catholic Christian Faith all my life, was pure myth, That there was nothing factual in the Gospels but fictional and fictitious. I began wondering why the Evangelists wrote the Gospels. Was it to deceive the early converts for the fun of it? Was there a grave reason for them to go to such lengths?

I guessed that Paul gave them the reason, particularly because Luke, Paul's companion, was part of the group of disillusioned early Christians. I analyzed Paul's five personal letters and found that he was seriously afflicted with schizophrenia. He claimed visions and revelations where they were the brilliant flashes of his madness and mental instability.

I also found that Paul and his Gentile Christians deceptively framed Peter and his Judaic faction as the arsonists of the Great Fire at Rome in A.D. 64. With James murdered at Jerusalem in A.D. 63 and Peter killed in Nero's persecution from October to December of A.D. 64, Paul was able to take control of the Church and shape it as he liked.

The Church that Paul built was the tyrannical and corrupt organization that the Evangelists resented and rejected in their Gospels. Ironically, we in the twenty first century find the Gospels are relevant for their criticism of the official Church which the Gospel writers tore apart.

My academic research into the Early Christian Studies has proven beyond doubt that my Catholic Christian Faith cannot be based on the Catholic dogmas and the Christ of Faith, but must urgently shift to the teachings and parables of Jesus of history. Those who read my seven books will doubtless come to the same concluions as I have.

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