This week we descend into the sad story of the Jewish Rebellion of 66-70 CE, a traumatic event that would forever change the nature of Judaism, the situation and later development of the Jesus Movement, and even the Roman Empire. We have studied at some length the tensions that existed between the peoples of the region and their Roman overlords, and we have also taken a look at the tensions within the Jewish communities of Roman Palestine as a whole. But what irrupts in 66 CE is not entirely something that could be understood plainly from such precedents.
We will divide the week into a consideration first of the rebellion (i.e., the Jewish seizure of Judea and the expansion of the conflict into surrounding areas) then of the repression, i.e. the Roman defeat of those Jews who decided to resist Roman power. It is important to realize that this stage of the conflict greatly changes the game, for it concerns military conflict–the one thing the Romans typically excelled at, even when they failed in other ways in terms of their imperial system.
So there are two things to master: 1) the outline of events (as provided by Hayes and Mandell, chapter 4) and 2) the “textures” of the conflict, for which Josephus is our source as for so many other things. The reading is a little harder to assign here, as just how much Josephus you read depends on how much “texture” you wish to explore. Readings fare therefore given a little differently from our usual style. I will highlight in the audio lectures things from the Josephus reading to consider, so make sure to have your book beside you!
- Hayes and Mandell, chapter 4.
- Josephus, passim (see audio lectures, but especially chapters 8 & 9 (esp. the speech of Agrippa, 156-163), and chapters 21-22.
- Symbolic Violence and the Outbreak of the Rebellion (26:32)
- Escalation towards total War (16:51)
- The Coming of Vespasian (20:36)
- The Siege of Jerusalem (19:42)
- The Aftermath (15:54)
Questions: Pick 2 of the following 4 questions and write a 400-word minimum answer for each one. Submit your answers to Turnitin.com by May 3.
- Take a look at Agrippa II’s speech to the crowd in Jerusalem on pp. 156-162 in Josephus’ history. How does the reasoning in this speech reflect the complicated situation of a Roman client king? How does it serve the larger purpose of Josephus’ narrative?
- Read Josephus’ speech to the besieged people of Jerusalem on pp. 317-322, and determine if the reasoning in his speech connects to what you have learned about Second Temple Judaism. Does this sound like a valid and genuine appeal, or is it just the special pleading of a Jew who has already surrendered to Rome? What purpose do you think it serves here in Josephus’ history?
- How does Josephus generally rationalize his involvement with the Romans once he surrenders? Does this sound like something credible, from what you have learned about currents of thought in Second Temple Judaism? Why do you think he would have been valuable to Vespasian?
- Read the account of Titus and Vespasian’s triumph on pp. 383-386. What parts of this are religious in nature? What parts are clearly political? Is it easy to make that distinction at all in this context?