The First Jewish Rebellion, 66-70 CE

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 for Thursday are therefore given a little differently from our usual style.  We will highlight in class things from the Josephus reading to consider, so make sure to bring your book!

This week’s assignments are:

  • Tuesday March 29: Hayes and Mandell, chapter 4; Josephus, chapters 8 & 9 (esp. the speech of Agrippa, 156-163)
  • Thursday March 31: Josephus, chapters 11, 12 (pp. 215-222), 16, 18 (pp. 317-322), 21

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Associate Professor of Classical Studies The Honors College at the University of Houston

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