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Flavius Josephus, Nehemiah, and a Study in Self-Presentation

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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Scholars have frequently noted that in his writings, Josephus consistently styles himself as standing in the tradition of the biblical prophets and that he remodels his retelling of the prophets’ narratives to align them more closely with himself. What scholars have largely overlooked, however, is the fact that in his autobiography, Josephus minimizes the prophetic allusions, including instead subtle details that are reminiscent of Nehemiah and his actions. This paper, therefore, offers a new approach to the relationship between Josephus and Nehemiah: rather than comparing Josephus’ presentation of Nehemiah in his Jewish Antiquities 11.159-183 with the various extant literary traditions, this paper discusses those passages in the Vita subtly alluding to Nehemiah. The results of this analysis will impact on our understanding of how Nehemiah was perceived by later authors, and argue that the relationship between Josephus and Nehemiah was more profound than a mere retelling in the Jewish Antiquities.

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