This study examines four Josephan passages discussing souls entering a new body or life. It argues that research on this issue can be advanced from the conclusion by several scholars that despite the language of reincarnation it is really the belief in resurrection that underlies Josephus’s accounts. The key findings include: Josephus does not directly characterize the new life as a reward, and the fact that its recipients are good souls does not contradict reincarnation. The descriptions of the new body in
The descriptions of afterlife beliefs in the works of Flavius Josephus have given rise to several kinds of interpretations among scholars. Many of these descriptions either concern views Josephus attributes to the three Jewish schools of “philosophy” (the Essenes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees) or are contained in the Jewish War in speeches by different parties, including the historian himself.1 The questions of what exactly the various texts imply will happen to the soul after death and what terminology scholars should use remain contested.
This article focuses on a group of four passages in which Josephus speaks of the soul passing post mortem to “a different body” (
Two observations can be made of these four views.6 First, the three last ones seem to imply that—regardless of the historical reality—Josephus himself wanted his audience to understand his references to a new life as endorsements of reincarnation. But also three views (the first and the two last ones) imply that he really refers to something else. From this state of affairs stems the central question of this article: Is it warranted to regard Josephus’s descriptions of reincarnation as anomalous and to take the new life passages as veiled references to resurrection and/or based on belief in it? Most versions of the view that such warrant exists rest on some general thesis that can be questioned—e.g., that Josephus’s apologetic motivation makes him unreliable,7 or that reincarnation was, a priori, “étrangère au judaïsme”8 —or on inaccurate premises.9
Before proceeding to the examination of the passages two methodological preliminaries need to be discussed.
First, in the interest of conceptual clarity resurrection and reincarnation should be defined.10 Indeed, otherwise it becomes difficult to assess the passages in relation to the two doctrines, which do differ with regard to the manner, recurrence and context of the new incarnation. Resurrection can be defined, as Jonathan Klawans does, as an event whereby “an individual’s life is restored back to a living body,”11 but this should be further specified by adding that this is a one-time return which is to take place in a collective eschatological fulfillment. The body is believed to be either the one the person had during her/his life or of some other kind; no ordinary birth is involved. Reincarnation, on the other hand, is a repeated process which involves several ordinary births. It precedes the eschaton of an individual soul, i.e., its salvation out of the corporeal existence. Unlike in resurrection, the new body is “destined to die, too.”12 These definitions by no means imply that Josephus’s accounts must neatly fit one category or the other. Their purpose is simply to enhance understandability.13
Second, the present study aims to separate a primary, “exegetical” phase of investigation from a secondary, historical one, as soundly suggested by Steve Mason.14 That is, we need to first comprehend as fully as possible what Josephus wants to say and then try to assess if he is being accurate and truthful. This article focuses on the first phase. Comparative material is evoked for the purpose of understanding what Josephus intends to convey, not in order to verify the Pharisees’ (or his own) actual beliefs.
The boundary between the two phases is not always easy to discern. E.g., Mason has stated, “[i]t is a historical question, beyond the scope of this study, whether Josephus misrepresented the Jewish doctrine of resurrection by appropriating Greek terminology [of reincarnation] for it.”15 One may ask if Mason’s claim itself that Josephus used reincarnation terminology for resurrection is not already his affirmative answer to that historical question. His argument also raises the question of how Josephus’s own audience(s) would have seen his accounts.16 Would they have made the same conclusions as Mason, namely that despite “the common language of reincarnation, those views still seem peculiar in the Greco-Roman context” and that what Josephus is talking about rather “bears many similarities to what we should call resurrection”? In other words, do these conclusions belong to the exegetical phase or are they part of the reconstruction by the modern historian? By discussing them without reservations, Mason implies the former. He does not, however, make it explicit whether he thinks Josephus intended his descriptions of reincarnation as peculiar to the effect that they would turn the minds of at least some in the audience to resurrection instead—just like has happened to many a modern scholar.
In order not to belittle the possibility that there are hints at resurrection in Josephus’s accounts, I have chosen to look at them from the viewpoint of such a contemporary audience which is knowledgeable of both Greek and Jewish afterlife beliefs.
2 The Passages and Their Contexts
The passages dealing with a “new life” must be read in their contexts which can be briefly described as follows. The notion is twice presented as a Pharisaic belief:
This study proceeds in four steps in which I address the following questions that I have deemed to shed the most light on how the passages should be understood. First, I deal with the issue of whether the new life should be seen specifically as a reward. Second, I examine the characterizations of the body in
3 The New Life as a Reward for Goodness
It has been noted in previous research that the recipients of the new life are good souls in all of the passages and that this fits poorly with concurrent Greek thought where liberation from reincarnation is sought.22 We shall now take a closer look at
How should this ease of revival be understood, then? It is difficult to answer this in the context of resurrection; I am not aware of any text that speaks of resurrection being either easy or difficult. Instead, I find the close connections
That the Phaedo is a relevant background here is made even more plausible by an apposite parallel in Cicero’s discussion of Socrates’s views of the soul’s immortality:
Those who had kept themselves with integrity and chastity, and for whom there was a minimal contagion from their bodies, and who always separated themselves from it and were always imitating the life of the gods in human bodies—for them, there stands open an easy passage to return (reditum facilem) to those from whom they had set out. (Tusc. 1.72)29
The context here is precisely the description of the hereafter in the Phaedo. Alexander Long has listed the passages to which Cicero alludes to in 1.71-75.30 For 1.72 his reference seems to be 108a-c, which should be complemented with 113d-114c.31 All the elements of Josephus’s description in
Resurrection could well be characterized as a reward, if based on merit. Of the passages outside
4 The Body in the Jewish War
We then turn to the notion of the body in the accounts in
However, it has been suggested that Josephus’s referent in
There are also other, Jewish, Christian and Greek texts where the purity or holiness of the human body is something that needs to be maintained (not acquired), which seems to imply that the human body is pure or holy to begin with.43 It is in this light I propose we read Josephus’s reference to the body’s holiness in
But why does Josephus not mention the holiness of bodies in
There is an intriguing parallel to
5 The New and Better Life
The expression “better life” in C. Ap. 2.218 seems to have a Platonic background.58 In the Republic the basic alternatives for the soul’s next life are the worse (χείρω) and the better life (τὸν ἀµείνω βίον, 618d).59 The passage in C. Ap. is distinguished from the other new life passages in that now nothing is explicitly said of the wicked. Yet Josephus’s statement that being reborn is “granted” to the virtuous souls can be thought to distinguish them from those who do not receive this opportunity. Compared with the myth of Er, this last group would correspond either to the incurable souls who are forever prevented from emerging from the netherworld (615e) or those who receive the worse life.60
There is nothing in the expression “better life” itself that would indisputably prevent it from being a characterization of life after the resurrection of the body. However, I have not found examples of such language actually being used. Furthermore, as this expression appears in tandem with “be[ing] born again” (γενέσθαι πάλιν), any interpretation of the text should be able to explain both phrases.61 The translation “renewed existence” for the latter is problematic, since the souls’ existence is not threatened and needs no renewal.62 The most natural interpretation of the verb is “to be born” (
In this final section before my conclusions I discuss two features found in the passages illustrating Josephus’s own beliefs: the way the soul is again housed in the body in
6.1 The Rehousing of the Soul
Let us compare the sections
3.372: “the soul . . . is . . . housed τοῖς σώµασιν ἐνοικίζεται
in our bodies”
3.374: “souls . . . return to find in πάλιν ἀντενοικίζονται64 σώµασιν
bodies a new habitation”
The similarity of these two sentences implies a highly significant fact ignored in previous research: We know that incarnation through ordinary birth must be meant in the first one, and thus we should be able to add to it the force of the combination πάλιν + ἀντί to arrive at the meaning of the second. But what exactly is that force?
The adverb πάλιν has four main meanings referring to the direction back(wards), to contrariety, to repetition or to something happening in turn (
Thucydides, Hist. 2.13.5: “ ‘but having made use of [a treasure] for their safety,’ he said, ‘they were to make restitution of the like quantity again (ἀντικαταστῆσαι πάλιν).’ ”67
Hist. 2.65.9: “When he saw them unreasonably afraid, he would restore them to confidence again (ἀντικαθίστη πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ θαρσεῖν).”
Philo, Leg. 2.92: “There shall be once more a rod instead of a serpent (ἔσται γὰρ πάλιν ἀντὶ ὄφεως ῥάβδος).”
Somn. 2.12: “For at times the appetite flows strongly to wealth and reputation and completely masters the interests of body and soul, and then again is met and driven back (εἶτα ἀντιβιασθεῖσα πάλιν)”
b.j.2.190: “ . . . and empty the basin of its sand, whereupon it is refilled again (πάλιν ἀντιπληροῦται) by the action of the winds.” a.j.12.377: “Every siege-engine (µεχάνηµα) which the king set up against them, they, in turn, countered with another engine (πάλιν ἀντεµηχανῶντο).
In these examples, the adverb πάλιν and the preposition ἀντί both relate to an original state of affairs, but they have a different point of reference. The former refers to the restoration of the original state,68 whereas the latter refers to the way that state is reachieved: through the cancellation of an intermediary state.69 This grammatical structure itself in no way limits the number of the alternations.
When we combine this result with the earlier conclusions that holiness, the innate quality of every body containing the divine soul, is part of the circumstances that recur, the signs of continuity and similarity between the incarnations are marked indeed. Would Josephus have used such language if he had wanted to convey the idea that the latter incarnation was the final, “singular, climactic movement into a new body,” as Mason describes it?70 My answer is no, because—regardless of the audience—the Greek is clear enough: ordinary birth in a holy body is repeated.
6.2 The Expression ἐκ περιτροπῆς (αἰώνων)
We then come to the expression ἐκ περιτροπῆς which connects
We start with C. Ap. 2.218, where “a better life” (βίον ἀµείνω) is “taken” or “received” (λαβεῖν), and this receipt is specified as happening ἐκ περιτροπῆς. Barclay and Whiston have translated this expression as if it were simply the same as ἐν περιτροπῇ, as has Thackeray in
The expression ἐκ περιτροπής has a recognized adverbial meaning, expressed by
But, when [the sickness (τὰς νόσους)] abated, it did but turn and make a fresh attack (αὖθις ἐκ περιτροπῆς ἐπετίθεντο) and gather from the breathing-space some new misery more powerful than its predecessors. (Mos. 1.42)
In Legat. Philo writes,
Apelles [was] tortured by the rack and the wheel periodically78 (στρεβλούµενος καὶ τροχιζόµενος ἐκ περιτροπῆς) like people suffering from recurring (περιοδιζούσαις) fevers. (Legat. 206)
Josephus himself uses the expression a third time:
This calamity befell the city of Jerusalem . . . on the day of the Fast, as if it were a recurrence of the misfortune which had come upon the Jews in the time of Pompey (ὥσπερ ἐκ περιτροπῆς τῆς γενοµένης ἐπὶ Ποµπηίου τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις συµφορᾶς), for they were captured by Sossius on the very same day, twenty-seven years later. (
In these three examples ἐκ περιτροπῆς refers to recurrence.79 This meaning too fits C. Ap. 2.218: “those who keep the laws . . . God has allowed to be reborn and to receive a better life again.” Similarity with the earlier life is, once more, implied. This favors reincarnation as the referent; I can detect no peculiarities to imply any hint at resurrection.
What does that mean? I think the most natural solution follows from the sense “completion of an orbit and return to the same point” of the preposition περί in compositions (
7 Conclusions and Questions for Further Research
This study has found that Josephus’s “new life” passages should be understood as characteristic but partial descriptions of reincarnation. This twofold conclusion derives, on the one hand, from Josephus’s terminology, the ordinary manner of birth into a ordinary body implied and the cyclicality of the phenomenon described, and, on the other, from the omission of the category of reincarnating wicked souls and of the final salvation out of the perishable body.82 The other features that have in earlier research been interpreted as anomalous for reincarnation or hints at resurrection were found to fit well the tenet of reincarnation.83
The texts presenting Josephus’s own views are more complex in terms of both contents and language than those dealing with the Pharisees, and of the translations presented above in Table i, it is these that should in my view be amended. My proposals for translating the key expressions are as follows:
b.j.3.374: “as the aeons complete a full circle, they are again housed in holy bodies,” and
C. Ap. 2.218: “those who keep the laws . . . God has allowed to be reborn and to receive a better life again.”
Yet Josephus’s two omissions make it problematic to simply declare that he claims that he and the Pharisees believed in reincarnation, let alone that this simply was the case in reality. Of them, the absence of the reincarnating wicked is the more significant one, whereas the final liberation is almost lost to view also in, e.g., Plato’s Republic, where only a brief and indirect reference to being “saved” is found (621 b-c). I end this article with some thoughts on a way towards solving the question of how to understand and explain the incompleteness of the Josephan reincarnation scheme.
Mason has suggested that the difference between the Essene and Pharisaic beliefs concerning the post-mortem fate of the virtuous souls
may not be as great as it seems, however, since Josephus’ own character speaks about the souls of the good going first to a heavenly place and then to “holy new bodies”—in the revolution, or succession, of ages (ἐκ περιτροπῆς αἰώνων): War 3.375 (sic); Apion 2.218. He thus envisages an intervening period of the soul’s existence before its re-incarnation.84
On this interpretation the Essene belief in the post-mortem ascent of the soul (
Nevertheless, some other combination of beliefs could be both coherent as a scheme and justified in light of what Josephus says. In addition to the body’s mortality, worth attention are the statements that souls “emanate from the most refined ether” (Essenes,
The various afterlife beliefs in Josephus are curiously compatible. Not only does the harmonization of the Essene, Josephan and Pharisaic beliefs seem possible if we assume that the different accounts, for some reason to be investigated, reveal different parts of a bigger picture, but also the speeches by Titus (
For a list of thirty afterlife passages, see Joseph Sievers, “Josephus and the Afterlife,” in Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives, ed. Steve Mason (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 23-24, and for a synopsis of thirteen texts, Casey D. Elledge, Life after Death in Early Judaism: The Evidence of Josephus,
There is no reason to think the passages do not discuss the same phenomenon; so also Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees: A Composition-Critical Study, StPB 39 (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 299.
For the definitions of these terms see below. Resurrection has been preferred, e.g., by Jonathan Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 111, 119; Émile Puech, La croyance des Esséniens en la vie future: immortalité, résurrection, vie éternelle? Histoire d’une croyance dans le judaïsme ancien, 2 vols., Etudes bibliques, nouvelle serie 22 (Paris: Gabalda, 1993), 2:717; James D. Tabor, “ ‘Returning to the Divinity’: Josephus’s Portrayal of the Disappearances of Enoch, Elijah, and Moses,”
E.g., Francis T. Glasson, Greek Influence in Jewish Eschatology (London:
Alan Segal, Life after Death: A History of the Afterlife in the Religions of the West (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 381; E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE-66 CE (London:
It should be noted that although this division into four reasonably reflects the status quaestionis, it cannot do full justice to the nuances of individual scholars’ views. E.g., Klawans shows some understanding for regarding Josephus “as attributing to the Pharisees something between reincarnation and resurrection” (Josephus, 108)—although it remains unclear what exactly he means by referring in this context to the ostensible differences between the concepts of reincarnation, metempsychosis and transmigration. I regard these as synonyms; see John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), s.v. “rebirth.”
Criticized in general terms by Mason, Pharisees, 15. This view has been represented recently by, e.g., Elledge (see note 14 below).
Puech, Croyance, 2:717. This view seems incorrect. The first-century
E.g., as discussed below, the points (a) to (d) that act as a summary of Mason’s inquiry into the “anomaly” of the new body being a reward are not entirely accurate and do not support his thesis of the Josephan accounts of reincarnation being “peculiar” and rather resembling resurrection (Pharisees, 169). Likewise, two of the four points he calls “fundamental to every other theory of reincarnation” (ibid., 166.) are problematic. Point (2)—“life in the body results from a fall”—is perhaps neither relevant, since Josephus nowhere discusses the original cause of the soul’s embodiment, nor entirely correct. For instance, in Plato’s Timaeus the souls’ first incarnation is not related to a fall—only the subsequent ones are. For the other points, see below, nn. 34, 48.
Here I agree about the importance of clearly defining these concepts with Klawans, Josephus, 108; Wright, Resurrection, 178.
Klawans, Josephus, 93. Instead of “life” we could also say, “soul.”
Scholars sometimes use language that conflates the two concepts in an unhelpful way. Thus Steve Mason says that resurrection and reincarnation do not need to be mutually exclusive and that Josephus apparently considered the former to be “the Jewish mode” of the latter (Pharisees, 169 n. 207). According to John J. Collins, Josephus expresses “belief in both resurrection (in the form of metempsychosis) and the immortality of the soul”; see “Eschatology,” ed. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 596. In a similar vein Günter Stemberger, Pharisäer Sadduzäer Essener: Fragen–Fakten–Hintergründe (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2013), 63, speaks of an “Auferstehungsleib” in connection with the Pharisaic belief (as portrayed by Josephus) in “Seelenwanderung.” In these cases it is difficult to know what is implied with regard to the manner, recurrence and context of the new embodiment.
He is here following Neusner and Rivkin. For an enlightening discussion with references, see Mason, Pharisees, 12-16. In a markedly different approach, Elledge takes as his starting point “regard[ing] Josephus as an apologetical translator, who has transformed the original content of Jewish beliefs regarding the future life into a Hellenistic philosophical synthesis for his own rhetorical purposes” (Life and Death, 3 and passim). Klawans commends Elledge’s approach but implicitly acknowledges the importance of the exegetical phase when he says that the answer to the question of “whether behind [Josephus’s ‘apologetic’] translation we can discern anything of historical value” depends on “our own understandings—and translations—of Josephus’s curious descriptions of Pharisaic beliefs” (Josephus, 107).
Josephus mentions Vespasian and Titus as the primary audience of
I do not in all respects agree with the English translations in the table and will present my amendments at the end of this article. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations of all authors are from the Loeb Classical Library. For
ψυχήν τε πᾶσαν µὲν ἄφθαρτον, µεταβαίνειν δὲ εἰς ἕτερον σῶµα τὴν τῶν ἀγαθῶν µόνην, τὰς δὲ τῶν φαύλων ἀιδίῳ τιµωρίᾳ κολάζεσθαι.
τὰ µέν γε σώµατα θνητὰ πᾶσιν καὶ ἐκ φθαρτῆς ὕλης δεδηµιούργηται, ψυχὴ δὲ ἀθάνατος ἀεὶ καὶ θεοῦ µοῖρα τοῖς σώµασιν ἐνοικίζεται . . . τῶν µὲν ἐξιόντων τοῦ βίου κατὰ τὸν τῆς φύσεως νόµον . . . καθαραὶ δὲ καὶ ἐπήκοοι µένουσιν αἱ ψυχαί, χῶρον οὐράνιον λαχοῦσαι τὸν ἁγιώτατον, ἔνθεν ἐκ περιτροπῆς αἰώνων ἁγνοῖς πάλιν ἀντενοικίζονται σώµασιν· ὅσοις δὲ καθ᾿ ἑαυτῶν ἐµάνησαν αἱ χεῖρες, τούτων ᾅδης µὲν δέχεται τὰς ψυχὰς σκοτεινότερος, ὁ δὲ τούτων πατὴρ θεὸς εἰς ἐγγόνους τιµωρεῖται τὰς τῶν πατέρων ὕβρεις (conj. Thackeray; mss. τοὺς τῶν πατέρων ὑβριστάς). In the Slavonic version of
ἀθάνατόν τε ἰσχὺν ταῖς ψυχαῖς πίστις αὐτοῖς εἶναι καὶ ὑπὸ χθονὸς δικαιώσεις τε καὶ τιµὰς οἷς ἀρετῆς ἢ κακίας ἐπιτήδευσις ἐν τῷ βίῳ γέγονεν, καὶ ταῖς µὲν εἱργµὸν ἀίδιον προτίθεσθαι, ταῖς δὲ ῥᾳστώνην τοῦ ἀναβιοῦν.
αὐτὸς ἕκαστος αὑτῷ τὸ συνειδὸς ἔχων µαρτυροῦν πεπίστευκεν . . . ὅτι τοῖς τοὺς νόµους διαφυλάξασι κἂν εἰ δέοι θνήσκειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν προθύµως ἀποθανεῖν ἔδωκεν ὁ θεὸς γενέσθαι τε πάλιν καὶ βίον ἀµείνω λαβεῖν ἐκ περιτροπῆς [αἰώνων]. As for the addition (by Barclay), see below.
E.g., Mason, Pharisees, 166.
Ibid., 166; n. 1012 to
This is the explicit position of Sanders, Judaism, 301. Somewhat inconsistently Mason in Pharisees, 166 n. 194 says that the identification of the reward with the new life “is clear” regardless of whether that life and the eternal imprisonment are elaborations of the punishments and rewards, or additions. He concedes that if they are additions, they may in fact be subsequent. But if the new life is subsequent to the period spent under the earth, it cannot the subterranean reward.
It is difficult to exclude with full certainty two alternative ways of taking the expression ῥᾳστώνην τοῦ ἀναβιοῦν. First, it might mean “relief from living again,” which would make sense in the context of reincarnation. However, I have not been able to find any certain cases of ῥᾳστώνη with a bare genitive in this sense. Philo does in Mos. 2.21 speak of “rest and relaxation from labour (ἄνεσιν πόνων καὶ ῥᾳστώνην), but ῥᾳστώνην can be understood there on its own, without assuming a connection to πόνων. Second, the genitive might be one of apposition (type urbs Romae) in which case the revival itself would be the relief. See Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York: American Book, 1920), §1322. However, based on Smyth’s example (Plato, Apology 29b) one would expect ῥᾳστώνην τὴν τοῦ ἀναβιοῦν.
In Pharisees, 299 Mason acknowledges that the contrast is between the ease and the imprisonment. As for the word ἀναβιοῦν, the present tense implies Josephus does not mean the punctual event of reincarnation but something durative; cf.
Mason notes the phrase in the Iliad (as well as in Aeschylus and Sophocles) but not its reuse by Plato; ibid., 298.
See Phaed. 113d-114c.
Tr. Elledge, Life and Death, 111, evidently based on the Loeb translation by King but reworked in many ways. He does not link the passage with
A. A. Long, “Cicero’s Plato and Aristotle,” in From Epicurus to Epictetus: Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon, 2006), 291. The entire list is 80a-d, 108a-c, 84e-85d, 61c-62c, 67d.
“Holy living (τὸ ὁσίως βιῶναι)” in 113d and 114a is closer to Cicero’s “always imitating the life of the gods” than “pass[ing] through life in purity and moderation” in 108c. As for the souls of the dead being brought back, 114b mentions their reincarnation whereas there is no such reference in 108a-c (there is a brief one in 107e).
In the underworld of the Aeneid, too, the souls’ fates and the degree of ease of the passage to a new incarnation vary. See book 6, lines 735-751.
Mason’s third and fourth “fundamental” characteristics of transmigration are (Pharisees, 166): “good souls affect an early release” from the wheel of reincarnation, and “only the impure and contaminated souls must spend longer periods in the body” (emphasis added). He is right, Josephus’s accounts do not reflect the difference between the good and the bad souls in such temporal terms. This follows directly from Josephus’s omission of the reincarnation of the impure souls, discussed more below.
In the Republic too the good souls go to heaven for the inter-incarnational period (614c). Mason’s point (c) in his list of the implied peculiarities in Josephus’s descriptions of reincarnation (ibid., 169)—“the soul will wait in heaven until its reincarnation”—is thus no peculiarity at all.
Thackeray in a note to his Loeb translation at
“When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands and said nobly, ‘I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again’ ” (tr. Joachim Schaper in Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint [New York: Oxford University Press, 2007]). The doubts concerning the identity of the resurrection body with the previous one expressed by Stemberger, Der Leib der Auferstehung (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1972), 17, seem unwarranted in light of the text.
Elledge, Life and Death, 104, notes the similarity of this passage with
This is what Josephus “probably” means according to Segal, Life after Death, 381. Mason mentions “affinities with” 1 Cor 15 in n. 1012 to
Jonathan Klawans has nevertheless suggested that, as a “parallel contrast” to the eternal punishment of the wicked in
In Rom 1:4 a “spirit of holiness (ἁγιοσύνης)” and Jesus’s resurrection from the dead are linked but without a reference to Jesus’s body.
I have checked the following words and/or their cognates in the Corpus Paulinum (including the deutero-Pauline letters): ἅγιος, ἁγνός, ἱερός, καθαρός, µιαντός, µολυσµός, µῶµος, σεµνός and ὅσιος.
This purity is said to be maintainable, e.g., through the abstention from alcohol etc. (Philo, Spec. 1.250), sexual chastity (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ant. Rom. 2.68.4; The Acts of Paul and Thecla 12), or moral conduct more generally (cf. 2 Clem. 8:4, 6). All these passages speak of keeping the body/flesh pure, undefiled or holy. Cf. also Phaed. 114b quoted above: reincarnating souls “mount upward into their pure abode,” which hardly refers to anything else than the new body they are headed.
For reasons that are about to become obvious, I have chosen to use the translation “holy” for ἁγνός. Here I concur with Mason’s understanding of the word as “holy, sacred, or consecrated.” This is his characterization of the meaning of the word ἁγνός in its four occurrences in Josephus (Pharisees, 167).
E.g., ibid., 169: “Josephus makes plain that the new body will be different from the old with respect to its ‘holiness.’ ” Similarly Hans C. C. Cavallin, Life After Death: Paul’s Argument for the Resurrection of the Dead in I Cor 15, ConBNT 7:1 (Lund:
I.e., attribute + πάλιν + predicate + noun qualified by the attribute.
Cf. Mason, Pharisees, 167: “entrance into a holy body is a final reward for good souls.”
This dualism shows that at least ontologically Josephus agrees with point (1) on Mason’s list of the features of theories of reincarnation, “the body is antithetical to the soul” (pace ibid., 166).
For the concessive force of γε, see
As Elledge puts it, “Josephus develops an ethics out of [the anthropological] dualism” of
Cf. 1 Cor 6:19 (which resonates with the sentiments of God’s sovereignty expressed by Josephus): “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (tr.
Tr. David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon: A New Translation and Commentary,
Elledge, Life and Death, 28 n. 116 and “Resurrection and Immortality,” 109 entirely misrepresents Winston’s view (see esp. Wisdom, 26, 198) as denial of pre-existence in 8:20.
Winston’s commentary (Wisdom, 199) does not really address the question why the body is called undefiled. To me it seems relevant that the two other instances too of the word ἀµίαντος in Wis are linked to the birth of children: In 3:13 we have, “Blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, she who has not known intercourse that involved transgression.” The closely related verse 4:2 speaks of virtue “having won the victory in the contest for the prizes that are undefiled,” the immediate context being, “better is childlessness with virtue” (4:1). Judging by these, the body in 8:20 which the soul enters may in fact be the mother’s. Cf. 7:1: “in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh”; according to Addison G. Wright, Wis 8:17-21 are intentionally linked with 7:1-6. See his “The Structure of the Book of Wisdom,” Bib 48 (1967): 164-84, esp. 168. He does not note birth as a connecting theme, although it is pronounced; cf. “when I was born,” “beginning of existence” and “entrance into life” in 7:3, 5, 6. If it is the child’s own body, the implied possibility of defilement is more difficult to explain, as the children of adulterers are described not in terms of impurity but of dishonor (3:17, 4:19).
As mentioned above (n. 36) Thackeray’s view is expressed in, e.g., a footnote to
Mason, Pharisees, 166; Elledge, Life and Death, 107. Philo uses the noun ἀναβίωσις for reincarnation in fragment 7.3 Harris; see Yli-Karjanmaa, Reincarnation in Philo, 186-212.
Mason (Pharisees, 169) is thus wrong in appealing to the use of ἀναβίωσις in 2 Macc 7:9 as a precedent for Josephus’s alleged appropriation of “the language of reincarnation” for resurrection. Cf. also
ἀµείνων βίος as a fixed compound is used between Plato and Josephus only by Philo, but not in explicit relation to the afterlife.
Similar options for the following life are presented also in the Phaedrus: “whoever lives justly obtains a better lot (ἀµείνονος µοίρας µεταλαµβάνει), and whoever lives unjustly, a worse (χείρονος)” (248e).
One also wonders what the point of comparison for the attribute “better” in C. Ap. 2.218 is. It is hardly the preceding, well-lived life on earth. The option of a worse new life may be implied. The case is similar to the hypothetical group in
As Barclay, Apion, n. 367 ad loc. notes, the latter expression occurs in Plato (e.g., Phaed. 70c, 72a—also twice in 71e and once in 72d as well as in Meno 81b), where it means reincarnation.
Both Barclay (ibid.) and Wright (Resurrection, 176) use the expression quoted. The latter’s translation has also other problems, for the sequel goes, “to receive a new (sic) life out of the renewal.”
It is metaphorical also in its only occurrence in Josephus,
I have marked in bold πάλιν and the corresponding part in the translation, with italics, ἀντί and its translation.
I have used the translation by Thomas Hobbes here because it does not conflate πάλιν and ἀντί like the more modern translations do; The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury: Thucydides (London: Bohn, 1843).
I.e., the treasure being intact, the state of confidence, the rod as it originally was, the appetite being held back, the basin being full, and an even number of siege-engines, respectively.
I.e., the treasure being partly used, fear, the rod being a serpent, the appetite flowing strongly, the emptiness of the basin and an odd number of siege-engines, respectively.
Mason, Pharisees, 167. He also says, “Josephus is talking about a holy or sacred body that will bring a better life”; ibid., 167, 169 point (a). However, Josephus does not present the new body and the better life in a causal relationship.
Tr. Barclay. We may note the Old Latin translations of these phrases here. In
Barclay, Apion, n. 368 ad loc. I am reluctant to harmonize passages the way Barclay does without compelling reasons.
Elledge sees here a reference to the cosmic conflagration, but he does not make it clear why he assumes that an intrusion of Stoic cosmology in the middle of a very Platonic description of the soul’s journey is the most likely context for Josephus’s language (Life and Death, 56, 68, 113). There is no shortage of cyclicality in Plato’s descriptions of reincarnation. To take just two examples, the souls about to be reborn are declared in the Republic: “this is the beginning of another round of mortal kind that ends in death (ἀρχὴ ἄλλης περιόδου θνητοῦ γένους θανατηφόρου)” (617d), and in Phaed. 72b Socrates describes the process of reincarnation as a “cycle.” Point (b) in Mason’s list of what he implies to be peculiarities in Josephus’s accounts (Pharisees, 169) states, “only one such body seems to be envisioned,” not a cycle. This view rests on his questionable interpretation of the new body as holy and singular as well as his understanding of the περιτροπή expressions as referring to “one change in a series or succession” (p. 168) = his point (d).
Barclay (Apion, n. 368 ad loc.) refers to both Plato’s Republic and Cicero’s Republic as precedents to C. Ap. in that they too finish a summary of the laws with an eschatological expectation. In Plato, the “mechanism” operated by Necessity and the Fates in the distribution of new lives for souls is emphatically one of revolving and turning (Resp. 616c-617d). In 617d a spokesman takes (λαβόντα) from it “allocations and samples of lives (βίων)”—better and worse ones (618e). In 620b Atalanta’s soul “takes” (λαβεῖν) an athlete’s life.
The passages of Dionysius are Ant. Rom. 5.2.1 and 10.57.1 (which has either ἐκ περινοµῆς or ἐκ περιτροπῆς). These are quite similar to
The translator (Colson) actually has “in turns” in the main text but notes, “Or ‘periodically’ (rack and wheel being regarded as a single process), which suits the figure of recurrent fevers better.” Indeed, for the word περιοδιζούσαις confirms the cyclical character of the event described.
Mason appeals to the uniqueness of the recurrence of the event in
See the quote from the Republic in n. 73. This is why Mason’s statement that ἐκ περιτροπῆς and ἐν περιτροπῇ “have to do, then, not with perpetual motion but one change in a series or succession” (ibid., 168) is inaccurate. I agree with him that “when one age comes to an end the next begins,” but this in no way precludes cyclicality. Cf. Cornfield’s rendering in
See the discussion in Yli-Karjanmaa, Reincarnation in Philo, 117-19, 136-38.
The Josephan scheme might, albeit on a much more general level than is the case with reincarnation—and only by overlooking its specifically reincarnational features—also be said to be a partial reproduction of the belief in resurrection (I thank the anonymous reviewer of this article for suggesting the consideration of this point). E.g., in 2 Macc 7:9-14 there is resurrection “into eternal life” for the martyrs but none for the tyrant; thus both of Josephus’s omissions are features that link his accounts with resurrection.
Most of these are encapsulated in Mason’s points (a) to (d) in Pharisees, 169, to which we may add the verb ἀναβιόω in
Mason, War 2, note 1012 to
The former idea appears, e.g., in the pseudo-Platonic dialogue Axiochus (366a), the latter is mentioned by Cicero as a Pythagorean tenet (De natura deorum 1.27). Philo brings them together in Leg. 3.161: “the soul is ethereal, a divine particle (ἀπόσπασµα θεῖον) . . . a portion of an ethereal nature (αἰθερίου φύσεως µοῖρα).” Similarly Diogenes Laertius, Lives 8.28 (on Pythagoras).
Seemingly quite incongruously Josephus then depicts the souls’ abode as a comfortable place “beyond Oceanus,” described in vivid physical terms and compared to the Islands of the Blessed of the Greeks (