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Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism$
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Jonathan Klawans

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199928613

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199928613.001.0001

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Afterlives and Noble Deaths

Afterlives and Noble Deaths

(p.92) 3 Afterlives and Noble Deaths
Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

Jonathan Klawans

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews Josephus’s descriptions of ancient Jewish debates regarding the afterlife. Again, Josephus’s testimony is found to be generally verifiable in light of external comparisons. This chapter clarifies and confirms Josephus’s distinction between a Pharisaic hope for eventual re-embodiment in contrast with the Essene belief in the eternal immortality of disembodied souls. The Pharisaic view is found to be commensurate with later rabbinic literature, and the Essene focus on immortality is found to be commensurate with the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls and their apparent disdain for corporeality. The chapter also reviews Josephus’s narratives concerning noble deaths, martyrdom, and the mass suicide at Masada. An appendix establishes that Hippolytus’s description of ancient Jewish sectarian disputes derives from Josephus, and is unlikely to preserve independently reliable information.

Keywords:   Immortality, resurrection, martyrdom, noble death, suicide, Masada, Hippolytus

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