The Jewish War

Discusses Jewish society as described by ancient Roman writer, Josephus, in his work, “The Jewish War”.

At first glance, Josephus’ work, The Jewish War, might simply appear to be a documentation of Jews’ desire for liberation from oppressive Roman rule in the areas they inhabited. This paper shows, however, that upon further examination, it becomes apparent that Josephus is detailing myriad problems within Jewish society. Although their objections to Roman leadership added fuel to the flames, the rebellion stemmed from dissension within the Jewish race. The paper shows that the Judean community became divided into a number of opposing factions, and the issues upon which these groups separated themselves were not only religiously based, but also quite frequently related to differences in social class. The paper argues that these divisions may have come to a climax during the Jews’ revolt against the Romans, but the seeds were sown much earlier; the Judean community was divided before it was brought under direct Roman rule.
Upper class Jews, also mostly Roman citizens, were not interested in protesting taxation; they simply wanted to maintain peace. If the Romans were willing to uphold their religious beliefs and maintain the structures within Judea, why hold ill regard for them? But for the lower class Jews, with smaller incomes and large debts, confronting the issue of taxation presented them with an opportunity to renew their struggle for power and recognition over their prosperous neighbors. Every scoundrel, surrounded by his own gang, stood out from his followers like a bandit chief or dictator and used his henchmen to rob respectable citizens. In short, free speech was completely suppressed and tyranny reigned everywhere.”