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Flavius Josephus, the Zealots and Yavne

Towards a Rereading of "The War of the Jews</I>

Monette Bohrmann

The historiography concerning The War of the Jews by Flavius Josephus has underlined the various aspects (economic, social, political, religious) of the Roman-Jewish conflict from 66 to 73 AD. A study of the Jew's vision of himself and the Other, the Roman, makes it possible to see this conflict from the point of view of the conquered. Analysis of the events which, from 6 to 66 AD, resulted in the opening of hostilities, suggests that the Jewish-Roman conflict was also a conflict of mentalities. The Jewish mentality implies a concept of war which contributed to the development of the divisions and schisms between the supporters of full-scale war against Rome (the Zealots) and the non-belligerents (Rabbi Yohanan ben Zaccaï and the Yavne School, Flavius Josephus).
Furthermore, the discourse of Flavius Josephus is Jewish discourse. So far as certain options are concerned, such as his rejection of the war against Rome on the one hand, and his hatred of the Zealots on the other, a literal reading of that discourse shows that they are in the direct line of Jewish tradition as represented by RYBZ and his Yavne School. Josephus can be taken literally; the interest of his writing lies in its presentation of an internal cohesion and in the light that throws on the points of convergence and divergence in the same Pharisaic options. Finally, Josephus' text leads us to reconsider the problem of his 'betrayal'.