Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism
Jonathan Klawans's Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism cuts against the grain of rabbinic studies to establish the value of Flavius Josephus's descriptions of the religious ideas of various Jewish sects for reconstructing the world of ideas (the theologies) at play in early Judaism. It is intended as a response to the prevalent approach to the study of early Judaism, which focuses on legal or halakhic issues rather than matters of religious belief. Klawans illuminates Josephus's description of early Jewish sects (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes) against distinct bodies of literature including Rabbinic sources, Qumran scrolls, and wisdom literature, especially Ben Sira. He is also concerned to show how various beliefs operate in connection with historical events, from the Hasmonean rebellion to after the destruction of the Temple. He demonstrates, for example, that beliefs about resurrection may have been less a reaction to social or historical circumstances than scholars have claimed and that the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE may not have created such a severe theological crises as previously thought.
He provides alternative explanations for beliefs about the afterlife and shows that the reaction to the Temple's loss may have been more easily dealt with in terms of preexisting theological ideas and analogies. In each case, Klawans brings to the forefront Josephus's own views about these matters and shows how they are important for a more balanced assessment of the history of early Judaism.