Thursday, May 29, 2008

Josephus and the προφηταί: A Conclusion

I am toying with the idea of concluding my Josephus paper as follows:

I imagine that if I had the chance to talk with Josephus about his understanding of prophecy over an amphora of wine at his Flavian residence in Rome, he would explain that from his perspective the term “prophet” is best reserved for Moses and his successors—for those who were responsible for recording the Judaean constitution, for repeatedly summoning Israel back to the divinely ordained way of life, for writing the past history of his people, and for including in these holy writings predictions that came to fulfilment in his own day and—he would add after a pause—predictions that still await their fulfilment.

After these preliminaries, I put the question this way: In your laws, Moses said that the difference between a true and a false prophet comes down to whether or not the prophet’s predictions come true. You have insisted that your own predictions were fulfilled. Are you, then, a prophet? “You say that I am” he replied. This is not a satisfying answer, but it is as decisive a statement as we can expect from someone who models himself after the biblical prophets, who applies Deuteronomy’s instructions about prophets to himself, but who still refrains from using the label in relation to himself.
Is this too glib for an academic paper?? I'll give it some more thought on my way to Vancouver.


Isaac Gross said...

I don't know anything about how appropriate it is as a conclusion. BUT, you could throw in a variation of a Jeff Foxworthy redneck joke. Something like, "If you can accurately predict the future, you just might be a prophet." :)

d. miller said...

Funny. I left the "you say that I am" bit in there. A Hebrew Bible scholar asked me afterward where Josephus said that. Guess I can't presume on knowledge of the Gospels in a early Judaism / Hebrew Bible context.