Chapter VIII.—The Signs which preceded the War.
1. Taking, then, the work of this author, read what he records in the sixth book of his History. His words are as follows: 656 “Thus were the miserable people won over at this time by the impostors and false prophets; 657 but they did not heed nor give credit to the visions and signs that foretold the approaching desolation. On the contrary, as if struck by lightning, and as if possessing neither eyes nor understanding, they slighted the proclamations of God.
2. At one time a star, in form like a sword, stood over the city, and a comet, which lasted for a whole year; and again before the revolt and before the disturbances that led to the war, when the people were gathered for the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth of the month Xanthicus, 658 at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone about the altar and the temple that it seemed to be bright day; and this continued for half an hour. This seemed to the unskillful a good sign, but was interpreted by the sacred scribes as portending those events which very soon took place.
3. And at the same feast a cow, led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.
4. And the eastern gate of the inner temple, which was of bronze and very massive, and which at evening was closed with difficulty by twenty men, and rested upon iron-bound beams, and had bars sunk deep in the ground, was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of itself.
5. And not many days after the feast, on the twenty-first of the month Artemisium, 659 a certain marvelous vision was seen which passes belief. The prodigy might seem fabulous were it not related by those who saw it, and were not the calamities which followed deserving of such signs. For before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities.
6. And at the feast which is called Pentecost, when the priests entered the temple at night, as was their custom, to perform the services, they said that at first they perceived a movement and a noise, and afterward a voice as of a great multitude, saying, Let us go hence. 660
7. But what follows is still more terrible; for a certain Jesus, the son of Ananias, a common countryman, four years before the war, 661 when the city was particularly p. 143 prosperous and peaceful, came to the feast, at which it was customary for all to make tents at the temple to the honor of God, 662 and suddenly began to cry out: A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple, a voice against bridegrooms and brides, a voice against all the people. Day and night he went through all the alleys crying thus.
8. But certain of the more distinguished citizens, vexed at the ominous cry, seized the man and beat him with many stripes. But without uttering a word in his own behalf, or saying anything in particular to those that were present, he continued to cry out in the same words as before.
9. And the rulers, thinking, as was true, that the man was moved by a higher power, brought him before the Roman governor. 663 And then, though he was scourged to the bone, he neither made supplication nor shed tears, but, changing his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, he answered each stroke with the words, Woe, woe unto Jerusalem.”
10. The same historian records another fact still more wonderful than this. He says 664 that a certain oracle was found in their sacred writings which declared that at that time a certain person should go forth from their country to rule the world. He himself understood that this was fulfilled in Vespasian.
11. But Vespasian did not rule the whole world, but only that part of it which was subject to the Romans. With better right could it be applied to Christ; to whom it was said by the Father, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession.” 665 At that very time, indeed, the voice of his holy apostles “went throughout all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” 666
Josephus, B. J. Bk. VI. chap. 5, §3.142:657
καταψευδόμενοι τοῦ θεοῦ. In the previous paragraph Josephus says that a great many false prophets were suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people. It is to these false prophets therefore that he refers here, and I have consequently felt at liberty thus to translate the Greek word given above, instead of rendering merely “liars against God” (as Crusè does), which is indefinite, and might have various meanings.142:658
The feast referred to is the feast of the Passover. The Greek name of the month used here is ξανθικός, which was the name of a Macedonian month corresponding to our April. According to Whiston, Josephus regularly used this name for the Jewish month Nisan (the first month of the Jewish year), in which case this event took place six days before the Passover, which began on the 14th of Nisan.142:659
᾽Αρτεμίσιος. According to Liddell and Scott, this was a Spartan and Macedonian month corresponding to a part of the ninth Attic month (ἐλαφηβολιών), which in turn corresponded to the latter part of our March and the early part of April. According to Wieseler, Josephus used the word to denote the second month of the Jewish year, the month Iyar.142:660
The majority of the mss. of Eusebius read μεταβαίνομεν, “we go hence.” But at least one of the best mss. and a majority of the mss. of Josephus, supported by Rufinus and Jerome (who render migremus), read μεταβαίνωμεν, “let us go hence,” and I have followed Stephanus, Valesius, Stroth, and the English and German translators in adopting that reading.142:661
That is, in 62 a.d. for, according to Josephus, the war began in 66 a.d. A little further on, Josephus says that he continued his cry for seven years and five months, when he was slain during the siege of Jerusalem. This shows that he is here, as well as elsewhere, reckoning the date of the beginning of the war as 66 a.d.143:662
That is, the Feast of Tabernacles, which began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish year, and continued seven days.143:663
This was Albinus, as we should know from the date of the event, and as Josephus directly states in the context. He was procurator from 61 or 62 to 64 a.d. See above, Bk. II. chap. 23, note 35, and chap. 22, note 1.143:664
See Josephus, B. J. VI. 5.4, and cf. ibid. III. 8. 9.143:665
Ps. ii. 8.143:666
Ps. xix. 4.