Jesus, Josephus, and the fall of Jerusalem: On doing history with Scripture
The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 was an unquestionably traumatic event in the history of the Jewish people. By all accounts it was a social, political, and theological disaster. As such, contemporary Jewish figures wrestled with the meaning of the event. This article analyses the efforts by two figures in this internal Jewish dialogue to provide this meaning, namely, the historian Josephus and Jesus of Nazareth. We will see that in both cases the meaning of the destruction was rooted in the firm conviction of the God of Israel’s existence and his self-revelation in Scripture. The temple was destroyed not apart from God or in spite of God, but in full accordance with his will. This will, moreover, was judged to be accessible through Scripture, both in terms of its prophetic value and its establishment of a metanarrative – redemptive history – that provided a framework for historical events. In addition, the reason for the destruction was judged by both to be the sins of (certain) people. The major difference between them lay rather in the question of which sins exactly were judged to be responsible.