Josephus and the New Testament. 2nd ed.

By Steve Mason
Peabody, Mass : Hendrickson (2003). xviii + 318 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
15.1 (Spring 2004) : 124-124

One of the most important and interesting personalities in extra-biblical history of the New Testament era is Flavius Josephus (ca. A .D. 37-100). This work is a new and expanded edition of the author’s 1992 work under the same title. The author brings significant academic credentials to this undertaking. He is widely regarded as a leader among living Josephan scholars, and is the general editor of the multi-volume Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary (Brill, 2000- ), a new English edition of the works of Josephus.

This new edition is well designed and includes a new series of charts and maps that are helpful in sorting out the various personalities and groups, particularly the House of Herod (151) and especially the Hasmonean Dynasty (201). Mason has written an overview and a lucid and detailed introduction that deals with a quite complicated corpus of work from a singularly unique individual. As the author notes, “Although Josephus is widely known, his writings seem bewildering and impenetrable on a first approach” (297). This work is well indexed (particularly the index of Josephus’ works cited) and provides excellent bibliographic references.

The work has several excellent sections, particularly a discussion of the relationship between Luke-Acts and Josephus (251-95). Mason holds out the possibility that Luke used Jospehus as one of his sources for information, although, of course, this would put the writing of Luke-Acts into the period around A.D. 90. He does not consider that the converse is possible, that Josephus used Luke-Acts as a source. Other important sections are the discussions of Josephan references to NT personalities and his detailed discussion of the testimonian flavianum, the testimony of Josephus to the person of Christ (Ant. 18.63-64; pages 225-36 in this text). His chapter on “Who’s Who in the New Testament World” (147-211) is also a thorough and well-conceived overview.

The major flaw in the work from an epistemological viewpoint is that the author regards the works of Josephus to be of an equal historical value and reliability as the Scriptures, and often seems to regard Josephus as perhaps more reliable. This, of course, will be a distraction to those committed to an inspired and inerrant Scripture; however, that should not dissuade a serious student of the NT from acquiring and using this excellent introduction to great profit.