Dropsie College Theses
The Account of the Ancient Israelite Tabernacle and First Priesthood in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Louis H. Feldman
This dissertation makes an analysis of Josephus' Tabernacle account, found in The Jewish Antiquities 3. 99-207, with the goal of: first, shedding further light on his Biblical text; second, determining what non-Biblical sources, both rabbinic and classical, he used; and third, evaluating his motive in retelling the Biblical narrative.
Chapter I begins with an examination of Josephus' objectives, which were seen to be: first, to explain to a curious, not necessarily anti-Semitic, gentile readership the nature of the ancient Israelite shrine; and second, to make clear to his own people, before whom he appeared to be a charlatan, that he shared their concern for the Jewish heritage, which was being redefined following the destruction of the Temple. The balance of the first chapter discusses previous scholarship on the Exodus Tabernacle account, taking note especially of D.R. Nelson's work that includes an examination of Josephus' Tabernacle account.
Chapter II compares his description of the Tabernacle court and superstructure with the Hebrew and Greek Biblical text of Exodus, with Ezekiel's vision of the Temple, with Philo, the Mishnah, the Babylonian Talmud, with various midrashim, as well as with Greek classical sources that describe cultic settings.
Chapter III compares Josephus' description of the Tabernacle furniture with the same range of sources. Special attention is given to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, to which Josephus calls attention in describing the table in the Tabernacle. Josephus' interest m the cosmic symbolism of the Tabernacle is particularly noted in his description of the candelabrum.
Chapter IV examines Josephus' discussion of the priestly vestments. Here it is observed that Josephus deemphasizes Aaron, though not the High Priesthood, and gives more attention to the ordinary priests than the Biblical text does.
Chapter V examines the concluding details Josephus' brings into his Tabernacle narrative. This includes particular notice of the symbolism of the Tabernacle, Aaron's appointment as High Priest, coverings over the Tabernacle furniture, the half-shekel tax, a postscript on the architects, and the dedicatory sacrifices for the priests and Tabernacle.
It is concluded that Josephus used the Greek and Hebrew forms of Exodus and Numbers, and the Greek text of Ezekiel. He shows close acquaintance with Philo's Life of Moses. From Josephus' halakic and haggadic expansions on the Bible, many of which have parallels in the rabbinic literature, it is concluded that Josephus drew on a common fund of hagadah and halakha. He is a datable witness to these literary developments within Judaism.
Robertson, Stuart D., "The Account of the Ancient Israelite Tabernacle and First Priesthood in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus" (1991). Dropsie College Theses. 37.
Additional FilesRobertson_PA_4223_E3_R634_1991_High Res.pdf (417748 kB)
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Library at the Katz Center - Archives Thesis. PA4223.E3 R634 1991.