Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Scholars who have discussed Josephus’ political philosophy have largely focused on his concepts of aristokratia or theokratia. In general, they have ignored his concept of kingship. Those that have commented on it tend to dismiss Josephus as anti-monarchical and ascribe this to the biblical anti-monarchical tradition. To date, Josephus’ concept of kingship has not been treated as a significant component of his political philosophy. Through a close reading of Josephus’ longest text, the Jewish Antiquities, a historical work that provides extensive accounts of kings and kingship, I show that Josephus had a fully developed theory of monarchical government that drew on biblical and Greco-Roman models of kingship. Josephus held that ideal kingship was the responsible use of the personal power of one individual to advance the interests of the governed and maintain his and his subjects’ loyalty to Yahweh. The king relied primarily on a standard array of classical virtues to preserve social order in the kingdom, protect it from external threats, maintain his subjects’ quality of life, and provide them with a model for proper moral conduct. While monarchical government depended largely on the personal power of the king, the king was obligated to uphold Mosaic Law, which would affirm his allegiance to Yahweh and prevent him from governing tyrannically. The one area in which the king shared power with another authority figure was in administering cult. Josephus held that the ideal king largely delegated responsibility over cultic rituals to the priesthood. Josephus was therefore not anti-monarchical; he had a hybrid theory of monarchical rule that constituted a substantial component of his broader political thought. In addition to casting light on an overlooked aspect of Josephus’ theory of government, my thesis also demonstrates that Josephus’ historical writings provide essential information about his political philosophy.
Feeley, Jacob Douglas, "Josephus As Political Philosopher: His Concept Of Kingship" (2017). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2276.