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Title: Josephus on the servile origins of the Jews in Egypt
Author: Friedman, David A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 7553
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The Exodus story of the Israelites' slavery in Egypt and subsequent redemption was central to Jewish accounts of their national origins and was an important component of Jewish self-identification in antiquity. Although Greek and Latin sources appear ignorant of the Exodus story, ancient ethnographies of the Jews in non-Jewish sources claim that the Jews were originally Egyptian. This thesis examines how Josephus presents the Exodus story of the Jews' servile national origins in Egypt to a Roman audience who had biases against slaves, freedmen, and Egyptians, and little knowledge of Jewish origins apart from reports that they were Egyptian by origin. Josephus's first work Jewish War, a politico-military history, includes tangential remarks about Jewish origins, but implies in the proem that the Jews were originally Egyptian. Jewish Antiquities, which rewrites the biblical account of Jewish origins, explicitly denies that the Jews were originally Egyptian and deliberately omits mention of the Jews' servitude in Egypt at important points in the narrative where it would have been expected. In Against Apion, an apologia, Josephus subtly uses keywords and the rhetorical technique of insinuatio to prove that the Jews were not originally Egyptian without stating openly that this is a goal of the work. Several factors explain these results. Aristotle's theory of natural slavery, which posits that slaves are innately defective, was part of the ideological assumptions of first century CE Roman elites. Romans were also ambivalent about their own partly-servile origins in Romulus's asylum. Influenced by Augustan propaganda about Actium, first-century Roman sources deride Egyptians with a range of negative stereotypes. Josephus denies that the Jews were Egyptian and omits their servile origins at important points in the narrative where the Bible mentions it in order to portray the Jews as favorably as possible.
Supervisor: Goodman, Martin D. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Antike Judentum (Weber ; Max) ; ancient ethnography ; Josephus ; Flavius ; History ; Ancient--Historiography ; Jewish Origins ; Exodus ; Ancient Judaism ; Ancient ethnography ; Josephus ; Ancient historiography ; Natural slavery