Afterlives and Noble Deaths

Jonathan Klawans

in Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199928613
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980567 | DOI:
Afterlives and Noble Deaths

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This chapter reviews Josephus’s descriptions of ancient Jewish debates regarding the afterlife. Again, Josephus’s testimony is found to be generally verifiable in light of external comparisons. This chapter clarifies and confirms Josephus’s distinction between a Pharisaic hope for eventual re-embodiment in contrast with the Essene belief in the eternal immortality of disembodied souls. The Pharisaic view is found to be commensurate with later rabbinic literature, and the Essene focus on immortality is found to be commensurate with the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls and their apparent disdain for corporeality. The chapter also reviews Josephus’s narratives concerning noble deaths, martyrdom, and the mass suicide at Masada. An appendix establishes that Hippolytus’s description of ancient Jewish sectarian disputes derives from Josephus, and is unlikely to preserve independently reliable information.

Keywords: Immortality; resurrection; martyrdom; noble death; suicide; Masada; Hippolytus

Chapter.  19247 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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