Josephus, the fifth evangelist

Although ​​Josephus (also known as Flavius Josephus) remained true to the Jewish faith throughout his life, he owes his fame as a writer to Christianity. Christian monks copied and distributed his work. Thanks to them, his books have survived the centuries.

They did this for three reasons:

1. Josephus told the stories from the Old Testament in a new and (for the first century) contemporary way.

2. In line with the Christian view, he blamed the Jews for the destruction of their temple and the fall of Jerusalem.

3. Apart from the four Biblical evangelists, he was the only first-century writer who related about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Especially the latter made him famous. Although there is doubt about the authenticity of the passage in question, it earned him the nickname “the fifth evangelist.”

the life of ​​Josephus

Besides Jezus, ​​Josephus is the most famous first-century Jew. That is why it is remarkable that so few sources about his life have survived. All we know about him, we derive from his own oeuvre. The Talmudic literature treated him with silent contempt. And the only Greek or Roman writers who mentioned his name were of a later period. Furthermore, they did nothing but quote from Josephus’ own work.

Josephus’ life consisted of three parts:
1. his youth and priesthood;
2. his activities during the Jewish War;
3. his life as a writer.

About the first period, we only know something from his autobiography Vita Iosephi. In it, we read that his real name was Yosef ben Matityahu and that he descended from a prominent Jerusalem family. Like his father, grandfather, and further ancestors, he was predestined to serve as a priest in the Jewish temple. And he did this, although not immediately. After the seminary, he first lived in the desert for a few years as a pupil of the hermit Bannus. Only then was he ordained a priest.

the reliability of Josephus’ work

In his biography, ​​Josephus boasted that at the age of fourteen he was already famous for his erudition and knowledge of the Torah. “The high priests and notables of the city constantly consulted me on complex matters in our laws.” This might be true, but – I say it straight away – ​​Josephus was not the most trustworthy writer in classical antiquity, especially not concerning himself.

​​Josephus wrote Vita Iosephi as an apology. The work shows that the other Jews hated him for betraying them scandalously during the Jewish war. Josephus tried to refute those allegations, but he did so unsuccessfully. The Jewish war remains a dark chapter in his life. I write more about that on the page “Josephus’ betrayal“. Below I will limit myself to the time he spent in Rome after the war.

​​Josephus as a historian

After the Jewish war, ​​Josephus fled to Rome. There, Emperor Vespasian appointed him “imperial historian”. Josephus’ oeuvre must be read in that context: he was the emperor’s mouthpiece. The first work he wrote was an account of the Jewish war. It consisted of seven scrolls (about 450 pages) and was downright propagandistic. The Jews were to blame for the war, not Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. About Titus, who had annihilated Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, he wrote: “How often did Titus, in his desire to save the city and the temple, appeal the warring factions to an agreement“.

His next work was his magnum opus. Although Josephus wrote it in Greek, it is known by the Latin name Antiquitates Judaicae. It covers twenty scrolls and describes the history of Judaism from Adam and Eve up to the Jewish war. Most of the stories stem from the Torah and have only been redrafted by ​​Josephus. For first-century Judean history, though, the Antiquitates is often our only source.

the fifth evangelist

The two best-known passages from Antiquitates Judaicae are about Jesus and his family.

This Ananus […] convened a court and had the brother of the Jesus called Christ – James was his name – and some others brought before him. He accused them of breaking the law and had them stoned to death.”

In those days Jesus lived, a wise man, if you can call him a man. For he performed miracles and taught people, who were delighted to receive the truth. Many Jews and Hellenes came to him. He was the Christ. Even after Pilate had condemned him to death by crucifixion at the request of prominent Jews, those who had been the first to receive his love remained faithful to him. And he appeared to them, on the third day, alive again.

Josephus was the only non-Biblical contemporary to write about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. As mentioned, he is therefore called the fifth evangelist. However, science is not sure whether that is justified. The problem with classical texts is that they survived the Middle Ages in Christian monasteries, where they were copied for preservation and exchange. It is conceivable that among those copyists there was a monk whose love for Jesus was greater than his love for the truth.

Numerous scholars have commented on the authenticity of both passages. The two most extreme points of view can be easily guessed: 1. Josephus has written both passages literally this way; versus 2. they are forgeries that were inserted later. The vast majority of scholars are somewhere in between. They assume that the passages written by ​​Josephus were shorter and that Christian copyists subsequently supplemented them.

Josephus in my novel

Of all the characters in my novel The Third Temple, ​​Josephus is the least sympathetic. Yet he fascinates me. He is everything I am not and that makes him dark and intriguing. He was also the character that took me the most effort. In the first sketches I wrote, I was unable to grasp his personality. It was only when I realized that he resembled a director I had worked with that I was able to portray him convincingly.

The first version of the novel I had written as an apology. Although ​​Josephus’ actions were questionable, I felt that he had acted with good intentions. Therefore, I wished to excuse him and tried to portray a sympathetic character. However, the more I learned about Josephus, the less I succeeded. Eventually, I had to concede: the Jews were right in their judgment of ​​Josephus. As a result, I had to completely rewrite my draft as the new perspective affected every detail of his personality.

Josephus’ marriage
wife of Flavius Josephus
Josephus’ wife

As an example of such a detail, I quote a passage from Vita Iosephi:

Later I married a Jewish woman from Crete. Her parents were of good descent and well respected in their environment. Among other women, her qualities stood out, as would show later in her life. She bore me two sons, Justus, the elder, and Simonides, whom we gave the cognomen Agrippa.

This quote is typical of ​​Josephus. It is a detached and loveless description of someone who was his life partner after all. He didn’t even bother to mention her name. I have left it like that in my novel. I could have made up a name for her, of course, but I felt that by leaving her anonymous I did more justice to the essence of their relationship.

the Jewish Temple

Herod's temple, second Jewish temple
Herod’s temple

The Jewish Temple is inseparably linked to Mount Moriah, which is better known as the Temple Mount.

The first permanent residents of this mountain were the Jebusites. They founded Jerusalem. On neighboring Mount Zion, they built a fortress and from there, they controlled the area. It was a high fortress with heavy walls. So heavy that the Jebusites thought it was impregnable. When the Jewish king David appeared at the gates with his army, they laughed at him. David, however, had his men crawling in through the underground waterways and managed to conquer the castle in this way.

David settled in the fortress and made Jerusalem the capital of his empire. And, what is even more important in the context of “The Third Temple”: David carried the Ark of the Covenant into the city. He was dancing when he did this because the ark was the most sacred object of Judaism. The ark was a chest containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, the covenant that God had personally given to Moses.

Before David’s capture of Jerusalem, the Jews kept the ark in the tabernacle. This was a tent. A very special one, for it was the tent in which God dwelt. On their journeys through the desert, the Jews always carried the tabernacle with them. It was the first tent they put up when they arrived somewhere and the last one they took down again.

the first Jewish temple

After his conquest of Jerusalem, however, David felt that a tent did too little justice to God and his covenant. Therefore he commissioned his son Solomon to build a temple on Mount Moriah. That was the first Jewish temple, also called “Solomon’s Temple”. Since then, Mount Moriah is better known as “the Temple Mount”.

For four centuries that temple served as the home of God. Then the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s Temple. They took the Jews to their realm and made them work as slaves there. Their Babylonian captivity, the Jews call this period.

the second Jewish temple

Seventy years later, the Persians conquered Babylon and the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. They immediately started building a new Jewish temple there. That second temple was smaller than the first one though. And over the centuries several conquerors desecrated it. Because of this, the temple fell into disrepair.

But shortly before the beginning of our era, the Biblical King Herod the Great decided to restore it. He made it more beautiful than ever. This took him more than eighty years. When he finally completed it, the temple even surpassed Solomon’s temple in splendor. That was in 64 CE. Since then, the second Jewish temple has been called the Temple of Herod.

The Jews could not enjoy Herod’s temple for long. Two years after its completion, the Jewish war broke out. And six years later Titus captured Jerusalem. Titus was the last person to visit the temple and therefore the last person to speak with God there. After his visit, he razed the city. Only the west wall of the temple remained intact. Since the Jews grieve the loss of their temple there, that wall is better known as the Wailing Wall.

Tisha B’Av

The Jews still mourn there daily for the destruction of their temple. They also entered an official day of mourning in their calendar, to commemorate the temple. They call that day Tisha B’Av, or the ninth of the month Av. In the Gregorian calendar, the date varies, but it is never more than two weeks before or after the beginning of August. Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and the second Jewish temple. According to tradition, these calamities took place on exactly the same date.

Three weeks prior to Tisha B’Av, the Jews already start fasting, and from that moment on there are strict restrictions in daily life. It is not permitted to get married, to have a haircut, or to shave for example. The last week before Tisha B’Av, Jews aren’t even allowed to wash themselves and put on clean clothes. These commandments have been in place for nearly two thousand years and will probably not be released until the third temple is built.

The story of my novel “The Third Temple” begins a few days after Tisha B’Av in the year 70 CE. It was then that Titus’s troops invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the city.

Templum Pacis

temple of peace, peace temple, templum pacis
the Temple of Peace

According to Pliny the Elder, the Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace) was one of the three most beautiful buildings in the world. Only the Basilica Aemilia and the Forum of Augustus rivaled the sanctuary in splendor.

More than a century later, the building had lost none of its glory. The historian Herodian praised the temple as “the most beautiful and largest building in the city”. According to his description, it was also “the richest of all temples, packed with golden and silver votive offerings …”

the construction of the temple

Emperor Vespasian was the patron of the temple. In 71 CE he decided to have it built. According to Flavius ​​Josephus, the imperial historian, Vespasian was able to release a fortune for its construction. He had acquired this wealth during the Jewish war. As punishment for their rebellion, the emperor had left the Jews with nothing. They lost both their property and their freedom.

The Jewish captives formed a major part of the spoils that the Romans brought back from Judea. The price of a good slave was more than a year’s salary. Since transportation costs were high in antiquity, most of the Jewish slaves were sold in the Middle East. Only the strongest or most beautiful slaves found their way to Rome. There they worked in households, or on construction projects such as the Colosseum and the Temple of Peace.

the decoration of the Templum Pacis

Pax, the goddess of peace, was central to the Templum Pacis. However, her statue was not the only thing that people came for to the sanctuary. The temple was full of art. Josephus wrote about this: “all art that used to be scattered around the world, […] was collected and exhibited here”. According to Pliny, it was mainly art that Nero had stolen to fill his palace.

Titus triumphal procession, menorah
Titus’ Triumphal Procession

And the Flavians added newly looted art to this collection. The most famous example is the menorah from the Jewish temple, which Titus carried with him during his triumphal procession (see the image on the left ).

But that was not the only biblical object exhibited there. According to Josephus, the entire inventory of the Jewish temple found its way to the Templum Pacis. The only exceptions were the Torah scroll and the veil of the Holy of Holies. Because of their great religious importance, Titus kept those in the imperial palace.

why did Vespasian have the Templum Pacis built?

The Roman historian Suetonius wrote in his biography of Vespasian: “An ancient belief had spread throughout the Orient that people of Judea would seize world domination at that time”. We know from the Bible that the Jews also held this faith. They called their coming world ruler “the Prince of Peace,” or “the Messiah.” Emperor Vespasian took this Eastern belief seriously and his policy was to obtain that title of “Prince of Peace” for himself. In doing so he hoped to augment his authority.

In various ways, he tried to persuade his subjects to accept his claim. For a start, of course, by winning the Jewish war: after the fall of Jerusalem, peace reigned over the entire empire. Vespasian boasted that he had brought that peace. And after the end of the war, he closed the doors of the temple of Janus. This was an ancient tradition. During a lasting peace, the Romans locked their god of war up. For they no longer needed his help.

The inauguration of the Templum Pacis (in 75 CE) was the crowning glory of the imperial policy. The temple was dedicated to Pax, the personification of peace. But, as I already stated, not only the statue of the goddess took shelter there. Vespasian also housed all the treasures from the destroyed Jewish temple in it. This had great symbolic value: the Jews were integrated into the empire. In order to perform their sacrificial service, they became dependent on the emperor.

Vespasian as Messiah

The question arises, of course, whether the imperial policy succeeded. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about the faith in the coming Messiah: “This mysterious prophecy had actually pointed to Vespasian and Titus…” In Flavian times, few Romans doubted that interpretation. No one dared to dispute Vespasian’s claims to the title “Prince of Peace”. And also Vespasian’s sons benefited from this: both Titus and Domitian were later proclaimed emperors.

But how did the Jews feel about Vespasian? The only religious movement that had survived the war were the Pharisees. And although they accepted imperial authority, there is no indication that they supported the emperor’s messianic ambitions. One Jew did: Flavius ​​Josephus. In his account of the Jewish war, he wrote about the messiah: “They [the Jewish rebels] thought that the prophecy applied to themselves. And many of their sages were misled. While the oracle clearly referred to the reign of Vespasian“. This comment pleased the emperor. In gratitude, Josephus received an estate, a state grant, and a statue. In my novel “The Third Temple“, this statue is placed in the Templum Pacis, right next to the menorah, to the astonishment of the other Jews.


Julia Berenice, Titus
Julia Berenice

Berenice is famous for her relationship with Emperor Titus; a stormy romance with a tragic ending. But she is fascinating in more than one way. She was a woman of the world; a woman who had her own way in a male society; a woman who dared to step into the political limelight.

Berenice was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I, the last king of Judea. She was the second of five children. Her brother Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II) was a year older than her. More noted than her father was her great-grandfather, Herod the Great – the king in the Christmas story – who had all Jewish boys killed.

the marriages of Berenice

At the age of fourteen, Berenice was married off to Marcus Julius Alexander, a scion of an affluent family. His father collected the import and export tax in the Alexandrian port, which was the largest port in the world at the time. Unfortunately, the matrimony didn’t last long. Shortly after the marriage, Marcus died.

Three years after her first wedding, Berenice was married off for the second time. Now to her uncle Herod, who ruled over a small kingdom called Chalcis. Chalcis stretched from southern Lebanon to Syria. Herod also had been married before and from that marriage, he had a son. Berenice bore him two more: Berenicianus and Hyrcanus.

Herod died four years later. Being a woman, Berenice could not inherit his royal title, and her sons were too young to reign. So Emperor Claudius decided to give the kingdom to Agrippa, Berenice’s brother. Berenice continued to live in the palace. She wasn’t married off again. Her father had died and her brother had neither the authority nor the will to arrange a marriage.

Since Agrippa was also single, this led to rumors about an incestuous relationship between the two. Berenice ignored the gossip for seven years but then got weary of it. She wed Polemo, the king of Cilicia. But – according to Josephus – Polemo was only interested in her money. Berenice decided this was not the right base for matrimony and soon returned home.

the love story of Berenice and Titus

There she fell in love with Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian. According to Wikipedia, the affair between Berenice and Emperor Titus has been the subject of more than forty novels, plays, operas, and films. The two most renowned are Mozart’s opera “La Clemenza di Tito” and Racine’s drama “Berénice”. Only Hollywood has not yet ventured into the affair. And that won’t happen soon either, since the story does not have a “happy ending”.

Titus and Berenice were deeply in love, but could not marry because Titus became emperor. He feared wedding her would harm his popularity. The Roman populace mistrusted Berenice for two reasons: she was a Jewess and a queen. Both reasons I will explain from the Roman point of view.

Since their revolt, the Romans detested the Jews. And they didn’t hide their feelings. If you read the fifth book of Tacitus’ Histories, for example, you come across some abusive statements: “the Jews regard as profane all that we hold sacred; and on the other hand, they permit all that we abhor” and “the earliest lesson they receive is to despise the gods, to disown their country, and to regard their parents, children, and brothers as of little account“. So few Romans wanted a Jewess on the throne.

The fact that Berenice was of royal descent didn’t help either. Roman history can be divided into three periods: the regal period, the republic, and the empire. And the regal period had left the Romans with bad memories. At school, they had learned that Kings were tyrants. So with a queen on the throne, their oppression would start all over again.

Berenice and Politics

In my novel “The Third Temple“, I describe a conference on the future of Judea. It was obvious that Titus would chair that meeting. The story required Berenice to be present also. I wondered, however, if I could stage her: women were aloof from politics at that time, and if they interfered, it was behind the scenes.

During my research, it turned out that Berenice took little notice of that etiquette. She openly engaged in political issues on at least two occasions. The first was the trial of the Christian apostle Paul. Berenice wasn’t merely present at the hearing, but she was also a co-judge. The second time she appeared in a political role was at the start of the Jewish war. When Agrippa tried to dissuade the Jews from war with the Romans, Berenice sat on the front row to support her brother. In addition to this, Josephus mentions that through letters and messengers she tried to influence the Roman governor of Judea and the prefect of Syria politically.

Berenice reached the peak of her might when Vespasian seized the imperial throne. According to Tacitus, Vespasianus owed Berenice because she had financed his coup.

With all this in mind, it seemed to me historically justified to place Berenice next to Titus at the conference and to attribute her a decisive influence on its outcome.

Mount Moriah

The Temple Mount, Mount Moriah
Mount Moriah

The world has many sanctuaries, but Mount Moriah comes out on top. The Temple Mount, as it is also called, is more than impressive. That isn’t due to its height or beauty, but because of the three world religions thronging on that mountain.

The busiest time of the week is Friday afternoon. When the sun is setting, an endless procession of Jews heads to the foot of Mount Moriah. Among them, the Hasidim stand out: black-clad men with imposing fur hats, wide beards, shiny cloaks, and white cloths. The procession ends at the Western Wall – also known as the Wailing Wall – in the section dedicated as a synagogue. There they pray and worship God.

At the same time, the muezzins call the Islamic believers to prayer. In pious cloaks and dresses the Muslims flow through the gates leading to their Dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. They are strictly separated from the Jews because their route is one floor higher. Their sanctuaries are not at the foot but on top of the Temple Mount.

While the Jews and Muslims reach their places of worship, the Christians gather on the north side of the Temple Mount. There the Via Dolorosa starts – the Passion of Jesus. Guided by Franciscan monks, the pilgrims follow the route that Jesus took with his cross.  And on their way, they stop at all the fourteen chapels that mark the stages of Jesus’ path.

Mount Moriah, the holiest site for Judaism

According to Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount is where Abraham built an altar to offer his son Isaac to God. When he took up the knife to kill the boy, God intervened and sent him a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.

Some thousand years later, King David ordered his son Solomon to build the first Jewish temple on Mount Moria. This temple was the house of God, who had decided to live among the Jewish people. After the Babylonians had sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, the Jews built a second temple on the same site.

The second temple was destroyed also. Now by the Romans. That was in 70 CE. Since then, the Jews hope to build a third temple on Mount Moriah. So far their hope has not been fulfilled. And building a temple on another spot is out of the question for them. If God comes back to live among the people on earth, it will be on the Temple Mount, they believe. That is why it is the holiest place on earth for them.

Islam and Mount Moriah

Islam has three very sacred sites. The first is the Great Mosque of Mecca, which is built around the Kaaba. The Kaaba is the house of God, that Abraham (Ibrahim in the Qur’an) founded. The second sacred site is the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. And the third is the Temple Mount.

Just as the Bible, the Koran tells the story of Abraham’s ordeal. Both versions differ though. In Islamic tradition, not Isaac had to be sacrificed, but Abraham’s Arabic son Ishmael. And the event did not take place on Mount Moriah, but in Mina, a place near Mecca.

For Muslims, the Temple Mount is sacred because their Prophet Muhammad underwent a journey to heaven from the mountain. During that trip, he received the instructions for prayer, which prescribe that Muslims pray five times a day. During the first years of Islam, Mount Moria was also the Qibla. That is the place to which a worshiper should turn when praying.

Mount Moriah and Christianity

Also for Christians, Mount Moriah is one of the holiest places on earth. The Bible refers to it often. This starts of course in the Old Testament, which the Christians adopted from the Jews. But in the New Testament as well, many scenes are set on Mount Moriah.

After entering the city of Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple. There he drove out the merchants and money changers, reproved the Sadducees and Pharisees, and healed the blind and lame. He also predicted the destruction of the temple.

The temple was not the only building on the Temple Mount. North of the temple stood the fortress Antonia. That building is essential to Christianity because in the fortress Jesus was imprisoned before he was crucified. In his dungeon there began the agony that led to what Christians believe to be the most important event in the history of mankind: Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.



Emperor Vespasian
Emperor Vespasian

Pecunia non olet”, or “money doesn’t stink”, is the most famous quote from Emperor Vespasian. And those words characterize him. From his father, who was a tax farmer, he had inherited a strong love of money.

In Roman times tax farmers bought the right to levy taxes in a specific area. They paid the government a fixed sum per year and were allowed to keep all the revenue for themselves.

During his reign, Vespasian was always recruiting new tax farmers. He chose collectors that mercilessly squeezed the local population. For he knew what subsequently would happen: the people would start to complain. He always investigated those complaints and the outcome was predetermined: ‘exploitation’. This was Vespasian’s favorite verdict because as a penalty he dispossessed all the tax farmers’ assets. Thus they paid him double.

new taxes

One of Vespasian’s first decrees as an emperor was the introduction of a tax on public toilets. As the operators of the lavatories sold their urine with huge profits to tanners and fullers, he decided the state should benefit as well. His son Titus objected. “Outrageous“, he called it. In reply, Vespasian took a coin from the yield, held it under Titus’s nose, and asked him what he smelled. “Nothing” his son answered. “Exactly! Money does not stink.

Another tax he levied was the ‘Fiscus Judaicus‘. Before the Jewish War, every Jew contributed half a shekel a year for the maintenance of the Temple of Jerusalem. After the conquest of the city and the ensuing destruction of the temple, Vespasian decided to collect that half-shekel himself. On all nationals ‘following the Jewish rites’ he imposed an equally heavy duty for the temple of Jupiter in Rome.

Vespasian’s Career

For a scion of an insignificant gender, Vespasian has had a remarkably successful career. He started in Thrace as a military tribune, rose to quaestor in Crete and Cyrenaica, was then elected aedile and next praetor. Emperor Claudius made him commander of a legion in Germany and subsequently transferred him to Britain. There too he achieved success: he conquered the Isle of Wight and large parts of Britain. As a reward, he was awarded a triumphal march and was promoted to the rank of consul. As a proconsul, he was then granted the province of Africa.

The foundation for his emperorship was laid when Emperor Nero sent him to Judea. There he had to subdue the rebellious Jews. Since the Jews had defeated the entire Syrian legion, Vespasian received a huge army. Four Roman legions and countless soldiers of local allies were under his command.

However, Nero was deposed by the senate and committed suicide. After his death followed a civil war in which Galba, Otho and Vitellius fought for power. The three exhausted each other’s forces to such an extent that at the end of their war only Vespasian had an army left that was ready for combat. When in Judea his soldiers spontaneously proclaimed him emperor, he did not hesitate. He sent his troops to Rome and seized power.

the Prince of Peace in Roman times

At the beginning of our era, ‘the Prince of Peace’ was a common concept in the countries around the Mediterranean. Nowadays the expression refers to the Torah, in which the Jewish prophet Isaiah foretold his coming, and to Jesus, who, according to Christianity, has fulfilled this prophesy. But in classical antiquity also the Romans were expecting a ruler who would redeem them.

A son who descends from heaven“, Virgil called him in his fourth eclogue. He published that poem in 38 BCE and from then on all of Rome wondered who that ruler would be. For a while, they believed the words applied to Emperor Augustus. The historian Tacitus, however, knew better. According to him, Vespasian was the heralded Prince of Peace.

Already during his life, Emperor Vespasian was surrounded by many legends. For example, an ox entered his dining room and knelt down at his feet. A dog walked into his house with a human hand in its mouth and put it under his desk. The statue of the deified Julius Caesar turned away from Galba of its own accord and faced east, where Vespasian was then. Vespasian cured a blind man by spitting on his eyes and a cripple by standing on his leg. All these omens indicated that he would achieve the highest. He was destined for imperial rule. And for more, because on his deathbed, he spoke the words: “Woe’s me, I think that I’m turning into a God“.

the Jewish Messiah

In his account of the Jewish War, the Jewish priest and historian Flavius ​​Josephus wrote, “What, however, spurred the Jews most to the war was an ambiguous prophecy from their holy books. According to that prediction, someone from Judea would become ruler of the world. They thought that it would be a Jew, and many of their sages were misled by this. Yet it was clear that the prophecy related to Vespasian since he was proclaimed emperor in Judea.

The prophecy that Josephus meant was the one in Numbers 12.24: “a scepter rises from Israel”. In Jewish doctrine that verse foretells the coming of the Messiah. Thus, according to Josephus, Vespasian was their long-awaited Prince of Peace.

Vespasian’s messianic ambitions

Vespasian did everything in his power to claim the title ‘Prince of Peace’. In the first place, of course, by ensuring peace in the empire: he settled the civil war and defeated the Jews.

His second action was to shut the doors of the temple of Janus. Janus was the Roman God of War and his temple was solely closed when the city enjoyed a lasting peace. At the reign of Vespasian, Rome was over eight centuries old, and in all that time only three people had had the honor to lock up the War God.

The crowning glory of Vespasian’s efforts as a Prince of Peace was the building of the Peace Temple. According to Pliny the Elder, it was one of the three most beautiful buildings in the world. The temple was dedicated to Pax, the Goddess of Peace. And to please Pax, Vespasian surrounded her with all the treasures from the Jewish Temple. In my novel ‘The Third Temple‘, Josephus uses these treasures to continue the sacrificial service to YHWH.

the ladies of the imperial court

Vespasian was married to Flavia Domitilla I, but that marriage did not last long. She passed away before he became emperor. She was not the only woman in Vespasian’s circle to die young. Also, his mother, sister, and daughter had deceased when he ascended the throne. His granddaughter Julia did not turn thirty yet. The only Flavian woman who did reach old age was his other granddaughter, Flavia Domitilla III.

After the death of his wife, Vespasian lived with his concubine Caenis. He could not marry her because she was born a slave. During the first five years of his rule, he discussed all important affairs of state with her. Then she died too. From that moment on, Vespasian no longer maintained any steady relationships. The only women he had dealings with during the last five years of his reign were court ladies. Every siesta he seems to have slept with someone else.