Josephus' Vita and the Encomium:
A Native Model of Personality"

Jerome H. Neyrey

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

I. Focus and Hypothesis

How difficult it is to think about people different from ourselves. Many students of the history and culture of the ancient eastern Mediterranean still suffer from ethnocentrism, the phenomenon of perceiving or describing people from a different culture according to our own image and likeness. What The Ugly American exposed in regard to Western perceptions of the Vietnamese, recent events in the Middle East did for our difficulties in understanding the cultures of the Persian Gulf. How can modern Westerners avoid enthocentrism when we try to understand eastern Mediterranean people from Greco-Roman times? We can find one important clue in the ways the ancients themselves understood and described people in their own culture. This study presents one particular native or emic model from the ancient world on how to perceive and present a person, namely, the encomium as described in the writing handbooks or progymnasmata.(1)

When instructing people to write, ancient teachers used exercise manuals known as progymnasmata: "preliminary exercises . . . the elementary stage of instruction in schools of rhetoric."(2) On route to formal studies in rhetoric, students were initially taught to write and organize their remarks on traditional topics defined in terms of conventional content. Conventionality ruled the day: set topics with stereotyped parts were developed in predictable ways. Thus by being taught to write encomia, literate people were socialized in highly conventional terms to perceive and describe people in their world according to culturally defined categories. This study focuses primarily on the generalized instructions given for describing people as found in the rules for an encomium in the extant progymnasmata. For purposes of illustration, we will apply our study of encomia as a template with which to analyze Josephus' presentation of himself in his Vita. Thus we hope to gain a clear description of what the ancients considered worth knowing about a person and an example of Josephus' self-presentation in these conventional categories.

II. Progymnasmata and the Encomium

The progymnasmata contain a list of genres in which students were to be trained: (1) myths, (2) chreia and proverbs, (3) refutation and confirmation, (4) commonplaces on virtues and vices, (5) encomium and vituperation, (6) comparison, (7) prosopopoieia, (8) description, (9) thesis for or against something, and (10) legislation, for or against a law. In terms of modern scholarship, occasional critical attention has been paid to chreia,(3) comparison (synkrisis),(4) and encômium.(5) There are now several book-length discussions of the progymnasmata form itself,(6) as well as shorter discussions of it.(7)

An encomium is a speech of praise, either of some person or place. In it writers were instructed to speak about what was deemed culturally important in knowing a person.(8) The ancients not only had a specific cultural meaning for "praise," but they perceived and expressed this in terms of the following fixed categories:

I. Origin and Birth

A. Origin

- race

- country

- ancestors

- parents

B. Birth

- phenomena at birth

(stars, visions, etc.)

- family

II. Nurture and Training

A. Education

- teachers

- arts, skills

- laws

III. Accomplishments and Deeds

A. Deeds of the Body

- beauty

- strength

- agility

- might

- health

B. Deeds of the Soul

- justice

- wisdom

- temperance

- manliness

- piety

C. Deeds of Fortune

- power

- wealth

- friends

- children: number & beauty of

- fame, fortune

- length of life

- happy death

IV. Comparison

These categories contain both the basic information thought relevant for knowing a person in that culture and the sequence and form for describing him.(9) To know this material was to know the person. Hence the conventional elements of the encomium provide a native guide for perceiving and appreciating any particular person.

Since these conventional elements of an encomium also need to be understood from the native's point of view, we offer the following amplification and definition of them from Greek and Roman authors.

A. Origin and Birth (eugeneia). To know a person, ancient peoples thought it essential to know that person's blood lines.(10) Hence notice of their genealogy, ancestors, clan and parents constituted essential pieces of information.(11) Plato stated it clearly "They were good because they sprang from good fathers" (Menex. 237). Noble families, moreover, stem from noble soil and live in noble cities,(12) which therefore should be noted. The converse is equally true.(13)

This information presupposes that there are typical features, i.e., stereotypes, concerning a clan, a family, a race, and place. As Quintilian noted:

"'Birth,' for persons are generally regarded as having some resemblance to their parents and ancestors, a resemblance which sometimes leads to their living disgracefully or honorably, as the case may be; then there is nationality, for races have their own character, and the same action is not probable in the case of a barbarian, a Roman and a Greek; country is another, for there is a like diversity in the laws, institutions and opinions of different states" (Inst. Orat. V.x.23-25).

Men, for example, were known as the sons of so-and-so, with the added presumption that they are of the same trade or social rank as their father (Deut 1:38; 1 Sam 14:1; 23:6; Prov 1:1; Matt 16:17). Concerning nation or race Aeneas said of Sinon, the Greek: "Ab uno disce omnes" (Aen. 2.65).

The birth of an honorable person might be accompanied by visions, celestial phenomena (stars, comets, lightning, etc.), that is, by signs and wonders which testify to the exceptional status of the person whose birth they herald.(14)

B. Nurture and Training (anathrophê). Cicero provides a summary of this topic:

"Under manner of life (in victu) should be considered with whom he was reared, in what tradition and under whose direction, what teachers he had in the liberal arts, what instructors in the art of living, with whom he associates on terms of friendship, in what occupation, trade or profession he is engaged, how he manages his private fortune, and what is the character of his home life" (De Inventione I.xxiv.35).(15)

Again, since ancients presume constancy of character, to know this formative information about teachers, curriculum, and associates is to know the individual.

C. Accomplishments (epitêdeumata) and Deeds (praxeis). Before authors catalogue a person's deeds, they should attend to "accomplishments" (epitêdeumata), that is, to the choices which reveal character. Cicero describes this as the habitus of a person:

"By habit we mean a stable and absolute constitution of mind or body in some particular, as, for example, the acquisition of some capacity or of an art, or again some special knowledge, or some bodily dexterity not given by nature but won by careful training and practice" (De Inventione I.xxiv.36).(16)

After listing "accomplishments," the writer then turns to "actions" (praxeis): "Next to 'accomplishments' now comes the topic of 'actions'" (Treatise II.372.14). These deeds are classified according to three categories: those of the body, the soul and Fortune.(17)

Deeds of the Body. The progymnasmata give only the barest hint of this:

Hermogenes: "beauty, stature, agility, might"

Aphthonius: "beauty, swiftness, strength"

Theon: "health, strength, beauty, quick sensibility"(18)

But Aristotle, an early witness to this topic, spells this out in greater detail:

"The excellence of the body is health; that is, a condition which allows us, while keeping free from disease, to have the use of our bodies. . .

"Beauty varies with the time of life. In a young man beauty is the possession of a body fit to endure the exertions of running and of contests of strength; which means that he is pleasant to look at; and therefore all-round athletes are the most beautiful, being naturally adapted both for contests of strength and for speed also. For a man in his prime, beauty is fitness for the exertion of warfare, together with a pleasant but at the same time formidable appearance. For an old man, it is to be strong enough for such exertion as is necessary, and to be free from all those deformities of old age which cause pain to others.

"Strength is the power of moving some one else at will; to do this, you must either pull, push, lift, pin or grip him; thus you must be strong in all those ways or at least in some. Excellence in size (stature) is to surpass ordinary people in height, thickness, and breadth by just as much as will not make one's movements slower in consequence. Athletic excellence (athletic powers) of the body consists in size, strength, and swiftness; swiftness implying strength. He who can fling forward his legs in a certain way, and move them fast and far, is good at running; he who can grip and hold down is good at wrestling; he who can drive an adversary from his ground with the right blow is a good boxer; he who can do both the last is a good pancratiast, while he who can do all is an 'all-round' athlete" (Rhet I.1361b.3-27).

Aristotle describes a male warrior and/or athlete who embodies what is needed to be a public figure in his culture and gain public honor.(19) Health = use of one's body; beauty = endurance and exertion in contests; strength = power to impose one's will. Such a person is able to do heroic deeds, to act assertively, and to claim honor and respect.

Deeds of the Soul. These are divided according to the topos of the four classical virtues: wisdom (phronêsis), temperance (sôphrosynê), justice (dikaiosynê) and courage (andreia).(20) Whereas Aristotle mentions only "temperance and courage," Menander Rhetor instructs the author to organize his material according to all four:

"Always divide the actions of those you are going to praise into the virtues (there are four virtues: courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom) and see to what virtues the actions belong and whether some of them, whether in war or in peace, are common to a single virtue: e.g. wisdom, for it belongs to wisdom both to command armies well in war and to legislate well and dispose and arrange the affairs of subjects to advantage" (Treatise II. 373.5-14).

According to Quintilian, when it is time for this topic to be developed, writers have the option of organizing their description of a person's life either thematically (according to these four virtues) or chronologically:

It has always proved the more effective course to trace a man's life and deeds in due chronological order, praising his natural gifts as a child, then his progress at school, and finally the whole course of his life, including words as well as deeds. At times on the other hand it is well to divide our praises, dealing separately with the various virtues, fortitude, justice, self-control and the rest of them and to assign to each virtue the deeds performed under its influence" (Inst. Orat. III.7.15).

This part of the encomium would seem to be of considerable importance to Menander Rhetor for he repeats and develops it at considerable length. When speaking of the accomplishments of cities, he notes that they would be "assessed in terms of the virtues and their parts" (I.361.11-13). After naming the four virtues, he then discusses the parts of each virtue, a topic which is important for our grasp of the emic or native understanding of this material.

"The parts of justice are piety, fair dealing and reverence . . . There are two tests of temperance, in public life and in private domesticity . . . Similarly with prudence. In public affairs . . . On the private side . . . Courage is assessed in peace and war" (I.361.17-365.4).(21)

It should be noted that other encomia in the extant progymnasmata have longer lists of virtues as illustrations of the deeds of the soul. Besides the four cardinal virtues, "piety, nobility and sense of greatness" and "pious free and magnanimous" are noted.(22)

Deeds of Fortune. In the ancient world, wealth, land, social connections and the like were important aspects of a person's status. They indicate, moreover, that this person is divinely favored, thus indicating new aspects of the worth and value of this person in the eyes of others.(23) We turn again to Aristotle for a description of them. First he lists Fortune's parts: "plenty of friends, good friends, wealth, good children, plenty of children, a happy old age . . . fame, honour, good luck" (Rhet. I. 1360b.20-24), then describes the components of each part:

"The phrases possession of good children and of many children bear a quite clear meaning. Applied to a community, they mean that its young men are numerous and of good quality: good in regard to bodily excellences, such as stature, beauty, strength, athletic powers; and so in regard to the excellences of the soul, which in a young man are temperance and courage. Applied to an individual, they mean that his own children are numerous and have the good qualities we have described. Both male and female are included here; the excellences of the latter are, in body, beauty and stature; in soul, self-command and industry that is not sordid. Communities as well as individuals should lack none of these perfections" (Rhet. I.1360b.39-1361a.11).

"The constituents of wealth are: plenty of coined money and territory; the ownership of numerous, large and beautiful estates; also the ownership of numerous and beautiful implements, live stock, and slaves. . . Wealth as a whole consists in using things rather than in owning them" (Rhet. I.1361.13-24).

"Fame means being respected by everybody, or having some quality that is desired by all men, or by most, or by the good, or by the wise. Honor is the token of a man's being famous for doing good. It is chiefly and most properly paid to those who have already done good . . . The constituents of honour are: sacrifices; commemoration, in verse or prose; privileges; grants of land; front seats at civic celebrations; state burial; statues; public maintenance; among foreigners, obeisances and giving place; and such presents as are among various bodies of men regarded as marks of honour. For a present is not only a bestowal of a piece of property, but also a token of honour." (Rhet. I.1361a.25-1361b.2).

"The terms possession of many friends and possession of good friends needs no explanation; for we define a friend as one who will always try, for your sake, to do what he takes to be good for you. The man towards whom many feel thus has many friends; if these are worthy men, he has good friends" (Rhet. I.1361b.35-39).

"Good luck means the acquisition or possession of all or most, or the most important, of those good things which are due to luck . . . All such good things as excite envy are, as a class, the outcome of good luck." (Rhet. I.1361b.38-1362a.11).

Thus "deeds of fortune" tell us primarily about the social perception of a person by others, the honor rating they enjoy in society, and the way they fulfil the cultural expectations of nobility. The emphasis is exclusively on the figure they cut in the world, not their personal or private character.

D. Comparison (synkrisis). In the progymnasmata, "comparison" comprises a distinct form with its particular rules.(24) But it appears as a final element in the encomium as well. On comparisons Menander Rhetor writes:

"You should then proceed to the most complete comparison, examining his reign in comparison with preceding reigns, not disparaging them (that is bad craftsmanship) but admiring them while granting perfection to the present. You must not forget our previous proposition, namely that comparisons should be made under each head; these comparisons, however, will be partial (e.g. education with education, temperance with temperance), whereas the complete one will concern the whole subject, as when we compare a reign as a whole and in sum with another reign, e.g. the reign of Alexander with the present one" (Treatise II. 377.1-9; see II.421.1-10).

Therefore, we should have a grasp of the literary conventions for perceiving and describing a person in the Greco-Roman world. To be certain the encomium describes a person quite differently from modern western concerns for individuals in their psychological uniqueness. All of the elements of the encomium have to do with the public and honorable character of a person; they seek to evaluate persons (in praise or blame) in terms of the group's prevailing norms for honor. This native model allows us to be quite certain about the cultural values and their structural implications for the first-century world.(25) The model may be clear, but an illustration of its use is necessary; for this purpose, let us examine Josephus' Vita in light of this form.

III. Application to Josephus' Vita

The encomium offers a valuable native perspective on how people were typically perceived in the ancient world and what was thought essential or important about them. We use it as the template for viewing the self-presentation of Josephus in his Vita.(26) The issues are: what is the formal shape of Josephus' self-presentation? How does he understand himself and how does he present himself in categories that others expect and will readily recognize? Does his self presentation follow the general and specific categories of how people are described in the encomia of ancient progymnasmata?(27)

A. Origin and Birth. Josephus(28) begins his Vita by identifying his family and clan.(29) His is "no ignoble" ancestry, for on his father's side he belongs to a priestly family. Moreover, among the twenty-four courses of priests, he enjoys the "peculiar distinction" of belonging to the first, "the most eminent of its constituent clans" (1).(30) On his mother's side, he is descended "of the blood royal" of the Hasmonaean house. And so he boasts that his ancestors were both kings and high priests.(31)

In citing his immediate genealogy, Josephus tell us that his great-grandfather's grandfather, Simon the Stammerer, had nine children. One of them, Matthias, married the daughter of Jonathan the high priest. Other sons of this clan are named and socially located. Along with such illustrious ancestors, he mentions his own father, Matthias, of whom he says: "Distinguished as he was by noble birth, my father Matthias was even more esteemed for his upright character, being among the most notable men in Jerusalem" (7). So at the conclusion of his description of clan, family and parents, Josephus can claim: "With such a pedigree . . . I can take leave of the would-be detractors of my family" (6).

Thus Josephus claims elite status by noting that his family and clan belong to the most noble in the land, both kingly and priestly families. This information identifies his status as that of the elite, the upper 2% of the population; he is a genuine aristocrat. He resides, moreover, in Jerusalem, "our greatest city."

In passing we note that not only does Josephus describe himself first and foremost in terms of family and clan, he describes others in the same terms:

A. People Identified in Terms of Their Fathers:

Josephus, son of Matthias (5)

Compsus, son of Compsus (33)

Justus, son of Pistus (36, 390)

John, son of Levi (43, 122)

Philip, Son of Jacimus, (46, 178)

Jesus, son of Sapphias (134)

Jonathan, son of Sisenna (190)

Simon, son of Gamaliel (190, 309)

Jesus, son of Gamalas (193, 204)

B. People Identified in Terms of Clan or Family:

Joazar and Judas, priests (29)

C. People Identified in Terms of Place:

John of Gischala (217)

D. People Identified in terms of ascribed authority:

a Jew named Crispus, a groom of the bedchamber (382)

wife of Ptolemy, the king's overseer (126)

Jesus, the chief magistrate (294)

Cestius Gallus, the governor of Syria (373)

Thus, the conventions which guide Josephus' description of himself also govern the way he presents other characters in the story.

B. Nurture and Training. He makes the obligatory comment that he made "great progress" in his education and "gained a reputation for an excellent memory and understanding" (8). He notes, moreover, that when fourteen years old, he "won universal applause for his love of letters." So much so, "chief priests and leading men of the city used constantly to come to me for precise information on some particular in our ordinances" (8-9). And so he describes his early education with the resultant claim to public recognition that he was a prodigy of industry and insight.(32) In the adult phase of his formidable education, he investigated the manner of life of three leading sects of his society (Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes) "so as to select the best." Submitting himself to hard training and laborious exercises, he completed all three courses. Subsequently he engaged as mentor a certain Bannus and became schooled in the values and structures of the Jewish purity system (11). Finishing his education, he chose to govern his life by Pharisaic rules, which he indicates have much in common with the honorable Greco-Roman philosophical school, the Stoics.

Thus Josephus follows the categories of the encomium and tells us his teacher/mentor (Bannus), his skills (memory, understanding, love of letters), and his laws (discipline of the sects, especially that of the Pharisees). He tells us that he has both knowledge of and respect for the purity traditions greatly revered by Temple and observant Jews. He describes himself as knowing what an educated man of his culture would prize knowing. This knowledge will come into play later in the narrative, when he describes his concern for kosher and purity rules.(33)

C. Accomplishments and Deeds. Accomplishments (epitêdeumata) are the foundational choices which reveal character. Josephus chose to "begin to govern my life by the rules of the Pharisees" (12). This is exemplified by his knowledge of and concern for Jewish purity rules, as noted above. He acted upon this choice at age 26 when he went to Rome to defend certain priests (13-14). His foundational choice to live the life of an observant Jew shaped his behavior throughout his life. It was a noble and virtuous choice, which he expected to draw praise and silence criticism.

Deeds are divided into three categories: deeds of the body, the soul and Fortune. They may be arranged chronologically or according to certain virtues. In the Vita, Josephus makes no mention of his health, strength, beauty(34) or other deeds of the body. Yet they might be implied in the stamina and vigor with which he pursued the war.

Deeds of the Soul. Although he follows a chronological sequence in his Vita, Josephus seems to present his deeds of the soul according to the four cardinal virtues.(35)

Courage (andreia). Rather than impose a modern or Western interpretation of this virtue, let us see how the ancients understood "courage." Aristotle defined it as ". . . the virtue that disposes men to do noble deeds in situations of danger, in accordance with the law and in obedience to its commands" (Rhet. I.1366b 12-14).(36) In Stoic terms, courage tends to have the element of knowledge of or judgment about what must be endured and does not.(37) Thus, courage has to do with bold action in danger as well as obedience to what cannot be avoided.

Josephus explicitly claims to have acted with courage in a variety of ways.(38) He impressed others with his readiness for action and intrepidity (119). Considering flight undignified, he bravely devised "stratagems" to face mobs, deflect assassins, overcome superior odds and survive perpetual intrigue (146). Courage is manifest in his excellent generalship, both in his ingenious planning and in his bold execution of strategy. Even when forced to flee or withdraw, it was always understood as a strategic manoeuvre to allow him to return boldly to the field of action.

Wisdom (phronêsis). This is not sophia, but belongs more to the family of prudence, cleverness or "street smarts." Aristotle defined it as, ". . . that virtue of the understanding which enables men to come to wise decisions about the relation to happiness of goods and evils" (Rhet. I.1366b.20-22). Josephus reflects this specific cultural meaning of wisdom when he describes a certain Simon as a man "highly gifted with intelligence and judgment, who could by sheer genius retrieve an unfortunate situation in affairs of state" (192).(39)

In regard to himself, he seems to use a synonym of wisdom, namely "stratagem" (stratêgêma). While this could be translated as trickery or ruse, it embodies elements of cleverness and adroit judgment in crisis. At this, Josephus was the king of "stratagems." It was by a clever "stratagem" that he escaped a plot (148). Having recourse to a "ruse," he strategically took prisoners (163, 168). By a prudent "manoeuvre" he guarded himself from the imputation of initiating a civil war (265).

Temperance (sôphrosynê). Aristotle defined this as, ". . .the virtue that disposes us to obey the law where physical pleasures are concerned" (Rhet. I.1366b.14-15). It might just as well be defined in terms of "self-control" or "abstinence."(40) Josephus frequently describes himself as lacking certain vices.(41) He lacks or avoids (1) the urge to revolt, (2) avarice, desire for loot, bribes or spoils, and (3) the readiness to shed blood. In comparison he shows that his rivals and enemies are rebellious, greedy and bloodthirsty.

Justice (dikaiosynê). Menander Rhetor describes the parts of justice: "The parts of justice are piety, fair dealing, and reverence: piety towards the gods, fair dealing towards men, reverence towards the departed" (Treatise I.17-20). In another place, he says: "Under justice, you should include humanity to subjects, gentleness of character and approachability, integrity and incorruptibility in matters of justice, freedom from partiality and from prejudice in giving judicial decisions, equal treatment of rich and poor, encouragement of city development" (Treatise II.5-10). In short, justice means loyalty (pistis) for the rights and status of others (gods, men, ancestors) and payment of social obligations to them. Nothing to excess: no partiality or prejudice.

First we follow the actual usage of the terms "just" and "justice" in Josephus' Vita.(42) He notes that his father was pre-eminent for being a just man (7); like father, like son. Then of himself he claims that he was loath to join the revolutionaries who seemed bent on the destruction of lives and property; he "resorted to arms only in just self-defense" (22). Later he reports how Ananus defended him in Jerusalem; it was a dishonorable thing, he notes, to accuse Josephus, "a man against whom no just charge could be brought" (194). A just man himself, he charged others with the same task: he reproached the Tiberians for their failure to honor their obligations and loyalty to him (167); and he warned them that future leaders would suspect them of disloyalty (93). Thus Josephus portrays himself as a just man, slow to use force, loath to accept bribes, faithful to his commitments, and respectful of the rights of others. In all of this he presents himself as a foil to the revolutionaries.

Piety (eusebeia, pistis) But it is in terms of piety and loyalty (pistis) that Josephus defines his justice most clearly.(43) Recall that Menander Rhetor stated that "the parts of justice are piety, fair dealing and reverence." To understand piety and loyalty we must appreciate the native structure of social relations: to whom should one be loyal? Loyalty to family members is expected, and so is never mentioned or called into question. In Vergil's Aeneid Aeneas is repeatedly described as pius Aeneas because of his piety and loyalty to his aged father, Anchises, his son and to the clan and family which will become Rome.

Loyalty outside the family means loyalty in terms of patron-client relationships. On this Josephus is particularly clear. Himself a client of the Roman and Herodian aristocracy, Josephus both praises the cities of Galilee that maintained their loyalty to their political patrons and blames those who did not. Time and again he praises the citizens of Sepphoris for their loyalty to the Romans (30-31, 104, 346). Julius of Capellus, the leader of one faction at Tiberias, urged that city to maintain its allegiance to the Romans and to King Agrippa II (34). John, son of Levi, urged Gishala to be loyal to its political patron, Rome (43). Gamala remained loyal (45), after much reminding by Philip of the benefits conferred by the king (60-61). In comparison, Josephus reproaches Justus for his disloyalty (349).

Patron-client relations are a key lens through which to view Josephus' own relationship to the cities of Galilee. He notes how the "affection and loyalty" of the citizens of Galilee to him excited the envy of John (84), thus underscoring his own loyalty to them, which was duly and publicly recognized. Even when faced with disloyalty, he presents himself as one who overlooks past breaches if the guilty would show repentance and prove loyal (110). A loyal and trusting person, Josephus claims that he always believed the public protestations of loyalty from others, often with disappointing and disastrous consequences (160). Tiberias most frequently turned on him and revoked its loyalty to him without cause (167).

On still another level of patron-client relationships, Josephus boasts of strong bonds of loyalty, namely, the relationship of general and soldiers. In a context of intrigue and opportunistic alliances, such loyalty stands out as proof that Josephus was himself loyal to them and they responded worthily in kind. He notes that he could always trust his soldiers. James, for example, was a faithful soldier, loyal and beyond bribery (240). He could trust the inner circle of his soldiery to follow his commands exactly, thus protecting him from assassination (241, 242, 253). At one critical meeting, he took only two of his bodyguards with him, "of the most approved courage (andreian) and staunch loyalty (pistin)" (293).

Ethnic loyalty of Jew to Jew constitutes part of Josephus' presentation of himself and others as just persons. His fairness with the Jewish population in Galilee testifies to this. But he reproaches Scythopolis for coercing Jews there to war on and execute other Jews not of their political persuasion; this he labels disloyalty (27).

Deeds of Fortune. We recall that "deeds of Fortune" refer to the external accomplishments which reflect what Josephus' culture thought about one's honorable status in society, such as friends (patron-client relationships), wealth, kin/household, fame/honor, fortune and the like. Josephus is careful to present himself as one who had such endowments, often presenting himself in contrast to others who either lacked them or distorted and perverted them.

Friends Biblical scholars are becoming increasingly sensitive to the social meaning of "friends" in terms of patron- client relationships.(44) One's social standing was very much a function of "whom do you know?" Josephus presents his "friends" or patron-client relationship in two ways: (a) the imperial family as patrons and Josephus as their "friend" and (b) Josephus himself as patron and his Galilean "friends."

In regard to imperial patronage, Josephus tells us that he enjoyed "friendship" under four successive emperors. Through the brokerage of Aliturus on his first journey to Rome, Josephus gained access to the circle of Poppaea, Nero's wife. He both solicited her help for the release of certain priests incarcerated in Rome and "received large gifts from Poppaea" (16). Vespasian honored Josephus by arranging for him to take a wife (415). In Rome, he gave Josephus the use of the house he had before becoming emperor. After Vespasian's death, Titus "showed the same esteem for me as did his father" (428). Because of his "friendship" with Titus Caesar, he both interceded for certain countrymen's freedom and received as well the "gracious favor of a gift of sacred books" (418). Josephus gives us a summary of these benefactions:

"(Titus) gave me another parcel of ground in the plain. On his departure for Rome, he took me with him on board, treating me with every mark of respect. On our arrival in Rome I met with great consideration from Vespasian. He gave me a lodging in the house which he had occupied before he became Emperor; he honored me with the privilege of Roman citizenship; and he assigned me a pension. He continued to honour me up to the time of this departure from this life, without any abatement in his kindness toward me" (422-23).

This friendship was extended lastly by Domitian, who exempted Josephus' property in Judea from taxation, "a mark of the highest honour to the privileged individual" (429). Thus "friendship" with the imperial household denoted extraordinary status, usually accessible only to the elite portion of society. In claiming such, Josephus presents himself as a person of exceptional social status, with connections to the highest levels of elite society. Not only is Josephus a "friend" of noble patrons, he himself is an honorable patron to others. He tells us that he treated prominent hostages as "friends," thus offering protection and honor to those who were in turn indebted to him (79). His "friends," moreover, were eager to fight to avenge insults to their patron (99), which he suppressed; their loyalty, however, was certainly praiseworthy. He is quite aware of the size of his entourage of "friends"; many of the leading men of Galilee were among them (222). They showed great loyalty to him (161, 163, 224, 234, 240) even as he demonstrated loyalty to them (269). If a man is known by the company he keeps, Josephus can claim to be connected with elites above him and with loyal "friends" below him.

Wealth Josephus lived in a culture where a conspicuous display of wealth constitutes a public claim to honor and standing.(45) As scion of kingly and priestly clans, he was no doubt a member of a family of some wealth. The ease with which he could find "friends" in the household of four Roman emperors indicates the breeding of a wealthy, educated and cosmopolitan person. He himself mentions "large gifts" from Poppaea, a grant of land in Judea from Titus, a house in Rome and an imperial pension from Vespasian, and tax remission from Domitian.

We noted above Aristotle's remark: "Wealth as a whole consists in using things rather than in owning them; it is really the activity --that is, the use -- of property that constitutes wealth." With his wealth Josephus acted as patron and benefactor, and so converted his wealth into loyalty and influence among his "friends." For example, he proposed to use funds at his disposal to build fortifications for the Tarichaeans (142). With his own wealth he bought horses for his entourage which had fled danger (153). It was certainly with pride that he records how because of his benefactions, the inhabitants of Gabaroth acclaimed him "benefactor and savior of their country" (244). Josephus, then, presented himself as a member of the elite because of his wealth; he was equally proud of his honorable use of that wealth to "make friends."

Conversely, he attacked his enemies for improper use of wealth, that is, for philarguria (the love of riches). He constantly remarked on their looting (66-67, 376), whereas he prided himself on preserving the wealth of other elite persons to return it to them (68, 80, 128). Moreover, he eschewed bribery but noted this fault constantly in others (73, 196, 199). Likewise with avarice (74, 224).

Fortune Again, we must let the ancients tell us how to evaluate "Fortune" as a noteworthy aspect of a person. Writing of Scipio, Polybius states: "As for all other writers, they represent him as a man favoured by fortune, who always owed the most part of his success to the unexpected and to mere chance, such men being, in their opinion, more divine and more worthy of admiration than those who always act by calculation. They are not aware that one of the two things deserves praise and the other only congratulation, the latter being common to ordinary men, whereas what is praiseworthy belongs alone to men of sound judgment and mental ability, whom we should consider to be the most divine and most beloved by the gods" (Histories, X.2.5-7). "Fortune," then, betokens one's status in the world as a person beloved and favored by the gods.

Divine favor was shown Josephus in many ways. He escaped shipwreck and death "through god's good providence" (14-15). He was favored with a visionary dream: "I beheld a marvelous vision in my dreams. I had retired to my couch, grieved and distraught by the tidings in the letter, when I thought that there stood by me one who said: 'Cease, man, from the sorrow of heart, let go all fear. That which grieves thee now will promote thee to greatness and felicity in all things. Not in these present trials only, but in many besides, will fortune attend thee. Fret not thyself then'" (209). And indeed his constant escape from ambush, assassination and every sort of disaster indicate his status as one "most beloved of god."

Honor This value, which is considered the pivotal value of the Mediterranean world, has to do with the public acknowledgment of a person's worth, role and status in the social system.(46) Honor is claimed in a variety of ways. It is ascribed to individuals by blood, that is, in terms of parents, family and clan. We speak of aristocrats as "blue bloods," but the ancients would point to the same thing by noting how a person was born of the best families of the land. On his father's side Josephus belongs to the highest of the twenty-four priestly orders (1). On his mother's side, he belongs to the Hasmonean royal family, a family in which the leader might be both priest and king (2). Ultimately he enjoyed the support of the aristocratic priestly clans (198), whose interests he loyally served all his life (see 13-16). Thus by birth Josephus' belongs to the most elite circles of Judea.

Honor is likewise ascribed to people in terms of the offices to which they are appointed and by virtue of the patronage shown them by higher-ranking elites. The elite Jerusalem circle sent the youthful Josephus to Rome as an embassador to secure the release of certain priests, thus acknowledging his special standing among them (13-16). Back in Jerusalem he consorted with that same circle of "chief priests and the leading Pharisees" (21). As the revolt spread, "the leading men in Jerusalem" sent him as a type of governor to Galilee to administer its affairs (28-30). As noted above, Josephus enjoyed the patronage of four imperial figures, beginning with "large gifts" from Poppaea and concluding with land, houses, pension and tax exemption from Vespasian, Titus and Domitian respectively.

Honor, however, remains a vain claim unless acknowledged by others. One town in Galilee acknowledged Josephus as a most honorable man, acclaiming him "savior and benefactor," titles of respect (244).(47) Josephus records his reception in another town: "There was a chorus of voices from all sides calling me benefactor and saviour. They bore testimony to my past conduct and exhorted me upon my course in future; and they all swore that the honour of their womenfolk had been preserved and that they had never received a single injury from me" (259). Even his enemies, however two-faced they acted, "congratulated me . . . delighted at the honour in which I was held" (274).

As valuable as popular acclamation is, nothing surpasses royal honor. Josephus' writings on the Jewish-Roman war received Agrippa's commendation, two letters from whom Josephus cites verbatim (364-66). The king acclaims him to be an accurate and trustworthy scribe of those events. In Jerusalem Vespasian "showed in many ways the honour in which he held me" (414); and in Rome "I met with great consideration from Vespasian . . . he honoured me with the privilege of Roman citizenship; and he assigned me a pension" (422-23). Titus "show the same esteem for me" as his father (428); Domitian "added to my honours" (429).

Ultimately, honor can be gained through honorable deeds or defended when challenged. Josephus claims honor for a variety of deeds of benefaction: he took no advantage of women, accepted no bribe, avoided bloody encounters which must necessarily provoke vengeance, and the like: "Yet I preserved every woman's honor; I scorned all presents offered to me as having no use for them; I even declined to accept from those who brought them the tithes which were due to me as a priest" (80). Yet he was ever challenged by men of intrigue in Tiberias and other cities in Galilee. His honor was defended by constant riposte(48) to those challenges, by fearless acceptance of danger, by constantly standing his ground, by public defense of his policies, and the like.

Envy is the correlative of honor; the intensity with which a man is envied constitutes an index of the honor in which he is held.(49) According to this standard of envy, Josephus was a most honorable and honored person. Josephus sees himself surrounded by envy, which, of course, is a mark of honor for him. For example, "I was now about thirty years old, at a time of life when, even if one restrains his lawless passions, it is hard, especially in a position of high authority, to escape the calumnies of envy" (80). Envy from political rivals like John of Gishala only testify to Josephus' honor: "But when John of Gischala . . . heard that everything was proceeding to my satisfaction, that I was popular with those under my authority and a terror to the enemy, he was in no good humor; and believing that my success involved his own ruin, gave way to immoderate envy" (122). Even his patronage from the imperial household occasioned envy: "My privileged position excited envy, and thereby exposed me to danger" (423).

D. Comparison (synkrisis). Theon wrote: "Comparisons present the better or the worse and are effective when made between similar persons and things."(50) Topics for comparison cover the same basic items of the encomium which we have been investigating.

In his Vita Josephus presents an extended comparison between himself and a rival author, Justus.(51) No extended comparison need be given in terms of their respective births into noble families, their education and training, or their physical achievements. Because of Justus' slanders of Josephus in terms of their respective histories of the Roman-Jewish war, the comparison focuses on: (a) the virtue of the respective authors, (b) their honor and fame, and (c) the public reception of their works.

Deeds of the Soul (Virtues). We have seen above how Josephus presents himself as a just person, who is loyal to his commitments and faithful to his alliances. He himself is faithful (pistos) and demonstrates loyalty (pistis). In contrast, early in the Vita he notes that Justus was "eager for revolution" (36), and was in fact a ringleader of a faction dedicated to this at Tiberias. Later he records how Justus slandered him to the king; in that context, he reminds the reader that this Justus is the same person who earlier "persuaded the Tiberians to resort to arms, being personally anxious for revolution" (391).

In terms of justice, Josephus narrates his constant restraint in the use of violence (103, 174, 244 and 369). Yet he notes how Justus quickly resorted to arms and "was actually at war with the towns of the Syrian Decapolis. It was you who burnt their villages" (341). These are no mere slanderous retorts by Josephus, but can be documented in Vespasian's own Commentaries, which contain numerous requests from the inhabitants of the Decapolis to punish Justus as a culprit (342). Josephus explicitly compares himself with Justus on this point: "Have you forgotten how, often as I had you in my power, I put not one of you to death; whereas you in your party quarrels, not from any loyalty to the Romans and the king, but of your own malice, slew 185 of your fellow-citizens?" (353).

Deeds of Fortune (Honor). Josephus' honor has been carefully noted above. In contrast, Justus deserves, not honor, but public shame and reproach. He should have been punished for his injustices (343). Josephus presents most clearly this comparison of honor in the respective receptions of the two authors by Agrippa. The king wrote sixty-two letters in support of the truth of Josephus' version, two of which are cited in the text (365-66). Josephus "expected to receive testimony to my accuracy, and was not disappointed" (361), both from Agrippa's remarks and from the Emperor Titus' "own signature and orders for their publication" (363). In comparison, Agrippa treated Justus with contempt: "Twice he put you in irons and as often commanded you to quit the country, and once ordered you to execution" (355). Later restored to his favor, he fell when Agrippa "detected in you once more fraudulent practices" (356).

When Josephus compares his history with that of Justus, this comparison should probably be assessed both under "deeds of the soul" in terms of truthfulness as well as under "deeds of Fortune" in terms of honor claimed and acknowledged. Josephus, of course, claims to be an eyewitness to most of the critical events narrated, whereas Justus was neither present at the events in Galilee or the final days of the war at Jerusalem nor did he consult Caesar's Commentaries on them (357). Of his own account Josephus boasts of (a) his early publication date, soon after the events, (b) his openness to correction by eyewitnesses, and (c) the public acclaim of its accuracy (363, 367). In comparison, Justus writes long after the passing of eyewitnesses who might contest his accuracy (359-60). Thus Josephus contrasts his boldness with Justus' fear, his truthfulness with Justus' envy and self-serving lies.


Summary and Conclusions

A. The Encomium The encomium offers the modern reader a native view of what the Greco-Roman world considered noteworthy and necessary information about a person: how persons were perceived, what aspects were deemed important and how the natives assessed these stereotypical categories. We focused on the formal rules contained in the progymnasmata, because they represent a general perspective and so offer clear and unambiguous examples of conventional categories for perceiving and describing people. Although modern biographers may deem much of this material irrelevant or uninteresting, the ancients were socialized to regard the elements of the encomium as the knowledge of a person most worth knowing.

The form of the encomium, moreover, regularly contains the four categories of (a) origin, birth, (b) education and nurture, (c) accomplishments and deeds, and (d) comparison. An honorable person's life is described from noble birth to noble death. The ancients' understanding of these categories and the formal order in which they are presented give us a valuable window into a native model of personality.

As others have noted, the elements of the encomium discussed above are commonplaces in historical description and biography in the ancient world. And this is itself the important point: whether writing history, biography, or oratory of praise and blame, the categories in an encomium seem to represent the typical way persons are in fact perceived and should be described.(52) In terms of discovering the constant and conventional categories for perceiving and describing ancient persons, the encomium stands as a valuable and accessible window.

B. Josephus' Vita Although Josephus' Vita functions as an apology,(53) it is as much praise of the author as it is blame of Tiberias, John of Gishala and Justus, the rival historian. Is it formally an "encomium" or at least an "encomiastic biography"? (1) Its formal aim is that of an encomium, namely, praise (of Josephus) and blame (of Justus). We justifiably call it an "apology," yet many encomia were written with this same formal aim.(54) As simplistic as it may sound, an "apology" in whatever literary form turns "blame" into "praise." (2) It contains all the parts mandated by the encomium, and in precisely the order in which they are formally discussed in the rhetorical handbooks.(55) The works of Louis Feldman, which are noted frequently in this study, indicate that Josephus consciously and regularly followed a set formula for describing the persons in his Antiquities. This formula in its various elements and functions coincides exactly with the encomium. Josephus, therefore, is by no means ignorant of both the genre of encomium or the formal rules for describing persons found in it.

(3) Some commentators prefer to label the Vita biography or history.(56) Indeed Shuler's work on the genre of the gospel takes up just this issue of the differences between "history," "biography" and "encomia."(57) He distinguishes them on the basis of comments from ancient writers, whereby "history" is contrasted with "encomium" and "bios" either in terms of length and detail (Polybius 10.21.8; Cornelius Nepos 16.1.1) or in terms of truthfulness (Lucian, History 7). Yet Shuler never takes up the issue which constitutes the heart of this study, namely, the fixed complex of commonplace or stereotypical categories for describing a person, whether in history, biography or encomium. Even in works strictly called by their authors "history," persons are regularly described according to the same commonplace stereotypes which make up the categories of the encomium.(58)

For two basic reasons, then, we conclude that Josephus' Vita is not just encomiastic in form but a formal encomium. First, it formally aims to praise and blame. Second, it describes the person of Josephus completely according to the conventional categories found in the rules for writing encomia and in the same order in which those categories are cited.(59) Measured against the conventional description of a person in the encomia of the progymnasmata, Josephus' Vita contains all and only the material for describing a person mandated in that form. And its formal purpose is that of praise (of Josephus) and blame (of John and Justus).

C. What Kind of Person? Finally, the encomium itself should be studied in terms of what cultural values and data were considered important for people in the ancient Mediterranean world. In short, people were perceived not in individualistic terms,(60) but in relationships. They are not known so much in their particularity as in terms of family and clan, city and country, social role and status.(61) Moreover, what was worth knowing about them is their "honor," their social worth, name, reputation and respect. Josephus' world was that of the elites, Roman and Jewish. And elite status is claimed and measured by: noble birth into an elite family, aristocratic education, ascribed honors, patronage of the elite, aristocratic deeds, and the like. In short, a person is known and praised for what he is, what he does and whom he knows -- items which would not find much favor in individualistic, egalitarian America. But then, the importance of the encomium form lies in its native or emic rules for describing non-Western, eastern Mediterranean peoples.


1. The progymnasmata used in this study are: Aelius Theon of Alexandria (Spengel II.112.20-115.10; see James R. Butts, The Progymnasmata of Theon. A New Text with Translation and Commentary [unpublished dissertation: Claremont, 1986]); Hermogenes of Tarsus (Spengel II.14.8-15.5; see C.S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic [New York: Macmillan, 1928] 23-38); Menander Rhetor (see D.A. Russell and N.G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981]); Aphthonius of Ephesus (Spengel II.42.20-44.19; see Ray Nadeau, "The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius in translation," Speech Monographs 19 [1952] 264-285 and more recently Patricia P. Matsen, Philip Rollinson and Marion Sousa, eds., Readings from Classical Rhetoric [Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990] 266-88); Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.10-18.

2. D. A. Russell, "Progymnasmata," The Oxford Classical Dictionary (2nd ed.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980) 883.

3. See Ronald Hock and Edward O'Neill, The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986); Henry A. Fischel, "Story and History: Observations on Greco-Roman Rhetoric and Pharisaism," Essays in Greco-Roman and Related Talmudic Literature (New York: KTAV, 1977) 443-72.

4. See D. A. Russell, "On Reading Plutarch's Lives," Greece and Rome 13 (1966): 150-151; P. A. Stadter, "Plutarch's Comparison of Pericles and Fabius Maximus," GRBS 16 (1975): 77-85; Abraham J. Malherbe, "Antisthenes and Odysseus, Paul at War," HTR 76 (1983): 143-73; Christopher Forbes, "Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul's Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric," NTS 32 (1986): 1-8; Peter Marshall, Enmity at Corinth: Social Conventions in Paul's Relations with the Corinthians (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1987) 53-56, 325-29, 348-65.

5. David L. Balch, "Two Apologetic Encomia: Dionysius on Rome and Josephus on the Jews," JSJ 13 (1982) 102-22; Philip L. Shuler, A Genre for the Gospels. The Biographical Character of Matthew. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982; George Lyons, Pauline Autobiography. Toward a New Understanding. SBLDS 73. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985; his work basically depends on the study of Theodore Burrows, "Epideictic Literature," Studies in Classical Philology 3 (1902): 89-261; Thomas R. Lee, Studies in the Form of Sirach 44-50 (SBLDS 75; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986); see Theodore C. Burgess, Epideictic Literature (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1987) 118-37; O. Crusius, "Enkomium," PW 5.2 (1905): 2581-83; T. Payr, "Enkomium," RAC 5 (1962): 331-43.

6. See D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor and James R. Butts, The "Progymnasmata" of Theon. A New Text and Translation and Commentary; Katherine Thaniel, Quintilian and the Progymnasmata (unpublished thesis, McMaster University, 1973); the introductory essay in Ronald Hock and Edward O'Neill's The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric is excellent; see also Ian H. Henderson, "Quintilian and the Progymnasmata," Antike und Abendland 37 (1991) 82-99. Older discussions of progymnasmata are still worth consulting; see E. Jullien, Les Professeurs de Litterature dans l'ancienne Rome (Paris: Leroux, 1895) 282-331 and W. Stegemann, "Theon," RE 5A (1934): 2037-54 and "Nicolaus" RE 17 (1937): 424-57.

7. C.S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic, 1928, 23-38; Ray Nadeau, "The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius in translation," 264-285); Stanley F. Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1977) 250-74; H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982) 196-200; George Kennedy, Greek Rhetoric Under Christian Emperors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963) and Greek Rhetoric Under Christian Emperors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) 54-73; Klaus Berger, "Hellenistiche Gattungen im Neuen Testament," ANRW II.25.2 1296-98; and Francis Cairns, Generic Composition in Greek and Roman Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1972) 73-75 and 89-90.

8. Its counterpart is the speech of vituperation. Praise and blame are natural rhetorical counterparts, as 1 Cor 11:2 and 17 indicate. The ancient art of praise and blame became a standard feature of preachers at the papal court in the Renaissance, when classical rhetoric was rediscovered and flourished; see John O'Malley, Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1979) 36-76.

9. In his instructions on the attributes of persons upon which an orator should comment, Cicero presents a list which is strikingly similar to the formal categories of the encomium: "We hold the following to be the attributes of persons: name, nature, manner of life, fortune, habit, feeling, interests, purposes, achievements, accidents, speeches made" (De Inventione I.xxiv.34).

10. Aristotle describes good birth: "Now good birth in a race or a state means that its members are indigenous or ancient; that its earliest leaders were distinguished men, and that from them have sprung many who were distinguished for qualities that we admire. The good birth of an individual, which may come either from the male or the female side, implies that both parents are free citizens, and that, as in the case of the state, the founders of the line have been notable for virtue or wealth or something else which is highly prized, and that many distinguished persons belong to the family, men and women, young and old" (Rhet. I.1360b 31-38; Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle [New York: Random House, 1941] 1340). See also Cicero, De Inventione I.xxiv.34-35 and Quintilian, Inst. Orat. III.vii.10-11; V.x.24-25. See Christopher Pelling, "Childhood and Personality in Greek Biography," Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) 213-44.

11. This information constituted the basis for ascribed status and is best seen in terms of the pivotal value of "honor"; see Bruce J. Malina, New Testament World. Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981) 25-50 and Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, The Social World of Luke-Acts (Peabody, MA: Stephen Hendrickson, Inc. 1991) 25-65.

12. Menander Rhetor advises: "If the city has no distinction, you must inquire whether his nation as a whole is considered brave and valiant, or is devoted to literature or the possession of virtues, like the Greek race, or again is distinguished for law, the Italian, or is courageous, like the Gauls or Paeonians. You must take a few features from the nation . . . arguing that it is inevitable that a man from such as [city or] nation should have such characteristics, and that he stands out among all his praiseworthy compatriots" (Treatise II 369.26-370.12); Isocrates, Panegyricus 23-25.

13. For example, nation: "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12); city: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46); country: "No prophet is to rise from Galilee" (John 7:52); parents: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary?" (Matt 13:55).

14. Menander Rhetor instructs the composer of an encomium to note such phenomena: "If any divine sign occurred at the time of his birth, either on land or in the heavens or on the sea, compare the circumstances with those of Romulus, Cyrus, and similar stories, since in these cases also there were miraculous happenings connected with their birth -- the dream of Cyrus' mother, the suckling of Romulus by the she-wolf" (Treatise II. 371.5-14). The births of Alexander (Plutarch, Alex. 2.1-3.2), Plato (Diogenes Laertius III.1-2), Heracles (Diodorus of Sicily 4.9.1-4.10.4) and Apollonios of Tyana (Philostratus 1.4-5) contain such notices. See David L. Dungan and David R. Cartlidge, Sourcebook of Texts for the Comparative Study of the Gospels (SBLSBS 1. Missoula MT: Scholars Press, 1974) 7-49 and Louis Feldman, "Josephus' Portrait of Saul," HUCA 53 (1982): 60-61.

15. Aphthonius' encomium notes three things in regard to training: "inclination to study, talent and rules." But Menander Rhetor gives a fuller description: "Next comes 'nurture'. Was he reared in the palace? Were his swaddling-clothes robes of purple? Was he from his first growth brought up in the lap of royalty? Or, instead, was he raised up to be emperor as a young man by some felicitous chance? If he does not have any distinguished nurture (as Achilles had with Chiron), discuss his education, observing here: 'In addition to what has been said, I wish to describe the quality of his mind.' Then you must speak of his love of learning, his quickness, his enthusiasm for study, his easy grasp of what is taught him. If he excels in literature, philosophy, and knowledge of letters, you must praise this. If it was in the practice of war and arms, you must admire him for having been born luckily, with Fortune to woo the future for him. Again: 'In his education, he stood out among his contemporaries, like Achilles, like Heracles, like the Dioscuri'" (Treatise II. 371.17-372.2; see Quintilian, Inst. Orat. V.x.25; Plato, Menex. 238c). W .C. van Unnik (Tarsus or Jerusalem [London: The Epworth Press, 1962] 19-27) identified three verbs in Acts 22:3 which pertain to this topic in the encomium: gegennêmenos (birth), anatethrammenos (rearing), and pepaideumenos (education) and cited a wealth of literature illustrating just this encomiastic formula.

16. Again, Menander Rhetor: "'Accomplishments' also will give scope for discussion ('accomplishments' are qualities of character not involved with real competitive actions) because they display character. For example: 'He was just (or temperate) in his youth.' Isocrates used this idea in Evagoras, in the passage where he shortly goes on to say: 'And when he became a man, all this was increased, and many other qualities were added.' Similarly, Aristides in the Panathenaicus shows that Athens was humane (he treats this quality as an 'accomplishment') in harbouring the refugees" (Treatise II. 372.2-13).

17. In his instructions on composing speeches of "praise and blame," Cicero likewise divided the deeds of a person into these three standard categories: "(Deeds) may be divided into mind, body and external circumstances" (De Inventione II.lix.177).

18. Butts (The "Progymnasmata" of Theon, 483) identifies "health, strength and beauty" as a topos stemming from Aristotle (Rhet. I. 1361b.3-27); see Cicero, De Inventione II.lix.177; Rhet. Herr.; Teles III.17-20; and Louis Feldman, "Josephus' Portrait of Saul," 62-63.

19. According to Quintilian, "physical and accidental advantages provide a comparatively unimportant theme" (Inst. Orat. III.7.12); yet when he extols beauty and strength, he refers to Agamemnon (Il. II.477) and Achilles (Il. II.180); Tydeus, who was small of stature, was nevertheless a good fighter.

20. Although the four cardinal virtues are characteristic of Stoicism, they are also part of the common discourse on virtue; see Diogenes Laertius VII.92; Cicero, De Inventione II.lii.129; Rhet. Herr.; Quintilian, Inst. III.vii.15. For their place in biographical description, see Louis Feldman, "Josephus' Portrait of Saul," 63-82; see also Harold W. Attridge, The Interpretation of Biblical History in the Antiquitates Judaicae of Flavius Josephus (HDR 7. Missoula MT: Scholars Press, 1976) 109-19.

21. See also II.375.24-376.24; 385.8-386.10 and 415.24-417.4. Cicero likewise discusses virtue to be praised in terms of the four cardinal virtues; see Cicero, De Inventione II.liii.159-liv.165.

22. See James Butts, The "Progymnasmata" of Theon, 468-69 and H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, 197.

23. Hermogenes gives a convenient summary of what is meant by the deeds of Fortune: "Then external resources, such as kin, friends, possessions, household, fortune, etc. Then from the (topic) time, how long he lived, much or little; for either gives rise to encomia. Then, too, from the manner of his end, as that he died fighting for his fatherland . . . You will describe also what was done after his end, whether funeral games were ordained in his honor, whether there was an oracle concerning his bones, or whether his children were famous" (C. S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetics, 32; see also Cicero, De Inventione I.xxiv.35 and II.lix.177). Cicero defines "fortune" as "whether the person is a slave or free, rich or poor, a private citizen or an official with authority, and if he is an official, whether he acquired his position justly or unjustly, whether he is successful, famous, or the opposite; what sort of children he has" (De Inventione I.xxv.35). See Quintilian, Inst. Orat. III.vii.13 and V.x.26.

24. See note 4; Ray Nadeau, "The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius," 276-78; James Butts, The "Progymnasmata" of Theon, 494-512.

25. Another native model for describing a first-century person is found in the instructions for a forensic speech in which the character of the accused is described. See Jerome H. Neyrey, "The Forensic Defense Speech and Paul's Trial Speeches in Acts 22-26: Form and Function," Luke-Acts. New Perspectives from the Society of Biblical Literature Seminar (ed. C.H. Talbert; New York: Crossroad, 1984) 210-24.

26. David Barish ("The Autobiography of Josephus and the Hypothesis of a Second Edition of His Antiquities," HTR 71[1978] 69) argues convincingly that the Vita is an appendix to Josephus' Antiquities. If, as I will show, Feldman's studies of various figures in the Antiquities are basically patterned after the form of an encomium, then such a form is readily available to Josephus for his account of himself.

27. Louis Feldman has written a number of articles on "portraits" in Josephus' Antiquitates. In "Josephus' Portrait of Saul" (HUCA 53 [1982] 52), he formally calls these various portraits "encomiums." This study draws considerable strength by comparing Josephus' treatment of himself in the Vita with Feldman's "portraits" of biblical heroes in the Antiquitates, especially in the following articles: "Josephus as an Apologist to the Greco-Roman World: His Portrait of Solomon," Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity (Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, ed.; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976) 69-98; "Abraham the General in Josephus," Nourished with Peace: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism in Memory of Samuel Sandmel (Frederick Greenspahn, ed.; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984) 43-49; "Hellenizations in Josephus' Jewish Antiquities: The Portrait of Abraham," Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Louis Feldman and Gohei Hata, eds.; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987) 133-53; "Josephus' Version of Samson," JSJ 19 (1988): 171-214; "Josephus' Portrait of Jacob," JQR 79 (1988): 101-51; "Josephus' Portrait of David," HUCA 60 (1989): 129-74; "Josephus' Portrait of Hezekiah," JBL 111 (1992) 597-610.

28. See Louis Feldman, "Flavius Josephus Revisited: the Man, His Writings, and His Significance," ANRW II,21.2 (1984): 763-862.

29. For other examples of this in Josephus, see Feldman, "Portrait of Abraham," 137-38; "Portrait of Jacob," 106-8; "Portrait of Samson," 173-74; "Portrait of Saul," 59-62; "Portrait of David," 134-37; for a collection of other important notices by Josephus of good birth, see Feldman, "Portrait of Samson," 173 # 8 and "Portrait of Saul," 60 # 37.

30. The text and translation of Josephus' Vita are that of H. St.J. Thackeray in the Loeb Classical Library.

31. On the social importance of this, see Josephus, Ap. I.30-31.

32. It was a commonplace in ancient biography to describe the precocity of a youth's intellectual achievements; Shaye J.D. Cohen documents this in regard to "Josephus . . . Homer, Aeschines, Apollonius of Rhodes, Nicholas of Damascus, Ovid, Moses, Jesus, Apollonius of Tyana, Alexander the Great, and Augustus" in Josephus in Galilee and Rome (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1979) 105.

33. For example, (1) He was commissioned to destroy a palace of Herod because it contains representations of animals, which are forbidden by the Law (65); (2) he criticized John's profiteering on kosher oil (74); (3) he prevents the forcible circumcision of certain nobles from Trachonitis, which certain Jews demanded as a condition of residence among them (113); (4) he cites the commandment against theft (128); and (5) he prohibits soldiering on the Sabbath (159-162).

34. On "physical attractiveness" in Josephus' encomia in his Antiquitates, see Feldman, "Portrait Jacob," 108; "Version of Samson," 176-77; "Portrait of Saul," 62-63; "Portrait of David," 137-38; a collection of Josephus' remarks on beauty and appearance can be found in Feldman's "Portrait of Saul," 62 # 42.

35. It would be interesting to compare the presentation of military commanders in ancient literature with Josephus' self portrait; Onasander, who wrote a treatise on The General, devotes only brief introductory remarks to the character of the military leader, but focusses on his "deeds of the soul": temperance, self-restraint, vigilance, frugality, hardened to labor, freedom from avarice, etc. (I.1).

36. For a discussion of courage in Josephus, see Carl Holladay, Theios Aner in Hellenistic Judaism (Missoula MT: Scholars Press, 1977) 69-71; Harold Attridge, The Interpretation of Biblical History in The Antiquitates Judaicae of Flavius Josephus, 113-115; and Louis Feldman, "Josephus' Portrait of Saul," 66-72.

37. See, for example, Cicero, Tusc. Disp. IV.22iv.53; Philo, Leg. All. I.68; Plutarch, Virt. 441A and Stoic. Rep. 1034D.

38. See Feldman, "Portrait of Abraham," 139-40; "Portrait of Jacob," 110-12; "Version of Samson," 179-89; "Portrait of Saul," 66-79; "Portrait of David," 141-47.

39. See Feldman, "Portrait of Abraham," 138-39; "Portrait of Jacob," 109-110, 119; "Version of Samson," 177-78; "Portrait of Saul," 64-66; "Portrait of David," 139-40; "Portrait of Solomon," 85-88; for a collection of instances where wisdom is credited to Josephus' heroes, see Feldman, "Portrait of Saul," 64 # 44.

40. See, for example, Cicero, Tusc. Disp. III.viii.16; see also egkrateia (Acts 24:25; Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6); Henry Chadwick, "Enkrateia," RAC 5:343-65.

41. See Feldman, "Portrait of Jacob," 112; "Version of Samson," 190; "Portrait of Saul," 79-82; "Portrait of David," 147-49.

42. See Feldman, "Portrait of Abraham," 140; "Portrait of Jacob," 112-13; "Version of Samson," 190-92; "Portrait of Saul," 82; "Portrait of David," 150-56; a summary of this virtue in Josephus' encomia can be found in Feldman, "Portrait of Saul," 82 # 73.

43. See Feldman, "Portrait of Abraham," 143-44; "Portrait of Jacob," 113; "Portrait of Saul," 83-90; "Portrait of David," 156-61; "Portrait of Solomon," 73-74. See Adolf Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. (London: Oxford University Press, 1922) 158-64.

44. See John H. Elliott, "Patronage and Clientism in Early Christian Society," Forum 3,4 (1987): 39-48; Bruce J. Malina, "Patron and Client. The Analogy Behind Synoptic Theology," Forum 4,1 (1988): 2-32; and Halvor Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988) 22-47 and "Patron-Client Relations and the New Community of Luke-Acts," The Social World of Luke-Acts, 241-68.

45. Feldman only gradually came to see this as a regular item in the encomium's formal structure; see "Portrait of Jacob," 108-9 and "Portrait of David," 138-39.

46. See note 11.

47. See Fredrick W. Danker, Benefactor. Epigraphic Study of a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, Inc., 1982).

48. On "challenge and riposte" as part of the honor game, see Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, "Honor and Shame in Luke-Acts," The Social World of Luke-Acts, 36-38 and 49-52.

49. See Peter Walcott, Envy and the Greeks. A Study of Human Behaviour (Warminster: Aris and Phillips) 1978; John H. Elliott, "The Fear of the Leer: The Evil Eye from the Bible to Li'l Abner," Forum 4/4 (1988): 42-71.

50. Although the main trust of the "comparison" in Josephus' Vita is between two writers of history, two cities are likewise compared, Sepphoris and Tiberias, in terms of their loyalty or revolt. Sepphoris was faithful to its alliances and remained loyal (345-348), whereas Tiberias epitomizes the spirit of revolt (349-352). See Peter Marshall, Enmity at Corinth, 54.

51. On Justus, see Tessa Rajak, "Justus of Tiberias," Classical Bulletin 23 (1977): 345-68 and "Josephus and Justus of Tiberias," Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Louis Feldman and Gohei Hata, eds.; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987) 81-94.

52. Shuler (A Genre for the Gospels, 36-46) argues that the distinction between history and bioi and history and encomia is one of degree. Encomia, he notes, contained a high degree of exaggeration or false praise, whereas history must deal with the truth, that is, the firm basis for the praise. His study reminds us that we should not drive too sharp a distinction between history and bioi or encomia; for the aim of all was praise and praise according to certain culturally defined categories.

53. Shuler (A Genre for the Gospels, 64) notes that several of Isocrates' encomium are formally labelled "apologia" in the manuscripts; formally, an apology seeks praise by vitiating the blame charged by others; a polemic heaps blame or vituperation on another. Even in the progymnasmata, praise and blame are treated as two aspects of the same form, which extends as well to apology and polemic.

54. David Balch ("Two Apologetic Encomia: Dionysius on Rome and Josephus on the Jews," 114) indicates that one of the formal functions of an encomium is that of an "apologetic" to accusations and to speeches and writings of "invective" (or "vituperation"). All of Louis Feldman's "portraits" in Josephus' Antiquitates begin by stressing their apologetic nature; for Feldman always cites the charge that the Jews failed to produce outstanding people (Apion 2.135), thus suggesting that apology is a formal aim of encomia.

55. David Balch ("Two Apologetic Encomia," 114-21) indicates that Josephus was using the formal elements of the encomium in his apology for the Jews in Against Apion. The genre and its contents, then, are familiar to him.

56. See Shaye J.D. Cohen, "History and Historiography in the Against Apion of Josephus," History and Theory 27 (1988) 1-11.

57. Philip L. Shuler, A Genre for the Gospels, 36-42.

58. One of Shuler's parade pieces is Polybius' "history" of Philopoemen (10.21-24). Yet even this is quite clearly in accord with encomiastic categories: (1) origin and birth (10.22.1); (2) education and nurture (10.22.2-5); (3) deeds and accomplishments (10.22.6-24.7).

59. We noted earlier that Louis Feldman labelled the portraits in the Antiquitates as encomia. His wide knowledge of the classics aided him in regularly identifying many of the individual classifications which we have found summarized in the encomium: genealogy, birth, educational precocity, the four cardinal virtues. He notes, moreover, the traditional quality of these items. While scholars benefit greatly from his articles, one might ask whether Feldman fully appreciated the full schema of material in the encomia for describing persons. For example, he seems oblivious of the ancient interest in "deeds of fortune" such as health, fortune, strength, honor; only twice did he comment on wealth; and never did he mention a glorious death and how this was assessed by the ancients.

60. See Arnoldo Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971) 17; see David E. Aune, "Greco-Roman Biography," Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament. Selected Forms and Genres (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988) 109-10; Christopher Pelling, Character and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).

61. The embeddedness of Mediterraneans has been studied by Bruce Malina, "The First-Century Personality: The Individual and the Group," The New Testament World. Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981) 51-70 and by Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, "First-Century Personality: Dyadic, Not Individualistic," The Social World of Luke-Acts, 67-96.

Return to A Selection of Jerome H. Neyrey's Articles

Return to Jerome H. Neyrey's HomePage

Jerome H. Neyrey