During the Hellenistic Period, the Jewish people were introduced to ideas from Greek culture, and the degree to which Greek ideas should influence Jewish culture was debated for centuries to come. In the subsequent Hasmonean period, disputes over the adoption of Hellenism, along with corrupt leadership, caused the creation of clearly divided Jewish sects that each held claim of exclusive truth. Although all sects remained under the umbrella of Judaism, they took contrary stances on unclear issues in the Torah and represented different socioeconomic standings. The unique features of each of the most important sects, namely the Pharisees, the Essenes and the Sadducees, are described in the writings of Flavius Josephus. As a Roman court historian from a Jewish family, Josephus was not objective in his analyses of the sects. In an effort to balance his Jewish roots with his Roman allegiance, Josephus wrote about the Jews “in ways that would be sympathetic to Roman rulers” (Segal, 49). Josephus attempted to evaluate the Jews while advocating for Roman rule in order to satisfy the Roman audience that he wrote for. Consequently, Josephus went as far to dismiss one Jewish group, the Zealots, as illegitimate for its anti-Roman sentiments (Josephus, 60-61). Josephus’s writing revealed how he and each of the sects had distinct reactions to the various ruling empires of the Second Temple Period and how these responses divided the Jewish people.
Josephus first displayed bias in his writing by admiring the most popular Jewish sect, the Pharisees. He showed great respect for the Pharisees and acknowledges them as “extremely influential among the townsfolk” due to their belief in both fate and human will, as well as their belief in resurrection...
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...er and protégé of the Flavian dynasty (Segal, 49). Josephus’s dismissal of the anti-Roman Zealots was consistent with his role as a Roman court historian and as an opponent to the Great Revolt, but it undermines Josephus’s credibility as a historical writer.
Josephus’s biases revealed that, just like the sects he writes about, the prevailing rulers during the Second Temple Period influenced his view of Judaism. Because Hellenism provided the Jewish people to learn about and blend with another culture and the Hasmonean dynasty’s corrupt leaders failed to unify the Jewish people, sects formed to accommodate for the each sect’s unique interpretation of the Torah and Judaism. Although the sects emerged during the Hasmonean period, Josephus’s subjective judgment of the sects indicates that Judaism continued to lack cohesiveness in the first century under Roman authority.
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