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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem
By Josephus (37–100)
 
From the ‘Jewish Wars’: Translation of Robert Traill

WHILE the sanctuary [in Jerusalem] was in flames, everything that fell in their way became a prey to rapine, and prodigious was the slaughter of those found there. To no age was pity shown, to no rank respect; but children and old men, secular persons and priests, were overwhelmed in one common ruin. All ranks were inclosed in the embrace of war, and hunted down; as well those who sued for mercy, as those who made defense….  1
  Their destruction was caused by a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to those remaining in the city, that “God commanded them to go up to the Temple, there to receive the signs of their deliverance.”… Thus it was that the impostors and pretended messengers of heaven at that time beguiled the wretched people, while the manifest portents that foreshowed the approaching desolation they neither heeded nor credited; but as if confounded and bereft alike of eyes and mind, they disregarded the immediate warnings of God. Thus it was when a star resembling a sword stood over the city, and a comet which continued for a year. Thus also it was when, prior to the revolt and the first movements of the war, at the time when the people were assembling for the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth of the month Xanthicus, at the ninth hour of the night, so vivid a light shone round the altar and the sanctuary that it seemed to be bright day; and this lasted half an hour. By the inexperienced this was deemed favorable; but by the sacred scribes it was at once pronounced a prelude of that which afterwards happened. At the same festival also, a cow having been led by some one to the sacrifice, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the court of the Temple.  2
  Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner court—which was of brass and extremely massive, and when closed towards evening could scarcely be moved by twenty men, and which was fastened with bars shod with iron, and secured by bolts sunk to a great depth in a threshold which consisted of one stone throughout—was observed, about the sixth hour of the night, to have opened of its own accord. The guards of the Temple ran and informed the captain, who having repaired to the spot could scarcely succeed in shutting it. This again to the unlearned seemed a most auspicious omen; for God, they thought, had unfolded to them the gate of blessings: but the learned considered that the security of the Temple was dissolving of its own accord, and the gate opened for the advantage of the enemy; and explained it among themselves as a sign of impending desolation.  3
  Not many days after the festival, on the twenty-first of the month Artemisius, there appeared a phenomenon so marvelous as to exceed credibility. What I am about to relate would, I conceive, be deemed a mere fable, had it not been related by eyewitnesses, and attended by calamities commensurate with such portents. Before sunset, were seen around the whole country chariots poised in the air, and armed battalions speeding through the clouds and investing the cities. And at the feast which is called Pentecost, the priests having entered the inner court of the Temple by night, as was their custom, for discharge of their ministrations, their attention was drawn at first, they said, by a movement and a clanging noise, and after this by a voice as of a multitude, “We are departing hence.”  4
  But a story more fearful still remains. Four years prior to the war, while the city was enjoying the utmost peace and prosperity, there came to the feast in which it is the custom for all to erect tabernacles to God, one Jesus, son of Ananus, a rustic of humble parentage, who, standing in the temple, suddenly began to call aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds; a voice against Jerusalem and the sanctuary, a voice against bridegrooms and brides, a voice against all the people!” Day and night he traversed all the streets with this cry. Some citizens, incensed at so ominous a voice, apprehended the man, and severely scourged him. But without uttering a word in his own behalf, nor anything privately to those who beat him, he continued his cry as before. At length the rulers—supposing, and justly so, that the man was under some supernatural impulse—conducted him to the presence of the Roman procurator, where, though lacerated with scourges to the very bone, he neither sued for mercy nor shed a tear; but modulating his voice to a tone the most mournful that was possible, repeated at every stroke, “Woe! woe! unto Jerusalem.” Albinus the procurator, demanding who he was, and whence, and why he uttered these words, he made no manner of reply; desisting not from his lamentation over the city, until Albinus, concluding that he was a maniac, set him at liberty. Up to the breaking out of the war, he neither associated with any of the citizens, nor was he seen to speak to any one; but as if it were a prayer that he had been meditating upon, daily uttered his lament, “Woe! woe! unto Jerusalem.” He neither cursed those that beat him from day to day, nor gave his blessing to such as supplied him with food: to all, the melancholy presage was his one reply. His voice was loudest at the festivals; and though for seven years and five months he continued his wail, neither did his voice become feeble nor did he grow weary, until during the siege, after beholding his presages verified, he ceased. For as he was going his round on the wall, crying with a piercing voice, “Woe! woe! once more, to the city, to the people, and to the Temple;” when at the last he had added, “Woe! woe! to myself also,” he was struck by a stone shot from the ballista and killed upon the spot, still uttering with his dying lips the same portentous words.  5
  If we reflect on these events, we shall find that God exercises care over men, in every way foreshowing to their race the means of safety; but that they perish through their own folly and self-incurred evils. Thus the Jews, after the demolition of the Antonia, reduced their Temple to a square, though they had it recorded in their oracles that “the city and the sanctuary would be taken when the Temple should become square.” But what chiefly incited them to the war was an ambiguous prophecy, likewise found in their sacred writings, that “about this period some one from their country should obtain the empire of the world.” This they received as applying to themselves, and many eminent for wisdom were deceived in the interpretation of it. The oracle, however, in reality indicated the elevation of Vespasian—he having been proclaimed emperor in Judæa. But it is not possible for men to avoid their fate, even though they foresee it. Some of these portents they interpreted according to their pleasure, others they treated with contempt, until their folly was exposed by the conquest of their country and their own destruction.  6
 
 
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