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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 Hebrew Faith, Worship, and Laws
By Josephus (37–100)
 
From the ‘Treatise Against Apion’: Translation of William Whiston

WHAT form of government then can be more holy than this? What more worthy kind of worship can be paid to God than we pay, where the entire body of the people are prepared for religion; where an extraordinary degree of care is required in the priests, and where the whole polity is so ordered as if it were a certain religious solemnity? For what things foreigners, when they solemnize such festivals, are not able to observe for a few days’ time, and call them mysterious and sacred ceremonies, we observe with great pleasure and an unshaken resolution during our whole lives. What are the things then that we are commanded or forbidden? They are simple, and easily known. The first command is concerning God, and affirms that God contains all things, and is a being every way perfect and happy, self-sufficient, and supplying all other beings; the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things. He is manifest in his works and benefits, and more conspicuous than any other being whatsoever; but as to his form and magnitude he is most obscure. All materials, let them be ever so costly, are unworthy to compose an image for him; and all arts are unartful to express the notion we ought to have of him. We can neither see nor think of anything like him, nor is it agreeable to piety to form a resemblance of him. We see his works: the light, the heavens, the earth, the sun and the moon, the waters, the generation of animals, the production of fruits. These things hath God made, not with hands, not with labor, not as wanting the assistance of any to co-operate with him; but as his will resolved they should be made and be good also, they were made and became good immediately. All men ought to follow this being, and to worship him in the exercise of virtue; for this way of worship of God is the most holy of all others.  1
  There ought also to be but One Temple for One God: for likeness is the constant foundation of agreement. This temple ought to be common to all men, because he is the common God of all men. His priests are to be continually about his worship; over whom he that is the first by his birth is to be their ruler perpetually. His business must be to offer sacrifices to God, together with those priests that are joined with him; to see that the laws be observed; to determine controversies, and to punish those that are convicted of injustice: while he that does not submit to him shall be subject to the same punishment as if he had been guilty of impiety towards God himself….  2
  But then, what are our laws about marriage? That law owns no other mixture of sexes but that which nature hath appointed, of a man with his wife, and that this be used only for the procreation of children. But it abhors the mixture of a male with a male; and if any one do that, death is its punishment….  3
  Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess; but it ordains that the very beginning of our education should be immediately directed to sobriety….  4
  Our law hath also taken care of the decent burial of the dead; but without any extravagant expenses for the funerals, and without the erection of any illustrious monuments for them….  5
  The law ordains also that parents should be honored immediately after God himself; and delivers that son who does not requite them for the benefits he hath received from them, but is deficient on any such occasion, to be stoned. It also says that the young man should pay due respect to every elder, since God is the eldest of all beings….  6
  It will be also worth our while to see what equity our legislator would have us exercise in our intercourse with strangers…. Accordingly, our legislator admits all those that have a mind to observe our laws so to do, and this after a friendly manner, as esteeming that a true union which not only extends to our own stock, but to those that would live after the same manner with us; yet does he not allow those that come to us by accident only to be admitted into communion with us.  7
  The greatest part of offenses with us are capital….  8
  Now, as for ourselves, I venture to say that no one can tell of so many, nay, not more than one or two, that have betrayed our laws; no, not out of fear of death itself…. Now I think those that have conquered us have put us to such deaths, not out of their hatred to us when they had subdued us, but rather out of their desire to see a surprising sight, which is this, whether there be such men in the world who believe that no evil is to them so great as to be compelled to do or to speak anything contrary to their own laws!  9
 
 
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