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Josephus on Alexanders's Visit to Jerusalem

Requests and Replies in
The Expository Times 3 (1892) 330.427



What is the opinion of scholars as to the story in Josephus of Alexander's visit to Jerusalem, and the reading of Daniel's prophecies? The Dictionary of the Bible argues in favour of its truth. This would have an important bearing on the date of the Book of Daniel. - G. E. Ff.

Swete's reply:

Mr. A. A. Bevan (Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Cambridge, 1892, p. 14) writes: “The whole account of Alexander's journey to Jerusalem has long ago been recognised as a fiction.” References to the literature of the subject will be found in E. Schürer's History of the Jewish People (E. T., 1890, I. i.p. p. 187 n; cf. II. i. p. 301); his judgment is more guarded than Mr. Bevan's (“the story in its details perhaps is unhistorical”), and does not differ widely from the view which Dr. Westcott expressed in the Dictionary of the Bible nearly thirty years ago (B.D. i. p. 43).

But if the story of Alexander's visit to Jerusalem cannot safely be pronounced to be pure fiction, the production of the Book of Daniel by the High Priest is one of the details which have least claim to be regarded as historical. It would spring naturally out of a conviction that the book was in the possession of Jaddua at the time of the visit; and under the circumstances it cannot be used as evidence for the early date of Daniel. On the other hand, the narrative of Josephus “at least shows the unquestioning belief in the prophetic worth of the book which existed among the Jews in his time” (B.D. i. p. 393). /427/

Swete's addendum:

By the courtesy of the Editor of The Expository Times, I have been permitted to see a communication from Mr. A. A. Bevan, in which Mr. Bevan points out that the English translation of Prof. Schürer's Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes does not correctly represent the Professor's view with regard to Alexander's visit to Jerusalem. The words should have been: “The narrative is in matters of detail in any case (jedenfalls) unhistorical.” This correction, which I gladly accept, modifies the opinion attributed to Schürer (The Expository Times, April 1892, p. 300). But when full allowance has been made for it, he cannot be said to recognise the whole account as a fiction. On the question whether Alexander visited Jerusalem, if I understand him rightly, he suspends judgment. He condemns the details, but adds: "die Sache an sich wäre nicht unmöglich." His attitude upon the subject, whether right or wrong, is certainly “more guarded” than that of scholars who reject the story as a whole.