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How accurate is the writing of Josephus? Can we rely on any of his writings to establish authentic Jewish practices or in areas of halacha?

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I feel like those are separate questions. – Double AA May 15 '12 at 18:23
@msh210 Books of Jewish History don't count as jewish-books? – Double AA May 15 '12 at 20:47
@DoubleAA, do they? – msh210 May 15 '12 at 20:50
@msh210 I prefer consensus to edit wars. – Double AA May 15 '12 at 20:58

The Shulchan Aruch Harav says that one is allowed to read Josephus on Shabbos as it contains words of "Mussar and Yiras Shamayim".

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that

With regards to reliability of Josephus' and precision, many pointed out [the issues], and even thou 'there is much Mussar and Yiras Shamayim' [in his sefer], no one has ever called him "Rabbi Yosef".

The Lubavitcher Rebbe brings an example where his description of the Beis Hamikdash disagreed with the description in the traditional sources.

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that this could have been a mistranslation into Hebrew.

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I didn't know you needed semicha to be a historian. – Double AA May 15 '12 at 19:46
With regards to the Shulchan Aruch Harav (and the Bach it is based on), Josephus or Jossipun?: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josippon . My guess is that it is referring to Josippon. I can't verify the accuracy of this post, but it is interesting: hashkafah.com/index.php?/topic/5723-josephus-and-yosippon – Menachem May 15 '12 at 20:36
@Menachem Yossipun – Shmuel Brin May 15 '12 at 20:55
@ShmuelBrin: if so, it doesn't really answer the question – Menachem May 15 '12 at 20:58
@Menachem that could have been the "mistranslation" to which the Rebbe was referring. – Shmuel Brin May 15 '12 at 21:01

R. Chaim Knoller (Dvar Yom Beyomo, entry for 17 Iyar) comments, regarding Josephus' sympathetic portrayal of Titus, that as a member of the imperial household he was compelled to falsify history in this regard. (He also gives an interesting homiletic rendering of the phrase in Mikvaos 10:1, "the inkwell of Yosef the kohen had a hole in its side": it hints at the flaw ("hole") in the writings of Josephus, brought about by his living "at the side" of the Romans.)

Doros Harishonim takes an even more hard-line view. He argues that Josephus tendentiously rewrote history in order to portray the Jews as uncivilized rebels, and to whitewash the actions of Agrippa II (in his view, Josephus' collaborator in this effort) that provoked the revolt.

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