Last Days of Jerusalem: From Josephus - Alfred J. Church

Based on War of the Jews by Josephus, this book tells the dramatic story of the bravery, fanaticism, and treachery which lead to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus was an eyewitness to the events, first as Jewish leader in a neighboring town that fell to the Romans, then as Roman captive. He tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the zealots holding Jerusalem and save the city from destruction.

Show All     Download:     PDF       EPUB

[Book Cover] from Last Days of Jerusalem by Alfred J. Church
eagles and ensigns


[Title Page] from Last Days of Jerusalem by Alfred J. Church


In this story I have followed the narrative of Josephus, making many omissions but no other change of importance. It did not fall within the scope of my work to estimate his veracity and trustworthiness; but I may here say that a close acquaintance with his history will not incline the reader to put much confidence in his narrative on any point where interest or vanity may have tempted him to depart from the truth. In one matter, which is of such interest and importance that an account of it may be given here, he seems to have deliberately falsified history. The ingenuity of a German critic, Jacob von Bernays, detected in the Chronicle  of Sulpicius Severus (a Christian writer, A.D. 350—420) a very slightly disguised quotation from one of the lost books of the History  of Tacitus. The passage may be thus translated.

"Titus is said to have called a council of war, and then put to it the question whether he ought to destroy so grand a structure as the Temple. Some thought that a sacred building, more famous than any that stood upon the earth, ought not to be destroyed. If it were preserved, it would be a proof of Roman moderation; if destroyed, it would brand the Empire for ever with the stigma of cruelty. On the other hand there were some, and among these Titus himself, who considered that the destruction of the Temple was an absolute necessity, if there was to be a complete eradication of the Jewish and Christian religions. These superstitions, opposed as they were to each other, had sprung from the same origin; the Christians had come forth from among the Jews; remove the root and the stem would speedily perish."

In the interest, doubtless, of his Imperial patrons, the family of Vespasian, Josephus represents the destruction of the Temple as having been accomplished against the will of Titus.

I have to express my obligations to Dean Milman's History of the Jews, and to the article, "Jerusalem," by Mr. Ferguson, in the Dictionary of the Bible.



Chap. Page
I.Of the Beginnings of the Jewish War7
II.Of the Doings of Cestius 13
III.Of Josephus and the Besieging of Jotapata21
IV.Of the Marvellous Escape of Josephus37
V.Of the Troubles in Jerusalem43
VI.Of the First Coming of the Romans52
VII.The Beginning of the Siege60
VIII.Of the Walls of Jerusalem70
IX.The Siege74
X.The Siege (continued)80
XI.The Siege (continued)87
XII.The Taking of the City 98
XIII.The End110

List of Illustrations

Roman Eagles and Ensignsii
The tortoise.15
Horse soldiers.31
A hand-to-hand engagement.65
A council of war.85
Besiegers felling trees.91
Roman general addressing his troops.101
Spoils of the temple carried in triumph.121