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More on Schalit's Changing Josephus: The Lost First Stage

Daniel R. Schwartz
Jewish History
Vol. 9, No. 2 (Fall, 1995), pp. 9-20
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20101230
Page Count: 12
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More on Schalit's Changing Josephus: The Lost First Stage
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Abstract

In an earlier study ("Jewish History" 2/2 [Fall 1987]: 9-28) we compared works and letters of Abraham Schalit (1898-1979) from the 1930s to those beginning in the mid-1940s and culminating in his major works on Herod and Josephus. There was an evident shift from a nationalist stance to an amoral realpolitical one, a shift which, we suggested, might be traced to the impact of the Holocaust which taught Schalit that, in this world, might makes right. The recent discovery of Schalit's long-lost 1925 Vienna dissertation on Josephus now allows us to follow an earlier shift in Schalit's views. The dissertation shows us a Josephus who was a bad historian but a patriot, sincerely seeking to further the rebels' cause against Rome, while Justus of Tiberias is a moral weakling who cared mostly about himself; Schalit did not accept Justus' charges against Josephus. By 1933 Schalit's Josephus had turned into a self-seeker while Justus was a pragmatic patriot, and Justus' charges against Josephus had turned into truth. It is suggested that these changes derive from psychological processes during Schalit's 1927-1929 stint in Bruenn, Moravia, where there was a heavily charged nationalist atmosphere. Schalit immigrated to Palestine at the end of his Bruenn years. In such an atmosphere, and when he himself was debating his attitude toward the Jewish people and its implications, Schalit would have tended to conceive of others as either nationalists or traitors, and it was much easier to cast Justus as the former, and Josephus as the latter, than vice versa. Another ten years later, no longer dealing with Justus, Schalit would begin to ascribe to Josephus the positive pragmatic attitude he had ascribed to Justus in the first stage of his historiography. /// [Abstract in Hebrew].

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