Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 Lenten Read-a-Thon Day 1: Ash Wednesday

"I have come to chew bubblegum and to get ash, and the priest doesn't like it when I chew bubblegum."
--Snuffles the Dragon, overheard at Ash Wednesday Mass

It aint' over til the Against Apion sings.

New Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston and edited by Paul L. Maier. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids): 1999. ISBN: 0-8254-2924-2. 1142 pages. $24.99.

Our Lenten Josephus Read-a-Thon is underway. First up on the agenda is Josephus's Life or Vita, the historian's account of himself and how awesome he is. We'll easily be through it tomorrow, as I have just completed Vita 215 (Loeb's numbers), which is on page 30 in my volume, putting us slightly ahead of schedule on this Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent.

Gettin' ash and takin' names!
(Photo stolen from Orthometer.)

So that's our Lenten reading so far. The introduction by Paul L. Maier is quite engaging. He begins thus:

Josephus was a first-century Jew whose life as a diplomat, general, and historian was crammed with contradictions. He studied in the desert but wrote in the city. He was a pacifist who went to war, a military commander who (to our knowledge) had no training in the martial arts but fought as if he had. He battled the Romans, yet was befriended by them. He joined a suicide pact but survived, while thirty-nine lay dead around him. He was the mortal foe of a future emperor--who later brought him into the family! [p. 7]

That should whet your interest. And check this out:

At Cluny...the famous monastery that sparked the Cluniac Reform in the tenth century, Josephus was specified for Lenten reading. [p. 15]

So for a very long time, Christians have been reading Josephus for penance, and we're proud to continue the tradition.
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