But let us consider his first and greatest work; for when it was resolved on by our forefathers to leave Egypt, and return to their own country, this Moses took the many tell thousands that were of the people, and saved them out of many desperate distresses, and brought them home in safety. And certainly it was here necessary to travel over a country without water, and full of sand, to overcome their enemies, and, during these battles, to preserve their children, and their wives, and their prey; on all which occasions he became an excellent general of an army, and a most prudent counselor, and one that took the truest care of them all; he also so brought it about, that the whole multitude depended upon him. And while he had them always obedient to what he enjoined, he made no manner of use of his authority for his own private advantage, which is the usual time when governors gain great powers to themselves, and pave the way for tyranny, and accustom the multitude to live very dissolutely; whereas, when our legislator was in so great authority, he, on the contrary, thought he ought to have regard to piety, and to show his great good-will to the people; and by this means he thought he might show the great degree of virtue that was in him, and might procure the most lasting security to those who had made him their governor. When he had therefore come to such a good resolution, and had performed such wonderful exploits, we had just reason to look upon ourselves as having him for a divine governor and counselor. And when he had first persuaded himself (17) that his actions and designs were agreeable to God's will, he thought it his duty to impress, above all things, that notion upon the multitude; for those who have once believed that God is the inspector of their lives, will not permit themselves in any sin. And this is the character of our legislator: he was no impostor, no deceiver, as his revilers say, though unjustly, but such a one as they brag Minos (18) to have been among the Greeks, and other legislators after him; for some of them suppose that they had their laws from Jupiter, while Minos said that the revelation of his laws was to be referred to Apollo, and his oracle at Delphi, whether they really thought they were so derived, or supposed, however, that they could persuade the people easily that so it was. But which of these it was who made the best laws, and which had the greatest reason to believe that God was their author, it will be easy, upon comparing those laws themselves together, to determine; for it is time that we come to that point. (19) Now there are innumerable differences in the particular customs and laws that are among all mankind, which a man may briefly reduce under the following heads: Some legislators have permitted their governments to be under monarchies, others put them under oligarchies, and others under a republican form; but our legislator had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a Theocracy, (20) by ascribing the authority and the power to God, and by persuading all the people to have a regard to him, as the author of all the good things that were enjoyed either in common by all mankind, or by each one in particular, and of all that they themselves obtained by praying to him in their greatest difficulties. He informed them that it was impossible to escape God's observation, even in any of our outward actions, or in any of our inward thoughts. Moreover, he represented God as unbegotten, (21) and immutable, through all eternity, superior to all mortal conceptions in pulchritude; and, though known to us by his power, yet unknown to us as to his essence. I do not now explain how these notions of God are the sentiments of the wisest among the Grecians, and how they were taught them upon the principles that he afforded them. However, they testify, with great assurance, that these notions are just, and agreeable to the nature of God, and to his majesty; for Pythagoras, and Anaxagoras, and Plato, and the Stoic philosophers that succeeded them, and almost all the rest, are of the same sentiments, and had the same notions of the nature of God; yet durst not these men disclose those true notions to more than a few, because the body of the people were prejudiced with other opinions beforehand. But our legislator, who made his actions agree to his laws, did not only prevail with those that were his contemporaries to agree with these his notions, but so firmly imprinted this faith in God upon all their posterity, that it never could be removed. The reason why the constitution of this legislation was ever better directed to the utility of all than other legislations were, is this, that Moses did not make religion a part of virtue, but he saw and he ordained other virtues to be parts of religion; I mean justice, and fortitude, and temperance, and a universal agreement of the members of the community with one another; for all our actions and studies, and all our words, [in Moses's settlement,] have a reference to piety towards God; for he hath left none of these in suspense, or undetermined. For there are two ways of coining at any sort of learning and a moral conduct of life; the one is by instruction in words, the other by practical exercises. Now other lawgivers have separated these two ways in their opinions, and choosing one of those ways of instruction, or that which best pleased every one of them, neglected the other. Thus did the Lacedemonians and the Cretians teach by practical exercises, but not by words; while the Athenians, and almost all the other Grecians, made laws about what was to be done, or left undone, but had no regard to the exercising them thereto in practice.
(17) This language, that Moses, "persuaded himself" that what he did was according to God's will, can mean no more, by Josephus's own constant notions elsewhere, than that he was "firmly persuaded," that he had "fully satisfied himself" that so it was, viz. by the many revelations he had received from God, and the numerous miracles God had enabled him to work, as he both in these very two books against Apion, and in his Antiquities, most clearly and frequently assures us. This is further evident from several passages lower, where he affirms that Moses was no impostor nor deceiver, and where he assures that Moses's constitution of government was no other than a theocracy; and where he says they are to hope for deliverance out of their distresses by prayer to God, and that withal it was owing in part to this prophetic spirit of Moses that the Jews expected a resurrection from the dead. See almost as strange a use of the like words, "to persuade God," Antiq. B. VI. ch. 5. sect. 6.
(18) That is, Moses really was, what the heathen legislators pretended to be, under a Divine direction; nor does it yet appear that these pretensions to a supernatural conduct, either in these legislators or oracles, were mere delusions of men without any demoniacal impressions, nor that Josephus took them so to be; as the ancientest and contemporary authors did still believe them to be supernatural.
(19) This whole very large passage is corrected by Dr. Hudson from Eusebius's citation of it, Prep. Evangel. viii. 8, which is here not a little different from the present MSS. of Josephus.
(20) This expression itself, that "Moses ordained the Jewish government to be a theocracy," may be illustrated by that parallel expression in the Antiquities, B. III. ch. 8. sect. 9, that "Moses left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased; and when he pleased, to be absent." Both ways of speaking sound harsh in the ears of Jews and Christians, as do several others which Josephus uses to the heathens; but still they were not very improper in him, when he all along thought fit to accommodate himself, both in his Antiquities, and in these his books against Apion, all written for the use of the Greeks and Romans, to their notions and language, and this as far as ever truth would give him leave. Though it be very observable withal, that he never uses such expressions in his books of the War, written originally for the Jews beyond Euphrates, and in their language, in all these cases. However, Josephus directly supposes the Jewish settlement, under Moses, to be a Divine settlement, and indeed no other than a real theocracy.
(21) These excellent accounts of the Divine attributes, and that God is not to be at all known in his essence, as also some other clear expressions about the resurrection of the dead, and the state of departed souls, etc., in this late work of Josephus, look more like the exalted notions of the Essens, or rather Ebionite Christians, than those of a mere Jew or Pharisee. The following large accounts also of the laws of Moses, seem to me to show a regard to the higher interpretations and improvements of Moses's laws, derived from Jesus Christ, than to the bare letter of them in the Old Testament, whence alone Josephus took them when he wrote his Antiquities; nor, as I think, can some of these laws, though generally excellent in their kind, be properly now found either in the copies of the Jewish Pentateuch, or in Philo, or in Josephus himself, before he became a Nazarene or Ebionite Christian; nor even all of them among the laws of catholic Christianity themselves. I desire, therefore, the learned reader to consider, whether some of these improvements or interpretations might not be peculiar to the Essens among the Jews, or rather to the Nazarenes or Ebionites among the Christians, though we have indeed but imperfect accounts of those Nazarenes or Ebionite Christians transmitted down to us at this day.