From Of the Thundering Legion, by William Whiston. London: 1726. Pages 47-63.

Note that this is presented as part of Whiston’s translation of Josephus, not as modern scholarship and not as my own opinion or work. If you want to argue about its content or its conclusions, I will not answer. Mr. Whiston of course cannot answer. You will need to hold your disputes for the afterlife.

Alexander the Great’s
Meeting the
High-Priest of the Jews at Jerusalem.


The ancient Accounts are these.

Josephus’s Account1

Alexander the Great had required of the High Priest of the Jews, when he was at the Siege of Tyre, Auxiliaries, and Provisions, and the same Tribute which he had aforetime paid to the Persians. The High Priest returned Answer, that having taken an Oath to Darius, not to bear Arms against him, he never would do it while Darius lived. Upon which Alexander was very angry, and threatened, that after he had taken Tyre, he would lead his Army against the High Priest; and by his Punishment teach all Men, to whom they were to keep their Oaths. In which nice Juncture Sanballat the Samaritan, sent Alexander 8000 Auxiliaries, and thereby obtained Leave to build a Temple upon Mount Gerizim. Upon the taking of Tyre, I suppose, it was, as Alexander threatened; and Eusebius relates,2 though Josephus omit it, that Alexander invaded [the Northern Pars of] Judea; which was then an Enemies country, and went as far as the Balsam trees near Jericho: For so does Pliny directly inform us,3 that tho’ “this Tree was peculiar to Judea [nay, indeed, it was peculiar to that Part of Judea,] yet as this Alexander made War there, a Trial was made of the Quantity of Balsam that distill’d from the Balsam-tree: And it was found that in a Summer’s Day, so much drop’d as filled a Concha.” Arrian also informs us,4 “That Alexander reduced that Part of Syria, which was called Palestine.”: And Curtius assures us,5 “That he himself went about, at this very Time, to those Cities which refused to submit to him.” All which Testimonies utterly overthrow Mr. Moyle’s Imaginatin, that Alexander the Great never was in those Parts of Judea, nor at Jerusalem at all. Upon this before he would attack the Capital of the Country, he wisely withdrew his Army first to possess himself of Gaza; that being Master of all the Frontier strong Holds, he might, with greater Advantage, attack Jerusalem it self. Then follows the Siege and Taking of Gaza: After which, Josephus’s Account of Alexander’s meeting the High Priest at Jerusalem follows, in these Words: Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem. And Jaddus, the High Priest, when he heard that, was in an Agony, and under Terror; as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the King was displeased at high foregoing Disobedience. He therefore ordained, that the People should make Supplications, and should join with him in offering Sarifice to God; whom he besought to protect that Nation; and to deliver them from the Perils that were coming upon them. Whereupon God warned him in a Dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that “He should take Courage, and adorn the City, and open the Gates; That the Rest should appear in white Garments; but that He and the Priests should meet the King in the Habits proper to their Order, without the Dread of any ill Consequences; which the Providence of God would prevent.” Upon which, when he arose from Sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all, the Warning he had received from God. According to which Warning, in his Dream, he acted intirely: And so waited for the Coming of the King.

And when he understood, that he was not far from the City, he went out in Procession, with the Priests, and the Multitude of the Citizens. The Procession was venerable, and the Manner of it different from that of other Nations: It reached to a Place called Sapha; which name, translated into Greek, signifies a Prospect; for you have thence a Prospect both of Jerusalem and of the Temple. And when the Phœnecians, and the Chaldeans [Citheans] that followed him, thought they should have Liberty to plunder the City and torment the High Priest to Death; which the King’s Displeasure fairly promised them; the very reverse of it happened. For Alexander, when he saw the Multitude at a Distance, in white Garments; while the Priests stood clothed with fine Linnen; and the High Priest in Purple and scarlet Clothing, with his Miter on his Head, having the golden Plate, whereon the name of GOD was engraved; he approached by himself, and adored that Name, and first saluted the High Priest. The Jews also did altogether, with one Voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about: Whereupon the Kings of Syria, and the Rest, were surprized at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his Mind. However, Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him, How it came to pass, that when all others adored him, he should adore the High Priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but That God who has honoured him with his High Priesthood. For I saw this very Person, in a Dream, in this very Habit, when I was in Dio of Macedonia: Who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the Dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no Delay, but boldly to pass over the Sea thither; for that he would conduct my Army, and would give me the Dominion over the Persians. Whence it is, that having seen no other in that Habit, and now seeing this Person in it; and remembering that Vision and Exhortation which I had in my Dream, I believe that I bring this Army under the divine Conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the Power of the Persians: And that all Things will succeed according to what is in my own Mind.” And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the High Priest his right Hand; the Priests ran along by him, and he came into the City. And when he went up into the Temple, he offered Sacrifice to God, according to the High Priest’s Direction; and magnificently treated both the High Priest and the Priests. And when the Book of Daniel was shewed him,6 wherein David declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the Person intended: And as he was then glad, he dismissed the Multitude for the present: But the next Day he called them to him, and bid them ask whatsoever Boon they pleased of him: Whereupon the High Priest desired, that they might enjoy the Laws of their Forefathers; and might pay no Tribute on the seventh Year. He granted all they desired. And when they intreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own Laws also, he willingly promised hereafter to do what they desired. And when he said to the Multitude, that if any of them would list themselves in his Army, on this Condition, that they should continue under the Laws of their Forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his Wars. So when Alexander had settled Matters thus at Jerusalem, he led his Army into the neighbouring Cities: And when all the Inhabitants to whom he came, received him with great Kindness, the Samaritans, who had then Shecem for their Metropolis, (a City situate at Mount Gerizim, and inhabited by Apostates of the Jewish Nation;) seeing that Alexander had so greatly honoured the Jews, determined to profess themselves Jews. For such is the disposition of the Samaritans, as we have already elsewhere declared, that when the Jews are in Adversity, they deny that they are of Kin to them; and then they confess the Truth: But when they perceive that some good Fortune has befallen them, they immediately pretend to have Communion with them, saying, that they belong to them, and derive their Genealogy from the Posterity of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Accordingly they made their Address to the King, with Splendor, and shewed great Alacrity in meeting him, at a little Distance from Jerusalem. And when Alexander had commended them, the Shechemites approached to him, taking along with them the Troops that Sanballat had sent him; and they desired that he would come to their City, and do honour to their Temple also. To whom he promised, that when he returned he would come to them. And when they petitioned, that he would remit the Tribute of the seventh Year to them, because they did not sow thereon, He asked, who they were that made such a Petition? And when they said, that they were Hebrews, but had the Name of Sidonians, living at Shecem: He asked them again, Whether they were Jews? And when they said they were not Jews: It was to the Jews, said he, that I granted that Priviledge. However, when I return, and am thoroughly informed by you [of this Matter,] I will do what I shall think proper. And in this Manner he took leave of the Shecemites; but ordered that the Troops of Sanballat should follow him into Egypt, because there he designed to give them Lands; which he did a little after, in Thebais, when he ordered them to guard that Countrey.



The Jewish Nation7 was so preserved by the divine Power, that they did not undergo any Affliction, even under Alexander, the Macedonian, nor by him; altho’ they would not take up Arms against Darius, on Account of certain Leagues and Oaths, [by which they were bound to him.] Then it was, they say, that the High Priest of the Jewws, as he was clothed with his sacerdtal Garment, was ador’d by Alexander: Who said, that a Person was seen by him in that very Habit, who promised, in a Dream, to subdue Asia to him.



as given us by his Translator Jerom.

Alexander, when he had taken Tyre, invaded Judea; where when he was favourably received, he offered Sacrifices to God, and paid great Honoours to the High Priest of the Temple: Leaving Andromachus as Governor of those Parts, who was afterward slain by the Samaritans. Upon which Alexander, when he returned out of Egypt, inflicted great Punishments upon them and their City [Samaria,] and gave it to Macedonians to inhabit.

N.B. This whole History is attested to by the Jews, in their Talmud, and by Josephus, Ben Gorion, and the modern Rabbins. Nor does it appear, that any authors Record ever contradicted it: Only, the Heathen Writers of the Acts and Life of Alexander the Great: I mean, Curtius, Diodorus, Arrian, and Plutarch, but all of them some Centuries after Alexander, omit the distinct Account of his Actions in Judea; (where, yet that he was, Eusebius, Arrian, and Pliny do fully asure us, as we have seen:) and so they had not, by the Nature of their Design, the Opportunity, to give us an Account of this History, which happened in that Country.



From the

Foregoing EVIDENCE.

I. The Records which Josephus ever followed in his Accounts of the Jews, were no other than their own Hebrew, Authentick, and Sacred Books: Those written by the Prophets, during the Continuation of the Succession of Prophets among them, or till Artaxerxes Longimanus; and those written by the most authentick Authors of their Nation, all along afterward; which he assures us were constantly continued: such, I mean, as the first book of Macabees, still extant: the Chronicle of the High Priesthood by John Hyrcanus, mentioned at the End of the former, and others now lost; but all original and authentick. So that we have not here properly Josephus for our original Historian, but for our later Abridger of such ancient Histories, as were ever esteemed by that Nation, not only true, but, in a proper Sense, sacred also. And how fair, impartial, and exact, Josephus used to be in the Compiling of his Abridgments, about these Times in particular, any one may easily find, by comparing his Abridgment of the first Book of Macabees with the Book itself, which is extant at this Day.

II. The Time of the Year when Alexander was at Jericho, in this Account from Eusebius, exactly agrees with Pliny: for Tyre was taken on or about July 24, (the same with our July 9 now,)8 and it was a Summer’s Day when the Trial of the Dropping of the Balsam tree was made for Alexander, in Pliny: Which Exactness of Coincidence confirms the Truth of the intire Relation.

III. That a solemn Procession of Kings or Princes of several Countries to meet Alexander, as is here mentioned, was not unusual, is directly affirmed by Justin,9 from Trogus Pompeius: Whose Words are these, of this his Expedition into Syria, which included Palestine. “Alexander had many Eastern Kings that met him in their sacred Formalities.” Of which we have, I think, no Eample particularly recorded but this before us; to which, therefore ’tis not improbable that Trogus had an especial regard.

IV. The intire Change that was made at this exact Juncture, in the Conduct of the Jewish High Priest, and Jewish Nation, directly implies some such divine Warrant as this Vision and Admonition of the High Priest contain, and can no otherwise be reconciled. Just before this the Jews did not fight against Darius, though under violent Temptation, on Account of their Oath to him. Now they go, without Scruple, into that very Army which had twice conquered Darius’s Forces already, and was going to take the Rest of his Dominions from him; which shews that they had now what they esteemed a divine Warrant for what otherwise they esteemed utterly unlawful. And tho’ Politicians of other Nations, and other Notions, may imagine, this might be soon brought about by political Methods, even among the Jews; yet those that observe the unmovable Steadiness of that Nation, about those Ages, in all such Matters; and the violent Persecutions which they underwent rather than break what they esteemed t be Divine Laws; particularly when the very next Year they refused to carry off, at the Command of Alexander, the Rubbish at Babylon, in order to prepare the Way for the Rebuilding the Temple of Belus, tho’ they suffered greatly for such Refusal,10 will not easily solve this surprizing Change, without the Supposal of the Truth of the foregoing History.

V. The intire Change that was made at the very same Juncture, in the Conduct of Alexander the Great, with relation to the Jews, directly implies the intervention of such a Divine Dream or Vision, as Alexander relates in this History; and cannot otherwise be accounted for. He comes with a victorious Army, full of Anger against these Jews, and is ready to revenge the Affront they had of late offered him, by their Message to Tyre, that they would not fight against his Enemy Darius. He, in a Day or two, goes away with the greatest Love and Kindness for these Jews; permits them to live by their ancient Laws; forgives them the Tribute of the Sabbatical Year; and readily invites their People to fight for him, as his Allies, without entrenching the least upon their Consciences: Which Friendship became immediately so great, that the very next Year he gave them equal Priviledges, at his own new built City Alexandria, with the Macedonians themselves:11 Which Friendship, is also well known, to have continued under his Egyptian Successors for a long Time afterward. This shews, that somewhat extraordinary had interven’d. And since Alexander’s Conduct did sometimes depend upon those Dreams and Visions, he had on other Occasions, as Plutarch fully informs us,12 we have not the least Reason to doubt, but this mighty Change did here also depend on that Divine Dream or Vision, which he here describes, as having happened to him at Dio in Macedonia.

VI. What is here related of the High Priest’s shewing Alexander the Founder of the Grecian Monarchy, the book of Daniel; and in particular, those remarkable Prophecies therein, which evidently belong to him, and to no other Person, is so like to what the famous Founder of the Persian Monarchy Cyrus, was shewed out of the Prophet Isaiah, as Josephus informs us, and as Cyrus’s wn Decree for the Restoration of the two Tribes, in all our Copies of the Bible, strongly attest, that it is no small Confirmation of the Truth of it. Nor is the amazing Progress of the Arms of Alexander and the incredible Swiftness of his Conquests, foretold by the Prophet Daniel, as above cited, to be any otherwise solved, but by the supernatural Conduct of that Messiah, whom Alexander saw, in the High Priest’s Habit, at Di in Macedonia; and his irresistible, tho’ invisible Assistance of him, in this his wonderful Expedition.

VII. That Alexander should go up to the Jewish Temple, and offer Sacrifices there, as we are here informed, is exactly agreeable to this Alexander’s usual Method, on the like Occasions; as an old Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius informs us: Who accordingly Observes, that when he was at old Troy, in particular, he went and offered Sacrifices to the Trojan gods. Scaliger well observes this in his Animadversion on the present History, as it stands in Eusebius’s Chronicon. And Instances of the like, in the History of Alexander, are obvious.

VIII. The Case of the Samaritans here set down, how they had sent 8000 Auxiliaries to Alexander, and this at a Time, when the Jews refused it; and were yet but coldly dismiss’d by Alexander at last, when the Jews that came in to him later, were taken into his immediate Patronage, does also presently confirm this Account, of some extraordinary Providence on Behalf of the Jews, which the Samaritans had no Concern in.

IX. But, What is told us by Q. Curtius,13 concerning these Samaritans, the very next Year, is almost a Demonstration of the Truth of the Accounts before us. They were sent away here, with an unsatisfactory Answer by alexander, about the Remission of the Tribute of the Sabbatical Year: which they had petitioned for, and which Petition had been readily granted to the Jews: The next Year to this before us, was a Sabbatical Year; when of course the Governor of Syria, for Alexander, would demand the usual Tribute of the Samaritans, who yet had first assisted Alexander; when he would not demand it of the jews, who came in to him later; according to the different Purport of Alexander’s Answers to them respectively. This would naturally provoke the Samaritans. Nor can I devise any other Occasion for that bitter Rage of the Samaritans, which, as Curtius informs us, induced them the very next Year to burn Andromachus, Alexander’s Governor of Syria, alive. This Circumstance, not hitherto, I think, taken Notice of by any on this occasion, seems to me strongly to confirm the Truth of this whole History; and highly to deserve the Consideration of the Reader.

N.B. As to the proper Objections produced by Mr. Moyle against the Truth of this History, I find but two. The first is this, That the High Priest is here absurdly said to beg for the Favor of Alexander to their Brethren the Jews, in Media and Babylonia, and he to grant it, before he had conquered those Countries. But, certainly, this Petition and Answer are so far from an Objection against this History, that they are the natural Results of what Alexander expected from his Vision at Dio, and the Jews from the High Priest’s Vision at Jerusalem, and both from the Prophecy of Daniel; without any Absurdity at all. The second Objection is, that the Chaldeans are here mentioned among the Troops of Alexander, when he approached Jerusalem; whereas he had not yet reached Chaldea, much less could he have raised thence any Soliders at this time. But then, the whole Coherence so clearly shews, that Schotanus, and Bishop Lloyd’s Emendation of χυϑάιους for χαλδαιους,14 The Cutheans, for the Chaldeans is right, and that Josephus meant that both the Phœnicians and Samaritans were then in the Army, that this Objection is hardly worth mentioning. Those who will set aside intire Histories on Account of the mispelling of a Name, or mistaking a Number in our present copies of ancient Books, must leave off all Dependance on ancient Books, and must, with some of our modern Free-Thinkers, make ancient Histories out of their own Brains, and at length resolve to belive no ancient Histories whatsoever. And how far, even our learned and lively Mr. Moyle is advanced towards this modern Way, of Supposals and Imaginations; groundless Supposals and vain Imaginations; instead of authentick and original Histories themselves, may well deserve to be consider’d.

N.B. As to what seems to be extraordinary and providential in this Account, those who are mainly conversant in Gentile Histories, of Gentile Emppires, especially those that are modern, may think it is a great Objection against its reality: But those who are mainly conversant either in Jewish or Heathen ancient Histories of the Jewish Nation, will look on it as a Mark of Credibility. What is, in a particular Manner, extraordinary, providential, or miraculous, was more rare in Gentile Nations; but was very common in the Nation of the Jews: And this from the Days of Abraham, to the Days of Josephus himself: as their intire Histories, Canonical, Apocryphal, Sacred, and Profane, unanimously agree. God ever governed the idolatrous Gentile World by inferior Angels; and, to Appearance, it was, generally, according to a settled regular Course of natural and political Measures: But he always governed the Jews by the Messiah himself; and almost constantly with an uncommon, a providential, a divine and a miraculous Conduct. I mean this, till they had intolerably corrupted themselves, and slain their Messiah: Upon which, inded, he seems to have abandoned them, rather more than he abandoned the idolatrous Heathen Nations themselves. This Objection, therefore, is not so much level’d at this particular History of Josephus, as at the intire History of the Jewish Nation: Which yet is every Way too well supported to be at all shaken by such a negative Argument, as the bare Omission of one History by a few later Heathen Historians, can amount to. The Jews had certainly a great and eminent Deliverance at this time. Whence came this great and eminent Deliverance? If we judge by the intire History of the Jewish Nation, we shall expect it to have been after some extraordinary and providential Manner. The Jewish Records say, it really was so, and give us the particular Account of it. The Heathen Records say nothing at all, directly, either against or about it. What other imaginable Reason then can there be in this Case, to deny those Jewish Accounts, but a violent Inclination that they may not be true? With which dernier Resort, or violent Inclination, I confess, I can by no Means cope in any such Case whatsoever. To consider this whole relation of Josephus’s as a Religious Romance, with Mr. Moyle; or to say, with another greater Man, as he quotes him, that the Jews of those times were much addicted to such Religious Romances, when not one such Instance has, I think, ever been proved upon them, is with me no better than Folly, Credulity, and Enthusiasm.

But then, as to Mr. Moyle’s Hasty Enquiry, as he justly calls it, [and as Hasty Determination] against the Being of the Christian Churches, till after the Middle of the third Century; See, Mr. Mede's Discourses, Vol. I. p. 405–431. where that Matter is treated of with much greater Learning and Accuracy; and it is made very plain, that the Christians had Churches from the first Settlements of Christianity. And it is a little strange, that Mr. Moyle should not have perused that excellent and well known Discourse, before he wrote upon this Argument.

N.B. I have said nothing hitherto about the Apostolical Constitutions, about the Histories of Agbarus, and of Simon Magus, about the [Old] Sibylline Oracles, or about Josephus’s Testimony concerning Christ; which Mr. Moyle, without any new Examination, exposes as ancient Cheats and Forgeries of the Primitive Christians: All which ancient Records, upon the fullest Examination, I still very believe to be genuine. And the truly Learned ought not to treat them any longer as spurious, till some of them have the Courage to answer those strong Arguments I have produced on their behalf. Let such Tenents be first really in the Beam of Questions, in the Words of the excellent Mr. Wollaston: And then, let the original Evidence be all heard, and all weighed; and at last let the heavier Scale be ever fairly suffered to Prependerate.

May 20th, 1726. Will. Whiston.


1 Joseph. Antiq. XI.8.

2 Euseb. Chron.

3 Nat. Hist. XII.25. [54]

4 [The Anabasis of Alexander/Book II/Chapter XXV - Wikisource, the free online library]

5 iv.19.

6 Dan. 7:6. 8:3-8, 20-22. 11:3.

7 Origen Contr. Cels. V. p. 265. [V.50].

8 Uss. Annal. A.M. 3672.

9 Just. XI.10.

10 Joseph. Contr. Apion. I.

11 Joseph de Bell. II.36. [II.18.7] Contr. Apion II.

12 In Alexand. [for instance, 4 ff.]

13 IV.21. [IV.8.10]

14 Apud Huds. in loc.