May 212015


While not nearly as much ink has been spilled over the reference to John the Baptist found in Antiquities 18.116-119 (Whiston’s chapter 18.5.2), when compared to the case of the Testimonium to Jesus, there is still a debate to be found in the literature over the authenticity of the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus’ text. Several have ventured to postulate that the passage on John the Baptist, as well as the passage on Jesus, represents an interpolation. The arguments have not been surveyed and discussed as frequently as they should be.

One of the people to argue for interpolation in recent years has been Frank Zindler, whose reasons were summarized by Neil Godfrey. Another argument (in “Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation?”) has been made by Rivka Nir, which has been mentioned by Godfrey and McGrath. There is an older discussion in English from Israel Abrahams, referencing scholars such as Gerlach and Graetz. Robert Price considers an argument for inauthenticity, which is discussed by Maurice Casey. One of the more-detailed presentations, recently, pro-authenticity, can be found by Robert Webb. A review of arguments for authenticity (in an essay sub-titled “The Uncertain Authenticity of Josephus’ Witness to John the Baptist”) has been published by Clare Rothschild. There are also threads from the old Biblical Criticism & History forum from Andrew Criddle (who noted the point I made here in 2005), Toto (on Rivka Nir), ApostateAbe (on Robert Price), and PhilosopherJay (in favor of interpolation).

According to Clare Rothschild:

Unlike the study of its Christian counterparts about Jesus (A. J. 18.63-64, the so-called Testimonium Flavianum) and James (A.J. 20, 197-203), the authenticity of Josephus’ excerpt about John is hardly debated. Without demur, theologians and historians alike rely on this passage for reconstructions of John’s life.

Let’s debate it then.

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May 072015

Gesta_Theodorici_-_Flavius_Magnus_Aurelius_Cassiodorus_(c_485_-_c_580)In a previous post on The Quotable Josephus, we’ve seen that Josephus was frequently used as a source for quotation (including quotation by way of Eusebius, who himself quotes the Jewish historian). In a post on Eusebius, Rufinus, and the Latin Antiquities, we saw (in agreement with Whealey and Levenson-Martin) that the Latin translation of the Antiquities created under the supervision of Cassiodorus made use of quotations from Josephus, by way of Eusebius, based on the Latin translation of Eusebius made earlier by Rufinus. In particular, a hypothesis was considered according to which the quotations from Josephus by Eusebius, in Rufinus’ Latin translation, came to the Latin Antiquities of Cassiodorus from a set of extracts of Josephus in Latin that were already made out of the Latin translation of Eusebius.

In another post on Jesus, John, and James in the Latin Table of Contents to Josephus, an argument was considered towards the probability of the conclusion that, unlike John the Baptist, Jesus was not originally mentioned in the Latin table of contents to the Antiquities.

Here’s a closer look at the passages from the Latin Antiquities based on the Latin translation of Eusebius.

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May 052015
Opera quae extant omnia :  nempe, Antiquitatum Judaicarum libri XX Sigismundo Gelenio interprete, De bello Judaico libri VII interprete Rufino Aquilejensi, Liber de vita sua cum interpretatione Gelenii, Adversus Apionem libri II cum versione antiqua ˆ Gelenio emendata, & De Maccabaeis seu de imperio rationis liber cum paraphrasi Erasmi Roterodami : accedit index locupletissimus : juxta editionem Graeco-Latinam Genevensem ad manuscriptos Palatinae bibliothecae codices castigatam quae nunc ˆ pluribus mendis expurgata & praeterea prolegomenis & appendice auctior redditur. by Josephus, Flavius*

Josephus’ Antiquities, Greek and Latin

In their article on “The Latin Translations of Josephus on Jesus, John the Baptist, and James” (Journal for the Study of Judaism 45, pp. 1-79), Levenson and Martin discuss the fact that four passages quoted from Josephus by Eusebius in the Latin translation of Rufinus appear with very similar wording in the Latin translation of the Antiquities conducted later under Cassiodorus (the passages on Jesus, the one on John, and two others, which mention high priests, including Caiaphas, and the death of Herod the Great). They write:

“In the Testimonium, LAJ makes only two minor stylistic changes in Rufinus’ text (et in place of –que and gentibus for gentilibus). LAJ ’s decision to reproduce Rufinus’ version of the Testimonium so precisely and the lack of any significant textual variation in the manuscript tradition of the Testimonium in LAJ might reflect a special regard for the exact wording of this passage. However, it should be noted that LAJ clearly depends on Rufinus in two other cases (AJ 17.168-170/HE 1.8.6-8 and AJ 18.34-35/HE 1.10.5). In the seven other extended AJ passages quoted by Eusebius there is no significant verbal overlap between LAJ and Rufinus.” (p. 58)

This post offers some quantitative analysis that confirms these conclusions. It goes on to ask why some passages in the sixth century translation of Josephus’ Antiquities into Latin might show this very significant verbal overlap, indicating use of the Latin text of the quotes of Josephus in the translation of Eusebius made by Rufinus, while others do not.

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May 022015

250px-Josephus_flavius,_english_1602The works of Josephus did not survive only in complete editions of his books. Between the fact that Josephus was (and remains) eminently quotable, particularly for his relevance to the times of the New Testament, and the fact that his works were voluminous, there was often occasion for excerpts to be made from his texts.

Excerpta (or florilegia) were a common form of (subliterary) writing activity, from antiquity, through the medieval period, and into modernity. Extracts were made for personal use, in preparation for one’s own composition, for straight quotation or adaptation in other works, and even for publication in their own right. As Goldberg’s helpful web page on the New Testament Parallels to the Works of Josephus illustrates, Josephus is particularly well-suited for this kind of anthologizing.

Thackeray used two texts with extensive excerpts when editing Josephus for the Loeb edition: the Excerpta Peiresciana (excerpts “made by order of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, cent. x.”) and an epitome “E,” which was, “used by Zonaras, and conjectured by Niese to have been made in cent, x or xi.”

There are, however, many more manuscripts with excerpts from Josephus also known to us.

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