The question of the origin of the “table of contents” and related practices in antiquity (when they began to be used, how they entered the manuscript tradition, and whether they are authorial or not in any particular case) is an involved one. There is an excellent paper by Roger Pearse providing some notes on the subject. On the question of the origin of the summaries found at the beginning of the books in Josephus’ Antiquities, some circumspect notes are offered by Joseph Sievers (“The Ancient Lists of Contents of Josephus’ Antiquities” in Studies in Josephus and the Varieties of Ancient Judaism, pp. 290-291).
1. “The author of the argumenta is ‘ostensibly’ Jewish, as Thackeray remarked. Abraham is called ‘our’ forefather (Ant. 1 #vii; cf. Ant. 1.158); ‘our’ people served the Moabites (Ant. 5 #v); Demetrius presented gifts to ‘our’ people (Ant. 13 #iv).”
2. “Christians took great interest in the Antiquities and were early on, from the third century at the latest, involved in their textual transmission. The fact that the argumenta show no Christian influence suggests an early date.”
3. “A terminus ante quem for the argumenta of the Antiquities is their Latin translation commissioned by Cassiodorus (c. 490–c. 583 C.E.), for the Latin argumenta, attested in relatively early manuscripts, agree on the whole with the Greek ones.”
4. “Nodet’s suggestion that the argumenta constituted Josephus’ outline before he wrote the Antiquities seems to be a brilliant solution to the striking inconsistencies between argumenta and text of the work. In support of his hypothesis one may adduce that they are at times closer to the content and wording of the War than of the Antiquities, and sometimes mix elements from both works.”
5. “Yet, there are other indicators that suggest that, as in the case of other ancient authors, the argumenta were provided for the benefit of the reader and are not fortuitous remains of the author’s outline. (see Ant. 1 #vii; 13 #i).”
6. “In some instances, the argumenta reflect use of a text of the Antiquities similar to the one known to us (see especially Ant. 14 #xxxvii and 15# 1; 15 #2). It does not appear feasible to assign just these sections to a later redactor.”
7. “Thus, the author of the argumenta seems to have known different (but not all) sources and stages of composition of the Antiquities, had a fair acquaintance with Jerusalem topography (Ant. 14 ##i, xii), and had a less than perfect knowledge of the geography of Greece and/or Roman history (Ant. 14 #xxii). Whether he knew the Histories of Nicolaus of Damascus (a principal source for both the War and the Antiquities) seems an intriguing but hard-to-verify possibility.”
8. “If it is hard to see the argumenta as Josephus’ own composition, Gutschmid’s suggestion of a ‘servus litteratus’ (or Thackeray’s ‘assistant’) does not seem as farfetched as it had appeared to me when I began my research for this paper.”
With these observations in mind, we turn to the subject of the table of contents of Antiquities, book 18.