Frequently Asked Questions
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Josephus in America
What are your credentials?
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the name "Josephus" pronounced?
Mr. Goldberg, what is the correct (or anyway most generally accepted)
pronunciation of Josephus?
JO zeh fus?
Jo ZEFF us?
Jo ZEE fus?
The pronunciation most favored in America seems to be jo-SEE-fus. Other
modern languages pronounce it differently. The way Josephus rendered his
name in Greek is pronounced something like YO-see-pus. That's a rendering
of his original Hebrew name of Yosef.
Where does Josephus tell the story of Masada?
I am trying to find the full
text of a quote which appeared in a guide book.
The quote was attributed to
Eleazer Ben Yair at Masada and is quoted in Josephus' book XII, Wars of
the Jews. Part of the quote is...
"We decided a long time ago,
brave soldiers that we are, not to be the
slaves of the Romans or of any
person other than God: For He alone is the
true and just master of men"
I would be very grateful for
The story of Masada, including the moving speech
of Eleazar, is found in Book 7, Chapter 8 of The Jewish War. The speech
is found in Paragraph 6 of that chapter. Thanks for asking!
Does Josephus describe Jesus' physical appearance?
I have been told by an
agnostic friend that Josephus described Jesus as a
hunchback, and have found
references to this on the web today:
Is there any basis
to this? Is this Ninth Century Slovakian manuscript of Josephus an anomaly?
By the way, I found
your website very informative.
(I believe my friend got
his information from a book called, "A Pagans' Guide to World Religions.")
Dear Mr. Norris,
Thanks for calling my attention to these web sites. They are not
accurate. There is an eighth-century document written by Andreas
Hierosolymitanus, Archbishop of Crete, which quotes Josephus in the
"But moreover the Jew Josephus in like manner narrates that the
was seen having meeting eyebrows, goodly eyes, long-faced, crooked,
This is quoted in Robert Eisler's book, "The Messiah Jesus" (1931),
the start of Chapter 15.
The word "crooked" used here is a translation of the Greek
"crooked, bent over." It could
However, note this passage is simply attributed to Josephus by
someone else; it does not appear in any manuscript of Josephus known
to us; nor is
it plausibly by Josephus, who almost never gives physical descriptions
people, only doing so when the information is essential to his story.
is highly unlikely Josephus would have considered Jesus' appearance
to the essential facts about him. Nor do the many authors who quote
on Jesus prior to the eighth century, particularly Eusebius, say anything
about this passage. So there is no reason to take it as authentic.
Nonetheless, Robert Eisler, who had an overactive imagination
about many things, decided to take it
as genuine, and invented his own "original"
Josephus passage that he thinks the quotation was drawn from. It is
this invention of Eisler's which is quoted
on the first web site you list.
Otherwise, though, the idea that Jesus was unattractive and possibly
seems not to have been uncommon in the early Christian church -- see Tertullian,
Against Marcion iii. 17
-- and was associated
with Isaiah 52:14 and other passages the first web site
Thanks for the question. I'm glad you find my site informative.
The Messiah Jesus and
John the Baptist by Robert Eisler, translated by Alexander Haggerty
Krappe (Methuen, London, 1931)
of Classical Greek (Oxford University Press, 1995); on-line version
available at the
What are the oldest manuscripts we have of Josephus' works?
Josephus write the "Discourse on Hades?"
manuscripts of the works of Josephus in their original language of Greek
date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Portions of the works are also
quoted in earlier manuscripts by other authors, particularly Eusebius (fourth
century). There are also versions in other languages, notably a Latin translation
made about the fifth century. These are all codexes, bound books, not scrolls.
As with all ancient texts, variations appear among the manuscripts
due to inaccuracies in copying. The two manuscripts considered to have
the best texts for the Jewish War are the Codex Parisinus Graecus
and the Codex Ambrosianus, both dating from circa 900-1000 CE. The Jewish
of its length, was transmitted in two parts; the best texts for the first
Books 1 to 10) are Codex Regius Parisinus (fourteenth century) and Codex
Oxoniensis (fifteenth century); the best texts for the second half (Antiquities
Books 11 to 20) are Codex Palatinus (ninth or tenth century) and Codex
Ambrosianus; the latter are also the preferred authorities for the Life
. The only manuscript for Against Apion is Codex Laurentius, from
the eleventh century, which has a large gap in Book II that must be filled
by the old Latin version.
Numerous translations of these manuscripts have appeared over
the years, and exploded in number after the invention of the printing press;
the first printed edition dates from 1470. An important printed Greek edition,
now called the Editio Princeps, was published by Johannes Froben in Basel
in 1544, which seems to use a manuscript different from those known. Using
the oldest manuscripts to try to determine the original text, Benedict
Niese from 1887 to 1889 published a six volume Greek edition with full
notes as to the variant readings; this is the text used for the English
translations of both the Loeb Library edition and the new Brill Josephus
Project, although the translators at times prefer alternate readings as
the best ones against Niese's choices. The very popular Whiston translation,
first published in 1737, is unfortunately not based on as fine a text,
and so careful readers will find differences between the Whiston version
and more modern translations.
The Jewish War, Books
I-II, Introduction to the Loeb Edition by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge,
Books I-IV, Introduction to the Loeb Edition by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge,
Books IX-XI, Prefatory Note to the Loeb Edition by Ralph Marcus (Cambridge,
The Brill Josephus
Project, Series Preface by Steve Mason (appearing in each volume) (Leiden,
und textkritishe Untersuchungen zu Flavius Josephus, Heinz Schreckenberg
(Leiden, Brill, 1977)
Could Luke and Josephus both be right about Lysanias, Tetrach of Abilene?
Do you have
any information on the current thinking on the provenance of "An Extract Out
of Josephus' Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades," found in Whiston's
translation? Clearly, it has been emended by Christians here and there, but
is it currently thought that it is based on something originally by Josephus,
or that it reflects Jewish thinking
of the 1st
century A.D.? I am especially interested in the assertion in the extract
that the "bosom of Abraham" is the Jewish name for a region of Hades where
the righteous dwell, as Christian interpreters of the parable of the rich
man and Lazarus have generally assumed, without reason, that this referred
I look forward
to hearing from you.
-- Ed Christian,
Dear Dr. Christian,
It is now known that the "Discourse on Hades" was incorrectly
attributed to Josephus by the 9th-century Greek theologian Photius. Photius
was only speculating about its authorship, but the attribution stuck for a
thousand years. Finally it was discovered that this discourse is in fact an
excerpt from a work by Hippolytus of Rome (d. 236 CE), "Against the Greeks
and Plato on the Universe." This work of Hippolytus is available on-line at
where it is called "Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe."
Thanks for your question.
More from Dr. Christian
Wow! Thanks very much for finding this for me. [...]
I spent yesterday in a seminary library doing more work on this. A paper
has in fact been published on what Hippolytus owes to Josephus, but it wasn't
available in that library and I don't have the citation anymore. However,
I did find out a lot more about the piece on Hades, how it came to be attributed
to Josephus, and why it is now almost universally attributed to Hippolytus.
During the Renaissance a large seated statue of Hippolytus was found, in
two pieces, above the catacomb where Hippolytus was supposedly buried. How
did they know it was him? On the back was a list of books by this person,
and around the base the dates for Easter for 200 years, beginning around 225
A.D. The list is very similar to the list in Eusebius (who devotes about a
paragraph to Hippolytus), but had more books. Among those listed was the Refutation
of All Heresies and On the Essence [or Cause] of the Universe. So they figured
out it was Hippolytus, by way of reading Eusebius, but all they had by Hippolytus
were fragments, quotes.
The first book of the Refutation was known, but attributed to someone else.
In the 1840s books 4-10 of the Refutation were discovered, again attributed
to someone else, but when they were read, there was so much autobiographical
information in them that it became clear they were by Hippolytus. This discovery
is said to have doubled what historians knew of the Roman church in the early
3rd century. In it the author refers to his book "On the Essence of the Universe."
So they are by the same person, Hippolytus.
When Whiston translated Josephus, the fragment of "On the Essence of the
Universe" was available in, what, four Greek manuscripts? Whiston brings them
together in his book. So why did he attribute this to Josephus? Because at
the top of one or more of these manuscripts (copies of copies of copies, of
course), it is attributed to "Iosepe" (Greek). Why? Who knows? Probably someone
guessed. Maybe someone noticed certain similarities between what Hippolytus
and Josephus wrote on the Pharisees. One suggestion is that the text originally
used a contracted version of Hippolytus that couldn't be read because he
had been virtually forgotten (remember that he lived in Rome but wrote in
Greek and was not too popular because he was the first "antipope").
In 1947 a French scholar wrote a book proposing that the Refutation was
written not by Hippolytus but by "Josipe" (French for Iosepe or Josephus).
Not Josephus the Jewish historian, but an otherwise unknown Josipe. However,
this was universally denied by church historians. Since then both the Refutation
and "On the Essence of the Universe" have been attributed to Hippolytus,
just as they are in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5 (which is the source
of the web site to which you sent me).
The best source I've found is David Dunbar, "The Problem of Hippolytus of
Rome: A study in Historical-Critical Reconstruction," Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 25/1 (March 1982): 63-74. The translator of the Ante-Nicence
Fathers does have a short essay on the text and who Hippolytus was, but I
don't know if it's on the web. The "Josephus on Hades" piece is in Ante-Nicene
Fathers, vol. 5, pp. 221-223.
Thanks again for your help.
Gary (if I may presume)
Nice site with
lots of good info on Josephus. However, I do have one question about
an apparent contradiction between Josephus and Luke with respect to Lysanias,
tetrarch of Abilene. [See
New Testament Parallels, "The Fifteenth Year of Tiberius"
] You say that Luke is apparently confused and that this is no evidence
of a Lysanias in the time that Luke says there is one - there is only the
earlier Lysanias who was killed by Marc Antony (about 36 BC I think).
However, I have
read in a number of sources that that is incorrect. An inscription
has been found dating from 15-30AD indicating that a temple was built and
dedicated by a "freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch". This
would indicate that there was another Lysanias, ruler of Abilene, at the
time Luke said there was.
inscription (assuming of course that my source is quoting it correctly).
the salvation of the Lords Imperial and their whole household, by Nymphaeus,
a freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch."
If correct, this
would seem to indicate there was another Lysanias, named as tetrarch of
Abilene. My understanding, limited as it is is that the "Lords Imperial"
or "Sebastoi" was used for the first time to describe Tiberius and his mother
Livia - this is why at least some scholars (I don't know what the majority
opinion is I admit) believe this means Luke's Lysanias existed during the
time of Tiberius, since Luke starts off with dating his events by the reign
Are you aware
of this? Or are my other sources all wet?
What is your
perspective on this? Thanks.
Thanks for the compliment on my site. There are arguments
that Luke is not mistaken on Lysanius (and on other points), and I probably
could give them more of discussion on my site. My focus is really on the
conflicts between Luke and Josephus, and not on making a judgment about
Luke, although it might not always come off that way. In the matter of Lysanias,
the two do conflict, as Josephus clearly gives the impression that there
was only one ruler of that name.
The argument involving the inscription you mention is given
by Emil Schurer in The History of the Jewish People, Volume 1, Appendix
2. There is a summary of the argument available on the internet in the New
Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/) in
the article on Luke.
Two copies of the inscription were found at Suk, not
far from Damascus, which has been identified with one of the towns called
Abila. Schurer quotes the inscription, which was published in Revue
Biblique in 1912 (p. 533ff), as follows:
Huper tes ton kurion Se[baston]
soterias kai tou sum[pantos]
auton oikou, Numphaios Ae[tou]
Lusaniou tetrarchou apele[utheros]
ten odon ktisas k.t.l.
This could be translated, "For the salvation of the August lords and of
all their household, Nymphaios freedman of Eagle Lysanias tetrarch
established this street and other things." The square brackets, [ ],
indicate letters that do not appear in the inscription and have to be interpolated;
since this occurs at the ends of each of the first four lines, apparently
the right edge of this stone was lost. The crucial interpolation here is
(genitive plural of Augustus); if this is the correct reading,
then the argument can be applied that this term was not used prior to 14
CE, based on Tacitus,
Annals 1.8: "Tiberius and Livia were his [Augustus
Caesar's] heirs, and Livia was adopted into the Julian family with the name
'Augusta.'" Schurer notes that some other inscriptions have been found in
which Tiberias and Livia are called Sebastoi. Schurer states
"the correctness of the restoration Se[baston] is not in question", and while
a skeptic might suggest alternate restorations, I won't challenge him on
If the restoration and subsequent argument are accurate,
Nymphaios would have erected this monument some 50 years after the death of
the Lysanias described by Josephus. Schurer describes this as "hardly likely",
but it also seems hardly impossible; some prestige seems to have been attached
to the old name of Lysanias long after his death, which an old freedman could
have wished to be associated with still. It seems there is room here for
both sides of the argument.
The name Lysanias was something to be reckoned with,
as it adhered to parts of his former tetrarchy for a century after his death.
Lysanias' old area (or part of it) is still referred to as "the domain
of Lysanias" when leased by Zenodorus, even though they had been owned by
Cleopatra for fourteen years (Ant. 15.10.1-3 343 ff). Schurer
notes this phenomenon himself: even after Abila had been in the hands of Agrippa
I and II for many years, "the name of Lysanias clung to the place for
a long time. In Ptolemy V 14, 18, [c. 110 CE] Abila is still called
epikaloumene Lusaniou [Abila called 'of Lysanias'], presumably because
Lysanias not only possessed the city at one time, but founded it (cf. Caesarea
Philippi). " This same usage appears in Josephus, for there was
another town called Abila farther south, near Gadara, and Josephus distinguishes
the two by referring to the northerly one as the "Abila of Lysanias" (Ant.
Schurer also refers to the numismatic evidence, which
shows the presence of Josephus' Lysanias but none other. See "
A Coin of Lysanias
My personal opinion is still that Luke's text is suspicious:
identifying a ruler of tiny, distant Abila does not appear relevant to Jesus'
activities. For myself, the probability is that "Lysanias" here is ether a
corruption or a retrojection based on later knowledge of Philip's lands, and
if there did happen to really be a Lysanias in Abila at that time, then Luke's
text just hit it lucky.
- Gary Goldberg
Josephus in America
discovered that one of my ancestors, who was among the early
in Augusta County, Virginia, owned a copy of Josephus' works. In
a will dated
1805, he left "the works of Josephus" to his three surviving
you could help me with some questions I have about this.
would a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian in Western Virginia have
in Josephus in the first place (my ancestor apparently owned
a few other
books, but not many)? You mention on your website that Josephus
read in Europe. Do you know anything about who was reading him in
days of the American republic and why? Can you point me to any
of information on this?
I assume he would have owned the Whiston translation, but I would
know more about early editions of this work, especially those printed
Can you help me here?
any assistance you can give me.
Dear Mr. Miller,
I did not have much information about how Josephus was regarded
in early America, so I did some research on the subject. Perhaps a reader
of my web site will be able to tell us more.
First, your ancestor would have been interested in Josephus for
the same reason he has been honored by Christians for centuries: his works
are the only detailed source of information about the Judea of Jesus' times.
The first copies of Josephus in America would have been the various
translations printed in England and Scotland. In fact, Thomas Jefferson
owned the complete set of Josephus' works, in the first edition of Whiston's
1737 translation, printed in London. That copy is now in the Library of
Congress; a photo and description can be seen at
Heinz Schreckenberg, the prominent bibliographer of Josephus studies,
lists numerous editions of Josephus published in America itself starting
before the Revolutionary War. Since then, the works have been printed regularly
by numerous publishers to the present day. Early editions include: Sir
Roger L'Estrange's translation printed in 1773-1775 in Philadelphia and
New York; a 1791 edition of Maynard's translation published in New York
by Henderson; an edition of Whiston, 1794, in Worcester, Massachusetts
by Isaiah Thomas.
There were many editions of Josephus published in America throughout
the 19th century - thanks to the contribution of a kind reader of this
web site, I have an 1854 edition published in New York.
One can find old editions that were published in early America for
sale; these can be found on the internet at antiquarian booksellers such
as bibliofind.com. A quick search reveals an edition of the Wars for sale
published in Boston in 1826, in Baltimore in 1830, one published in Bellows
Falls Vermont in 1819; and this one close in time to your ancestor:
Ben Gorion, Josephus: Wonderful and Most Deplorable
History of the Latter times of the Jews: With the
Destruction of the city of Jerusalem ; Leominster, Mass.:
Adams & Wilder for Isaiah Thomas, Jun., 1803. Full-Leather,
Good-, 12mo - over 6¾" - 7¾" tall 305pp.
Scarce. Brown leather binding. Spine has gilt lettering
on red label; several gilt bands. Leather rubbed at all
edges. Paper is browned, especially at endpapers, and
there is some foxing. The last 12 or so leaves have a
waterstain at the bottom corner of the page. Owner's
name and book title on front endpaper (inscription dated
1810)., Judaica Religion (UR#:002652) Offered for sale
by Titcomb's Bookshop at US$295.00
Here's an even earlier one:
Josephus, Flavius: THE WHOLE GENUINE AND
COMPLETE WORKS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS ; William Durell
New York 1792, This is a folio size volume with 60 plates many
by American Artists and large folding map there in pieces.
With medium foxing throughout and some water stains.
Original leather covers with front cover severed from
body. Has a list of American subscribers at the end
that reads like a Who's Who. Several plates by Doolittle
and also Rollinson for the New York edition. Many other
artists. Major 18th Century American book. (UR#:005458)
Offered for sale by Joe's List at US$520.00
Bibliographie zu Flavius Josephus, Heinz Schreckenberg (Leiden, Brill,
From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of
, Abraham J. Karp, (DC, Library
, 1991), cited by
The Preface, by Hentry Stebbing, and the Foreword,
by Wm. S. La Sor, to The Complete Works of Josephus (Kregel
What are your credentials?
I'm quite impressed by the site you have created, and am considering having
my students take a look at it.
I did not see a statement about who you are and what your credentials
are. Have I missed that link somehow?
Thanks in advance for any information you might send.
I recently read your review and would like to know where you got your
information. I am writing a paper on the Bible and its comparisons
to other beliefs and would like to use your info but I need to know your
credentials. Thank you.
Concerning sources: The references from Josephus can
all be checked in the texts themselves from my given citations. I
always try to give my sources in my writing, except where I state that I
am summarizing various scholarly opinions. Otherwise, if there is no source,
then what I write are my own observations. That doesn't mean no one might
have had similar observations in the past, though.
As this is a pedagogical web site I do not give references
to all of the secondary literature related to a topic. This saves me a lot
of time. However, I try to direct readers to works for further reading;
page lists many important works.
As for credentials: I'm a private person interested in researching
and teaching Josephus, among other things. For what its worth, I have a Ph.D.
in Physics. I've studied Josephus for 15 years, being self-taught in Greek.
My discovery about the Testimonium was published in an academic journal,
as mentioned on my site, but generally I prefer to write for the internet.
I hope my site introduces people to Josephus and assists them in studying
him more closely. I try to be objective, to let the text speak for itself
, and avoid academic fashion, as much as possible.
- Gary Goldberg
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