The Texts of Josephus’ Antiquities

This article aims to establish the creation dates of the textual sources used for the Josephus’ Antiquities texts. I present the conclusion here; all the current MSS were created between the 9th (maybe 10th) and 15th centuries. This is some 700-1300 years after his death.

It was first printed in 1470 in Latin by Johann Schüssler in Augsburg. The first Greek print was in 1544.

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The fundamental MSS for the books are listed by their siglum, followed by the century in which they were allegedly written. MSS which have no details given at all are not listed.

Books 1-10

S, P. 11th c.

M. 13th c.

R, L. 14th c.

O. 15th c.

Books 11-20

P. 9th c., 10th c., *or 14th c.

A. 11th c.

L. 11th or 12th cc.

F, V, W. 14th c.

M. 15th c.

MS Contents

A. Ant. 11-20, Vita (with lacunae).

F. Ant. 1-15.

L. Ant. 11-15.

M. Ant. 11-20, Vita.

P. Ant. 11-17. Vita.

V. Ant. 3-15 (originally 1-15; there are lacunae in 13-15)

W. Ant. 11-20, War, and an epitome of Ant. 1-10

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On the Mentions of Jesus Christ

Book 18, Chapter 3, Sections 63-64, contains the Testimonium Flavianum.

Book 20, Chapter 9.1, Section 200 mentions “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James”.

Book 18 and 20 are only preserved in 3 out the above 13 manuscripts. The MSS are A (11th c.), W (14th c.), and M (15th c.).
The MSS by siglum, location, and name:
A: Milan. Codex bibl. Ambrosianae F 128.
W: Rome. Codex Vaticanus Graecus 984.
M: Florence. Codex Medicaeus bibl. Laurentianae plut. 69, cod. 10.

All three of these are believed to share a common source text. The general consensus among scholars is that Josephus did not author the TF. The language used in the TF is closer to that of Eusebius than Josephus. The three phrases “maker of miraculous works”, “tribe of Christians”, and “to this day” are not used anywhere else in any of Josephus’ works, but they are used several other times by Eusebius. [2]

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On the Transmission of the Testimonium Flavianum and the Passage about James

The passage is first cited by Eusebius in the 4th century in his:
Demonstratio evangelica (3.5, section 124)
Historia ecclesiastica (1.11.7-8)
Theophania (only survives in 1 Syriac translation).

There are two phrases that differ between Eusebius’ Demonstratio and Historia. He changes “revere” and “leaders” to “receive with pleasure” and “first men”. This was likely done for verisimilitude, to make it appear more Josephan in style.

The passage about James is also suspicious, as the only other place that the word Christ occurs in the MSS of Josephus is in the (generally accepted to be fake) Testimonium Flavianum. On the topic of the passage about James, in 1999, K. A. Olsen claimed, “We simply have no way of reconstructing how the passage originally read.”

Origen also mentions the passage about James in his:
Commentarii in Matthaeum (10.17)
Contra Celsum (1.47; 2.13).
Eusebius references Origen.

Shlomo Pines (1908-1990) brought Agapius’ Arabic translation to light in the 20th century. Pines believed Agapius’ text to be based primarily on Eusebius’ Historia.

Agapius’ text apparently misidentifies Phlegon as Plato. Also, “the passage contains many omissions, additions, and changes making it very different from its parent text.” Overall, the text of Agapius renders a different story than Eusebius’.

No author cites the TF before Eusebius. The next person to cite it is nearly a century later.

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On Antiquities in Print


The Antiquities and War were first printed in Augsburg in 1470 between June 28th to August 23rd. The Antiquities is a Latin translation from the Greek of Cassiodorus. The War is a Latin translation from the Greek attributed to Rufinus of Aquilea. It was the first dated book of the printer J. Schüssler. It is from A. Edward Newton’s library. It was previously owned by the Franciscan Priory at Bamberg.

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[1] –

[2] – Eusebius and the “Testimonium Flavianum”

[3] –

[4] –

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