The 'Josephus Latinus'

Although Josephus wrote in Greek, it was through ancient Latin translations and adaptions that his works exerted their greatest influence on the culture of medieval Christian Europe. This catalogue brings together manuscripts which contain these ancient Latin versions of Josephus' works (which we refer to collectively as the 'Josephus Latinus'), including fragments, excerpts, and epitomes of these texts. It thus takes account of the following works:

  1. The De excidio urbis Hierosolymitanae, a Christianizing adaption of Josephus' Jewish War. The text, written in the late 4th century, is today generally known as the (Pseudo-)Hegesippus (due to a false attribution to the Church Father of the same name), but circulated widely under Josephus' name into the 10th century (further Pollard 2015). The text was published in several a critical editions; the standard edition is that of Vincent Ussani, printed in 1932.
  2. An anonymous Latin translation of the Jewish War, made at some point in the 4th or 5th centuries, traditionally but incorrectly attributed to Rufinus of Aquileia (for discussion of authorship see, e.g., Somenzi 2009, Levenson & Martin 2016). The last full edition of the ancient Latin text was published in Basel by Froben in 1524 (digital reproduction here, after which the text was heavily revised by Sigismund Gelenius against the Greek text and stylistically reworked to reflect humanistic Latinity (further Levenson & Martin 2017, Ammann 2019). An online version of Edward Cardwell's 1837 edition of the Jewish War can be found here, though this is ultimately derived from the revised Latin translation. Bernd Bader (2019) has recently published a text and commentary of Book 1, the first book of the War to receive a critical edition. David Levenson and Thomas Martin are currently preparing an edition of Book 6.
  3. Translations of the Jewish Antiquities and Against Apion commissioned by Cassiodorus in the late 6th century in order to make essential works of ecclesiastical history available to Latin readers, carried out by certain of his amici (see the description in Institutiones 1.17.1). The first 5 books of the Antiquities were published by Franz Blatt in 1958. The most recent publication of Books 6-20 of the ancient text of the Antiquities and the Against Apion remains Froben's Basel edition of 1524 (link above). Recently a team led by Richard Pollard finished transcribing a 9th century Carolingian manuscript of the Antiquities (Bamberg Msc.Class.78), providing a convenient online text (with parallel Greek text and an 18th century English translation of the Greek). Randolf Lukas (Bochum, further here) is preparing a critical edition of Antiquities Books 6 and 7. Books 8-20 of this very fluid and unstable text still await a critical edition, although critical texts of some isolated passages – the discussions of Christ, John the Baptist, and James – were published by Levenson & Martin 2014.

The Catalogue

To date we know of more than 300 medieval manuscripts – complete and incomplete – which contain these texts. Our goal is to create a publicly available catalogue of all manuscripts up to and including the High Middle Ages, the heyday of the medieval reception of the Latin Josephus. Time permitting, we hope to continue the catalogue into later periods. Where possible we will draw on, expand, and standardize descriptions from earlier catalogues; where these are not available, manuscripts will be fully described for the first time. As part of a larger interdisciplinary SNSF (Swiss National Science Foundation) project on the medieval reception of Josephus (further here: www.legejosephum.unibe.ch) we are particularly interested in who created and read these manuscripts between late antiquity and the Renaissance, and how and why they did so. The catalogue is based on the guidelines of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (further here), but with alterations to place special emphasis on the traces which readers left in these manuscripts over the course of the centuries, and on how their layout and annotation guided the reception of Josephus. We have carefully structured the data and developed a search page which allows the user to navigate the catalogue according to multiple criteria including: date and place of creation, precise contents of the manuscript, type and date of annotation, and the names of all known individuals associated with the text (commissioners, scribes, later readers, owners and holding institutions and libraries).

As a Jewish authority on the Holy Land and Judeo-Christian history, Josephus was indispensable to medieval theologians and historians but his authority was contested in medieval Christianity as his status wavered between perfidious Jew and honorary Church Father. This liminal identity is amply attested in the margins of these manuscripts, through annotations, illustrations, deletions, and corrections. As it expands, this catalogue will provide an online tool which will allow us to trace Josephus' path through the Middle Ages and construct a history of how people engaged with an influential ancient text over the course of a millennium.

Select Bibliography

  • Ammann, Andreas. forthcoming. 'Josephus Frobenianus. Editions- und Rezeptionsgeschichte des Flavius Josephus im Basler Humanismus'. Diss. Bern.
  • Bader, Bernd (ed.) 2019. Josephus Latinus. De Bello Iudaico Buch 1. [Palingenesia 119]. Stuttgart.
  • Blatt, Franz. 1958. The Latin Josephus. I. Introduction and Text. The Antiquities: Books I-V. Aarhus.
  • Cardwell, Edward. 1837. Flavii Josephi De bello Judaico libri septem. Oxford.
  • Chapman, Honora H. & Rodgers, Zuleika (eds). 2016. A Companion to Josephus. Oxford.
  • Deutsch, Guy. 1981. ‘Portrait de Flavius Josèphe dans un manuscrit du IXe siècle’, Revue de l’Art 53: 53-5.
  • Froben, Johannes. 1524. Flavii Iosephi, Patria Hierosolymitani, religione Iudæi, inter Græcos historiographos, cum primis facundi, opera quædam Rufino presbytero interprete, in quibus post ultimam aliorum æditionem, loca non pauca, nec omnino leuis momenti ex uetustissimorum codicum collatione restituta comperies lector. Basel.
  • Kletter, Karen. 2005. 'The Uses of Josephus: Jewish History in Medieval Christian Tradition'. Diss., Chapel Hill.
  • Kletter, Karen & Hilliard, Paul (eds) Forthcoming. A Companion to the Latin Josephus in the Western Middle Ages. Leiden.
  • Lembi, Gaia. 2005. 'The Latin Translation of Josephus’ Antiquitates', in J. Sievers & G. Lembi (eds) Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Leiden: 371-81.
  • Leoni, Tommaso. 2007. ‘Translations and Adaptions of Josephus’s Writings in Antiquity and the Middle Ages’, Ostraka 26: 481-92.
  • Liebl, Ulrike. 1997. Die illustrierten Flavius-Josephus-Handschriften des Hochmittelalters. Frankfurt am Main.
  • Levenson, David & Martin, Thomas. 2014. 'The Latin Josephus on Jesus, John the Baptist, and James: Critical Texts of the Latin Translation of the Antiquities and Rufinus' Translation of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History Based on Manuscripts and Early Printed Editions', Journal for the Study of Judaism 45: 1-79.
  • ———2016. 'The Ancient Latin Translations of Josephus', in H. Chapman & Z. Rodgers (eds) A Companion to Josephus. Oxford: 322-44.
  • ———2017. ‘The Place of Early Printed Editions of Josephus’ AJ & War (1470-1534) in the Latin Textual Tradition’, in J. Baden, H. Najman, E. Tigchelaar (eds) Sibyls, Scriptures, and Scrolls: John Collins at Seventy, Leiden, vol. 2: 765-825.
  • Niese, Benedict. 1885-1895. Flavii Iosephi opera. Berlin, 7 vols.
  • Pollard, Richard M. 2013. 'Reading Josephus at Vivarium? Annotations and exegesis in early copies of the Antiquities', Florilegium 30: 103–142.
  • ———2015. 'The De Excidio of “Hegesippus” and the Reception of Josephus in the Early Middle Ages', Viator 46: 65–100.
  • ———2018. ‘Flavius Josephus. The Most Influential Classical Historian of the Latin Middle Ages?’, in Elina Screen & Charles West (eds) Writing in the Early Medieval West: Essays in Honour of Rosamond McKitterick. Cambridge: 14-35.
  • Somenzi, Chiara. 2009. Egesippo – Ambrogio. Formazione scolastica e cristiana a Roma alla metà del IV secolo. Milan.
  • Taylor, Joan E. 2014. 'Imagining Judean Priestly Dress. The Berne Josephus and Judaea Capta Coinage', in K. Upson-Saia, C. Daniel-Hughes, A. J. Batten (eds) Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity. Farnham.
  • Ussani, Vincent. 1932. Hegesippi qvi dicitur historiae libri v. Leipzig and Vienna.