Josephus : biography

37 – 100
Josephus represents an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity. 

A careful reading of Josephus’ writings and years of excavation allowed Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, to discover the location of Herod’s Tomb, after a search of 35 years. It was above aqueducts and pools, at a flattened desert site, halfway up the hill to the Herodium, 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem—as described in Josephus’s writings.Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies, page 99 (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008). ISBN 978-0-470-16785-4

Manuscripts, textual criticism and editions

For many years, printed editions of the works of Josephus appeared only in an imperfect Latin translation from the original Greek. Only in 1544 did a version of the standard Greek text become available, edited by the Dutch humanist Arnoldus Arlenius. The first English translation, by Thomas Lodge, appeared in 1602, with subsequent editions appearing throughout the 17th century. The 1544 Greek edition formed the basis of the 1732 English translation by William Whiston, which achieved enormous popularity in the English-speaking world. It was often the book—after the Bible—that Christians most frequently owned. A cross-reference apparatus for Whiston’s version of Josephus and the biblical canon also exists. Clontz, T. E. and J., "The Comprehensive New Testament", Cornerstone Publications (2008), ISBN 978-0-9778737-1-5

Later editions of the Greek text include that of Benedikt Niese, who made a detailed examination of all the available manuscripts, mainly from France and Spain. Henry St. John Thackeray used Niese’s version for the Loeb Classical Library edition widely used today. William Whiston, who created perhaps the most famous of the English translations of Josephus, claimed that certain works by Josephus had a similar style to the Epistles of St Paul (Saul).

The standard editio maior of the various Greek manuscripts is that of Benedictus Niese, published 1885-95. The text of Antiquities is damaged in some places. In the Life, Niese follows mainly manuscript P, but refers also to AMW and R. Henry St. John Thackeray for the Loeb Classical Library has a Greek text also mainly dependent on P. André Pelletier edited a new Greek text for his translation of Life. The ongoing Münsteraner Josephus-Ausgabe of Münster University will provide a new critical apparatus. There also exist late Old Slavonic translations of the Greek, but these contain a large number of Christian interpolations.Steven Bowman, "Josephus in Byzantium", in Louis H. Feldman, Gōhei Hata (editors), Josephus, Judaism and Christianity. p. 373 (Wayne State University Press, 1987). ISBN 90-04-08554-8


  • (c. 75) War of the Jews, or The Jewish War, or Jewish Wars, or History of the Jewish War (commonly abbreviated JW, BJ or War)
  • (date unknown) Josephus’s Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades (spurious; adaptation of "Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe" by Hippolytus of Rome)
  • (c. 94) Antiquities of the Jews, or Jewish Antiquities, or Antiquities of the Jews/Jewish Archeology (frequently abbreviated AJ, AotJ or Ant. or Antiq.)
  • (c. 97) Flavius Josephus Against Apion, or Against Apion, or Contra Apionem, or Against the Greeks, on the antiquity of the Jewish people (usually abbreviated CA)
  • (c. 99) The Life of Flavius Josephus, or Autobiography of Flavius Josephus (abbreviated Life or Vita)

The Jewish War

His first work in Rome was an account of the Jewish War, addressed to certain "upper barbarians"—usually thought to be the Jewish community in Mesopotamia—in his "paternal tongue" (War I.3), arguably the Western Aramaic language. He then wrote a seven-volume account in Greek known as the Jewish War (Latin Bellum Judaicum or De Bello Judaico). It starts with the period of the Maccabees and concludes with accounts of the fall of Jerusalem, and the succeeding fall of the fortresses of Herodion, Macharont and Masada and the Roman victory celebrations in Rome, the mopping-up operations, Roman military operations elsewhere in the Empire and the uprising in Cyrene. Together with the account in his Life of some of the same events, it also provides the reader with an overview of Josephus’ own part in the events since his return to Jerusalem from a brief visit to Rome in the early 60s (Life 13–17).