INDIETRO / BACK Home Biblioteca Sussidi

(by Prof. Joseph Sievers)

[last update: 2000]


The SBL Josephus Seminar convenes for the first time in 1999 in connection with the publication of the first volume of an international Josephus project. While concentrating on the concerns and results of this particular project, it may be useful to cast the net a bit wider and to ask where we stand in Josephus studies, in particular with regard to editions and translations of Josephus, worldwide. The following survey will certainly not be exhaustive, but it attempts not to leave out any linguistic area. (1)

Growing Interest in the Works of Josephus

During the Middle Ages, Josephus was the most widely read ancient author in Europe. Schreckenberg, here following Eisler, states that Josephus’ literary influence had no equals, with the sole exception of the Bible. (2) Over 130 Greek and about 230 Latin mss, and innumerable citations in later authors are telling signs of a broad interest in his works. (3) There is also a large number of early prints of Josephus’ works. Between 1470 and 1535 there were over twenty printings of Latin translations of Josephus.

A look at more recent editions and translations, however, presents a very different picture. Between 1885 and 1896 three complete editions of the Greek text of Josephus were published: The Editio Maior and Minorby Niese, plus the edition by Naber in the Teubner series. Niese’s Editio Maior, reprinted in 1955, is currently out-of-print, except for the index volume. The other two editions have long been unavailable. The most recent German translation of the Antiquities is the rather unsatisfactory one produced by Clementz a century ago. An Italian translation had not been done since the 1780s. Lately, however, this situation is changing radically, and of these developments I would like to give a brief overview.

Reprint of Niese ’s Editions

First of all, a reprint of Niese’s Editio Maior is in preparation. (4) It had been announced in the publisher’s catalogues at least as early as 1992 and was recently scheduled to appear in 1999, but has been delayed again, with no definite publication schedule. It is hoped that soon this edition will again be available to a new generation of scholars. Its critical apparatus is still indispensable for anyone working seriously with the text of Josephus. Also a reprint of Niese’s Editio Minor is tentatively scheduled for 2000, if there will be a sufficient number of subscriptions. (5)

Perseus Project

The text (without critical apparatus) of Niese’s Editio Maior has been available for some time on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae CD-ROM. (6) Perhaps it is less well known that the same text is also available on-line through the Perseus Project at Tufts University. (7) The text may be consulted both in transliteration and in Greek characters. If needed, Greek fonts for both Windows and McIntosh environments can be downloaded free of charge. The text is linked to the English translation by Whiston, which is also searchable. Perseus gives the complete text of Josephus (with the exception of Against Apion), as it does for many ancient Greek authors (and some Latin ones as well). Almost every word is morphologically tagged, and with a simple click one may also consult the complete entry in the full version of Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford University Press). Not only that: if the lexicon cites a passage from another author included in the database, one can call up that work as well through a hypertextual link.

The speed of such a search depends on several factors, above all on the speed of one’s connection and on user volume. To avoid these limitations, a large part of the data of the Perseus Project is available on a CD-ROM marketed by Yale University Press. This is for now available in a McIntosh version. A platform-independent version, geared primarily toward Windows users, is currently undergoing Beta testing. Unfortunately, however, neither Josephus nor the full Liddell-Scott-Jones are included in either release.

On-line Bibliography (Münster)

Looking for “Josephus” through a search engine such as Altavista one may score over 500.000 hits. Limiting the search precisely to “Flavius Josephus,” I recently got a listing of 1.595 web pages. It is of course impossible and rather pointless to check all those websites. One site that did not appear among the first twenty is that of the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum at the University of Münster. (8) There one finds a bibliography on Josephus that is continually updated by the Institute staff, in cooperation with Heinz Schreckenberg, the author of two well-known volumes of bibliography. This bibliography went on-line in experimental form in June 1998, and has in the meantime become a very valuable research tool. It is regularly updated and by November 1999 contained over 1,700 items, most of them more recent than the last printed bibliography. It is arranged according to over 30 subject categories. One may search it by author, title, subject or key words, work of Josephus and by biblical passage.

Recent Translations

Within the last few years, new translations of Josephus have appeared in several languages, some of which I have been unable to see. (9) Nikos Kokkinos, in response to an earlier version of this paper posted on the Internet, kindly informed me of an annotated modern Greek translation of all the works of Josephus, apparently the first such undertaking. This edition in 15 volumes, plus an index volume, was prepared by a team of unnamed philologists under the general supervision of Professor V. Mandelaras. It was published in its entirety in 1997, by the Kaktos Publishing House of Athens. It is part of a rapidly growing series making available ancient Greek authors in modern Greek translation, with the ancient Greek text (without critical apparatus) on facing pages.

Per Bilde brought to my attention a 1997 Danish translation of theWar, with commentary. (10) In the same year a Rumanian translation of the same work was published. (11) Also a Russian translation of the War, which appeared in Minsk in 1994, recently came to my attention. (12) Against Apion was translated into Hebrew by Aryeh Kasher. (13) A new synoptic comparison of the Greek and Slavonic versions of the War appeared in 1999. (14) Published over a decade ago and therefore outside the immediate purview of this paper, but probably not well known, is the publication of an 11th-12th cent. Georgian translation of part of Josephus. (15)

Within the last decade, most of the works of Josephus have become available in new translations in Polish, (16) Spanish, (17) Dutch, (18) and Italian. (19) Since my information through other sources was incomplete, Jan Willem van Henten kindly put me in touch with Marinus Wes, who, together with Fik Meijer just completed a Dutch translation of all the works of Josephus. The last volume, Contra Apionem, appeared in 1999. Together they have also produced a volume collecting everything Josephus has to say about Herod. (20) The long awaited Italian translation of the Antiquities by Luigi Moraldi appeared in the fall of 1998. (21) Unfortunately, it is in large part based on earlier ones, including the English rendering by Thackeray, Marcus, Wikgren, and Feldman in the Loeb Classical Library. Some passages include mistakes that may be explained on the basis of an English rather than a Greek Vorlage. Other passages strongly resemble earlier Italian translations. In some cases I have been able to identify readings that are entirely absent from the Greek text and ultimately go back to the ancient Latin version, which served as the basis also for some earlier Italian translations. The notes too are largely derivative. Thus this work, although handsomely produced, is disappointing. I must confess, however, that it has given me important and unexpected insights into the workings of textual criticism. (22)

Project of a Hebrew Translation of the War

A Modern Hebrew rendition of Josephus’ War is well under way in Israel. Lisa Ullmann of the Classics Department at Hebrew University is doing the translation. Jonathan Price of the Classics Department at Tel Aviv University is editing the work and providing explanatory notes and appendices. Publication is tentatively scheduled for 2000.

French Project at the École Biblique

At the Ècole Biblique et archéologique française in Jerusalem a new critical edition and French translation of the Antiquities is under way. As is well known, the volumes containing Books 1-5 have already appeared. (23) A further volume containing Books 6-8, is almost ready. (24) The project is headed by Étienne Nodet, with the cooperation of other scholars. This edition offers a new critical text, based on Niese’s manuscript collations, but frequently adopts different readings. Nodet has also tried to verify what type or types of Biblical text Josephus may have used. The first results of this research have been published in a volume on Josephus’ Pentateuch. (25) Nodet has supplied concrete textual data that may be verified and evaluated. On the basis of these data he thinks that Josephus used for the Pentateuch a hypothetical Hebrew text (“H”), which differs from MT and from all other known texts and versions.

The notes in Nodet’s edition are fuller than in any previous edition of the Antiquities. They point to the variety of Biblical and extra-biblical traditions that are reflected in the first half of the work. It is hoped that this edition may progress speedily, and that it be extended to cover all twenty books of the Antiquities.

The Münster Project

Since 1996 a team led by Folker Siegert, with the collaboration of Heinz Schreckenberg, is preparing a new critical edition and annotated German translation of the works of Josephus (excluding the War). A draft translation of the Life has been recently made available at their website. Greek text and annotated German translation should be published by Mohr/Siebeck of Tübingen in 2000. Against Apion should be ready two years later. For the Antiquities one will have to wait a bit longer.

In conjunction with this project a series of annual colloquia are being held, which concentrate on various aspects of the works of Josephus. The first two (Münster, 1997, and Brussels, 1998) were devoted mostly to the Life. The 1999 colloquium at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, has taken Against Apion as its primary topic. The proceedings of the first two colloquia have already been published. (26) The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Amsterdam, June 18-20.

International English Josephus Project

At present, there is no detailed historical and philological commentary on all the works of Josephus, at least in none of the languages I know. For Against Apion we are fortunate to have the commentary by Troiani. (27) For the War, the commentaries by Ricciotti in Italian and by Michel and Bauernfeind in German are by now somewhat dated and inadequate. Therefore in many quarters the need has been felt for a new historical and archeological as well as philological commentary on all the works of Josephus.

Now an international project tries to respond to this need. (28) This initiative was launched by Steve Mason of York University, in cooperation with the Brill publishing company of Leiden. It was decided to extend the project to the complete works of Josephus and to include a new translation, since the one by Thackeray, Marcus, Wikgren, and Feldman is in part over seventy years old. The translation at the top of the page will also facilitate use of the commentary. Unfortunately, but I think understandably, it was decided not to provide a Greek text. The time needed for establishing a new critical text and the added cost were judged prohibitive. In addition, since both the French and German projects are in the process of preparing new critical texts (based on the data provided by Niese and not on a new collation of mss), it seems inappropriate to add another editio critica minor.

Every team member has full responsibility for the part assigned to him, but certainly many questions have to be faced together, in order to achieve some degree of consistency. Some of the thorniest issues are the following: How shall personal and geographical names be treated? How does one translate certain recurring terms or characteristic expressions? How does one convey the meaning(s) of the historical present frequently used by Josephus? How much space is to be devoted to philological and historical questions, and to bibliography? As textual basis the starting point is Niese’s Editio Maior paying attention also to the more recent editions and sometimes choosing readings relegated by Niese to the apparatus. It will be impossible to reach complete consistency. This may be more feasible in the French and German projects, which are based in one particular institution. The advantage of the English project will be the cooperation of a diverse group of scholars from different disciplines, who have considerable experience dealing with the sections of Josephus assigned to them.

The project is planned in nine volumes, as in the original Loeb Classical Library edition, but these volumes will be much more substantial, even without the Greek text. Four to eight parts of commentary are planned for each part translation. The volumes will be subdivided as those in the Loeb edition, but will not be published in that order. The first volume containing Antiquities 1-4, with translation and commentary of the entire paraphrase of the Pentateuch by Louis Feldman has recently been published. (29) Christopher Begg recently accepted to do most of the rest of the biblical paraphrase in the Antiquities. He is well know for his long series of articles, published in a variety of journals, about biblical episodes and their transformation in Josephus and in other early Jewish sources. Paul Spilsbury of the Canadian Theological Seminary of Regina will tackle theAntiquities’ account of the Persian period to the death of Alexander. The Hasmonean period, will be the task of the present writer, while Jan Willem van Henten will treat the reigns of Herod and the brief account of Archelaus. Per Bilde will cover the time of the procurators to the end of the Antiquities. John Barclay is at an advanced stage of work on Against Apion. Steve Mason has already translated part of the Life. For the War, Book 1 (from the Hasmonean period to the death of Herod) will be the responsibility of the present writer. Books 2-3 (to the early stages of the war) have been taken on by Steve Mason, while Books 4-6 (most of the war against the Romans) will be translated and commented by Jonathan Price. Recently James McLaren has accepted to edit the last book of theWar.

In schematic form the plan of the work looks as follows:

Thus the task is shared among ten scholars from eight different countries on four continents. In addition, various other scholars from different disciplines have agreed to act as consultants. This global cooperation is made possible in part, but only in part, by communication via Internet. This, however, is a necessary but not a sufficient ingredient. It does not replace personal contact and exchange. Therefore, seminars such as the one at SBL and face-to-face meetings remain essential.


1. I would be grateful for information about other recent editions, translations, or projects, to be sent to me at Pontifical Biblical Institute, 25, Via della Pilotta, 00187 Rome, ITALY; e-mail:

2. Heinz Schreckenberg, Die Flavius-Josephus-Tradition in Antike und Mittelalter (ALGHJ 5; Leiden: Brill, 1972) xiii-xiv, cf. 9; citing Robert Eisler, Die messianische Unabhängigkeitsbewegung vom Auftreten Johannes des Täufers bis zum Untergang Jakobs des Gerechten (2 vols.; Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1929-30) 1.xlviii: “dass--nächst der Bibel--keine Schrift des Altertums einen so gewaltigen und weitreichenden Einfluss auf die Geschichtsauffassung der abendländischen Menschheit gehabt, keine Geschichtsquelle so viele gelehrte Federn in Bewegung gesetzt hat … wie das Werk dieses . . . Flavius Josephus.”

3. For a description and evaluation of this material cf. Schreckenberg, Die Flavius-Josephus-Tradition and id., Rezeptionsgeschichtliche und textkritische Untersuchungen zu Flavius Josephus (ALGHJ 10), Leiden: Brill, 1977.

4. Josephus, Flavius, Opera. Edidit et apparatu critico instruxit Benedictus Niese (7 vols.; Berlin: Weidmann, 1885-1895). Reprint in preparation at Olms-Weidmann, Hildesheim (Website: E-mail:

5. Josephus, Flavius, Opera. Recognovit Benedictus Niese. Editio Minor (6 vols. in 3; Berlin 1888-1895); reprint Hildesheim: Olms-Weidmann, 2000(?).

6. Further information on the TLG Project and their CD-ROM is available at their website:

7. Website:


9. This information is derived, in part, from the on-line catalogues of the Library of Congress, The National and University Library in Jerusalem, and the library of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

10. Flavius Josefus, Den jødiske krig. Oversat med indledning og kommentarer af Erling Harsberg (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 1997).

11. Flavius Iosephus, Istoria razboiului Iudeilor contra Romanilor, transl. by Wolf Gheneli, ed. and annotated by Ion Acsan (Bucharest: Hasefer, 1997).

12. Josephus, Flavius, Iudeiskie drevnosti / Iosif Flavii; predislovie i primechaniia, V.A. Fedosika, G.I. Dovgialo (2 vols; Minsk: Belarus, 1994).

13. Neged Apion (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 1996). This translation, with commentary, has been widely discussed.

14. Josephus’ Jewish war and its Slavonic version : a synoptic comparison, directed and ed. by Bernard Orchard in collaboration with Lyubov V. Osinkina (Leiden: Brill, 1999).

15. 2 vols; Tbilisi: Mec’niereba, 1987-88; both volumes edited by Nino Melik’isvili.

16.Jozef Flawiusz, Dawne dzieje Israela (=Antiquities), transl. by Zygmunt Kubiak and Jan Radozycki, commentary by Jan Radozycki (2 vols; Warsaw: Rytm, 1993); id., Wojna zydowska (Jewish War), transl. by Jan Radozycki (2nd ed.; Warsaw: Rytm, 1991). Contra Apionem and Vita had appeared a few years earlier: Jozef Flawiusz, Przeciw Apionowi. Autobiografia, ed. and transl. by Jan Radozycki, Poznan, 1986.

17. Flavio Josefo, Autobiografia - Contra Apion, transl. by Margarita Rodriguez de Sepulveda, intro. by Luis García Iglesias (Biblioteca clasica Gredos 189; Madrid: Gredos, 1994); id., Antigüedades judías, ed. and transl. José Vara Donado (AKAL/clásica 45-46; 2 vols.; Madrid: Torrejón de Ardoz, 1997). This last work carries some features which make one doubt about its scholarly qualities: It starts out with a chronological table, giving dates from the creation of Adam and Eve in 4342 B.C. to the death of Domitian in 96 A.D. The one-page bibliography is rather haphazard, listing for Louis Feldman only three articles from the years 1968-70. A note indicates that the translation in Books 1-14 follows the Loeb edition, in Books 15-16 Niese, and in Books 17-20 Naber. No further explanation of these choices is given.

18. Flavius Josephus, De Joodse oorlog & Uit mijn leven (=War and Life), transl. and annotated by Fik J. A. M. Meijer and Marinus A. Wes, with an introduction by Marinus A. Wes (Baarn: Ambo, 1992); id., De oude geschiedenis van de Joden (Antiquitates) transl. and annotated by Fik J. A. M. Meijer and Marinus A. Wes (Baarn: Ambo,), vol. 1 (Books 1-7) 1996; vol. 2 (Books 8-13), 1997; vol. 3 (Books 14-20) 1998; Flavius Josephus, Tegen de Grieken [Contra Apionem], vertaald, ingeleid en van antekeningen voorzien door F.J.A.M. Meijer en M.A. Wes, Amsterdam: Ambo) was scheduled to be published in October 1999.

Gerard Mussies, De autobiografie van de joodse Flavius Josephus (=Life), with introd., transl., and notes (Na de schriften 8; Kampen: Kok, 1991).

19. Flavio Giuseppe, Autobiografia, incl. Greek text; intro., transl., and notes by Giorgio Jossa (Studi sul giudaismo e sul cristianesimo antico 3; Naples: M. D’Auria, 1992);id., Autobiografia, incl. Greek text, intro., transl., and notes by Elvira Migliario (Milan: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, 1994); id., In difesa degli ebrei (=Against Apion) incl. Greek text, intro., transl., and notes by Francesca Calabi (Venice: Marsilio, 1993).

20. Koning Herodes. Het verhaal van Flavius Josephus, door Fik Meijer en Marinus A. Wes, Amsterdam: Ambo 1998.

21. Antichità Giudaiche di Josephus Flavio, a cura di Luigi Moraldi (Classici delle religioni: sezione seconda: La religione ebraica; 2 vols.; Turin: UTET, 1998).

22. Translations which appeared before 1990 are outside the purview of this survey. For languages not yet mentioned, I am aware of Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Swedish translations of individual works of Josephus published in the 1980s.

23. Flavius Josèphe, Les Antiquités Juives: Introduction et texte, traduction et notes, ed. by Étienne Nodet et alii, Paris : Cerf, 1990- (Books 1-3, 1990 ; Books 4-5, 1995).

24. Communication from Étienne Nodet, October 19, 1998.

25. Étienne Nodet, La Bible de Josèphe I: Le Pentateuque. Paris: Cerf, 1996.

26. Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Münster 1997, ed. by Folker Siegert and Jürgen U. Kalms (Münsteraner Judaistische Studien 2), Münster: Lit Verlag, 1998; Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Brüssel 1998, ed. by Jürgen U. Kalms and Folker Siegert (Münsteraner Judaistische Studien 4). Münster: Lit Verlag, 1999. For further information one may contact: Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum, Universität Münster, Wilmergasse 1, 48143 Münster FAX: 0049-251-8322565. E-mail: Homepage:

27. Lucio Troiani, Commento storico al “Contro Apione” di Giuseppe (Pisa: Giardini, 1977).

28. Up-to-date basic information at:

29. Flavius Josephus, Translation and Commentary, ed. by Steve Mason, vol. 3, Judean Antiquities 1-4, Translation and Commentary by Louis H. Feldman, Leiden: Brill, 2000, xlv + 582pp.

[ Top ]