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Faithlife / 1887–2008
Lexham Press is pleased to offer the preeminent critical edition of Josephus’ major works in Greek. Edited by Benedict Niese, this authoritative edition, derived from various Greek manuscripts, features a critical apparatus that pinpoints the differences in the various manuscripts. Cross-references to Scripture and to the other works in the collection are also in abundance. Each work is preceded by an introductory preface, presented both in English and in Niese's original Latin.
Few authors have had as much influence on our understanding of the New Testament world as Josephus. His key works, The Antiquities of the Jews, The War of the Jews, Against Apion and the autobiographical Life have for centuries been scoured by scholars for their extensive historical and linguistical yield. These works, written from Josephus’ vantage as a first century Jewish historian and eye-witness to the first Jewish-Roman war, render an unparalleled depiction of the historical context in which Jesus and the Apostles lived and died. The impact Josephus has made on scholarship pertaining to the era of Christ cannot be overstated.
As tremendously useful as Josephus’ works are to the greater scholarship of the history of civilization, perhaps his greatest contributions have been to the world of Biblical studies. Josephus expert Steve Mason, in Josephus and the New Testament , describes Josephus as “the most significant non-biblical writer for NT interpretation.” Josephus in Greek specifically offers the reader a great deal in terms of linguistics, history and apologetics.
Linguistically speaking, Josephus’ works act as a cognate language for New Testament exegesis. By studying his works in Greek, the exegete gains a deeper understanding of the words and terms that comprise the New Testament. This is especially important for those terms appearing only a handful of times in the NT. For example, 1Ti 3.3 and 1Pe 2.18 translate the Greek word ἐπιεικής as “gentle” (ESV). Josephus also uses this word in his treatise Against Apion:
“However, there are other things which our legislator ordained for us beforehand, which of necessity we ought to do in common to all men; as to afford fire, and water, and food to such as want it; to show them the roads; and not to let anyone lie unburied. He also would have us treat those that are esteemed our enemies with moderation: for he doth not allow us to set their country on fire, nor permit us to cut down those trees that bear fruit: nay, farther, he forbids us to spoil those that have been slain in war. He hath also provided for such as are taken captive, that they may not be injured, and especially that the women may not be abused (Josephus, Against Apion 2.211-212).”
Here Josephus uses the word ἐπιεικής and then provides several examples of the “moderation” that was exercised: not setting the country on fire, not cutting down fruit-bearing trees, not plundering the dead, and so on. From the perspective of a triumphal conqueror, these are not small concessions, thus it is “moderation” or some form of gentleness or yielding to do such things.
Moreover, Josephus is a good resource for hapax legomena, those being words and terms that appear only once in a canon. Their appearance in Josephus can aid the exegete in defining and understanding the word’s usage in the New Testament. An example of a hapax legomenon can be found in 1Ti 4.1: “Now the spirit expressly says.” The word “expressly” is a translation of the Greek word ῥητῶς. Only occurring here in the New Testament, ῥητῶς typically means “distinctly” or “expressly.” Josephus uses it in the sense of “distinctly” or “specifically” in Against Apion:
“Now, in another copy it is said that this word does not denote Kings but, on the contrary, denotes Captive Shepherds, and this on account of the particle Hyc; for that Hyc, with the aspiration, in the Egyptian tongue again denotes Shepherds, and that expressly also: and this to me seems the more probable opinion, and more agreeable to ancient history (Josephus, Against Apion, 1.83).”
Furthermore, Josephus’ works are a goldmine of Jewish history in general and the first-century world specifically. He presents detailed accounts of figures that factor into the Biblical narratives, including those aligned with the Roman government that shaped the world in the time of Jesus. Through his depictions of historical figures, Josephus is also an independent corroborator attesting to the existence of John the Baptist, James, and Jesus Christ. Reading Josephus in Greek is especially helpful in understanding the textual continuity criticisms leveled against Josephus’ accounts of Biblical characters.
This is the first and only edition of Josephus’ works, electronic or otherwise, to feature Niese’s prefaces in English. The translation by Dr. David Noe was produced specifically for this edition.