« Prev The Manner in which Josephus mentions the Divine… Next »

Chapter X.—The Manner in which Josephus mentions the Divine Books.

1. 675675    Against Apion, I. 8. The common Christian tradition (since the first century, when it was stated in the fourth book of Ezra xiv. 44 sq.) is that Ezra was the compiler of the Old Testament canon. This, however, is a mistake, for the canon was certainly not completed before the time of Judas Maccabæus. Josephus is the earliest writer to give us a summary of the books of the Old Testament; and he evidently gives not merely his own private opinion but the commonly accepted canon of his day. He does not name the separate books, but he tells us that they were twenty-two in number (the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet), and gives us the three divisions, so that we are able to ascertain his canon in detail. It was doubtless as follows:—
   1–5. Books of Moses.

   6. Joshua.

   7. Judges and Ruth.

   8. Samuel.

   9. Kings.

   10. Chronicles.

   11. Ezra and Nehemiah.

   12. Esther.

   13. Isaiah.

   14. Jeremiah and Lamentations.

   15. Ezekiel.

   16. Daniel.

   17. Twelve Minor Prophets.

   18. Job.

   19. Psalms.

   20. Proverbs.

   21. Ecclesiastes.

   22. Song of Songs.

   The earliest detailed list of Old Testament books is that of Melito (given by Eusebius, IV. 26), which is as follows:—

   Books of Moses






   Joshua Nave.



   Four of Kings.





   Song of Songs.




   Twelve Minor Prophets.




   Melito says nothing of the number twenty-two, and, in fact, his list, as he gives it, numbers only twenty-one. His list really differs from Josephus’ only in omitting the Book of Esther. This omission may be accidental, though it is omitted by Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen. He makes no mention of Nehemiah, but that is doubtless included with Ezra, as in the case of Josephus’ canon. His canon purports to be the Palestinian one, and hence we should expect it to be the same as that of Josephus, which makes it more probable that the omission of Esther was only accidental. Origen (in Eusebius, VI. 25) tells us that there were twenty-two books in the Hebrew canon; but his list differs somewhat from that of Josephus. It is as follows:—

   1–5. Books of Moses.

   6. Joshua.

   7. Judges and Ruth.

   8. Samuel.

   9. Kings.

   10. Chronicles.

   11. Ezra I. and II.

   12. Psalms.

   13. Proverbs.

   14. Ecclesiastes.

   15. Song of Songs.

   16. [Twelve Minor Prophets (Rufinus).]

   17. Isaiah.

   18. Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Epistle.

   19. Daniel.

   20. Ezekiel.

   21. Job.

   22. Esther.

   “Besides these also the Maccabees.”

   The peculiar thing about the list is the omission of the Twelve Minor Prophets and the insertion of the Epistle of Jeremiah. The former were certainly looked upon by Origen as sacred books, for he wrote a commentary upon them (according to Eusebius, VI. 36). There is no conceivable reason for their omission, and indeed they are needed to make up the number twenty-two. We must conclude that the omission was simply an oversight on the part of Eusebius or of some transcriber. Rufinus gives them as number sixteen, as shown in the list, but the position there assigned to them is not the ordinary one. We should expect to find them in connection with the other prophets; but the various lists are by no means uniform in the order of the books. On the other hand, the Greek Epistle of Jeremiah (Baruch vi.) did not stand in the Hebrew canon, and can have been included by Origen here only because he had been used to seeing it in connection with Jeremiah in his copy of the LXX. (for in ancient mss. of the LXX., which probably represent the original arrangement, it is given not as a part of Baruch, but as an appendix to Lamentations), and hence mentioned it in this book without thinking of its absence from the Hebrew canon. Origen adds the Maccabees to his list, but expressly excludes them from the twenty-two books (see Bk. VI. chap. 25, note 5). Meanwhile the Talmud and the Midrash divide the canon into twenty-four books, and this was probably the original Jewish division. The number twenty-two was gained by adding Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah. The number thus obtained agreed with the number of letters in the alphabet, and was therefore accepted as the number sanctioned by divine authority, and the division was commonly adopted by the early Fathers. This is Strack’s view, and seems better than the opposite opinion, which is advocated by many, that the number twenty-two was the original. It is easier to see how twenty-four might be changed to twenty-two than how the reverse should happen. So, for instance, Jerome in his preface to the translation of Samuel and Kings, makes the number twenty-two, and gives a list which agrees with the canon of Josephus except in the three general divisions, which are differently composed. It will be seen that these various lists (with the exception of that of Origen, which includes the Epistle of Jeremiah and appends the Maccabees) include only the books of our canon. But the LXX. prints with the Old Testament a number of Books which we call Apocrypha and exclude from the canon. It has been commonly supposed, therefore, that there was a regular Alexandrian canon differing from the Palestinian. But this is not likely. An examination of Philo’s use of the Old Testament shows us that his canon agreed with that of Josephus, comprising no apocryphal books. It is probable in fact that the LXX. included in their translation these other books which were held in high esteem, without intending to deliver any utterance as to the extent of the canon or to alter the common Jewish canon by declaring these a part of it. But however that was, the use of the LXX., which was much wider than that of the Hebrew, brought these books into general use, and thus we see them gradually acquiring canonical authority and used as a part of the canon by Augustine and later Fathers. Jerome was the only one in the West to utter a protest against such use of them. Both Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem added to the canon Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah; but opinion in the Orient was mostly against making any books not in the Hebrew canon of canonical authority, and from the fourth century the Eastern Fathers used them less and less. They were, however, officially recognized as a part of the canon by numerous medieval and modern synods until 1839, when the larger Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Eastern Church, the most authoritative standard of the Græco-Russian Church, expressly excluded them. The Latin Church, meanwhile, has always regarded the Apocrypha as canonical, and by its action at the Council of Trent has made them a part of the official canon. See Strack’s article in Herzog, translated in Schaff-Herzog; also Harman’s Introduction to the Holy Scripture, p. 33 sqq. The subject is discussed in all Old Testament introductions.
We have not, therefore, a multitude of books disagreeing and conflicting with one another; but we have only twenty-two, which contain the record of all time and are justly held to be divine.

2. Of these, five are by Moses, and contain the laws and the tradi145tion respecting the origin of man, and continue the history676676    Literally, “the tradition respecting the origin of man (ἀνθρωπογονίας) down to his own death.” I have felt it necessary to insert the words, “and continue the history,” which are not found in the Greek, but which are implied in the words, “down to his own death.” down to his own death. This period embraces nearly three thousand years.677677    Among the Jews in the time of Christ a world’s era was in use, dating from the creation of the world; and it is this era which Josephus employs here and throughout his Antiquities. His figures are often quite inconsistent,—probably owing, in large part, to the corrupt state of the existing text,—and the confusion which results is considerable. See Destinon’s Chronologie des Josephus.

3. From the death of Moses to the death of Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persia, the prophets that followed Moses wrote the history of their own times in thirteen books.678678    These thirteen books were:—
   1. Joshua.

   2. Judges and Ruth.

   3. Samuel.

   4. Kings.

   5. Chronicles.

   6. Ezra and Nehemiah.

   7. Esther.

   8. Isaiah.

   9. Jeremiah and Lamentations.

   10. Ezekiel.

   11. Daniel.

   12. Twelve Minor Prophets.

   13. Job.

   As will be seen, Josephus divided the canon into three parts: first, the Law (five books of Moses); second, the Prophets (the thirteen just mentioned); third, the Hagiographa (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles). The division of the canon into three such parts is older than Josephus; at the same time, his division is quite different from any other division known. Jerome’s is as follows:—

   1. Law: five books of Moses.

   2. Prophets: Joshua, Judges and Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, Twelve Minor Prophets (eight books).

   3. Hagiographa (Holy writings): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra, Esther (nine books).

   The division which exists in our Hebrew Bibles differs from this of Jerome’s only in transferring Ruth and Lamentations to the third division, and thus making twenty-four books. This is held by many to be a later form, as remarked above, but as Strack shows, it is rather the original. In the LXX., which is followed in our English Bible, the books are arranged, without reference to the three divisions, solely according to their subject-matter. The peculiar division of Josephus was caused by his looking at the matter from the historical standpoint, which led him to include in the second division all the books which contained, as he says, an account of events from Moses to Artaxerxes.
The other four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the regulation of the life of men.

4. From the time of Artaxerxes to our own day all the events have been recorded, but the accounts are not worthy of the same confidence that we repose in those which preceded them, because there has not been during this time an exact succession of prophets.679679    The Artaxerxes here referred to is Artaxerxes Longimanus who reigned b.c. 464 to 425. It was under him that Ezra and Nehemiah carried on their work and that the later prophets flourished. Malachi—the last of them—uttered his prophecies at the end of Artaxerxes’ or at the beginning of Darius’ reign. It was commonly held among the Jews that with Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi the prophetical spirit had departed from Israel, and the line was sharply drawn, as here by Josephus, between them and the writers of the Apocrypha who followed them.

5. How much we are attached to our own writings is shown plainly by our treatment of them. For although so great a period has already passed by, no one has ventured either to add to or to take from them, but it is inbred in all Jews from their very birth to regard them as the teachings of God, and to abide by them, and, if necessary, cheerfully to die for them.”

These remarks of the historian I have thought might advantageously be introduced in this connection.

6. Another work of no little merit has been produced by the same writer, On the Supremacy of Reason,680680    εἰς Μακκαβαίους λόγος ἣ περὶ αὐτοκρ€τορος λογισμοῦ: De Maccabæis, seu de rationis imperio liber. This book is often called the Fourth Book of Maccabees, and was formerly ascribed to Josephus. As a consequence it is printed with his works in many editions. But it is now universally acknowledged to be spurious, although who the author is we cannot tell. which some have called Maccabaicum,681681    Μακκαβαϊκόν because it contains an account of the struggles of those Hebrews who contended manfully for the true religion, as is related in the books called Maccabees.

7. And at the end of the twentieth book of his Antiquities682682    Ant.XX. 11. 3. See the previous chapter, note 7. Josephus himself intimates that he had purposed to write a work in four books concerning God and his existence, according to the traditional opinions of the Jews, and also concerning the laws, why it is that they permit some things while prohibiting others.683683    See the same note. And the same writer also mentions in his own works other books written by himself.684684    See the same note.

8. In addition to these things it is proper to quote also the words that are found at the close of his Antiquities,685685    The passage referred to, which is quoted just below, is found in his Life, §65, and not in the Antiquities. But we can see from the last paragraph of the Antiquities that he wrote his Life really as an appendix to that work, and undoubtedly as Ewald suggests, issued it with a second edition of the Antiquities about twenty years after the first. In the mss. it is always found with the Antiquities, and hence the whole might with justice be viewed as one work. It will be noticed that Eusebius mentions no separate Life of Josephus, which shows that he regarded it simply as a part of the Antiquities. in confirmation of the testimony which we have drawn from his accounts. In that place he attacks Justus of Tiberias,686686    Justus of Tiberias was the leader of one of the factions of that city during the troublous times before the outbreak of the war, while Josephus was governor of Galilee, and as an opponent he caused him considerable trouble. He is mentioned frequently in Josephus’ Life, and we are thus enabled to gather a tolerably complete idea of him—though of course the account is that of an enemy. He wrote a work upon the Jews which was devoted chiefly to the affairs of the Jewish war and in which he attacked Josephus very severely. This work, which is no longer extant, was read by Photius and is described by him in his Bibl. Cod. 33, under the title, βασιλεῖς ᾽Ιουδαῖοι οἱ ἐν τοῖς στέμμασι. It was in consequence of this work that Josephus felt obliged to publish his Life, which is really little more than a defense of himself over against the attacks of Justus. See above, note 1. who, like himself, had attempted to write a history of contemporary events, on the ground that he had not written truthfully. Having brought many 146other accusations against the man, he continues in these words:687687    Vita,§65.

9. “I indeed was not afraid in respect to my writings as you were,688688    Josephus has just affirmed in a previous paragraph that Justus had had his History written for twenty years, and yet had not published it until after the death of Vespasian, Titus, and Agrippa, and he accuses him of waiting until after their death because he was afraid that they would contradict his statements. Josephus then goes on to say in the passage quoted that he was not, like Justus, afraid to publish his work during the lifetime of the chief actors in the war. but, on the contrary, I presented my books to the emperors themselves when the events were almost under men’s eyes. For I was conscious that I had preserved the truth in my account, and hence was not disappointed in my expectation of obtaining their attestation.

10. And I presented my history also to many others, some of whom were present at the war, as, for instance, King Agrippa689689    Agrippa II. See above, Bk. II. chap. 19, note 3. Agrippa sided with the Romans in the war and was with Vespasian and Titus in their camp much of the time, and in Galilee made repeated efforts to induce the people to give up their rebellion, that the war might be avoided. and some of his relatives.

11. For the Emperor Titus desired so much that the knowledge of the events should be communicated to men by my history alone, that he indorsed the books with his own hand and commanded that they should be published. And King Agrippa wrote sixty-two epistles testifying to the truthfulness of my account.” Of these epistles Josephus subjoins two.690690    These two epistles are still extant, and are given by Josephus in his Vita, immediately after the passage just quoted by Eusebius. The first of them reads as follows (according to Whiston’s translation): “King Agrippa to Josephus, his dear friend, sendeth greeting. I have read over thy book with great pleasure, and it appears to me that thou hast done it much more accurately and with greater care than have the other writers. Send me the rest of these books. Farewell, my dear friend.” But this will suffice in regard to him. Let us now proceed with our history.

« Prev The Manner in which Josephus mentions the Divine… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection