Josephus Mail


Frequently Asked Questions

Selected letters to the Flavius Josephus Home Page

Names of senders are withheld from mail printed here unless permission has been given for their inclusion. Letters and answers may have been edited to better serve the purposes of this page. 


Frequently Asked Questions

How is the name "Josephus" pronounced?

Where does Josephus tell the story of Masada?

Does Josephus describe Jesus' physical appearance?

What are the oldest manuscripts we have of Josephus' works?

Did Josephus write the "Discourse on Hades?"

Could Luke and Josephus both be right about Lysanias, Tetrach of Abilene?

Special Topics

Josephus in America

What are your credentials?

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the name "Josephus" pronounced?

Mr. Goldberg, what is the correct (or anyway most generally accepted) pronunciation of Josephus?

JO zeh fus?
Jo ZEFF us?
Jo ZEE fus?

- C.

Dear C.,

The pronunciation most favored in America seems to be jo-SEE-fus. Other modern languages pronounce it differently. The way Josephus rendered his name in Greek is pronounced something like YO-see-pus. That's a rendering of his original Hebrew name of Yosef.

Where does Josephus tell the story of Masada?

I am trying to find the full text of a quote which appeared in a guide book.

The quote was attributed to Eleazer Ben Yair at Masada and is quoted in Josephus' book XII, Wars of the Jews. Part of the quote is...

"We decided a long time ago, brave soldiers that we are, not to be the
slaves of the Romans or of any person other than God: For He alone is the
true and just master of men"

I would be very grateful for your help.

- M.

Dear M.,

The story of Masada, including the moving speech of Eleazar, is found in Book 7, Chapter 8 of The Jewish War. The speech is found in Paragraph 6 of that chapter. Thanks for asking!

Does Josephus describe Jesus' physical appearance?


I have been told by an agnostic friend that Josephus described Jesus as a
hunchback, and have found references to this on the web today:

Is there any basis to this? Is this Ninth Century Slovakian manuscript of Josephus an anomaly?

By the way, I found your website very informative.

Rich Norris

(I believe my friend got his information from a book called, "A Pagans' Guide to World Religions.")

Dear Mr. Norris,

Thanks for calling my attention to these web sites. They are not quite
accurate. There is an eighth-century document written by Andreas
Hierosolymitanus, Archbishop of Crete, which quotes Josephus in the following fragment:

"But moreover the Jew Josephus in like manner narrates that the Lord
was seen having meeting eyebrows, goodly eyes, long-faced, crooked,

This is quoted in Robert Eisler's book, "The Messiah Jesus" (1931), at
the start of Chapter 15.

The word "crooked" used here is a translation of the Greek epikuphos, usually meaning
"crooked, bent over." It could mean hunchbacked.

However, note this passage is simply attributed to Josephus by
someone else; it does not appear in any manuscript of Josephus known to us; nor is
it plausibly by Josephus, who almost never gives physical descriptions of
people, only doing so when the information is essential to his story. It
is highly unlikely Josephus would have considered Jesus' appearance relevant
to the essential facts about him. Nor do the many authors who quote Josephus
on Jesus prior to the eighth century, particularly Eusebius, say anything
about this passage. So there is no reason to take it as authentic.

Nonetheless, Robert Eisler, who had an overactive imagination about many things, decided to take it as genuine, and invented his own "original" Josephus passage that he thinks the quotation was drawn from. It is this invention of Eisler's which is quoted on the first web site you list.

Otherwise, though, the idea that Jesus was unattractive and possibly
deformed seems not to have been uncommon in the early Christian church -- see Tertullian, Against Marcion iii. 17 -- and was associated with Isaiah 52:14 and other passages the first web site quotes.

Thanks for the question. I'm glad you find my site informative.


Gary Goldberg


The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist by Robert Eisler, translated by Alexander Haggerty Krappe (Methuen, London, 1931)

Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek (Oxford University Press, 1995); on-line version available at the Perseus Project .

What are the oldest manuscripts we have of Josephus' works?

The oldest manuscripts of the works of Josephus in their original language of Greek date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Portions of the works are also quoted in earlier manuscripts by other authors, particularly Eusebius (fourth century). There are also versions in other languages, notably a Latin translation made about the fifth century. These are all codexes, bound books, not scrolls.

As with all ancient texts, variations appear among the manuscripts due to inaccuracies in copying. The two manuscripts considered to have the best texts for the Jewish War are the Codex Parisinus Graecus and the Codex Ambrosianus, both dating from circa 900-1000 CE. The Jewish Antiquities, because of its length, was transmitted in two parts; the best texts for the first half (Antiquities Books 1 to 10) are Codex Regius Parisinus (fourteenth century) and Codex Oxoniensis (fifteenth century); the best texts for the second half (Antiquities Books 11 to 20) are Codex Palatinus (ninth or tenth century) and Codex Ambrosianus; the latter are also the preferred authorities for the Life . The only manuscript for Against Apion is Codex Laurentius, from the eleventh century, which has a large gap in Book II that must be filled by the old Latin version.

Numerous translations of these manuscripts have appeared over the years, and exploded in number after the invention of the printing press; the first printed edition dates from 1470. An important printed Greek edition, now called the Editio Princeps, was published by Johannes Froben in Basel in 1544, which seems to use a manuscript different from those known. Using the oldest manuscripts to try to determine the original text, Benedict Niese from 1887 to 1889 published a six volume Greek edition with full notes as to the variant readings; this is the text used for the English translations of both the Loeb Library edition and the new Brill Josephus Project, although the translators at times prefer alternate readings as the best ones against Niese's choices. The very popular Whiston translation, first published in 1737, is unfortunately not based on as fine a text, and so careful readers will find differences between the Whiston version and more modern translations.


The Jewish War, Books I-II, Introduction to the Loeb Edition by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge, MA, 1927)
Jewish Antiquities, Books I-IV, Introduction to the Loeb Edition by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge, MA, 1930)
Jewish Antiquities, Books IX-XI, Prefatory Note to the Loeb Edition by Ralph Marcus (Cambridge, MA, 1937)
The Brill Josephus Project, Series Preface by Steve Mason (appearing in each volume) (Leiden, Brill, 1999)
Rezeptionsgeschichtliche und textkritishe Untersuchungen zu Flavius Josephus, Heinz Schreckenberg (Leiden, Brill, 1977)

Did Josephus write the "Discourse on Hades?"

Dear Dr. Goldberg

Do you have any information on the current thinking on the provenance of "An Extract Out of Josephus' Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades," found in Whiston's translation? Clearly, it has been emended by Christians here and there, but is it currently thought that it is based on something originally by Josephus, or that it reflects Jewish thinking
of the 1st century A.D.? I am especially interested in the assertion in the extract that the "bosom of Abraham" is the Jewish name for a region of Hades where the righteous dwell, as Christian interpreters of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus have generally assumed, without reason, that this referred to heaven.

I look forward to hearing from you.

-- Ed Christian, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Christian,

   It is now known that the "Discourse on Hades" was incorrectly attributed to Josephus by the 9th-century Greek theologian Photius. Photius was only speculating about its authorship, but the attribution stuck for a thousand years. Finally it was discovered that this discourse is in fact an excerpt from a work by Hippolytus of Rome (d. 236 CE), "Against the Greeks and Plato on the Universe." This work of Hippolytus is available on-line at

where it is called "Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe."
   Thanks for your question.


   Gary Goldberg

More from Dr. Christian on Hippolytus:

Dear Gary:

Wow! Thanks very much for finding this for me. [...]

I spent yesterday in a seminary library doing more work on this. A paper has in fact been published on what Hippolytus owes to Josephus, but it wasn't available in that library and I don't have the citation anymore. However, I did find out a lot more about the piece on Hades, how it came to be attributed to Josephus, and why it is now almost universally attributed to Hippolytus.

During the Renaissance a large seated statue of Hippolytus was found, in two pieces, above the catacomb where Hippolytus was supposedly buried. How did they know it was him? On the back was a list of books by this person, and around the base the dates for Easter for 200 years, beginning around 225 A.D. The list is very similar to the list in Eusebius (who devotes about a paragraph to Hippolytus), but had more books. Among those listed was the Refutation of All Heresies and On the Essence [or Cause] of the Universe. So they figured out it was Hippolytus, by way of reading Eusebius, but all they had by Hippolytus were fragments, quotes.

The first book of the Refutation was known, but attributed to someone else. In the 1840s books 4-10 of the Refutation were discovered, again attributed to someone else, but when they were read, there was so much autobiographical information in them that it became clear they were by Hippolytus. This discovery is said to have doubled what historians knew of the Roman church in the early 3rd century. In it the author refers to his book "On the Essence of the Universe." So they are by the same person, Hippolytus.

When Whiston translated Josephus, the fragment of "On the Essence of the Universe" was available in, what, four Greek manuscripts? Whiston brings them together in his book. So why did he attribute this to Josephus? Because at the top of one or more of these manuscripts (copies of copies of copies, of course), it is attributed to "Iosepe" (Greek). Why? Who knows? Probably someone guessed. Maybe someone noticed certain similarities between what Hippolytus and Josephus wrote on the Pharisees. One suggestion is that the text originally used a contracted version of Hippolytus that couldn't be read because he had been virtually forgotten (remember that he lived in Rome but wrote in Greek and was not too popular because he was the first "antipope").

In 1947 a French scholar wrote a book proposing that the Refutation was written not by Hippolytus but by "Josipe" (French for Iosepe or Josephus). Not Josephus the Jewish historian, but an otherwise unknown Josipe. However, this was universally denied by church historians. Since then both the Refutation and "On the Essence of the Universe" have been attributed to Hippolytus, just as they are in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5 (which is the source of the web site to which you sent me).

The best source I've found is David Dunbar, "The Problem of Hippolytus of Rome: A study in Historical-Critical Reconstruction," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25/1 (March 1982): 63-74. The translator of the Ante-Nicence Fathers does have a short essay on the text and who Hippolytus was, but I don't know if it's on the web. The "Josephus on Hades" piece is in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, pp. 221-223.

Thanks again for your help.


Could Luke and Josephus both be right about Lysanias, Tetrach of Abilene?

Gary (if I may presume)

Nice site with lots of good info on Josephus.  However, I do have one question about an apparent contradiction between Josephus and Luke with respect to Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene.  [See New Testament Parallels, "The Fifteenth Year of Tiberius" ] You say that Luke is apparently confused and that this is no evidence of a Lysanias in the time that Luke says there is one - there is only the earlier Lysanias who was killed by Marc Antony (about 36 BC I think).
However, I have read in a number of sources that that is incorrect.  An inscription has been found dating from 15-30AD indicating that a temple was built and dedicated by a "freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch".   This would indicate that there was another Lysanias, ruler of Abilene, at the time Luke said there was. 

The entire inscription (assuming of course that my source is quoting it correctly). It says:

"For the salvation of the Lords Imperial and their whole household, by Nymphaeus, a freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch."
If correct, this would seem to indicate there was another Lysanias, named as tetrarch of Abilene. My understanding, limited as it is is that the "Lords Imperial" or "Sebastoi" was used for the first time to describe Tiberius and his mother Livia - this is why at least some scholars (I don't know what the majority opinion is I admit) believe this means Luke's Lysanias existed during the time of Tiberius, since Luke starts off with dating his events by the reign of Tiberius.

Are you aware of this?  Or are my other sources all wet?
What is your perspective on this?  Thanks.
Steve Griffin


   Thanks for the compliment on my site. There are arguments that Luke is not mistaken on Lysanius (and on other points), and I probably could give them more of discussion on my site. My focus is really on the conflicts between Luke and Josephus, and not on making a judgment about Luke, although it might not always come off that way. In the matter of Lysanias, the two do conflict, as Josephus clearly gives the impression that there was only one ruler of that name.

   The argument involving the inscription you mention is given by Emil Schurer in The History of the Jewish People, Volume 1, Appendix 2. There is a summary of the argument available on the internet in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia  ( in the article on Luke.

    Two copies of the inscription were found at Suk, not far from Damascus, which has been identified with one of the towns called Abila.  Schurer quotes the inscription, which was published in Revue Biblique in 1912 (p. 533ff), as follows:

Huper tes ton kurion Se[baston]
soterias kai tou sum[pantos]
auton oikou, Numphaios Ae[tou]
Lusaniou tetrarchou apele[utheros]
ten odon ktisas k.t.l.

This could be translated, "For the salvation of the August lords and of all their household, Nymphaios freedman of  Eagle Lysanias tetrarch established this street and other things."  The square brackets, [ ], indicate letters that do not appear in the inscription and have to be interpolated; since this occurs at the ends of each of the first four lines, apparently the right edge of this stone was lost. The crucial interpolation here is Sebaston (genitive plural of Augustus); if this is the correct reading, then the argument can be applied that this term was not used prior to 14 CE, based on Tacitus, Annals 1.8: "Tiberius and Livia were his [Augustus Caesar's] heirs, and Livia was adopted into the Julian family with the name 'Augusta.'" Schurer notes that some other inscriptions have been found in which Tiberias and Livia are called Sebastoi.  Schurer states "the correctness of the restoration Se[baston] is not in question", and while a skeptic might suggest alternate restorations, I won't challenge him on this point.

    If the restoration and subsequent argument are accurate, Nymphaios would have erected this monument some 50 years after the death of the Lysanias described by Josephus. Schurer describes this as "hardly likely", but it also seems hardly impossible; some prestige seems to have been attached to the old name of Lysanias long after his death, which an old freedman could have wished to be associated with still. It seems there is room here for both sides of the argument.

    The name Lysanias was something to be reckoned with, as it adhered to parts of his former tetrarchy for a century after his death. Lysanias' old area (or part of it)  is still referred to as "the domain of Lysanias" when leased by Zenodorus, even though they had been owned by Cleopatra for fourteen years  (Ant. 15.10.1-3 343 ff).  Schurer notes this phenomenon himself: even after Abila had been in the hands of Agrippa I and II for many years,  "the name of Lysanias clung to the place for a long time. In Ptolemy V 14, 18, [c. 110 CE] Abila is still called Abila epikaloumene Lusaniou [Abila called 'of  Lysanias'], presumably because Lysanias not only possessed the city at one time, but founded it (cf. Caesarea Philippi). "   This same usage appears in Josephus, for there was another town called Abila farther south, near Gadara, and Josephus distinguishes the two by referring to the northerly one as the "Abila of Lysanias" (Ant. 19.5.1 274-5).

    Schurer also refers to the numismatic evidence, which shows the presence of Josephus' Lysanias but none other. See " A Coin of Lysanias ."

    My personal opinion is still that Luke's text is suspicious: identifying a ruler of tiny, distant Abila does not appear relevant to Jesus' activities. For myself, the probability is that "Lysanias" here is ether a corruption or a retrojection based on later knowledge of Philip's lands, and if there did happen to really be a Lysanias in Abila at that time, then Luke's text just hit it lucky.

- Gary Goldberg

Special Topics

Josephus in America

G.J. Goldberg,

I recently discovered that one of my ancestors, who was among the early
settlers in Augusta County, Virginia, owned a copy of Josephus' works. In
a will dated 1805, he left "the works of Josephus" to his three surviving

Perhaps you could help me with some questions I have about this.

First, why would a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian in Western Virginia have
been interested in Josephus in the first place (my ancestor apparently owned
a few other books, but not many)? You mention on your website that Josephus
was widely read in Europe. Do you know anything about who was reading him in
the early days of the American republic and why? Can you point me to any
sources of information on this?

Second, I assume he would have owned the Whiston translation, but I would
like to know more about early editions of this work, especially those printed
in America. Can you help me here?

Thanks for any assistance you can give me.

Phil Miller

Dear Mr. Miller,

I did not have much information about how Josephus was regarded in early America, so I did some research on the subject. Perhaps a reader of my web site will be able to tell us more.

First, your ancestor would have been interested in Josephus for the same reason he has been honored by Christians for centuries: his works are the only detailed source of information about the Judea of Jesus' times.

The first copies of Josephus in America would have been the various translations printed in England and Scotland. In fact, Thomas Jefferson owned the complete set of Josephus' works, in the first edition of Whiston's 1737 translation, printed in London. That copy is now in the Library of Congress; a photo and description can be seen at .

Heinz Schreckenberg, the prominent bibliographer of Josephus studies, lists numerous editions of Josephus published in America itself starting before the Revolutionary War. Since then, the works have been printed regularly by numerous publishers to the present day. Early editions include: Sir Roger L'Estrange's translation printed in 1773-1775 in Philadelphia and New York; a 1791 edition of Maynard's translation published in New York by Henderson; an edition of Whiston, 1794, in Worcester, Massachusetts by Isaiah Thomas.

There were many editions of Josephus published in America throughout the 19th century - thanks to the contribution of a kind reader of this web site, I have an 1854 edition published in New York.

One can find old editions that were published in early America for sale; these can be found on the internet at antiquarian booksellers such as A quick search reveals an edition of the Wars for sale published in Boston in 1826, in Baltimore in 1830, one published in Bellows Falls Vermont in 1819; and this one close in time to your ancestor:

Ben Gorion, Josephus: Wonderful and Most Deplorable History of the Latter times of the Jews: With the Destruction of the city of Jerusalem ; Leominster, Mass.: Adams & Wilder for Isaiah Thomas, Jun., 1803. Full-Leather, Good-, 12mo - over 6¾" - 7¾" tall 305pp. Scarce. Brown leather binding. Spine has gilt lettering on red label; several gilt bands. Leather rubbed at all edges. Paper is browned, especially at endpapers, and there is some foxing. The last 12 or so leaves have a waterstain at the bottom corner of the page. Owner's name and book title on front endpaper (inscription dated 1810)., Judaica Religion (UR#:002652) Offered for sale by Titcomb's Bookshop at US$295.00

Here's an even earlier one:

Josephus, Flavius: THE WHOLE GENUINE AND COMPLETE WORKS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS ; William Durell New York 1792, This is a folio size volume with 60 plates many by American Artists and large folding map there in pieces. With medium foxing throughout and some water stains. Original leather covers with front cover severed from body. Has a list of American subscribers at the end that reads like a Who's Who. Several plates by Doolittle and also Rollinson for the New York edition. Many other artists. Major 18th Century American book. (UR#:005458) Offered for sale by Joe's List at US$520.00


Gary Goldberg


Bibliographie zu Flavius Josephus, Heinz Schreckenberg (Leiden, Brill, 1968)

From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress , Abraham J. Karp, (DC, Library of Congress , 1991), cited by .

The Preface, by Hentry Stebbing, and the Foreword, by Wm. S. La Sor, to The Complete Works of Josephus (Kregel Publications)

What are your credentials?

I'm quite impressed by the site you have created, and am considering having  my students take a look at it. 

I did not see a statement about who you are and what your credentials are.  Have I missed that link somehow?

Thanks in advance for any information you might send.

- R.

I recently read your review and would like to know where you got your information.  I am writing a paper on the Bible and its comparisons to other beliefs and would like to use your info but I need to know your credentials.   Thank you.

- S. 

    Concerning sources: The references from Josephus can all be checked in the texts themselves from my given citations.  I always try to give my sources in my writing, except where I state that I am summarizing various scholarly opinions. Otherwise, if there is no source, then what I write are my own observations. That doesn't mean no one might have had similar observations in the past, though.

   As this is a pedagogical web site I do not give references to all of the secondary literature related to a topic. This saves me a lot of time. However, I try to direct readers to works for further reading; the Books page lists many important works.

   As for credentials: I'm a private person interested in researching and teaching Josephus, among other things. For what its worth, I have a Ph.D. in Physics. I've studied Josephus for 15 years, being self-taught in Greek. My discovery about the Testimonium was published in an academic journal, as mentioned on my site, but generally I prefer to write for the internet. I hope my site introduces people to Josephus and assists them in studying him more closely. I try to be objective, to let the text speak for itself , and avoid academic fashion, as much as possible.

    - Gary Goldberg


This page contains correspondence of the Flavius Josephus Home Page .