Antiquities of the Jews
AuthorFlavius Josephus
Original titleἸουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία
TranslatorThomas Lodge
William Whiston
Henry St. John Thackeray
Ralph Marcus
CountryRoman Empire
LanguageKoine Greek
SubjectJewish history
Published93/94 AD
Published in English
Media typeManuscript
LC ClassDS116.J7418
Original text
Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία at Greek Wikisource
TranslationAntiquities of the Jews at Wikisource
A leaf from the 1466 manuscript of the Antiquitates Iudaice, National Library of Poland

Antiquities of the Jews (Latin: Antiquitates Iudaicae; Greek: Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία, Ioudaikē archaiologia) is a 20-volume historiographical work, written in Greek, by historian Josephus in the 13th year of the reign of Roman emperor Domitian, which was AD 94.[1] The book contains an account of the history of the Jewish people for Josephus's gentile patrons. In the first ten volumes, Josephus follows the events of the Hebrew Bible beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve.

The second ten volumes continues the history of the Jewish people beyond the biblical text and up to the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73). This work, along with Josephus's other major work, The Jewish War (De Bello Iudaico), provides valuable background material for historians wishing to understand 1st-century Judaism and the early Christian period.[2]


Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews is a vital source for the history of the intertestamental period and the Jewish war against Rome.[3] Antiquities of the Jews is separated into twenty volumes:

Volume From To Years covered
I Biblical creation Death of Abraham's son Isaac 3,833
II History of Isaac's sons The Exodus of Jews from Biblical Egypt 250
III Exodus from Egypt First 2 years of the 40 years in the wilderness 2
IV The remaining 38 years in the wilderness Death of Moses upon reaching Canaan 38
V Joshua's replacement of Moses as leader Death of the priest Eli 476
VI The capture of the Ark by the Philistines Death of King Saul 32
VII David's ascension to the throne of the Kingdom of Israel Death of King David 40
VIII Solomon's ascension as King of Israel The death of King Ahab in battle with the Syrian army, and the saving of the army by Jehoshaphat 163
IX Reign of King Jehoshaphat Fall of Samaria 157
X Babylonian captivity of the Jews Daniel and the destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 182
XI Start of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great Death of Alexander the Great 253
XII Death of Alexander the Great Maccabean Revolt and the death of Judas Maccabeus 170
XIII Origins of the Hasmonean dynasty Death of Queen Alexandra 82
XIV The death of Queen Alexandra Death of Antigonus II Mattathias 32
XV Herod the Great's taking of Jerusalem Completion of King Herod's temple in Jerusalem 18
XVI Completion of King Herod's temple Death of Herod's sons 12
XVII Death of Herod's sons Banishment of King Archelaus 14
XVIII The banishment of King Herod Archelaus Banishment of the Jews living in Babylon 32
XIX The banishment of the Jews living in Babylon Cuspius Fadus, the Roman procurators of Judea 3
XX The time of Emperor Claudius Gessius Florus, Procurator of Judea. His antagonism of the Jews led to the Jewish Wars 22

In the preface of Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus provides his motivation for composing such a large work. He writes:

Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study; for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures.[4]

Josephan scholar Louis Feldman highlights several of the misconceptions about the Jewish people that were being circulated in Josephus's time. In particular, the Jews were thought to lack great historical figures and a credible history of their people. They were also accused of harboring hostility toward non-Jews, and were thought to be generally lacking in loyalty, respect for authority, and charity.[5] With these harsh accusations against the Jews fluttering about the Roman empire, Josephus, set out to provide a Hellenized version of the Jewish history. Such a work is often called an "apologia," as it pleads the case of a group of people or set of beliefs to a larger audience.

In order to accomplish this goal, Josephus omitted certain accounts in the Jewish narrative and even added a Hellenistic "glaze" to his work. For example, the "Song of the Sea" sung by Moses and the people of Israel after their deliverance at the Red Sea is completely omitted in Josephus's text.[6] He does mention, however, that Moses composed a song to God in hexameter—a rather unusual (and Greek) metrical scheme for an ancient Hebrew.[7] Josephus also writes that Abraham taught science to the Egyptians, who in turn taught the Greeks, and that Moses set up a senatorial priestly aristocracy, which like Rome resisted monarchy. Thus, in an attempt to make the Jewish history more palatable to his Greco-Roman audience, the great figures of the biblical stories are presented as ideal philosopher-leaders.

In another example, apparently due to his concern with pagan antisemitism, Josephus omitted the entire episode of the golden calf from his account of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It has been suggested that he was afraid that the biblical account might be employed by Alexandrian antisemites to lend credence to their allegation that the Jews worshiped an ass's head in the Temple (cf. Apion 2:80, 114, 120; Tacitus, Histories 5:4).[8] He also stated that the Ancient Egyptians forced the Jewish slaves to build the pyramids, writing "They [the Egyptian taskmasters] set them also to build pyramids."[9]

Josephus also adds a short account of his personal life, Vita, as an appendix to the Judean Antiquities.

Antiquities of the Jews contains a good deal of valuable, sometimes unique, historical material. This applies, for example, to the history of the Hellenistic states, Parthia, Armenia, the Nabatean kingdom, and the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages and up to modern times the book was considered one of the most important sources in ancient Roman history, along with the works of Titus Livius, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Jerome. Because of this, Josephus is sometimes called the "Titus Livius of the Greeks". The Jewish Encyclopedia speculates that much of Josephus's writings on Herod the Great and his sons draw from the work of Nicolaus of Damascus, a personal friend of Herod's, whose writings remain largely missing; once Nicolaus's narrative on Herod Archelaus ends, Josephus's narrative becomes less detailed.[10] Josephus admitted being familiar with Nicolaus's work but also rebuked Nicolaus for exaggerating Herod's royal claims and benevolence, where Josephus treated Herod as a tyrant.[10]

The extant copies of this work contain two passages about Jesus and James the Just. The long one has come to be known as the Testimonium Flavianum. Scholars usually agree on the authenticity of the second passage, while the first one is considered to be authentic, but to have been subjected to Christian interpolation.


The earliest Greek manuscript of Books 11–20 of the Antiquities dates from the eleventh century,[11] the Ambrosianus 370 (F 128); preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. However, the manuscript tradition is complex and many manuscripts are incomplete.[12]

The works of Josephus Flavius were popular in late antiquity. Then appeared the translation of "Antiquities of the Jews" into Latin. It is attributed to either Jerome or his contemporary Tyrannius Rufinus. In medieval Europe, "Antiquities of the Jews" circulated widely, mainly in Latin translation.

This work of Joseph Flavius was translated into Old Bulgarian at the Preslav Literary School in the beginning of the 10th century during the time of Simeon the Great.

In the 9th–10th centuries, the so-called "Josippon", written in Hebrew, appeared in Italy. It described the events of world and Jewish history from the time of the construction of the Tower of Babel to the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. Essentially, this chronicle was an abbreviated translation of Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish War, but Joseph ben Gorion was named the author. Josippon gained no less popularity than Antiquities of the Jews. With the advent of printing, it was published even before this major work of Josephus Flavius in 1476.


In 1602, Thomas Lodge published an English translation of both the Antiquities and the Wars. This volume amounted to over 800 pages.[13]

The first printed edition of Antiquities of the Jews in Greek appeared in 1544. Other publications followed—1553 (Antwerp), 1611 and 1634 (Cologne), 1687 (Oxford), 1691 (Leipzig), 1700 (Oxford), 1726 (Leiden), and so on. Already in the 15th–16th centuries, Jewish Antiquities was translated into Dutch, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The book was published both in modern languages and in Latin. The first Russian translation of Jewish Antiquities appeared in 1781.[14] First Italian translation dates to 1549 in Venice.[citation needed]

One of the best known translations of this work was provided by William Whiston in 1737, which has been in print continuously since then.[15] The Loeb Classical Library published a 1926 translation by Henry St. John Thackeray and Ralph Marcus, normally preferred academically. A cross-reference apparatus for the Works of Josephus and the Biblical canon also exists.[16][17]

See also


  1. ^ Antiquities, Book XX, chapter 11; "I shall put an end to these Antiquities, which are contained in twenty books, and sixty thousand verses. And if God permit me, I will briefly run over this war again, with what befell us therein to this very day, which is the thirteenth year of the reign of Caesar Domitian [i.e. September 93 – September 94], and the fifty-sixth year of my own life."
  2. ^ Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985).
  3. ^ Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday, 1997, 1992).
  4. ^ Ant. 1.5. Trans. by William Whiston, A.M., 1895
  5. ^ Louis Feldman, Josephus' Interpretation of the Bible (Berkeley: University of California, 1998), pp. 132–162.
  6. ^ Exodus 15
  7. ^ Ant. 2:346
  8. ^ "Encyclopedia Judaica: The Golden Calf". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  9. ^ Down, David (September 1, 2004). "The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt". Answers in Genesis. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Gottheil, Richard; Krauss, Samuel. Nicholas of Damascus (Nicolaus Damascenus). The Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  11. ^ Clare K. Rothschild, "Echo of a Whisper": The Uncertain Authenticity of Josephus' Witness to John the Baptist, in David Hellholm, Tor Vegge, Ayvind Norderval, Christer Hellholm (editors), Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity, page 273 (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2011). ISBN 978-3-11-024751-0
  12. ^ Pearse, Roger. "Josephus: the Main Manuscripts of "Antiquities"". Tertullian.
  13. ^ Wolfe, H. (2006-12-25). The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613-1680. Springer. ISBN 978-0-230-60181-9.
  14. ^ "Иосиф Флавий. Иудейские древности. Предисловие к русскому изданию".
  15. ^ A new updated version of Whiston's translation was published by Hendrickson Publishers in 1987.
  16. ^ Clontz, T.E. and J., The Comprehensive New Testament, Cornerstone Publications (2008), ISBN 978-0-9778737-1-5
  17. ^ Bennett, Rick (30 November 2011). "New Release: Comprehensive Bible Cross Reference". Accordance Bible Software. Retrieved 27 November 2017.|