Notes on the Old Slavonic Josephus

Note: This page was originally produced by scanning in the Russian text of Meshchersky's introduction, and running a machine-translator over portions, during July 2002.  The results were then quoted or paraphrased as necessary.    Unknown to me, an English translation of this work was in progress, and came into my hands during March 2003.  I have taken the opportunity to correct some statements which I had not understood, and to add more material.  Interestingly all the errors seem to be trivial, which suggests the approach may be of use in future.


There is a text in Old Slavonic, preserved in a number of manuscripts, which is strongly related to the Greek text of Josephus, "The Jewish War", and the manuscripts give the author's name as Josephus.  Both works are in seven books.  However it is not simply a translation of the Greek text, as it contains both material not present in the Greek, and omits material present in the Greek.  The text is commonly known as the Old Slavonic Josephus, or the Old Russian Josephus.  Since little seems to be available in English by anyone who has actually examined the manuscripts, these notes have been summarised from the introduction (in Russian) of N.A.Meshcherskii, and amended against the new English translation.  Two monochrome images of pages are also hyperlinked, below.

The primary interest in this text has derived from the presence in the text of 8 passages relating to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the early Christians.  These extracts were published with a German translation by Alexander Berendts.  Berendts and Viktor Istrin contended that the text is based on the lost Aramaic first edition of Josephus.  N.A.Meshcherskii however believed that the text is a translation of the text of the standard edition revised for Russian conditions.  Alice Whealey suggests that in reality the text is a medieval production.

Literacy came to the Slavs with Christianity, and their earliest literature thus comes from Byzantine sources.   While the text may be derived from a different Greek exemplar, it seems easier to see it as a cut-down and modified version used as a history book, and adapted to fill up significant omissions.

Knowledge of the text in the west began with publications by A. Berendts in 1906.  These focused on those 'additions' which concerned Christian origins - although there are other additions, and also omissions - and all of the literature since, as Meshcherskii drily remarks, has focused on these.  The balance of opinion has generally been against attributing these to Josephus.  

Berendts gave a German translation of 8 such passages, and worked on a full German translation of the entire text, but his efforts were cut short by his death and he only published books 1-4.  Using this material, Robert Eisler published his own theories which, while agreeing with Berendts that the additions were from the Greek, asserted that they were Christian interpolations, and further that the text was riddled with these.  A large volume of literature resulted from discussion of this. Eisler asserted that Josephus had produced two editions, as the preface to the Greek says, and that the Slavonic version was based on the first.  G.A.Williamson's Penguin translation of the "Jewish War" included these passages as an appendix, and popularised the idea.  Meshcherskii describes Eisler's philological arguments as 'extremely flimsy', 'unscientific and unreliable.'  Istrin objected to the idea that the Old Russian text was a literal translation of the lost Aramaic first edition, but was prepared to consider the idea that some of the additions were Josephan.

The main obstacle to discussion was the absence of a critical text, and indeed of a complete translation.  V.M.Istrin then intended to produce a 4 volume edition, but again was hindered by circumstances.  Volumes I & II were to contain the text with French translation, and III the notes and IV the dictionary.  In 1934 volume I appeared, containing books 1-3 with apparatus and French translation; in 1938 volume II arrived containing books 4-7 in the same manner.  This remained the only complete version in a mainstream language until Leeming's translation of Meshcherskii in 2003.  The research materials were never issued, because of the second world war, although portions of them exist in manuscript.  Istrin believed the text to be a medieval production.  

According to Meshcherskii, both the German and French translations are faulty, however.  The French translation made by P.Pascal, which accompanied Istrin's edition, was far from ideal and sometimes even distorts the meaning of the Old Russian text, as does Berendts' German version.  Part of the problem was that both translators took words in their modern Russian meaning, which was sometimes quite different from the Old Russian meaning ('chips of wood', rather than 'young tree shoots', the latter being correct).  Berendts also in his translation consciously or unconsciously omitted everything in the Old Russian material which diverged to any extent from his basic idea: to ascribe every 'addition' to the pen of Josephus himself.  Finally both Istrin and Berendts based their work on the 'separated' text, using Volokolam 651.  This recension is secondary (see below).  However Istrin did use the Archival chronograph for those parts of the text missing from the 'separated' recension.


The Old Russian text of the "Histories of the Jewish wars" by Flavius Josephus has come to us in many MSS which can be assigned to the XV-XVIII centuries.  They can be divided into two groups: the 'chronographic' (No. 1 and 2) and the 'separated' texts (the rest).  This classification is discussed below.

This list is taken from Meshcherskii:

1.  The Vilnius Chronograph (s. XVI middle).  A chronograph.  Formerly Vilnius Public Library No. 109 (147), now stored in the manuscript department of the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius.  This MS was used as the basis of Meshcherskii's edition.  Josephus occupies the end of the book, folios 500-736.  20x29 cm. 736 sheets. Written in large semi-uncials on paper with 6 different identifiable watermarks, themselves dateable between 1507-1545.  Meshcherskii gives reasons, based on a gloss, for dating it to 1556.

This chronograph is one of the most valuable monuments of old Russian writing. It covers world history up to the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The structure included bible books,  quotations from George Hamartolus Byzantine chronicles and John Malalas, Josephus " History of the Jewish wars " and a number of other sources. The contents correspond to the firsy part of a chronograph, belonging to the Archives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs No. 279-658, now in the Central State Archive of Ancient Documents in Moscow.  The greatest historical value is represented by the glosses which illuminate the little studied mythology of the ancient Lithuanian tribes and the day-to-day life of their society in s. XIII-XIV.

The MS was described in detail: F. Dobrjansky, The description of manuscripts of Vilnius Public library, Church Slavonic and Russian, 1882, page 246-255. This worker also used it for his studies on the Old Slavonic version of the Byzantine Chronographer John Malalas.  After this the manuscript was  unused, and considered lost.  In the first world war the contents of the library were evacuated, and did not become available to researchers again until 1945.  Interwar literature, in consequence, refers to the imagined destruction of this and other MSS.  Meshcherskii describes the MS in more detail, and discusses the evidence for dating it.  It was written by four scribes, all at one time, divided into quires for speed.  There are many marginalia in Polish.  Dobrjansky says that the Vilnius library obtained it from the Suprasl' monastery, which was founded by emigrants from Athos in 1498.  Inside the front cover of the book, the name Zikgimont (Sigismund) appears, probably the Polish king and Grand Prince of Lithuania, Sigismund August II (ruled 1544-1572).

ff.1-95 consist basically of the biblical book of Genesis, with interpolations from John Malalas, the Hexameron, and other sources.  Written on glossy paper by one scribe.  The text ends at the top of f.95 -- the verso is blank.

ff. 96-126.  A separate quire, containing Exodus.  Written  by a different scribe in special light inks on matt paper.

ff. 127-242. A separate quire, containing Leviticus and Numbers.  On rough paper.  By the same scribe as ff.1-95.

ff. 242-273. A separate quire.  Starts with a vignette and a red ink heading in large script, "Instructive book of the Divine Old Testament".  Contains Deuteronomy.  Glossy paper.

ff. 274-458. Two separate quires, two different hands.  ff. 459-458, another quire.  ff. 459-497, another quire.  ff. 497-end.  Another quire, this one containing Josephus.

2  The Archival Chronograph (end of s.XV-start of s.XVI).  A chronograph.  Formerly in the Archive of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, No. 279-658 (formerly 902-1468), now stored in the Central State Archive of Ancient Documents in Moscow.  Josephus occupies ff.343-480.  Text is identical in content to that of the Vilnius chronograph.

3.  The Academy Ms. (end of s.XV).  A chronograph, except that the text is really that of the separated edition, and just appears as the end portion of a book On the three captures of Jerusalem.  Library of the Academy of Science No. 45.13.4.  Josephus occupies ff. 222-300.  Kept in Leningrad, in the manuscript department of the Library of the Academy of Science of the USSR.  Monochrome bitmap of folio (facing Meshcherskii p.32)

4.  The Uvarov Ms. (end of s.XV).  Formerly Count Uvarov's Collection No. 3 (18).  Spelling and structure is like #3.  Josephus is ff.409-552.  Kept in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

5.  Trinity (Troickii) 1.  (start of s.XVI).  Formerly of the Troica-Sergijev Monastery, No. 1 (12). A note indicates it was once owned by Metropolitan Varlaam, in office 1511-1521.  Previously in the library of the Trinity Theological Seminary.  Now kept in the manuscript department of the V.I.Lenin State Library of the USSR in Moscow.  Josephus is ff. 447-595. Identical to #3 and #4.  

That 3, 4 and 5 go back to a single exemplar can be shown by the presence before each of John Eugenius' Lament on the desolation of the Great City, written between 1453-1461, and which appeared in a Russian translation not more than 60 years later, and probably in s.XV.

6.  Makarius 1.  The so-called "imperial" copy of the Menologion for the month of January of Metropolitan Makarios (s.XVI).  Formerly Synod Library No. 178 (ff.797-917).  Handwritten note on f.929 from which it is possible to infer that it was copied between s.XIV-XVI.  Like #3,4,5, the text comprises part of On the three captures of Jerusalem.  Now kept in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

7.  Synod 1. (s.XVI)  Formerly Synod Library No. 182.  A copy of the menologion for the month of July.  Josephus is ff.856-953, as part of On the three captures of Jerusalem.  Now in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

8.  Makarius 2. (middle of s.XVI)  Formerly Synod Library No 991. A copy of the Uspensky Great Menologion for December.  Josephus is ff.776-890. The text os Josephus is here separate from On the three captures of Jerusalem. Now in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

9.  Volokolam Ms.  (start of s.XVI, perhaps end of s.XV).  Formerly Volokolam Monastery No. 651 (227), formerly No. 437, with a crossed out No. 356 also on the page.  295 pages.  The Ms contains only Josephus, and was the basis of Berendts' and V.M.Istrina's editions.  Now in the manuscript department of the V.I.Lenin State Library of the USSR where it arrived in 1918 from the library of the Moscow Theological College.

10.  Synod 2.  (end of s.XVI, perhaps start of s.XVII). Formerly Synod Library No. 770.  398 folios.  Contains both Josephus and John Eugenius' Lament.  Now in the State historical museum in Moscow. 

11. Barsov 1.  (s.XV-XVI) E. V. Barsov's collection No. 633, 277 folios.  This manuscript was listed by E.V.Barsovskii in the Description of the  manuscripts of the Vygolenskii Old Believer monastery ("Описании рукописей собрания Выголексинского старообрядческого монастыря", St. Petersburg, 1874).  However subsequently the manuscript was not to be found (Victorov, etc).  It seems plain that the manuscript was abstracted by E.V. Barsov from the Vygolenskii library and used by him for his work The Lay of Igor's Campaign ("Слово о полку Игореве").  Now kept in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

12. Barsov 2.  (s.XVI).  E.V.Barsov's collection No 634. 266 folios; probably an early copy of the first.  Now kept in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

13. Trinity (Troickii) 2.  (s.XVI).  Formerly Troica-Sergei Monastery No 720.  Josephus only.  Now in the manuscript department of the V.I.Lenin State Library of the USSR

14.  Osterman (s.XVI). A volume of the "imperial" chronicle.  Library of the Academy of sciences of the USSR, No 17.17.9.  Plenty of colourful  miniatures in the text.  Josephus is ff.965-1474.  Now kept in the manuscripts department of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad.  Monochrome bitmap of folio (facing Meshcherskii p.33)

15.  Kyrillo-Belozerskii 1 (s. XVI).  From the library of the Kyrillo-Belozerskii monastery, No. 64-1303. ff.1-311.  The manuscript is defective, missing the first folio.  p.311ff is John Eugenius Lament.  Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library in Leningrad (now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia), having come from the Petrograd Theological College library in 1918. 

16. Kyrillo-Belozerskii 2 (s. XVI).  From the library of the Kyrillo-Belozerskii monastery, No. 63-1302.  ff. 1-339.  This manuscript is complete.  p.339ff is John Eugenius' Lament.  Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (Now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

17.  Kyrillo-Belozerskii 3 (start of s. XVII). From the library of the Kyrillo-Belozerskii monastery, No. 65-1304.  275 folios, containing Josephus only.  This semi-literate manuscript was copied carelessly from #16. Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

18.  Solovki 1. (s. XVI).  From the library of the Solovki monastery, No 445 (325).  In 277 folios.  There is an inscription which speaks of the donation of the MS to the monastery by the Tsar and Grand Duke Ivan Vasilevitch in 7047 (1539).  Now kept in the manuscript department of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad.

19.  Solovki 2. (s. XVI). From the library of the Solovki monastery, No 444 (322).  349 folios.  Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia), where it arrived from the library of the Kazan Theological College.

20.  Solovki 3. (s. XVII) From the library of the Solovki monastery, No 446 (323). 400 folios. Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

21.  Solovki 4 (s. XVII). From the library of the Solovki monastery, No 447 (324). 393 folios. Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

22.  Siiskii 1.  (s. XVII).  From the Antony Siiskii monastery, No. 72 (167), No. 124 (as described by Viktorov).  291 folios with numerous notes in the margins.  Now in the manuscript department of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad where it arrived in 1931 from the collection of the Archeological Commission (собрания Археографической комиссии).  Present inventory No 4516.

23.  Siiskii 2. From the Antony Siiskii monastery, No. 79 (168), No. 125 (in Viktorov).  In 1930 it was in the collection of the Archeological Commission of the Academy of sciences of the USSR; it's current whereabouts are unknown, as it did not arrive with #22 at the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad.

24. Pogodin.  (s. XVIII).  Formerly Pogodin Collection, No. 1701.  196 folios.  Marginal notes from the start of s.XVIII (p. 7, 1716; p.60, 1725). Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library(Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

25.  Tolstoy.  (s. XVIII).  From the Tolstoy Collection, No. 170.1.411.  247 folios.  Inscription on p.1 "History of Jerusalem of Joseph Iosifa by Ivan Filippov".  Obviously the manuscript was copied at the start of the 18th century by the well-known Old Believer Ivan Filippov, the chronicler of the small Vygovskii monastery, perhaps from #11.   Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library(Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

26. Florishchevskii.  (s. XVIII). From the library of the former Florishchevskii Hermitage in the Vladimir region, No. 94 (110).  Described in 1890 by A.E. Viktorov in "Description of manscript collections in severnorusskih (North-Russian) monasteries" ("Описание рукописных собраний севернорусских монастырей"), 1890, pp.214-5; its current whereabouts are  unknown.

27. Kilandar.  From the Serbian Kilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos.  Dated 1585.  A note published by Porphirii Uspensky in his Xristianskii Vostok (Christian Orient), and mentioned by E.V.Barsov in work says that it was made from a Russian original for lack of South Slavic copies.  Current whereabouts unknown.

28.  Rumyanchev.  (Not later than middle of s.XV) Rumianchev Public Museum, No 3271, ff. 256-291.  The manuscript is very incomplete, containing only fragments of books V and VI.  The earliest MS by age, but the language reflects extensive editorial corrections because of the 'Secondary South Slavonic' influence.  It was cited in the apparatus of V.M. Istrin's edition.  Now kept in the manuscript department of the V.I.Lenin State Library of the USSR in Moscow.

29.  Kyrillo-Belozerskii 4.  (s. XV) From the Kyrillo-Belozerskii Monastery Library, No. 53. ff. 426-490.  Incomplete, containing books V and VI and a number of fragments from other books.  The manuscript is especially valuable since it is the only one which can be precisely dated.  On p.155 there is an inscription giving date and time, dating it to 1462, July 18th.  This florilegium was mentioned by the monastic cataloger under the name "The fourth collection of the abbot Ignatius".  See Н. К. Никольский. Описание рукописей Кириллова Белозорского монастыря, составленное в конце XV в. СПб., 1897, стр. 141 и 279-287. (N. K. Nikolsky. The description of manuscripts of the Kyrillo-Belozerskii monastery, made at the end of s.XV. St.Pb., 1897, page 141 and 279-287.)  The manuscript is closely related by type of text and language to #9, the Volokolam Ms, however it was not copied so carefully.  Probably the copyist had before him a semi-legible exemplar, and omitted portions he could not read, leaving gaps and sometimes deforming the sense. Now kept in the manuscript department of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library (now the National Library(Saltykov-Shchedrin) of Russia).

30. Krasnogorskii.  (s. XVII).  From the former collection of the Archangel Old Depository, No. 1014.  Cursive writing of the second half of the 17th century.  The text of the first three books of the "separated" edition, ff. 241-388.  Now stored in the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad, where it arrived in 1931 from the Archaeological Commission (inventory no. 5081).  A collection of MSS to which it belongs was described as a whole in an article by B.F.Pokrovskii in 1954 (В. Ф. Покрове к а я. Неизвестный список слова Даниила Заточника. ТОДРЛ, т. X, стр. 280-290).  

From these MSS, Berendts used 17 (i.e #1, 2, 4, 6-10, 15-21, 26 and 27).  V.M.Istrin's edition names and uses 8: #2, 3, 6, 9, 15, 18, 28; also Berendts No. 3, 11, 28.  The other MSS were not used for any edition prior to Meshcherskii's.  #5, 12-14, 22-25, 29 and 30 were unknown.  However these do not add much, as they are mostly late.

Manuscript Classification

There are two groups:

  1. 'Chronographic'.  These are the Vilnius and Archival Mss.  They contain the full text of the history, starting with Book 1, chapter 1, and ending at book 7, chapter 11.  Josephus History is just one component of a composite Chronograph, compiled from many sources in the 13th century and labelled by V.M. Istrin the Jewish Chronograph.  The text is closely connected with the chronicles of Malalas and Hamartolus, and alternates with them, and also with biblical texts, including the New Testament, particularly in books 1 (up to ch. 21), 2 and 4.  The result is a seamless whole.  A set of marginal notes are common to both Mss. and indicate the source for the material: Iosif ('Josephus'); Xron (presumably 'Chronograph') etc. 
  2. 'Separated' version.  All other Mss. belong to this group.  The text is given separately, but is incomplete.  Omissions include Book 1, cc1-25, 2 cc.18-end;  3, cc.1-2, cc.3-5; a chunk in 7 c.8, and the end from 7, c.10.  On the other hand, in book 3, paras 194-5, the text in the separated form is longer than the abbreviated text in the Chronographic form, and other abridgements exist.  Other insertions, from Malalas and Hamartolus are also present, abridgements of the chapters of those writers.  This version has a special preface in place of the omitted opening chapters.

The abridgements in the chronographic form are explained by the wish to omit material already dealt with, e.g. in biblical books earlier in the text.

Examination of the differences reveals that the separate version is derived from the chronographic version, by omitting or abbreviating it.  Overtly Christian elements are also pruned, since the Old Russian copyists and editors seem to have regarded Josephus as obviously non-Christian, and could not be the author of those passages of the chronograph.  The separated version has later Russian linguistic features also.

Meshcherskii proposes that the translation was made at Constantinople, and then incorporated into a Chronograph.  In the later middle ages, a need for a separate text was found, and so one was prepared.  It may be suggested that the exemplar from which it was prepared was in poor condition, explaining some of the larger omissions.  The beginning would be hard to separate from Malalas, etc, so begins at the point where Josephus is clearly the author.  This separate text was in turn widely copied, so as to almost extinguish the tradition of the chronograph.

Differences with the Greek

These are very extensive.  These notes are only a sample; for a proper view, Leeming should be consulted.

By 'omissions' we signify material present in the Greek text but not in Old Slavonic; by 'additions', the reverse.  No theory should be presumed from these words on how these differences come about.


These are very substantial.  

In Book I, Josephus's foreword as not having the direct relation to the further narration ( I-31) is entirely omitted. Further insignificant misses(passings) in the end 33 and 34. 40, 41, and also the text 44 and 45,  49,  94. Further, after insignificant omissions and some paragraphs being abbreviated, 164-166 are completely omitted. 177, 180-182 are omitted. Likewise 187-192 which describe the stay of Julius Caesar in Egypt; 223-228, 255-260, 304-309, narrating about management of the Tyrant in Galilee; 363-369 and 374-376. Almost the whole chapter which tells about war of Herod with arabs. 409-414, XXXI ( 601-606,) and  XXXII ( 641-644). The first paragraph is missed also. XXXIII ( 647). 

In Book II, material that relates to the origins of the war with Rome is  not included:-- 14-19 (Archelaus journey to Rome), II, 40-75 (Sabinus' massacres of Jews), 178-186, 271-283, 410-411, 413-416, 439-450, 465-480.

In Book III, absent are:-- 17-19, 130-131, 181-188 (lack of water in Jotapata), 120-129, 258-270, 300-304, 395-398, 521-531.  Abbreviated 223-282.

Book IV also contains substantial omissions, and some also in Book V, although much less.  Book VI is perhaps the closest to the Greek, although various phrases are omitted, perhaps for stylistic reasons.  There are more omissions in book VII, including the end, 446-455 which details Josephus being charged by Catullus.  This last is absent in both #1 and #2, and since both end at the same word, which is semantically strange, Meshcherskii suggests that the original for both had lost the final sheet.

Meshcherskii adds that, as the work is entitled, "The capture of Jerusalem", it is natural to see the omission as made by the editor, as most of them are not relevant to this theme.  Naturally the changes to book VI are the least, because in that book there is least material irrelevant to the theme.  The argument of Berendts, that omissions grew in number as the translator grew weary, is thus the reverse of the case.


These are not less important than the omissions.  Istrin sub-divided these into two categories, Christological and non-Christological, and assigned them different origins, but Meshcherskii dismisses this.  A sample:

I, III: a large section on the theocratic rule of Hyrcanus I.  I, XIV addition on Roman customs.  I, XVII, Herod has a prophetic dream about ears.  Then the name of a village is added - in fact place names are generally somewhat confused by comparison.  XIX, I a lengthy addition where the Jewish priests discuss Herod, leading into passages about John the Baptist and Jesus. XX, I a passage on the murder of the innocents by Herod.  XXIX long speech to Herod, dealt with in the Greek by a single sentence.  

The passage similar to the Testimonium Flavianum about Jesus -- but longer -- is also present in the Old Russian text of the Chronicle of George Hamartolus.


The primary reason why most people have heard of the Old Slavonic Josephus is because of the testimony to Christ which it contains.  The assertions made by Williamson and others that these reflect a Greek text directly, and a Greek text by Josephus, have not generally been accepted.

Meshcherskii tells us that religious texts translated into Old Slavonic are normally handled with word-for-word accuracy.  But history, he says, as a subject, was a secular topic.  His suggestion is that the translator used his text with 'rare freedom' (start of section 9, p.75).  He did not aspire to literally translate the Greek, but instead chose to modify the text substantially, in order to address a different topic, and to fit it into the story of the three destructions of the city and the chronographies.  The subject was changed from the Jewish War as a whole to simply the Fall of Jerusalem, large chunks of now irrelevant material omitted, and additional material added from other sources by the editor in order to make a pleasing narrative.  

The Hebrew Josippon was also composed around the same time, in the latter half of the 10th century.  This too contains substantial reworking and large-scale inclusion of legendary material, including the Alexander-legend of pseudo-Callisthenes.  This text enjoyed a wide circulation among Jewish communities in the East, and was also translated into Old Russian by the end of the 11th century, and is made use of in Russian chronicles.


I have received an email from 'Ilse' which advises me:

I noticed that you have reviewed Leeming's Josephus volume. Your review made me wonder whether you are aware of the work of the German Slavist Prof. Dr Ernst Hansack on the subject, including his chapter on the transmission history of the Slavonic Josephus manuscripts and his review of Meshcherskij's edition. Hansack, who incidentally managed to obtain a copy of the Vilna manuscript about 15 years ago (hence his belated review of Meshcherskij's edition), also reported that a Russian team (or maybe two - to be certain I would have to look it up) was in the process of preparing a new critical edition. Some of the contents of the Slavonic manuscripts of Josephus' Jewish War is sufficiently controversial that, in my view, anyone seriously interested in the subject may well want to know about Hansack's findings and the present state of the Slavonic Josephus manuscript research.


A. BERENDTS, 'Die Zeugnisse vom Christentum im slavischen "De bello judaico" des Josephus'--Texte und Untersuchtungen, N.F. xiv. 4. (1906)  Not checked.

A. BERENDTS, Flavius Josephus vom Judischen Kriege. B. I-IV. Nach der slavischen Ubersetzung deutsch herausgegeben und mit dem griechischen Text verglichen von A. Berendts u. K. Grass.  (Teil I; Dorpat, 1924-26; Teil II; Dorpat, 1927)  Not checked.  Meshcherskii says he intended to do a complete translation but his efforts were cut short by his death.

Robert EISLER, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, London, 1931, 217.  Not checked. This author assumed that the text was full of Christian interpolations, according to Whealey.

N.A. MESHCHERSKIIIstorija Iudejskoj vojny Iosifa Flavija v drevne-russkom perevode. [History of the Jewish War by Joseph Flavius in the Old Russian translation]. Moscow--Leningrad: Akademia Nauk SSSR, 1958. 578 pp.  Checked.  Critical text in Russian.  The source I used for these notes.  There are 130+ pages of preface.

H. LEEMING, K. LEEMING, with L. OSINKINA. Josephus' Jewish War and its Slavonic Version: A Synoptic Comparison. Leiden:Brill (2003). Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und das Urchristentums 46. ISBN: 9004114386.  Checked.  This is in fact a full translation of Meshcherskii, including the preface but not the plates, with Thackeray's English translation of the Greek alongside and two additional prefaces on Meshcherskii himself.  It weighs almost 5 ilbs (2.2 Kg), which makes it hard to read, though.

Alice WHEALEY, The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Antiquity to the Present, SBS 2000.  Reviews the various theories and gives the current position.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 23rd July 2002.  
Images added and language encoding altered, 24th July 2002.
Minor revisions and additions from Leeming, 10th March 2003.

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