Josephus: the Main Manuscripts of "The Jewish War"

Full list of all manuscripts

This text in seven books is the earliest and most famous of Josephus' works.  Written using eye-witness knowledge and the now-lost Commentaries of Vespasian and Titus (cf. Vita 342, 358; Apion i.53-56), Josephus also employed assistants 'for the sake of the Greek' (Apion i.50), who made books 1-6 the excellent specimens of first-century atticist writing that they are.  Book 7 is closer to the style of Antiquities, and the author may have been more dependent on his own resources.  The work was probably written before the death of Vespasian in 79, as he received a copy, but after the dedication of the Temple of Pax (vii. 158ff) in the year 75 (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 15).  However he may well have continued to retouch the text thereafter.  In the preface he refers to an earlier draft in 'the paternal tongue', which is therefore Aramaic or possibly Hebrew.  

A 3rd century papyrus also exists: Josephus, Bellum Iudaïcum II 20. 6-7 P.Rain. 3.36 (P.Vindob. inv. G 29810) <503> III CP Bibl.: P. Rain. 4, p. 137; RMB 40; Typ. 222 Reprod.: éd. d'A. Pelletier, Flavius Josèphe. Guerre des Juifs, t. II (Paris, CUF, 1980) pl. I. Photographie à Liège.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /

P Paris, BNF Codex Parisinus Graecus 1425 10 or 11
A Milan, Ambrosian Library Codex Ambrosianus (Mediolanensis) D. 50 sup. 10 or 11
M Venice, San Marco Codex Marcianus (Venetus) Gr. 383 11 or 12
L Florence, Mediceo-Laurentian Library Codex Laurentianus plut. lxix. 19. 11 or 12
V Rome, Vatican Library Codex Vaticanus Graecus 148 ca. 11
R Rome, Vatican Library Codex Palatinus (Vaticanus) Graecus 284 11 or 12
C Rome, Vatican Library Codex Urbinas (Vaticanus) Graecus 84 11
N Florence, Mediceo-Laurentian Library   Codex Laurentianus plut. lxix. 17. ca. 12
T Codex Philippicus, formerly belonging to the library of the late Sir Thomas Phillips, Cheltenham - the bibliophile. ca. 12
Exc. (Excerpts made by order of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century - no details of MSS given)
Lat. (A Latin version known to Cassiodorus in the fifth century and commonly ascribed to Rufinus in the preceding century).
Heg. Hegesippus, a corruption of Josepus or Josippus: another Latin version, wrongly ascribed to St. Ambrose, written about 370 A.D. by a converted Jew, Isaac, as a Christian called Hilarius or Gaudentius, the so-called Ambrosiaster, a contemporary of Pope Damasus (see Jos. Wittig in Max Sdralek's Kirchengesch. Abhandlungen iv; ed. Keber-Caesar, Marburg, 1864).  A new edition by Vinc. Ussani for the Vienna Corpus is forthcoming [CSEL: these notes in 1927].
Syr. A Syriac translation of Book 6 in Translatio Syra Pescitto Vet. Test. ex cod. Ambrosiano sec. fere vi phololith. edita cura et adnotationibus Antonii Maria Ceriani, Milan, 1876-1883.
Yos. Josephus Gorionides or Yosippon, a Hebrew paraphrase, derived from Heg., ed. Breithaupt, Gotha, 1727.
Slav. The Old Russian version - see my notes here.

[This is derived from the Loeb, which bases it on Niese.  However this is undoubtedly not a complete list of MSS]

The MSS fall into two main groups, PA(ML) and VR(C); M, L and, to a less extent C are inconstant members, siding now with one group, now with the other.  The first group is decidedly superior to the second.  The two types of text go much further back than the date of Niese's oldest MSS, since traces of the "inferior" type appear already in Porphyry (3rd century); the diversity of readings must therefore have begun very early.  Indeed some variants appear to preserve corrections gradually incorporated by the author himself in later editions of his work (e.g. 6. 369 where both the revision and the older variant are present - see Laqueur, Der jüd. Historiker Fl. Josephus, p. 239).  Mixture of the two types also began early, a few instances of "conflation" occurring already in the fourth century Latin version.  P and A appear to have been copy from an exemplar in which the terminations of words were abbreviated, and are to that extent untrustworthy.  The true text seems to have been not seldom preserved in one of the MSS of mixed type, L in particular.  The mixture in that MS is peculiar; throughout Book i and down to about ii.242 it sides with VRC, from that point onwards more often with the other group or with the Latin version.  In the later books L becomes an authority of the first rank and seems often to have preserved alone, or in combination with the Latin version, the original text.

Cassiodorus' Latin version

Cassiodorus records the existence of this Latin version, and the uncertainty over authorship, in his Institutes XVII, 1.

Table of Contents / Chapter Divisions / Titles

TBA.  I didn't see any in the Loeb text, however.


A 12th century copy of the translation into Latin by Rufinus is accessible at the CEEC. (Flavius Josephus translat. Rufino Tyrannio)


H. St. J. THACKERAY, Josephus. With an English translation.  In Nine Volumes.  Vol. 2: TheJewish War, Books I-III.  Harvard University Press/Loeb (1927)

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 7th August 2002.

This page has been online since 7th August 2002

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