Shlomo Pines, Agapius and Elmacin (Al-Makin)

Shlomo Pines published a curious version of the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus, taken from the Arabic Christian writer Agapius.  But rereading his article, and comparing this text with the Patrologia Orientalis version of Agapius, we quickly find that there is a problem.

Pines’ text is not that given by the Florence manuscript, which alone preserves Agapius.  However the CSCO text also gives quotations from the later Arabic Christian historian, Al-Makin or Elmacin.  These Pines has used to supplement the text, and thereby produce his version.

Now in a way this is rather dubious.  After all, we know that texts expand in transmission.  The Testimonium is perhaps more prone to this than any other bit of Josephus, as the reference in Photius shows, which gives a bit about Jesus otherwise quite unknown.  Glosses on this text were always going to occur, and be incorporated.  So treating the manuscript as epitomised is unusual.

The real question is whether Al-Makin generally expands on his authorities.  If he does, then the extra material must be worthless, and Pines’ version with it.

But there is no complete edition of Al-Makin at all; none that contains this passage at all; no critical text of any of it; no real translation of any value in any language (unless we include Ethiopic).  The text is pretty much inaccessible.

I believe that the Agapius Testimonium is not as we have been led to believe.  I suggest that Agapius merely gave a rough summary of the contents, rather than a quotation; the text rather reads like that anyway.  Until we have a real understanding of Al-Makin’s text and its sources and handling of them, I think we ought to place Pines’ version on the shelf marked ‘to be verified’.

1 Response to “Shlomo Pines, Agapius and Elmacin (Al-Makin)”


  1. Roger Pearse

    An email has reached me which I quote:

    I got puzzled by what you wrote:

    “Pines’ text is not that given by the Florence manuscript, which alone preserves Agapius. However the CSCO text also gives quotations from the later Arabic Christian historian, Al-Makin or Elmacin. These Pines has used to supplement the text, and thereby produce his version.

    Now in a way this is rather dubious. After all, we know that texts expand in transmission. … The real question is whether Al-Makin generally expands on his authorities. If he does, then the extra material must be worthless, and Pines’ version with it.”

    But I cannot find any major differences between the version from Florence which you translated and the one Pines translated by using Florence and Al-Makin.

    PINES:

    “Similarly Josephus the Hebrew. For he says in the treatises that he has written on the governance of the Jews: ‘At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (He) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.’”

    PEARSE

    Josephus the Hebrew spoke of this also in his books which he wrote about the wars of the Jews: “At that time there was a wise man named Jesus, whose life was perfect, his virtues were recognized, and many Jews and Gentiles became his disciples. And Pilate condemned him to death on a cross, and those who had become his disciples, preached his doctrine. They claimed that he appeared to them alive three days after his passion. Maybe he was the Messiah, about whom the prophets had spoken of miracles.”

    There is definitely no expansion. There are a few variations which could be due to different translations. The only real difference I see is the attribution of the text to Josephus’; governance of the Jews or war of the Jews. But this is not even part of TF. So am I missing something?

    I need to recheck against Pines, clearly!



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