Josephus in Ethiopian – a dissertation

An interesting dissertation has come online here, Y. Binyam, Studies in Sefer Yosippon: The Reception of Josephus in Medieval Hebrew, Arabic, and Ethiopic Literature, Florida (2017).  The abstract reads:

In this dissertation I analyze the reception of Josephus in Ethiopia by way of the Hebrew Sefer Yosippon, its Latin sources, and its subsequent Arabic translations. I provide the first English translations and comparative analysis of selected passages from the Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and Ethiopic texts that transmit Josephus’s Jewish War.

The first part of this project provides an introduction to four texts that play important roles in the transmission of Josephus’s Jewish War from first-century Rome to fourteenth-century Ethiopia: the fourth-century Latin De Excidio Hierosolymitano, the tenth-century Hebrew Sefer Yosippon, the twelfth-century Arabic Kitāb akhbār al-yahūd, and the fourteenth-century Ethiopic Zena Ayhud.

After discussing the critical issues related to these texts, the second part of the dissertation presents a detailed comparison of the receptions of the famous story of Maria found Josephus’s account of the siege of Jerusalem. I pay close attention to the redactional changes made by the author of each text and note the ideological, cultural, rhetorical, and historical factors that lie behind the various editorial activities.

Ultimately my research seeks to contribute to our understanding of the way in which non-western cultures receive the historiographical traditions of the classical period. In doing so, it will highlight the uniqueness of understudied literary and historiographical traditions that flourished in the medieval period.

The Latin text is the ps.Hegesippus which is online.

The thesis discusses the textual transmission of these four sub-Josephan texts.  Naturally this involves material known only to specialists.  Who of us knows much about the spread of texts into Ethiopic?   But I learn on p.61 that a “large number of translations were made into Ethiopic … during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries”, and of “the ecclesiastical reforms that take place with the ascendancy of Yekuno Amlka (1270-1285), who commissions the translation of large numbers of theological and ecclesiastical works into Ge’ez.”

My thanks to the kind correspondent who drew my attention to this, very worthwhile, study.

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2 thoughts on “Josephus in Ethiopian – a dissertation

  1. It is offline. Something has happened to the server. I believe that Bill Thayer will have to travel up to Chicago to sort it out, which is difficult at the moment. So I don’t know how long it will be like this.

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