Monday, July 30, 2007


Slavonic Josephus

The Slavonic version of Josephus.

Century X or XI.

All English translations of the original Slavonic (or Old Russian) are formatted slightly from H. and K. Leeming, Josephus' Jewish War and its Slavonic Version. They apparently use the Thackeray translation. My changes are limited to punctuation and the like. All brackets [] are part of the translation.

Slavonic version of Josephus, Jewish War 2.9.3b-f §174 (English translation only; this passage is sometimes called the Testimonium Slavianum):

At that time there appeared a man, if it is proper to call him a man, whose nature and form were human but whose appearance was more than human and whose deeds were divine. And he worked wonderful and powerful miracles. Therefore it is impossible for me to call him a man. Then again, in view of his common nature, I shall not call him an angel [either].

And everything, whatever he did, he did by some unseen power, by word and command. Some said of him: Our first lawgiver has risen from the dead and has been demonstrating many cures and skills. Others thought that he was sent from God. But he was in much opposed to the law and did not observe the sabbath according to the ancestral customs, yet did nothing dirty, unclean, nor with use of hands, but worked everything by word only. And many of the people followed and listened to his teachings.

And many souls were aroused, thinking that by him the Jewish tribes would free themselves from the hands of the Romans. But it was his habit rather to remain in front of the city on the Mount of Olives; and there he also [freely] gave cures to people. And there 150 servants and a multitude of people joined him, seeing his power, how by word he did everything he wished. They bade him enter the city, kill the Roman troops and Pilate, and reign over these. But he did not care [to do so].

Later, when news of this came to the Jewish leaders, they assembled to the chief priests and said: We are powerless and [too] weak to oppose the Romans, like a slackened bow. Let us go and inform Pilate what we have heard, and we shall be free of anxiety; if at some time he shall hear [of this] from others, we shall be deprived of property, ourselves slaughtered, and [our] children exiled. And they went and informed Pilate. And he sent and killed many of the people and brought in that wonderworker. After inquiring about him Pilate understood that he was a doer of good, not of evil, [and] not a rebel, nor one desirous of kingship; and he released him. For he had cured his wife, who was dying.

And he went to the usual places and performed his usual deeds. And again, as more people gathered around him, he became renowned for his works more than all [others]. Again the lawyers were struck with envy against him. And they gave 30 talents to Pilate that they should kill him. And he took [it] and gave them liberty to carry out their wishes themselves. And they sought out a suitable time to kill him. For they had given Pilate 30 talents earlier, that he should give Jesus up to them. And they crucified him against the ancestral law, and they greatly reviled him.

This passage reflects the beginning and middle portions of the Testimonium; the next passage reflects the end. Slavonic version of Josephus, Jewish War 2.11.6c-d §220 (English translation only):

At this time there appeared many servants of the previously described wonderworker, telling the people about their master, that he was alive although he had died. And [they said]: He will free you from servitude. And many of the people listened to them and paid attention to their instructions, not because of their renown. For the apostles were from the lowly [folk]; for some were sailmakers, some were sandalmakers, some were manual workers, others fishermen. But they performed wonderful signs, in truth what[ever] they willed.

But the grateful governors, seeing the subversion of the people, planned with the scribes to take them and destroy them, lest a small [thing] be not small when in its fullness it becomes great. But they were ashamed and terrified by the signs and said: Such great wonders do not happen by magic; if they do not come by the forethought of God, they will be soon unmasked. And they gave them authority to go about freely. Later, being pestered by them, they released them, some to Caesar, some to Antioch, others in distant lands, for an investigation of the matter.

Slavonic version of Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.2 §195 (English translation only):

And above these inscriptions a fourth inscription hung, in those letters,* declaring Jesus, [a] king who had not reigned, crucified by [the] Jews, because he foretold the destruction of the city and the devastation of the temple.

* Id est, Greek, Roman, and Jewish letters.

Slavonic version of Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.4a-d §214 (English translation only):

Until this generation this veil was intact, for the people were pious. But now it was pitiful to look at it, for it had been suddenly rent from top to bottom when [the] benefactor, man and by his actions not man, was for reward handed over to be killed.

And they tell of many other signs that happened then; they said that after his killing and burial he was not found in the tomb. For some claimed he had risen, but others that he was stolen away by his friends.

I do not know who speaks more correctly. For a dead man cannot rise by himself unless aided by the prayer of another righteous man. Except he be an angel or one of the heavenly powers, or God himself appear as man and do what he wants, and go among people, and fall and lie and rise as is his will.

And others said that it could not be possible to steal him away; for they posted guards around his tomb, one thousand Romans and one thousand Jews. Such is what is said about this veil and as to the reason for it being torn.

Slavonic version of Josephus, Jewish War 6.5.3 §312-313 (English translation only):

But they were impelled to [make] war by an ambiguous prediction found in the sacred books, saying that in those times someone from the Judean land would be reigning over the whole world. For this there are various explanations.

For some thought it [meant] Herod, others the crucified miracle-worker Jesus, others Vespasian.


I do not think Slavonic Josephus is an accurate representation of what Josephus wrote (listen to my debate with Bob Price if you want to know what the original probably contained) but I think it makes for fine literature quite apart from its overall lack of accuracy.

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