Josephus’s Biblical Text for
the Books of Samuel
Inquiry concerning the biblical text used as a source by Josephus for his monumental history, The Jewish Antiquities, can be doubly illuminating. It can shed light on the state of the biblical text in the first century C.E., and it can shed light on Josephus’s method as a late first-century historian.
Josephus probably used scrolls of the Scriptures that were copied in the first two-thirds of the first century of our era or perhaps even somewhat earlier. Shortly after the First Jewish Revolt against Rome and the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., he left for Rome with some copies of “sacred books” (Life 417-18). Thus, the more that is known about the specific biblical texts that Josephus used, the more we know about the specific form, or one of the specific forms, of the biblical text circulating in Judaea during the late Second Temple period and during the formative stages of the literatures of the New Testament and the Mishnah. Similarly, the more we can determine about Josephus’s biblical source, the more we can understand of his methods as a historiographer.1
1. See Harold W. Attridge, “Josephus and His Works,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (ed. Michael E. Stone; Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, section 2, vol. 3; Assen: Van Gorcum, 1984) 185-232; idem, “Jewish Historiography,” in Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters (ed. R. A. Kraft and G. W. E. Nickelsburg; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986) 311-43; L. H. Feldman, “Flavius Josephus Revisited: The Man, His Writings, and His Significance,” ANRW II.21.2 (ed. H. Temporini and W. Haase; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1984) 763-862; idem, “Josephus’ Portrait of Saul,” HUCA 53 (1982) 45-99; idem, “Josephus as a Biblical Interpreter: The ‛Aqedah,” JQR 75 (1985) 212-52.