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Sepher Yosippon

A Tenth-Century History of Ancient Israel

Introduced and Translated by Steven B. Bowman

Jewish Studies, Folklore

Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

Printed Paper Cased
Available August 2022
ISBN: 9780814349441
Pages: 536 Size: 6x9
Available August 2022
ISBN: 9780814349434
Pages: 536 Size: 6x9
Available August 2022
ISBN: 9780814349458

Sepher Yosippon was written in Hebrew by a medieval historian noted by modern scholars for its eloquent style. This is the first known chronicle of Jewish history and legend from Adam to the destruction of the Second Temple, this is the first known text since the canonical histories written by Flavius Josephus in Greek and later translated by Christian scholars into Latin.

Sepher Yosippon has been cited and referred to by scholars, poets, and authors as the authentic source for ancient Israel for over a millennium, until overshadowed by the twentieth-century Hebrew translations of Josephus. It is based on Pseudo Hegesippus’s fourth-century anti-Jewish summary of Josephus’s Jewish War. However, the anonymous author [a.k.a. Joseph ben Gurion Hacohen] also consulted with the Latin versions of Josephus’s works available to him. At the same time, he included a wealth of Second Temple literature as well as Roman and Christian sources. This book contains Steven Bowman’s translation of the complete text of David Flusser’s standard Hebrew edition of Sepher Yosippon, which includes the later medieval interpolations referring to Jesus. The present English edition also contains the translator’s introduction as well as a preface by the fifteenth-century publisher of the book.

The anonymous author of this text remains unique for his approach to history, his use of sources, and his almost secular attitude, which challenges the modern picture of medieval Jews living in a religious age. In his influential novel, A Guest for the Night, the Nobel Laureate author Shmuel Yosef Agnon emphasized the importance of Sepher Yosippon as a valuable reading to understand human nature. Bowman’s translation of Flusser’s notes, as well as his own scholarship, offers a well-wrought story for scholars and students interested in Jewish legend and history in the medieval period, Jewish studies, medieval literature, and folklore studies.

Steven B. Bowman is emeritus professor of Judaic studies at the University of Cincinnati. He is author of The Jews of Byzantium 1204–1453, Jewish Resistance in Wartime Greece, and The Agony of Greek Jewry 1941–1945, and has edited and published a series of Holocaust memoirs.