Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Josephus and Josippon and More Mixups

We've received queries involving mixups between the following pairs of names, and we'd like to clarify their meanings:

Josephus vs Yosippon

Yosippon [or Josippon] is an anonymous Hebrew book describing Jewish history during the Second Temple period. Written in 10th century southern Italy, it treats the history of ancient Italy and other European nations, but focuses on the Jewish-Roman wars. The author based his work on earlier books (Josephus's works, a Latin translation of the Apocrypha, medieval chronicles, and the Talmud ) intending to compile a summary for the benefit of his readers. Sefer Yosippon was mistakenly attributed to Flavius Josephus and to Joseph ben Gorion, and became well-known, respected, and frequently quoted by medieval gentile writers. Manuscript and early printed editions were significantly changed from the original Sefer Yosippon; it has been translated into Arabic, Ethiopic, Russian, Polish, Czech, Latin, French, Judeo-German and English. Dr. David Flusser has edited a critical edition ספר יוסיפון :... סדור ומוגה על-פי כתבי-יד בלוויית מבוא, ביאורים וחילופי גרסאות (vol. 1 1978, vol. 2 1980) DS122 Y574 1978b in JTS Library.

Josephus [also known as Josephus Flavius]

Josephus was a Hellenistic Jewish historian of the first century CE. He was born into an aristocratic family of priests in Jerusalem, and he became a military leader against the Romans in the Jewish-Roman wars. Later, through shrewd political moves, he became a favorite of the Roman leaders and moved to Rome. He wrote The Jewish War, Jewish Antiquities (historical), The Life (autobiographical), and Against Apion (a defense of Judaism). Although his works are hardly unbiased, they remain eye-witness accounts of first century Judaism in its political mileiu. The standard English translation of his works was published as part of the Loeb Classical Library, located at PA3612 .J6 1926 in the JTS Library.

Two of the many in-depth encyclopedia articles on Joesphus are in the Encyclopedia Judaica (by Abraham Schalit), and The Encyclopedia of Judaism: "Josephus and Judaism" by Steve Mason, and "Josephus, Biblical Figures in" by Louis H. Feldman.


Kairouan vs Cairo

Cairo, of course, is the capital of Egypt. The Cairo Jewish community was first established appproximately 640 CE, when the old city of Fostat was founded. Fostat is also the site of the Synagogue of Elijah the Prophet which held the famous Cairo Genizah manuscripts. Through the generations, Cairo has been the home of outstanding Jewish scholars, including Maimonides.

Kairouan is a town in Tunisia which was a prominent economic, cultural and halakhic Jewish center during the Middle Ages (8th-11th centuries). We have extensive documentary evidence of the community and its activities from letters found in the Cairo Genizah.


Philadelphia [ancient city] vs Philadelphia Route

The Philadelphia Route is the buffer area along the Egypt-Gaza Strip border; arms have been smuggled from Egypt into Gaza via tunnels beneath this area.

There were a number of ancient cities called Philadelphia, in Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan. The Jordanian Philadelphia was originally Rabbath-Ammon, capital of the Ammonite kingdom in Biblical times; in the Hellenistic period it was called Philadelphia; today it is Amman, the capital of Jordan.

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