Ancient Jewish Historiography in Arabic Garb: Sefer Josippon between Southern Italy and Coptic Cairo

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  • 1 Freie Universität Berlin

In this brief contribution, I examine multiple histories of the Hebrew narrative Sefer Josippon, trace back its reception and impact in thirteenth-century Coptic Cairo, and call for a renewed scholarly investigation into its Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic versions.

  • 3

    See Dönitz, Überlieferung und Rezeption, 5–8.

  • 5

    As proposed by Dönitz, Überlieferung und Rezeption, 10–11.

  • 14

    See Samir, Miṣbāḥ al-ẓulma, 227–229. An epitomized version of the Arabic Sefer Josippon became known as the book of fifth Maccabees. There is a disagreement on its genesis. H. Cotton (The Five Books of Maccabees [Oxford 1832] xxxii and J. Wellhausen, Der Arabische Josippus [Berlin 1897] 47) postulated that 5 Macc. does go back to a lost Greek Vorlage of the 1st cent. ce. Sela followed this line of argumentation and considered it depended on an earlier, now lost, textual layer of the Hebrew Sefer Josippon. The absence of this earlier Vorlage, either in Greek or in Hebrew and a renewed comparison of the manuscripts suggests, however, that the work is nothing else than an epitome of the Arabic translation of Sefer Josippon, which suspends with most of the non-Maccabean episodes. Manuscript evidence indicates that book was transmitted among Melkites and Maronites.

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  • 20

    See F. Baethgen, ‘Siebzehn makkabäische Psalmen nach Theodor von Mopsuestia,’ Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 6 (1886) 261–288 and 7 (1887) 1–60; R. Devresse, ‘Le Commentaire de Theodore de Mopsueste sur les Psaumes,’ Revue Biblique 37 (1928) 340–366; idem, Essai sur Théodre de Mopsueste (Vatican 1948); C. Schäublin, Untersuchungen zu Methode und Herkunft der Antiochenischen Exegese (Köln/Bonn 1974) 90; S. Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition (Piscataway, nj 2006) 139–140.

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  • 31

    See E. Tisserent and G. Wiet, ‘La Liste des patriarches d’Alexandrie dans Qalqachandi,’ Revue de l’Orient Chretien 23 (1922/23) 123–143; Fischel, ‘Ibn Khaldūn’; idem, Ibn Khaldūn in Egypt: His Public Functions and Historical Research, 1382–1406. A Study in Islamic Historiography (Berkeley, ca 1967) 117, 132, and 144.

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  • 33

    For details, see G. Schwarb, ‘Die Rezeption Maimonides’ in der christlich-arabischen Literatur,’ Judaica 63 (2007) 1–45. On ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī, see S. Hopkins, ‘The Languages of Maimonides,’ in G. Tamer, ed., The Trias of Maimonides (Berlin 2005) 85–106, at 90–93. Furthermore, Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan al-Nihmī, the scribe of Ms. Istanbul, Süleymaniye, Carullah 1279, on which the Arabic-script edition of the Guide by H. Atay, ed., Maimonides: Delaletü’l-Hairin (Ankara 1979), is based, apparently had basic reading skills in Hebrew: see F. Rosenthal, ‘From Arabic Books and Manuscripts v: A One-volume Library of Arabic Philosophical and Scientific Texts in Istanbul,’ Journal of the American Oriental Society 75 (1955) 14–23, at 20, no. xvi. Finally, the Coptic scholar al-Asʿad Abū al-Faraj Hibatallāh ibn al-ʿAssāl transcribed parts of Maimonides’ Judaeo-Arabic writings into Arabic script: see G. Graf, ‘Ein Traktat über die Seele verfasst von Hibatallāh Ibn al-ʿAssāl,’ Orientalia 9 (1940) 374–377; and W. Abullif, Dirāsa ʿan al-Muʾtamin ibn al-ʿAssāl wa-kitābihi “majmūʿ uṣūl al-dīn” wa-taḥqīqihi (Cairo/Jerusalem 1997) 86, no. 24.

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