Quotation Fragments (Pseudo-Hecataeus)

(Online Lecture by Dr. J. R. Davila on 1 April 1999)


Two years ago I gave a lecture in this course on the problem of “quotation fragments,” that is, passages from otherwise lost texts which are quoted by other, later authors. Using the lost work Eldad and Modad as a launching point, I suggested the following common-sense guidelines for studying these fragments:


  • 1. Know your quoting author. 
  • 2. The burden of proof is on someone who argues that passages quoted by two different authors belong to the same work. 
  • 3. The date, authorship, and interpretation of quoted fragments should be determined primarily by internal analysis, secondarily by comments of the quoter about the fragment.

In this lecture I want to concentrate primarily on guideline # 1, although my discussion will touch on all three and I am aiming both to clarify my earlier suggestions with detailed examples and to refine the methodology I have proposed.

How then do we get to know the author who preserves a quotation fragment? The first step is to read what the author has to say and to read the secondary literature about the author. This sounds easier than it is. Josephus, whom we will be looking at in detail in a bit, left behind a massive literary output (nine volumes in the Loeb edition or 636 large pages of small print in the Hendrickson edition of Whiston’s old translation). I admit I haven’t read all of it even in translation, let alone in Greek, nor have I read the entire massive body of secondary literature on his work. But in order to come to terms with his quotations we have to get to know the man and his work reasonably well. Fortunately, there is much secondary literature that is useful for the study of his quotation fragments, even though most of it hasn’t been produced precisely with that aim. In order to understand an author’s use of sources I submit we should try to learn the following about that author and his or her work:


  • How did the author use sources that are still in our possession? 
  • What conventions does the author use when quoting or paraphrasing sources? Are specific quotation formulas used in ways that can help us understand what the author was doing? 
  • What is the agenda of the author in the work that contains the quotation? What are the author’s agendas and biases overall in the entire preserved corpus of his or her works? How _might_ the author have been tempted to distort the quoted fragment, given its subject and given the author’s viewpoint?

Perhaps the best way to tackle these problems is to apply them to a set of quotation fragments in the work of one author. So without more ado I will look at Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, and see how an analysis of his work can lead us to a better understanding of his quotations of (Pseudo-) Hecataeus.


Josephus is the source of a number of our quotation fragments in the Charlesworth Pseudepigrapha volumes. He cites Hecataeus of Abdera in Ant. 1.107-108, 159; 12.38 and Ap. 1.183-205, 213-214; 2 42-43; he cites Cleodemus Malchus in Ant. 1.240-41; and he mentions Eupolemus in Ap. 1.218. He quotes a prose paraphrase of a Sibylline oracle on the Tower of Babel in Ant. 1.118 (perhaps from Alexander Polyhistor and perhaps a paraphrase of Sib Or. 3.97-104, as Thackeray suggests). Finally, he tells essentially the same story as III Maccabees in Ap. 2.53-55, but a version that may reflect either an earlier version of this book or a better knowledge of whatever historical event it reflects.

Thus, it is in our interest to gain a clearer understanding of how Josephus uses his literary sources. We have already looked closely at his summary and paraphrase of Aristeas to Philocrates and concluded that he used it with reasonable care and without deliberate distortion. In this lecture I intend to expand our probe of Josephus to see whether this preliminary conclusion holds up. We can do this in a number of ways. First, we can look at how he draws on another document in our possession: 1 Maccabees. Second, we can get a general idea how he cites and paraphrases the Greek translation of the Bible. Third, we can look at the formulas he uses when he quotes his sources. Finally, we can seek from the secondary literature and from Josephus’ own comments some idea of what his agendas and biases were in composing his works.

We begin with the sources he quotes which are still in our possession. The largest corpus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, but as Shaye Cohen has noted, this corpus presents us with special difficulties (pp. 35-44). His paraphrase of biblical material generally does not closely echo the LXX, which may mean he paraphrased very freely or it may mean that he used an intermediate source, a kind of Greek Targum that retold the biblical stories. In addition, Eugene Ulrich has published convincing evidence that the Hebrew text behind whatever Greek source Josephus used was sometimes quite different from our Masoretic Text and sometimes has affinities with some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is worthwhile to have a look at his use of biblical material, but this evidence can only be ancillary to that of the other sources.

So we move on to 1 Maccabees. Here again, some methodological problems arise. First, how sure can we be that his version of 1 Maccabees was the same as ours? There are some indicators it was different. Second, we must note that he never explicitly mentions that he is using a source when he tells the story covered in 1 Maccabees. We simply deduce this on the basis of the close linguistic and structural parallels. There is the danger that he may handle an unnamed source differently from a named and cited one such as Aristeas.

Even given these potential problems, we see when we analyse Josephus’ use of 1 Maccabees that our result is not enormously different from what we had already concluded by his use of Aristeas. He omits 1:1-10 and 13:43-16:24, either for his own reasons or because his manuscript of 1 Maccabees did not include this material. He keeps to the general sense of his source, but he improves the style throughout and feels free to abbreviate (e.g., Ant. 12.314 // the prayer of Judas in 1 Mac 4:30-33; Ant. 12.414 // the long passage on the Romans in 1 Mac 8:1-15, the content of which his audience knew). He also feels free to add details such as numbers (Ant. 12.251 // 1 Mac 1:30), names (Asmonaios in Ant. 12.265 // 1 Mac 2:1), etc. (Ant. 12.256 // 1 Mac 1:60-61). His numbers are sometimes different from those given in the text of 1 Maccabees (e.g., Ant. 13.14 // 1 Mac 9:49; Ant. 13.54 // 1 Mac. 10:40; Ant. 13.163 // 1 Mac 11:74) but there is no discernable pattern in the differences and it may just be that the numbers were different in his manuscript of 1 Maccabees. He adds material from other sources, sometimes even leaving redactional seams (e.g., Ant. 13.35-36, which contains an internal cross reference which applies to the source, not the Antiquities). He sometimes reorders the material in 1 Maccabees (e.g., Ant. 13.18-21 // 1 Mac 9:37-42–we would expect this section to go after 13.11).

However, some of his changes are more significant. He has a tendency to describe the motives and inner states of characters when these are left unclear in 1 Maccabees (e.g., Ant. 12.242 // 1 Mac 1:16-17 [Antiochus]; Ant. 12.246 // 1 Mac 1:20 [Antiochus]; Ant. 12.315 // 1 Mac 4:35 [Lysias]; Ant. 12.398 // 1 Mac 7:21-22 [Alcimus]; 13.7 // 1 Mac 9:32 [Bacchides]). He fills out speeches to make them of interest to his audience (e.g., Ant. 12.279-84 // 1 Mac 2:49-68 [Mattathias]; Ant. 12.302-304 // 1 Mac 3:58-60 [Judas]). I can only find one place where he seems willfully to misrepresent the plain sense of 1 Maccabees: in Ant. 13.88, 102 Josephus claims that Alexander (the son of Antiochus Ephiphanes) sent Apollonius with an army against Jonathan (the brother of the late Judas Maccabee), who defeated Apollonius and his forces. Alexander then pretended to be pleased about Apollonius’ defeat. But 1 Macc 10:69, 88-89 states plainly that it was Alexander’s Seleucid rival Demetrius who sent Apollonius and that Alexander was genuinely pleased that Jonathan had won, since he and Jonathan were on the same side! Josephus makes various other small tendentious alterations, as when he deletes references in 1 Mac 4:44-7 (Ant. 12.318) and 9:27 (Ant. 13.5) to the cessation of prophecy before the Maccabean revolt (Josephus tells stories of prophets arising long after this) and when he makes the Hasmonean leaders look even better than in his source. Note, for example how Judah’s role in 1 Mac 4:12-15 is subtly made more active and central in Ant. 12.308-309. The discussions of Cohen, Feldman, and Gafni listed below give many more details.

Josephus’ use of the Bible coheres with the picture we have worked out above. It is of course impossible to survey all the relevant material (although much important work has been done on it). Instead I will concentrate on the results of one study, that of Gregory E. Sterling who analyses Josephus’ retelling of the book of Ruth. Josephus shortens the story by omitting nonessential material, exegetically problematical statements, speeches, references to God, and the concluding genealogy. He adds temporal markers, explanatory glosses, interpretive and dramatic expansions, moralizing statements, and a final colophon in which he explains that he retells the story of Ruth in order to show God’s power. He alters the text by improving the style, rearranging the sequence of events, and changing the action so as to give a greater role to the main characters and to heighten their viritue, and also to make the story correspond to his interpretation of the Law of Moses.

A look at the quotation formulas Josephus uses is illuminating mainly because it shows how free his quotations could be. Analyzing the formulas used in the whole Josephan corpus is beyond the scope of this lecture, but I have looked through Antiquities book 1, which contains many of his quotation fragments, as well as the material parallel to Aristeas and 1 Maccabees. Briefly, he uses a number of terms to cite other authors, but by far the most common is various forms of the verb “to say” (LEGW). He uses this word for quotations of Moses (i.e. Genesis) (Ant. 1.26, 29, 33, 34, 37, 81); Berossus (1.158); Nicolaus of Damascus (1.95, 159); the Sibyl (1.118); Hestiaeus (1.119) and Alexander Polyhistor quoting Cleodemus Malchas (1.240). It is important to note that he uses this word for both quotations and paraphrases, as is clear from his application of it to “Moses.”

Although his citation of Alexander Polyhistor as a source for Cleodemus is encouraging, the citation of the Sibyl should make us less confident that Josephus distinguishes between direct quotations of a source and quotations mediated by another historian. He writes, “Concerning this tower [the Tower of Babel] and the confusion of human speech, they are mentioned also by the Sibyl, who says thus” (LEGOUSA (OUTWS). There follows a prose paraphrase of a Sibylline passage, perhaps 3.97-104, which is clearly not a direct quote of the oracle. In addition it seems not to be a paraphrase by Josephus himself since it says that it was “the gods” (not God as in 3.97) who overthrew the designs of the builders of the tower. Josephus seems to be borrowing the paraphrase of a pagan writer here without telling us who the writer is. When we look at his quotations of Hecataeus we will see other evidence for such unnoted intermediaries.

Finally, I should say something about Josephus’ overall agenda in his works, based on his own statements and scholarly analysis of those works. For the _Antiquities_ he seems to have a gentile audience in mind, one that was actively interested in Judaism, perhaps even to the point of considering conversion. The _Jewish War_ is a cautionary account of the Great Revolt written originally in Aramaic for distribution among the “upper barbarians” (Jews in Parthia and Babylonia?) and then later translated into Greek. The _Life_ is a defence of his own actions during the Great Revolt, published after another author, Justus of Tiberias, published an accusation in his own history that Josephus was responsible for the uprising of Tiberias against Rome. _Against Apion_ is a general defence of the _Antiquities_ against a number of writers who wished to discredit Josephus’ claims concerning the antiquity of the Jewish people and to spread anti-Semitic falsehoods.

In general then, we can say that Josephus remains reasonably faithful to his written sources whether he cites them explicitly or not, but he also did not hesitate to improve their style, to fill them out in various ways, and subtly (and occasionally violently) to alter their sense in order to fit his theological and political agendas. The latter included defending the antiquity and philosophical value of Judaism and the Law of Moses, providing an attractive account of Judaism for potential converts, and defending his own role in the events of the revolt of 66-70 CE.


Hecataeus of Abdera lived during the time of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I (the latter part of the fourth century BCE). His works are lost but are known in part from quotation fragments in the works of Diodorus Siculus (first century BCE), whose quotations are widely accepted as authentic. It is clear from Diodorus that Hecataeus wrote in laudatory terms about the Jewish people and that he had some good sources of information, although not all of what he says is accurate. Material allegedly from Hecataeus is also quoted in Aristeas, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Caesarea. The authenticity of these quotations is a matter of debate and they are included in the Charlesworth volume on the grounds that they may be forgeries by a Jewish writer or writers. For the most part I will sidestep this question, since my interest is in how Josephus used the sources that he quoted, but we will find that this bears at times on the authenticity of the quotations. The following passages are the disputed references to the works of Hecataeus:


  • Aristeas 31 (cited by Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 8.3.3)
  • Josephus, Ant. 1.159 (cited by Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 9.16.3)
  • Josephus Ant. 12.38 (based on Aristeas 31)
  • Josephus, Ap. 1.183-205 (cited by Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 9.4)
  • Josephus, Ap. 2.42-43
  • Clement of Alexandria, Strom. (cited by Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 13.13.40)
  • Origen Cel. 1.15

(Josephus also alludes briefly to Hecataeus in Ant. 1.107-8; Ap. 213-14. The citations of Eusebius are taken from Aristeas, Josephus, and Clement rather than from the original works attributed to Hecataeus.)

Given the constraints of time and space, I will refer mainly to the Hecataeus material quoted or mentioned by Josephus and will concentrate on the implications of the citations in the light of the analysis of Josephus in section II above. I will take the three brief Josephan references first, then look at the long one.

Josephus tells us in Ant. 1.159 that Hecataeus not only mentioned Abraham, he left behind a whole book about him (cf. Ap. 1.213-14). Given Josephus’ general reliability, I think we can be quite confident that he knew of such a book attributed to Hecataeus. (Whether or not he had actually read it is quite another matter.) Clement quotes a fragment from _On Abraham and the Egyptians_ attributed to “Hecataeus the historian” and it seems to be a consensus that this is the same book Josephus alludes to, although we have no reason to believe this apart from the correspondence of Clement’s title to the content of Josephus’ book. This fragment impossibly attributes to the Greek playwright Sophocles a poetic passage in which he supposedly confesses monotheism and condemns idolatry. This passage does have a Jewish ring to it and for this reason most scholars have concluded that the book on Abraham attributed to Hecataeus is really a Jewish forgery. Again, we just don’t know. This conclusion is possible, but since we have no context it is also possible that the real Hecataeus quoted the forged Sophocles fragment for his own purposes in expounding Jewish beliefs and culture.

In Ant. 12.38 Josephus quotes Hecataeus (“Hecataeus of Abdera says,” FHSIN (EKATAIOS (O )ABDHRITHS) to the effect that earlier poets and historians have not mentioned the Law or the Jewish people because the Law was holy “and not to be discussed openly by profane mouths.” Two points are of interest in this citation. First, Josephus is taking it straight out of his source: the same passage is quoted at exactly this point (v. 31) in Aristeas, but Josephus gives us no indication that his quotation is mediated by the “book of Aristaeus” that he is paraphrasing. Second, he alters the quotation in a number of ways, most notably by adding the phrase quoted above, which the real Hecataeus most certainly would not have said. (I leave open the question of whether the quote in Aristeas is genuine.) So this quote confirms that he doesn’t necessarily signal secondary quotations which he adopts and that he alters his sources in small but telling ways.

In Ap. 2.42-43 Josephus attributes to Hecataeus the information that Alexander the Great transferred the region of Samaria to the Jews tax-free in consideration of the loyalty they had shown him. We know of no such transfer, although according to 1 Mac 11:34 Demetrius II did transfer *some* of this territory (three districts) in 145 BCE, long after Alexander, and the passage is phrased in such a way that he may be confirming an earlier transfer. So, as Thackeray (in the Loeb edition of _Contra Apionem_) and Gager (pp. 135-36) have recognized, the story is plausible enough if we take Josephus’ formulation of it as an exaggeration. My suspicion, based on our analysis above, is that Josephus–not Hecataeus–is responsible for this exaggeration. If Hecataeus had said, for example, that Alexander had ceded *some of the region of* Samaria to the Jews, it would be typical of Josephus to change this simply to *the region of* Samaria. This is speculation, of course, but informed speculation that increases the likelihood that the original passage came genuinely from Hecataeus. (Josephus paraphrases 1 Mac 11:34 accurately in Ant. 13.127, but does not prove anything one way or the other since, as Cohen has shown, Josephus is not unduly troubles about his own inconsistencies.)

In Ap. 1.183-205 Josephus quotes or alludes to a number of passages in Hecataeus’ “book about the Jews.” In the third century Origen had heard of a book with a similar title and noted that a certain Herennius Philo doubted its authenticity. Josephus says that Hecataeus referred to a Jewish high priest named Hezekiah, mentioned the high regard of Jews for their law and gave examples of their determination not to break it, referred to the beauty of Palestine and described Jerusalem, and told an entertaining story about a Jewish soldier nemed Mosollamus (Meshullam) who made fools of Alexander’s diviners during a campaign. Scholars have been less sceptical about the genuiness of the book about the Jews than about the book about Abraham. Nothing in the material cited by Josephus could not have been written by the real Hecataeus. We have no record of a high priest named Hezekiah in this period, but our sources are imperfect and there is some evidence that he might have existed. The sizes of Palestine and of Jerusalem are exaggerated; this could be due to a distortion introduced by Josephus or incorrect information in Hecataeus’ sources. Hecataeus sometimes sounds suspiciously laudatory and Josephus may have touched up his language as he did to Aristeas 31. But the basic content may indeed go back to Hecataeus.


The quotation fragments in Charlesworth’s edition of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are embedded in the works of a fairly limited number of writers and our ideal should be to get to know them all. Besides Josephus, there are the church fathers Clement of Alexandria (second century) and Origen (third century), and the fourth century church historian Eusebius. Originally I had hoped to deal in some detail with Eusebius, but space precludes such a treatment here.

I note that Eusebius in his work _Preparatio Evangelica_ quotes a number of lost Jewish authors: Aristobulus (7.14; 8.10; 13.12); Eupolemus (9.17, 26, 30-34); Artapanus (9.18, 23, 27); Demetrius (9.21, 29) Aristeas the Exegete (9.25, 38) Ezekiel the Tragedian (9.28); and the Jewish Orphica (13.12). Like Josephus, Eusebius also paraphrases the entirety of Aristeas to Philocrates (8.1-9). He also frequently quotes Josephus and Philo of Alexandria as well as numerous classical Greek authors.

Some analysis of his use of sources has been done, but there is room for more. I have given some references in the bibliography to published research that may be useful. I have not been able to find a detailed analysis of his use of Aristeas, Josephus, or Philo, or of his quotation formulas, and unless I have missed something, there may be a doctoral dissertation waiting for someone who takes up this problem.

Two other figures are important for Jewish quotation fragments. Alexander Polyhistor is discussed by John Strugnell in OTP II 777-79 and here I simply note that many of our surviving quotations of Near Eastern writers in Greek before the first century BCE were collected by Polyhistory, whose works have been lost. But quotations of his quotations survive in the works of other writers including Josephus. George Syncellus (ninth century CE) transmitted Greek quotations of a number of works from the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha whose Greek versions have otherwise perished. These include 1 Enoch, Jubilees, the Life of Adam, and the Testament of Adam. His use of the extracts from the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and his sources for these extracts have been ably analysed by William Adler.


To summarize: we have looked in general at how Josephus uses sources still in our possession (Aristeas and 1 Maccabees) in the hope of gaining a better understanding of the sources he quotes which are otherwise lost. We concluded that he was basically careful and accurate in his quotations and references to sources; we have no evidence, for example, of his making up a nonexistent source or even radically altering a real source to prove a point. Nevertheless, he does have agendas and he constantly sublty alters his sources to serve them. He improves style, rearranges sequences, cleans up the morality of biblical heroes, makes the Hasmoneans look better, and generally slants things in favour of Jews and Judaism. He often makes no distinction between roughly verbatim quotations, paraphrases, and quotations of quotations in an intermediate author. In his works he aims to present a positive view of Judaism to sympathetic gentiles, refute the slanders of anti-Semites, discourage the diaspora from defying the Romans, and defend his own actions during the Great Revolt.

This information did indeed illuminate our understanding of his use of (Pseudo-) Hecataeus. His reuse of a possibly genuine quotation of Hecataeus in Aristeas turns it into something the real Hecataeus never would have said, and we must be aware of such possible distortions in other passages attributed to Hecataeus. Exaggerations and suspiciously pro-Jewish passages may be due to Josephus’ tidying up of the quotation rather than a pseudonymous forger.

This sort of analysis can be applied more widely to the quotation fragments in Josephus’ works, as well as other quoters of lost ancient writers, including Eusebius, Clement, and Origen. Further research in this area could be very useful.




I have used the Loeb Classical Library edition of Josephus’ works:

H. St. J. Thackeray, _The Life_; _Against Apion_ (LCL 186; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1926)

H. St. J. Thackeray, _The Jewish War_ (2 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927, 1928)

H. St. J. Thackeray et al., _The Antiquities_ (6 vols; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930, 1934-65)

Other relevant bibliography:

Shaye J. D. Cohen, _Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian_ (Leiden: Brill, 1979)

Louis H. Feldman, “Josephus,” _Anchor Bible Dictionary_ III 981-98

__________, “Josephus’ Portrayal of the Hasmoneans Compared with 1 Maccabees,” in _Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period. Essays in Memory of Morton Smith._ Ed. Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers (Leiden: Brill, 1994) 41-68.

__________, _Studies in Josephus’ Rewritten Bible_ (Leiden: Brill, 1998)

Isaiah M. Gafni, “Josephus and I Maccabees,” in _Josephus, the Bible, and History_, ed. Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1989) 116-31

Steve Mason, “Should Any Wish to Enquire Further (_Ant_ 1.25): The Aim and Audience of Josephus’s _Judean Antiquities_/_Life_,” in _Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives_, ed. Steve Mason (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998) 64-103

Gregory E. Sterling, “The Invisible Presence: Josephus’s Retelling of Ruth,” in _Understanding Josephus_, ed. Mason, 104-71.

Eugene Charles Ulrich, _The Qumran Text of Samuel and Josephus_ (HSM 29; Missoula, Mont: Scholars Press, 1978)



See the entry in the 1999 bibliography for the otpseud online course module.




Eusebius, _Preparatio Evangelica_. I have used the following critical edition:

Edwin Hamilton Gifford, _Eusebius: Preparation for the Gospel_ (5 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1903)

Hugh Jackson Lawlor and John Ernest Leonard Oulton, _Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine_ (2 vols; London/New York: Macmillan, 1928). In the introduction to volume 2 there is a brief discussion of Eusebius’ use of sources in this work (pp. 19-27).

The following is a good general article on Eusebius:

Glenn F. Chestnut, “Eusebius of Caesarea,” _Anchor Bible Dictionary_ II 673-76

A number of useful articles are found in the following volume:

Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, _Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism_ (Leiden: Brill, 1992). In particular see Droge, “The Apologetic Dimensions of the _Ecclesiastical History_”) and Hollerich, “Eusebius as a Polemical Interpreter of Scripture.”



Annewies van den Hoek, _Clement of Alexandria and His use of Philo in the_ Stromateis: _An Early Christian Reshaping of a Jewish Model_ (Leiden: Brill, 1988)



William Adler, _Time Immemorial: Archaic History and Its Sources in Christian Chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus_ (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1989)

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Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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